from manuscript to bookstore -- the publishing process

Tour question
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Sally asks:

"I was wondering if you (the author, after all!) have a say in the book tour's itinerary?"

The short answer: no.

The longer answer: a tour is governed by a number of factors, some of which have to do with the author and the book (e.g. specific requests from bookstores to have that author come) and some of which don't (e.g. what other authors the publisher has on the road and where they're going). There's also strategy the author knows nothing about. If a publisher expects a book to do particularly well in one area of the country, some publishers will reinforce that by sending the author there; others will send the author somewhere where the book might be weaker. The tour is to sell your book, which involves publicity in the tour cities as well as bookstore appearances, and it's also a tool to maintain a healthy relationship between a publisher and booksellers. My publicist has a lot of experience with and knowledge about what is and isn't possible in certain cities, much more than I have.

In the case of this tour, there's one stop that probably wouldn't have been on it if not for the fact that I've done very well at that store before and told my publicist that when the store asked for me. But pretty much this tour is to places Bantam chose. If I'd had a terrible experience in any one store I might have been able to avoid going back there, but I haven't. The opposite, in fact: most of these stores are places I've been to and done well at, so I'm happy to go back. The ones I haven't done are actually stores I've wanted to do, so it's working out well. What you can't do as an author is dictate the tour: "I'd like to go to Chicago, Atlanta, Austin..." Fuggedabahdit.

The exception to this is authors like Lawrence Block, who works out deals with his publisher where he takes the tour budget, rents a car, books the tour himself, marathon drives and does about three times as many cities as they would have sent him to. You can only do that if you have a certain amount of clout and the soul of a long-haul truck driver. I also understand that Stuart Woods pilots his own small jet on tour, and won't go to cities where he can't land. This may be an urban legend, though.

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