Monday, June 1, 2009

The Virtual Blog Tour

I first heard the term “virtual book tour” at the 2008 EPIC conference in Portland, Oregon. Rather then a physical book tour in which an author visits a series of bricks-and-mortar book stores, a virtual tour is one in which an author visits a series of blogs and reviews sites in order to promote her book. In order to promote myself, I am considering putting such a tour together. How do I go about it?

The first thing to consider when arranging a virtual tour is timing. If you have a book coming out, you might want to build a tour around your release date. But even if you don’t have a new book, you can still arrange a tour that promotes your previous books. It’s important to simply get your name as an author out there.

What if you’re pre-published? Is a virtual tour still for you? I think so. The object of a virtual tour is to get your name known. Guest blogging at sites with good traffic will accomplish that. So does commenting on some of your favourite sites. Guest blogging also helps direct traffic to your website or blog. Even if you don’t have a book published you can offer samples of your work on your website. By the time you do publish your book, you’ll have a ready readership.

How do you go about setting up a tour? I asked Honorary Prairie Chick Danielle Thorne how she went about setting up her tour and selecting the blogs and reviews sites she wanted to visit.

“I didn’t know how to set up blog tours officially so I just made a list of all the blogs I like to visit, I have visited, or I see other people on loops mention guest blogging at. I even wrote down book review sites that do occasional interviews or guest blogs. Then I went to some author sites who were announcing blog tours and wrote down where they were going, and I visited those sites.

“Once I had a master list I just sent out queries and asked to blog or be interviewed. Not everyone answered me back, but I got plenty of responses and not one person was rude.”

So following Danielle’s advice I scoured the Internet wrote down the names of sites that looked interesting. Not only do they have to be sites that seem like ones I’d be interested in guest blogging at, they also have to be ones that represent the kind of books I write. It wouldn’t do me much good to guest blog at a science fiction or erotic romance site.

I also followed the advice of Penny Sansevieri, publicity expert and author of “Red Hot Internet Publicity”. She recommends using a blog directory like . Type in your topic (such as fiction + mystery or fiction + romance) and you soon have a plethora of blogs to choose from.

I also don’t want to overburden myself with having to write a brand new blog for each site I visit. As much as possible I want to recycle or at least rework blogs I have already written. I would also like to include interviews to change things up. Many review sites have an author featured in an interview on a regular basis.

I’m continuing to compile my list of possible blog sites to visit. How many stops on should I make on my virtual tour? Penny Sansevieri recommends finding a handful that you feel most passionate about. But the number of stops you make is limited only by your enthusiasm and energy.

Are virtual tours worth the effort? In other words, do they sell books or at least direct readers to your website? Danielle Thorne says the day after she appeared at one popular book review site (Book Roast) she was given the unique hits for the day. Over 300 people checked her out in 7 hours. Danielle says, “Heck, I’ll take that anyday. That’s tremendous exposure for one day.”

I’m just beginning my virtual tour adventure. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Have you every participated in a virtual tour? Do you think it’s something you think is right for you? Have you ever checked out the website of a guest blogger at one of your favourite sites? Have you ever purchased a book based on a guest blog you’ve read?


Helena said...

Good luck on your virtual tour, Jana.

I usually check out the websites and blogs of guest bloggers as I happily blog-hop my way through the day. I find this is a good way to get familiar with the work of authors in a variety of genres. Then when I see displays in bookstores or elsewhere I will recognise names and the background stories the authors have used in the blogs. I am not one to buy online so there is not a direct connection with sales (to me), but it is a huge help with awareness.

Thanks for the tips.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Helena,
Glad to hear that you do check out the blogs and websites of guest authors you run across. It gives me hope that others do the same when they see me guest blog and that eventually they'll come to recognize my name and my work.

Being visible as a writer is difficult. There are many authors out there and the Internet is vast. Lesley-Anne McLeod said to me this past weekend that getting yourself known is like yelling into the universe. It feels that way some times.


Karyn Good said...

Virtual book tours soon efficient and time worthy. I think book store tours are great if there's more then one of you and perhaps if you've already got a following. This way you're targeting the proper audience.

I check out author sites and blogs too. I think its a great way to find out if a book is the right book for a reader to purchase.

Good luck with your tour Jana. Let us know if there's anyway we can help. And let us know the dates so we can follow you around!

Karyn Good said...

Oh, yes. I have renamed myself. :) Newish name, same me.

Ban said...

who's this karyn chick ? gonna have to ck out her profile and see if she's got a blog ...
seriously, that's how i found all you in the first place ! from stephani, to brenda, to hayley, to ya'll !!! from you to tara, silver, captain and kira ... on and on it goes.
yes, i think a virtual tour is a great idea oh, and thanks for the blog 'directory' link :)
much luck !!!

Hayley E. Lavik said...

My thought is once I have my release date and website ready to go (all well beforehand, of course!) I'll start looking into guest blogging and such. Not to say I won't earlier, but the big tour deserves a product to promote.

