How to Set Up a Blog Book Tour and Why You Should

Alan Baxter is an optimistic cynic and dark speculative fiction author, based on the South Coast of New South Wales, Australia. His writing is primarily based in the magical, the spiritual, the religious and the arcane with tendencies towards horror, depravity and battles between light and dark. Baxter says:

A blog book tour is a great way to generate buzz about you and your book. It’s essentially free, it generates a lot of hits on your site and others, and it creates an ongoing interest in your work. As a result of a blog tour, your books and name will gain exposure to potentially thousands of new readers. And all it really costs is time and effort on your part.

Any author, however they’re published, needs media attention. The new media of blogging and social networking is a great tool to use to your advantage. Working with other people, cross posting on a variety of media, gives you a saturation coverage for a period of time that can have excellent ongoing results.

So what is it? A blog book tour is essentially taking your books out on the virtual road, in much the same way that authors would traditionally tour the country, visiting various bookstores promoting their work. In this case, an author visits a different blog every day where they engage in various activities (interviews, guest posts, reviews and so on) and make themselves and their books known to the audience of that particular blog. There’s great cross-promotion as the writer’s audience gets exposed to a variety of blogs they might not have discovered otherwise (which is good for the blog owner) and that blog’s existing audience learns about the author and his or her work.

I currently have two novels out, RealmShift and MageSign, and it was these two books that I recently took on a blog book tour. My books are available in print and ebook format and I also have a novella available as a free ebook, Ghost Of The Black: A ‘Verse Full Of Scum. By taking my two novels on the virtual road, I opened up my both those novels, my free novella and my other work featured on my website to a wide audience that may never have heard of me or my writing before. It also helped to increase exposure to my indie press, Blade Red Press. Building an author platform online is essential for indie authors and a blog book tour like this is a great way to expand that platform.

It helps to offer something special. I really wanted to make an aspect of this tour something attractive — a special offer for people following along. It’s difficult with the print editions of my books through Amazon or places like that to make any changes in the short term. However, all my books are available as ebooks in a variety of places including Smashwords.com. With Smashwords there’s an excellent degree of control for the author/publisher. With any title you have there it’s possible to generate vouchers to vary the cost of your books however you please. So that means that I was able to set up a voucher code that was made available to anyone following the tour, valid only for the duration of the tour. If those people then came to Smashwords to buy RealmShift or MageSign they could enter that code and the books only cost them $1 each, instead of the usual $3.50. Giving very cheap or free content has proven itself many times over as an excellent way of generating interest in new work and it also gives people an added reason to check out the blog tour.

As for how successful a blog book tour can be, it depends on how much work an author puts in? With anything in this game it’s all about how much work you do. It’s also about working smart. If you get involved with a variety of blogs, with a widely varying audience, and you ask those people to promote the tour for you, then a lot of publicity can be generated. You can also make sure that you and those others involved cross-media promote with things like Twitter, Facebook and so on, to attract as many potential readers as possible.

To set up a blog book tour you firstly need, of course, a quality product to promote. Then it’s a case of contacting the owners of blogs that you think are relevant to you and your book. For me it was based on blogs that I read a lot or that are owned by other indies I’ve met or that had a fan base interested in the kind of writing I do, which is speculative fiction. There were also some blogs of friends and one blog that I’m an active contributor to. I contacted them all, asked if they’d get involved and asked what sort of thing they could host for me. I explained how the extra traffic could be a boon for them and then, if they agreed, we worked together to decide what I would do there.

It’s important to have variety. If you just go to a different blog every day and say, “Check out my book!” you’re going to bore people pretty quickly. It was essential in my mind to create something that people would want to follow every day, to see something new each time. The best explanation is to show the itinerary of the tour I did in July. I ended up with a ten-day tour that looked like this:

Day one: Guest post: Dark Fantasy – What is it exactly? – Monday 20th July at The Creative Penn. This is a blog all about indie authorship, but Jo is hosting a blog from me about the genre of my writing. It’s something new for her readers and hopefully interesting for everyone.

Day Two: Interviewed by Leticia Supple – Tues 21st July at Brascoe Books Blog. Brascoe Books is an small press in South Australia, so Leticia interviewed me about the nature of going it alone, the process of editing and so on.

Day Three: Guest post: Writing a good fight scene – Wed 22nd July at David Wood Online. David is another indie author – he writes action adventure novels with a speculative edge. As I’m often complimented on writing convincing fight scenes (my “day job” is as a kung fu instructor) he asked me to write about writing fight scenes.

Day Four: Interviewed by April Hamiltion – Thurs 23rd July at Publetariat. Publetariat is a hub site for indie authors, telling them all they need to know about self-publishing and indie publishing, from print to ebooks to just about everything. This is the site I’m a contributor to already, so April interviewed me about my experiences.

Day Five: Guest post: Demons and where to find them – Friday 24th July at Joan De La Haye’s blog. Joan writes in a similar genre to me and has a fascination with demons. She always has a Demon Friday post where she writes about a different demon every week. In this case, she gave the Friday over to me and I wrote about demons in general. Again, this is something different for her readers as well as being something interesting for those following the tour.

Day Six: Wily Writers published my short story “Stand Off” (featuring Isiah, the protagonist from RealmShift and MageSign) as both text and podcast – Sat 25th July. This was a great result for me, to get a story published and podcasted alone is a great result. To have it key in with the tour so nicely was fantastic.

Day Seven: Ruthie reviews MageSign – Sun 26th at Ruthie’s Book Reviews. This one was a bit of a risk. Ruthie agreed to review the second book, MageSign, and post the review to coincide with her day of the tour. It worked out as she loved the book and gave it 4/5 stars!

