Blog Tour Tips!: On Planning Your Journey

Running a blog tour to promote a new novel is an amazing way to connect with a wider audience, to get a concentrated bunch of reviews, and to get your name out there!  If you are a subscriber to my blog, you know that I ran my very first blog tour to help launch my new novel Drawn.  It was a great experience, and I’m kicking myself for not doing this sort of thing sooner.

So why didn’t I do a blog tour sooner?  Well, truthfully this is a fairly new thing in the world of book promotion…something that wasn’t around when I was a Book Promotion Manager for a publisher years ago, or even when my first novel What I Meant… came out through Random House.  It felt mysterious, plus I knew authors who paid a ton of money to do a tour where they appeared on just 5 or 6 sites.  Surely I must be missing something here… Surely I didn’t understand the nuances of setting up and running such a tour…

So, of course, I decided to go for it on my own!  On The Drawn Blog Ghost Tour I made 22 stops in 5 weeks.  On tour I did 10 guest posts, 10 interviews, 4 giveaways, and got 9 reviews.  Was it a lot of work? Not more than writing a novel. Was it worth it? Oh yeah. Did I make any missteps? Absolutely.

And so, dear author, here are Marie Lamba’s Blog Tour Tips, which I humbly offer to you in the hopes that you can run your own blog tour, and kick some promo butt of your own…

MAKE CONTACT:

Make up a list of the best book blog review sites for your genre, the authors you have relationships with who can feature you, and send out a request for tour stops on writing-related sites you belong to.  Then start emailing and planning!

And expect decent results… When I was contacting book bloggers this summer about reviewing my YA novel OVER MY HEAD I got spotty results.  Many didn’t respond, others responded but weren’t interested (indie pubbed, right?), and still others DID take it on, giving it a nice review, BUT many of those reviews were slow in coming, some as much as 6 months later.  BUT when I contacted reviewers about a DRAWN blog tour, the response was dramatically different.

MOST bloggers that I got in touch with got back to me immediately (knowing that a deadline was involved), and signed on for the tour! Something about the word “tour” makes them respond very positively. The bloggers were eager to take a spot (I gave them a 2 month lead time) on my month-long tour. As I’ve mentioned, I planned for a mix of  reviews, interviews, guest blogs from me, and a bunch  combined this with book giveaways. I took about a day’s total time to contact everyone and to set up my calendar.

BE ORGANIZED

I kept a folder with a chart so I could track who needed what, what the deadlines were, what the blog stop dates were, and this list included all contact names and emails.

Send out ebook ARC’s and cover images immediately to the ones who want to do reviews.  Also turn around any interview questions  sent to you quickly (I did this within 24 hours of receiving)  just to stay on top of things. And record all actions in your blog chart (you’ll go nuts otherwise wondering what is and isn’t done).

The biggest challenge? Of course those guest posts. You think you’ll have enough to write about but then you find you have to dig deep to do them all and make them high quality.  Be careful you don’t over commit on that part.

I worked hard to make sure no two stops were the same. Original interviews or guest posts on every stop, so if someone were following the entire tour, they’d be rewarded with new stuff. No cut and paste answers! I also tried to create guest posts that would fit with a particular blogger’s audience.  Like a post about ghosts for Jonathan Maberry’s paranormal crowd, or one about medievel romance in history for The Elliot Review, which is run by a librarian, that sort of thing.  The idea is for you to meet that audience on its own terms and make it interesting.  Trying not to repeat yourself can be a challenge!

You can check out my tour stops to get a feel for the sort of varied posts, etc. I did by clicking here.

With each stop, make sure they have a cover image, an author image, and that each interview or post includes your bio and book blurb.

BE NICE!

The most important components involve keeping the good vibe going.  Be courteous to your blog stops.  Thank them.  Buzz them well so they benefit from traffic too.  I created a page on my website dedicated to the tour, with links updated…and also I created blog tour graphics and widgets that every stop can use and sent them that.  I blogged each week about the week’s tour stops, and send out daily updates on my FB and twitter, which were retweeted a bunch. There was a lot to do, but it was all good stuff.  Now here, for you, are…

SOME LESSONS LEARNED

1. DOUBLE CHECK: I ran into some nearly missed tour dates. Why? I sent the material well in advance of the date, and assumed it was received.  Yes, assume. Ass-u-me.  I learned to ask for confirmation that material was sent…and if I didn’t hear back, to email the blogger.  And two days before each post, I learned to “check in” with the blogger just to make sure things were on track and to ask if anything were needed.  People have busy lives, stuff happens, and so a friendly nudge can really help.  *Also, I recommend you don’t have inter-related blog stops where people have to gather clues or anything interconnected like that.  That way if one post doesn’t happen, the world will surely go on.

