Write book. Publish Book. Go on book tour in nightwear. Simon Whaley explores the modern way to promote books.
Gone are the days when publishers organised country-wide book tours for every author, dropping them into every major town and city bookstore to promote their latest offering. Many authors are probably thankful for this, for such events were frequently gruelling and exhausting.
Today, a good book tour still requires energy and effort on an author’s part, but the modern virtual book tour means we can travel the world promoting our books from the comfort of our own home … even in our nightwear, if that’s what we fancy.
But what exactly is a virtual book tour? Rachel Gilbey, who runs Rachel’s Random Resources(https://www.rachelsrandomresources.com) to help authors with their book promotional needs, explains. ‘Instead of attending a different bookshop in the country for a signing each day, you are instead guaranteed being featured in virtual shop windows, or book blogs, for each day of the tour, potentially being in two or three places at once, so that even more people have the chance to see you and your book at any one time.’
And unlike physical book tours, where you deal with one person at a time in the queue, or even worry whether anyone will actually turn up, virtual book tours can take a variety of formats.
‘These shop windows, the book blogs,’ says Rachel, ‘are going to either feature a review of your book, or potentially a post that you have supplied to them, or an interview with you, or even an extract from your book. This allows your book to be seen all over the world and means that you could be displayed in the UK and USA simultaneously on the same day, thus allowing an even bigger audiences to see and hear about your book.’
Book tours work best over several days, particularly when your book has just been published. But unlike a real book tour, which can take you away from your writing desk for most of the day if not several days at a time, a writer can slot some writing time into a busy virtual book tour, even one stretching over several weeks.
‘During the tour,’ Rachel continues, ‘I would encourage an author to be online at least once or twice per day to share the blog tour posts themselves, and thank the bloggers. Generally the more interaction an author can put in, the more they will get from the experience.’
So why should we consider a virtual tour for our next book? ‘With so many books published everyday,’ says Bella Osborne (https://www.bellaosborne.com), whose latest book is Coming Home to Ottercombe Bay, ‘a blog tour is an opportunity to announce the arrival of yours to readers who may otherwise never know of its existence. The blogging community is incredibly supportive so you will get numerous shares amongst bloggers, which widens the net further. When books arrive for bloggers to review they often share pictures on social media which creates a buzz. I find it’s often those on the blog tour who will post early reviews on Goodreads and Amazon too.’
Romance author Lizzie Lamb (https://lizzielamb.co.uk), whose latest book is Take Me, I’m Yours, agrees that it’s a great way of finding new readers. ‘For me, the point of a blog tour is to get publicity and recognition for me and my books, to find new readers and gain genuine reviews which bloggers and readers will share on Amazon and Goodreads. By choosing the organiser of the blog tour wisely, the author should be introduced to new bloggers who will in turn share her books with their readers and followers.’
Virtual book tours are popular with both traditional and self-publishers alike.
‘HarperCollins does this for me,’ Bella explains. ‘My current book was published in four parts digitally, and they did blog tours for three of those publication days, but felt another for the paperback was too much. I was too scared to launch it without one so I hired Rachel’s Random Resources to do a publication day blitz. I have organised a blog tour myself in the past and I contacted bloggers I knew liked my kind of book and asked if they’d be able to support me.’
Like Bella, Lizzie doesn’t mind organising her own virtual tours, but feels professional support helps her to reach new readers. ‘It would be possible to organise my own tours,’ she says, ‘but I would be preaching to the converted in many senses. That’s why I searched out a list of blog tour organisers/publicists and then chose the one I regarded as best match for me and my novels. Don’t be nervous about approaching well-known tour organisers, they want to make a living from blogging and are always looking for new customers.’
Preparation and Planning
It’s important to plan well in advance, to exploit the maximum benefit from such tours and to allow virtual blog promoters to select the right slots for your book launch.
‘As soon as you have a blurb, cover and a publication date you should be considering your virtual book tour needs,’ suggests Rachel. ‘I typically wouldn’t take a booking less than six weeks before the date of the tour. I’m generally working on two months plus at the moment. Other things for authors to consider include: do you want to organise it yourself or hire a specialist who can make is relatively stress free for you? What length of tour would you like? Are you happy to supply content posts or do you want it to be a review-only tour? If you do want to supply content, as a general rule, every blogger on the tour would want an exclusive original post that hasn’t been published anywhere else.’
Creating that original content may take time, hence the need for early planning, but there are many ways you can exploit your novel’s topic to create engaging and captivating content.
‘Location is always popular,’ says Bella, ‘as is anything unusual about your story or its characters. I had a deaf character who was well received by the deaf community, so people were interested in how I’d gone about my research and fact checking. Where the story idea came from comes up every time but readers always seem keen to know how the original idea came about.’
Location is a subject matter Lizzie finds useful too. ‘During this blog tour I was asked to write about the location of my novels (Scotland), tips for the aspiring author, character studies, what compels me to write romance, what my writing plans are for the future, and why I became a writer in the first place.’
Book Launch, Or Later?
The obvious time for a virtual book tour is on, and immediately after, publication day. But that’s not the only time, as Lizzie has discovered.
‘I find that during the first month or so after my book is launched the sales come flooding in. During that time, I’m mainly selling to friends, followers and the curious! After that, sales can slow down and blog tours help me reach new readers,’ she says.
‘I launched my new novel in July, but my blog tour didn’t happen until mid-September for the reasons listed above. I always prepare advance notice of the tour, using graphics produced on Canva (https://www.canva.com)and Ripl.com (https://www.ripl.com), to draw readers and other bloggers to the sites I am featured on.’
Taking a professional approach to our writing is not just about what we write, but how we promote ourselves and our products to our readers. While organising a virtual book tour is something we can do by ourselves, if it’s not our area of expertise, then it makes good business sense to buy in those skills.
And, of course, the beauty of a virtual book tour is that we don’t have to leave home to do them, or even get dressed, if we don’t want to. But it’s probably best we don’t share that snippet of information with our readers.
Business Directory – Top Tips for Virtual Tours
- Having bloggers who specialise in your genre is essential.
- Thanking bloggers only takes a second and means a lot.
- Get involved with blogger groups on Facebook early.
- Ask blog hosts what sort of posts are best received by their followers.
- Include a giveaway if you can and make it bookish and relevant so that the people it reaches are likely buyers.
- Ensure that the tour organiser gets the questions and topics to you well in advance of the tour, so you don’t feel rushed and pressurised as you may be launching your novel at the same time.
- Have a ready stock of photos and publicity material to hand, as bloggers will request it. Make sure your bio, links and author photos, etc, are up to date.
- Consider reducing the price of your novel for the duration of the tour. This is easy for me as I am an indie author.
- After the blog tour, thank all the bloggers (also include the graphic for your blog tour to remind readers/other bloggers who was on your tour).
- Save the blog posts you write as you may be able to recycle some of the material on your own blog at a future date.
- Do take any advice offered, and listen, to a tour organiser. They tend to know this specialism very well, and will usually know if what you are asking is going to be feasible or not.
- Thank everyone who takes part. Don’t be rude – you would be surprised at some the basic manners fails I have come across .
- Remember not everyone will enjoy every book.
- Don’t beg a book blogger to post a review onto Amazon minutes after the post is live – they do have lives, they know its important to you. Give it at least a week from the tour end before asking politely.
- Enjoy the experience! I often hear from authors that virtual book tours can be addictive, knowing each day during the tour you should be getting more reviews – and some of those may even make it over to Amazon.