A How-To of Blog Tours
Blog tours have been popping up as a rather hot topic here and there in the blogosphere recently. One of our authors – Julianna Scott – has put together an in-depth article from the point of view of an author about how to conduct a blog tour. Grab yourself a cup of tea and get reading, the authors amongst you!
Do Your Research: It may be tempting to send out a tour request to every book blogger you can find, but that isn’t going to serve you as well as finding a few blogs who cater to your target readers. Do a web search for your genre and see what comes up—top search results are usually the most popular blogs. Another good way is to go to a blog you yourself follow and look to see if they have a blog roll or ‘Blogs I like’ section.
Once you have a list of prospective blogs, visit each one and make sure they are still active and look like places you would like to host your tour. Check consistency of posts, followers, comments, and site meters if they have one.
After you check out the sites, you can then mark your list with a ‘yes’ for those you want to approach, an ‘no’ for those you want to skip, and a ‘maybe’ for the ones you can come back to if need be. Also, while you are there, get to know the ‘review policy’ section of their site, as that will often tell you how far in advance you need to have requests in. I sent out my first round of requests over two months before the tour was to start, and I had bloggers who were wide open that far in advance, and others who were already booked solid. For your bigger blogs, timing can be key.
Make it Personal, but Keep it Professional: When it’s time to send out your requests, make sure you look up each blogger’s name, and address each email individually (no bulk emailing). That isn’t to say you have to write a different letter each time, that would be impossible, but you do need to make it as personal as you can. Most bloggers have their name or handle on the ‘About Me’ section of their site, and it helps to have the name of the blog in the letter as well. Think of it like querying, (just not as scary). Just as you wouldn’t say ‘Dear Agent’ and ‘your agency’ in a query, don’t say ‘Dear Blogger’ or ‘your blog’ in a tour request. At the end of the day you are asking this person to do you a favor, so professionalism is key.
Yeah, I’m not going to lie, it takes a lot of time, but it is worth it. The more cordial you appear to the blogger, the more likely they will want to work with you—particularly the big bloggers who can receive hundreds of review requests a month. Actually, I found that many of the bloggers, even one’s who I didn’t think would give me the time of day, were flattered to be asked personally to join a tour and were very enthusiastic about participating.
Have Backups: You will want to find about twice as many blogs as you truly want. Some of the email addresses you find will be no good, some bloggers will not have the time to participate, some will simply not respond, etc. As a reference, I wanted as many stops as I could get for mine, but I was aiming at between 40 and 75. I sent requests out to 263 different blogs (no, that’s not a typo), and 31 of the emails were bad and bounced back, while 108 never responded. Of the ones who did respond, many were willing to schedule right away, while some apologized but were unable to participate for whatever reason, and in the end, I had 53 stops on my tour.
Make it Easy: Many bloggers have specific things they like to post along with their review. Things like author bio, synopsis of the book, head shots, etc. The best way I found to keep everyone on the same page and make things as easy as possible for both you and your tour hosts is to make a Tour Kit. That is a file or zip folder that you can send out to all your hosts with all the information they could need in it. Just let them know what info you have included and that they are free to use whatever they would like and may disregard what they don’t need. That way, they can get exactly what they need, and you won’t have to keep track of who wants what and when and so on. Things to include are (but are not limited to) your headshot, the book cover image, any tour graphics (banners, buttons, countdowns, etc.), your book’s blurb, a long and short version of the synopsis, your author bio, all the links to your social media and websites, and a tour schedule.
Offer Options: You will have a much better response to your requests if you let bloggers know that they have a choice as to what sort of post they can put up for your tour. Some bloggers will want to review the book, but others won’t, and that’s okay. Let them know in your request letter that you are willing to provide guest posts, interviews, Q&A, excerpts, and/or anything else they would like. It takes the pressure off of them and they will be much more likely to jump on board.
Being flexible with dates will also help you land more spots as it allows the bloggers to fit you into their own schedule. Give them the span of the tour (I recommend no more than two weeks—you don’t want people to be tired of your book before it is even out) and let them choose the date they would like. Don’t worry about the distribution of stops, it doesn’t have to be perfectly even.
(Side Tip: Have the guest post ideas ready! Guest posts will, I promise you, be the most requested thing from your bloggers, one; because readers like them, and two; there is nothing easier for the blogger. Come up with topics ahead of time, and think outside the box. Talk about something fun that pertains to the book, but isn’t necessarily about it. Come up with a post that people haven’t seen before and you’re likely to have a hit.)
