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Reaching Readers: Lessons Learned From Blog Tours

Headshot of Dianne Greenlay

Canadian novelist Dianne Greenlay

Award-winning Canadian novelist Dianne Greenlay shares her experience of three blog tours, to help other self-published authors considering using this route to reach more readers

I am an author of an ongoing series of books that, while getting good reviews, has only modest sales. Like most independently published authors, I am always on the lookout for effective ways to achieve the following goals:

  • Visibility – especially important for the first book in a series, and always for an unknown/debut author
  • Reviews – essential for Book One, highly desirable for additional books in the series
  • Book Sales – essential for one’s complete stable of books (also essential for the good of an author’s mental state of health)

Over the last three years, I’ve participated in three of them, and here are the results.

First Blog Tour – 2011

I paid $35 in 2011 for a 10 blog stop as a single participant. Tour host arranged/chose the blogs. She actually gave me 12 blog stops (I don’t know why, except that some of the blogs most definitely didn’t cater to my genre, which is YA).

I was required to do a pre-written author interview post for each of the blog stops. This took a lot of time to do and it was tiring to try to answer the questions in a new and interesting way, without repeating myself too much, for the sake of those who follow such tours. Note: of those blog readers who left comments, there was only one who showed up (ie commented) at more than one of the blog stops…

Results were good in that I got a review from every one of the bloggers. Goals #1 and 2 reached.

Second Blog Tour – February 2014

Cover of Quintspinner

Dianne Greenlay’s debut novel

Times had changed. Now tour hosts enticed bloggers and readers to participate in book blog tours with giveaways and gifts, which are usually free ebook copies and Amazon gift cards. I entered another blog tour with a total of 10 participating authors. Our tour arranger gave us 36 blog stops.

We each paid $30 for the tour and $20 for the Amazon gift cards. The tour ran over 3 days.

I was required to give the organizer my author bio, FB, Twitter, Goodreads links, book cover and blurb, a “buy” link, and author photo. No blog posts required, but authors were expected to visit as many of the blog stops as possible and interact with any commentors.

Tour organizer made a snazzy banner for us to use on our own blog sites and/or FB pages.

I ran a Kindle Countdown during the 3 day tour and advertised, at my own cost, on several sites including the Fussy Librarian, Book Goodies, and Choosybookworm.

Results were modest. I received less than 10 reviews. I had a small increase of book sales. Financially I broke even on this one.

Third Blog Tour – March 2014

Again it was a 3 day tour of blogs, with 8 authors participating. We each paid $40 for the tour and $15 towards the Amazon gift cards.

This was by far the most organized of the 3 tours. Again we received a digital banner to use on our sites and pages, and we were required to submit the same author and book info as in my previous tour, including book prices during the tour dates.

We were each required to write 2 posts – the topics were assigned by the tour organizer – of up to 900 words long. She then posted them on a schedule several weeks ahead of time, to familiarize her readers and bloggers with us. She advertised intensively for at least a month ahead of the tour dates; 54 bloggers signed up for the tour and around 800 bloggers/readers signed up for the Rafflecopter draw for the gift cards, before the tour even started.

All of the authors saw a large increase in Twitter followers (up to 400 new ones; some of my new followers are STILL tweeting about my books) and FB likes (100-200). A few of us got reviews, all got feedback on our blurbs and covers, but most saw only modest, if any, increase in sales, with the exception of one author who reported enough sales to boost her book well into the top 100 ranking area in several categories. This author also ran a free promotion immediately after the tour and had over 97,000 downloads.

Lessons Learned

Cover of Deadly Misfortune

Sequel to Quintspinner

  1. Book blog tours vary wildly in their costs and readership reach. Contact me if you would like the names of the ones I participated in, or any further information on these tours.
  2. Blog tours, for the most part, DO NOT sell books, but they DO get both an author’s name and book out there in front of potentially thousands of pairs of fresh eyes.
  3. Tour organizers likely do not live in the same time zone as you. This makes co-ordinating any promo start and finish times a bit tricky.
  4. One unexpected thing experienced by a couple of authors: bloggers seem to be generally far more critical and picky in their reviews than the average public.
  5. Some tours’ reach and intended introduction of our books to new readers extend into areas well beyond the geography that Amazon services.

