What’s a book blog tour?
An interesting discussion emerged on Colleen Mondor’s blog Chasing Ray a couple days ago about the blog book tour and in particular who schedules them and how they are set up. I caught the tail end of the discussion on Twitter.
Blog tours aren’t new — this New York Times article from a couple years back explores one author’s blog tour experience — and sites like Blog Book Tours or this post at The Dabbling Mum contain some excellent information about what exactly a blog tour is. But beyond that, I thought it might be useful to look at how blog tours are set up and how they differ from online publicity in general.
First, the basics: for those of you who attended the book blogger panel at BEA, you will have heard the blog tour explained as an author going from blog to blog (rather than from store to store as they would on a traditional book tour) which is a great, quick way to explain it. Depending on the author and the blog, coverage may consist of any of the following: book review, Q&A (either posted or live) or book giveaway and then I’m sure some bloggers have gotten creative and come up with other ideas. Blog tours, like traditional bookstore tours, will feature a designated number of “stops” — often 10 to 20 blogs — and can roll out over the course of a week or a month (or whatever other length of time that has been decided upon).
Here’s some more information about blog tours.
How do blog tours get set up?
Blog tours are typically set up either by the publicist of a book or by blog tour companies / coordinators. Since it takes time (and expertise) to schedule blog tours, publishing companies sometimes feel it is worthwhile to pay a third party — an online marketing company, a freelance publicist, a blog tour company, etc. — to set these up. (We’ve been doing this for years with the broadcast industry — we hire companies to set up a series of radio or TV interviews, also known as radio or TV “tours.”)
Although typically book publicists ask authors not to contact the media directly, different rules apply to (some) blogs. For example, Natasha from Maw Books Blog, mentions that authors sometimes contact her directly to schedule a “stop” on a blog tour. (Other bloggers may prefer to work directly with publishing houses — many bloggers will have information about how to contact them on their sites.) Sometimes, a group of bloggers may come together on their own and contact the author (or publishing house) to schedule the tour.
Regardless of who sets up the blog tour, the end result is the same.
What’s the benefit of a blog tour?
As with radio and TV tours, blog tours enable a book and author to generate buzz for a book without having to travel.
How is the blog tour different from online publicity?
A blog tour is simply one type of online publicity. One difference between a blog tour and online publicity in general is timing. Blog tours start and end on designated dates, the goal being to generate a certain amount of publicity within a certain amount of time. A general online publicity push, on the other hand, could start months (or weeks) before the publication of a book and could end months (or weeks) after.
Also, while the goal of online outreach is to generate any coverage of a book — from a mention to a full-fledged review or interview — blog tour “stops” will typically skew on the more robust end of coverage, e.g., a post rather than a one-line mention.
Are bloggers paid to participate in the blog tour?
No — paying anyone to cover any books would be unethical. (Paying for ads is a perfectly ethical practice, of course, but with PR, coverage — good or bad — should come free). To clarify — since this can get confusing — with blog tours (or with radio or TV tours), publishing houses aren’t paying bloggers (or radio or TV hosts) to cover a book; we’re paying someone to schedule the tour: finding blogs that would be appropriate for the book, arranging dates for the reviews / interviews, reporting back to us about who is running what when, etc. It’s like we’re paying a party planner to put together a party and the guest list (but we don’t pay guests to actually attend the party).
What’s in it for bloggers? They have to read the book and write a post and someone *else* gets paid for their participation?
Bloggers are never obligated to participate in a blog tour — like radio and TV hosts (or like bookstores), they cover books and authors only of their choosing and only when they have the time. If and when bloggers do choose to participate in a blog tour, we assume they are indeed willing to take the time to read the book and write a post because they are interested in the book and because it helps the blog (by, say, maintaining / increasing the audience), much like the way a radio host interviews an author because they’re interested in the author and it helps the radio show. (To get back to the party analogy, guests are welcome to accept or turn down our invitations, but if they do accept, they attend because they want to and not because we’re paying them to show up.) Just as some radio shows choose to find interviewees on their own and never accept pitches from PR people, some bloggers choose never to participate in blog tours and only write about books and authors they find on their own, which is fine — to each his own.
The blog tour coordinator (or the freelance publicist or online marketing company) only gets paid for being the liaison between the publishing house and the blogger — for doing the “party planning” that is involved in scheduling the blog tour.
Will all coverage in a blog tour be positive?
It’s understandable that authors who take the time and effort to engage in promotional efforts for their books don’t want to walk the online gauntlet. However, just as you can’t guarantee that a guest won’t get drunk and go on a rampage at a party, you also can’t guarantee that a blogger (or a book reviewer or a radio or TV host) will positively cover a book. Some may love the book while others may give it a more lukewarm reception — the hope, though, is that coverage will at least be intelligent, substantiated and thought-provoking. (This is where the expertise of the “party planner” comes in handy — they will find blogs where book coverage is intelligent, substantiated and thought-provoking.)
Some bloggers who find a book absolutely dreadful — or who feel so neutral about a book to the point of not having much of anything to say — may opt not to participate in a blog tour, but loving a book or author isn’t a prerequisite for tour participation. (I don’t think it should ever be a prerequisite — I don’t think publishers should try to steer coverage of a book beyond sharing our love for it — but should the author or publisher insist on the hagiotour, that should at least be made clear up front.)
I’m an author. Should I ask my publishing house to set up a blog tour or should I try to set up one myself?
First, it depends on the book — some books lend themselves to online discussion; others don’t. Also, what blogs are available in that genre? Are the blogs actively updated and is there a vibrant community of readers?
Second, it depends on the author — blog tours will be most successful if the author has at least some time to participate in either an ongoing discussion or at least to contribute in some fashion (for example, by providing a Q&A).
And lastly, it depends on the resources of the author and publishing house. How much time and / or money are you willing to spend?
How do you promote blog tour “events”?
Just as we promote bookstore events to try to get people to attend traditional author talks, we also want to drive people to blog tour postings. Participants in blog tours will often promote their participation on the blog itself as well as on Facebook, Twitter and other networking sites. Authors should promote the tour on their websites just as they would promote bookstore events. Also, keep in mind that the site Booktour.com can be used to list events for both IRL and online book tours.
Where can I find blog tour companies?
This list (in alphabetical order) is made up of companies I know of, companies I found on Google, and companies suggested by Facebook and Twitter contacts. (I haven’t worked with all of these people, so I can’t vouch for their services, but all reputable blog tour companies will provide details about their services and prices as well as references.)
If you set up blog tours and are not listed here, feel free to add your website in the Comments section, but please do not email me since I may not have a chance to post your information. Also, please only add your company name if you work on blog tours specifically(not in online marketing and publicity in general).
Have you participated in (or arranged) blog tours and if so, what was so your experience?