International Travel for Authors

Posted on May 28, 2013

Today, as I scroll through my Twitter, I see tons of my fellow authors talking about packing and departing for Book Expo America in NYC. When I lived in New York, I always got to go; now, I occasionally attend, but not always — and this year is one of the years off. Mostly this is because I only just returned home from the Feria del Libro in Buenos Aires a week ago, which involved about 12 hours of flying time on the way home, and if I got back in an airplane so soon I would probably lose it in some spectacular fashion that would regrettably but inevitably involve an air marshal. BEST AVOIDED.

Every time I spoke online about my trip to Argentina, I noticed that I got comments from readers all over the world, saying things I love to hear: “Come to Brazil!” “We want you back in Mexico!” “Will you ever come to France?” So I thought this might be a good time to explain how international travel works for authors, most of the time — and why, when I’ll happily go pretty much anywhere (though not this week), I don’t actually wind up visiting the whole globe.

First of all, authors very rarely plan and fund their own international travel. The costs are prohibitive, but more to the point, relatively few of us have extensive networks of support in other countries. If I wanted to set up a bookstore visit in the US, I could get my publisher here to reach out, have my publicist talk to local media, maybe reach out to some book bloggers, so on and so forth, and be fairly sure we could make the event worthwhile for both the bookstore and readers. However, I don’t have those kinds of connections in Chile/Germany/Italy/etc. When authors do create their own international trips, that’s usually because they have some lasting connection with that country — family, friends, or a network they’ve built up over a long period of time (as the awesome Dan Wells of PARTIALS fame has done in Germany, where he now lives.)

But most of the time, we don’t set up our own international tours; we get invited by specific overseas publishers, either for a tour or a specific event. I believe it was Cassandra Clare who wrote: “Authors are like vampires – we can only go where we’re invited.” When I made my trip to Mexico a few years ago, that was because my publisher there (RHM) kindly asked me to attend the Guadalajara Book Fair. Both of my trips to Australia were tours set up by the wonderful people at HarperCollinsAustralia. This way, I knew that my publishers would take care of media outreach, help me get where I was going in a country I didn’t know, and so on. Without that kind of support, an international trip would wind up reaching only a handful of the readers that authors hope to talk to.

(There are other kinds of invitations — my trip to Argentina was actually sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, which was pretty awesome. But the main factor is still that authors need support within those foreign countries in order to be able to make an international tour truly worthwhile for writers and readers alike.)

Don’t get me wrong — I love getting emails from you guys, wherever you are in the world, asking me to visit. But if you really want to make it happen, send one email to me AND a few emails to my publisher in your country. (Same goes for any other author you’d love the chance to meet.) I don’t know whether that kind of enthusiasm tips the balance for foreign publishers, but it couldn’t hurt!

As for my part of it, yes, I really will travel just about anywhere. I love seeing new places, meeting new readers, and seeking out all kind of new experiences. I’ve only ever turned down one international travel invitation — to Brazil — and that was only because they asked me for dates when I was already committed to touring in Australia. Have bag, will travel: That’s my motto.

Just — not this week. Right now it’s VERY good to be home.