Lola’s Advice is a monthly feature on my blog Lola’s Reviews, which will be posted on the first Monday of the month. Lola’s Advice posts are usually how-to or tips type of posts. They are mainly aimed at authors, but I also try and show the blogger/ reader side of the topic I address. I share my knowledge or personal opinion on mostly book, authors, marketing and promotion related topics. I hope it’s helpful for authors and bloggers alike. Also even though it’s advice please understand that even if you follow all my advice it still won’t guarantee your book will be a success, but it hopefully will be helpful. I also believe that not everything works for each author, every author and book is different and different strategies work for different people. So please use whatever you want to or fits with your style. The banner for this feature is designed by Michelle from Limabean Designs.
Today I am talking about blog tours! As a blog tour organizer myself this was one of the first topics I came up for this feature, but I am only writing it now. There’s a lot surrounding blog tours that authors don’t really have control about, but I also think there are some things authors can do to make their tour run as smoothly as possible. So in today’s post I am talking about those things authors can control, about planning a blog tour and what an author can do to get the most out of their blog tour.
The 4 stages of planning a blog tour
I think there are roughly four stages of doing a blog tour: preparation and picking a tour organizer, preparing for the tour, the actual tour and after the tour. Below I list each of these stages and outline what they involve and what as an author you can do during that stage.
- Preparation and picking a tour organizer. Before you can consider doing a blog tour, you ofcourse need a book, cover and blurb for your book. It helps to have a catchy blurb, a good looking cover and know which genre your book is and the target audience. It helps to already have done some work on establishing your online presence or at least have set up some social media accounts. When doing a cover reveal it’s usually possible to send the cover a bit later, but then you do need to know approximately when the cover will be finished.
Then starts the work of finding a tour organizer. There are a lot of tour organizers out there and I can’t imagine how overwhelming it is to find tour organizers and then to decide which one is the best fit for you and your book. I would recommend to first get a feel for what kind of tour organizers are out there. You can use google for this, ask your fellow author friends (even better if they write the same or similar genre as you), visit some book blogs and check their sidebars where some list the tour companies they host for or check some sites which list tour organizers or service providers.
Then the next step is to get a feel for the companies you found. Visit their site, get a feel for them and their company. Next I would advice to read their policy/ services pages etc. On those pages you can find important information about how they work and what you can expect from them and get a feel for how they organize tours. You can always send them an e-mail if anything’s unclear, added benefit of that is to see how fast they reply and get a feel for the person behind the company as well.
It is important to have the company be a good fit for you and your book, make sure they actually tour your book genre or look around and see which tours they did in the past to get a feel for how those went. And make sure you agree with their policy and like how they handle things you find important. If you have a blog yourself, signing-up as a tour host and getting a feel for how they treat their tour hosts is also something you can do. Then ofcourse it’s important to know which type of tour you want and how much it costs and if you can afford that and are willing to pay that for a tour. Once you have decided on a tour organizer you can book your tour and hope they accept you and will organize a tour for you.
- Preparing for the tour. Once you have had contact with the tour organizer and they accept to organize this tour for you the preparation for the tour starts. This stage is mostly work for the blog tour organizer, but as author you can still play a part here too. You need to send the tour organizer the materials they need to organize the tour and once the sign-up post for the tour is live you can help promote the tour and make sure your followers are aware of the tour. In the case of a blog tour with interview, guest posts and/or top ten lists the author will have to write some posts or answer questions. I would advice to start early in advance in these and make sure to send them about a week or two before the stop the post is for to the tour organizer. Some tour organizers might have a different policy about that, so make sure to ask if that’s unclear.
- The actual tour. During the actual tour you can stop by the blogger’s their post, confirm if they posted and you can help promote their post. I always feel it’s very personal how an author wants to get involved during a tour, you can just sit back and don’t post or show anything online, just stop by to check out their blog and that’s it. Or you can take a more active stance and promote their posts and/or stop by their blog and leave a comment. There’s no right or wrong and I think this is an author their personal decision. In my opinion helping promote a post will always go over well. Commenting on a post is not always appreciated, but I think a polite thank you for hosting or being part of the tour is okay. There are also blogs that really appreciate an author stopping by to comment. Or they even welcome it when authors stop by to chat with other commentators. Often you can get a feel for this by looking how the blogger handled previous tour posts or just go with what you feel works best.
- After the tour. Once the tour has ended you can look back and reflect on the tour ad how it went. Will you use this tour organizer again, where you satisfied with how the tour went? What are things you might do differently next time? What you did and didn’t like about the tour? Many tour organizers might ask for a testimonial and if you’re happy with their services this is a nice way to say thank you and provide them with a honest testimonial. As an author you also have some new bloggers contacts probably. You might be able to e-mail bloggers who did a review and offer them a review copy of your other books as well if they are interested. Or even contact the bloggers who didn’t do a review and ask if they are interested in reviewing your tour outside of the tour. Or if you have a street team you can invite them to join your team. Again this is mostly personal and how you want to handle it, these are just some ideas. And ofcourse after a tour you can start planning your next tour or promo.
