Marc- I think a lot of authors are wondering about blog tours, Interviews, Character Interviews, Blog Hops, Cover Reveals, Book Blasts, Release Parties, Live Interviews, Reviews on Review Blogs, etc. and all the many, many ways to promote books. Bethany, RGR’s blog tour Coordinator Extraordinaire, linked me to Josh’s post and I must admit some of his points are really interesting and I agree with a lot of it. However, as LGBT Review Blog we do have a different view on several aspects Josh discussed and given the great interest in this topic, we decided to use his post as opportunity to share our own thoughts.
Bethany~ Okay, let me start off by saying I am a HUGE Josh Laynon fan. I love his books, I love how he writes; he is a go-to and a re-read for me. He is an author I will ALWAYS recommend. So when I saw his post I was interested to see his thoughts on something that I spent a lot of time doing. After I finished I was amazed to see how his views differ from my very own. When Marc suggested this post, I was nervous we might offend him. Then I realized it is ok to have different opinions on the subject just like it is ok to not like a sub-genre that someone else loves. So here are my thoughts on Josh’s views of a successful blog tour. Enjoy.
We will go through every point Josh discusses in his post and join the discussion with our own POV. We hope y’all will join the discussion in the comments as readers, bloggers and authors and share your own experiences and opinions. 😉
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.
Marc- Blog tours are a lot of work and should never be underestimated. I think every author should carefully consider how many blog tours they can handle. If there are more releases than they can manage, it might be a good idea to limit blog tours to one or two ‘big’ releases. In any case, I think it is always a good idea to do something when you release a book. Before I became reviewer, I actually didn’t personally follow any blog. I did however, search for any snippet about the series I loved and new books from the authors I loved. And I often got hooked at the blogs and read through all the other different interviews and guest posts on the blogs, discovering many amazing authors I did not know about at all.
Remember that many of your fans are excited about any new release you have and even if you set up something on one blog only for smaller releases, it can be very successful and blogs do enjoy exclusive content that drives readers to them and will be happy to set something up with you. I think a lot of work goes into every single release and no release is too minor not to celebrate it in some way and share the excitement with your readers. ❤
Bethany~ Yes, blog tours are work, a lot of work. I should know, I have spent countless hours putting them up on the blog, making sure they look good. Making sure the links work, and they have the correct categories and tags. I read the blurbs, and the excerpts so I know what is going on with this tour. I am in constant contact with authors & blog tour coordinators, emailing back and forth to make sure I have correct dates, correct files, and all the extra info that goes with each tour. Sometimes when I don’t get to a tour the night before, I will get up an hour before I need to get the kids up for school just so I can get tours put up. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to hand it all back over to Marc so I could go back to JUST reading. Do you know why I didn’t?
They work, blog tours, Interviews, book blasts, and Spotlights work. Whether an author does one or ten per year, readers follow their go-to authors, readers find new authors to follow. So when I receive a comment from a reader saying they have never heard of this author before, but the excerpt sounded so good that they went out and bought the book right away – that is how I know they work. That is why I keep doing what I do, to support this community, the authors, readers and reviewers.
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.
Marc- Prizes and how to effectively use them is a very interesting topic and I think I could talk about it for pages 😉 I do have some very different thoughts about this topic as the owner of a LGBT blog with access to statistical data. Offering a prize is the single most effective way to draw an audience for your blog tour, interview, etc. I do agree that the trend has been to offer bigger and greater prizes and I do wonder if that pays off.
In my experience, the big benefit of giveaways is not from exclusively or even mostly about the people who end up actually participating in the giveaway. Some of them are already devoted fans thankful to get the chance to win a book or prize from one of their favorite authors. Some are people who have never read one of your books, but are interested in the chance to win a great book in the genre they love and might become fans who buy, read and review future books. Then there are some who are mostly lured by the chance to win anything and will not even read the content of the post. Sometimes the very short comments needed to be entered in a giveaway will tell you how wonderful the interview you gave was, when you wrote a guest post or things like that and that is sad.
The reason why giveaways are so important, is the way they increase your blog tour’s reach. It begins with the new promotional opportunities that will be open to you. For example, I have a group called ‘M/M Romance & LGBT Giveaways‘ on Facebook, that is exclusively for posts that include giveaways, free book promos and sales. It has grown to 2500 members since I created it about one year ago, because a lot of groups are swamped with promos.I wanted a place where readers could find out when books are offered for free in special promotions, when big sales are happening and when authors are offering generous and special prizes. There are many other groups, or special places on Goodreads and other websites where giveaway posts can be listed and it makes a big difference in the way people respond whether they see an author do some self-promo or whether they see an author who let’s them know about interesting original content and prizes on different blogs and in the process can introduce them to new and upcoming releases, without it feeling like the promotion is pushed on them or disappearing in the background.
