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I want to thank Mayra for having me at The Dark Phantom  today as part of Pump Up Your Book’s 5th Anniversary!  Today I’d like to talk about virtual book tours, or blog tours, as a vehicle to sell your book. 

It seems to be the million dollar question and that’s why I chose this topic today to talk about.  I am here to settle this question once and for all and explain just what blog tours can do for your book. 

Most authors when they sign up with us are aware of blog tours.  They’re everywhere.  Some authors are setting up their own tours and some authors who aren’t Internet or promotion savvy come to us.  They are the ones who I feel need blog tours more than anyone else. 

A blog tour is a vehicle really not to sell your book exclusively, but is mainly to sell YOU.  A blog tour will get your book into the eyes of thousands.  Whether they buy or not depends on a few things. 

Is this your first book?  Debut authors have it the hardest.  It’s usually not until the 2nd or 3rd that their career really takes off.  That’s not to say you can’t be a one book wonder, but it just seems the authors with more books under their belt do better. 

Have you already established your author platform before your book comes out?  Most authors who already have an established email list and have been writing articles about their book’s subject are the ones who will see a difference in sales. 

Are you in the social networks to sell your book or are you in there to help or to get help?  People can pick you out in a second if your book is your main reason you are there. 

Selling your book can be infuriating, exhausting and downright crazy but a blog tour can give you focus.  Even though it is a lot of work, building up your presence in the search engines and getting your book into the public’s eye should be your main focus.  If you watch your sales  constantly and there are no sales, you start to wonder what in the heck you are doing wrong and why you went through so much trouble. 

The key here is exposure and whether you think that doesn’t amount to diddly squat as opposed to seeing those book sales, that’s where you’re wrong. 

After my romance anthology, Romancing the Soul, came out, I established myself as a relationship expert.  I had no real credentials other than the fact relationship help was dear to my heart and I felt I was darn good at it.  To this day, I still have people emailing me with their problems.  

I set up a professional website and started building my contact list.  I began writing articles to make my author platform more solid.  They say blog tours are exhausting, that’s nothing compared to the work I put in establishing myself in the search engines for my key search words. 

I gave my advice away for free, too.  Anyone with problems concerning relationships got my answer right away.  Where there were other relationship experts charging for the same thing I was doing, I didn’t want to do that.  I wanted to give freely for I knew this was only strengthening my whole author platform and you can’t put a dollar amount on that.  

I wrote articles until my fingers fell off.  I was interviewed by blog owners plus radio.  But the one thing I did which I felt helped my author platform more than anything else was the key word positioning. It was then that the editor of the supermarket tabloid, OK! Magazine, found me in the search engines, called me up and asked me a few questions about the Jennifer Aniston and whoever-she-was-dating-at-the-time relationship.  Whammo bammo, my quote appeared in that week’s issue and I owe it to building up my author platform and positioning my key search words in the search engines. 

So now we come back to the million dollar question: do blog tours sell books?  If you reread what I just wrote, what I did was very similar to a blog tour.  The only difference was that it wasn’t on a set schedule.  But, to this day, people are still finding out about me.  If I walked away from relationship help, it would follow me wherever I went  because I had positioned my key search words permanently in the search engines.  My old website I was using?  It’s sitting there.  I’m not updating it or anything so these people are finding me somehow and I have every reason to believe they are putting certain search words into the search engines and that’s how they find me. 

With a blog tour, you are building up your author platform, no ifs ands or buts.  People say the only thing that influences readers to buy books are reviews and that the interviews and guest posts aren’t making people buy their book.  After all, it’s supposed to be all about the book, right? 

Yes and no.  If the author continues to write books similar in theme to their first book, it can be all about the book.  If the author is trying to sell a debut book, then I would fully recommend building up that author platform.  They may not get a book sale based on this or they could sell by the truckload.  It just depends on how much time the author invests in their career. 

Back to blog tours again.   If the author is not Internet savvy and if the author does not have a good presence in the  search engines, a blog tour will definitely do the trick.  Will the author’s main goal be to sell books or does the author understand how using blog tours to build up their author platform can sell books down the road or lead them to other great things? 

You can’t go into a blog tour thinking you’re going to sell books by the truckload.  You can go into a blog tour counting on the fact that your book is presented to thousands of prospective readers, buyers, publishers, agents, movie producers, and yes even editors of supermarket tabloids. 

I hope this cleared up any misconceptions you have about blog tours.  If you are an author who has the time and the know how to set up a tour for your own book, that is definitely the way to go.  You save money that way.  

If you are an author who needs help setting up a tour, knows their way around the Internet, is social network savvy and has the contacts with the bloggers that have been carefully screened, then you enlist the help of a blog tour service such as us. 