Day Eight: Pat Bertram interviews Isiah, the protagonist from RealmShift and MageSign – Mon 27th July at Pat Bertram Introduces. Pat often hosts interviews with the characters from books, which is a great idea. This was a fun one to do.

Day Nine: Guest post: Indie authors and the future – Tues 28th July at Musings Of An Aussie Writer. Brenton is another Aussie author and he asked me to talk about the nature of indie publishing and how I see things progressing as time passes.

Day Ten: Guest post: The inspiration for RealmShift and MageSign, what they’re about and what’s next – Wed 29th July at The Furnace. The last day here is me talking directly about the books, which is the first time on the tour that I’ve done that, and also talking about my future projects.

As you can see, I tried to build an interesting and varied experience for everyone involved to enjoy. Hopefully, with ongoing and interesting content like this, plenty of people will follow your tour, comment on those blog posts and generate lots of discussion and interaction. It will hopefully interest people enough that it also generates a few sales. Mine certainly did.

It was hard work and took a lot of co-ordination with other people to pull it off. It meant keeping in touch with those blog owners, putting together a lot of content for them to host and sending out a lot of reminders to make sure everything went smoothly. But it was worth it. I saw a definite spike in sales of both print and electronic editions of my books during the tour and I’ve hopefully piqued enough peoples’ interest that they’ll remember me and maybe buy my books in the future.

(Incidentally, if you’re interested in any of the articles listed above, they’re still available to read. Another advantage of a blog tour. You can find direct links to all those blog book tour posts, along with a wrap up of some sales and web-hit stats from the tour, here: http://www.alanbaxteronline.com/2009/08/02/blog-book-tour-wrap-stats.html )

How To Do a Blog Tour

Marshall Karp, the author of Flipping Out, is an award winning former advertising executive, a playwright, a screenwriter, and a novelist. He has also written, produced, and executive produced TV shows for all the major networks. Karp says: 

When Pat asked me to write about my Blog Tour I had to remind her that I have less knowledge of Blog Tours than Sarah Palin did of Russia.

But before I started writing novels, I spent 25 years in marketing. I have promotion in my DNA, so I am always thinking how do I push my franchise toward the tipping point. And while I am hardly an expert on blog tours, I’m learning fast, because I’m in the process of doing one.

Since my publisher can’t afford to fly me from city to city to promote my books (actually, no publisher can) I realized that I can still travel the World Wide Web

If you’re thinking about a blog tour, here’s my version of how to do it.

First you research and recruit bloggers who talk about books. Some are better known than others, but if you’ve been published in the past, and you set up a Google alert with your name and title, Google will notify you whenever your name pops up on the web. That’s how, over the past few years, I have found bloggers who give positive reviews to my books — even though they bought their own copies, and they never imagined they’d ever be contacted by the author. But when I find them, I either email them directly or comment on their site. I’m genuine in my appreciation, and they’re floored because what the hell — I’m a real author, and usually they are bloggers who love to read — although some have their eyes on being published one day.

And then a bond is formed.

So I suggest you line up bloggers. Three months before your pub date send them ARCs. Assuming your publisher sends advance copies to bookstores and libraries, they should have some left over for bloggers. Then set up a calendar. Let’s say you’re doing a 15 day Blog Tour. You give each of your 15 selected bloggers one exclusive day on that calendar in which to review your book. You become available on that day to be a guest on that blog site — either doing Q&A, or an email interview, or writing q guest blog. You also should do a quid pro quo, which includes posting a Blog Tour calendar and giving a permanent link from your site — sending your fans to the blogger’s site.

This takes a lot of time, and I won’t know for a few months if it’s worth it. But at least you can do it from home. Which is good if you’re shy. Or you’re tired of having a TSA guy with a big wand pull you aside and ask if you’ve ever had this done to you before. (It’s a straight line I can never resist and my wise-ass answers have gotten me into a lot of trouble.)

As much time as it takes, ultimately it probably takes a lot less time than a 15 city tour. Let me reiterate that I am a Blog Tour Virgin. I’m planning one — but I have no first hand experience, just information. But I do have first hand experience at doing book signings. On my first signing for my first book, I sold 140 copies, and the store ran out. Friends and family. Second store signing — 25 books. Friends and family who couldn’t make it to the first signing. Third store signing — all I heard were crickets chirping. So for me a Blog Tour feels like a worthwhile experiment.

Booksellers and librarians are your very best allies. They handsell. Even in those cities where I flew in and only half a dozen people showed up at a store signing, the bookseller was grateful, responsive, and got to know me and my work well enough to sell my books day after day, appropriate customer after appropriate customer, long after I left.

I still am friends (real and virtual) with many of those booksellers. The same goes for librarians. My first thought when I found out that 14 people were on the waiting list for my book at a local library was — what kind of business plan is that? Sell one book and 14 people get to read it? I soon learned that libraries are a Mecca for book people and while many people may borrow your book, if they like it, they usually spread the word to their friends who buy books.

Sorry to ramble on. No editor handy. In fact I’ve gone on so long I can’t believe anyone will read this far. So I can get it off my chest right now and tell you that Jimmy Hoffa is buried in my basement, and I won’t have to worry about recriminations.

One last thing. Writing books is a not-so-delicate balance of art and commerce. Nobody expects you to be a natural at the commerce part. As you go through the marketing process, try to stay in touch with the Inner Joy. You started with 500 blank sheets of paper, filled them with your ideas, your words, your emotions, – with everything that is you, and now it’s a Real Book.

Hey, there are lots of people who can keep you from becoming a world famous, best selling, household name author. But only one person can prevent you from feeling the sheer joy and exhilaration you get every time you say . . . I write books.

See also:
Review of Flipping Out  review by Pat Bertram
Titles: What Makes a Good One by Marshall Karp
Conversation with Marshall Karp, Author of Flipping Out