How to make the most out of a blog tour
A blog tour always is a joint effort by the author, tour organizer and the bloggers who sign-up. This means it’s limited what you can do as the author to make sure the tour is successful, but I have listed some tips for authors on how to help make the tour run smoothly. You can always contact the tour organizer with questions, when anything’s unclear. Most tours organizers want the tour to be a success as much as you do and I think it’s better to ask questions if you are unclear about anything than not ask it which can lead to confusion.
- Start planning your tour early in advance. Start planning your tour early enough in advance. So what’s early in advance? I would recommend to try and contact the tour organizer of your choice about one and two months before when you want the tour to run. It depends a bit on the tour organizer and what kind of tour you want, so it’s helpful to check the tour organizer’s site for a time indication as well. But in general starting a bit early helps for multiple reasons. Tour organizers often start planning tours in advance and they might be booked already for your preferred dates if you don’t book early enough. Having the tour sign-up post live as early as possible means there is more time for people to sign-up for the tour and more time to promote the tour. Or in case the first tour organizer you contact won’t/ can’t accept your tour, you still have time to contact another one. If you book a tour on a short notice it can happen less people sign-up for the tour as they already have other posts scheduled for those dates. So I would advice to aim on the early side. It also depends on the type of tour you want, I personally accept book blitzes with only excerpt stops and cover reveals on a pretty short notice (say 2 weeks), but prefer 3 or 4 weeks in advance for blog tours or book blitzes with review stops.
- Communicate. Make sure to communicate well with the tour organizer, make sure they understand what you want and if you want anything special for the tour let them know as well. Keeping the communication open and to be clear about expectations from both sides helps prevent misunderstandings. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or correct things if necessary.
- Send all the materials the tour organizer needs as early as possible. It helps to send the materials the tour organizer needs as soon as possible. That way the tour organizer can start working on the sign-up post earlier. It’s okay to wait a few days, but if it takes longer or if you’re still waiting for materials, let the tour organizer know, so they know what to expect as well. Same with interviews, guest posts etc. make sure to send them in time for the tour organizer to send them to the bloggers. Keep track of which posts you need to write and send them when you have to, to the tour organizer.
- Help promote the tour. Again it’s not necessary to do this, but I do believe it really helps if the author also helps promote the blog tour, both before the tour starts and during the tour. People who are interested in your books might already follow you and if you let them know about the blog tour they can join as well. And it’s simple math, if two people promote the tour you reach more people than if only one person promotes the tour.
- Do a giveaway together with your tour. While this isn’t necessary I do think it often helps to run a giveaway during your tour. Bloggers are often enthusiastic to help promote the giveaway and I found that sometimes just the mention that a tour will have a giveaway leads to more sign-ups. And you can set options in the giveaway program to help spread the word about you and your book and get some new social media followers, more people who see your social media posts or add their books to their to-read list on Goodreads. While prizes like amazon gift cards also attract giveaway junkies and you have to keep that in mind, giveaway junkies are not always a bad thing as they do help spread the word about your giveaway.
- Set realistic goals. Make sure to set realistic goals when booking a blog tour. It isn’t realistic to expect to get thousands more social media followers and see a peak in sales. Be aware that the goal of blog tours is exposure, not sales. It is realistic to expect a few new reviews for the book you tour, get your book seen by some new readers or people adding your book to their to-read list on Goodreads, depending on what kind of tour you do.
- Do something different/ special/ extra with your tour. This isn’t necessary by any means, but if you have something in mind you would like to combine with your tour or try it might add something extra to your tour. This can be as simple as making teasers or sending multiple excerpts for your tour. Or have the tour coincide with a discount or free promotion of your books and mention that. To doing something special with the giveaway, daily giveaways or maybe have each day have one type of excerpt they should post. Or maybe do a tour host only giveaway to promote sign-ups and thank the tour hosts. Have a good idea for another type of post you want to get included? Or do you want to come up with guest post or top ten list topis yourself instead of letting the bloggers pick? Let the tour organizer know. Don’t be afraid to come up with a new idea to add something special to your tour. Ofcourse your ideas have to be within limits and the tour organizer needs to be open to your ideas as well, but I believe it can never hurt to try and ask if you have a good idea.
Bloggers point of view: participating in blog tours
As a tour organizer I know there are different type of bloggers when it comes to blog tours. There are bloggers who join almost every tour they can join, they join tours for almost every tour organizer and join each tour of them. Then there are bloggers who are more picky, either they join only tours for a certain genre or age category book or only tours from certain tour organizers. Then there are also bloggers who only join tours if the specific book appeals to them. As a blogger myself I fall in the last category, I used to fall more in the second one and liked to join a lot of blog tours, but now I only join blog tours if the book really appeals to me or if I already know the author. While I love supporting authors I don’t have time to join every tour and prefer to only join tours if I know the author or it’s a book I want to read and can sign-up for a review stop. There are a few tour organizers where I am signed-up as a tour host, usually because I know them and like how they work and some I haven’t done a tour for, but plan to do one if the books catches my attention. So I am pretty picky for which tours organizers their tours I join as well. Some tour organizers send materials very late and I don’t like that as I like to plan ahead and schedule my posts ahead as well, so that type of tour organizers don’t work well for me. That’s not to say they are bad tour organizers, but it doesn’t work well with the way I schedule my posts. I only make exceptions for them if it’s a tour I really want to join for some reason.