In my last post, I described what a blog book tour is. Instead of traveling to bookstores and sitting around waiting for someone to buy a book for the author to sign, the author travels to blogs. The visit may consist of a guest post, an interview, a review, an excerpt from the author’s book, or anything else the author and host can imagine.
Now, let’s talk about how authors can plan the most effective tour.
You’ll find excellent information at the Quickest Blog Book Tour Guide Ever. The guide is prepared by Dani, who blogs at Blog Book Tours and runs the Blog Book Tours Yahoo group. The e-mail group is an excellent training ground for authors planning tours. It is designed for authors to join and go through the three-month training, conduct their tours, then leave to make room for new authors.
I learned from Dani’s guide, the Yahoo group, and my own experience as an author of a blog book tour. Here is my advice to authors planning their own tours.
- Understand the purpose. All of us would like to take a blog book tour and sell thousands of books. However, it usually doesn’t work that way. Just as most authors (except celebrities and politicians) don’t sell thousands of books in the bookstores when they tour in person, a blog book tour may not results in immediate huge sales. The purpose of the blog book tour is to make readers aware of you and your book. For years, marketing gurus have said it takes seven exposures on average before someone buys a product such as your book. Now, I’m hearing the number of required exposures has increased to 10. A blog book tour will introduce your book to many readers who would not hear of it otherwise.
- Start planning far in advance. If you want to promote your book as soon as it is published, you need to start planning months before the book’s release. If you are promoting a book that was published some time ago, allow yourself plenty of time to plan the tour. I spent nearly 100 hours planning and executing my first blog book tour, and I think that’s a pretty standard amount of time.
- Determine your tour schedule. My first tour lasted three weeks, and my second lasted only four days. I think the first was too long, and the second was too short. If the tour is too long, people get tired of it and quit following. If it’s too short, you don’t build any momentum. A tour with stops every day takes a lot of time and effort and is exhausting (though certainly not as tiring as traveling to that many different cities). Something that seems promising would be a tour of about a week to launch the book followed by a year-long tour of one stop a month. That would start promotion with some momentum and keep the promotion going long-term. I haven’t tried this and don’t know anyone who has, so it may not be as good as it sounds. If anyone has tried it or does something like this, please let me know.
- Become a part of the blogosphere and social media long before your tour. Create and maintain your own blog. Visit other blogs and comment. Participate in events—such as group writing projects—that will raise other people’s recognition of you. Regarding social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Good Reads, and all the other groups and networks on the Internet, all I can say here is to do as I say, not as I do. 🙂 I am not active in social media, but I think that authors who are have more successful tours.
- Target appropriate blogs. These can be blogs dedicated to book reviews and author interviews, blogs focused on your genre, as well as blogs related to themes in your blog. For example, a blogger whose protagonist is a cake decorator visited cooking and cake decorating blogs. I should have targeted some blogs about domestic violence as that is an important theme in Dream or Destiny. I was blessed that a number of bloggers I’ve come to know through my own blog as well as visiting and commenting on other blogs offered to host my tour. Since I had enough hosts, I didn’t go looking for other kinds of blogs.
- Determine if the targeted blogs meet your criteria. Some people advocate that you visit only blogs that have significant traffic, but I went to blogs that had as few as 45 page views in the first week. Certainly you want most of your stops to have more traffic than that, but sometimes making a few targeted people aware of your book is as beneficial as announcing it to a huge crowd that may or may not be interested. Check the blogs to see how easy it is to leave comments, and ask the hosts’ comment policy. I didn’t do this, and one of my hosts moderated all comments only once a day, so the comments didn’t appear until the next day for me to respond, then it took another day for my response to appear. To encourage interactivity, be sure it’s easy for people to comment.
- Contact the targeted blogs with information and a request. I prepared a PDF file with information about my book and my upcoming tour that I sent to prospective hosts. The information is included in the report on my tour.
