The Self-Promotional Tour & the Ring

christopher-paolini-eragon-self-promotion
Some of Christopher’s most memorable book tour moments came from his experience promoting the self-published edition of Eragon. Below, he sheds light on his family’s initial publicity strategies and Kenneth, his father, recounts a cherished discovery made on a momentous day:

What were some of things you did to promote the self-published version?

Dressed in medieval costume, I did over 135 events across the country, at bookstores, schools, and festivals. Promoting Eragon became the family business: books sold meant food on the table, so we were incredibly determined.

We started by doing signings in bookstores, but quickly learned that no one shows up for an author they have never heard of. I was very determined, and would stay for eight hours straight and talk to every person who came in the store and try to sell them a copy. On a good day, I might sell forty books. That’s not bad for a signing, but it’s a lot of work.

I then learned that if I went into a school and did a presentation, in one day we could sell 300 books or more, and simultaneously inspire students to read and write, so I concentrated on that. We also started charging a fee for the presentation, to help cover travel expenses.

My dad and I made two trips to Houston, where my grandmother lives. I called numerous school librarians and spoke to them about Eragon and my presentation. They didn’t know who I was, so it took a bit of persuading, but I managed to arrange to visit several schools, along with a few bookstores, that first trip. One of the librarians posted an enthusiastic recommendation of my presentation to an online teachers’ forum, so by the time we returned home to Montana, my mom already had a second trip to Texas planned, and I didn’t have to do any cold calls. That second trip was a solid month long, with three or four hour-long presentations every single day.

      – Christopher

What is the significance of the dark-colored ring Christopher sometimes wears in his publicity photos?

Northwest Bookfest 2002

Northwest Bookfest 2002

That ring has special meaning to Christopher. We found it on the ground, outside of the Northwest Bookfest in Seattle, October 24th, 2002, while we were promoting the self-published edition of Eragon. Bookfest was held in an old aircraft hanger, so we think the ring, which is some kind of steel, might have originally been part of an airplane, but who knows?

In any case, that very day, Michelle Frey, an editor at the Alfred A. Knopf publishing company, sent us an e-mail query that started with: “I’m writing regarding your novel, ERAGON, which I recently read and enjoyed immensely.” The rest has been the continuation of a very happy publishing tale and the ring is a reminder of the beginning of it all!

      – Kenneth