There are a lot of ways to build an author platform nowadays. You can Tweet, facebook, blog and advertise, but nothing seems to make your presence known in literary circles faster than a blog tour. What’s a blog tour?  A blog tour is an opportunity for an author to travel from blog-to-blog and introduce herself, write articles, or interview with the purpose of building credibility and excitement about her book. I know a little about this because I just completed a 45-day blog tour. And lucky you, I’m going to tell you how I did it.

Before I give my list of blog tour tips, I want to share just a few of the highlights from my 45-day blog tour. After the Reunion blog tour, my book…

  • Received 25 book reviews on my Amazon Page
  • Collected over 30 reviews and over 45 ratings on Goodreads
  • Ranked as high as #28 in Goodreads best books of 2011
  • Left my Reunion buy link and website URL (SEO – search engine optimization) at around 40 different book blogs.
  • Met a ton of book reviewers/bloggers that are waiting for my next book.
  • Ranked as low as #470 in Amazon total sales.
  • Shared my book with around 30,000 potential book blog followers who read in my genre.
  • Was asked to guest blog at other sites during and after the tour. (like this one)

Summary: This was my first true book launch and it went as well as I expected. I’m a newer author and I didn’t know any of the book bloggers before I started. It took a lot of hard work, but I made some mistakes when I self-published in 2009 and learned from those mistakes. Anyway, I spent about 50 hours preparing and about 90 hours writing my guest posts.  With all of my other responsibilities, it totally exhausted me. But it was worth it.

So what about you?

Now that you’ve worked your fingers to the bone, polishing your book to perfection, are you ready to publish and introduce your work to the world? Is your brain oozing with anticipation of your book release? Are you so ready to share your fantastic fiction that you feel like you’re going to burst out of your skin. If you are, you might want to read this article to know what to do next. Why? Because the last thing you want to do is push “Publish” and let that little monster fly before you’ve planned for your release. When publishing, you have to think ahead and prepare for a well thought out book launch and I’m going to tell you how you can do that for free or very little cost. More specifically, I’m going to share how you can plan and schedule your own blog tour with little or no cost.

To get your book on the path to success, follow these simple steps. If you do, you’ll start out with an abundance of reviews and a jumpstart to your indie writing career.

  • Professionalism: I’m going to assume you’ve already had your book professionally edited, formatted and have an appealing cover. If you have not done these three things, none of this matters. Remember, you will be dealing with book bloggers and reviewers that read and review traditionally published authors, their agents and publicists. They expect professionalism and it all starts with your pitch.

Warning: Do not be offended if you are not accepted as an indie author. Be courteous and understand that indies are making progress but many reviewers/book bloggers are not open to you yet… and that’s okay, we’ll get there.

  • The Pitch: The first thing you have to do when building a blog tour is to write a compelling pitch. Here’s a link to the pitch I sent out to over 65 book bloggers. (Pitch for Reunion)  Feel free to use this as a template for your pitch. Also, you’ll want to start this process no less than 30 days before you plan to launch your book because bloggers/reviewers will need time to read your book (PDF/ARC) if you want the reviews to show up at the time of your release. Many book bloggers like to write a review around the same time that you appear as a guest.

Hint: If you’ve scheduled your book release, you might want to do a “soft” release ahead of time so your reviews can be posted on your Amazon page by the time your book starts selling to your circle of friends; that way they can buy with confidence.

  • Contact book bloggers/reviewers: After you’ve nailed the pitch you’ll have to email a ton of reviewers/book bloggers. You might consider planning a 30-day blog tour. Forty-five days was a bit much for me. Hint: When you start getting responses you have to be very careful to keep good records of who is scheduled and what your topic will be. I used the calendar on my computer and entered each response immediately after they chose a date. Trust me, if they agree to hosting you 40-60 days before you appear, you don’t want to forget about it. And you’ll want to send your guest blogs out about a week in advance so the blogger doesn’t forget!

But where do you start? Who do you send your pitch to? You can look at my 45-day schedule and email those book bloggers or try Scott Nicholson’s blog tour link (if you write in the suspense/thriller/paranormal genres). Between the two of us, you’ll find over 100 book bloggers to choose from.

Here are the links…

Scott Nicholson: Blog Tour Links

Jeff Bennington: Blog Tour Links

Also, be prepared that many book bloggers require a print copy, so if you are only giving away digital copies you could miss a lot of opportunities with reputable reviewers. Another tip: leave a couple open dates for your blog so you can introduce your home base to the blog tour followers. This will also provide a fill-in date to add anyone interested in joining late in the game.

  • What to write: Once you’ve scheduled your blog tour, you’ll need to start writing articles for your hosts right away. I would recommend that you write about 600-1000 words per article. I customized each post. If the book blogger was more into horror, I’d use words that fed that sort of reader the blood lust they’re looking for. If the blogger leaned toward paranormal romance, I’d talk romance. But whatever you do, don’t repeat anything. Keep each day fresh and interesting. I had a few folks who followed the tour from start to finish because they really liked my blog posts.