2. INCLUDE LINKS:  Put the link to your book sales page in whatever you send to folks.  I’d assumed they’d naturally link to the purchase spot and admittedly felt a little obnoxious about typing it into any post I’d sent, but some sites won’t automatically do links for you. Lesson learned!

3. INCLUDE SEARCHABLE MATERIAL:  This is a lesson I learned too late. In your guest posts for the tour, etc., be sure to mention within your post those huge popular authors/books most like your own title…And/or an “if you enjoy (fabulous popular title or author), then you will like (your book)…”  That’s the sort of searchable material you want to have so that folks will find you online.

4. GIVE THE TOUR A LANDING PAGE on your website, which shows ALL the stops and links to those stops. Set this up before the tour starts, so you can send the bloggers on the tour the link to this page, along with your widgets. Update that page as final details trickle in, such as the actual title/subject of your guest post, and on the day of, replace the general blog link with the actual post’s link so future readers will find you there.

5. CREATE A WIDGET that is simple and legible even as a small button (include your book cover), and then put it up on your own website in a post so that other folks can “grab” it and use it on their pages.  I made 3…one banner sized, one half-banner sized, and one button sized.

6.  BUILD EXCITEMENT: Once a week, do a post on your website highlighting that week’s stops to build excitement. To give you an idea of how I tried to keep the energy and interest up, you can read an example of one of these posts here.

7.  BUZZ IT: Take advantage of what’s popping up each day by buzzing it on your facebook and twitter pages… If there’s a particular theme to your post, highlight that…if you’ve gotten a great review, paraphrase it on your FB and in Tweets…  Make those great reviews go the extra mile by either asking the blogger if they will kindly put their review on goodreads/amazon… or if it’s a hot review, put it on your Barnes&Noble.com and Amazon pages under editorial reviews.  I was able to add a bunch to these sites, plus some of my tour bloggers posted on Goodreads…and one beautiful 5 star review was posted as a comment on DRAWN‘s Amazon page.

8.  HIGHLIGHT ON-GOING STUFF: If you have on-going giveaways going on, then continue to buzz them on your FB and twitter so that people will be reminded there is still time to enter.

9. COMMENT! Visit your tour stops to comment back where appropriate to folks who put in replies. The personal touch really makes a difference.

10. DON’T BE A SHMO: Try to somehow balance your tweets and posts with other news and other people’s news so you won’t be a steady stream of book P.R…. I found this to be a little tough because with jam-packed weeks of booktouring there is SO much news coming at me each day…all different, but all about my book!   I made an effort to retweet others in between, and to now and then put up a post on my blog page that wasn’t tour related.  You don’t want to weary people with your news…  Twitter is nice because you can vary your hashtags (#) to reach different people, but also put keywords within your tweet.

11. SAY THANK YOU!  After each stop, take a moment to send a personal note of thanks to your tour stop host. They have used their valuable time to help you, and you want them to know that this matters to you.
Hosting a blog tour is a phenomenal way to build up a quick stable of reviews and buzz about your book.  And you can use these reviews as a stepping stone to even more blogger reviews.  For example, I made a point of contacting bloggers who listed TwilightMoms.com as one of their favorite blogs they follow, and asked if they’d review DRAWN.  Of course I included the rave review from TwilightMoms, and guess what? Those bloggers were eager to give my book a look!

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So is it work? Some. Is it worth it? YES!  You want more readers to find your book, don’t you? Can YOU do this?  You can.

SO GO FOR IT and start mapping out your own book tour.

Marie

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How Authors can “Join Forces”: my article in Writer’s Digest!

Interested in working with other authors to get some publicity for your books?  On newsstands right now, in the January issue of Writer’s Digest magazine, you’ll find my article “Joining Forces,” which covers this very same subject. What a coincidence!

The piece highlights the Liars Club, an innovative author’s collective I’m so proud to be a part of.  We’re made up of 13 authors (who basically lie for a living), and together we do special events, signings, workshops, and good deeds, including helping out charities, championing independent bookstores, and speaking up for libraries in need. Plus we really help each other out.

Any group of writers can band together to make more of a splash in the world. So check out the piece if you’re interested. You’ll see how we do it, find some useful guidelines, and also find some links to other groups of authors who also run interesting marketing collectives.

Workshop: Become Your Own Book Publicist

Learn Low-Cost and No Cost Techniques that’ll get you Noticed
A Liars Club Class

Registration now open!

