virtual book tour gary smailes


Virtual Book Tours: How To Set Up And Run A Successful Book Tour

by Gary Smailes

in Proactive Writer,Promote your book

To successfully promote your book you need to be able to influence potential readers from all across the web. One very effective method of increasing the recognition of your book, influencing new readers and spreading the awareness of you, as a writer, is to set up a virtual book tour.

In this article we look at why you should be setting up a virtual book tour, how to find blogs to host your tour and how to get the most out of the experience. In the final few paragraph we share one trick that has proved to be a very powerful way of encouraging readers to interact and leave blog comments.

What Is A Virtual Book Tour?

In its simplest form a virtual book tour is a collection of blog posts, hosted on a number of different blogs, all promoting your book. A typical format would be for five different blogs to each post about your book on five consecutive days (say Monday to Friday).

The power behind a virtual book tour is that the author has a chance to influence readers that are probably not already visiting their blog, or are even aware of their book. If the blogs hosting the tour are carefully chosen, the writer has the ability to reach literally thousands of new readers with just a few blog posts.

There is no strict format to the number of blogs used in a tour, or timing of the posts or even the content of the posts. It is up to the organiser of the tour (normally the writer) to be as creative as possible in producing a series of posts that will been seen by the most number of blog readers.

How To Choose And Approach Blogs

The temptation, when looking for people to host your virtual book tour, is to go for blogs with the largest number of readers. However, though this is an important aspect, two other factors should be taken into consideration. The first is the influence of the blogger and the second is the readership.

The ideal blogger, for your virtual book tour, is one that has a strong influence in an active community AND a readership who will be interested in your book. The aim of your virtual book tour is, ultimately, to sell books, though in the initial stages you may be simply aiming to raise awareness. If you are able to get a post onto a blog whose owner is passionate and active, who has built up trust with their readership and actually has an influence beyond their comment section, then their recommendation is worth its weight in gold. If you add to this an active community who will go beyond the blog post, who will talk about your book and perhaps even write a blog for their own site, then you can quickly spread the word about your book.

One final factor to consider when choosing host bloggers is your target market. If you have written a book about American Civil War battlefields, then look for bloggers who blog about American Civil War battlefields. This seems obvious but is worth saying. This is the main reason why non-fiction books are so much easier to market. You find that in most cases people with like interests will populate the same on-line locations. Turn up in enough of these locations and you will begin to have an impact. However, this does leave an issue for fiction books. As any publisher will tell you, pin-pointing the virtual watering hole for any specific group of fiction readers is very tough. You may find one solution is to approach blogs who simply review books, or are focussed on your genre. Yet, there is no real recipe for success here, and it will take trial and error, together with the tracking of clicks to your site, to work out which types of blogs have the most impact.

Approaching Blogs

The foundation of any successful virtual book tour is the strength of the hosts. My advice is to produce a long list of bloggers who you would like to invite to be involved in your virtual book tour. Assuming you are working on the ‘five posts in a week’ model, I would look at a long list of about seven or eight bloggers.

Your first step is to find a direct email address for all the blogs on your long list. Most blogs have an email listed or a contact form on the site. If neither of these is present, a simple comment in a blog post asking for contact details might be enough. When contacting bloggers, don’t forget Twitter, which can be a great tool for connecting.

Your introduction email should be concise but contain all the information needed for the recipient to decide if they intend to host or not. Be as short as possible, and leave the blogger with a simple yes or no choice. The content of the email will vary for each blogger but in general you should introduce yourself with a brief bio. You should outline your book and its readership. You should explain why you are running a virtual book tour. You should also explain what the blogger will gain from getting involved. Give the blogger the dates of the tour (this is important) and outline exactly what you will need them to do (we will go into this in more detail). Finally, close by asking if it would be OK for you to email with more details.

Bloggers are always looking for posts. If you are able to give them an interesting post, that adds real value for their readers, that fits with their blog’s profile and takes the minimum amount of work, they will almost always say yes!

Preparing The Blog Posts

Not all blogs are the same, therefore not all blog posts in your virtual book tour should be the same. The aim is to produce a post that will be add value to the readers of the blog.