What happens next in my experience is that your readers help you to increase the reach of your post by ‘word of mouth’. Whether they intend to enter the giveaway or not, have read the book or not, or even know you and your work, there are many bloggers, readers and other authors who will tweet about, like, comment on, share on their timeline and in their favorite groups and just do a tremendous job to help you spread the word. Your post is turned from just another promo post into a post with a cool giveaway people want to tell their friends about.
The result is such an increase in traffic compared to a non-giveaway post, that there are also many more people who click through on the buy links to get the book directly. The people who comment on a post and participate in it are just the people you see. There are many more who just find the post through the increased visibility and read it, maybe buy it. I can see them in our statistics. I can see where most of them come from (most from Facebook and Twitter), I can see which links they click, which country they come from. I can also see when people stumble over posts even months after they went up on the blog through their google search or some other way, and the info that is still out there helps them to make a buying decision, even when the giveaway is no longer available. The content you have created is still there and interesting.
What kind of giveaway you offer matters a lot less than that you offer some kind of giveaway. Generally, I think a lot of readers and blogs prefer local giveaways that are exclusive to the blog and they will generally take care of drawing winners through random.org (unless you want to pick them) and readers can see the other giveaway participants and have a greater chance of winning. However, I think the trend of big giveaways has been a response to big blog tours where one or a few huge prizes are actually less expensive for the author than providing each blog stop with a smaller prize. In those cases, a rafflecopter can be extremely useful to authors and you can be creative. Kindle Alexander provided eBooks, print books and a few CASES OF BEER from different popular brands as prizes and a lot of people participated in that giveaway and LOVED the idea. It was a huge tour and all stops could share the link to the rafflecopter and use the unique prize in their promotion.
The benefit of Rafflecopter Giveaways, beyond being able to have one pool of prizes for all blog tour stops is that you can tie entries for the giveaway into readers accomplishing certain tasks such as liking a Facebook Page, following a newsletter or blog or many other things. Just make sure that you don’t ask too much of the readers and that there are some really easy tasks that everyone can easily accomplish. You can have some prizes limited to a certain region, especially if you have physical prizes and the shipping would be too much – but consider providing some kind of prize for your international fans, so they feel included. Asking readers to comment on the blog that brought them to the Rafflecopter will bring more activity to the different posts and enable you to get an idea of how many readers from the different stops participated in the giveaway. Finally, consider to include tasks that encourage readers to support the blogs that host you in some way.
Bethany~ I will leave all the statistical stuff to Marc, so let me tell you a story instead.
About a year ago I stumbled on a review blog via Facebook. I had never followed one before and I got all my reviews through Goodreads or Amazon when I was thinking of buying a book. Well, they just so happened to have a giveaway one day and I read the blurb and thought it sounded good so I left a comment. This was a new to me author and I had never read her work. I ended up winning, read and loved the book. That author is now an auto-buy for me. I reviewed that book for RGR and we now work closely with that author.
Moral of my story? Sometimes giveaways work.
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.
Marc- This discussion point is why we felt strongly that we could offer valuable insights. From this reviewer’s end, blog tours couldn’t feel further from coercion or even blackmail, nor do we feel like there is more of a ‘conflict of interest’ than at any other time we review a book for an honest review.
I have never experienced a blog tour organizer or author who tried in any way to influence the outcome of a review. Actually, some blog tours don’t even have a review part and if they have, blogs are usually not required to provide a review. The potential conflict of reviewing a book without restriction and participating in a tour to sell books is very easily and effectively solved. If we decide to review a book for a tour, get the review copy and our reviewer doesn’t enjoy the book a lot ( usually measured by a rating below 3 stars), review blogs are simply asked to post the review after the tour has ended. There is no censorship or even the attempt thereof and I think waiting a bit until the tour has ended is a wonderful compromise everyone can live with.
For Rainbow Gold Reviews this is kind of a non-issue since we decided from the very start that we don’t want to waste time with books we wouldn’t personally recommend or use our growing reach to ‘warn readers off’ certain books. If a book has a rating lower than 3/5 or in our case 6 out of 10 pots of gold, we either let another reviewer have a go at it, who might be more suited for that book or return it to the author or publisher. This is a bit of a controversial decision, but we have made it from the very beginning, and stand by it. We put book reviews on the blog with honest ratings and reviews that show all positive and negative aspects a book had for the reviewer, as long as the reviewer sees potential in the story and at least liked the story enough to give it 3 stars. So the blog tour policy doesn’t even affect us in any way 😛 and other blogs will be able to decide if they can live with the compromise of postponing a review in the case they don’t like the book or if they rather not have a review copy for the book.
