Weekly Musing: Blog Tourism

I feel like I use this phrase quite a bit, but when I first started writing I’d never heard of blog tours. Honestly until I started doing research for this week’s post I hadn’t even seen one. The blogs I read and follow lean heavily toward authors rambling about writing or history. There have been plenty of guest posts on those sites, usually authors with a book out, but nothing like an actual blog tour.

First, let’s start with a definition. A blog tour is when an author visits a bunch of blogs during a set time to promote their book. From guest posts, email or video interviews, chatting with the blogger and his or her audience, or posting a video the author has created themselves or anything else, a blog tour comprises of a variety of promotional elements. Essentially it’s like an in-person book tour but is supposed to be more cost-effective and efficient.

But like any tour, it must be organized. That’s where things become interesting and where money can be a factor. There are two ways to go about a blog tour: 1) contact a blog tour company (yes, you read that right), or 2) organize your own.

Let’s start with door number one. A blog tour company is a website which charges money, amounts vary wildly depending on the company and what your needs are, to organize a blog tour. The very basic service a blog tour company offers is they supposedly have a list of bloggers they’ve vetted and match the book where appropriate. The author works with the company to determine what time period is open to “tour” the blogs. In addition to “touring”, you’re also paying for other kinds of promotional material the blog tour company provides. These usually include links on the blog tour company’s website, a blurb about the book and the author, running giveaways, promoting the book on the company’s social media, and creating a tour page. Some offer services such as Facebook parties, creating a book trailer, and including reviews*. One site I went to even offers to help authors how to market their book in addition to traditional blog tour services.

*Regarding reviews, I was unable to tell from the websites I looked at whether or not these are paid reviews, a bit of a no-no, or if their bloggers agree to post their review of the book.

Let’s talking pricing. The price ranges were all over the place with most offering packages in the $35 to $100 to one outfit who’s only two options would cost you either $1,000 or $2,500. That company made me a little suspicious considering they talked at length about how they used blog tours for market research. Also it seemed they didn’t offer anything spectacularly different other than heavily emphasizing reviews were the primary goal. With the exception of this one company, it seemed like what others offered and the variety of packages seemed quite reasonable.

Of course there’s door number two. Doing the work on your own. It seemed to me that it would be completely plausible and doable for an author to cobble together his or her own blog tour. That requires a ton of work on the author’s part, which would draw time away from writing. Even with the paid option time is required on the author’s part.

If you go it alone, and I read the posts of authors who have organized their own tour, it simply comes down to knowing which blogs would be a good fit. If you have author friends with blogs, they’d be a great place to start. Even if you don’t have author friends search blogs within your genre and contact them. Also, if there are blogs you follow, contact them.

Another possible option is a website I found called BlogTour.org that is free. Bloggers and authors sign up and register either their blog or books or both. Depending on what your preferences, you’ll get an email when someone is interested in speaking with you. Using the website you start a conversation. I signed up for it myself both as a blogger and to also list the three anthologies I’m in out of curiosity. Since I just signed up a few days ago I don’t have anything to report on, but it again, it looks like it could be a good, free resource for authors wishing to create their own blog tour. Or it could flood your inbox with spam. We’ll see.

One difficulty I ran into was trying to determine if blog tours are beneficial. I found a couple of posts by authors who tried blog tours with mixed results. However, most posts I read the authors seemed please and reported a healthy bump in sales. At the very least they were getting their name out there. I can understand the hesitancy by authors to do a blog tour especially if they pay for it. By the time you have a book to launch you’ve more than likely paid for an editor, a cover designer, and possibly someone to format it as an eBook. So spending even more money for marketing is another burden with an uncertain result.

When I started researching this topic my original thought was this might yet another example of a way from people to prey upon authors for an ineffective service. But, on the surface, it seems like blog tours might be something which can be valuable. And it seems like something an author could put together on their own and still be effective.

Personally, assuming blog tours are still a thing by the time I have a novel ready to be birthed, I could see myself engaging in one. I know what my limits are. For example, I’m not creating a book cover on my own. My brother got the visual artistic ability and I suck at arts and crafts. Therefore I’ll seek out a book cover designer. While I’m fairly comfortable with my editing abilities, I’m still going to hire a professional editor. And I know for a fact I don’t have the time or knowledge to figure out promotion. I like the idea of working with someone whose job it is to market authors. The key to all of this is to do your homework and select reputable people and companies.

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