By Martha Kennedy, Author of indieBRAG Honorees,
Martin of Gfenn, Savior and The Brothers Path
When you write a novel and follow the indie publishing route, you’re faced with marketing your work yourself. There are a lot of “experts” with advice for reaching your market. When I finished my most recent novel, The Brothers Path, a book about the Protestant Reformation, I was determined to market it as well as any “real” publisher would. I had personal reasons for this, “I’ll show you!” and “V is for Vendetta” reasons, but mostly because I believe people will like it. To like it, readers have to know about it, so…
The “experts” strongly advised indie authors to sign up for virtual book tours. This involves hiring a coordinator, who has extensive contacts with book-bloggers, to set up a “tour” for your book. The tour is a catalog of different book blogs that, for a period of time, feature your work in reviews, interviews, excerpts and prizes — in my case, it was free books — to those blog readers who win the raffle offered by a particular book blog. I believed the experts, and a virtual tour seemed like a good way to get my book read, to get reviews and to reach possible readers. I signed up for two.
The second tour did not happen. Life slammed the organizer just at the time they should have been promoting and setting up my book’s tour. It’s important to know this can happen and you might be out your investment or compelled to ask for a refund (which, hopefully, you get).
The organizer of the first tour did a good job pitching the book to bloggers, keeping them on task, Tweeting and posting on Facebook and everywhere else possible. She incentivized cross posting of reviews on Amazon and Goodreads by offering a prize to reviewers who did that.
Is a virtual book tour a good idea for you and your book? Well, here’s what I learned that might help you decide whether you want to take this direction for promoting your books.
1) The first thing to know is that leading up to a blog tour you will do a lot of work. I spent most of the summer writing interviews, guest posts, searching out interesting excerpts and shipping books to bloggers to review. The blog tour I bought offered me 10 blogs. The organizer set up 17. This was good because a couple of bloggers went AWOL.
2) Second, when you get a negative review, don’t dispute it. That’s pretty easy. My book received negative reviews and my only response was, “Thanks for hosting my book.” What else is there to say? Every writer knows that their work is not everyone’s “cup of tea.” Plus, the people who are hosting your books are all volunteers. Be kind.
3) You will engage with readers on the blogs that are hosting your tours. I found that to be the most fun part of the experience. We write novels and then have to find our readers. When I do, I’m very interested in what they think, what they see, how the story I’ve written affects them and this was the best part of the virtual book tour.
4) Fourth, not all book blogs are equal. When you sign up for a blog tour, you don’t have a choice about which book bloggers sign up to host your book. You can tell when you visit a book blog if it’s aimed at readers who would buy your book. I had a couple of experiences where I was a little embarrassed that my book was on a particular blogger’s blog. I have nothing against BDSM, but The Brothers Path is a LONG way from that world. 😉
As I experienced the virtual tour, I wondered why anyone would be a book blogger. It’s a lot of work for no money, though many book bloggers have “donate” buttons on their sites and paid advertising. Asking around I learned that (as I suspected) people write book blogs out of the goodness of their hearts. One friend, who is a book blogger, said it is “…to share my passions of reading and books… It has been a lifelong dream of mine to be able to interact with the authors of books I love. Being a book blogger gives me that opportunity.” Another book blogger says, “…usually, it’s because I think the author and the book are really wonderful and I want people to know it’s out there and maybe buy it.”
Any writer has to appreciate someone who loves to read and wants to share that love with others.
If you decide to sign on and pay for a blog tour for your novel, consider these things:
- Does your work appeal to a large audience? If it doesn’t, you might want to save your money and direct your energy to more one-on-one methods of book promotion. The Brothers Path does not appeal to a wide audience, something I learned through this experience.
- Do you have the time to write guest posts and interviews? Do you have time to sort through your work for intriguing excerpts? Do you have time to interact with readers and bloggers as your tour progresses?
- Do you want to pay the rather hefty postage needed to ship books to bloggers for reviews ahead of the tour and giveaways at the end? Postage adds up, especially when you aren’t given enough lead time to ship media mail. I easily spent more than $100 in postage to bloggers who would review my book and to the winners of giveaways.
- Are you psychologically prepared for reviews from people who clearly would like to have read a completely different book from yours? Can you accept this graciously?
I doubt I will sign on for another virtual book tour. Including postage, I spent more than $500. It often seemed that I had paid someone money for the privilege of writing blog posts about my own work and interviewing myself and, the blog tour did not lead to sales.
Book bloggers I approached directly were very happy to write about my novel, writing thoughtful and intelligent reviews. One dedicated five weeks of her blog to me and my work.
Ironically, and contrary to my expectations and everything I’d learned from “experts,” I’ve had more success promoting my work conventionally — in bookstores, press-releases, book-signings, readings. And, on the very day I got one of the least comprehending reviews during the virtual book tour, I also learned that my novel had been acquired by a university library in Canada.