Tour Couture

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul unveils his one-of-a-kind, couture book tour ensemble by artist Aaron Krach.

The Alphabet City Book Tour kicks into high heel gear starting this Sunday as I crisscross the country visiting many Kimpton Hotels near their city’s Gay Pride festivities.  And I’m excited to announce that I’ll be walking the red carpet in a couture look created by Aaron Krach—the phenomenally talented artist, friend, and writer who provided much needed editorial insight on the first draft of Alphabet City.

Now, he’s paired an iconic image from the book’s cover with a question I pose at least seven times a day, “What would Mary do?”  There’s just an extremely limited run of these gems, but show up at the events, and you might just charm me into giving you the shirt off my back—for the right price, that is.

Seriously, readers, I could use your help in turning out the love at all the stops on the tour.  Surely you have a Facebook friend or two at Boston Nine Zero (6/7), Philly Hotel Palomar (6/8), DC Topaz Hotel (6/9), LA Hotel Palomar (6/14), Silicon Valley Cypress Hotel (6/16), San Fran Harbor Court Hotel (6/17) or Portland Hotel Monaco (6/21).  Check this link for more details, or become an Alphabet City fan on Facebook and you can send around the invite!

Make sure to follow along on all the trouble (fun) I’ll be getting into thanks to national sponsors Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, with local support provided along the way by Whole Foods Market (LA—3rd and Fairfax and Sherman Oaks), Hyundai (LA) and Subaru (Portland).

“What would Mary do?”  Why, she’d read ABCityblog!


Filed under Book Tour

2 responses to “Tour Couture

  1. streetlegalplay

    Dear Jon Paul:

    I read your interview in Edge, where I write book and movie reviews. Congratulations! Once my freelance check clears, I’m logging right on to Amazon and buying Alphabet City! (Maybe tonight, we’ll see!)

    Your tour sounds enviably brilliant too.

    It’s kind of why I’m writing you. I need some advice. Unlike you, I’m not a wizard at self-promotion but I’d better become one quick since my novel, 85A, is about to hit the market any day now (ahem, available for pre-order on Amazon:

    The publisher, Bascom Hill, is a small but reputable company and they have a dedicated PR staff but their campaign will be for a limited time only and I have to pick up from there.

    So, how did you go about organizing your tour? And how did you go about getting stores to buy it? Do I have to be super-connected from the gate (I’m not at this point) if I’m going to have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting my book out into the world?

    Did you have a good PR specialist?

    Any advice you can give this aspiring writerpreneur would be greatly appreciated. I realize your busy, but if you do have the time and inclination, please feel free to contact me directly at

    Thanks, Jon Paul. And best of luck on your tour!

    Kyle Thomas Smith
    Brooklyn, NY

    • Kyle—thanks for reading and writing, and reaching out to me.
      First off, CONGRATULATIONS! Having your book published is a huge accomplishment. Take a deep breath and have fun—this is a big moment. Try to always remember to enjoy this ride. There will be ups and downs, but you will learn so much—so always remember to take it all in!

      Okay, let me try and offer some words of advice based upon my own experience as a writer/author as well as a publicist:

      Your publisher. It’s terrific that you have Bascom and they’ve got a team of people to help. BUT, at the end of the day, you have to rely on yourself to get the word out, promote the book. There’s no one more invested in this than you! It will sound funny, but comedienne Kathy Griffin talks about this a lot in her funny memoir—that she doesn’t rely on agents to get her work, she hustles it herself. That being said, don’t be shy about pushing your publisher on a couple of fronts:
      • Distribution: they should be the ones handling getting your books into stores. And I checked their website and they have already arranged to have it carried by major wholesalers who supply independent bookstores—so that’s great. My suggestion is to talk to Bascom and see how you can help. Maybe pick a handful of independent bookstores around the country that you’d like to make sure carry your book and offer to reach out to the buyers/owners in those markets. Sometimes the personal touch can mean all the difference in getting your book carried. So obviously you’d start with stores in Chicago since that’s where you’re from the book is set. Then probably indie/gay bookstores in the Midwest, then in top cities/stores like Giovanni’s Room in Philadelphia, Calamus in Boston, etc. Google them and come up with a list for yourself. You can also purchase a contact list of indie bookstores from this site There’s an email tips list you can sign up for as well—some of them useful, some of them not, but it might get your mind thinking in the marketing mode. Oh, one question for your publisher—are they making the book available in electronic format? On Amazon it doesn’t seem like that’s a possibility—and you’ll be missing a huge potential readership for not much cost. There are companies that can convert the printed file into electronic format—and some reviewers ask to have it electronically…so something to consider.
      • Public Relations: it’s perfectly reasonable for you to ask Bascom’s PR dept to walk you through exactly what they are doing—you’re a first time author, and Bascom says they specialize in that—so they should be used to it. Find out what their strategy is. Are they sending it out to reviewers around the country? How many? Which ones? Only print? What about online? Are they including gay press? Ask these questions not to put them on defensive but so you can fill in the gaps. My experience having done publicity for authors and worked with publishing company PR group’s is that they are overloaded and can only do so much—like sending out the book and hoping for something to stick. That means YOU need to follow-up with reporters, reviewers to see how you can get them to put you to the top of the list. More on that below. But find out what Bascom intends to do.

