A blog tour is a kind of virtual book tour, where established bloggers provide the platform for an author to do the rounds and talk about their current release. I’ve been researching blog tours for a while now, not least because I’m thinking of doing one for The Family Trap (the sequel to Can’t Live Without). What I want to know is: How do they work? Do they work, in terms of book sales? And, is it worth paying one of the many blog tour companies to organise the whole thing for you? Here’s what I discovered:

How it all works

Blog tours usually run for a few weeks – a week is the generally the minimum; six weeks is considered quite long. Each day – or every couple of days – the author will ‘visit’ a different site and talk about their book. This can be in the form of a guest post, a review by the blogger, or an interview – sometimes a combination of all three. There might be an excerpt of the book, and there will always be links to where readers can buy a copy.

The host blogger will have told the author what they’d like in advance, so usually what you’re seeing on the day is pre-prepared content – essential, when you think about it, for the whole tour to run efficiently. It’s not something you can just set up and then go on holiday, though – the author still needs to actually visit the blogs each day, comment and answer questions, get involved. And promote the tour – the more people who know about it the better the results.

So, what’s in it for the blogger who choses to host a tour date? Increased traffic, for one thing, as the author will be promoting the tour across many platforms, bringing new readers to your site. And great content – I’m hosting a visit from Emily A Shaffer on October 21st and she’s writing a guest post for me (which I’ve seen and it’s brill) and answering questions in an interview. This is a great way to bring your blog’s followers the kind of content you know they’ll find interesting, and give them a break from your voice droning on and on …

And what’s in it for the author? Well, hopefully increased sales. I think that’s the point, really. There are many who say it’s not, and that it’s just about visibility and getting the word out, but what does that actually mean? A writer who wants to increase visibility and get the word out wants to do so because they are hoping at some point someone who has previously heard of them will buy their book. Point made: it’s about book sales, even if you are taking a very long-tail view of marketing.

There are other benefits for authors, of course. If they are also bloggers they might attract more followers to their own blog, and the connections made along the way are invaluable. And it’s good experience, you learn what works and what doesn’t – what readers find interesting and what makes them yawn and click away …

Wait! Come back – I haven’t got to the best bit yet! Do they work? That’s what you really want to know, right?

Do they work?

Well, after weeks of research I’d have to say a big resounding Yes to that. Blog tours are popular for a reason, and that reason is they do result in new readers and more sales. But (there’s always a but) there are many pitfalls to watch out for. Irina Shapiro posted about problems during her recent tour here – she had bloggers who failed to post on the right day, bloggers who posted with embarrassing errors, and bloggers who had clearly never read a word of her book. And there are more tips on how to make your tour successful here by author Cynthia D’Alba. One of the things I found interesting about Cynthia’s advice was the idea of giveaways, and that book gift certificates are the most popular. You know me and my obsession with the bottom line – if you plan to give away a few £10 Amazon vouchers, say, you’ll have to sell enough books to make this back before you can even start to think about the success of the tour. (I know, I know – long-tail etc.)

One of the most useful benefits is the gathering of reviews. You know how hard it can be to get reviewed by book bloggers these days – they are all so busy, and unless you’re fairly well-established your book will end up at the bottom of the TBR pile. If they are hosting a date in your blog tour, however, they have a deadline by which to finish and review your book. And this is a good thing.

Organise yourself or pay someone else to?

Reading about what can go wrong on a blog tour – even a well organised one – has made me seriously consider using a blog tour organiser to take care of the ‘back end’ of the tour. A good organiser will line up suitable bloggers, send them review copies, get topics for guest posts well in advance and gather up interview questions. He or she will make sure the bloggers post on the right day, and keep track of your schedule. It costs money, of course, but the prices aren’t prohibitive, usually starting at around $25 for a basic package. By targeting good book bloggers with a dedicated following – folks you might not secure a place with if you contacted them cold – you are pretty much guaranteed to recoup this outlay in sales. Samantha Robey, who runs CLP Blog Tours, says “Keep in contact with your coordinator. I am known for emailing my authors are lot, and I get nervous when I don’t hear back for days or even weeks from authors, especially close to tour time.”

Here is Samantha’s advice for making your blog tour a success:

Make sure your book is ready, or at least have ARC’s available for readers. I book tours 2-3 months out. This helps bloggers have room on their calendar (remember – book bloggers are extremely busy and the majority are not paid for their reviews) helps me as a coordinator make sure everything is planned out and ready, and helps you as an author prepare. Be prepared to put in work … authors need to come up with guest posts and answer interview questions. These two features are very popular amongst bloggers, and can be time-consuming for the authors.

So, what do you think? Is anyone considering a blog tour in the near future? And will you follow me around the blogosphere when I do mine? 🙂