No doubt about it, an outreach to bloggers in your niche is becoming an essential part of the publicity your book receives, especially now that the traditional, schlepping-around-the-country-tour is a thing of the past, except for the top tier authors—you know, the ones who need it least. Knowing that I've organized and participated in a few blog tours (most recently for The Literary Ladies' Guide to the Writing Life), my agent recently asked me to give her assistant some tips, so they can assist their clients in this endeavor. So I thought I'd organize my thoughts into this step-by-step post.
The blog book tour is one of the most economical and potentially high-impact publicity tools, but the sad truth is that in this age overworked publishing employees, your publisher won’t have the time or resources to organize one for you. If you want to avail yourself of the benefits of a blog tour, you’ll have to organize it yourself, unless you or your publisher want to pay for an outside entity to do it for you.
There are probably a multitude of approaches to organizing your own virtual book tour around the blogosphere to coincide with your title’s release date; I’ve gathered these tips from my own personal experience. I’ve organized a handful of blog tours for myself, and they cost nothing but time, a few books, and if you’re handling the shipments, some postage. If you’re lucky, your publisher will offer to ship the books for you, but this is less likely once it’s a backlist title.
Your goal is to have your book covered (in a review, excerpt, or interview) on a good number of blogs with decent traffic, within a month or so following your book’s official release date. Organizing a blog tour doesn't have to be complicated. Here are the basic steps:
1.If you’re not already connected with a blogging community that relates to your area of expertise or your book’s topic, you need to do a bit of research. If you’re starting from scratch, go to Google's Blogsearch.Putting in search words or phrases related to your topic, say “cupcakes” or “women traveling alone” will not really narrow the list to blogs about exclusively about cupcakes or female travelers, but blogs that have mentioned these words in a posts. Still, a place to start. You might also search in Technorati in the same manner. Once you have a handful of top blogs in your subject area, a great way to find others is to click on links to other blogs listed in the blogrolls of good, relevant blogs.
2. Once you make a list of possibilities, how do you know which to choose? First of all, you’ll want to select blogs that people actually visit. You know this if posts get a decent number of comments, say, 8 or more. The more, the better, of course. If there are no comments on posts, or just one or two, this blogger is doing the cyber version of an online personal journal.
Second, you want to choose a blog that is not solely dedicated to the blogger’s own content. Some bloggers use this forum to develop a book, so they are unlikely to want to interject someone else’s content. You can also get some idea of a blog’s (or site’s, for that matter) popularity by putting its URL into the search function on Alexa. This ranking system is not foolproof, but if a blog’s rank is 2 million, you shouldn’t bother. Anything 750,000 or lower is promising.
If your book is a novel aimed at general readers, there are tons of general book blogs. Again, a bit of legwork and investigation is called for; search the term "book blogs" and you'll come up with many ways to start searching. Note, though, that the most highly ranked general book review blogs are highly competitive, and these bloggers are inundated with requests to review books.
3. I recommend starting with a list of 25 to 30 good possibilities and aiming for 10 to 12 blogs for your tour. If you get more, so much the better, but 10 is very solid. Most bloggers have contact information somewhere on their site, usually in their profile. Some bloggers actually don’t have contact info, and the only way to reach them is by commenting. It’s not really cool to ask a blogger if they’ll deal with your book in a comment, so those you will just have to skip. Some bloggers will answer right away, some after a while, and some not at all; that’s why I suggest starting with more than you’ll need.
With about 6 weeks lead time, decide what you will offer the blogger for your blog tour. You can offer to do a guest post, or prepare an excerpt, or to do an author Q & A. If yours is a how-to book or a cookbook, you can offer a set of tips or a recipe. If you have an illustrative photo to accompany a post, you could offer that as well. If your book is a novel, and you don’t want to just ask to be put on the line for a review, be creative in what you might offer a blogger. Most bloggers have a day job so many are all too happy to post something fresh and interesting that comes their way ready made. Many bloggers appreciate the idea of guest content. Give them a few options.
What about giveaways? They’re awfully popular these days, and do garner more attention, but I really have mixed feelings about them. On one hand, the recipient of a giveaway copy has the potential of continuing word-of-mouth, actual or virtual; on the other, giveaways mean more copies needed, more copies mailed, and may actually discourage spontaneous purchase of your book, as the giveaway participants wait to see whether they’ve won, and there’s no guarantee that the non-winners will purchase, once the moment has passed. I’m really not clear on the benefits of giveaways; my guess it that they’re popular because they work, but it is something to consider carefully.
4. Once you’re ready to outreach, e-mail bloggers with something like:
Hello [blogger’s name],
My publisher and I would really appreciate it if you would consider being part of the blog tour to launch the publication of Swiftly the Sands do Flow. Would you consider either running a brief review or an excerpt from the book on ots publication date [insert date] or within the week thereafter? The excerpt can be of your own choosing, or I can supply you with one and as such, be a guest blogger for that date. Or, if you prefer, I will be available for a Q & A via e-mail.
I appreciate your considering this and hope you will participate. Please let me know at your earliest convenience; send me your mailing address and I will have a book sent to you.
If you like the blog and are familiar with its content, let the blogger know, but don’t sound like you’re just pandering.
5. Follow up: Once you know the book has gone out to the bloggers who have responded positively to your outreach, about 3 weeks before the pub date, contact them again and ask whether they’ve received the book, and if so, if they’d still like to participate in the tour. Ask if they’d like assistance choosing an excerpt or suggestions for a Q & A. If any photos are available, ask if they’d like to use one.
A couple of days before the tour, follow up once more. Be excited and upbeat, and very grateful, with something like: We’re all set for the launch of Swiftly the Sands do Flow! I appreciate your participation in the tour on [date] or within the week thereafter, and if I can reciprocate in any way in the future, please let me know.
6. And after they actually run something, thank them again.
From my experience, I find the blog tour format very effective. Many bloggers link to Amazon.com (I didn’t have to ask them to do this, it’s pretty much automatic—it gives them another way to make a little money from their sites) and my books have gone from umpteen million to within the top 10,000 or better once the tour has started. Then, if you’re lucky, you’ll get the viral effect: Readers of the blogs, many of whom are bloggers themselves, will get the book, and may mention it on their blogs, and on it goes from there.
If this still sounds daunting, you can ask your publisher to spring for a blog tour that’s organized by another entity. It was one thing for me to organize a blog tour in the vegan community, where my name is known, and in which I was familiar with many blogs and bloggers, and quite another to organize one for my latest book, The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life. I thought a blog tour through the writing blog community would be a good idea and asked my publisher to book a very reasonably-priced tour through WOW-Women on Writing.The tour lasted around 6 weeks; and while some of the participating blogs (16 in all) were quieter than others, as a whole it was quite worthwhile and a great value if I consider how much legwork I would have had to do in an unfamiliar niche. The tour launched with an interview in their newsletter, which included most of the tour stops (others were added along the way). Here’s a link to my WOW tour launch.
There are other blog tour organizers; you need just search “blog tour,” but as I’m not familiar with any other services I won’t mention them here. Bottom line: Will your publisher spring for an organized, paid blog tour? If not, would you? Or are you familiar enough with your niche to outreach to fellow bloggers who may appreciate the personal touch. Above all, have fun with the idea of a blog tour. It’s a relatively easy, inexpensive, and potentially very effective way to reach a decent-sized audience that’s just the right one for your book.