Click on the image for more information.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Blog Tours: Pros & Cons

I'm a veteran of blog tours and learned the ropes one hard knot knuckle at a time. This time I decided to experiment and see what would happen if I relied solely on word-of-mouth for Mistress of the Stone.

Strangely enough, word-of-mouth required just as much planning and setup. While I might have to write ten or twenty original posts for a blog tour, I still had to gather a multitude of resources and book-bites for people to use if they wanted to do shout-outs for me.

Blog tours are still more time-consuming. It's not just the post, but answering every comment (of which you hope there are many).

First, you have to approach potential bloggers to host you. Then you have to promise them a truly terrific post. Sadly, this is where most people skimp.

It takes an enormous amount of time to write original and entertaining posts at a time when you are at your busiest. This is why it pays to write these posts at least a month in advance.

Although I don't see as many blatant promo posts as in years past, there are still plenty that barely qualify as interesting. That's sad because it really is an opportunity to shine.

Giveaways: Along with the post, many people offer prizes as incentives. I've reconsidered giveaways over the years. I still offer prizes from time to time, but nothing lavish. The prize shouldn't be more important than the content, otherwise you run the risk of drawing just the prize junkies.

Sellability: I'd like to set the record straight on a misconception I see often. No matter how much you want it to be so, blog tours are about name and brand recognition. It isn't about sales. 

A blog tour done right will show people you are clever, entertaining, or interesting. Hopefully all three. This is why I never bother pimping my books. If you're interested, you'll find them. My only responsibility is to make sure the links work.

Conclusions: So what have I learned between a blog tour and just plain word-of-mouth?

Both require effort on your part. I had several really good friends offer to tweet and post on my behalf, but I still had to give them the resources. I didn't want them to be inconvenienced in any way.

Never ask a friend or fan to do something for you without supplying the goods. It aggravates me to no end when someone asks to be on my blog, but they expect me to dig up the cover art and links. I used to do it in the early days, but not anymore. 

If you want someone to help you out, you do the legwork for them.

When people started offering to help me spread the word, I sent each of them a package of art, links, blurb, and tweetable snippets. Everything was already prepared and formatted. All they had to do was copy and paste. They could use as much or as little as they wanted.

I had only one regret. I wish I had asked people to post on a certain date. Most everyone posted on the day the book released. It might've gotten more bang for the buck if it was spread out more.

I also wish I had given people a snippet instead of the same old blurb, that way visitors could read something different.  There's only so many times you can congratulate someone for the same thing. It gets dull.

If you rely on word-of-mouth

• Keep it extra short. You don't want to hog someone's blog if you're not there to actually make an appearance. It's a mention, not an actual post.

• Never inconvenience the person doing the shout-outs.

• Mix it up. Don't let people use the same material.

• Don't assume people will want to share their social media space for your book even if you're friends. Ask, but don't take it personally if they say no. I might tweet a little and put a mention on this blog, but I keep Facebook for myself most days. Everyone is different.

If you do a blog tour, here are some tips:

• Keep it short. 500 words is the maximum for the average attention span.

• Keep it interesting. I'm serious. If you wax poetically about your struggle or how much you love your adorable new baby book, people will tune you out.

• Don't place your book on a pedestal. That's not up to you. Write it and let it go.

• Ask a question. I always recommend this. If you're constantly "lecturing" people, you're not giving them a chance to interact. Give them a reason to comment.

• Add links. If people are interested, they'll click on them.

• Don't pimp. Pimping ain't pretty. You begging them to buy never works--unless you have a cute dog--then I might click.

• Use art. Just make sure it belongs to you.

• Giveaways: Be judicious. You'll get lots of comments if you give away an e-reader or other expensive prize, but will that translate into sales? Probably not.

So which worked better? I think I enjoyed the control of a blog tour more, but I was very touched to find people going out of their way to promote me. It was nice to know karma hadn't forgotten me.

Whether you do a blog tour or have friends do shout-outs for you, concentrate on just earning new social media followers. If you're personable and interesting you'll grow a relationship. If you write a good book, you'll grow an audience.

Note: If you're popular on social media, it might sell your first book, but if it's amateurish, nothing you do will sell the second book. You only get one chance to make a good impression. Don't suck the first time--especially important in this era of self-publishing. Readers have better memories than you think.

Be patient and be honest. Write a good book first. Then move on and write the next one.

Can anyone add other tips from your experience? 

A couple of shout-outs of my own:

Raelyn Barclay has been tweeting and cheering me like crazy. I love this woman! Since she joined the writing community, it's been all about what she can do for others. I never forget a kindness and I won't forget Raelyn. Add her blog to your watch list. She's always got interesting topics.

Mike Keyton has been my CP and writing buddy for many years. If I've done anything right, a lot of it is due to his tempered skewering of my work. He gave me the BEST compliment on Mistress of the Stone the other day on Facebook. He said: Pirates, ghosts and sex, the perfect antidote to Fifty Shades Of Grey.


Sarah Ahiers said...

These are really good thoughts! I've never done a blog tour, though i have hosted people or helped out with some on my blog. It seems like so much work

Krista D. Ball said...

