Blog Tours 101: Setting Up Your Own Virtual Book Tour

Blog tours to promote books — known as virtual book tours — are commonplace in today’s social networking world. While many services exist that help set up such tours, some authors choose to set up their own, often for financial reasons. Such was the case when I was looking to promote my debut novel; Sins of the Angels, three years ago. After reviewing several services, I came to the conclusion that whatever they could do, I could do, too. I was right, but it certainly wasn’t as easy as I’d expected. Here’s how I did it – and what I learned.

Blog Tours 101- (3)

Planning the tour

I originally planned the tour to span four weeks, with five stops a week (Monday through Friday), beginning a day or two before my official release. I targeted blogs that reviewed books in my genre (urban fantasy), some of which I was already familiar with and others that I found via other blogs. To maximize the potential to reach new readers, I looked for a minimum of 200 followers on a blog and checked to make sure the blog owner was active. I started this research a good four months before my release date.

Approaching blog owners

Most blogs have policies posted with regard to author promotion such as interviews/giveaways, etc. I made sure that I followed individual contact policies and, while I did write a blanket email, I always personalized the email with the blog owner’s name along with a reference to the blog itself. In my experience, basic etiquette goes a long way to ensuring a positive response…or any response, for that matter. I sent my tour invitation to blog owners three months before my release.

Staying organized

To keep track of whom I’d contacted (and the myriad other details I figured I would need in order to stay sane), I created an Excel spreadsheet. On this, I included the blog name, contact person (and email address), date contacted, date I received a response, date I was booked to visit, what form that visit would take (interview or guest post including topic), and date I delivered the required material to the blog owner. I wrote and delivered as many of the posts as possible well in advance of the tour start, expecting (rightfully so) that I would be too busy once things were underway.

Responding to comments

In my opinion, too many writers fail to respond to readers’ (or potential readers’) comments on blog tours. I made a point of visiting each of my tour stops several times over the course of the day to answer questions or simply thank commenters for taking the time to read my post/interview. Not only was it simple common courtesy on my part, but I was genuinely grateful for the opportunity to tell readers about my book – and they needed to know that.

What I wish I’d done differently

One of the things I failed to do – which came back to bite me in the butt – was to send reminders out to each host about a week or so in advance of my stop with them. Blog owners are human, life happens, and yes, I had a few last-minute failures on their part. In most cases I was able to rebook for another date, but I had to let a couple of them slide altogether. In retrospect, I could have prevented a great deal of stress on my part by sending out an additional quick email!

Another mistake I made was in overbooking myself. I had a tremendous and very positive response to my tour invitation and, in my great enthusiasm, I ended up extending my tour by an additional two weeks. By the time I was done, I had made 34 stops over six weeks – and even if they were only virtual, I was beyond exhausted.

I also wish I’d paid more attention to the number of comments that previous guest blogs had received. Some blogs have more active communities around them than others do, and this definitely impacts the number of views your own visit will receive.

What I did do differently

With my second and third novels, Sins of the Son and Sins of the Warrior, I hired someone to book the tours for me. While handling things on my own was entirely do-able, it took a lot of time and way more organizational brain power than I cared to expend. Having someone else handle the invitations, the bookings, the details of who needs what, the reminders, and all the other detail-y stuff turned out to be sheer heaven.

Bottom line: if you’re willing to put in the time, you can absolutely do it yourself…and you can do it well. If time is at a premium for you, however, many services offer a reasonably priced tour set-up. Only you (and your wallet) can determine what will work best for you.

(For tips on working with a tour organizer, check back next Monday!)


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Comments

9 responses to “Blog Tours 101: Setting Up Your Own Virtual Book Tour”

  1. D. D. Syrdal Avatar

    Lots to think about. Due to sheer lack of time, if I try a virtual blog tour I may have to have someone do the legwork for me. Another fantastic post, Linda, thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Linda Avatar
      Linda

      You’re most welcome, D.D.! Glad you found it helpful. 🙂

  2. Elaine Cougler Avatar

    Hi Linda
    When I booked a blog tour it went very well but I am not sure how it translated into sales. Did you have any way of tracking that?

    1. Linda Avatar
      Linda

      Hi, Elaine — I wasn’t really concerned about tracking sales at that point. For me, a book tour is about getting the book out in front of as many potential readers as possible in order to increase the chances of a sale at some point. The more often someone sees a book come up in their online travels, the more likely they are to remember it and (eventually…with luck) pick it up — and the more often they see my name, the more likely they are to remember me. I look upon book tours as an investment in my overall career rather than a machine for selling just the one book.

      1. Elaine Cougler Avatar

        Absolutely, Linda. You make a very good case here. Thanks.

        1. Linda Avatar
          Linda

          You’re welcome, Elaine! 🙂

  3. Elaine Cougler Avatar

    Hi Linda
    Thanks for a considered response. You gave me something to think about. 🙂

  4. Sharilee Swaity Avatar

    Linda, thanks! This is great information. Four weeks of tour — wow! No wonder you were exhausted!

    1. Linda Avatar
      Linda

      You’re most welcome, Sharilee! I’m glad you found the information useful. 🙂

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