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The Accidental Writer: Blog Tours – What an Author Should Know

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Blog-TourVirtual blog tours are relatively new marketing devices for books that have recently become popular with authors. Here’s how they work. A publicity company finds book bloggers who are willing to host a tour. The tour usually lasts one to four weeks with the goal of having a different blogger post about the book each day. The bloggers do not get paid, so it’s hard to get them to stick with a pre-arranged schedule, but most will post on time and those who don’t will likely post eventually. Expect some frustration.

So what do these bloggers post? Ideally, they write a review, but sometimes they publish an interview or a promotional blurb about the book. Reviews are ideal, but since bloggers are not paid, nothing is guaranteed. All reviews should be honest, so participation in a tour doesn’t guaranty a good review. Some tour companies discourage bloggers from posting a bad review. That’s a bad practice and the best bloggers usually don’t participate in those tours. Authors need to face good and bad reviews, and sometimes bad reviews help develop interest.

Why should an author pay for a blog tour? There are two main benefits to a tour. Tours create buzz about a book and generate reviews authors can use to promote a book. Don’t expect a tour to create large numbers of sales. That could happen, but it would be like hitting the lottery – think buzz and reviews.

The new release market for books is extremely crowded, so it’s hard to get noticed. A good blog tour includes a social media campaign geared to get people talking and interested in your book. Excitement leads to sales.

So if buzz is a goal, what should authors want in a tour? It’s important to pick a tour company that’s fluent in your genre. Just like any other business, most tour companies develop relationships with a core group of bloggers, which might not have much interest in your book. So find a tour company that specializes in YA books if that’s what you just wrote. This is really critical. First, those bloggers who generally post about your genre will have followers that read your type of book. These are the people you need to reach. Second, a blogger who loves romance books is unlikely to enjoy your thriller. Why start the review process with one hurdle to overcome?

When choosing the publicity company, do your research. Besides the right type of bloggers, you ideally want hosts with a robust following. There are lots of bloggers out there, some are almost impossible to find on the Internet. A great review from a blogger with a dozen followers is still useful for promotional purposes, but it won’t generate a ton of buzz and won’t lead to sales. Look up old blog tours from whomever you are considering and check out the hosts. See what they look like and whether reviews generated comments from followers. Comments are good; they create excitement. Also, the tour company should promote reviews and the book at least once per day. If they don’t do that, they’re not really interested in your success.

Reviews are also important in selling a book and a good tour generates reviews. But reviews that are not posted on Goodreads or Amazon have limited value. Ask the publicity company about their track record on getting reviews posted. Some tours provide a contest for bloggers for the most thoughtful (not best) review that gets cross-posted. This adds a little incentive for bloggers to spend the extra time in getting their reviews on line.

Blog tours cost anywhere from $100 to over $1,000. Costs increase if the hosts want paperbacks instead of ebooks. So, are they worth it? Like most other marketing options for books, investing in a blog tour is just that – an investment. If the book is good and the author follows up on the tour, it should pay for itself.

The Shatter Point blog tour, run by Novel Publicity, went really well. The book got 21 reviews. Two were not good, one was good, and 18 were very good to great. That’s a pretty good spread. Many were posted on Goodreads and Amazon, which is also helpful. The tour didn’t create a huge amount of buzz, however we ran a sale after the tour that landed Shatter Point on three Amazon best selling lists. I’m sure the tour contributed to that success.

In a crowded marketplace, authors need to find ways to create interest and get their books noticed. Blog tours can be a useful part of an overall plan, but it won’t work on it’s own. Get creative and do your research!

You can follow my ramblings on Twitter @JeffAltabef or visit my website www.jeffaltabef.com.

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