Blog tours give me heartburn. Everytime I started one, or planned one, one of my animals died.

LD Masterson said...

Good stuff to remember if I ever get there.

I truly hope the world discovers Mistress of the Stone.

Ellie Garratt said...

Fascinating post, Maria. One I've bookmarked for future reference!

I agree about nothing selling your second book if the first wasn't good enough.

Maria Zannini said...

Sarah: Done right, it is a lot of work. I think people are getting better about it. When I first started it was nothing but raw promo.

Maria Zannini said...

Krista: Oh, hell, Krista. I'm not sure I'd do another blog tour if that happened to me. I'm just superstitious enough to let it sway me. Hope everyone stays healthy this time.

Maria Zannini said...

Linda: Me too. It might be a tad too historical for some people, but I had a lot of fun writing it.

L.G.Smith said...

"If you're popular on social media, it might sell your first book, but if it's amateurish, nothing you do will sell the second book. You only get one chance to make a good impression. Don't suck the first time--especially important in this era of self-publishing. Readers have better memories than you think."

This is fantastic advice. I see so many people rushing their work out the door just to say it's published, when, in fact, many people could do with another edit or two or three. In this era of electronic media, it seems you really do just get the one opportunity to sink or swim.

Maria Zannini said...

Ellie: It's a bigger problem now that people are self-publishing.

In the end each author must be accountable to himself.

Maria Zannini said...

LG: I see it more often than I should. I understand the frustration, made worse when you hear of authors with lesser skill making it big. But dem's da breaks.

No one said life was fair.

Angela Brown said...

Crud. I'm going to have to remember that "same material" angle for another time lol!!

But your tips are like diamonds, beautiful and dependable because I know they come from your own trial-by-fire and under-pressure moments. Thank you for sharing them.

Go Mistress of the Stone. Made sure to get my copy :-)

Maria Zannini said...

Angela: It was my mistake too. I don't think it's a deal-breaker, but for the sake of the readers I'd like to give them something fresh to read.

Nadja Notariani said...

It's interesting to read all that you've learned as an author. Thanks for sharing on blog tours. It's been on my mind recently!

As for your 'word-of-mouth' campaign...I think it's terrific. And the pirate boys have been a hit all around. Happy release week, Maria.

Maria Zannini said...

Nadja: Using the lads is entirely self-indulgent, but I don't care. I love my boys and it makes me laugh whenever I see them in that get-up.

Jenny Schwartz said...

Promo is tough. Sharing support and lessons learned helps. Thanks, Maria. I've learned tons reading your blog.

I'm intrigued whether blog tours help.

I think having something to mention on social media is useful -- being a creator of content. But you have to reach a super high standard with your guest posts to have people trail you from blog to blog on a tour.

I'm seriously thinking over the point you made that blog tours are about brand building, not sales. The amount of time that goes into a blog tour could be used in lots of other brand-building ways...hmmm...thinking.

Maria Zannini said...

Jenny: For sales, I'd say only indirectly, and only after many months (years) of making yourself well known. You can do that by writing more books too.

The problem with blog tours is that you only catch a small percentage of readers who are not writers.

Most readers I know never read blogs, let alone follow blog tours. The exception is when a blog tour goes to review blogs. You have a better chance of finding pure readers who just want to find the next good read.

Shelley Munro said...

Great advice, Maria. One thing with blog tours is that you should make sure you go and interact with visitors. I do a lot of hosting for other writers and it's surprising how many writers don't bother to turn up and say hello. And the question thing - that's golden advice. Give the reader a reason to comment.

Maria Zannini said...

Shelley: Not commenting on a blog tour a big pet peeve of mine. It's rude.

I know some people are shy, but if they want to become familiar names they'll have to get over that. No one's going to bite them--usually. :)

Melissa McClone said...

Fantastic post, Maria! I was working yesterday so didn't get around to reading any blogs.

Just so you know, you made it very easy to share word on your book. I just had to upload and add a little bit to intro it. Happy to do it for you anytime. And I wasn't surprised given my audience but your badge was the big draw to my readers! I think having something like that makes you stand out then just the regular PR!

Your cp came up with a great tagline for you to use. That's awesome.

I've done 2 blog tours. The first was a big success. I was thrilled with the increase in blog traffic to my own blog after that. But the other two seemed more to be people following just to be entered in the giveaways. And it was a lot more work for gains I couldn't quantify. I haven't done another though I have done a couple of guest blogging visits during my release months.

Maria Zannini said...

Melissa: I never start out making a badge but strange things happen when I get on Photoshop.

Ref: blog tours
You'll always be welcomed here if you ever decide to do another tour.

Anonymous said...

Aw...I love you too :)

I generally don't mind hunting up links etc. but I definitely appreciated you sending everything in a nice neat package, it certainly made twitting easier! Thank you for that amazing shout out Maria.

Maria Zannini said...

Raelyn: I can't tell you how much it meant to me for you to tweet my snippets. Thank you again!!

Mike Keyton said...

Thanks for the compliment, Maria, and all the very best for this book.

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: You're the best, Mike. Thanks.