or How to Promote a New Title with an Interactive Launch
Many authors and publishers are jumping on board the blog tour to promote their latest books because that can increase sales and make an author or publisher name highly recognizable. A blog tour can also be a great way to reach thousands of successful bloggers and their followers, and to reach many more new readers in your genre than you can count. It takes some intensive planning for two to four weeks, but the rewards are well worth the work. For about one month during the launch of your new title, a blog tour can provide intensive publicity. Instead of going from store to store for traditional book signings, the author is going from blog to blog. Word about the book travels, and the author joins the tour from home. For this intensive period, a predetermined number of blogs will feature the new book and author. The owner of each of these blogs will have received a review copy before the tour. The participating blogs will review the book, interview the author, and provide some kind of giveaway. The giveaway can be anything from T-shirts to free downloads, but the most popular giveaway is a signed print-on-paper copy of the book that goes to a winner or two at each blog stop. You can hire an online publicity service to arrange a blog tour for you, or you can do it all yourself and get the added benefit of personal connections. Blog owners will become trusted colleagues you work with time and time again on other promotions or events after you connect with them by arranging your own tour. Though the actual tour is during the first month of your book launch, the footwork must be done two to four weeks before the tour, in the pre-tour period.
- Locate blogs relevant to your book that might host your blog tour. You may already have many favorite blogs, but it never hurts to do a search for blogs related to your book’s subject or genre. Because I write books about art for children, my prospect list would include the top artsy-craftsy mommy and kid blogs such as The Artful Parent, Picklebums, Nurturestore, Simply Kids, The Imagination Tree, and Tinkerlab, to name just a few. Since all quality blogs have their own blog rolls listing favorite blogs, you can easily compile a list of many highly traveled blogs appropriate for your book. Take note: While lesser-traveled blogs may reach just a few dozen people, some highly traveled blogs have 10,000 followers or more. Imagine the potential reach of a blog tour!
- Decide how many blogs you’d like to visit during the month of the tour. There’s no right or wrong number; there’s simply the number you feel you can handle well. A good number is 14, which means being featured on a blog every other day. Have more than 14 on your list in case some are not interested.
- Contact each blog. Go online to each of the blogs you’ve chosen and use the contact link to send the owner an email that provides a warm but brief overview of your tour and explains how you will make it easy to participate. Mention that you’d like to have your book featured on the blog, to have it reviewed, and to have the author interviewed, and also mention that you will supply one or two free signed books as a giveaway for the blog’s followers.
- Schedule the stops. Working with each blog owner, pick a day for each blog to be a stop on the tour. Schedule each on a different day to span an entire month.
- Set up the author interview and provide what the blogger requests. Some blog owners are very savvy and others are less so, but they all will want an interview to post on the blog tour day. Find out which bloggers will send questions by email for the author to answer, and which prefer to talk with the author by phone. Keep the answers to questions; many of the blogs will ask the same ones and you will save time by having the responses on hand. Photos of the book cover and the author are absolutely necessary.
- Create video and audio files. Often bloggers want a short video of the author speaking or demonstrating something from the book. Some may want an audio you create especially for this blog tour; others may use one you recorded in connection with another presentation. You can create the audio easily with your smartphone. Bloggers won’t expect the video or audio to be anything more than short and focused, a way to get to know the author personally. Even if yours appears home-grown, it is valuable and will be appreciated.
- Set up a landing site for the tour. This is optional but powerful, since it lets anyone who’s interested stay up to date about the tour. A landing site you create on your Website, your blog, or even your professional Facebook page should function much the way a press room does. In other words, it should:
- include information about the book and the author
- provide a list of participating blogs with links
- list where and when the book will be featured
- provide links to posted reviews
- offer your audio and/or your video and/or your book trailer as downloads
- offer promotional ideas or items; for instance, you might have a drawing for a free autographed book
- Tell your professional partners. If you work with a book distributor or fulfillment house, let them know about the tour so they will be prepared to deal with orders. In fact, let everyone know who does business with you.
