Book Blog Tours: worth the effort?

Book marketing for unknown authors is a challenge. If the author is going it alone, they have limited resources to use; if with a major publishing house, it is the publisher who holds the marketing purse close to the vest and unlikely to put a lot of time and expense into marketing an unknown. Viral marketing is very popular with authors as the internet reaches so many with a relatively low cost expenditure. However, just as with posting a resumé, it can bring a false sense of accomplishment: ah, my resumé has reached millions of people, now I can sit back and reap the benefits. But, does the viral marketing, whether of you or your book, bring long-lasting tangible results?

Because of the recent release of Flashpoint: Book One of the Underground, and the June release of Light at the Edge of Darkness, I've been entrenched in the marketing mindset. Gotta do a book blog tour I hear from all corners. Well, I've learned a couple of things, a. organizations like the CFBA and the CSFF don't like to tour anthologies—they aren't popular reading amongst their bloggers; and b. the CFBA doesn't tour non-CBA books. (FYI: David Brollier's CFRBlog does tour anthologies AND they are not CBA-exclusive. Kudos Mr. Brollier). But, I ask my publisher, what good does it do?

The virtual book tour or blog tour is a worthwhile endeavor for name and brand recognition, but is it worth the effort? what are the tangible results? The CFBA (Christian Fiction Blog Alliance) is a very popular blog tour organization. How do they judge the impact of their book tours? By Technorati ratings—which may or may not translate into book sales. I think many novelists are under the impression that scoring high in the Technorati ratings means a book is selling.

The blog tour strategy certainly has the potential to bring exposure to a writer and her novels, and therefore a greater likelihood that sales will follow. But, it is far more likely to be successful with well-known names than the relatively unknown author. The Southern Review of Books did some case studies about the effects of blog tours; they used Amazon rankings as their sales indicator. The upshot, after an initial spurt of book buying, the book sales languished as early as a couple of weeks after the tours. One example:

Our second subject was Marta Stephens, who had a virtual tour starting July 31 and running through August. Her tour was aimed at promoting Silenced Cry, a 248-page paperback detective crime mystery released in April 2007 by BeWrite Books in the UK. She targeted 16-18 sites that claimed membership of 15,431 in aggregate, doing the setup work herself.

How did her tour fare? On Aug. 23, Silenced Cry had an Amazon ranking of 843,750. By Sept. 21, a month later, it had slipped to 1,210,025.

COMMENTS on story above:
It was fun reading about my virtual book tour--but you missed the best Amazon ranking for Judgment Fire during the tour, it was 105,763 - the lowest any of my books ever hit. The reason had to be the virtual tour. (Southern Review of Books, November 2007)

You can turn the blog tour into a real marketing advantage. Encourage blog readers to purchase your book on a specific day and give your amazon.com rank a shot in the arm. Who knows, your book could hit the bestseller ranks for a day which means you can call yourself a bestselling author! On Monday evening (though I wasn't on any blog tour), I hit a new high on amazon. I was a kinda' bestseller. Number 12. Wonderful? Well, considering what my rank was based upon, not really. Here is what it looked like: #12 in Books > Religion & Spirituality > Fiction > Science Fiction & Fantasy. The longer the list behind "Books" the less impressive is a #12 ranking. Big deal.

I learned something else about blog tours. There is money in it! well, not for the author or publisher, and certainly not for the blog owners who do so much work to help promote the novel. Where is the money? in pockets of publicity companies. One of the main Christian companies states on their website: authors have reported significant increases in book sales as a result of the exposure received from our blog tours. For the first time ever, we're offering the tours as a separate item from our comprehensive publicity plans. [Note they don't make any claims about success] Oh yes, they were keen on setting up a book blog tour for me. At $1750 a pop (which doesn't include the cost of books that my publisher has to supply)? I don't think so.

The blog tours did bring some exposure to Flashpoint and I am very grateful for all the folks who participated—I do know how much time and effort are put into the tours by these generous people. I guess the lesson learned is not to put all MY efforts and time into one basket.

Now, if you will excuse me, I am off to email Oprah. Oh, and on the heels . . . I am setting up my own company: BBTRU (Book Blog Tours R Us) and undercut the abovementioned company.

Disclaimer: the previous paracgraph was laced in sarcasm.



Blog Like You Mean It

A Message for Writers on the Web
by Lyn Perry

I'm a reader. Just an average, middle-of-the-road, target market, regular reader. I also try to write, but the following tips are from a reader's perspective. If you're a writer, especially one who writes on the web, then these thoughts are for you.

As I tool around the blogosphere I look for interesting things to read. I know you all aren't writing for me. And that's fine. But if you are looking for your everyday, run-of-the-mill, overall blog surfer, then might I suggest you look for ways to keep me scrolling instead of clicking away?

A Short List on How to Keep My Attention, Not!
10. Punctuate. Every. Word.
9. Foget to proov for typoes.
8. always use lwr case and abrv alot
7. Capitalize random WORDS for emphasis.
6. Link successive words.
5. "Use plenty of Tom Swiftys," someone once said generously.
4. Use #!@& symbols for emotions :grin:
3. Punctuate excessively!!!!!!
2. Leave your sentences hanging...
1. Use trendy cliches, not!

Bloggers take all sorts of liberties when it comes to posting what they've written. People call it "style" - and that's perfectly all right. The 'sphere is open to everyone. It's just that some regular, keep-it-standard type of readers like me are easily annoyed and simply move on to something more readable.

My advice, if you don't want someone like me to hear what you have to say, employ most of the bad writing tips above. It's as good as not saying it. And maybe worse.