By Mayra Calvani
Virtual book tours, also known as blog tours, are an effective way of book promotion. A virtual book tour puts your name and book in front of hundreds—sometimes thousands—of readers. If you hire a publicist to coordinate it for you, the price can go from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. However, if you do it yourself, it’s practically free. Best of all, you don’t need a car or an airplane to travel through the blogosphere. You can do it in your pajamas from the comfort of your own home. All you need is a computer, internet connection, and a basic knowledge of blogs. However, be prepared to spend a lot of time at the computer for the duration of the tour. A virtual book tour is time consuming because the bloggers who host you will ask you to write guest posts, articles, and answer interview questions for them.
Many new authors often ask if virtual book tours guarantee book sales. The answer is NO. A virtual book tour doesn’t guarantee sales but it does guarantee a certain amount of visibility and exposure for you and your work.
The following steps will help you coordinate your own virtual tour:
- Start planning at least 3 months in advance. This will give you enough time to research blogs, contact bloggers, send review copies (if requested), and write guest posts or answer interview questions. You want readers to be entertained when they read about you and your book, so you’ll have to give them something new in every interview. Writing the same answers in the different interviews doesn’t work and you’ll only be turning readers away.
- Decide how long you’ll want the tour to be and how many stops you’ll make. Virtual book tours can be as short as one week (mini book tour) or as long as several months. It depends on your schedule and on how much time you’re willing to allocate for it. Two-week and one-month tours seem to be the most popular. Usually, there are 3 stops for each week and many authors prefer the stops to be on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The choice is really up to you. It all depends on how much time, work and commitment you’re willing to give.
- Decide when your tour will take place. If you have a holiday book, like a Christmas children’s book or a horror novel, you’ll want to schedule your tour during December or October, respectively, in order to maximize your book’s marketing potential.
- Spend some time online researching blogs and make a list of those that match the content or theme of your book. If your book is a mystery novel about a violinist, for instance, you’ll want to make a list of mystery and violin blogs. That’s were the potential readers and buyers of your book are. That’s where your audience is. If you choose general blogs, then make sure they get a decent amount of traffic a month. You can check how many hits a blog or site gets on Alexa.com.
- Write a template for contacting hosts, this way you won’t have to write individual ones for each one. The message should include a brief intro, full information about your book (blurb, link to cover art, purchase page, reviews, etc.), and a polite request to be hosted on their blogs. Mention that you’re available for an interview or a guest post. As an alternative, you can request a book review, but you must be willing to send them a review copy. If you’re lucky, the blogger will accept an ebook copy, saving you the expense of a print copy and postage. Be aware, however, that not all bloggers are willing to read electronic copies unless they have ebook-reading devices. Keep in mind that reviews are one of the most effective ways of book promotion, and when you compare it to ads, they’re reasonably cheap. Let the bloggers know you’ll be aggressively promoting the tour, thus bringing traffic to their blogs.
- Prepare a schedule. Get a weekly or monthly calendar with enough space for notes. This will help you visualize the entire tour. As the bloggers’ responses start flowing in and you agree on specific tour stop dates, record the following information on the calendar: blog name and URL, host’s name, whether it’s for a guest post, article, interview or review. In case of reviews, send the book to the blogger as soon as possible (at least two months in advance), giving him or her enough time to read and review the book.
- Don’t leave writing guests posts and answering interview questions for the last minute. Take your time. Remember readers want to be entertained and informed. Give them valuable information, add a touch of humor and keep your voice fresh and interesting. Also, don’t wait until the last day to send the material to the host. Send it at least a week in advance.
- A few days before the tour starts, double check your calendar to make sure all is in order, then post the complete schedule, with the correct hosts’ links, on your website and/or blog. Also, send a reminder to all your hosts. To make this easy, put your hosts’ contact info in a separate email folder and email them together when needed. Make sure you update your tour schedule on a daily basis in case of last minute changes.
- Once the tour starts, promote it! Announce it to all your friends, colleagues and relatives and in all forums, groups and lists you belong to. You can also send a press release for extra exposure.
- For the duration of the tour, be sure to visit your tour stops to write comments or answer questions via the ‘Leave a Comment’ feature on the blogs. Interacting with readers will make your virtual book tour more interesting and entertaining.
Consider offering a prize at the end of the tour to one lucky winner. This will encourage visitors to comment on your tour stops and follow you all through the tour. The prize could be a gift certificate, a goody basket, or even a free critique. It’s not recommended to offer a copy of the book you’re promoting as gift. If people think they might win it, they won’t buy it.
Once the tour is over, don’t forget to thank your hosts and offer to return their favor in the future. This makes for good internet networking and protocol.
Award-winning author Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults. She’s had over 300 reviews, articles, short stories and interviews published in print and online. Visit her website at www.mayracalvani.com.