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.
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.
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!)