Here’s our suggested tweet to help you share this useful post with other indie authors: 

“For indie authors: lessons learned from three #blog tours by @DianneGreenlay via @IndieAuthorALLi: https://selfpublishingadvice.org/reaching-readers-lessons-learned-from-blog-tours”

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18 Responses to Reaching Readers: Lessons Learned From Blog Tours

  1. Maia Silverdagger September 22, 2017 at 7:12 pm #

    Hi there!
    I’m the owner of Silver Dagger Book Tours. I’ve also been running tours for the past year and have successfully run over 400 tours now with all happy customers! I accept ALL fictional genres and indie authors are treated the same as award winning authors with me. I have a unique approach as I don’t have any set rates and prefer to be “tipped” after the tour is over whatever amount you are comfortable with and what you feel is fair for all my hard work! I have a guaranteed minimum of 40 blogs per tour, though usually there’s quite a lot more depending on the genre. I adore series and frequently tour multiple books at once, giving readers the “full treatment” of books. I never reject any fictional books and happily accept any amount given to me with no complaints! Anybody interested in a tour can visit my page here: http://silver-dagger-scriptorium.weebly.com/book-a-tour.html

  2. Erica Verrillo May 18, 2015 at 10:07 pm #

    Who did you use for your blog tours? (Names and links would be useful.)

  3. Peter Prasad May 12, 2014 at 3:52 pm #

    Stunning info. All power to the author. Best to you. – Peter Pradsad (Gurl-Posse Kidnap)

  4. Maria Constantine May 12, 2014 at 11:38 am #

    Thanks for the informative and useful post, Dianne. I’ve not taken part in a blog tour but have considered it and your experiences have helped me think about what my goal would be with a blog tour and how best to achieve it. I found the part about some authors experience that ‘bloggers seem to be generally far more critical and picky in their reviews than the average public’, particularly interesting to note.

    • Dianne Greenlay May 12, 2014 at 3:34 pm #

      Maria, I found the bloggers left far more detailed reviews than the average reader. This is a good thing if: 1. the comments are favourable, or 2. the not-so-favourable comments are presented in a way that the author can use them to improve upon her book and its presentation.

      However, at least one participating author told me that she received a couple of reviews that were were not helpful criticism and were marked so low that it brought her overall star average down, which in turn can mean being accepted for some online promo sites or not.

      I know we always ask for “honest” reviews” but I think that secretly, we all hope that reviews will help our efforts, and make us feel good about our efforts. This wanders into the discussion of whether to leave a low rating review for something that you don’t like, or just to not leave a review for it at all…. a post from someone for another day perhaps?

  5. Helen Hollick May 12, 2014 at 9:48 am #

    I’ve enjoyed several Tours – as with Alison above I’venot heard of collective tours though – apart from self-arranged Blog Hops, which involve authors to post an article on their own Blog and include a list of other participating authors’ blogs so visitors can ‘hop’ from one blog to the next. I’ve never charged authors when organising these – never occurred to me to do so LOL! This is the last one I did for some of the Indie authors from my UK assisted publishing house, SilverWood Books Ltd. http://ofhistoryandkings.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/fictional-reality-silverwood-blog-hop.html
    Some of us found it useful – again for gaining new FB & Twitter followers. Sales weren’t really affected though, I don’t think. Some of us did gather a few comments, but several didn’t even get many visitors – I THINK this was because they don’t have a high social media presence so are not very well known.
    So basically Blog Tours do gather in the visitors, but you have to ensure the visitors know about the Blog Tour to be able to visit it! Thanks for the article, very useful.

    • Debbie Young May 12, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

      Having been fortunate enough to take part in two tours organised by Helen Hollick (who has been very generous with her time in setting these up for free), I agree that with all these tours, the author must take responsibility for promoting the tour, before, during and after the event, via their own followers on social media and elsewhere. It’s not a question of simply lighting the touchpaper and retiring to a safe distance to watch the fireworks. You also have to be prepared to visit and respond to comments on every stop on the way. (Gregory De Laurentis wrote a great post about that process here: http://selfpublishingadvice.org/reaching-readers-case-study-of-a-blog-tour-with-gregory-delaurentis/).

      I’d also note that where you are involving a group of authors on a collective blog hop, it helps a lot to have a single theme to make the process a more coherent whole, as Helen did for the one she set up for the Winter Solstice and running on 21st December, uniting a disparate group of authors from all over the world. (My contribution was a short story, here: http://authordebbieyoung.com/2013/12/21/let-there-be-light-special-feature-for-the-winter-solstice/)

      • Dianne Greenlay May 12, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

        Yes, Debbie, to have the same genre or theme makes the tour much more effective, I believe.

