How to Promote your Book with a Blog Tour—essential information for the 21st century writer

As promised, here’s a guest blog from Janice Hardy. I’m a long-time fan of her blog, The Other Side of the Story. It’s always full of great, solid advice on craft and navigating the publishing business. When she said she was doing a blog tour to promote her new YA Fantasy book, Blue Fire, the next installment in her Healing Wars trilogy,  I asked her to write something for us about the new phenomenon of the blog tour: how it compares to the old fashioned in-person book tour, and how to conduct one of your own.

Going On Tour? Just Go Online
Guest Blog by YA author Janice Hardy

Book tours have always been a great way to connect authors to readers, but with the travel and expense, it’s not something every writer can afford do on their own. It’s also not uncommon for publishers to only send their “bigger” authors on tour, since those are the folks who will draw the largest audience to the store, making it effective as well as cost-effective. Unless you’re one of those breakout debut bestsellers, odds are it’ll be a few books before you’re sent on tour.

My debut novel, The Shifter, came out last year. I did four local bookstore signings. One had about 25 people, one had around 15, one had maybe 10 and one had six. That’s actually not bad for an unknown author, but add them all up and that’s 51 people I spoke to about my book. For the second book, Blue Fire, I’m doing 52 blog tour stops. Even if no one but the people hosting the blog tour read my posts, I’m already ahead.

I have three local in-store signings set up so far for Blue Fire. I imagine the turn out will be bigger since more folks know about me now, but it still won’t be anywhere near the numbers I can reach on a blog tour.

So what exactly is a blog tour?
What you’re reading now. An author writes a guest post about a topic, or does an interview with the blogger, and they post it. The author does a lot of these guest posts during a set period of time, usually the month of that book’s release. Readers can “stop by” the blog on their schedule and follow the author from blog to blog. Author and blogger both publicize the tour, drawing new readers to each.

How do you arrange a blog tour?
Since I already blog about writing, I simply asked my readers and fellow bloggers if they’d be willing to host me on my tour. I also asked my Facebook friends. Most of them are book lovers, so they have blogs that will help me connect to other book lovers. My only cost was postage to send out some ARCs (advance reader copies) to those who were doing reviews.

Most of the people I contacted I “knew” in some fashion (even if it was just a friend on Facebook or someone I saw frequently on a blog or forum) so it didn’t feel as awkward as reaching out to a total stranger. But those friends offered suggestions for other blogs I might want to contact, so I grit my teeth, sent an email, and figured, why not? Worst case they ignore me. But most of them were happy to help out.

How do you pick which blogs?
Book reviewers, other writers, readers who talk about books are all good prospects. If you spend any time online, you may even read a lot of these blogs already. Beyond that, look at your book. If there’s a tie in with, say, cooking or horseback riding, look for blogs about those.  You can talk about that aspect of the book and how it inspired you.

What happens next?
Once you set up your tour, then the hard work begins. You have to write all those posts. Getting them done ahead of time is important, because it takes more time than you’d expect, and you’ll probably have other things to worry about when the book actually releases. You also want to be courteous to your host blogger and get them the post ahead of time so they can schedule it. And don’t forget to include the cover of your book, an author photo, links to your website, blog, and a place to buy your book, as well as a short blurb about the book, and an author bio. Not every blog will use all of it, but it’s nice to offer options.

What do you write about?
Once someone agreed to host me, I asked if they had an idea for the topic. They know their blog readers, so they’d know best what might interest them. As with any kind of blogging, you want to provide content someone wants to read about. No one wants promotional fluff. Most bloggers had an idea and made great suggestions. Those who didn’t said I could pick.

Now, this is where it got tricky. With 50+ blog posts over 30 days, I had to make sure that I wasn’t saying the same things over and over. Each post had to be different so those following the tour would get fresh material every day. The pure guest posts (like this one) were easy. If someone wanted the same topic, like say world building, I made sure I approached each post from a unique angle and covered different things.

Interviews were the hardest ones, because I had no control over the questions asked. For any similar questions, I tried to angle my answers so they focused on a different aspect. For example, if someone asked where I got the idea for the book (very common) I picked one part of where the idea came from instead of going through the whole story every time.

How did you keep track of it all?
I used a spreadsheet and listed the blogger, the address for the blog, the date, the topic, and the status. Trying to keep it all straight wasn’t easy, and having that spreadsheet made a world of difference. It was also a good way to make notes on folks who still needed to get back to me or who needed ARCs sent.

How do you promote the blog tour?
I have a master schedule on my blog, plus each day my blog links to the blogs on the tour stop for that day. To show the different topics, I give a little description so folks know this post on point of view is not the same as the point of view post from last week. I also link them to Facebook, and announce them on a writer’s forum I frequent (Absolute Write). The bloggers I’m visiting usually promote the tour as well, as they want to drive new readers to their blog. Just use websites, Facebook, Twitter, whatever networking tool you have available to you.

What do you do on tour day?
Another important aspect of the tour is to follow up. The whole point is to connect with readers, so I make sure I check back and read the comments, join the discussion, answer questions, and be a part of that blog’s community. If the blog offers the “email me on new comments” feature, use it. That way you can keep up with what’s going on and not have to constantly check. It’s also helpful to arrange a schedule for checking back so you know every two hours (or whatever you pick) you click over to that day’s posts, or even the last few days if the comments are still active. Bookmarking the tour in its old folder makes it a lot easier to follow up.

Isn’t a blog tour an awful lot of work?
Absolutely. My average post runs about 700 words (this one is actually twice that), and over 50 blogs, that’s 35,000 words. I wrote blog posts every day for weeks, several a day, to get them all done. But here’s the thing—all this work is going to reach more readers than if I went store to store. I’d never be able to arrange 50 book signings, and if I did, I’d spend months going to them. Better still, these posts are on the web now, so months and even years after this tour is over, folks will continue to stumble upon that post. The promotion never ends as long as that blog is active.

Wait a second, if this is about promotion, why haven’t you said much about the book?
Remember that “no one wants to read promotion fluff?” That’s why. Would you have stayed with me this long if all I was doing was talking about my book? But hopefully I’ve given you helpful and interesting information, and you might click over to see what my book is all about. Most bloggers provide a little bio and some information about their guest bloggers, so there’s probably a little something about my book at the end of the post.

I’m finding the blog tour a fun and effective way to reach out to readers and let them know I have a book out there. It was hard work, but it was work I got to do on my own schedule in my own way.

And I didn’t have to stay in any cheap motels to do it.

Blue Fire 
Part fugitive, part hero, fifteen-year-old Nya is barely staying ahead of the Duke of Baseer’s trackers. Wanted for a crime she didn’t mean to commit, she risks capture to protect every Taker she can find, determined to prevent the Duke from using them in his fiendish experiments. But resolve isn’t enough to protect any of them, and Nya soon realizes that the only way to keep them all out of the Duke’s clutches is to flee Geveg. Unfortunately, the Duke’s best tracker has other ideas.

Nya finds herself trapped in the last place she ever wanted to be, forced to trust the last people she ever thought she could. More is at stake than just the people of Geveg, and the closer she gets to uncovering the Duke’s plan, the more she discovers how critical she is to his victory. To save Geveg, she just might have to save Baseer—if she doesn’t destroy it first.

Janice Hardy Bio
A long-time fantasy reader, Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy THE HEALING WARS, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her books include THE SHIFTER, and BLUE FIRE from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins.  She lives in Georgia with her husband, three cats and one very nervous freshwater eel.

Link to Blue Fire Online Retailers


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