- Aim for a variety of events on the tour. Readers tire quickly of seeing the same information on every tour stop. Your book cover should appear at every stop, along with how to order the book. Different tour stops can include guest posts that you write for the bloggers’ readers and interviews (audio or written) in which you respond to hosts’ questions about your book, yourself, and your writing. Hosts can even interview one of your characters rather than you. They can post excerpts from your book or write reviews. Maybe you can think of something creative that no one has tried before that relates to your book.
- Confirm stops and send information to hosts. You may have to exchange several e-mails with prospective hosts to determine a schedule that works for everyone. Not only do you want your stops spread out over the entire time of the tour, but also you want variety from day to day. You don’t want three days of interviews followed by three days of reviews—mix them up. After you and the host agree on a stop, send a confirmation e-mail showing the date and the content/format (interview, review, excerpt). Include additional information such as as the Information for Hosts in my blog tour evaluation report. Offer to provide book cover art, your photo, book blurb, your bio, and anything else the hosts requires. One thing I didn’t include in my information packet that I should have: let the hosts know that you will be asking them for feedback, including traffic and comment counts, at the end of the tour.
- Post the schedule on your blog. My blog book tour schedule showed the dates, the host blog, and the event/topic (guest post on XYZ topic, interview, review, etc.). When you first post the schedule, you will link to the home page of each host blog. However, after the posts appear, change the URLs on your schedule to the permalinks so readers can always find the posts.
- Consider sending the hosts a copy of the book.You will obviously have to send a copy of the book to any blogger who is reviewing your book, but I offered a copy to every blogger who hosted me. Some bloggers in other countries got e-books, and a couple of bloggers didn’t take me up on my offer. The book was a nice thank-you for hosting, and also generated additional reviews outside the tour, including one at Amazon.com.
- Consider offering books to hosts for giveaways on their blogs. I made this offer to all hosts, although only three took me up on the offer. Book bloggers, especially, like to encourage comments and participation by drawing prizewinners from commenters. Some authors give away a specific number of books (usually two or three) to winners drawn from comments at all blog tour stops. Others require a comment to be left on every tour stop to qualify for prizes. I prefer offering each host a book—the hosts interested in participating will agree; others won’t. The hosts who give away prizes can build reader loyalty.
- Respond to hosts promptly. Send cover art and other material as soon as the host requests it. Answer interview questions promptly, and send guest posts several days (preferably about a week) in advance of the scheduled date.
- Remind hosts as the date approaches. I sent an e-mail to hosts a few days before the scheduled stop, asked if there was anything else they needed from me, and included the details of the scheduled stop. This gave the hosts another opportunity to be sure they had cover art, blurbs, and anything else they needed, and it was a gentle reminder/confirmation of the tour stop.
- Promote each stop. Every day I posted a short announcement and a link to the stop of the day. I asked hosts what time their post would go live, and scheduled my announcement post for a few minutes after that. Ideally, all the posts should be live at the beginning of the day, but if you’re touring blogs located around the world, the beginning of the host blogger’s day may not be the beginning of your day. For those more social media savvy than I am, promote on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Yahoo groups, and other social media sites.
- Be available at each stop. I tried to post the first comment at each stop, though every once in a while, someone beat me to it. I thanked the blogger for hosting me and said I would be available to answer questions. Then I checked throughout the day to acknowledge comments and answer questions. This is much easier when the blog has the subscribe to comments feature so you are notified in e-mail when there is a new comment for you to respond to. At the end of the day or early the next day, I left a final thank-you comment though I continued to respond to comments that came in later.
- Thank the hosts. In addition to leaving a thank-you comment, I thanked each host by e-mail at the end of the day. Once a week, I sent e-cards to thank each of the hosts for the previous week.
- Evaluate the tour. I sent a form to my hosts asking for information. The form is part of the report on my tour. I hadn’t told my hosts in advance that I would be asking for this information, and I had to wheedle and cajole some of the them to get the information (and one never responded). The information was extremely valuable—but I should have given advance notice that I would be asking for it.
Are you an author or a host who has taken part in a blog book tour? What advice do you have for authors to make their tour successful?