November 8th, 2009


on signing tours

For the record, I’m not going on a signing tour in a couple weeks. I’m going home to Alaska to visit family and friends, and am stuffing a couple of book signings in on the way through.

But since I’ve been talking about the signings, many of you have hopefully suggested you would very much like me to come to your location and sign books. I, too, would like to go to your location and sign books. I think it would be tremendously awesome. I would, however, have to sell about 300% more books than I do in order to make it even vaguely feasible. It’s not a lack of promotion on the publisher’s part, or a writer having to do all the publicity leg work herself. It’s pure finances.

As a rule, when you buy one of my books new, I get about a dollar from that sale. That’s the money I live on, day to day. That’s what I pay bills and rent and student loans with. So in order to fly to New York on your average economy ticket, I’d have be certain of selling, oh, say, an additional 600 books at a signing in order to break even. And that’s not including food or hotel, so throw those in and even if you’re being very cautious with money you’re looking at needing to sell an additional thousand or twelve hundred books to not lose money on the prospect. And really, most people at book signings bring the books they’ve already bought to get them signed, so even if by some incredibly unlikely stroke of luck I had 1200 people show up to a signing (and I’m much more in the realm of “if 40 people show up it’s an unqualified success”), the odds of selling 1200 books would be infinitesimally small. So although I have a good solid readership (for which I am *extremely* grateful), there just simply aren’t enough dollars coming in to support a self-financed book tour.

Ah! you say, so get your publisher to send you on a tour!

Well, the finances for the publisher are basically the same. My sales numbers–which, like my readership, are good solid numbers–are not nearly that good. I’m not a bestseller in terms of moving a large enough quantity of any given novel in the first month of publication. Over my career thus far my books have had what the industry refers to as “legs”–in other words, I’m still selling a lot of copies of URBAN SHAMAN, even 4.5 years after it came out. Now, if I could get everybody who’s bought a copy of URBAN SHAMAN to buy my next book the month it came out, yeah, I’d probably all of a sudden get to have shiny words like “USA Today Bestseller” or possibly “New York Times Bestseller” in front of my name. And there’s a degree of self-perpetuation to that, so once you start reaching that status it may become worth it to the publisher to (probably) lose money on financing a tour themselves, in hopes of making it up in sales down the road.

I’d greatly love to reach that status, or be in a position where it’s financially feasible to take myself on a signing tour and go all over the place to meet people. But for the moment, I’m really only ever going to be able to manage signings at places that I’m going to anyway, and sadly there just aren’t that many of those places to begin with. :)

(x-posted from the essential kit)