        Helen Hollick’s tours sound excellent and her wonderful generosity at setting up the tours at no cost to the authors is an exception to what’s out there. I think most organizers have decided that it is another way to earn an income online.

    • Dianne Greenlay May 12, 2014 at 3:10 pm #

      Yes Helen, my results mirror your own. One point that I would like to reiterate, is that, with the last tour, the organizer asked the bloggers to give us input on our covers, and even asked them to choose their top 3 favourite ones and to give a few sentences for their reasons for having made those choices. At least one participating author has since changed her cover in response to reading about what features the bloggers liked in book covers. That bloggers from that same tour frequently commented on the book blurbs. This was really good feedback for us and may have helped to tune up the book descriptions a bit ( or in many lucky cases, lounge in the positive feedback!)

  6. Alison Morton May 12, 2014 at 7:49 am #

    Intrigued by the collective tours! Mine have aways been individual ones. I’ve done various – cheap and cheerful, self-organised and specifically targeted, high quality ones. I would say that the more you pay, the higher quality the audience.

    The plusses are: visibility, reviews, some FB likes and new twitter followers and small bumps in sales. However, most hosts are glad to see you again if you are polite and professional.

    In pure sales terms, none have been cost-effective in terms of sales, but the huge benefit is spreading the word as widely as possible. The benefit of a professional tour company is that somebody else does all the searching out and fiddling around. They have the contacts that you would probably never find. Blog tours are marketing and should be budgeted as such.

    If you sell any books, then that’s a bonus!

    • Dianne Greenlay May 12, 2014 at 3:04 pm #

      A beautiful summary, Alison. I totally agree!

      The collective tours had a wider reach, but because they were organized by a third party, the participating bloggers weren’t always a very targeted audience for everyone’s genre. I would do a collective one with authors whose books were ALL of the same genre, next time.However, one of the plusses of this, was that I was introduced to a lot of bloggers that I would have otherwise never have known about. Lovely people, all of them!

  7. Helena May 11, 2014 at 11:12 pm #

    Dianne, a very useful and interesting post. I did a few blog tours with my first novel, The Englishman, both when it came out on Kindle and paperback. The first tour was successful, I got quite a few sales and reviews. I didn’t get as organised as you and record all the info, but I did notice that the subsequent tours with 2nd and 3rd novels (not a series) were not equally successful. What I do wonder is, how do you know if the sales and reviews were as a result of the blog tours? Didn’t you do any other promotion at the same time?

    • Dianne Greenlay May 12, 2014 at 2:58 pm #

      Helena, I set up simultaneous paid promos to run only with the second blog, and I don’t think that it was much more successful than the two tours in which I did no additional promotion. Also, I don’t know if it was the tour or the promo which gave the results. That’s the problem with doing two or more simultaneous efforts – one doesn’t know which to accord the successful results to. I guess I would tend to attribute sales to the promo, as the blog tours tend to give increased visibility, not sales. However, one can’t know for sure!

  8. Joanne Phillips May 11, 2014 at 10:58 pm #

    Thanks for this really informative post, Dianne. I’ve been thinking about a blog tour for a while now, and weighing up whether to try and organise one myself or get a company to do it for me. It’s interesting that the latter two tours you participated in included a number of authors – I hadn’t heard of this method before.

    I wonder how much legwork (virtually, of course) would be involved in sourcing and approaching book bloggers directly to ask for reviews and/or guest spots. The downside of these mass-tours seems to be in the quality of reviews, reader engagement, and primarily how targeted – or well read – the blogs you get actually are.

    Would you consider doing it all yourself in the future? What are your thoughts about blog tours going forward?

    Jo

    • Dianne Greenlay May 12, 2014 at 2:53 pm #

      Joanne, I don’t think it would be hard to set one up yourself but it would be time consuming. You would have to track down the blogs that you wanted to participate on, and then ask the bloggers if they would feature you, your books, and post within your targeted days, just so all of the bloggers were posting about you within relatively the same time. Of course getting on all of the blogs at exactly the same time is probably not absolutely necessary for successful visibility. I would not shy away from trying to set up one by myself if I weren’t so short of time. However, if you were to go in with a few more authors, as a group, you could all share the tracking down work and yet reap the benefits of being featured on all of the blogs. 🙂

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