Monday, March 16, 2015

Unique Tips for Writers to Set Up a Blog Tour, Cover Reveal or Other Social Media Event

Most authors – no matter if they are traditionally or self published – set up their own blog tours. Some authors band together with peers who write in the same genre, then do a big blog tour or contest together (like the Massive Romance Reader Squee Moment Ahead contest). Other authors send a “Call to Review” on their blogs, social media or newsletters.

But what if you want to hit a broader market? Or to target certain niche readers? A great blog tour has reviewers with both small (100+) and big (1000+) follower counts, reviewers who have relationships with the author & those who don’t know the author, as well as covers a variety of geographical locations.

For my first book – (dis)Abilities and the Gospel – I wanted to get a wide variety of reviewers. Very few people on the tour were writer friends. My goal was to have a lot of reviewers who didn’t know me, who attended different churches, and who either had kids with cognitive disabilities or were church teachers who had someone in their class with a cognitive disability.

My second book, Sweet Confections, was a whole other ball of wax. I went from nonfiction to fiction. Specifically sweet romances. I had a some great reviewers from my established circle who reviewed both nonfiction and fiction, but my goal was to hit the much-better romance market. And not just in the USA. 

It sounds complicated. It's not. It sounds time consuming. It is. But each tour was totally worth it. Here’s how I found the right reviewers for each book: 
(PS - this method works for cover reveals, contests, giveaways, etc.)

First: Get Organized.

I’m a huge spreadsheet organization freak. It’s probably the only area I’m really good at keeping everything on track (Ask my hubby. I’m horrible at keeping my desk organized!) But spreadsheets – I can whip them out like crazy and keep track of gobs of things that way. And a good spreadsheet is essential when putting together a blog tour.

So, let’s get started. Create a spreadsheet with the following fields:
Reviewer’s Name, Blog Title, Blog Address, Email Address, # of Followers, Target (for me this was either parent, church teacher, or book reviewer), Contacted On (date you emailed review request), Response, Scheduled Review Date and Review Copy Sent.

Add blogs you are interested in to this list. Once you’ve done all your research, sort the list by number of followers and pick some of the bigger blogs and mark those lines in another color. Then sort the list by targets to see which demographics you need more of and mark those with a different color. Then look for location, etc. until you have the right mix for the amount of blogs you want on your tour. Remember - bigger doesn't always mean better. Getting your book into the hands of the right reviewers is more important than getting it into a lot of reviewers' hands (especially if those reviewers have a limited reach or have a major crossover in followers).
  

Then start sending emails to the bloggers. I had a lot of people return my emails saying they had never done a book review or participated in a blog tour. I sent them additional information, along with expectations for the tour (I gave them the option to choose a date within the tour time frame and told them I wanted their honest opinion about the book).  Don’t be afraid to choose reviewers who don’t have book blogs, but have a connection to the topic related to your book. During my tour, one of my reviewers was a cake decorator who had a child with autism. Her review not only introduced my book to a large group I wasn’t connected with, but was also picked up by several e-magazines. (See Ashlee Marie Cakes)

Tip: The first spreadsheet is essential for research, but Google forms are freaking AMAZING! With my Sweet Confections blog tour, I set up a Google form for the reviewers to use to sign up. When I emailed them, I invited them to visit the link and sign up on the form. It saved me so much time! They entered all their info, dates they preferred, if they were doing a book review, author interview or book spotlight, etc. The form can be embedded into your blog, website or you can use the private link Google gives you. The fabulous thing is no matter which form is used (because you can have it in multiple locations at the same time), all the info goes directly into the same spreadsheet, in all the right columns, on your Google Drive. Holy awesome, Batman! You can see an example of the form here for my Love Under Construction cover reveal sign up. On the Google form spreadsheet, I added additional columns to track when I send the confirmation emails and the cover.

Start with Your Contacts

If you’re traditionally published, shoot an email over to your marketing team and ask if they have any blog book reviewers they recommend. My publisher actually had a few and even offered to send those bloggers review copies.

I also emailed out to some disability and church groups I work with to see if they had recommendations, blogs they frequently went to for information, etc.  If you write YA, email out to your nieces, nephews, church youth groups, your friends’ kids, etc and ask them what blogs or social media accounts they go to check out cool stuff. Don't forget your writers groups. My Romance Writers of America group was a fantastic source to recommend reviewers.

Blog Tour Services

For my Sweet Confections tour, I researched blog tour services that specialized in romance. Then I checked out the lineups in the current tours. Some reviewers went for just spicy and hot, while others had a mix of all heat levels. I kept track of which reviewers gave good reviews to clean romances and added them to my research spreadsheet. By pulling select reviewers from a variety of blog tours, I created a wider marketing audience.

Note: Blog tour services are fabulous for authors who prefer to go the hassle-free route. I know many authors who've had successful blog tours with good services. I, personally, feel like each blog tour service has a particular group of reviewers, who then have the same group of readers or giveaway fanatics who follow that group of reviewers. So if you are going this route, check out previous tours to see how wide their review circle is in the comment section (are the same people commenting on each blog).

Twitter

Twitter was actually my best resource to discover new reviewers. If you’re not on Twitter, then you should start a profile. It’s a great way to connect with others – even if you don’t post daily.

On the Twitter homepage, there’s a link at the top that says “Who to Follow”. If you click on it, it brings you to a page with a search box. You can search for anything here (book reviewers, YA Romance, etc). You can also search for books that are like yours – for example, In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins. Twitter searches through status updates and profile descriptions to suggest friends for you. For my DAG tour, I searched for autism, LDS autism, Down syndrome, special needs, and church to name a few. I went through about a hundred profiles, checked out their activity and following. I also looked who that person followed. I often found more good leads that way. After narrowing down who I wanted to review, I contacted them through either Twitter email or an email address that was listed on the profile.

Another tip is to do geographical searches – such as Autism Canada or Sweet Romance Reader Arizona. Take advantage of hashtag searches too. Check out authors who write in the same genre and see what they are doing on Twitter. Elana Johnson did a huge Twitter promo for her book Possession using the hashtag #tagged. You could go through the postings with that hashtag to find readers who loved her book, then contact them to review your book.

Amazon & Goodreads

The awesome thing about Amazon and Goodreads is that they link to their reviewers profiles. Some of those reviewers list their websites or blogs. So you can check out books similar to yours and do some research on readers. Find a few who you really like, then send them an email through their website or blog.

Check Out Other Authors

It’s time to go hit the websites for all the big authors who write in your genre. Especially if you know of an author who has a book coming out in the next few months. They often list all the stops on their blog tour. Go check out those reviewers and their guidelines.  (BTW - Keep all this info in your spreadsheet for future reference!)  To find more authors: Go to Amazon.com, type in an author’s name and hit enter, then check out the “Related Searches” results just under the search box.

In Closing

Putting together a good blog tour involves a bit of internet stalking sleuthing.  But it’s totally worth it when you put together a completed list of reviewers from all over. The goal of a blog tour isn’t just to get (hopefully) awesome reviews, but to reach reader circles you currently don’t have connections with. Go for variety! Happy book tour scheduling!
Review Disclaimer: Sometimes a book I review has been sent to me for free by a publisher or an author. This in no way effects my review, which is my own opinion about whether the book was a good read for me, fit my tastes, and if I would recommend it to others. Other than possibly a free book, I am not compensated in any way for posting a review.