To celebrate five years of publicizing books online, Pump Up Your Book will be stopping off at wonderful blogs throughout the month of April so that you can hear more of what we do and our viewpoints on Internet promotions and blog tours.  There are prizes along the way so be  sure to check out http://www.pumpupyourbook.com/2012/04/01/pump-up-your-book-5th-year-anniversary-celebration/ to find out how you can win.  

Now the good news is that we are giving away a $10 Amazon Gift Card here at The Dark Phantom!  Give us the best book promotion tip you can think of and leave it in the comment section.  If you are a book blogger and not an author, tell us the best way you know to get traffic to your site.  You must leave your email address with your comment or there’s no way for us to get in touch with you.  This contest will end on April 27 and the winner will be announced on our tour page (link above) on April 30.  This is an international contest and good luck! 

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Over the years, authors who wanted to promote their books directly to the public had one main option; you had to physically travel across the country conducting book signings and readings in various bookstores and praying that people would show up. This meant spending money on flights, hotels, transportation and meals. This traditional type of book tour is expensive and very few publishing companies are willing to pay for them. But now, authors have a new method of ‘touring the world’―the virtual book tour.

Virtual book tours (also known as virtual author tours, guest blogging, blog tours, or VBTs are a simple concept. The author “tours” various blogs and sites that pertain to a theme in the book or to writing in general. This way, you can potentially reach thousands of avid readers each tour day from the privacy of your office or home. The goal of marketing your book is to expose it to as many people as possible in an exciting, cost-effective and entertaining way. Guest blogging can achieve that goal. Most blogs are archived, so your post becomes permanent and often viral, spreading from site to site. That is leverage. You are in essence leveraging your internet presence and duplicating yourself with every VBT stop. Your blog tour is working for you even while you sleep. Try doing that at a bookstore signing!

Virtual author tours really took off in the past year or two. They began with a handful of authors posting to other blogs in order to promote their works online. They announced those dates just as they would a bona fide book signing. This kind of author tour is now becoming all the rage. Some bookstores are no longer allowing authors to do book signings. Limited space and time constraints are the common reasons. Plus, it just isn’t time efficient and monetarily feasible for most authors to do the physical cross-country bookstore tour. Well, unless you are one of the super authors that get paid the big bucks, like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. And since I am neither, I decided to hold my first blog tour this past August―for the entire month―to promote my latest novel Whale Song.

Virtual book tour services and book marketing experts are popping up all over the internet. Authors can now outsource the organization of a VBT. I suggest that you thoroughly check out these companies and ask yourself if the price is worth it. Some services cost thousands of dollars, while some cost less but only post your content to duplicate sites―ones they have set up themselves. The latter is not an advantage to you. You need to have wide coverage and exposure to various sites and audiences. Go where your readers are. Planning a VBT is time-consuming, but not that difficult. You may find it more worthwhile to take the time to plan your own blog tour, since you’ll have more control over who hosts you this way. Or you may decide that hiring someone to coordinate the tour is best. Do what’s right for you. I chose to do my own because I wanted to have flexibility in what each site posted and I enjoyed the contact with my hosts.

