The growth of online book sales, web 2.0 technology and social media have given indie authors unparalleled opportunities to promote their books.
One of the best innovations in online book marketing is the blog tour, or virtual book tour. In its briefest form, a blog tour allows an author to virtually visit lots of communities where their host—a blogger—will introduce them to a new audience of readers who are likely to be interested in the author’s book.
Before we take a look at how this works, let’s lay out some of the advantages of doing a blog tour.
• The tour allows you to reach many more readers than you can by yourself.
• The tour also introduces you to lots of bloggers as you make contact with people who might host you on your tour.
• You get to interact with people who are new to your work and, consequently may have questions or comments that will also be new to you.
• The tour will undoubtedly grow your fan base, but it will also grow your subscribers and your email list if you set this as one of the goals of your tour.
• You’ll get to know the bloggers in your niche much better than you knew them before.
The Enhanced Blog Tour
You can level up your tour by adding elements to draw in more people and to reward whatever engagement you’re trying to promote.
For instance, if you want blog comments, have a random drawing the day after your post where you choose from the commenters and give away an autographed copy of your book.
This can also be done with a competition on Twitter or your favorite social network. On Twitter, you can ask people to Tweet your post and randomly draw a winner for a prize from everyone who participates. Stipulate a hashtag (#BobsTour or your choice) that has to be included in the Tweet so you can easily aggregate them for the drawing.
There’s really no limit to the tie-ins or promotions you can run during or alongside your blog tour. Since these tours usually take place during your book launch period, if you have a community of people following you there should be some built-in interest in the book when you get started.
Start Here: 12 Steps in Your Blog Tour Process
Although I can’t give you all the details of a blog tour in this one article, here’s a quick rundown of the process you’ll go through to get organized and use this powerful marketing strategy.
1. Research blogs—you probably know many of the blogs in your niche already, but even if you do, it pays to do some research. There are lots of ways to do this, but probably the fastest one is to start looking through the blogrolls that you’ll find in the sidebar of the most popular blogs in your niche. Simply clicking through to these blogs will open lots of doors for you.
2. Draft a query—Try to keep your query email pretty short. Bloggers are busy and are much more likely to read and respond to a short query than a long one. At this point you’re looking for expressions of interest, you don’t have to tell the whole story of how you came to write the book. Make sure you mention the title of the book, its genre, and the general idea, story, or topic it covers. Tell them the dates you will be touring, too. Ask if they are interested and tell them exactly what to do if the answer is “yes.”
3. Contact the bloggers—Now you’ll want to get in touch with the bloggers who responded to your query to settle on dates for your appearance and the subject matter of your guest article or whether you’ll do an interview instead. Talk about any contests or giveaways you want to run on the tour to see if they want to participate in that aspect of your promotion.
4. Maintain a schedule—Keep a detailed record of who you’ve contacted, proposed dates and subjects, and all the other stuff you talk to the bloggers about. You’ll be talking to a lot of people over a short period of time and you want to make sure you don’t forget anyone or miss an appointment.
5. Prepare articles—Now it’s time to really get to work. You’ll want to get all the articles you’ve promised written before your tour starts. It might seem like you can write them while the blog tour is going on, but don’t leave it for then. You are likely to be quite absorbed with appointments, contests, comments from readers, requests from hosts and all the other details that pop up when the tour goes “live.”
6. Make sure books are available—Did I mention that, especially if you are touring a new book, you need to make absolutely certain your books are available for sale before you start the tour. If you are selling at Amazon, BN.com and other online retailers, verify the books can be ordered well before the day the tour starts.
7. Get your links set up—Also make sure you have the links to your book’s pages on the retailer sites you want to promote. It’s handy to have both the full URL and a shortened version (through bit.ly or another service) available.
8. Verify dates and topics—Make sure ahead of time that you and your hosts have coordinated your appearance. Confirm the date, time, topics and especially which time zone you are in to avoid accidental no-shows or embarrassing your host.
