Craig here again. Today I want to talk about taking your book out on a blog tour. This is a great way to expose your product to new readers.
Blog tours come in many formats, and I've done several kinds. These include a cover and excerpt, cover and blurb, and we might as well include email blasts in this list too. Today, I'm going to focus on the “friends and family” plan. I promoted a book priced at 99¢. With a 35¢ royalty, how many copies would I have to move to pay for a $75 blog tour? Friends welcome you to their blog without having to pay. Be willing to host them when the time comes.
I recently finished a tour involving my friends hosting me at their blogs. It was simple enough to set up. I posted a request for hosts to help me out. I wound up with thirteen individual hosts.
Going on this kind of tour requires some thought. You have more than one friend out there, and so do your hosts. Many of these will be the same people. Don't ignore them, and I'll talk about them later. Then there are the ones who aren't your friends yet. They read your host's blogs, but haven't discovered you yet. Those are the real target of this kind of tour. It's a bit like trying to hit the outer ring on a bullseye.
As part of my request, I told everyone what kind of book I wanted to promote, and asked for topics. In my case it was a book of short stories and micro-fiction, called The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack II. (Obligatory link here.)
If you read my last post on Story Empire, you know that I keep living documents, and I have one for blog tours. This gives me a starting place, because many of the answers you get will be, “Whatever you like.” I know I can post about inspiration, share an excerpt or two, and maybe include a writing tip. To my surprise, three different people wanted to know about the difference between short stories and novels.
Part of my goal is to make every post unique and valid. This is the part about respecting the inner circle of your online friends. They're likely to see a majority of your tour, but if nothing else, every post should be interesting to them. I don't want my posts to become white noise for my regulars. I'd really like them to come along and read them all, but that's not going to happen with all of them. At least if they stumble across a subsequent post, it will be something different.
Back to the request. The difference between shorts and novels is really one post. I decided to write one about what a short story is, and make that the second one. I really had to think about the third post, but chose to focus on micro-fiction there. Very few people write about it, and it is relative to the book I was marketing.
When I first started out, I thought a blog tour was all about selling books. A shipload of books, mountains and mountains of books. I was wrong. I sell books at almost every stop, but that isn't my focus anymore. These days I understand that I am the product. What I'm selling is myself. I'll take all the spur of the moment sales I can get, but what I'm after are fans. If someone checks out my Amazon page and decides a different title is more suited to their likes, that's a win for me. It's all a bit like this:
What we all want.
How we get there.
These are some tips to setting up the tour. When it came to writing the posts, I used my knowledge of the host blogs. Some hosts will make a specific request, others leave you to your own devices. If you know what your host writes about normally, you can target toward their likely audience. One of my hosts writes about a lot of outdoors topics. I wrote about a wildlife filmmaker for her post, because it influenced a story in my book. Her audience might appreciate it more than a post about outlining.
This doesn't mean you're done though. Getting the post and the marketing packet emailed out isn't the end.
You have to participate in the comments. When someone leaves you a comment it's the mortar that goes into your brickwork. Be there when someone asks you a question. People tend to become friends with friendly people.
Maybe they won't buy the book. Maybe they'll start following your blog instead. That's a win, and in some ways better than one sale. These are the kind of people who may host your next tour. Maybe they buy the book you release two years from now, but you would have missed them if you hadn't played along in the comments.
On occasion, you will post on a site that has a different system than your own. I use WordPress, but there are other valid blogging platforms like Blogspot. When you comment on these other sites, you will likely have to enter some kind of identifying information, like email and name, every time you post. In many cases, you have to solve a Captcha to prove you aren't a robot.
Complain and cuss in private. These sites are golden. This allows you to reach a whole bunch of new people you might not have reached any other way. When you're hosted by one of these sites, that “outer ring” that you're aiming for is much larger. If these readers were on WordPress, I may have already discovered them. Solve that Captcha and answer every single comment you get.
I check back on any guest post I make for three days, whether it involves a tour or not. I won't convert everyone, but like the example above; one brick at a time.
Victories are small in this business. Enjoy them when it happens. Maybe someone likes your Facebook page, or tweets out your post. That's a win. Work your blog tour for sales, but pay attention to the other things you're building along the way.
Note: I'll be participating in the comments here too. An author never knows where he's going to make a new friend.