On Promotion: Blog Tours

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As I have a book hitting shelves in a little under two weeks, promotion is a big part of my to-do list. By now readers of MW know that it is largely the responsibility of the author to promote their own book (and it is in our own interest to do so if we want to sell more books). But how does one get the word out about a book, especially a first book?

Recently I was contacted by an author whose first book will be released later this year. She wanted to know how to set up a blog tour and if they were were worth the time and effort. The answer to the former is fairly straight forward; the latter is a bit trickier. Both are good questions and some that other writers probably share, so I thought I’d start my exploration of promotion with blog tours as they are one of the least expensive and potentially the largest reaching forms of promotion that a writer can do.

First, what is a blog tour? It is a virtual tour where an author “visits” (as in posts at) various blogs. These visits can be on other author’s blogs,  review blogs, or writing oriented blogs, and the posts can be interviews or be opened ended invitations to talk about whatever the author desires.

How do you schedule a blog tour? There are services that sell “packaged” blog tours–as in they go out and book authors on various sites, but I’ve never seen the point in buying one of these services as with a little virtual legwork you can set up a tour on your own. For the first time author, bloggers aren’t going to come to you until after your book is out, so you’ll have to go out and find the blogs yourself. If you have writing friends with blogs, you’re a step ahead as you can politely ask those writers if you can send them a post. That said, you’ll probably want to set up a wider tour than just with authors you know. That means going out and finding the review sites that specialize in your genre and using their contact button to “cold-call” and ask for a spot in their schedule. (I find that it is best to start setting this up months before the book is released, even if your blog tour is only surrounding your release date.)

Finding the bloggers can be one of the hardest parts of a first blog tour if you don’t regularly read multiple blogs. Asking other authors about their favorite sites can be very useful here, though your best resource is often checking out blogrolls of your favorite writers in your genre and searching for sites through degrees of separation. (As in start with one blogroll and follow it to the writer’s favorite review sites/writing blogs/wherever and then checking out where that blog recommends.)

When you send an email requesting a spot be courteous but targeted. Tell them who you are and what you write and tell them you are setting up a blog tour and would love to stop by their blog. In my experience, most bloggers are very kind and very willing to host guests.

What do you write about on a blog tour? Here are some basic do’s and don’ts:

  • Do always look at the theme of the blog. If it is a writing blog, write about writing. If it is a review blog write about something interesting that ties into your book. Look at what others have said before you to see if your post will fit.
  • Do use fresh material. Many blog readers visit multiple sites and they don’t want to see the same interview or post over and over. (This can be very difficult with interviews as many of the questions are similar and you feel like you are finding new ways of saying the same thing.)
  • Do remember to check in on the day the blog goes live and answer questions.
  • Don’t go for the hard sell. Bloggers want guests who have something to say that will interest the blog’s readers. The good news is, if you interest the readers, they are likely to look you up without the hard sell (which no one really likes anyway). 
  • Don’t forget that you can always ask the host what their readers are likely to respond to best. It’s their blog and they know their readers.

So is a blog tour worth the effort put into it? Well, that can go either way. If you love writing blogs and have lots to talk about, a blog tour will be a snap. If you absolutely hate blogging, it can be torture. (I’m personally somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.) It is free, which is a plus, but you’ll probably be asked to give stuff away, which makes it a little less free. And, honestly, it can be very hard to measure the effectiveness of a blog tour. The internet is a big place, and a blog tour is a good way to get people talking about your book (and buzz is always good) but it can be a lot of work.  In my own experience, it generates a lot of clicks back to my site. Do those lead to sales? Hard to say. You’ll have to judge for yourself if a blog tour is for you.

Happy Thursday everyone. If you have anything promotion related you’d like to hear about, please leave it in the comments. I plan on doing a series of posts on promo, so I’ll be happy to expand on whatever you like.

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5 comments to On Promotion: Blog Tours

  • I’ve recently started my own blog tour, which was literally weeks in the making. It takes a lot of ground work, but I’d like to think that it’s going to be worth it. Best of luck with yours, Kalayna!

  • Kalayna,
    I am just now in the openeing phases of planning my blog tour, too. I am going to come up with 4 or 5 general blogs that can be changed, revised, etc, to offer fresh content to each blog, and when small blogs ask me to contribute, I’ll check out the blog and pull an appropriate one from the pile, revise it and add in fresh content (like snippits) and send it off.
    And hey — I have a blog. Got something to post on it? You can use me! David already has plans to.
    Wait. That sounded all wrong….

  • You too David! We are in the same boat currently, what with both our books coming out the same day. Can’t wait to see you at our book signing extravaganza.

    Faith, I totally need to take you up on that. We still need to do a Jane/beast and Alex interview. ^_^ I’ll send you an email.

  • Being a newbie, I am very interested in your perceptions on promotion. I, perhaps naively, have always felt that promotion is best utilized when aimed at attracting someone’s attention. It is not for directly selling books. If you interest a blogger, reader, other author enough, they will click through and decide about a purchase. No one likes to be pressured or guilted into a sale. Drives me bonkers looking thru the Twitter feed and *most* are the same tired tweets about a book. Tell me about your book, tweet a line, but don’t flood the feed with repeat tweets with no variation in content. You just lost a sale. Pique my interest, and not only has the author made a sale, but I just might ask them to do a guest blog, or start retweeting their tweets, or mention them and their work, etc. It is a fine but definite line to negotiate.

  • I am in the middle of a blog tour of sorts right now, and from my PoV, it’s incredibly worth it. I launched a Kickstarter campaign for my novel last week, and I’ve been guest posting anywhere I can. It’s a lot of work, and I’m working through my log of requests for posts, but I can definitely see it help me. People I don’t know and who have never heard of me are pledging to support my project, and that makes me giddy.

    The hard part about it, though, is how much time it takes. (Thank goodness I’m a teacher on summer break, right?) Running a Kickstarter campaign and a blog tour is pretty much a full-time job. I’m writing posts and networking from about 7:30 in the morning until at least 5 in the afternoon, plus keeping up with the social networking after that. On top of editing and supervising my blog team’s upcoming posts.

    But it’s worth it. I love doing it. I love having people support the project based on concept alone (cross-genre SF/F–a traditional marketing nightmare) instead of being a regular follower of mine or my blog. But I love blogging and writing columns anyway, so there’s that, like you mention.

    I think it also helps that, unlike a book launch, I have a whole month to build on myself. I have a way to create a sense of urgency in my audience. Instead of “That sounds interesting; I’ll have to remember it,” readers on a KS blog tour have a deadline, and if they miss it, the project may never exist. So if they’re interested, they are hopefully compelled to opt-in.

    So if you’re thinking about a blog tour, just take some time and ask folks if they’d want to have you at their place. People love supporting authors and friends, and guest posts/blog tours mean essentially free traffic for their site. It’s win-win for everyone involved, the way I see it.

    Speaking of…anyone want a guest post? Tee hee! 😉