Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Skinny on Virtual Book Tours

Updated 12/18/17

What is a virtual book tour?

A  virtual book tour (aka blog tour) consists of lining up a series of bloggers to review your upcoming book (and/or conduct author interviews) during a time frame that corresponds to the release of your title. It is, as the name suggests, the internet version of an old-fashioned, in-the-flesh book tour.

Purpose of a virtual book tour

The purpose of a blog tour is to generate interest in your book. (This is called buzz.) That interest should pay off in sales, but it won't if you don't capitalize on it with other promotional tools such as giveaways, well-placed author interviews, and, of course, promotion of your blog tour on Twitter, Facebook, and on your own blog and website. Building an audience takes time, energy and planning. A blog tour is just a part of your promotional plan.

How effective is a virtual book tour?

That depends entirely on where reviews, spotlights, and interviews are posted. Highly trafficked sites will be more effective than sites with just a few followers. If you plan it right, a book tour that includes influential sites can create considerable buzz. The difficulty many Indie authors face is that they don't have the time it takes to research well-trafficked sites. And, of course, tours require some planning. Requests need to be sent out two to three months in advance of the release date.

Be aware that you will have to send out hundreds of email requests to get a decent number of reviews. (Unless you have written a steamy romance, the return rate is generally less than 10%.) But even 20 well-placed reviews and interviews can be highly effective. The reviews may not necessarily generate a lot of sales, but your name and the title of your book will have appeared on the net in 20 locations - hopefully with back links to your website - which will increase your exposure on search engines. (Don't forget to check if reviewers cross-post on Amazon and other venues, which will increase the reach of their review exponentially.)

To find bloggers in your genre see:

Top 12 Sites for Finding Reviewers

Top 5 Online Resources for Children's and YA Book Writers

You can also do a google search on "[Your genre] book reviews." This will yield you thousands of hits.

How long should a blog tour last?

In general, the length of the book tour is determined by the number of hosts. Ideally, you want one or two bloggers a day to be talking about your book. That means a 1-week tour may have between 7 and 14 bloggers. A 2-week tour would have 14 - 28. The reason you don't want everyone talking about your book at once is that, just like a conversation, it will be impossible for readers to pay attention. On the net, too much simultaneous talk looks like spam, which people routinely tune out.

Measuring success

Many authors measure the success of a blog tour by how many books they sell. (Be sure to look at your KDP, Nook, or Smashwords dashboard before you embark on a tour so you will have a point of comparison.) But there are other ways to measure success.

Getting your name out there is important, not just for your current book, but for future books. One way to determine if your blog tour is increasing your visibility is to sign up for Google Alerts, and create alerts for your name and for your book title. You can compare how often you are mentioned before and after the tour. Keep tracking to see if the buzz continues, and when it starts falling off. That will give you a time frame for how successful your tour has been, and it will allow you gauge the success of your other promotions. What you want to see is steady conversation about you and your book for several weeks prior to the release, and a couple of weeks after. (Don't forget to arrange for pre-orders. Amazon offers that feature as does Smashwords.)

Increased traffic to your blog and/or website is also a measurement of success. How many people visit your website during the tour, and are they following? (If you don't already have an email sign-up feature for your blog or website, now would be the time,) Followers are your fans! Don't be shy about sending them your news.

Book tour services

In light of the planing involved, some authors turn to book tour services rather than spend the time to organize their own tours. There are a couple of advantages to using a book tour service: 1) You don't have to do all the work, and 2) Tour services have lists of hundreds of reviewers and social media outlets.

There are also disadvantages: 1) There is no guarantee that the reviewers the tour services have on their lists will actually review your book, 2) The review sites may not be well-trafficked, and 3) You have to pay, sometimes quite a bit, for the service.

What to look for in a book tour service

First, check out their stats. If their site ranks in the millions on Alexa, it means they get very little traffic. (The lower the number the better. Numbers in the hundreds of thousands are good.)