Personally, I enjoy new content from a guest-blogger, or at least reworked content. If I like what they have to say and I go back and find the same in their archives, it makes me wonder if they're just using it as another place to stick their name. But an old post reworked in light of the discussion, etc, and expanded on, is good in my opinion. Interviews are also great if the questions are good, things beyond the old 'what inspires you?' or 'do you listen to music while you write?'

Guest bloggers who offer interesting discussions or unique aspects to writing/their genre usually tempt me to check out their work. I have one book in my to-read pile I won from a guest blog draw, and I look forward to getting to know the author's style.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Karyn with a Y,
At the moment I'm just compiling names of possible blogs that I'd like to guest blog at. As soon as I have a release date for my novella I've got to be ready to go. If anyone here has any suggestions of blogs for me, fire away.

Since my books are all ebooks, the tour at the traditional bookstore would be pointless. And I'm not exactly comfortable in situations like that. If I ever get to the point where I have one or more books in print, I would definitely have to be part of a group before I'd do a traditional bookstore signing.

Also glad to hear you check out guest bloggers websites etc. And if I can think of any way that my fellow Chicks can help me out on my virtual tour I'll let you know. Thanks for the offer.


Jana Richards said...

Hi ban,
And we're all really glad you did find us! Good to know the system works!


Jana Richards said...

Hi Hayley,
You make a good point about recycling blog posts: don't do it. Or at least I should rework the post so I don't have the same thing at 5 different blogs. I'll try to remember that, although writing new material for several different blogs could be tough. I'll keep your thoughts about interviews in mind as well. If they ask me what my favorite color is, maybe I'll give them a pass.

You also reminded me that offering a prize is also a good idea. Thanks for the great ideas. I know I can always count on you for a thoughtful answer.


Silver James said...

Jana, you're always welcome to guest blog on Penumbra. And thanks to all of you here who found me. I have Janet to thank for that. The internet world is a convoluted place sometimes. LOL.

Some authors give one 'large' prize at their website and advertise it on their blog tour. You might not want to give away a book every place you stop on the tour, unless you get get unlimited free copies. By giving one larger prize, you "drive" traffic to your site and hopefully, they'll check out your backlist, too.

Once I have a release date and get close, I'll definitely be doing the same thing. And yes, it's not a good thing to repeat yourself. I've seen a few authors do that and while I know they're busy...? It still seems like they don't care enough to put thought and effort into their tour. JMHO.

Karyn? Is that you behind that name change? *wink* Speaking of prizes and need to email me. :)

Silver James said...

Oh. Dude. I forgot! Yes, I have bought books based on a guest blog, especially if it was a knew-to-me author.

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

Thanks for this Jana! I've been thinking of doing a blog tour myself. I appreciate learning about, and I'm going to look into it all further. You are welcome to guest blog at my blog--but I am not sure if anyone is reading it other than Helena! (Thanks, H!)
Talk to you soon.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Excellent post, Jana.

I have booked blog tours for our Prairie Chick site but I haven't hosted one on my regular site. Julie Lessman, who will be here at the end of the month, blogged for a month straight when her first book was released. She'd be a good one to query. For her current release, her publisher (which has always been Revell) is making all the bookings.

I usually check out the blog and booklist of our guests and those who comment on our blog. Most of the time when I'm at their blog, I find other interesting things and start clicking on other posts or blogs or trailers, etc.

Thanks for the link, Jana.

Janet said...

Great post, and lots to think about (even though I'm unpubbed).

I usually read guest bloggers and sometimes follow a favorite author on a blog tour. If I do read a guest blog, I always go to the website. Sometimes what I see (and read) spurs me to buy the book. It gives me more to go on than just a back blurb or a hot cover.

I'll definitely follow you on your tour, Jana - and as Karyn (with a y) said, anything we can do to help, let us know.

I agree with Silver on the give away - it gets the readers to your site.

Good luck with the tour (I'll e-mail you some blog suggestions when I think of them). And BTW Lesley - I read your blog (I just don't always comment :)

Jana Richards said...

Hi Silver,
Thank you for your generous offer to blog at your site. When I get a release date, we'll talk again.

What a good idea about having one large prize. I'm going to have to figure out what to offer and how people enter the contest. It's something I should figure out and get in place before I begin my tour.

Thanks for all your advice.


Jana Richards said...

Hi Lesley-Anne,
Thanks for the offer to blog at your site. We'll talk soon.

Like you said, getting your name out there is pretty difficult. I'll keep you posted on my progress with this tour. I appreciate everyone's advice and ideas.


Jana Richards said...

Hi Anita,
I really envy Julie Lessman if her publisher arranges a virtual tour for her. That is great because she doesn't have to spend the time researching blogs and contacting people. She can just write.

Thanks for letting me know about Julie. I'll have to check out where she's going.


Jana Richards said...

Hi Janet,
I'm pleased to hear that most people do check out a guest blogger's site and her work. It gives me hope that it will work for me as well. If you've got some ideas for blogs you think would be a good fit for me, I'd love to hear about them.

When the time comes I'll let you guys know where I'm going so at least someone is following me!