Monday, February 16, 2015

How to Pull Off a Killer Blog Tour


I should preface this post by saying that I’m not a big fan of blog tours. I had some success with them early on, but less in recent years for two reasons: EVERYBODY does blog tours now, and I’m too lazy to do what it takes to pull off a killer tour.

 

The keyword in blog tours is “special.” As in:

 

A - Distinguished or different from what is ordinary or usual

 

B - Extraordinary; exceptional, as in amount or degree; especial

 

C - Being such in an exceptional degree; particularly valued

 

And special is the antithesis of what we typically see these days. There are more tours than ever, and they are getting longer than ever, the prizes are getting bigger than ever -- and readers are more bored than ever.

 

Why?

 

The point of a blog tour is to interest readers, to excite them, to stimulate them into buying our books. But routine is not interesting. Common is not exciting. Average is not stimulating.

 

Consider the average blog tour: seven to fourteen stops of predictable content: a review, blurb/excerpt, maybe an interview, and maybe a How I Came To Write Yet Another Book post.

 

This is a series of wasted opportunities! A blog tour needs to be an event. It has to be fun and engaging. Every single landing has to be different. Or at least it has to feel different. It has to feel new and novel. Here’s how you make that happen:

 

1 - Stop arranging blog tours for every book release. Pick one or two releases a year to be your “big” release and focus your promotion on those. Make these books a BIG event. Do not do two of these big books in a row. Remember, you have to keep the tour special.


 

2 -  Stop relying on prizes and giveaways to draw your audience. The focus of the tour is your book. You don’t want to bring in people only hoping to score a free Kindle. You want to attract the readers most likely to be genuinely interested in your book. That has to do with the quality and content of your posts, not the number of -- or price tag on -- the giveaways. The best “prizes” are those that will ideally lead to new readers trying out your work for the first time: namely free books from your backlist --  or unique themed gifts that tie in with this particular title. The first are good for new readers and the second are good for rewarding already devoted fans.

 

Keep in mind that a successful blog tour isn’t about the quantity of people who show up. It’s about the quality of the response to the tour. Fifty people who might really end up buying your book is way better than five hundred people who are only there in hopes of getting a trip to Hawaii.

 

3 - Stop scheduling your blog tours around review sites. Right now most blog tours rely heavily on review sites to host their posts. This is problematical for a number of reasons. First, it creates a potential conflict of interest. Reviewers have to be free to review books without restriction. At the same time, the point of a blog tour is to sell books. You see what I’m getting at? From a puzzled reader's perspective it can feel a bit like what you have theah is a fah-ail-yur to communicate.

 

It’s understandable that some authors or author representatives want a guarantee that they aren’t bringing a bunch of readers to a blog where the book is going to be reviewed unfavorably. But you can also see why on the reviewer’s end this might feel like coercion or even blackmail.

 

But the real problem with this arrangement is that a review -- while necessary and appreciated -- is not the  fresh, original, special content that we’re talking about. I mean it can be: sometimes a reviewer will fall in love with a book and write a rave review and grant you the equivalent of Book of the Month status, and that's fantastic. If it happens organically. That kind of heartfelt enthusiasm will be great for one blog stop. But basically, barring the outlier one and five stars, you're going to receive a series of largely similar reviews. Necessary and appreciated, yes, but probably not the incentive for drawing in that audience you’re looking for. Especially if you’ve scheduled a number of review sites in a row.

 

Remember, with a blog tour, you’re trying to drum up excitement and enthusiasm. Woohooo!!! You’re throwing a party at every stop along the way. And every stop is different. Relying on reviewers to bring the paper hats and whistles is like asking your BFF to help you host a party and then you skip out on all the work and show up as one of the guests.

 

4 - Start coming up with fresh and original content for your blog stops during the editing process. There’s no better time to think about angles for promotion than while you’re finishing up the book. Deleted scenes and character interviews are especially popular. Ask funny interview questions of side characters focusing on the main characters and their relationship. Interview the villain. Consider whether a particular scene was especially fun to write or especially difficult, analyze why, and write about it. Talk about the characters and the story, but dig a little deeper than usual. You don’t want to write a cookie cutter post. Avoid writing a coda for a book that most people haven’t read yet, but consider writing prequel scenes. Feel free to share artwork, playlists, or other sources of inspiration. Remember you are trying to amuse, entertain and interest both existing and potential readers.

 

And don’t be afraid to ask your readers what they’d like to see in your next blog tour.

 

5 - Keep the tour short. Three to five stops MAX. Remember the keyword is special. Rafflecopter nothwithstanding, the longer the tour goes on, the more readers fall away. By the end of a long tour you’ll feel like interest in the book is fading. It’s not -- interest in the tour is fading. Keep the tour short and lively. You want to end the tour while reader interest is at its peak.

 

6 - Scout out new and original sites to host your blog tour. Your fellow author blogs and social media streams are prime real estate, especially if you’re tapping real friends and especially if your real author friends are willing to come up with a post of their own. Interview each other -- cross promotion is great. Funny posts are great too. If you want to go full out, you could try organizing a friendly little author roast -- with yourself as the victim. Or get a fellow author’s characters to interview your characters. There are tons of possibilities.

 

Don’t repeat content. Don’t kid yourself into thinking cover art, blurbs and excerpts equal fresh, original, exclusive content. That stuff is already on your own website and the publisher and bookseller pages.

 

Don’t rant. Don’t rave. This isn’t the time to jump on a soapbox.

 

If you do want to utilize review sites, don’t be afraid of small, obscure or brand new sites.  But again, you have to bring the fresh and original content. You can’t leave that to anyone else. And regardless of how successful the tour is, mix it up next time around. Remember, every blog tour has to be special. So try not to repeat visit any one site more than once a year. That keeps it fresh and interesting for everybody.

 

Does all this sound like a lot of work? It is. And that’s why you don’t want to try to do it for every book release. But if you plan ahead, keep the tour short and lively, take the time and trouble to create exclusive and original content, and focus on reaching the readers most likely to give your work a try, you’ll actually have fun -- and you’ll sell more books.  

 

 

 

9 comments:

Anne Marie Becker said...

Great advice! I found the same thing - did about 8 stops for my first book and found it to be a lot of work for little return and cut it to about 4 blogs for Book 2. Haven't done another tour for the last few books, but if I do, I'll definitely be using your tips. Thanks!

Josh Lanyon said...

Tested and proven. ;-)

Rita said...

Thanks for this Josh. It confirms my views on blog hops. It takes a lot of time to discover the right places to blog.

Elise Warner said...

Great advice, Josh. Thank you.

Denise said...

As a reader, I find that I rarely even visit the first stop on a blog tour anymore, especially if it's the same old same old you describe so well, Josh. One of my favorite authors recently did a tour where she did serial posts of a new story. That was a great idea and kept me going back.

Josh Lanyon said...

Hey there, Rita! It does discover time to find the right places to blog. To be successful, blog tours and blog hops take work -- and a lot of that work HAS to come from the author.

Josh Lanyon said...

Great! I hope this will prove useful, Elise.

Josh Lanyon said...

Denise, I think part of what happened is as blog tours got longer and longer, trying to come up with posts became more daunting which is why you see so many authors relying on excerpts and blubs and reviews.

And the problem with reviews is the majority of readers do not want to read the review before they've read the book. More and more, reviews provide discussion focus for books that have been *already* read. So reviews during the blog tour phase are actually a reason NOT to visit that stop on the tour.

Cathy Perkins said...

Really good points Josh!