Next, check to see who is on their list of bloggers. How many bloggers are listed? (Make sure it's a lot.) Go to those sites and check how many followers they have. This may be time consuming, but if the blog sites have few followers, it will do you little good to have them post an interview or review. While you are checking for followers, do a quick check for comments on posts, an "about" page, and other indications that the blogs are not "dummy blogs." (Some virtual book tour services have been known to set up fake blogs.)

Lastly, look for services that provide things you either can't or don't want to do yourself. These may include:
  • A banner
  • Posting on Net Galley
  • Distribution of a promotional package
Remember, tour services need to be for your genre. There is no point hiring a tour service that caters to romance bloggers if you write thrillers. So, examine the host blogs carefully.

Best services

Experiences with tour services vary tremendously, but there are a few that have been consistently recommended by authors. I've listed those which have decent site traffic, good social networking, and a large enough number of participating bloggers to make it worth your while.

Keep in mind that the success of a tour depends largely on how much an author is willing to contribute (e.g. contacting the blog hosts personally, making sure your website is current and mentions the tour, composing interviews and promotional material to send to hosts). Prices vary widely, and they do not always correspond with value.

For more information about paid blog tours see:

A Comparison of Book Blog Tour Services (Read the comment section)

Planning a Blog Tour? Think Twice (A critical review of blog tours)

7 Blog Tour sites 

For using social networks to set up your own tour, watch this informative video:

Setting Up A Blog Tour in 2015 - Social Media Platforms (Pt 4)

Xpresso Book Tours

US Alexa rank: 300,347. Global rank: 587,555

Daily Traffic: Unique Visitors: 3,674. Pageviews: 14, 696 

Genre: Young Adult and New Adult in all genres 

What they offer:

Cover Reveal $40
  • No limit on participants (average is 40 - 60)
  • One day
  • Maximum Social Media Exposure through participating blogs
  • Should be planned 3 to 4 weeks in advance
  • Only for covers that have not been released anywhere online
Book Blitz $90
  • One day or window to post
  • No limit on participants (average is 70-90)
  • Maximum Social Media Exposure through participating blogs
  • Should be planned 3 to 5 weeks in advance
  • Must include a giveaway (one per blog or one shared Rafflecopter prize–note that one per blog will get you the most participants = more exposure.)
Review Query $70
  • Connect your book with thousands of bloggers, readers, and reviewers from both our host list and 30k/month page views;
  • Save hours from querying bloggers individually;
  • No wait list for this service! Can be posted within 2 business days.

All of the following packages include:
Reviews to the max $170
  • 6 days
  • Maximum sign ups (up to 40 blogs)
  • May include giveaways *Encouraged*
Rock the Block $120
  • 1 week
  • ~15 tour stops
Rock the Town $170
  • 1 to 2 weeks (your choice)
  • ~20 tour stops
Rock the World $225
  • 1 to 3 weeks (your choice)
  • ~30 tour stops
Rock the Stars $280
  • 1 to 4 weeks (your choice)
  • ~40 tour stops

YA Bound

US Alexa rank: 272,973. Global rank: 1,213,266

Genre: Young Adult

What they offer:

15 stops - $50
20 stops - $70
25 stops - $90
30 stops - $120
35 stops - $140
40 stops - $180
50 stops - $200
Book blitz (1 day or 1 week) - $30

Cover reveals are free.
Pump Up Your Book Virtual Tours

Global Alexa rank: 672,407. Australia rank: 16,949

Genres: Fiction and nonfiction

What they provide (prices range from $199 to $799):
  • Bronze Tour Package – 10 stops (over the course of one month)
  • Silver Tour Package – 18-20 stops (over the course of one month)
  • Gold Tour Package – 30+ stops (over the course of two months)
  • Platinum Package – 45+ stops (over the course of three months)
All packages include:
  • Media Packet
  • Banner
  • Official tour page
  • Social network promotion
  • Inclusion in their PUYB Virtual Book Club on Goodreads

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