In response to Faith’s wonderful post from last week, and her promise of more PR posts to come, I thought I would put in my $.02 by outlining what I did in setting up the Thieftaker and Thieves’ Quarry Blog Tours during the summers of 2012 and 2013. This is one of those PR activities that I never even dreamed of doing when I first broke into the business, because there were no such things as blogs. Today I can say without exaggeration that my blog tours have been the single most important publicity tool I have had in gaining readership for the Thieftaker books. Whether you’re an aspiring writer trying to figure out how to pump up the volume for your very first release, or an established professional looking to kick off a new project, I cannot recommend this strategy enough.
Let’s start with the obvious question: What is a blog tour? A blog tour, also known as a virtual tour, is pretty much just what it sounds like: A series of guest “appearances” at different sites across the internet. You are trying to promote your book or books by tapping into the readerships of other people in the industry. The blog tour is based on the assumption that the audiences of your hosts will also be drawn to your work. Simple, but elegant. So, for instance, when I set up my tours I try to get onto the sites of writers who do work that is at least somewhat similar to mine — Faith Hunter, Mindy Klasky, Catie Murphy, Di Francis, Lucienne Diver, Kate Elliott, Joshua Palmatier, Mary Robinette Kowal, Stephen Leigh, etc. I also try to schedule appearances on sites that specialize in reviews, news about the industry, and discussions of our genre: Aidan Moher’s “A Dribble of Ink,” “Dreys Library,” “Bitten by Books,” “All Things Urban Fantasy,” “Unusual Historicals,” the site of Brandy Schillace. And I fill in spots on my schedule by making my regular blogging venues — Magical Words, SFNovelists, and my own blogs — part of the tour. So this past summer, taking into account all of those venues (and counting some events that never found their way onto the blog tour listing on the D.B. Jackson site) I did over forty events. Last year I did just about the same.
So, how do I go about setting this up? Well, it’s a three part process.
1. Scheduling. Thieves’ Quarry came out on July 2, and I tried to build my tour around that date. I started contacting potential hosts about possible guest appearances in early May. That way I had plenty of time to get on their schedule on days that I wanted for maximum exposure and benefit. I envision my blog tour schedules as something similar to a basic bell curve. I want to lead into the tour with events starting a few of weeks ahead of the book’s release. In those early weeks I only set up one or two events — just enough to get people talking about the release. For the week before the release, I generally schedule an event for each day; perhaps two on Monday and Tuesday, when web traffic is generally heaviest. For the week of the release, I schedule at least two and sometimes three events per day, and I try to maintain a similar schedule for the week immediately following the release, before allowing the number of events to begin to taper off. Unlike a bell curve, though, the back end of the tour continues for some time, stretching through the rest of the summer and even into the fall. I had a couple of events just a week or two ago. The important things for me are, a) to get on the schedule at the sites with the most traffic for the prime days — release day itself, the Monday before the release, the Monday after the release. Those are the days I try to be on big name blogs and sites. And b) to have my schedule set well in advance of the tour so that I know when I am doing what and can plan my posts and notifications accordingly.
2. Generating Content. The thing to remember about creating a blog tour is that it’s a tremendous amount of work. The scheduling itself is tiring. Generating the content is exhausting. I try to have unique content for every event I set up. Sometimes the people hosting me are interested in having me write about something specific, or want to ask me specific questions in a Q&A format. Those, in a way, are the easy ones. For the rest, I have to figure out what elements of the novel I want people to know about. Then I find two or three dozen different ways to say to convey that information. So, for Thieves’ Quarry I wanted to stress the historical elements of my plot, the magic system, the mystery element, my lead character, and my villain. I had lots of posts about the occupation of Boston, about Ethan and Sephira’s rivalry, about the magic system and how it resembled 18th century beliefs about witchcraft. Each post was written from scratch, so that each would read differently, even if the content was similar from post to post. For a few sites I wrote character interviews — those were fun. For Faith’s site, we did a Jane Yellowrock/Ethan Kaille mash-up. All Things Urban Fantasy wanted something about setting, so I had Ethan give a walking tour of Colonial Boston. Many of the posts were great fun to write. But I was generating 1000-1500 words each day for the month preceding the start of the tour just to have enough material for all my guest appearances. I didn’t write much fiction during that period.
I also make sure to have prepared: A brief bio (100-150 words) with links to all my sites and social media; a small and large image of the book cover; and a small and large version of my publicity photo. Most sites want some combination of these things.
3. Showtime! The day each blog appearance went up, I did several things. I blogged about the tour on my own sites, highlighting that day’s appearance and giving a preview of the post. I tweeted every day about the tour, usually several times per day, giving links and using the same set of hashtags for each post (#ThievesQuarry, #Thieftaker). I publicized each post on Facebook. And I made myself available at each site to respond to questions or comments from readers. In short, I spent most of my time during the blog tour shifting from the site in question to Twitter to Facebook to my blogs and back to the hosting site. I was online all the time, and got very little writing done then, too. My goal, obviously, was to get as many people talking about the tour, and thus about the book, as possible. But I also wanted to make sure that my readers, the ones I already have, were going to my hosts’ sites, so that my hosts would get something out of the tour as well, in the form of increased traffic.
Yes, Blog Tours are a lot of work. But they don’t demand travel, they don’t really cost anything unless you’re doing giveaways and contests on some of the sites (which I actually recommend), and they reach far more people than a signing tour ever could. (That said, I also did a small signing tour, which I would be happy to talk about in another post.) They’re also fun, despite all the work. And they’re a great way to reach out to new internet friends and meet fellow authors.
Questions? Comments? Let’s talk about some of this.David B. Coe http://www.DavidBCoe.com http://www.dbjackson-author.com http://magicalwords.net
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