Be prepared to do interviews. Some bloggers like to interview but some don’t have the time. For those who want to interview you, help them to come up with creative questions if they repeat previously asked questions. Try to mix up the schedule so that you don’t do too many interviews back to back.

Interact: Once you start blogging, be sure to visit at the scheduled blog stop at least once on the day it is published so that you can interact with your new fans. The next day, you might want to visit some of the stops you made in the previous week just to check in. This is very important because “comment” interaction is the whole purpose of the blog tour. This is why you are doing this, to gain fans, to meet readers, to build your platform.

Reviews: After a week or so you’ll start to notice that the reviews start rolling in. Reviews are a wonderful benefit to blog tours, because reviews will sell your book and give buyers confidence. Be sure to ask your reviewers to post their review on Amazon. Sometimes they only post on their blog. Whatever they decide, be gracious, beggars can’t be dictators.

Giveaways: Are you offering a giveaway? Giveaways are nice, but they can be expensive. I gave away 2 Kindles. That was a little overkill. Unless you expect to sell a lot of books, I wouldn’t give away the Kindles. And the only reason you should expect a lot of sales is because you have a track record of a lot of sales.  If all you have is expectations, you shouldn’t spend the extra money. Be frugal. You can do this without spending any money if you really want to.

I had the money to spend on the Kindles, but in retrospect I don’t think it was worth it. I think the tour would’ve been just as successful without the Kindle giveaway. Besides, I was surprised how few people actually registered. I think a signed copy of Reunion would have been enough. As it turns out, both of the winners live in Canada so the Kindles cost me about $360 with shipping and custom fees. Incidentally, one of the blog tour followers informed me that it is illegal to require a purchase to be eligible for a giveaway, so I kind of botched that.

Something else to consider is that if you send out print copies, you’ll find that the cost of the book and the cost of postage will be your greatest expense (especially if you are sending it overseas). I sent out about 25 print copies and spent about $275 to do that.  If you want to keep expenses down, stick with only giving away digital copies.

Bonus Tip: One of my mistakes was doing a Goodreads giveaway during the tour. What I should have done was scheduled the Goodreads giveaway to end at the start of the tour, which should’ve corresponded with the release of the book. That would’ve encouraged the folks interested in Reunion to buy it closer to the release day.

Final thoughts: A friend of mine from Goodreads asked me some questions about the blog tour so I’ll address them here. Hopefully, I’ll answer your questions too. If not, be sure to comment.

  • Q: How long did it take to receive responses from the book bloggers?

A: I started receiving responses within days of sending out review/guest blogging requests, and they continued to respond over the next couple weeks. I simply scheduled the tour on a first come first serve basis. But this is why you want to start at least a month before you plan to release your book. These folks are very nice and easier to deal with than publishers and agents (no offense agents and publishers but that’s the reputation you have out there).

  • Q: How did decide what to charge for your book?

A: I started with the $2.99 price point at first to get a little change in my pocket, but then Amazon lowered the price to .99¢. They have that right I suppose. But I’m good with the .99¢ price point, because I’m all about gaining readers at this point. It’s a good way to encourage readers to try a new author. If they like me, they’ll pay $2.99 when I release my next book. That’s my philosophy anyway.

  • Q: Out of the 65 book bloggers you sent review/guest blogging requests to, how many took you up on your pitch?

A: About 40. The others weren’t interested, didn’t respond, or preferred other genres. Some reviewers wouldn’t accept my book because I wasn’t traditionally published.

  • Q: Have you done a blog tour before?

A: No. I simply followed Scott Nicholson’s tour and tried to imitate it as close as possible. But obviously my guest posts were unique and I blogged in places he didn’t. Some of my favorite stops were at The Creative Penn, The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog, Rex Robot Reviews and several others. I was actually surprised at the response.

  • Q: I’m sure it definitely helps spread the word about your books and yourself but I’m curious to know if it sells books (a few, several, a lot)?

A: You have to remember; unless you’re an established author with several books out, you have to be patient and build your reputation and fan base. This will take time. I knew this going in, so my expectations were fairly healthy. If you expect to become a bestseller because you put in the effort it takes to do a blog tour, you will be disappointed, unless you get lucky. Overall I’ve sold over 500 copies of Reunion in the first 6 weeks and continue selling anywhere from 1-10 copies every day. In comparison, I sold 500 copies of my first book in two years. On a day-to-day basis, I’ll rank anywhere from #5,000 – #30,000 in Amazon’s sales ranking. As a newer author, I’m happy with that and expect the momentum to continue when I release my next supernatural thriller, Act of Vengeance, this fall. Basically, a blog tour is probably more PR than a sales pitch, but it can be much less expensive than paid publicity if you do it right.

Overall, I had a great time, learned a lot and plan to do it again. I’ll spend less money the next time, however, and do less blogging. I think I’ll let the bloggers review my book and leave it at that. I do enjoy blogging though, and have continued even after the blog tour has ended because I believe it is a vital and smart way to sell yourself.

If you haven’t read Reunion, it’s getting great reviews and is available in print and in all digital formats. Amazon is selling it for only .99¢! You can get it here by clicking on the following link —> REUNION

Any questions???