During a blog tour, a tour organizer (if you have one) and the review blogs are your friends. They take a lot of the insane workload that goes into a blog tour off from your shoulders. Tour organizers are usually paid by the author and will have time to focus on your tour, work out a tour strategy with you, use their experience and contacts, create review art and organize everything. They can be worth their weight in gold and minimize the amount of work you need to put into the tour or leave you free to create unique and special content. Blogs will usually do a lot of work for free to be able to help you promote your book and offer their readers new content they might find interesting. For Rainbow Gold Reviews, Bethany almost single-handedly manages blog tours. We have new tours, spotlights, interviews, guest posts, etc. almost every day and Bethany reads through all the blurbs, comes up with questions for interview portions or focus questions for guest posts. She emails back and forth, makes sure she has all she needs for the post, figures out solutions if there is a problem, puts up the posts on the blog and spends SO many hours working without earning a cent. We are on your side and think that is why more and more authors feel comfortable working closely with blogs.
I do think that readers like to read some reviews during a blog tour. As I have said before, I’ve never been one to actually follow along a blog tour at every stop nor did I utilise blogs to find reviews before reading a book. However, I do like to compare reviews to my own opinion of a book and to each other. When several reviewers with a similar taste to my own write wonderful reviews about a book, I really want to read it. I usually read quite a few reviews on goodreads, when I am interested in a book. I look if the things people really like about a book are things I like as well and I read 3 star reviews to see where people had some misgivings with the story, but still saw potential in them. Reviews on their own can help book sales, just because readers will get information about a book and hear back from a reviewer they trust and follow.
However, I do agree that reviews are not the most important part of a blog tour. That is why blog tours don’t usually require reviews. We get so many review requests by authors who sent their book in PDF or MOBI format with a medipack (blurb, cover image, buy links, excerpt, author bio, contact links, author photo, … whatever they want us to include with the review) and patiently wait until we can have a reviewer read their book and put up a review. We can’t just review all new releases with blog tours and neglect the other review requests. Blog tours and other posts like Spotlights, Interviews, Guest posts, etc. are a way you can put out your book info where it can reach a lot of readers, whether or not a reviewer has time to read the book. You can share something interesting, funny, touching, and in some way engage with your readers or potential readers and ‘celebrate’ your release in some way on every stop.
I must admit I love when authors appear interested in their own blog tour. Authors who check in shortly before a tour is scheduled to make sure everything is in order and there is nothing more we need from them are not a nuisance, but I feel like they are actively invested in the blog tour becoming a success and given that we have so many tours and reviews to post every day, it is never wrong to make personal contact and make sure everything is ready to go. Even when authors send a review request and wonder if the book will be reviewed soon, checking in with us is always a good option, especially considering that our emails are filled with more than 1250 emails, with a lot of back and forth and correspondence on Twitter, Facebook, in groups and on our page, event pages and chat rooms.
We also love when authors take the time to interact with their readers and read comments left on the blog tour post as well as respond when appropriate. If readers connect with an author, they are much more likely to try out their new book and it can be a wonderful and giving experience for both readers and the author.
Another good way to support your own blog tour is to help promote it. Use your website or blog to guide your readers to the blog tour and the original content you have for them there, use your Facebook groups, pages and your timeline. Use Twitter and any other social network you frequently use. Update your Goodreads status, do whatever you can think of to spread the word and in addition to the blogs promoting the posts and the tour organizers and readers promoting you will be surprised how many readers you can reach.
Bethany~ I agree with Marc here.
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.
Marc- I agree with everything Josh Lanyon says here. It is a great idea to find unique ways to promote your book with fresh and original content. Including your readers in decisions regarding future blog tours will help you to form closer bonds with them and to realize what readers long for, and what they are tired of 🙂
Bethany~ Yes, Yes, & Yes. Even with the amount of time I spend on tours, spotlights, and emailing back and forth, I love to see original content. So I will gladly work with our blog tour coordinators and authors to provide these type of posts. I will gladly come up with an interview or an essay post to make your stop at RGR special. And I like to see it all, from funny interview questions to the serious essay as to the struggles you went through to get to where you are. Heck, tell me why you named your dog what you did. NOTHING is too much work if it will set your post out from the rest. Don’t be afraid to ask your coordinator for that, he/she wants the same thing. I want the same thing for you.
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.
Marc- I’m a bit torn on this point. I can see how a shorter tour would give the tour stops you have a more exclusive feeling, and authors will be more likely to give every single stop their one and all. However… I’m not sure how many readers actually follow a blog tour along on every single stop. Some of your fans will, of course, to get every snippet you reveal about your book and that is cool. You don’t want to bore them.
