Books can be made or lost on the book tour. While the Web has made it easier to reach readers all over the world, nothing moves books so much as meeting with readers in person. Publishers won't always foot the bill so writers are left to arrange the book tour themselves.
Set a budget. If you're low on funds, you should narrow down a book tour to the major cities: New York, Los Angeles., San Francisco and Chicago. If your book has regional appeal, book more dates in that area of the country.
Obtain a list of small and large bookstores across the country. These lists can be found online. Don't limit yourself to book stores; local art galleries, colleges, music clubs or coffee shops can also be good venues.
Book motels in advance. Try to find a motel close to the bookstore/college/coffee house or other venue where you'll be reading. If at all possible, stay with friends or family.
Drive. It's easier and cheaper to drive from city to city for an extensive book tour. If you're just traveling to a few cities that are far apart, plane travel will be necessary.
Try to hook up with other writers -- local writers or other writers on a tour. It will bring in a wider variety of audience members. Find writers who write in a similar genre. It's not uncommon for writers published by the same press to tour together.
Don't leave advertising to the bookstore. It may have a small listing in the local weekly and a placard in-store, but that's it. Try to advertise locally yourself --contact the weekly for an interview or buy ad space yourself. Contact local radio and TV as well.
A book publicist can be helpful to organize all of the details, but it can be an extra added expense in addition to accommodations, food and travel. Don't forget to bring enough copies of your book, especially important if you're reading at places besides bookstores. If you know anyone locally, ask them to post fliers around town for your upcoming reading. Try to be engaging. Stay after the reading so you can connect with readers directly.
A book tour with no publicity can fall flat on its face. No reason to spend the money for airfare, rental car and motel room if no one shows up to the reading.