Whether you are working on a manuscript, are self-publishing, or have a book deal with a major publisher, these days you are expected to know how to promote yourself and your book. Are you ready? Author/actor Keith Strunk and I are offering a 3-session class to help you get the skills you need.  We’re both members of The Liars Club, a group of authors who basically lie for a living and who work together to promote literacy and our love for literature.  This’ll be a great workshop…no lie!

Instructors: Marie Lamba and Keith Strunk (bios below)
Date:
3 Classes, Mondays, November 1, 8 and 15
Time:
7-9 p.m.
Location:
Lower conference room at Saxby’s Coffee, 22 N. Main St, Doylestown, PA
Cost:
$95, payable at start of first class by cash, or by check made out to The Liars Club. *Do not mail payment.
Pre-registration required:
Class size limited to first 20 registrants. To register, send an email to marielamba@hotmail.com with “Publicity Workshop” in subject line.  Please include your name, address and phone/cell in your email. We will email you your enrollment confirmation.

Class Details:

This 3-session workshop will show you how to become your own best publicist.  We’ll explore the skills you need to present yourself professionally and effectively to publishers, the media and your readers.  We’ll also share public relations and publicity techniques, combined with out of the box ideas that can have you connecting with local, national and even international audiences…all without breaking the bank.

This interactive program will address the unique needs of workshop participants and how they can best publicize themselves and their works. Class size limited.

Subjects to be Covered:

Creating a compelling author image based on who you really are:
Identifying and reaching your true market
Building your online identity
Blog and website content essentials
Sales techniques you need to know
Unusual/effective marketing through public relations, publicity, Internet/social media
Getting free press online, in newspapers and in magazines
Approaching booksellers, setting up your own book tour, and growing relationships
Face to face interactions with readers
Public reading skills
Interviewing skills/media coaching for print, radio and TV

Your Instructors:

Marie Lamba: Marie is author of What I Meant…(Random House), and has an essay in the anthology Call Me Okaasan: Adventures in Multicultural Mothering (Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishers). A full-time freelancer, her work has been published in over 100 magazines including the national publications of Garden Design, Writer’s Digest, Gardens & Landscapes and Sports International. Marie has also worked in publishing as an editor and as a promotions manager, and is an award winning public relations writer.  She has used her P.R. and marketing skills to garner attention for her novel, snagging coverage online, in newspapers, and in magazines. Some of her most effective out of the box marketing ideas include extensive reading workshops for more than 1000 teen scouts, and the Truth Tour parties her group the Liars Club has thrown for independent bookstores (featured in indiebound.com, in Shelfawareness, and on the American Booksellers Association’s online site). Her article “Priceless Promotion” appeared in the August issue of Romance Writer’s of America’s national magazine RWR, and her piece “Beyond the Bookmarks: Marketing Partnerships that’ll get you Noticed” is scheduled for the January 2011 issue of Writer’s Digest. Marie has also done book promotion coaching for a number of authors, including Dennis Tafoya (Dope Thief, St. Martin’s), C.G. Bauer (Scars on the Face of God, Drollerie Press), and Jeanne Denault (Sucking Up Yellow Jackets, O Books).

Keith Strunk: Keith is an actor, teacher, and author.  He is a partner in Interlude Group LLC, specializing in interpersonal communication training and development.  With a business perspective developed through a career that spans the corporate, non-profit, and academic sectors, his work experience includes teaching at Rutgers University and Ursinus College, film and video production in NY and regional markets, freelance writing, and corporate training and development.  He is co-founder and Managing Director of River Union Stage, a professional Equity Theater based in Frenchtown, NJ in its ninth year of operation (www.riverunionstage.org).  He attended Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts Professional Training Program in Acting where he earned his MFA. An award winning scriptwriter, Keith has written scripts for both corporate and artistic venues, including a stage adaptation of A Christmas Carol that has been seen on various stages in New Jersey.  He is the author of Prallsville Mills and Stockton from Arcadia Publishing and has written brochures, workbooks, scripts, marketing materials, and multi-media for corporate clients including Chase Automotive Finance, King Pharmaceuticals, Medco Health Solutions, PNC Global Investment Servicing, Princeton University, and Sika Corporation.  Keith has led workshops and presented at the Association for Theatre in Higher Education National Conference, the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Garden State Council, SHRM Central NJ Chapter, and the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) Conference.  He’s scheduled to lead a workshop at 2011 The Write Stuff Conference for the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group.

“Priceless Promotion” article published

My article “Priceless Promotion” has just been published in the August issue of RWR Magazine, the national publication of the Romance Writers of America.

As authors these days, we have to be REALLY savvy about promoting our work, so in this article I detail the many free and unusual methods I’ve used to publicize my own work.  If you are a member of RWA, you should have that mag right now.

Hope the info there is helpful!