      Based upon what you find out from your publisher, then you can start to build your own strategy. Some things to think about:

      Your target reader. Think through who is your target reader, your customer if you will. At the end of the day, your job is now not as an author, but as a seller. You need people to buy this product. So who is this customer? Gay guys? What age? What are they reading? Newspapers? Online media? Where are they looking for information about what books to buy? Really sketch out who this person is (it can be multiple types) and then make decisions on your strategy based upon that. So for example, you may decide your target market is Gay Guys 35-45—and they consume a lot of online gay publications like The Edge. So you want to spend your time/resources on getting into The Edge vs. the New York Times. See where this is going? Get even more specific like Gay Guys 35-45 in Chicago read (fill in the blank). Then create your list of target publications, start reading them online—see who the writers/reporters are—and then start reaching out to them directly.

      Your network. Before you jump to building out a whole book tour, do some time thinking about who’s in your network—who in your group of friends and acquaintances here in NYC and across the US can you count on for support. Who are the folks that you can get to recommend your book to others in their network. People are much more likely to buy a product based on recommendations from others. Write down a list of those people—don’t exclude your friends in NYC—or even people you just met like me. Then figure out how you can best utilize that network. Your best friend from college’s mother lives in Ohio and has always adored you? Hmm, maybe she would throw a book club party for you with her network of girlfriends, and then you could see about also making an appearance at the local indie bookstore. What about Julius and his friends and family? How could they be helpful?

      A word on bookstore events. Unless you have a strong fan base or family and friends in the area, bookstore events are no panacea. People don’t just show up to a bookstore event because an author is there. Even a famous author. The guy who runs Giovanni’s in Philadelphia just told me they did an event for Armisted Maupin, who you would think would drive a lot of traffic, but only 5 people showed up. And let me tell, having been there, it’s not fun to sit in an empty room talking to yourself. But if you’ve got a great buddy from high school who has a network that will turn up, go for it. Personally, I’ve found it way more gratifying to have friends throw small book club parties where I speak to 10 people, sell the book, than the larger events.

      Your Connections. Think through every connection you possibly have to organizations, and think about how you can use them. Does your college have an active alumni group? Will they write you up in their newsletter? Is there a database of alumni contacts you can use to email and promote the book or events in their cities. What about other organizations you are a part of? What about all the people who used to be in your writing group you ran? Also think about expanding your connections with affiliations with other organizations. Your book is about a gay high school student—maybe make connections with groups like GLSEN who work on ending homophobia in schools around the country. Is there some way to tap into their network? Could you make appearances at their events? Sell the book? Tap into their network around the country? Maybe make a donation for books sold at the event. That kind of thing.

      Your message. Not sure why I’m saving this to the end—when it’s really at the heart of everything you do. You need to get down your message about the book in a short, concise, understandable sound bite—that makes the potential reader want to purchase the book. Many people call this the elevator pitch—you’ve got 15 seconds to “sell” the book to someone you just met. The opening of your book jacket is a good start “What do you get when you cross Holden Caufield with Johnny Rocket?” Now, this is my own advice, and you can take it or leave it, but it’s also based on my recent reaction to some younger gay guys who aren’t familiar with Mary Tyler Moore (how I describe Alphabet City)—you might need to “update” the pop culture reference a little—I think it takes people a second to say, “Who’s Holden Caufield…oh right, Catcher in the Rye…” But right off the bat they are thinking about something else and if they miss the reference, you’re lost. Is there another way to say it? Like 85A is the story of a punk-rock gay Ferris Buehler who wants to escape a miserable life in Chicago by running away to London…that’s not it—but it makes it more concise? And you have to practice this—outloud, a million times, on friends, and wherever you go…Someone asks, “how are you?” You say, “I’m great, my book 85A was just published…it’s the story of a punk-rock gay Ferris…” This is pretty much the same message you’re going to use when pitching media, the book reviewers, the bookstore buyers…so get it down!

      Once you have your message down, print up some note cards—you can do this at Kinko’s—that has down all the info about the book (the cover, where they can buy)—some quotes from a review (congrats on the good review)…how to contact you for more info. Carry them with you everywhere – anyone you deliver your message to gets a card to remind them how to buy the book. Everyone.

      Okay, we haven’t even delved into Facebook, Twitter, etc. But this should get you off on the right foot, I hope!

      As for who’s my PR specialist? You’re looking at/writing to him baby. Feel free to ask me more questions—we’re all in this together!

      Good luck!

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