For the aspiring author, the internet is a place to build a platform. It’s a place to give yourself a leg up so that publishers and agents take you more seriously. For a published author, it’s the place you can get the most eyes for the least money.

The downside to the internet is that it’s crowded. There are a lot of voices competing for attention and until a reader has heard your name or the title of your book a few times, he or she isn’t likely to form an intention to buy your book. This is why name recognition is important, because most people don’t rush out and buy something the first time they hear about it.

Given this fact, I decided that it was important to find the early adopters. In technology and in books, there are key people who are not only willing to try something new right away, but also likely to tell their friends and get others on the bandwagon. That’s why a blog tour can be effective–even if you’re not published yet. Get bloggers talking about you and your work and suddenly their readers are interested. What’s more, you can reach many more eyes online than you can in a book store. But a good blog tour takes a lot of effort.

I made a goal of visiting thirty sites in the month leading up to the release of my book. I scheduled big blogs and small. I agreed to give away big prizes, like gift certificates. Then I wrote thirty different pieces–some of them interviews, some of them very thoughtful articles about the genre.

What did I learn?

1. Start Early

When people see your name over and over again, it starts to have a synergistic effect, and that’s good. In fact, traffic to my website doubled in that time. But interest in my first book peaked too late. Perhaps if I’d done more blog stops during that month before release, I could have made the peak come sooner…but only at the expense of my sanity. Consequently, I’d advise starting at least two months before the release of your book; schedule a second blog tour after the release as well.

2. Start a Spreadsheet
You’re going to want to keep track of every single blog you have scheduled, along with the type of post they would like to host for you. Some of them will prefer to do reviews only. This is great, but you’ll need to keep careful records of when they received the advanced review copy of your novel and when they plan to post the review. Some sites will prefer an interview. Still others will want a guest post. Keeping all this information coordinated along with any notes I may have made about giveaways was tricky. Using a spreadsheet in this way will also help you see what dates you have open so that you can space your appearances out and not cluster them all on the same day. (On a related note, traffic seems to be heaviest during the week, so it might be wise to schedule the big blogs on week days and the smaller ones on the weekends.)
3. Write Your Thoughtful Guest Posts in Advance
Even before you schedule your blog tour, you should have a list of topics in mind that relate to your novel. Start writing them up in advance. Dedicate several weekends to the chore if need be. You can always edit them later, but get a variety of posts drafted. There are two reasons to do this and only one of them is related to ensuring that you aren’t caught flat-footed. Guest posts on topics related to your novel can also be used on your blog later to draw like-minded readers to your own website.
4. Don’t be Too Thoughtful
Writing thoughtful guest blog posts is hard work, and it will eat into the time that you have to write your books and meet your deadlines. Don’t be afraid to stick with a review or give-away.
5. Remember that Not All Sites are Created Equal
It’s a morale buster when you spend hours writing a post for a tiny little site that no one even comments on. By the same token, some of the bigger sites are a wash too. I had many responses on a very popular blog at which I ran a huge giveaway, but I have little confidence that any of those responses turned into sales. I wasn’t finding readers who loved the kind of thing that I was writing and I wasn’t building a community of friends; I probably wouldn’t write for that blog again. Moreover, it’s possible that when you’re doing a blog stop every day, you can overwhelm your own followers.
6. Have a Form Letter Set Up
Though you’ll want to write customized letters to each blogger, containing your post, it will save you a lot of headaches to have a template for them including a head shot, a graphic for your blog tour (optional but helpful), an image of your cover, your book blurb, your bio, and a short snippet of information that directs the readers of the blog post back to your site to sign up for your email list, twitter or Facebook accounts. Trust me, if you don’t do this, you’re likely to forget one or two of these items and will end up annoying the blogger with repeated emails.
7. Use Social Media to Promote Your Appearances
Bloggers aren’t hosting you for their own health. They hope to draw an audience to their site too. You can help by letting your friends and followers know about a guest post. Try to make the title catchy or tell them something you reveal in the interview. On the other hand, if it does start to feel spammy to you, just promote the guest posts.
8. Keep in mind that Your Writing Is The Best Advertisement for Your Writing
I’ve slowly come to the opinion that giveaways for big prizes like gift cards and the like should be a rare event. You’re luring people to your site with an ethical bribe, but the folks that are interested in that prize may not be interested in your book. Getting your writing into the hands of someone who might read it, however, and tell his or her friends about it, is priceless. This is why I will happily give away author copies of my book during a blog tour, even though the shipping isn’t cheap. By the same token, if you allow bloggers to take months and months to choose a winner, you’ve not only lost momentum, but you may have lost sales of those folks who are holding off to buy your book in the hope of winning it. You might want to specify that the give-away must end within the week of your appearance.

9. Choose a Pace That Works for You

Because of these drawbacks to a high volume blog tour, my fellow author Jeannie Lin has determined that she’ll limit future blog tours to one or two posts a week. But since I’m such a contrarian, I decided to double-down. Thirty sites? Bah, child’s play! I set a goal of sixty. I also decided to start more than two months in advance of my release. This time, there would be more interviews and fewer articles. And, by god, I would try to get more reviews. Did it work? So far, the answer seems to be yes. That synergy started peaking right about release time with people actually commenting that they bought my book because they started seeing it everywhere. Authors and dedicated readers tend to follow several book blogs and when you keep appearing before their eyes, they become interested. I’ve seen a doubling, then a tripling of my website traffic. Last night, I appeared in a chat room and a reader said, “Wait, I think I’ve heard of you.” (A low bar to be sure, but still nice to hear!)


10. Think Outside the Book Blogging World

On the other hand, I’m certain that traffic isn’t mine to keep and whether or not the sheer number of man hours is worth the payoff in terms of sales? That’s a mystery to me. A blog tour with book bloggers will definitely help with name recognition within the community, but I’m acutely aware that most of my potential readers don’t visit book blogs. Some of them aren’t even book enthusiasts. I didn’t reach them with my blog tour.

With my next effort, I will make more of a concerted effort to find popular blogs outside of the book reading community.