Really wonderful post on the details of going on a book tour. Lots of good info here!
Last summer, two major things happened: my second bookcame out, and I got my Belgian residence permit (meaning I could travel outside of Belgium for the first time in a year). My plan was to go to the US to see my family, and while I was there, to travel around to give readings in support of the book. I wanted to meet writers, visit bookshops, and see parts of the country I never saw while I lived there. Since coming back to Belgium, I’ve gotten a few requests for information about how I did this tour. I’ve written up my process below—there’s a lot of it—and I hope it’s useful.
HOW I PLANNED AND WHAT I DID BEFOREHAND:
I knew up front that my press would not support any kind of reading tour financially. I think this is more and more the case. In my case, because I was not legally allowed to work during the year of waiting and because before that I was on a visa that only let me work part-time, the general financial situation (little money from presses for book tours; none for poets, at least not poets of my stature) was compounded by my lack of ready cash. These things meant that if I wanted to do a tour, I would have to do it extremely cheaply, and I would have to depend on the kindness of people I didn’t know—first of all because I would be arranging everything from far away (six or seven or eight or nine timezones) and second because I would be asking for hosting, event organization, co-readers, etc., all without having much (monetarily speaking) to offer in exchange. That said, since I would be going all that way, I didn’t want to do a couple of readings in the Twin Cities, maybe one in Wisconsin or Iowa, and call it a day. If I was going to do a tour—spending the last bits of savings that had carried my through two jobless years—I was going to do it right. I decided that I would try for ten cities, but that I wasn’t attached to where those cities were. Wherever I could find a couch to sleep on and a café, bookshop, theater, or other venue to read in (preferably with another poet), I would read.
I put out a call on Facebook and Twitter to see who might be willing to host a reading, and who would be willing to let me stay with them, and I went from there, building a path I could easily do by train (the most affordable way for me—I had the luxury, at this point, of joblessness, and I had six weeks to use up; also, I wanted to see the US by train [I don't have a driver's license] and to use the time on board to write). I concentrated on cities where I knew people I could stay with. That said, I did get offers for readings and places to stay that didn’t make the final cut: there were places that weren’t very accessible for me (trains didn’t go there, or I’d have to make a big detour; places isolated from any other places I had offers). If I had had more time, and more money, I could have gone to twice as many cities. That’s just to say that there are definitely people and venues out there who want to support writers in this way. I found that the more specific I could be about dates, the better it was for the hosts, because it meant less planning and deciding for them. They could just say yes/no, and then we’d work it out. . .