9. Show up!—I’m not kidding. Set an alarm, create a big chart on your wall, have a friend call or email to remind you, but don’t forget to show up for your scheduled interview or to send in your guest post. You went to a lot of trouble to get this far, don’t stop now.
10. Say thanks—It adds a fair amount of work for a blogger to host you on their site, and a leap of faith that you won’t alienate their readers or otherwise damage their brand somehow. So thank them. When they book you, and after your appearance. Think about your next book, and thank them again.
11. Send out freebies and prizes—If you’ve offered prizes, giveaways or freebies, it’s really important to get these out in a timely fashion. Don’t make people wait, they won’t appreciate it. Following through on your end of the deal will inspire trust and reassure people that you mean what you say.
12. Evaluate your tour—Once the dust has settled, take some time to step through the process you’ve just completed. This is a great time to make some notes about what you would do differently next time. This crucial step is easy to overlook, but it will never be fresher than it is just after the tour. You’ll be doing yourself a favor, and you’ll collect when you’re ready to plan your next blog tour.
I hope you’ll think about using the power of a blog tour when you launch your next book. There’s nothing else that will give you the marketing punch of a blog tour for almost no cash investment. So tour and prosper.
Originally published in a slightly different form on CreateSpace.com as “Desk-bound Destinations: Understanding Blog Tours.” Photo by jcuthrell
Joel Friedlander (@JFBookman) is an award-winning book designer, a blogger, and the author of A Self-Publisher’s Companion: Expert Advice for Authors Who Want to Publish. He’s been launching the careers of self-publishers since 1994 and writes TheBookDesigner.com, a popular blog on book design, book marketing and the future of the book. Joel is also the founder of the online training course, The Self-Publishing Roadmap.
[…] 12 Steps to Blog Tour Success by Joel Friedlander […]
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Hi Joel, thanks for some great advice. I’m planning my first blog tour starting 15th May. It’s been a lot of work, but I think it’ll be worth while. I’m going to use this post to help me finalise everything.
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Joel, this is a great post! But, don’t forget that most of the time bloggers are the ones who schedule the tours, not the author. Otherwise, you are hosting your own tour. In my experience (of course, I write YA, so that may be the difference here) the blogger who hosts the book tour does all the arranging and scheduling.
I totally agree on the part about appreciation, though. Bloggers are awesome, and in most instances they do all that hard work for free of charge.
Thanks, Belle, that’s great information. These seem to work best when author and bloggers collaborate on the process.
Yes! You are so right! The collaboration is where the magic lies! I really appreciate your post, Joel, and I plan to share it with many friends. Thanks so very much for putting it together for us! 🙂
Great post! I’ve set up my own blog tours–wish I’d had this article then. I decided to hire a blog tour coordinator for my newest book. My tour begins on March 4th. This article has helped me realize that I need to be very interactive during the tour. Thank you!!
Yes, the whole idea is interaction. After all, blogs are great for stimulating discussion, not just “broadcasting” so make use of that unique ability.
Thank you for these tips on blog tours. I have yet to do one, and am considering setting one up myself for my next book, this definitely gives me something to work with!
Heidi, this is one of the most powerful promotional tools an indie author has in her arsenal, I highly recommend it.
These tips are great, Joel, thank you!
Question: What’s your opinion on managed blog tours? You know, the bloggers you PAY to set up a tour for you?
I’ve done a couple of those and while it was a lot less stressful than when I hosted my own tour, I wondered if the readers of those blogs were just overwhelmed with new books? Sometimes the tour stops would have one or two OTHER “stops” on a tour on the same day as me. I wondered, in those circumstances, if the tour was very effective for me.
What are your thoughts?
Thanks in advance!
I would be wary of tours that book into blogs where other people are touring the same day. The idea is that you want to get the attention of that blog’s readers, not compete for it with someone else.
It is work to put a tour together, and hiring help can be useful. Whether you need a “blog tour company” or just someone to help with arrangements, like a virtual assistant.
It’s also better to focus on genre-specific blogs which have a good-sized audience.
Thanks! this is just what I needed. I’m setting up my first blog tour now.
This is going to be helpful, thanks for the tips!