- Monitor and finalize plans. During the pre-tour period, you will arrange for 14 or so interviews, mail books, schedule tour stops, and keep track of what you have sent to each blog owner. It is imperative that you keep a rock-solid spreadsheet listing the blog names and links, the owners’ names and contact info, and the date of each blog stop. On your spreadsheet, also note the exact date you mailed each review copy; when you have scheduled and completed an interview; and all other details, such as the dates when you provided a book cover image, an author profile image, and a short video or audio file.
When It’s Time to Announce Your Tour
Of course, you have to announce your blog tour and encourage people to participate. Your own blog is the first place you should announce the tour (if you don’t have a blog of your own, start one). List all the participating blogs and their dates, with hyperlinks to each blog. Then announce each stop as the tour progresses. The blog owners appreciate that you will be bringing new people to their blogs, and hopefully new followers. Facebook is a great place to list all the stops on the tour before it happens and to keep announcing the tour as it goes along. Be sure to provide links to the blogs that have agreed to be on the tour. And if you don’t already have an author page and a professional page as well as a personal page, add them now. Spreading the word on Facebook for the Time to Create blog tour. (Photos courtesy of Christie Burnett.) A sample blog tour announcement. Christie Burnett is the early childhood teacher behind the popular parenting blog Childhood 101 (see childhood101.com and facebook.com/Childhood101), as well as the author of Time to Create (Gryphon House, 2013). She reports that her blog gets more than 80,000 visits a month. (Photo courtesy of Christie Burnett.) Announcing the tour for The Artful Parent (Roost Books,2013). Jean Van't Hul owns The Artful Parent blog (artfulparent.com and facebook.com/pages/The-Artful-Parent). (Photo courtesy of Jean Van't Hul [The Artful Parent] with Roost Books.) Once you announce the tour on your Facebook page or pages, share your announcements with others in your field, including the Facebook pages of the blog owners you will be visiting. In fact, share the announcement anywhere you feel it is appropriate and you are comfortable doing so, but don’t overdo. Also announce the entire tour on Twitter and LinkedIn, and announce each stop during the month as it goes along. If you have a newsletter or a feed, be sure to include your blog tour plans there too. Ask colleagues who have newsletters to include your schedule. Snail mail can also promote the tour. Since some people respond well to receiving mail and often miss emails, you may want to print and mail postcards or flyers announcing your blog tour.
During the Tour
Don’t worry about who will visit the blogs on your tour. After all, each blog has its dedicated followers; they are loyal and check in often. When there is a free giveaway, you can be quite sure the tour will be attended. During each scheduled blog stop, visit that blog and add your light and friendly comments to comments that followers will be leaving. Offer answers to questions and suggest resources as needed. Share plenty of appreciation for the opportunity to participate in the online conversation. Offer to return to the blog at a later date for an additional interview or present other ideas you may have. Offer yet another thank-you.
Ahhh, it’s over! You may now have reached thousands of readers who are specifically interested in your book. You may have hundreds if not thousands of new followers for your own blog or professional Facebook page. You may have new colleagues and friends all over the world. Check your Google analytics and watch for jumps in visitor numbers and length of visits on your Facebook page, blog, and Website. Ideally, your book sales are jumping. Check them daily; watch the increase, and be sure whoever fulfills orders is prepared with shipping supplies. Also, collect the names and mailing addresses of giveaway winners from each blog owner; autograph the giveaway books with a personalized inscription for each winner; mail the signed giveaway books; and note the dates you sent them on your spreadsheet. If you like, you can include other materials along with the autographed book, such as a catalog or a brochure about your speaking topics. When the blog tour has ended and all the giveaway books have been sent out, it’s time to reflect on the experience. But most important, it’s time to say thank you to the blog owners. Mail a handwritten thank-you note to each owner. Return to each blog and offer a post or comment thanking the blog owner and the followers for their participation in your tour. Visit the Facebook pages related to each blog and post a cheery greeting and one more heartfelt thank-you. Invite everyone to visit your Web page and, possibly, to get a coupon code for a discount on the book when they do. Though organizing a blog tour is intensive, the rewards of reaching thousands of readers specifically interested in your book are vast and varied and worth the effort in sales and connections. All this without leaving your office!