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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.