How to plan a book blog tour (without going crazy)

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I’m no publicity pro, but I recently set up my own blog tour to launch The Knife and the Butterfly, and I learned a few things along the way. So while there are services that will set up a blog tour for you (for a fee!), I’m here to tell you why you might want to do it yourself and how to make it a success.

Even if you plan to make the rounds of launch parties, signings, and school visits, there are good reasons to set up your own blog tour as well. It’s a great opportunity to find real partners and colleagues online. Even friendships! Want to take the plunge? Here’s what you need to know…

Step 1: Contact bloggers.

If this is not your first book, you’ve probably done online book promo before, and you’re going to have certain bloggers in mind already. Use those contacts! You should also make new connections.

Whether you’re building on past online appearances or starting from scratch, take time to do your research. Find blogs you like–you should be reading these–and pay attention to who they link to. You can also find databases that organize blogs by topic, or try searching with google reader.

Once you have a list of blogs you’d like to work with, email each blogger personally to let him or her know about the blog tour. When you write, show that you are familiar with their site by including at least a quick reference to their actual content and why a post about you would be of interest to their readers. In your email, invite the blogger to join and choose a date, indicate basic time frames (“I will get posts to you X days in advance of your tour date”), and suggest possible post ideas (more on that in a sec).

When choosing who to reach out to, you’ll want to pay attention to frequency of posts, reader activity (commenting), and—most importantly—professionalism and quality of posts. For example, if typos drive you crazy, don’t set yourself up with a blogger who has a huge following but is very casual about grammar. You are an author; how they set up your post ultimately reflects on you.

Step 2: Organize yourself.

Okay, you’ve sent a bunch of thoughtful emails out, and responses are starting to coming back. How do you schedule your tour? How do you keep track of what posts go where, of who you’ve emailed, of what you’ve already said?

Friends, Scrivener was (for me) the answer to every possible want I could have in organizing this tour. Especially for authors already moderately familiar with Scrivener, this is the way to go. In an upcoming post, I’ll share some lessons I learned about logistics and give you a peek at the Scrivener file I used to keep myself organized.

(Psst! Scrivener is, hands down, the best tool for a time-elapse project like a blog tour. It lets you keep your posts organized and keep track of dates and details WITHOUT having to open a zillion different Word files. I swear, nobody is paying me to say this.)

Anyway, whatever tool you use, you need some way to keep track of:

(1) what each post is supposed to be (any special guidelines, etc.)

(2) the email of the person you should send it to (usually the blog owner)

(3) what blog it will be posted on (helps you to create a list of links)

(4) when the post goes live

(5) if you’ve done it yet or not

Step 3: Prep your posts.

We’ll take for granted that your book is amazing. How will the posts on your blog tour give readers reasons to want that book NOW?

Start by making sure you write quality posts. You can write a week or even a month’s worth of interesting, varied content about your book, but you can’t do it at the last minute. How long your tour is will also depend a bit on how much you enjoy doing this kind of writing. If it feels like a chore, keep the tour short and do a good job on a few posts.

After the years of labor it takes to bring a book into being, you may feel you’ve said all you want to say, but with a little effort, you can surprise yourself with insights when you start digging up content for the blog tour.

Here are some categories of posts you might consider (click on links for examples):

(1) interview

(2) excerpt + behind the scenes peek

(3) review of the book

(4) rant

(5) Top 10 list

(6) Story of your cover art

(7) Personal experiences

(8) writerly insights or strategies

(9) explore a theme

(10) “Dear Teen Me” style letter (for YA authors)

(11) Two Truths and a Lie

(12) insight about the setting of your book(s)

(13) describe your writing inspirations

(14) define your audience

(15) answer readers’ questions

(16) video post (I’ve never been brave enough, but here’s a fun one with author Julia Karr)

You should also invite bloggers to suggest topics and/or frameworks for your guest post since they know their audiences best. They can often offer a new idea, too, especially if they’ve read your book.

 

Step 4: Know what to send with every post.

 

Author bio. Keep it brief and resist the urge to be too cute. I include this in my email in case the blogger wants to post it.

Synopsis and excerpts. Other staples of your guest posts are going to be a good (brief) description of your novel and—in my opinion—at least a small excerpt. For me, that’s important in terms of helping potential readers get a sense of the novel itself—not just my blogging persona. I chose different excerpts for each post, which often helped me to uncover new angles.

Images. Include core images—book cover, author photo, etc.—already attached. You can add additional photos or images relevant to each post to personalize it and add interest.

Book-buying and media links. At the end of each post, you want to let readers know how to find you and your books, so provide links to twitter, your own blog, and book-buying outlets. (You’d be amazed by how many authors don’t make it easy to purchase their books!) Give bloggers the option of editing this, of course, based on how much promo they feel comfortable with. Less is sometimes more.

Step 5: Deliver the goods.

Send your blogger contact your post at least a week in advance along with any images that go with it.

To make your life easier, you might want to save a template email that has your author bio included as well as a standard set of pictures (blog tour banner, author photo, book cover image, etc.) that you add to or take away from depending on the specifics of the post. You can also let bloggers know that they can choose to use whichever images they like.

I also found that it was very helpful to ask bloggers to send me a link to the post when it went live. As soon as I got that email, I was able to go to the blog tour page on my own website and put the permalink in for that stop on the tour.

Step 6: Follow up.

Be sure to visit the blogs that host you and your tour and respond to any comments that readers leave. Also, send the blogger a thank-you message; they’ve put work into making your stop a success.

Whew! I hope this helps others who want to make a blog tour part of their book launch. If you have follow-up questions, share them in the comments. I’m always happy to share from my experiences; I’ve been blessed to have LOTS of mentors guide me down the paths of authordom. Thank goodness for trailblazers!

 

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