© Marta Stephens 2010 all rights reserved
With a few basic communication skills, a little time, and some careful planning, participating in a virtual book tour is not only doable, it is an inexpensive and fun way to meet potential readers and promote your book. Keep in mind that there are several sites available that offer to help authors coordinate and schedule virtual tours for a fee. Regardless of whether you choose to organize the tour yourself or hire a professional, all of these tips will help you get more out of your tour experience.
The key words are NETWORK and RELATIONSHIPS. Don't wait until your book is published to begin building a communication network. The sooner you begin building your network of contacts, the better your chances will be to promote your book to a wide audience once it is released. Join as many diverse groups as possible that focuses on various aspects of the publishing business such as general author forums where anything having to do with writing can and is discussed. Other groups may have a membership with focused interest on your genre, while yet others focus on discussions about marketing, agents, and publishing. The more contacts you develop within these groups the greater opportunity you will have to reach potential readers.
You may feel that you don’t have time to stay connected online and still keep up with the demands of your writing. The question is, can you afford to not network or to not meet potential readers? The solution is to manage your time and create a balance between writing and book promotions. Getting involved within Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites doesn't mean you have to devote hours a day to each one, but do make yourself known to others. Get involved in the conversations that are of interest to you and ones that you can contribute to. Think of how many people you know and come in contact with every day. Undoubtedly, other members within these sites know as many or possibly more people than you do and word of mouth is still one of the most effective forms of advertisement. Get to know other members. Pay attention to what is being discussed and follow the links they mentioned. You never know where they may lead you. If a certain link isn’t to your liking, go on to the next one.
So, the day of your book launch is quickly approaching or has come and gone and now you feel it's time to beef up your promotions. Great! Roll up your sleeves and prepare to work for several weeks on nothing but your virtual book tour.
Don't be shy to ask for sponsorship. You'll find that most authors or site owners will be more than happy to showcase you. It's a win/win situation. The site owner wins because you're doing all the work; writing the articles and promoting their site. You win because you will be able to promote yourself and your book to a target audience that you might not have had access to prior to the tour.
Write a basic announcement and customized it to fit each site based on their criteria for self-promotion. Beware; there are author sites that frown on self-promotion. Make the announcement short, sweet, and to the point. Mention that you are making plans for a virtual book tour (give the dates) and indicate that you would like to know if anyone would be willing to sponsor you on their website or blog. Don't be afraid to ask.
Within minutes of you initial announcement, you may begin to receive e-mails from some of your contacts with an "I'd love to sponsor you-please send..."
Remember, everything about the tour is entirely your responsibility.
1. Study the sites of those who have invited you to be a guest writer. Read what others have posted to those sites. What can you write about yourself, your book, your characters, etc. that will fit the site's format?
2. Check the site’s submission guidelines and follow them! Again, this is YOUR tour and YOUR responsibility to get YOUR article/interview answers, jpg of author photo and book cover(s), bio, web link(s) and anything else that is asked of you to the owner by the deadline date. Nothing give a worse impression than for an author to not pull his or her weight. For example, don’t tell the blog host, “You can get my cover from my site.” Uh, no. I don’t think so.
3. Don't make the mistake of accepting the offer to post if the site doesn't fit your objective or schedule. I turned one offer down because they wanted a book review. I was reading a book at the time, but I wasn't going to have time to finish it and write a review in time for my tour.
4. Get a calendar and write down the names of your contacts and the blog's name and URL.
5. Don't over commit. If you can't write more than ten or eleven articles, don't promise to do eighteen or nineteen. It's better to add events to your tour than to commit and not follow through.
6. Create an e-mail folder titled Virtual Book Tour. Move all my e-mails (received and sent) into that folder so you could find important e-mails easily. It might also be helpful to print the final e-mails confirming the date/time of the event and placed them in a manila folder in event date order.
7. Create a folder in your favorites and save the links to each website and/or blog that is sponsoring you so you can find the links quickly.
8. Try to do a variety of events. Ask if you can write an article for some of the blogs, ask others if they would like to interview you. If they've read your book, perhaps they will be willing to write a review. Check to see if a group has a chat room and would be willing to schedule an hour chat with you and their members. Check into other media opportunities such as radio and television. Be prepared to send a picture of your book cover or banner to some of the sites. Remember to include a few local blogs in your mailing if they are available, such as local library or book club blogs.
9. Start writing. Type, type, type-breathe-type, type, type-breathe again! Vary the topics of your articles. Your sponsors will more than likely make suggestions. They may want to know what inspired you to write. Others may want you to discuss specifics about your book. Take their lead, but if they leave the topic up to you, one idea source is to review some of your previous interview questions. Maybe there's one that is particularly thought provoking that you would like to expand on. Check your work. Don't expect your sponsor to proofread or edit your work and don't expect them to post an article that is riddled with typos.
10. When you e-mail your article to the website owner, be sure to remind him or her of your purpose, the name of your article, the agreed date to post the article and which blog to post it in if they have multiple blogs.
11. Check to see what other authors are doing to attract readers to their tour. Some offer to draw names of those commenting on the tour posts for a free autographed copy of their book. This is just one example.
12. Create an events page on your website and post the tour schedule and links. Join a site such as http://www.booktour.com/ . Book Tour is a super easy site to work with and it has a nice, clean look. It allows you to link to your website and book trailer (if you have one). There may be others, but this one has some other nice features such as allowing visitors to send reminders of the tour dates to their e-mails or websites.
13. A few days to a week before the tour, prepare another standard announcement to post on the various websites you belong to. This time, list the details of your tour and/or the links to the sites that lists your schedule.
14. Two-three days before each event, contact your sponsors and remind him or her to post your blog. This is also a good time to send out private e-mails to everyone listed in your address book to remind them of the tour. Be sure to ask them to post comments on your blogs and to forward your e-mail to their friends and families.
15. Once your article or interview has been published, check your posts for comments and be sure to type a response to each.
16. After each article has been published on the host site for the day, post the link to that site and article on your own website and/or blog. This way, your article will appear on the search engines via the host site as well as your blog. More important, your work will be available in one convenient place for visitors to read and you will only need to share one link, your blog’s.
You will instinctively want to measure your accomplishment in sales. That’s fine, but remember that sales are not the only measuring stick of success. Done correctly, virtual tours attract the attention of critical reviewers, additional interview opportunities, screenplay writer, and invitations to write for other sites. All of this will translate into credibility and more exposure. Regardless of where an author is in his or her writing career, the tour experience and contacts will prove to be invaluable.
Think down the road. Nothing will get you an invitation to post on a site again like a heart-felt thank you. Your sponsor will appreciate it as much as a reciprocal offer from you to return the favor.
Marta Stephens writes crime mystery/suspense.
THE DEVIL CAN WAIT (2008), Bronze Medal Finalist, 2009 IPPY Awards, Top Ten, 2008 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery).
SILENCED CRY (2007) Honorable Mention, 2008 New York Book Festival, Top Ten, 2007 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery).
Personal site: www.martastephens-author.com
Personal blog: http://mstephens-musings.blogspot.com
Collective blog: http://murderby4.blogspot.com
Character Blog: http://www.samharpercrimescene.blogspot.com
These novels are available online at familiar shops such as all the Amazons, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-a-Million, and Powells. E-book versions are available through Smashword. Other locations include, but are not limited to those listed on her website.