I began my monumental, trend-setting, ground-breaking, superhuman, death-defying, egomaniacal, much talked-about blog tour on February 28th, on a whim.
I had heard of blog tours; authors visit other blogs and guest post and/or answer questions about their current book. But I'd never attempted one. Partly because I didn't want to impose on my blogging peers. Partly because it seemed like a lot of work, with no guaranteed results.
But in February, before Afraid came out, I'd used my newsletter to solicit reviews in exchange for free copies of Afraid, asking people to blog about the book. I received well over a hundred responses from bloggers willing to review it. My publisher, who was behind me completely, wanted a way to keep track of who was getting books and reviewing them, so I suggested posting links on my blog every time a review came in.
That got me to thinking. In conjunction with the review campaign, wouldn't it be a good idea to supplement that with interviews and excerpts of the novel?
Over the years, I've managed to trade links with quite a few bloggers. I'm lucky that this blog has a decent following. It occurred to me that blogging on other sites might also benefit the sites I visit, because I'd be sending my regular visitors to new blogs. So instead of imposing, it would be more like win-win.
So, mostly to see if I could do it, I asked the blogosphere if anyone wanted to host me during. The amount of responses surprised me, and I easily had enough requests to fill every day in March.
Then it became a question of organization and time management. Who wanted what from me, and when would it be posted?
I'm awful at time management and organization. But whenever I did a guest blog, I asked for the blogger to email me the URL the morning it was posted. That way, even if I forgot what I was doing (which was often) I would get a reminder of who to link to. Google Alerts also helped, every day sending me an email of all of the places I was currently being featured on.
I've gotten over 30 reviews so far. As I'd requested, many of the reviewers posted their reviews in multiple locations--some of them in over a dozen places. The reviews are still coming in, and I'll continue to post them as I get them.
For the curious, here's a pdf of the letter I sent to reviewers:
Then it became a question of checking out the blogs that asked to host me, and asking them what they'd like me to do. Some preferred interviews. Some preferred me to blog about specific topics. It took a bit of time to write the 75 posts, and I did my best to not repeat myself and to conform to the blog owner's style.
So, did it work?
Googling "Jack Kilborn" in February resulted in 2880 hits. Googling "Jack Kilborn" today results in 12,000 hits.
In February, Afraid was ranked 1,299,341 on Amazon. Currently, it's at 9565. Keep in mind this is a paperback original from a new author with a small marketing budget, so debuting in the top 10,000 is pretty good, considering no previous track record, no ads, no tour, no radio campaign, no major reviews other than Publisher's Weekly.
Three of my Jack Daniels books hit the Amazon.com Police Procedural bestseller list, at four different times during the month. My backlist numbers have all spiked considerably compared to last month.
I'm still getting requests for interviews and reviews. Plus, even though the blog tour is over, the blogs I visited are permanent, and will continue to get visitors for weeks, months, even years to come.
During my month of blog touring, I got requests for more than 600 new Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter friends. Over a hundred new people signed up for my newsletter.
So, is blog touring a good time investment?
I say yes. Many of the blogs I visited told me they were thrilled with their increased traffic, and there seemed to be a lot of cross pollenization of fans going on. In fact, except for selling short stories and visiting bookstores, I can't think of a better return on your self-promo investment than blog touring.
If you're considering doing a blog tour, here are some things to keep in mind.
1. Have copies of your book to give away, to reviewers and to contest winners. I gave away books at several of the blogs I visited.
2. Momentum is important. Hitting as many blogs as you can in a short amount of time helps build buzz. Too long between posts and people will forget you're on a blog tour.
3. Make sure you've networked with enough people to be able to find enough blogs to host you. If possible, try to appear on a variety of blogs that have different demographics.
4. Don't repeat yourself. And don't try to sell books. Blogging is about information and entertainment, not infomercials.
5. Be willing to spend a lot of time on this. I spent well over a hundred hours in March, writing blogs, answering email, figuring out what I was doing and when.
6. Use your social networks to amplify the tour. I used Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace to point people toward my blog, and many of the hits I got came from these online billboards.
7. Partner with your publisher. Grand Central has been great, helping with reviews and logistics, and coming up with many terrific ideas, including offering Afraid as an ebook download for only $1.99. These are savvy folks who know what they're doing, and they're a pleasure to work alongside.
Blog touring isn't easy, but I expect to see more and more authors giving it a try. Your results may vary, but like all self-promotion, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.
More Afraid reviews:
An Afraid book giveaway: