Whenever travel comes up, everyone asks me to visit their city. It makes me sad because I really do wish I could meet all my readers everywhere! That would be so great. But, alas, that's not possible. The whole process is pretty complex, and I thought I'd copy over a post I did on Facebook that kind of explains how tour and travel decisions get made:
Most new authors don't have anyone to fund their travel--which means it's all on them to pay for it. Likewise, most authors don't make much money off their early books. My first signings were all in Seattle and Portland--because they're close and that's all I could afford. (And thank you to those stores who let an unknown author come in and have an event!)
Authors who do well or are very, very lucky will sometimes have publishers start funding their travel and touring. I am lucky enough that Penguin now arranges almost all of my book signings. I'm extremely grateful and fortunate. Many authors don't get that kind of chance, and the support my company gives me is overwhelming.
But the question that makes this so hard is: how much does it cost? I can't say for sure. I don't see the bills! Anyone can run rough estimates, though. When I do a hardcore tour, I'm in a different city every day--which means an airline ticket every day. Add on a hotel, a professional driver to get me around, and food every day too. I'd roughly guess that at *a minimum*, a tour costs $700 a day in the US. Then start thinking of a 10 or 14 day tour.
These are just guesses on my part, but I feel confident there's a lot of money being spent--not to mention a lot of work for my publicist. So, as many of you suggested, the publishers do a lot of research as to where the books are selling. You might be surprised to know that suburban stores (i.e. Naperville, IL) often sell larger numbers of my books than a big city's stores (i.e. downtown Chicago).
Penguin has actually been very cool about the Spirit Bound tour and is sending me to "smaller" cities--like Albuquerque and Mobile. People read my books in those cities, but the sales don't match larger cities. Penguin thought it would be nice for me to meet readers from different parts of the country this time, which is insanely awesome--and not something many publishers do. Usually a book company is purely numbers and sticks to mega-cities only. Again, I can't express how lucky I am.
Bookstores don't charge anything for authors to do signings, though they are selective since it costs them money to keep on extra staff for the night and advertise. Book company publicists have lists and info about stores in different cities and usually contact those they've heard run really good events.
As for me setting up my own signings in different cities, I could do it, but I can't afford $700+ a day for days at a time. :) I will squeeze in a signing if I'm already in a city on a vacation or something, but honestly, with all the work travel lately, staying home is a vacation!
And to revisit the international question: yup. The country's publisher is the one who would fund any travel there. Penguin Australia won't pay to send me to Croatia because they don't sell there. Every country's publisher has different budgets, and my books sell at different rates in different places. And to think of money again, an international plane ticket usually runs around $1000. Other countries usually keep a publicist with me at all times (meaning someone has to pay for that person's travel too) whereas in the U.S., Penguin figures I know how to navigate an American airport on my own. This is usually true. :)
And finally, thank you for the sweet offers, but I won't be doing any fan-funded trips. :) I'll leave things as they are.
Phew, that was a massive answer! I hope that helps a little with how the process work. I like hearing people throw out suggestions of where they'd like to see me, but hopefully this helps explain why I can't get to all those places! We try, but we have to keep it limited. After all, let's not forget I still have to do that book writing thing too! I know authors who can write on tour but not me, so I lose those days of work. It's a balancing act between writing and meeting fans, but it's so worth it because I love doing both.
Thanks again for the comments, everyone! Next time I'll tell you what a tour day in the life is actually like.
As an aside--here are some places I visited in the last 2 years. It doesn't mean I won't go back--but it shows we do try to get around: Seattle, Portland, SanFran, LA, Houston, Dallas, Austin, Denver, Vancouver BC, Chicago, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Orlando, Miami, Lexington, Atlanta, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Boston, Fairfax, Wash DC, Australia (Brisbane, Melbourne, Syd), UK (London & nearby cities), NYC, New Orleans, Phoenix, Philadelphia, & Boston.
Frequent flier miles, anyone?