Blog Tours: Lessons Learned

Like any newly published author, I’ve searched for ways to get my name out into the world and get people discussing my books. These days, the go-to mechanism seems to be Blog Tours. Publishers seem to spend less effort on marketing their authors and rely much more heavily on what the author brings to the table in terms of platforms, social networking etc. My personal experience, however, has been that Blog Tours aren’t worth the effort I put in.

Here’s why:

Lack of Reliability

I signed with a PR company that I won’t name, but that I am not continuing with and I had two overarching negative experiences:

  1. The bloggers on the tour didn’t always post when they promised they would. Many didn’t post on the advertised day (some never posted at all) or didn’t post my giveaway. This was extremely frustrating because I spent many hours of my time crafting guest posts (which meant I also spent hours researching their blogs and audiences in order to write an appropriate post), publicizing my tour schedule, and tweeting/hyping it to my followers. Well, after the third time I got egg on my face because the post I’d just tweeted to my followers to go see didn’t exist, I quit announcing anything. Instead of getting the word out about my book, I ended up feeling/looking stupid and had nothing to show for it.
  2. The PR company didn’t do any follow through. Maybe I’m crazy, but when I pay good money for a service, I expect to receive that service and not have to baby sit it. In the above mentioned scenario, I don’t expect – as the client – to be the one following up when things go awry. I spent more of my time interacting with my rep from the PR company, notifying her that a blogger flaked on my tour than I did actually interacting with people on the tour itself. If I were responsible for an author’s PR, one of my tasks would be checking that the bloggers actually did what they said. But that’s just me and 20 years of customer service experience in various industries. By the end of my second tour, I’ve just given up. I check the links and if it’s up great, if it’s not, I just shrug.

Reach

A big lesson I learned in shopping for a new PR company after growing disillusioned with my current one, was to look at the reach of the tour. My blog tours had only one or two truly worthwhile stops where I reached a good quantity of eyes. My new company tracks the reach of each blog. Now, I’m not saying if you only have 100 followers that I don’t want to be on your site, I’m simply saying, I want to truly know what I’m paying for and if I’d understand the lack of reach I was going to be getting for my money, I would have looked elsewhere before signing up and throwing my money away. Combine a lack of reach with unreliable bloggers and I just wasted money I could have been investing in a more reliable company that would have netted me greater exposure.

Type of Exposure

During this experience, I’ve learned the types of tour stop makes a big difference. For instance, there are spotlights, excerpts, guest posts, cover reveals, and reviews (which I’ll talk about separately). Without exception, I’ve found that excerpts garner a good bit of traction as do guest posts, but over all, the only truly great exposure for a book is a review. The problem is not so much the nature of the stop, but whether you are just in a “Tour Stop Mill.” When I signed into many of the blog stops I’d been scheduled for, I was one of many authors being hosted on a given day. This immediately dilutes the effect of my being there. I’d much rather be the only author on a given day. Even if the site hosts a new author every day, I’m looking to be the one and only on the day I signed up for. Also, my preference is not to be grist for the mill, but rather to be hosted on a site that has more content than just authors hawking their books. But, that’s just me.

The Holy Grail – Reviews

In the two years that I’ve had my work out for public consumption, both as a self-published and a traditionally published author, the single best way to get the word out about my work has been through reviews. The single largest boost in sales I ever received was after the Seattle Post-Intelligencer picked up Lucy Felthouse’s reveiw of Awakening. The more reviews I’ve gotten out in the wild, the higher my sales climbed. So, when my blog tour was scheduled to include reviews (between two tours I was supposed to get 13 reviews) I was stoked. Of the scheduled reviews, only four of them were actually posted.

Talk about frustration.  I wasn’t expecting five star reviews from everyone, not by a long shot. My reviews have ranged between two and five stars, but reviews are what get people talking. And people talking is what sells books.

To Tour or Not To Tour

At this stage, I’m on the fence. I can’t be certain if I’ve just had a bad experience with an unprofessional and lackadaisical PR company or if tours themselves are  a waste of time and money. My other options, Facebook and Twitter, have been proven ineffective in actual book promotion. They are great for engaging your readers, not so much for promoting your book. So where does that leave me? I’m not J.K. Rowling or J.R. Ward, I’m a mid-list author doing her best.

