Bryan Davis on Book Tours

Bryan Davis is the author of several fantasy series.  His book, Eye of the Oracle, hit number one on the January 2007, Young Adult CBA best-seller list, and his book The Bones of Makaidos won the Clive Staples Award for the best Christian speculative fiction in 2009. Bryan lives in western Tennessee with his wife, Susie, and their children. Bryan and Susie have homeschooled their four girls and three boys. 

Tell us a little about how you came first to write novels, second to write in your chosen genre. 

I became interested in writing through homeschooling our children. Teaching them how to write was an important part of the curriculum, but, at that time, we couldn’t find a curriculum that met our needs. So I decided to start writing a story that would help our children see how to craft stories and understand the building blocks within them. Every Friday night my wife would read what I had written that week, and the story grew into a novel.

My first attempt wasn’t fantasy, but that changed one night when I had a dream about a boy who could breathe fire.  I told my eldest son about it, and he suggested that I write a fantasy novel based on the dream. He said that if I wanted to speak to children in our culture, fantasy was the way to go. After brainstorming with him for a couple of hours, we came up with the fantasy concept of how a boy could breathe fire, and that became the starting point for my Dragons in our Midst series.

You’re getting ready to start a book tour, tell us about the novel you’re currently promoting. 

I have four novels coming out this year, so I will be promoting them all as well as my daughter’s new novel, which is coming out soon. Two of mine are continuations in the Dragons of Starlight series, Warrior and Diviner. Another book is a continuation in an adult companion series, Tales of Starlight, and it’s called Third Starlighter. The fourth is Song of the Ovulum, the first book in the new Children of the Bard series, which continues the story world established in two previous series, Dragons in our Midst and Oracles of Fire. My daughter is Amanda L. Davis, and her book is Precisely Terminated, the first in the Cantral Chronicles. It is a futuristic dystopian story.

It seems you’re always on a book tour, what got you started with doing these and what keeps you coming back for more? 

Since my first novel was with a small publisher that had never published fiction before, and since my book was a new genre and category for the Christian publishing market, I knew I had to work hard to get the word out. I began by sending a free copy of Raising Dragons to every middle school librarian in my three-country area along with a note that I would come and speak to students for free as long as I had an opportunity to sell books. That led to quite a few invitations, and I became well known in the school districts. From that point, I began contacting schools and homeschool groups all over the country and setting up tours with the same offer. To me, it was far more important to get my books into the hands of readers than to get a check for speaking. This way, I became friends and partners with librarians, not a paid speaker.
This kind of tour has worked very well. My books became well known from coast to coast, so it makes sense to continue what has been successful.

I’ve heard it said many times that with the ability to reach so many readers via the web, that in-person book tours are no longer recommended. What are your thoughts on that? 

I wonder if people who say that have ever done in-person book tours. Maybe they have done the bookstore circuit, which I don’t recommend, but probably not schools. Reaching readers via the web can be effective, but with so many people doing it, the results can be greatly dilluted. With thousands of authors on the web vying for a reader’s attention, it seems to me that an author will likely attract interest from people who have already read that author’s works but not nearly as likely from people who have never heard of him. When I go to school groups, I get to speak to potential readers who have never heard of me or my books, and I have a captive audience to whom I can speak face to face. I get many new readers at every speaking event, and they spread the word for me.

How do you connect with schools, libraries, etc to set up stops on your book tours? 

I decide what cities or regions I am going to pass through on a tour, and I look up the organizations on the web. I collect email addresses of school librarians and homeschool leaders and send out an introductory email with an offer to speak for free. If I don’t get much response, I will start calling schools and ask to speak to someone who might be interested. This is a time-consuming process and can be frustrating, because people often agree to have me come, but the confirmation process can take a long time, which can lead to last-minute cancellations and then scrambling on my part to fill the time holes. Sometimes they don’t respond at all, and I have to go back and contact them again, which means another waiting process.
What about media attention, do you do your own PR? If so, have you found anything particularly effective (ie radio spots, etc.) 

I have had PR people, but they haven’t helped much at all. I see little to no benefit from radio spots or newspaper articles. They might help without my knowledge, but they are minimal when compared to the effect of meeting people face to face. 

I’m assuming you’re a full-time writer since you have the time to tour the country selling books. How much time does one of these tours take out of your life? 

I am a full-time writer. My touring seasons change from year to year. Some years I have been on tour for four months out of the year and done more than 200 speaking engagements. This year I have toured only a few weeks, but that will change in the fall when I begin a three-month tour.

Share with us the biggest pros and cons of book tours as you see it.
The biggest pro is the face-to-face contact and the ability to sell my story to potential readers who would never have known about me otherwise. The biggest con is the exhausting schedule and the frustrations involved in setting it up. I have spoken as many as twelve times in one day, once from 7:30 am to 11:15 pm. Not everyone can do what I do. It is grueling, but it works.

Parting advice for those of us hoping to follow in your footsteps?  

First, don’t imagine that touring is fun, easy, or glamorous. The kind of touring I do is hard work, period. When you speak at four schools in one day with barely a thank you and then collapse in a cheap motel bed only to get up and do it again the next day, and repeat that process for weeks, you learn that this is not for the faint of heart. I always take a family member with me, usually my daughter Amanda and often my wife or another daughter. They help me make sure I eat and that I don’t lose anything. Their company helps me keep my sanity. My touring schedules are significantly lighter now than in the past, because I have an established reader base. But I wouldn’t have that base if not for the first two or three years of heavy scheduling. The few years of extra hard work have provided me with the opportunity to coast a bit and enjoy the tours.

I know some fine authors who have not enjoyed the success I have. I ask them about touring, and they simply don’t want to do it. They know it’s hard work, and they don’t want to put in the effort. They want to rely on Internet shopping for readers.

The question to ask yourself is what is the best way to put your book into the hands of readers. I think it’s to go out and speak to them face to face. They are inundated with Internet traffic. You will not stand out there. You will be just another advertisement that hopes to shake them from their video games. I prefer to shake their hands.
It has been fifteen years since Billy and Bonnie Bannister helped repel the demonic assault on Heaven. Now they and Ashley Foley sit in a maximum security prison where the authorities conduct experiments on them to learn the secrets of long life.
Walter Foley finds the Bannisters’ son and hopes to use his dragon traits to help him rescue the prisoners. In the meantime, an ancient demon locates the Bannisters’ daughter and plans to use her to help him discover the hiding place of the most powerful ovulum in the world and squelch its protective song. With that ovulum in his possession, he will be able to conquer and control both Earth and Second Eden.

The fate of two worlds now rests on the Bannisters’ two teenagers who must use their dragon traits and their innate courage to battle demons, a sorceress, and soldiers in a military compound in order to rescue parents they don’t even know.