I think a majority of blog followers have a few blogs they regularly check though. Having a long blog tour with many stops means that readers, who follow all these different blogs will find the information about your book. It will be extremely important for long tours that you are organized, start early on getting your content ready for the blogs. If you don’t know what all to write about, feel free to ask the blogs. We often get requests for a focus question and the different POVs might help you to get fresh angles you hadn’t even thought about, when talking about your book.
I’m sure there is a drop-off of some readers with every stop, as there are a few readers, who follow several of the blogs participating in the tour, and following every tourstop might get boring for some readers after a while. As long as you have the time and ideas to prepare enough original content for every tour stop, I’d say go for it. Even if you don’t, there are certain benefits to having even just Spotlight promo information on 15 different blogs, including several who might review your book. It gives your book visibility.
There is no reason in my mind against alternating long blog tours with short, more exclusive ones. Of having some very involved blog tours with a lot of original content and some blog tours that mostly bring you more visibility for your book with simple promo posts. Or even hybrids where you might, for example, be very involved with the first and last tour stops and make real events out of them.
Consider Rhys Ford’s ‘Hair of the Dog’ Blog Tour. Rhys wrote a serialized short story from the POV of a dog from her ‘Sinners’ universe. The story was released in 11 different parts on 11 different blogs. Part One can be found on the post hosted by Rainbow Gold Reviews and it still marks our record with 1100 people reading the post within 24 hours. There are 80 comments on the post. It was a HUGE success and the interest in the post lasted for a long time with a few readers finding and reading the post still.
In addition to the 11 stops, there were 6 additional tour stops with different original content, different prizes and one Facebook Chat. I’m sure a ton of planning went into this tour, but I also think it was clearly worth it. I’m still impressed! 😉
Bethany~ This to me is a personal preference for you and your tour coordinator. How much work do you want to do with it? If you don’t have time for individual guest post or interview questions, then sure – 15 stops with no guest post can work. Do you have the time to answer those 15 essays, and interviews? Then go for it. But if you want something originally for each stop but can only answer 3-5 stops then go with that.
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.
When Bethany sent a link to Josh’s blog post to me and asked for my opinion, I found many wonderful tips for authors there I could whole-heartedly agree with. However, there were also some aspects that Bethany and I had different opinions on, given our experience on Rainbow Gold Reviews and our close work with different authors and blog tour coordinators.
I’ll be honest, while we loved this topic and thought we had something to contribute to this discussion, we weren’t sure if we should. Our idea was not a general post on the subject of blog tours, but specific responses and discussions of the points Josh Lanyon wrote about in his blog post and there is an inherent danger in doing that.
Unfortunately, while there is incredible love and support to be found in this community, there have also been many wars fought out in public. Author VS Author, Reviewer VS Author, etc. Instead of learning from each other and respecting each other’s points of views, too often biting remarks, insults and misunderstandings have turned interesting discussions into battlefields that escalated without need and pitched friends against each other and fans against fans.
Now, I think anyone who has read this post can see that no attack can be found here and Josh knows that we are rather huge fans and consider him one of the best writers in this genre and respect his views and experience and most importantly are thankful to him for opening such an interesting debate. Still, just the fact that we were wondering if we should ‘rebut’, when we felt we had something interesting to say, made me want to talk openly about it.
If we felt like that, then some of you might be cautious about responding to posts as well, always fearing that you might offend or be misunderstood in some way, just because you have a different opinion. This post, however, is a safe zone. We want to listen to YOUR experiences, YOUR opinions and YOUR ideas. We want you to get involved in this discussion, because we think this discussion will be interesting and helpful to many authors. If we all come together and listen to each other, share what we know, think and experienced and listen to each other, it will be an incredible thing.
So share this post on Facebook, tweet it to your followers, re-blog it or mention it on your blog, tell your friends about it and get your friends here so we can all talk about it. Parts of this will be very subjective as different people like different things, expect different things and are different. We can all listen and learn, though. Now it’s your turn to share what you want to say in the comments section. 😉
When I first saw Josh Lanyon’s post, I sent it to Marc ’cause I wanted his opinion, his thoughts and his reaction on this subject. Now, we want your opinion and your thoughts, whether you are an author, blogger, or reader. We want a healthy, diverse and constructive discussion in the comments and hope this posts lays a good foundation for that. Attacking anyone will not be tolerated. We get enough of that from the haters who don’t support us.
And that is why I am here, Marc is our rational member of the blog, he looks at things from every angle. His answers are analytical. Mine….are not. I am the emotional member of the blog, I can’t help it, it is just in my nature. Our genre is something that when you tell people what you read they look at you funny. Our genre is amazing, people who you have never met in person are some of your best friends. People that you admire, and fangirl/fanboy on, actually talk to you via Facebook or email, and when they do you realize they are people just like you. And you love them even more for it.
So add your thoughts but remember who we are and why we do what we do.