Right now, my US publisher, Sourcebooks, is setting up a blog tour for me. Perhaps, with an established publisher booking the stops, there will be a difference in quality. I hope so, because right now, I’m just frustrated and over the whole process. Either way, I’ve got two more books coming out in the next year and I need to get the word out. I’ve identified another PR company and I’m definitely wiser about the process, so fingers crossed that my money will be more wisely spent.

40 thoughts on “Blog Tours: Lessons Learned

  1. Pingback: Blog Tours: Lessons Learned | The Passive Voice | Writers, Writing, Self-Publishing, Disruptive Innovation and the Universe

  2. Thank you for sharing your experience, Elene. I am just about to self-publish and had given a wee bit of thought to doing blog tours and ultimately decided against it due to time constraints and my own experience in marketing and advertising. Blog tours, in my opinion, are great if you already have an established audience and want to give them a “freebie” of being able to read your blog. Otherwise, I don’t think they add too much value to your marketing plan.

    Readers (typically) know what they want to buy ahead of time. For example, if they want a contemporary (adult) romance novel set in a small town with an ex-sports star hero, that’s what they’ll actively look for. They might not be able to find a book with the ex-sports star hero, but they’ll likely find something close or similar. So book bloggers/reviews that focus on a certain “flavor” of genre fiction are the best bet. When appealing to your demographic, those parameters have to be tight.

    • I agree that people generally know what they want. However, the one side of self-publishing that is the hardest to conquer is the marketing and unless you have a tidy budget already for ads on Goodreads, etc. grassroots marketing comes into play.

      Blog tours abound, but so far I’m not sold on their value.

    • Hi – I just wanted to clarify that I’m not saying don’t do them, I just saying shop carefully before doing them.

      I’ve had appearanced on other blogs that were great, but I set them up and contacted the blog owner myself.

      Best of luck to you … E.S.

  3. I’ve done two blog tours and had a similar experience. One company did not communicate very well or often, and some of the stops didn’t post anything either. I paid for a 50 blog blitz and about 38 posted. I received no credit for the ones who did not or blogs that didn’t pick me up. The other was a bit better, but what I noticed is that blogs that didn’t focus on historical romance picked me up. Instead, I was on contemporary and fantasy genre blogs. It’s useless to advertise to blog readers who are not interested in your genre.

    On the other hand, I started my own blogging service for historical romance books and I promo for free on weekends for authors in that genre. I do host for a few other services. Two in particular are very hands on. If I don’t have the post up by a certain time on EST, they immediately email me and ask WHERE IS IT? They proactively work for their customers.

    So I 50/50 agree. Some experiences can be positive; others not so much. Did the two blog tours I participated in add in more sales? Zero, zip, nothing. Not one comment posted either, and I figured that was because I didn’t give anything away.

  4. (xposted)

    I’m not sure I’d ever pay for a tour again. After doing two tours, I signed up as a tour operator just to see the back end, so to speak. The emperor, dear writers, isn’t wearing any clothes.

    How is this not a great business to get into. (And from the looks of my inbox a new tour operator opens every dang day). They collect a group of bloggers who want free books, or tour host incentives (usually 10 buck gift cards), or traffic for their affiliate links. They don’t pay these volunteer bloggers. You, dear writer, pay the tour host your hundred bucks (give or take), and then they ask the bloggers to host you.

    Like a box of chocolates, until you pay the tour host, who knows what you’re gonna get. Posts on time, maybe. Reach, maybe not. Reviews that aren’t more than cursory? Who knows? I don’t have the magic bullet to PR, but tours ain’t it.

  5. I did a tour not too long ago with Goddess Fish. I know, weird name but EXCELLENT service. They went to every stop and left a comment, promoed on FB and Twitter, and promptly answered a question I had about one of the stops. A favorite policy of this company, they ask if the reviewer does not like the book to just post an excerpt on their day and not to put out a bad review. Another company that has this same policy is Bewitching Book Tours, who I worked with once as a reviewer.

    Sorry you had a bad experience, Elene, but I think there are good companies out there. I hope this helps you.

  6. Hi Elene, I’m a reviewer and started my review blog in march this year. I’ve taken part in a few blog tours now – maybe 6 or so – and always feel i’m copping out as I mostly just post my review. I don’t really feel I know enough about how stuff works to do other things…so its great that in your experience reviews are the most beneficail to the author 🙂
    now i’m off to see if I’ve read any of your books ….

    • Jeannie – Review blogs are a welcome resource with a tremendous amount of power as your following builds.

