Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Promotion - Blog (Virtual) Book Tours

by Vivian Zabel 

          Blog tours or virtual book tours are an inexpensive way to promote books across the Internet. An author doesn't have to drive anywhere, so no travel expenses.

          I'm participating in a Mystery We Write Blog Tour which begins May 23 and goes through August 13, a group blog tour. Thirteen of us will host each other, one person per week. I have my schedule of twelve authors and have many posts ready to appear on the release date.

          However, a group blog tour is set up a bit different than a virtual tour for one author and/or one book. Both, though, provide promotional possibilities after a book is published.

          The first thing needed, after setting a date and time period (usually one to two weeks), is to find hosts for the tour. When the tour, such as Mystery We Write, has several people involved, each becomes a host for each of the other members. However, if an author prepares his own tour, or a publicist or friend does it, hosts must be found. 

         Here's a timeline for preparing a virtual blog tour for one author and/or book:

Four Weeks Before the Tour
• Buy or print a monthly calendar with big squares and enough writing space to help  coordinate tour stops. (This was very
  helpful in helping see the whole tour from above.)
• Made a list of possible hosts—authors/bloggers you know, bloggers you admire, reviewers who are also bloggers,
   bloggers who keep blogs related to my book’s theme/content, etc.
• Made a list of groups/forums where you could announce your tour and ask for hosts, such as Yahoo lists you are a
   member of, Facebook, etc.
• Write a ‘template’ message to use for contacting hosts. (This should includ a short intro, info about the book with links to
   the cover and blurb, a request to be hosted on their blogs, etc).
                Note: You should request not only interviews, but also guest posts and reviews. Reviews are great tools of book promotion, and you can always use them later. Keep in mind not all reviewers will agree to read e-books, and you may have to send them print copies. When you contact the hosts, make sure to tell them you would be delighted to return their favor in the future (You better keep your promise, too! This is all about helping each other, after all). Also, let them know you’ll be aggressively promoting the tour, thus bringing traffic to their blogs. 
               Also, you may need to prepare the post for many of the blog stops, so be prepared with reviews, interviews, articles connected to the topic of your book, etc.

Three Weeks Before the Tour
• Need to receive responses from bloggers, agreeing on dates, and recording the information on the calendar. The
   information included needs to include the name of the blog, the host’s name, and whether or not it was for an interview, 
   guest post, or  review.
• Begin completing interviews.
• Send review copies to reviewers
• Start looking for possible material to be used as guest posts. For one host, maybe use an old article. For another, perhaps
   write a new one.
Two Weeks Before the Tour
• Continue answering interview questions and sending them to the hosts (These interviews can be very time consuming, so
   don’t leave them for the last minute!)
• Continue preparing/writing guest posts.
                A note about interviews: Try to keep the interviews fresh, offering links and information. After a few interviews, they tend to sound boring and repetitive because the hosts’ questions are often similar. Adapt interview questions to make you and your book sound interesting and different. Make sure your answers aren’t too long either. People have busy lives and will not spend hours reading an interview. On the other hand, make sure most of your interview answers aren’t one-liners. My favorite combination for interviews is a mixture of short, witty answers with longer, more thoughtful ones.

One Week Before the Tour
• Continue to answer and send off interviews.
• Double check the calendar to make sure all is in order—especially dates.
• Post the complete tour schedule on the main page of your website and blog. 
• Send a reminder to all your hosts. (For this purpose, it’s practical to put your hosts’ contact info in a separate e-mail
   folder and to e-mail them together when needed).

The First Day of the Tour
• Announce the tour to everybody you know—friends, relatives, colleagues, groups, and forums—inviting them to take a
   look and follow you around the blogosphere by providing a link to the complete schedule and mentioning the prize
   giveaway at the end.
• Make sure the links to the blogs on the tour schedule were hyperlinked correctly.

During the Tour
• On the day of each stop, announce the new post to all your contacts— including all the groups mentioned before.
• Visited each tour stop to read the comments and interact with the people who wrote them, which means writing
   comments yourself.

                Interacting with the public is fun and, in fact, will result in overwhelming response sometimes. Having a prize to announce on the last the day creates interest, and the prize can be most anything. However, giving a copy of the book keeps most people from ordering a copy. Once the winner is chosen, announce the winner’s name on your blog.

Final Tips:
• One week before the tour starts, send a press release to your local newspapers/stations and online directories. Also post
   on Facebook, Twitter, email lists, etc.
• If possible, tie your VBT with a holiday. November and December are great months for Christmas books; October for
   scary/paranormal books, and so on.
• Don’t just think ‘kid lit blogs,' or one dimensional type blogs.  Think of your niche audience.
• Offer a gift on the last day of your tour to motivate people to follow you around the blogosphere and leave comments on
   your stops. Never give a copy of the book you’re promoting. If people think they might win it at the end, they won’t buy
   it. Prizes may include gift certificates, goody baskets, other books, and even free critiques!
• Visit your own tour stops on a daily basis in order to interact with the visitors and answer their questions, if any.
• Always thank your hosts. After the tour, thank them again and offer to return their favor in the future.
• It’s human to forget. Two or three days before a tour stop, send a polite reminder to the host.
• Be prepared to be flexible. Some times the tour stops may not take place as planned and dates must be changed at the last
  minute. Have a couple of backup blogs waiting in the wings.
• Don’t think just interviews. Keep your tour varied—interviews (may be audio, too!), guest posts, reviews.
• Keep the complete VBT schedule on your site and/or blog and update it on a daily basis, adding links and/or hyperlinks
   as necessary.
          If anyone plans a blog tour, contact me, and I'll share an article to help with hosts.

          Now, to share my schedule for the Mystery We Write Blog Tour:
          Thirteen mystery writers will participate in a virtual tour which begins the week of May 23 and will run through the week of August 14. Each person involved will host another person on the tour at least one day that week, a different person each week.
           My blog posts will usually go up on Wednesday of the scheduled week and will remain the rest of the week. My scheduled guests are as follows:

Week 1: starting May 23  - Anne K. Albert 
Week 2: starting May 29  - Beth Anderson 
Week 3: starting June 6    - Pat Browning 
Week 4: starting June 13  - Sharon Ervin 
Week 5: starting June 20  - Jackie King 
Week 6: starting June 27  - Mary Martinez 
Week 7: starting July   4   - Marja McGraw 
Week 8: starting July 11  - Jean Henry Mead 
Week 9: starting July 18  - Marilyn Meredith 
Week 10: starting July 25 - Carol Shenold 
Week 11: starting Aug   1 - Regan Taylor 
Week 12: starting Aug   8 - Jennifer DiCamillo (aka Carys Weldon)

Vivian Zabel author of Stolen  


  1. Excellent post. You covered so many things I needed to know. I'm going read this a few more times and then make a modest attempt to use the information.
    Thank you,

  2. I hope more people read this article than left comments because a good blog tour can really promote an author and/or a book.


  3. Excellent info. And I WILL be using it for my vbt!