Spend Wisely: Giveaways are great, but they can be costly. If you are going to do it, I recommend doing a few signed books or ebooks—as those are basically free, and, if you want to go the extra step, have one big grand prize that people can enter all the way through the tour. If you are going to do it, make it big, or at least big enough for people to care about. Signed books are great, but if your Twitter feed looks anything like mine, I have hundreds of chances to win free signed books every day. They are so common, that most of the time I don’t even look twice. The giveaways that do catch my eye are the Kindle and Nook giveaways, or the gift cards to Amazon, and things like that. Yes, they are expensive, no doubt about it. However, if you plan and save up in advance, it can be doable. And spending one hundred dollars on, say, a Kindle, will certainly make much more of an impact than spending the same one hundred dollars on a bunch of little things that will be ignored.
Giveaways are by no means necessary, but if you do decide to use one on your tour, make it worthwhile, not only for the entrants, but for your investment as well.
Stay Involved: This may seem like a no-brainer, but I’ll mention it anyway; follow your own tour. I don’t mean just once in the morning to read the review then move on, but all day and into the next. And don’t skip the comments! I actually had several stops where readers asked me questions via the comments which I would have totally missed. Comment back and answer them, and be sure to thank them for reading.
Don’t be a Pest: Earlier I gave you the numbers on my requests and responses, and a lot of you probably said, “You probably got stuck in a lot of spam filters, you should have resent…” Yes, I likely did get knocked by the spam filters for a lot of the bloggers, and I did send one brief follow up, but that was it. I know it is frustrating to be ignored, but the last thing you want to be is a pest. If they don’t get back, there was likely a reason, and it is best to move on. Once you have your tour schedule ready to go with all the dates set, you can send out a confirmation email to everyone to make sure they are still planning on participating. (This is particularly helpful if, like me, your requests went out months in advance of the tour.) Just put a short note asking them to please respond even with a simple yes or no, just so you know they received the email. Most will respond, and those who don’t, you can email once more reminding them of the date they signed up for and asking once more for confirmation, but if they still do not respond, move on. (But not to worry, as at this point, most will.)
When this is all over, you want these bloggers to be willing to work with you again, and they are more likely to do that if they don’t associate you name with the 201 emails they received from you through the course of the tour.
(Spam Tip: Do not send any attachments to your tour request email, only send attachments to a ‘Reply’. Many bloggers have their inboxes set up to immediately send any mail with attachments from an unknown sender to the spam folder, so no attachments on the first go. This will more than double your chances of getting through.)
Promote: Tweet, Facebook post, and announce all your tour stops several times a day. DO NOT assume the tour host will be doing this for you. They may Tweet about the post, but they also may not. It is up to you to make sure as many people know about your tour as possible. Just be careful to strike a balance. We all know the authors who Tweet about their book every two minutes every single day, and we all know how annoying that can get. A few times a day will be fine, and try to vary it up. Don’t Tweet or post the same thing all the time. Use quotes, links, re-Tweets, etc. to keep people interested without committing first-degree assault on their feed.
Keep Expectations Reasonable: We all dream of our blog tour making a huge splash in the web-isphere. We picture dozens of comments on every post, 5 star reviews galore, hundreds of adds to Goodreads TBR lists, and that little line on the Amazon ‘Rank’ chart shooting to the sky with pre-order sales. However, odds are this won’t be the case. The more popular blogs may earn you a handful of comments, while the rest garner one or two if any. For every good review there will be a not so good one, and your Goodreads numbers may not change at all.
This does not mean that your tour was unsuccessful.
People read without commenting, people garner interest without shouting to the world, and—hard as it is to remember sometimes—a good portion of readers out there do not use Goodreads at all. Yet all these people still buy books. The impact of your tour may not be as apparent as you want it to be, but that doesn’t mean that all your time and energy was wasted. Press is press, and every person who saw even one of your tour stops now knows more about your book than they did before, whether they commented/added/purchased or not. And sometimes that short first look can be all you need.
Karma: Last note is a short one, but it is important. No matter what happens, be as nice and respectful as you can to all your tour hosts. You are not only representing yourself and your brand, but also your publisher, your agent (if applicable), and your book itself.
I hope you found that helpful!