      All the best to you,

      E.S.

      P.S. If you haven’t read my work, I’m happy to provide a review copy.

  7. I didn’t have the greatest outcome from my 21 stop tour this spring. With the exception of one no-post (which got rescheduled), all my posts went though, but my tour was supposed to be 10 posts and 10 reviews. I got 1 review. Only 1 blog stop decided to review, and the tour operator never saw fit to inform me of this until the tour was about to start and I asked which of the stops were reviewing. Big let down.
    Also some of the stops really weren’t appropriate. My novel was a UF with a demon protagonist, and a lot of the stops were contemporary romance – one was even hometown romance. A friend that is one of their bloggers and specializes in dark fantasy didn’t even get asked to participate!
    Plus a lot of the tour stops were tiny bloggers with little traffic. I don’t mind a few smaller bloggers, but that’s not what I paid for.
    A friend did a tour and got some 1 paragraph reviews. So maybe it was just as well. My 1 review WAS well written and thorough.

    Will I do it again? Eeeee, not really sure.

    • Definitely a thought and something I did before on my own with mixed results. Ideally, the purpose of hooking up with a company is to leverage their contacts/network and “elbow grease.” But, so far that didn’t get me very far either.

      Thanks for the comment!

  8. Pingback: No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links | No Wasted Ink

  9. Hello Elene,
    This is a very interesting article and confirms a lot of my own experience. My most expensive mistake was paying an “expert” $2000. to take me on a “Twitter Chat”. I think about 5 people showed up. Ouch! That hurts. The fact is no one knows what sells books. Social media can be fun but it is also a huge waster of time that should be spent writing the best book you can.
    Thanks
    Roberta Rich

  10. I recently wrote on my blog of my blog tour experience. I’m seeing a lot of stuff on this topic all of a sudden – I’m going to do a follow up post and I’ll link back to your blog. Great points.

  11. Pingback: More on the Thorny Question of Blog Tours « disappearinginplainsight

  12. This was a fascinating post about a side of publishing that I was not even aware of. I write mostly for children and the books are promoted primarily to libraries-I have never been one to promote myself and I applaud your courage at putting yourself out there and taking the risks you need to take. I look forward to reading more about how you meet the new challenges-best wishes!

  13. I am sorry you got such a raw deal from the bloggers. But the question the real problem is that the bloggers who do the reviews and the spotlight and interviews are not paid like the host. The bloggers are not paid anything. The least the blogger can expect is the html code being delivered to them. But most of the host do not do this. I am not saying that all the hosts are like that but some of them are. Most of the blogger sdo try to do things on time but since it is a free service (from the bloggers side) some of them don’t work out. But most of the time book reviewers do the work simply because they love it. I hope you find reviewers for your upcoming book who will do it honestly for you.

    • Rubina – Thank you for commenting, however, no host is paid on a blog tour. The PR company is the only entity receiving compensation. I have served as a host for blog tours and received no payment. Additionally, you do not need to receive any HTML only the post content in a word or text document.

      This really comes down to the honor system of “if you say you’re going to do something, do it.” When I’ve agreed to host writers, I set up their post and schedule it in advance which most, if not all, blogging platforms allow.

      While I want very much to be understanding, not keeping an agreement that a person was in no way pressured into is just unprofessional. Blog Tour hosts do volunteer their time, but by that same token, no one is forcing their hand and if they can’t commit to doing what they say, they have only to not agree to it.

      All the best,

      E.S.

      • Elaine, you wrote ““if you say you’re going to do something, do it.” When I’ve agreed to host writers, I set up their post and schedule it in advance which most, if not all, blogging platforms allow. ”
        I couldn’t agree more. I review because i love books and this way I can get many many more than i could ever afford. I began reviewing in a small way in feb 2012, with a paranormal site – then contacted authors directly, some wanted reviews in exchange for book, some didn’t. Now i mostly get them via Netgalley, or authors/publishers contacting me. Blog tours are simple – either join or don’t. There’s no pressure to do one.
        Bloggging is relatively new to me – I set my blog up in march this year, and i do exactly what you’ve said, schedule the post in advance. No one makes us take part in a tour, so least bloggers can do is to do what they’ve offered! If you don’t want to take part don’t offer – simple.

        • Thanks. And to be fair, Bloggers have also complained about authors flaking out too. I personally think it’s better to just not agree to something in the first place rather than flake on either part.

          Best of luck to you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s