The past few months have been insane, but it is good to be back after a longer-than-expected hiatus! I thought setting Automaton up for publication would be the hardest part, formatting it and submitting it to different sites. Yes, it was exhausting, but I didn’t know what else would take the brunt of my time and energy for the following weeks–my book blog tour.
Book blog tours are increasingly common in the world of modern writing, both traditionally and independently published. They provide ways for authors to interact with potential readers, increase publicity and give out free goodies to early fans. Basically, an author or publicity agent contacts a list of book blogs that might be interested in featuring his new book. If a blog is interested, they’ll set up any number of publicity materials, including promotional online banners, giveaways, interviews, and information about the book. Sometimes fun facts are thrown in and the author might give away upcoming hints about the sequel or secrets about the writing process. It’s just like a physical book tour without the travel and public speaking.
There are many people and companies online that can work directly with authors to find the best websites available to host the tour, but they usually cost between $300-$500–not in my budget for any means, especially when I could simply write to the websites myself. Now that it’s over and I have time to breathe, here’s what I learned about the process:
1. $300-$500 is actually about right. At least, I think that’s what I’d charge if someone wanted me to organize her book tour. It’s hard, it takes time and energy, and it’s a lot of boring grunt work. You research the sites out there, email more than you can count, respond to the ones that are interested and organize a schedule you can agree with, and put together a unique post for each one. I still have the spreadsheet I used up on my computer. It was much more work than I was expecting initially–easily a full-time job if you want to do it well.
2. Expect cancellations and schedule changes. I had at least two reviewers in Europe and a bunch scattered around the USA. I had grandmothers, librarians, college and high school students, doctors and full-time reviewers. Some of the blogs I worked with were very small, and some have huge literary followings. There’s no way I could slap a date on with them and expect it to keep. Reviewers have lives. I have a life. Next time I do a tour, I’m scheduling it several months in advance to allow for maximum flexibility. I tried to space everything evenly this time, but one day I had to write three separate tour posts! There were also several who needed to back out in the end for technical or life reasons. You need to be flexible if you want to do a book blog tour.
3. Know your pitch and know the blogs. The best way to get your book accepted for a blog is to understand the blog, the reviewer, and how your book fits well for both. Have a pitch ready, and be prepared to alter it at a moment’s notice. Automaton is YA Steampunk. For some blogs, I emphasized the YA part and for others I emphasized the Steampunk. Sometimes I focused on the characters and sometimes on the setting. It’s also a good idea to throw in a personal word about the reviewer or the blog. I’ll throw in my thoughts on a book they recently reviewed or wish them good luck with finals if I know the reviewer is a student. One girl simply requested that I call her by her first name when I email her. A little bit of personality can go a long way!
4. Go big. I mentioned preparing for cancellations above, but this goes beyond that. Most of the people I emailed never got back to me at all. To compensate, I had to email dozens of bloggers and reviewers–maybe over 100 altogether. There are some sites like The Book Blogger List that are directories of people who might be interested. Find your genre, visit the blogs and decide which would work best. Work through every blog in your genre and write a personal email for each one. It’s work and it takes a long time, but the few that say yes will make it worthwhile!
5. Don’t expect sales. Expect publicity. I’ve had few, if any, direct sales as a result of the book tour. I was expecting more. What I wasn’t expecting were the hundreds of entries to win free copies of Automaton or the viral retweets and facebook shares to tens of thousands of people online. Every few hours someone else tweets about it, and I keep having to empty my email inbox because it’s getting so cluttered. I had no idea it would get that big that fast. I might not have earned any money from all this work, but my name is getting out there as an author. Because of the drawings, I’ll have at least 14 new readers and many more people who will keep track of my writing for the future.
In short, there was a lot I didn’t know going into this. I had misconceptions. I thought that the tour would result in a few sales after writing a few emails. Instead, I wrote tons of emails every day, juggled my schedule left and right and made some great new contacts in the process. I solidified my platform. Will I do it again? Yes. Actually, I’m already planning my next tour for September, and I expect to start sending emails in a week or two, after I’ve sufficiently recovered from the last one. It was a rewarding experience, and I definitely recommend book blog tours to anyone who wants to take their publicity to the next level!