Intrepid author Moira McPartlin decided to fill the time between novels by organising her own gap year and used it to tour and promote her book. Here's her story.

I’m a slow writer. I only produce one book every two years and as you all know, it takes effort and energy to keep in the forefront of readers’, booksellers’ and librarians’ minds. The best way to do that is through book launch promotion but, if you’re slow like me, what do you do in the gap year?

During my last gap year I decided to organise my own book tour. I live in Scotland, a nation of wild landscapes with wide distances between centres of populations. I planned to travel to some out of the way towns, where writers don’t tend to venture.

The Tour Bus

I have a campervan and I’m married to a man who likes adventure, so I created my own book tour using the van as accommodation and giving my husband space to pursue some of his neglected hobbies.
Bessie the van on the prom in sunny Aberdeen

Getting organised

My first task was to make a list of local authorities, book groups, bookstores, writing groups, schools and libraries in the most promising areas.

I created an email pitch which included my book trailer and testimonials. But I always phoned first to introduce myself and find the best person to pitch to. I offered both talks and workshops, all I asked for in return was a space to sell my books and the campsite fee for my campervan.

I had a good success rate early on and once some dates were confirmed I was able to pinpoint specific geographical areas and key dates to avoid zigzagging the Highlands inefficiently.

Twelve events, spread over a month, covering most of the Scottish Highlands including the tip at Wick, Cowal Peninsula in the far west and the Isle of Bute seemed a do-able project. I called the tour Highland One Island Book Tour.

It seemed like a unique thing to attempt so I created a tour poster and, as well as sending it to the event’s organisers, I also sent out to local papers and radio stations. The result was wide spread publicity for me. The poster also served as great content for my blog and various social media outlets.

A month before the tour kick off I prepared my presentations and bought book stock.

Hitting the road

The first event was in Aberdeen in the north east. From there we travelled north to Dingwall. In Inverness local SCBWI coordinator, Barbara Henderson, hosted a lunch for me and other children’s writers before my event. It was a real treat and secured my audience.

Barbara Henderson and other Inverness children's writers

I had a couple of days off to go hill walking before hitting the road again.

Maureen from Orb's Bookshop, Huntly

Unfortunately I had to cancel my last event due to an unforeseen medical circumstance but the group understood and invited me back at a later date which was a bonus.

I have to admit that the effort and outlay was not returned in terms of the book sales at the events. But I did generate tons of publicity.

The greatest gift I received from the tour was meeting so many generous writers, happy readers and welcoming event organisers whilst travelling in some spectacular parts of Scotland.

Oban Bay
When I returned home I was amazed at the interest and respect shown to me by fellow writers for embarking on such a journey.

Would I do it again? Definitely.

Moira McPartlin made a big impact with her debut novel, The Incomers, which tells the tale of a West African woman moving to a small town in 1960s Scotland. Ways of the Doomed is the first book in the Sun Song Trilogy was published in June 2015. Wants of the Silent, book two in the trilogy was published in July 2017. Star of Hope, the last in the trilogy will be published in 2019. All novels are published by Fledgling Press.

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