How to organize a virtual book tour:
• Start planning at least 1 month before you want to begin, and never before your book is available for sale. I suggest you allow 1 month when planning a 2 week tour and 6 weeks for a 1 month tour. It takes time to get the hosts lined up and on board and you don’t want to shortchange yourself.
• Read everything you can find on virtual book tours. There are numerous articles online and many books that give great advice. Check out Steve Weber’s Plug Your Book! for VBT advice and more, and John Kremer’s 1001 Ways to Market You Books for numerous marketing tips.
• Determine the length of your book tour―1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month.
• How many hosts will you need? 1 a day is best. If you have a radio interview, you could have it scheduled on a day when you have a text post appearing on another blog.
• Make a list of keywords and phrases that relate to your book.
• Search for these terms on Google and look for any sites that show up on the first page. Sites on the first Google page are the ones that your potential audience will find more easily. Make a note of these sites or save them in your Favorites under a folder marked ‘VBT contacts’.
• Search Technorati as well, although personally I found this method more time-consuming and confusing. Look for sites that have a high Authority and high number of Fans. Keep in mind that Authority means that people have voted for this blog, but that it doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best site for you.
• Use Alexa to get traffic results. Some sites or blogs may not rank well on Google or Technorati but may still be a viable host for your VBT.
• Look at the amount of reader participation. Do people leave comments? Is the topic of the site ‘perfect’ for your book? Often lesser known sites and ones without a Google PageRank are little goldmines. You may find that the host will go out of his or her way to advertise you and your VBT. Don’t ignore sites by friends or fellow authors either. One day these sites could score an 8 or 9 on Google.
• Install and use Google PageRank. This is a simple tool that allows you to view the Google Rank of sites and blogs, which is Google’s interpretation of how important the site is based on the authority of inbound links that lead to the site. Go through your list and check their Google PageRank. List them in order of importance and contact the highest ranking ones first. In the beginning, contact about 25% more hosts than you actually need. Not all will say yes.
• Write an email that you’ll send individually to each potential host. Let them know what you’re doing and what you can supply. I always like to point out the benefits to hosts―more traffic, new visitors, fresh and interesting content, prizes, and a link on my website. What’s in it for them? That’s what they want to know. Make sure you ‘hook’ your host, just like you would with a query letter to a publisher.
• Internet radio and promotional sites that charge small fees also make wonderful hosts. ArtistFirst Radio Network and Passionate Internet Voices Radio are online radio networks that interview authors in exchange for a donation or small fee. For an a la carte or membership fee, Author Island is another excellent site for authors holding a virtual book tour. You can post a book trailer and excerpt, plus advertise your contests and tour.
• Confirm hosts’ dates, topics and ask them to post the night before. This way you are not waiting all morning for them to post your content. Let them know you’ll send them the information 3-5 days before their date. If you send it too early they may lose, misfile or delete it. What will you submit? Each blog or site will usually feature one or a combination of the following: a book cover, a summary or synopsis, an interview, book review, an article that fits the site’s theme, a short story, an excerpt, a contest, an audio-cast or a book trailer video.
• Advertise your VBT via online and media press releases. It is a great investment, since it’s no good doing a virtual book tour if no one knows about it. One leading press release distribution service that I use almost exclusively is 24-7PressRelease.com, where you can pay from $10.00 to $299.00, depending on your distribution requirements. However, I can attest to the fact that a $45.00 release is the minimum you’ll want and its effectiveness is worth it. Other online services include PRWeb and WebWire, and don’t forget to send releases to the free services too, like ClickPress.com and FreePress.com. Press releases can be extremely beneficial if written correctly and distributed extensively to the right audience, and this means submitting them to your local media (newspapers, TV, radio) as well.
• Publicize your virtual book tour and other events on BookTour.com, a free site that connects authors to readers by listing author events and making it easy for readers to set up reminders and track their favorite authors.
• Promote your VBT on all your websites and blogs on an events page. Put up a schedule with your hosts’ home page URL. I found it more exciting to post a weekly schedule the day before the week began. It prevented people from going to host sites too early and kept them coming back to my website to see where I’d be going next. I promoted the ‘mystery’, which worked to my advantage since I’m a suspense author. This also gave me 1 extra blog post each week, and therefore new content.
The day before each virtual stop:
• Send out a reminder to your host and ask them to post that night. Make sure they have book cover jpgs, your photo and anything else they might need.
The morning of each stop:
• Confirm that your host has posted your content. Check the site. Copy the full URL that leads directly to your post. The home page will change and you want your links to always lead to the exact page that the host has created just for your content.
• Change the home page URL on your schedule to the exact page link. This is how you really leverage yourself. Now when someone stumbles across your schedule and clicks on the link, they’ll be directed to your post, not your host’s ever-changing home page.
• Write an introduction about the day’s stop and post it everywhere. Copy the first paragraph or two of the interview or article and use that for your intro. Post intros to all websites and blogs that you have access to. Don’t forget to post to your Amazon blog, MySpace blog and MySpace bulletin. The latter goes out to all your MySpace friends. Make sure you have some!
Follow-up:
• Check your host site frequently throughout the day for comments and answer any questions directly on your host site. Do this every other day afterward for about a week. Offer to write a possible follow-up article, depending on what you posted originally.
• Assess the success of your virtual book tour. Set up TitleZ and/or Charteous to monitor your book’s Amazon sales rank throughout the VBT. You should see some lower ranks (lower is better!) during your blog tour, particularly if you have a contest or incentive that inspires more sales of your book. Be creative and have fun!
Authors are now starting to comprehend the full potential that blog tours have to offer and how they benefit everyone involved. You could sign books at a bookstore for three hours plus driving time and reach a few hundred people yet sell only to a few dozen, or you could organize a VBT and promote to millions of people worldwide. Virtual book tours take time, patience and research, but as I have discovered, they are definitely worthwhile. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. So why not start today? You have the entire world at your fingertips!

~*~

If you found this article helpful, please consider picking up a copy of Cheryl’s newest novel Whale Song through Amazon.

©2007 Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Cheryl Kaye Tardif is the author of The River, Divine Intervention and the Amazon bestseller Whale Song. Among her peers, she is known for her perseverance and tireless dedication in book promotion. In August 2007, she was the first Kunati Books author to hold a virtual book tour with 35 stops. In September 2007, Cheryl will be speaking about book marketing strategies at the 8th Annual “Express Yourself…”™ Authors’ Conference in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Over the years, she has appeared on television and radio, and in newspapers and magazines across Canada and the US.

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