Monday, August 29, 2011

Find Readers Through Blog Tours By Kim Wright

Blog Tours – A Low-Cost, Low-Stress and Actually Fun Way to Help Your Book Find Readers

I had never heard of a blog tour until my novel Love in Mid Air came out last year. My publicist at Grand Central simply said “We’re going to send you on a blog tour.”

The truth is that the conventional book tour – where an author travels from city to city reading and signing at bookstores - is essentially dead. Only the most established of authors still do them, certainly not newbies like me. And it’s actually a good thing that they’re dead, since they’re expensive for the publisher and almost always demoralizing for the writer.

I have a friend who once flew cross-country to San Francisco to read to six people and every writer who’s ever been on a book tour has their own personal horror story about the time they sat on a folding chair for three hours, smiling hopefully at every person who came through the door, and in the end sold one book. To the mother of a bookstore employee who felt sorry for them.

So if the old model no longer works, what’s emerged to take its place? Enter the blog tour. Cheap, productive, and relatively painless.

It works like this. In the modern era, a lot of readers buy their books off the internet and look to internet experts, most likely bloggers, to alert them to new titles worth reading. If you can get your book featured on a blog which has lots of followers – especially followers who are interested in the type of book you write – this can result in more exposure than a conventional book tour.

Blogs throw the net wide - across the country and internationally - and they almost always provide a link where an interested reader can immediately buy your book. This creates more sales than a review in a newspaper, which requires the potential customer to read the review, remember the book and author name, and then either go to the computer or a local bookstore to find it. Trust me, the click-and-buy-while-it’s-fresh-on-your-mind model is how a lot of books get sold.

My publicist set me up to be on ten blogs a day for the first ten days my book was available. That meant a hundred blogs would blast out something about my book during a two week period – a review, a Q&A between the blogger and me, a guest post I had written in advance. It idea is that a wave of publicity from different sources creates buzz for a launch.

One my publicist pitched me to the bloggers, I connected with all of them several weeks in advance of the launch. We did the interviews, supplied the advanced reader copies, and I wrote any posts they requested. Once the blog tour began, I checked in on the participating blogs several times a day to answer questions and interact with people who’d left comments. And since bloggers frequently post their reviews to sites like Amazon and Goodreads, Love in Mid Air began its commercial life with strong sales and a nice cushion of thoughtful, professionally written reviews.

It took a little time for me to write the guest blog posts that were requested and to check in on the days they ran, but far less time than it would have taken me to drive or fly around the country on a conventional tour. And if there was negative feedback or the occasional nutcase reader – as there always is – at least I didn’t have to deal with them face-to-face.

Tragically, my publicist left my publisher before the launch of the paperback a year later, but by then I understood how it worked and was able to create my own Son of Blog Tour. Of the one hundred bloggers she had introduced me to for the hardback tour I had noticed that about half of them were the most helpful – resulting in the most hits and comments. So I trimmed my list down to the blogs that were simpatico with my book and added a few others I’d found on my own in the year between the hardback and paperback launch. Then, a few months before the paperback launch I contacted them and offered content. Bloggers have to write a lot and are usually happy to have a writer offer up a guest post. I created a list of ten or so topics I’d be happy to write on and invited them to take their pick.

You can do the same. If you have a book coming out, and no publicist to help you, simply follow these steps.

1. Months in advance begin to look for blogs aimed towards writers and readers, especially those who feature the kind of books you’ve written. If your book is gritty urban fantasy, it does you little good to appear on a website devoted to Regency romances.

2. When you find websites you like, poke around them for links to similar websites. Many bloggers have lists of other blogs they like and birds of a feather really do flock together.

3. Simultaneously begin to build up your own Twitter lists and Facebook friends. Once your blog posts go live you’ll want to be able to get the word out as far and wide as possible.

4. A couple of months before your launch, begin to contact the bloggers. Offer them a copy for review, offer yourself up for an interview, or offer to write a guest post on a topic that will be of interest to their readers.

5. Send in the content, along with a jpeg picture of you, the cover of your book, and a link to a site that sells your book well in advance.

6. On the day your blog post goes live, announce this on Facebook and tweet it throughout the day. Check in on a regular basis to interact with people who have left comments. If someone writes an especially astute comment, friend them on Facebook or start following them on Twitter.

7. Check your Amazon figures, or whatever seller you’ve chosen, throughout the day to see if the blog is helping create a bump in sales. Knowing which blogs work best for you will help with further publicity efforts down the road.

8. When it’s all over, write a thank you note to the blogger. These people are the unsung heroes or modern book publicity.

See? It’s really not that hard and the best news of all is that it’s fun. It links you to people who have similar interests, who read and write the same sorts of things that you enjoy. Writing can be an isolated and lonely business and the blog tour can be a great way to pull yourself into a thriving, interactive, online community. As well as selling books along the way.

MCP_8800[1]Kim Wright has been a journalist for more than thirty years, and is both an award-winning travel writer and novelist. Her nonfiction guide, Your Path to Publication, is available from Press 53. It covers all the things writers need to know after they finish their books – networking and social media, getting an agent,contracts, working with editors, marketing, and the ups and downs of self-publishing. Kim’s novel, Love in Mid Air, is available in bookstores and on Amazon.She is presently at work on a mystery about Jack the Ripper.