In the last installment, we talked about what authors can do to make their blog books more successful. Now we’ll look at advice for hosts.
Start by reading 30 Tips for Blog Tour Hosts by Helen Ginger. Helen hosts many authors, including me, at her blog Straight from Hel, and she’s used her experience and the experience of other bloggers and authors to compile her tips list.
I’ve hosted a few blog book tours and hope to do more. Based on my experiences both as a host and as a guest, here’s my advice for tour hosts:
- Ensure your blog is ready to host blog book tours. Make it easy for readers to visit and comment. I recommend a blog other than Blogger; if you don’t want to spend money on a blog, you can get a free one at WordPress.com that is much more user friendly than Blogger. Requiring commenters to register or identify letters buried in squiggly lines discourages commenting. If you feel you need to moderate first-time commenters (as I do because of spam), clearly explain this on your blog and moderate comments promptly. If your blogging platform allows it, offer subscribe to comments so readers will be notified in e-mail when new comments are added, which makes it easier for guests to respond to comments promptly. Make your blog as attractive and functional as you can.
- Host authors whose books fit with your blog’s theme. Book blogs can host can just about any author, but other blogs need to be more selective. Business blogs can host authors of business books. Cooking blogs can host fiction authors whose books feature cooks as main characters as well as cookbook authors. Blogs about arts, crafts, and hobbies can host authors whose books include something about their topic—a character who quilts or a story set at an arts and crafts fair. Although my blog is pretty general, I won’t host authors who write books that conflict with my values or books in genres that I personally don’t like. If authors approach you, don’t feel obligated to host them if you aren’t convinced they are a good fit for your blog. And if authors don’t approach you, feel free to invite authors you would like to host.
- Collaborate with the author on the content and format. Let the author know your preference, but be open to her suggestions. You may want to write a review, but if the author has already lined up a number of reviews but doesn’t have any interviews scheduled, consider an interview. Don’t agree to something you’re not comfortable with, but be willing to consider other ideas. I was hesitant at first to conduct a character interview, but it turned to be a lot of fun for me and the readers. Some blogs hosted me twice on the same tour—once for a review and once for an interview.
- Allow enough time to plan the visit. Schedule far enough in advance to allow you and the author to prepare. You’ll want to read the book ahead of time so you can ask appropriate questions or prepare your introduction and wrap-up if the author is writing a guest post. The author will probably offer you a book; if she doesn’t, ask. If you’re doing an interview, you’ll need to prepare questions for the author to answer. Remember the author is making a number of other tour stops in a short amount of time, so allow her lead time to get her responses back to you.
- Get all the information and material you need from the author. You’ll need cover art and possibly an author photo along with an author bio and book blurb. You won’t necessarily post the bio and blurb, but you can use the information in your introduction and wrap-up. Ask the author for links—to her Web site, blog, and complete tour schedule as well as links to buy the book. If you are an affiliate of Amazon.com or other bookseller, you will use your affiliate links. If not, the author can provide links to where the book is sold. Even though I am an Amazon affiliate and link to Amazon, I also include links to the publisher or other places to buy the book to give readers a choice. You can also visit the author’s Web site and blog to learn more about her to help you promote the visit more effectively.
- Find out if the author is sponsoring a giveaway. Some authors plan to give away a certain number of books or other prizes in a drawing from commenters on all tour stops. Other authors may be willing to offer a prize specifically for your blog. Some may require that readers comment on every stop on the tour to qualify to enter the drawing. Plan to hold a drawing or promote the author’s giveaway.
- Prepare the post early. Give the author an opportunity to review the post so she can make any corrections or suggest any changes to the introduction and wrap-up.
- Announce the visit in advance. A few days before the author visit, write a post on your blog letting your readers know about the author’s upcoming tour stop on your blog. Include the cover art and author photo and tell your readers something about the author and her book. Don’t duplicate information here that will be posted on date of the actual visit. The purpose of this post is to intrigue readers and motivate them to return on the day of the author’s visit.
- Ask the author to promote the stop on her blog. She will probably post about each day’s stop, and she may promote on Twitter and other social media as well.
- Promote the tour stop. Use Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo groups, and any other social media you’re involved with to announce the author’s visit to your blog. I don’t do this well—OK, not at all—but I know many hosts and authors find social media very effective in building traffic.
- Schedule the post to appear by 8 AM Eastern time. You want the post to be online when readers start looking for it. If the tour stop has been announced for a specific day, many readers will go to the host blog early in the day … and go away never to return if they don’t find the post.
- Check often for comments and ensure your guest is also responding. Acknowledge and respond to comments promptly. If questions and comments start to accumulate and your guest isn’t responding, e-mail her to let her know readers are asking questions.
- Thank the author and offer to send stats. Some authors will appreciate having traffic statistics about their visits to your blog. Don’t worry if you don’t have a huge amount of traffic to your blog. If your readers, no matter how few, are interested in the subject or genre of the author’s book, the author will be glad to reach them.
What suggestions do you have for blog book tour hosts? Have you ever hosted an author on tour? If you haven’t hosted authors in the past, are you interested in hosting blog book tour stops in the future?