The expense account meals. The personal publicist. The lines of customers waiting to get you to sign your book. The appearances on Conan and Stephen and the Jimmys. And Oprah! Wake up, wake up! You’ve been dreaming again. Oprah doesn’t even have a regular television show any more and even if she did unless you are a celebrity or a proven big name author you are not getting a book tour. Publishers have neither the promotional dollars nor the inclination to create one.
And as exciting as those traditional multi-city book tours sound these days there is a better way to reach readers. They are called virtual book tours or blog book tours or social media book tours or online book tours. But whatever the name these promotional tools are all the same – a way for connecting to readers in the age of new media.
What are the “tour stops” on a virtual book tour?
- Blogs. The blogosphere is loaded with folks writing about books or about your book’s topic. You can find them with Google searches, directories and by following social media.
- Online clubs. There are book clubs, fan clubs, and discussion groups – many with thousands of members. And unlike flesh-and-blood book clubs, it’s convenient to attend online meetings and not so much fussing over the wine selection.
- Podcasts. In case you haven’t been tuned in to your earbuds, on-demand radio has gotten big. It is not just something done out of the basement anymore. The New Yorker has a series of podcasts and so does the New York Times Review of Books, just to start at the top of the book publicity food chain.
- Online chats. The topic of books often infiltrates these cores of social media.
- Webinars. You can include your own tour stop by inviting readers to gather for a live “call-in” to your own book site.
How long does a virtual book tour last?
The quick answer is – as long as your stamina lasts. The typical tour will last one or two weeks with an “appearance” once a day. Sometimes many appearances are compressed into a few days which can have the effect of driving a concentrated blast of sales on Amazon, boosting a book’s ranking. But there is no reason that a virtual tour book tour can not evolve into an extended promotion spread over a lengthy time period for evergreen titles.
Who does the work to arrange a virtual book tour?
There are companies that have evolved solely to organize author tours online. These folks have produced tours in every genre, they know the influential bloggers, they know the concerns of independently published authors, they are adept at finagling book cover reveals online, they are familiar with the blogs that most often produce actual book reviews and they know how to pull-off a successful social media shout-out. And they can do all that for about $5 per “tour stop.”
Sounds great, but…
Many authors self-published their books for the control over the process. After all that, now is not the time to rely on an outside agency for the success of your pride and joy.
How to organize your own virtual book tour
- Set a schedule. And make it realistic. You will begin setting up your tour stops ideally a couple of months in advance. You want the publicity blitz to begin when the book hits the streets but you have to be certain the book is absolutely available for purchase or pre-sale before you head out “on tour.” Not many potential readers use a tickler file for future book buying. And make sure every link to your book online is working. Once you have the dates arranged, do not miss them. Not only will it cost you sales this time around it will destroy goodwill for future tours with site hosts.
- Identify blog hosts. Start with blog directories. Search through iTunes for podcasts. Tap into social media. You can even land tour stops by advertising your intention of staging a virtual book tour and getting hosts to contact you. Once you build a list of potential hosts check out the blogs and podcasts to see what they are about, if they even talk about books and determine if they would be interested in yours. Pay attention to tone of the host site and make sure it is right for you. Shoot for a goal of 50 potential tour stops and get email addresses.
- Develop a query of interest. Keep it short, just a sentence or two about yourself and the book. Make it personal and friendly. Use first names – this is “social” media after all. Give a list of potential dates that fit into your schedule. Then simply ask, “Are you interested?”
- Lock it in. Prepare a detailed information package for all the positive replies. This includes a short and long version of the book description and author biography, a PDF of the book or excerpts, potential topics to discuss and any possible articles that may provide background for the host. Also discuss if the host is open to any contests, giveaways or quizzes that may engage listeners or readers. Then lock down the date.
- Help the host. Leading up to the appearance offer to provide content for the host site. This can take the form of a book excerpt, a review, a video blurb, book trailer or a sample interview. And, of course, make your availability for a guest post with link back to your website, known. Keep your hosts apprised of any publicity coups that come your way in the weeks leading up to the tour stop. Advertise your upcoming appearances on your social media channels.
- Sweat the details. As the date nears for the virtual book tour, finalize exact dates and times. Pay attention to synchronize time zones and even days – this book tour can take you all over the world. Also establish a way to collect audience contact information from each event. The reason for a virtual book tour is to sell books.
- Home again. Time to take stock of your efforts. Evaluate each blog and podcast and discussion group for response and usefulness in the overall book promotion strategy. Keep expectations throttled down and determine the valuable contacts going forward. When the tour is over, express gratitude to your hosts once again and let them know you are willing to come back for further discussions, if so desired. Also double check on addresses of any prize winners and make certain that all links to the host on your book’s website are current. Be a good guest the first time out and you be welcomed back for your next go-round on the virtual book tour whirl.