Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Where's...Enough Already! Blog Tour Recap

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 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:


Jake Nantz said...

I will definitely say it worked to draw new people to my blog, but I'm also glad it had such a successful run for you. In addition, I used the excerpt of AFRAID in my creative writing class, to get my high schoolers (who thought blood and guts and vivid description of gore is the way to make something scary) to understand that the build up is where the fear is, and the release in your imagination is what REALLY messes people up. Hope you don't mind, but i think it may have picked you up a new reader or ten.

You're welcome back on the Pen-ferno anytime Joe! Cheers!

JA Konrath said...

Thanks, Jake. I'm thrilled to be taught in your class. Take that, Shakespeare!

jane, candid said...

It was a thrill for me to be included on your blog tour. I am still seeing new traffic coming from your links. Thank you for taking the time to include even new blogs that are not directly tied to your genre... now that's a classy move! I hope you have indeed gained some new readers from my little scaredy-blog, and you sure have made a new fan out of me.
Congratulations and thanks,

Kaye Manro said...

Thanks again for hitting my blog on your tour, Joe. And thanks for the tips, if anyone wants to do the same. You are best! Glad the tour was a success. Kaye

Tracy said...

I LOVED the blog tour!! It got me connected w you on Facebook and gave me a great sense of both you -- Joe -- and Afraid... I can't wait for it to be available in the Kindle!!!

Karen from Mentor said...

As you know I saw the tour working in person in a book store when I bumped into someone else with a "must read" list of books from people you'd visited on your tour.
I think it was a GREAT use of your time.
I know that you certainly solidified me as a hard core fan, AND you introduced me to Jane!! So it was a win win for me. Hi Jane!
Karen :)
And I got to meet Jake,Alex, RJ, Jen, Basil,Pari, Allison, Rowena and so many others; I feel like the lady from Romper room looking out through her magic mirror. (you may be too young for that reference...ask your Mom)

Bobby Mangahas said...

Looks like you had a good run Joe. I have to say that it certainly broaden my blog reading list. Congratulations on a successful endeavor.

T. M. Hunter said...

Though I do agree that blog tours are a successful way to use your time as an author, it would be interesting to know whether or not the same effect would happen with someone who didn't have the existing fan base as you do.

Let's face it, Joe (and Jack :-D ), you're a popular guy.

Anonymous said...

How funny that we both totally decided at the same time and on a whim to do a blog tour. (What's that they say about "Great minds...?")

And yes, enough. It was awesome and exhausting and I would totally do it again. But not right this minute. :)

Congrats on a successful first blog tour, Joe! :)

Noelani said...


I really don't remember you saying you'd do an interview with random bloggers, where was I?!! I thought you had selected certain people.

If I would've known! I also didn't know that we were asked to review Afraid. I donated it was a promotional thing with the donation drive.

Anyway, congrats on the blog tour and the release of the new book!

Anonymous said...

Joe, thanks for being totally generous with your analysis of your experience. You can always be counted on for thoughtful insight, freely shared, with your fellow writers.