What is book tour really like?

A few book tour questions came in last week:

How does the tour work exactly? Are you responsible for paying for everything or does the publisher do that? Do you drive everywhere yourself or take planes?

The upcoming FORGE tour will be my fifth book tour in six years. (This could be why I am on my third suitcase.) They have all been structured along the same lines: lots of plane rides, school visits, super-nice people, and not enough sleep.

The publisher sets up the entire thing. They also pay for it, thank goodness! This is awesome, but not posh. I fly coach. I stay at ordinary hotels. I don’t touch the minibar. Authors are not paid to go on book tour. The theory is that the publicity will boost sales which will someday translate into a royalty check. (The school visits are done for free, btw.)

The publicity department decides how long the tour will be and which areas of the country to visit. They factor in things like the author’s sales history, cities the author has or has not visited before, the other authors that are touring that season, the marketing budget, relationships with booksellers, phases of the moon, and the size of the dark stripe in the middle of a woolly bear caterpillar.

Sometimes I think that darts are thrown at a map, too. (A healthy element of luck and uncertainty makes for the best adventures, don’t you think?)

My tour days are generally structured like this:

Wake up at an obscenely early hour & take hotel shuttle to the airport.

Fly to the next city on the tour. Greet the sun as it rises.

Meet author nanny.*

(Except when there is no author nanny)**

Spend the morning and afternoon giving school presentations. Use time in-between presentations to drive around region and sign stock in bookstores.***

Late afternoon and/or evening give a public presentation at bookstore or a public library. (Between the schools and public appearances, I try to limit it to four presentations a day. Sometimes this works.)

Catch late flight to next city, or crash in hotel near airport.

Next day: repeat.****

* An author nanny is sometimes called a “media escort.” “Author nanny” is closer to what they really do. This is the person who drives the author around and makes sure she is fed and watered at regular intervals. Author nannies are amazing people. Imagine your favorite aunt combined with an emergency management specialist, a doctor, and a large bouncer. That’s an author nanny. I have begged several of them to adopt me.

** Some regions of the country don’t have author nannies. That’s when I rent a car and pray to the GPS gods. Always entertaining.

***This is what I am doing when it appears that there are empty hours in my schedule. That’s why, when friends and other nice people write and say, “Hey! I see you have some free time in (fill in the blank)! Let’s get together for (fill in the second blank)!” I have to politely decline.

****I am told that authors who write for adults have much easier schedules. If this is true then they are weenies.

Yes, it is very hectic. And exhausting. It could not be any farther removed from the reason I became a writer. (What was that reason again? To write stories. Alone. In silence.) As a matter of fact, if you wanted to design a lifestyle that was as far removed from my quiet life in the woods, you would come up with something that closely resembles a book tour. But….


Book tours are fun! Tiring, yes. But way more fun than tiring. I adore meeting my readers and the booksellers, teachers and librarians who have connected my readers to my books. The only downside is that it’s time away from my family. But I have a very, very patient family, and the FORGE tour is so made of awesome, so exquisitely designed that I will get to see several members of my clan on the road. So it’s all good.

Any other book tour questions??

8 Replies to “What is book tour really like?”

  1. I’ve sold four books. Publisher has never offered me a book tour. If he did, I’m not sure I could handle it. I think you have to be an amazing person to do what you do.

  2. I love you. You’re incredible.

    I wish so, sososososo much that I could see you on your book tour. Are you planning to come to Georgia in the future? (Please, please come. We would be more than thrilled to have you. We’d welcome you with open arms.)
    We adore you. <3

  3. Thank-you so much for sharing this. I have always wondered about this part of being an author and how it is. I plan on being an author myself and am nearing the end of a novel I am self publishing for my school right now. You’re an inspiration to me, hoping I can be just as spectacular and actually be able to make a living out of my dream.

  4. Thanks for the inside look. Thought you’d appreciate similar thoughts from Neil Gaiman:

    There is no romance to it. And I thought there was, once, before I was an author. Then, if you told me, you know, “Hey! You’ll get to do a 21-city tour of America, and do 30 signings over six weeks,” I’d have thought, “How glorious! Travel and hotels and things.” Only it’s not particularly glorious. And you stumble into those hotels at midnight and set the alarm for six o’clock the next morning to make the next plane out, and so on.

  5. Adult-book authors don’t have to worry about the school visits so their schedules aren’t as cramped.

    You’re going to be in Haverford!!! *dances around* My hubs has the car on Tues nights but I’m sure SOMEONE can drive me over. It’s like 20 minutes. I MUST come.

    Question: At these types of things, can I bring, say, my copy of WINTERGIRLS for you to sign in addition to buying a copy of FORGE? I know some sites will specify, one book per customer, no personalization, or whatever, and I didn’t see that but I just wanted to check.

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