How to Conduct a Blog Tour
Well, all good things must come to an end… And so the Darkbeast Release Month Blog Tour has been put to bed. If you missed any entries and want to see what I had to say, you can find the whole list of Tour Stops on the Morgan Keyes website.
I learned a tremendous amount doing my blog tour, and I want to share my insights with those of you who might conduct your own tours in the future. (I know that not all of you are writers, but you might go on a tour to promote any cause that you believe in, or to advertise your own business, or, or, or… That said, the notes below assume that you’re promoting a book.) So, without further ado:
1. Determine host sites. Of course you’re going to reach out to your friends and to well-known industry stars who give a break to people like you. But you’ll also probably browse the Internet (sometimes obsessively, for weeks and weeks and weeks before your tour begins.) Don’t assume that you’ll remember all the cool potential hosts that you identify. Write them down — a word-processing file is fine at this stage of the game, but include the blog name and URL to give yourself a shortcut later.
2. Determine content. A handful of hosts have regular interview questions that they ask all comers, or they have specialized topics (e.g., Scalzi’s The Big Idea.) Most hosts, though, do not have a set topic or format. Every time you ask hosts to come up with a topic or format, you’re imposing on them. Do not impose on your hosts any more than absolutely necessary. Develop a list of possible topics that you can write about, offering them up to your hosts. Have at least twice as many possible topics as you do planned stops, so that you minimize repetition on the tour. If you’re familiar with your host’s specific books or interests, tailor your topics to that information whenever possible.
3. Determine dates. Some blog tours focus on the week before a book’s release, building buzz before the book is available for sale. Other tours focus on the release week itself, trying to push purchases for those all-important bestseller lists. Yet others spread out posts for a month or more, hoping to build brand familiarity through long-term repetition. Work with your hosts to determine dates, but don’t be afraid to suggest a specific date. Keep in mind dates that you will be unavailable (due to travel, day-job restrictions, etc.) Also, keep in mind weekends and holidays, when web traffic is typically low and your post might not get seen by the audience you desire. At the same time you determine the date your host will post your tour stop, determine the date that you’ll *deliver* that information to them. Some hosts need a week of advance warning; others need less than 24 hours. Write down both the delivery dates and the posting dates. If you are holding a contest or giveaway, add the “prize award” date to your calendar as well. A calendar is your best friend, to keep track of all of your obligations. (And a back-up of your calendar is vital!)
4. Write content. Determine the tone that you want for your posts. You may match this to your host, to the work that you’re promoting, to your natural tone, to the phase of the moon, whatever — just make sure that every sentence you write is consistent with that tone. In your post, include a thank you to your host and a very brief summary of the work that you’re promoting. After the unique body of your post, include a short biography, purchase links for your work, and links to your online presence. Once you’ve drafted your content, revise it, checking for spelling and grammar mistakes. Check again. Check a third time. (Remember — your post is going to be read by people who don’t otherwise know you; this is your first impression on them, and you want that impression to be perfect.) Back up your posts.
5. Deliver your content. Send your content to your hosts by no later than the date that you agreed on. Include the post that you’ve written, the cover of your book, and your author photo. If there are other graphics related to your post, include those too. Label your email, your post, and your photos in ways that are meaningful to your host, not necessarily to you (e.g. “Keyes Darkbeast [Host]” — rather than the host’s name first.)
6. Remind your host. Twenty-four hours before your post is supposed to go live, remind your host of the blog tour (being polite, of course, and expressing thanks, just like your mother taught you to do.) In your reminder, offer to move the blog tour date if necessary, because sometimes Life intervenes.
7. Promote your post. After the post goes live, promote it using all of your social media outlets. Remember to use the specific link to your post, not a general link to the host’s blog. (A general link will often only be good for a day (if that); a specific link will last until the host overhauls his/her website.) Create a checklist for your post promotion so that you don’t forget any of your social media. When creating that checklist, remember which of your sites take feeds from others. (For example, if your Facebook page automatically posts “Notes” based on your own blog, and “Status Updates” based on your tweets, you probably don’t want to *also* post a status update promoting your post directly. Your Facebook readers may be turned off if they see each promotional post from you three times in short succession.) Be witty and entertaining when you promote your posts — if you just say “Book Tour — Stop 1,437” most people won’t bother to click through. Tell them *why* they should care about the new post.
8. Reply to comments on your post. If your host has comments turned on, stop by multiple times the day of the post, to see if readers have left comments. Reply to every commenter. Stop by once a day for every day in the week following your initial post so that you don’t miss comments.
9. Settle the books. If you are running a giveaway with your post, return to the website at the appointed time to determine the winner. Notify the winner, at least on the host’s blog and by email if the contest left a specific address. Decide if you will re-award prizes that aren’t claimed by a certain time. Add those deadlines to your master calendar.
10. Expect the unexpected. Create a contingency plan for computer failure on your part. (For example, this might be relying on public access terminals at a library, letting your host know by phone call that your computer is unavailable, or relying on posting through a smartphone.) Create a contingency plan for failure on your host’s part. (Approximately 10% of hosts will forget to post your content. This number increases greatly if you draft content early, send it out well before your posting date, and neglect to remind your hosts twenty-four hours before your post should be up.) Some of your hosts will make your post live earlier than you expect — sometimes a week or two early, if you’ve given them the material. Pay attention, roll with the punches, and regroup as quickly as you can.
11. Budget time. A blog tour is not for the faint of heart or the short of time. Before you decide to embark on the process, figure out how long it takes for you to write a 500-1000 word essay. Multiply that amount of time by the number of stops you intend to make. Add in an hour a stop for “overhead” for each stop — correspondence with the host, cleaning up of unanticipated disasters, etc. Add in another hour for your own promotional posts of each stop. Add in another hour for responding to comments at each stop (more, if your host regularly attracts dozens of commenters). Yep — that’s three hours a stop, above and beyond the time to write the post itself. You might not need all of it for every stop, but better safe than sorry. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Don’t schedule too many stops.
Is a blog tour easy? No. Is it effective? Maybe. As with all promotional efforts, it’s impossible to know exactly what works and what does not. Nevertheless, a blog tour is largely in your control — and that may make it one of the most valuable tools for promotion that you can create.
Mindy, thrilled with the Darkbeast tour, and thrilled to be resting up after all that work 🙂