5 min read
Reaching readers - blog tour magic
What is a blog tour? What are the benefits? How do you go about setting one up? Troubador author Jenny Landor shares what she learned from a week-long tour following the recent launch of her debut children’s novel, The Mirror of Pharos.
When I mentioned to friends that I was taking my timeslip novel, The Mirror of Pharos, on a ‘virtual’ book tour, they looked at me as if I was about to teleport to another location. ‘How?’ they asked. Everyone knows about traditional book tours where authors travel from venue to venue, giving talks and signing books for queues of adoring fans. But that isn’t an option for most newcomers like me. And even for the big names, it’s a time-consuming and costly way of reaching readers – especially when you compare it to the powerful alternative which lies at our fingertips.
If the idea of a virtual tour is new to you, then let me explain. Instead of physically travelling from one bookshop to another, you and your book go from blog to blog, visiting a new site every day over a period of a week or more. The dates are set in advance, usually two or three months beforehand, and each blogger knows exactly what the content will be when it’s their turn. Typically, they will either review your book, or you can contribute a guest post or book excerpt or do an author interview. The benefits? Your work gains exposure and with luck, a thumbs-up from influencers in the industry. And, unlike traditional tours, people can continue to read and enjoy the content long afterwards. The tour lives on into the future. Magic!
The bloggers concerned are a growing army of bookworms of every genre. They each have their own group of followers, ranging from a few hundred readers to many thousands. They are active on social media – Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – and apart from producing content for their own pages, they share their reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, and NetGalley among others. They do this for free, requiring only a copy of your book in exchange for their honest opinion. The vehicle you have just stepped into isn’t just a word-of-mouth marketing machine. It’s something far more generous – and that is why it works. As one blogger tweeted on my tour: ‘It’s all about spreading the #booklove.’ A quick but important aside. Don’t make the mistake I did initially. As a former journalist and academic publishing editor, I regarded print-based media as the holy grail. Without a doubt, coverage in the national or local press is great publicity – if it’s available. However, in the case of children’s books (which account for more than 30% of the book-buying market), only an estimated 3% of newspaper review space is given to them.
That’s a shame for children’s literature. But while newspapers are missing out on some brilliant stories, online book sites and blogs are making up for it. In this evolving and highly interactive space, influential bloggers are emerging all the time and authors (traditional and self-published) are forging connections that give them greater and much-needed autonomy. So how do you go about setting up a blog tour? Well, you can either do it yourself or, for a modest fee (often less than £100), you can hire a blog tour organiser, as I did. More of that in a moment. But first, now you’re on board this virtual tour bus, take a look out there at all the bright lights.
Before you make any decisions (and preferably well before your book launch takes place), do some research. Google away, follow some of the bloggers in your genre, discover who’s active, make a list of those you like, and see for yourself how tours work and the buzz they generate. I joined Twitter and wished I’d done it sooner. It was a great way of identifying bloggers and figuring out who my favourite authors followed. By taking those first steps, I learned a lot. The golden rule is to engage. Join in discussions. Reply to every comment and post about your work. When the tour is underway visit each stop throughout the day. Answer questions. Share each post. Thank every blogger from the bottom of your heart. Be receptive and generous. That is how this remarkable machine operates. Thanks to this research, I came across tour organiser, Anne Cater, who runs Random Things Through My Letterbox. I was already snowed under with book-related jobs, which included developing a new website with a children’s illustrator. I knew that planning a tour, finding available bloggers, arranging dates, organising reviews and other content would involve a lot of communication.
So enlisting Anne’s help, saved me time. As an expert running tours up to twice a month for publishers as well as individual authors, she had access to an extensive network of bloggers. Here’s her take on the advantages of a coordinator and what to look out for: ‘A Blog Tour Organiser will have more time to dedicate to the tour, as well as a large contact list. They can match the book to the most appropriate blogger, and will have the trust of bloggers; therefore, they are more likely to accept an invitation to take part. ‘Authors and publishers should look at previous tours that the organiser has put together. They should also look at their Social Media feeds to see how much promotion they do during a tour.
A good organiser will always answer any questions that an author has, and tailor a tour to any individual needs. ‘Personally, I organise tours for both newly published and already established books. A blog tour held during publication week is great as it adds to the build-up for publication. However, a tour for an already published book can be really beneficial too. I'd say that anytime is a good time for a blog tour, as long as the book is available.’ My tour took place over eight days. Beforehand, Anne produced a poster which both of us used to promote the event. The timing, not long after the pre-Christmas launch of The Mirror of Pharos, helped extend the buzz into the New Year and traffic to the website increased. The tour also achieved my main goal of kickstarting review coverage. Each blogger posted a review which they then shared on social media as well as Goodreads, Amazon and elsewhere. It was an exciting and memorable week. My roundup of what happened and links to the individual bloggers – some of whom are tour organisers themselves – are in the article linked below.
One thing I discovered is that you have to be realistic. It’s no good expecting an overnight surge in sales. But if your goal is to improve your book’s ‘discoverability’ and build relationships with genuine booklovers who attract audiences around the country, a blog tour is well worth considering.