Independent of the form the post takes, it should aim to do the following:

  • Raise awareness of you, your book and your blog,
  • Fit into the host’s blogging style and voice,
  • Add value to the blog readers.

In addition each post should make the hosting blogger’s life as easy as possible. To do this each post should:

  • Require the hosting blogger to do as little work as possible,
  • Contain all links, ideally already html formatted,
  • Have all pictures attached or at least the code to the source picture embedded,
  • Be crystal clear as to when it should be made live,

The most obvious, and most common, style of blog post for a virtual book tour is the interview. Chances are that this will also form the backbone of your blog tour, so let’s use this as an example of how to create the perfect virtual book tour blog post.

The first step is the questions. My advice is that you do this by email. It can be done by live chat or Skype or one of many others platforms, but my experience is that email is the best option. The first step is to find the angle the interview will take to ensure it matches the reader of the blog. For example, if you were coming to the BubbleCow blog, I would ensure that the interview focused on your writing journey or the process of writing, or even how you managed to get a book deal. The readers of this blog tend to be writers and I would not want a straight interview about your book. We would want to appeal directly to our readers. The more relevant the interview, the more chance my readers will share and spread the post. We are far more likely to say yes to hosting a virtual book tour, if it is clear how your blog post is going to impresses our readers.

Having established the angle the interview will take, it is time to form the questions. My advice is that you give the host a few questions. For example, I would suggest:

Tell me something about your book…

Tell me how you came to be published…

Where can people find out more about you and your work?

Where can they buy your book?

These questions will allow you to say all the routine stuff without troubling the host.

The next step is for the host to pose a few questions that they feel will direct your answers to fit their reader’s needs. You need to let the host do this, but make it as easy as possible for them. In the first instance, just suggest they email you a handful of questions. This will leave you with a list of questions that you can now answer.

You now have to answer the questions. Be concise and to the point. Also make sure you check the spelling and grammar. Make it perfect and leave the host with as little work as possible. The next step is to let the host see your answers, pose any extra additional questions and finally agree that they are happy. Do this with plenty of time to spare, it can take weeks to get things sorted. Once again it is all about making it as easy as possible for the host. This comes down to simple things like returning the questions in the body of an email, not in an attachment.

When the host is happy, it is time to send the final blog post. I would also suggest that you put the final post in html format. Include P tags, links etc. Once again this means the host can just cut and paste. Make it very clear when the post needs to be live. I suggest you send a separate email with the date the post needs to go live. Then, a few days before the post is due, follow up and make sure everything is OK. Don’t wait until the day of the post, since many bloggers will be away from their computer. Give them loads of time and plenty of warning to get things in place.

Finally, make sure the post has a link to the next blog in the tour. This will give readers of one post the chance to jump across to the next. However, since you will not know the url of the next post until it is live, make sure you give the main blog url for readers to follow.

Adding Value

Above is the blueprint for creating an interview style blog post. However, you may find that for some blogs a different style of post is better suited for their readers. All the time you should be looking to adding value to the host’s readership. This is, by far, the most important aspect of the blog posts. Make sure you target the post to fit the reader’s needs. If the blog is about writing, then write about writing. If it is about books, then talk about books. Don’t be frightened of ignoring the interview format and just writing a guest post. Remember, you need to add value. You need readers to come to the post read it and be so taken that they click the link to your blog and, hopefully, buy your book.

This just scraps the surface of organising a virtual book tour and the devil is in the detail. I am sure you will find your own ‘best practice’, but I want to close with one ‘trick’ we often use at BubbleCow, and that is the give-away. The aim is to convince your publisher to agree to give-away a copy of the book for free off each blog. My advice is to ask readers of the post to simply leave a ‘pick me’ comment in the comments section. Make this as easy as possible for them. Don’t ask for information up front, this can all be sorted at the end with the winner. Then, a week or so later, pick a winner at random and send them the book. You will find that many publishers will be happy to send the book direct and all you have to do is give them the addresses of the winners. One word of advice is that you may need to say UK or US only, depending on where your publishers is prepared to ships.

This is post has come BubbleCow’s experience of hosting and organising virtual book tours. They can be a very powerful way of spreading the word about your book, but needs a level of organisation and creativity.

What advice would you offer anyone planning a virtual book tour?

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