Part IV: Letter to my Earlier Self about #Blog #Hops and #Virtual #Book #Tours
This is Letter Four of Four of my “open letter to my earlier self” series that first appeared on The Book Cove Reviews, http://www.thebookcove.com/2014/12/author-sally-ember-edd-letter-to-my_15.html, late November – December, 2014.
Letter One appeared on my site, http://www.sallyember.com/blog , on 3/26/15.
Letter One posted on 3/26/15; Letter Two appeared on 4/4/15 and Letter Three on 4/11/15.
image from http://phyllisiturner.com
I published my first ebook in December, 2013, and my second in June, 2014. I intend to publish my third in April, 2015. What I wish I had known before my first ebook went into pre-sales in November, 2013, about Virtual Book Tours and Blog Hops and other kinds of “shared” PR continues to grow. I write these Open Letters in order to share my wisdom “backwards” to my earlier self from today’s vantage point.
Now that you know you are going to be an indie published author, and you know you’re going to start with only ebooks and then see what happens, your choices about book marketing are more limited than if you were going to have both print and ebooks available or if a major or even minor publisher were backing your books. Mostly, your entire author platform and writing life are going to exist almost exclusively online.
That all means no book signings (you have no books to sign). It also means that you will have few or not any public readings, at least, not yet, since those usually go with book signings. You won’t be paying for much publicity since you have almost no budget for it, so forget print ads, posters, or other signage in the “real” world. Your PR is going to all be virtual.
What does this new type of non-in-person, non-print PR include besides your blog? You will have online “stores,” places that sell your books online, where the cover, blurb and reviews live. You can post your photo and bio there (on some, anyway). You should have author pages and book pages on vendor sites. What else?
Blog Hops and Virtual Book Tours.
Well, no wonder you have no idea what a “Blog Hop” or “Virtual Book Tour” is: You just barely started to blog last August, 2013, and barely know what blogging is. You have recently published your first fiction book while is also your first ebook. It’s hard to be more of a newbie than you are!
When someone invites you to “join” a Blog Hop or be part of a Virtual Book Tour, you don’t know what you’re saying “Yes” or “No” to, do you? How could you?
First of all, go visit/go on a Blog Hop or Virtual Book Tour at least once, each. Be a visitor to one or more that have some of the same organizer(s), authors and/or books as the Blog Hop or Virtual Book Tour you’re considering as a participant.
Take notes: what do you like/not like? What is confusing/clear? How appealing are the promos, widgets, banners, graphics? Since you are also a reader, consider: would YOU be more or newly interested in these authors/these books because of this Blog Hop or Virtual Book Tour?
If the answer is “NO,” stop there. You might want to join a Blog Hop or Virtual Book Tour, but not THIS one.
Visit some more until you can say “Yes” to these questions, above.
Now that you know what you like, it’s time to get more educated. There are hundreds of (free or fee-based) webinars, Google+ Hangouts On Air (HOAs), teleseminars, podcasts, blog posts, and, don’t forget: BOOKS and EBOOKS devoted to explaining everything about creating or joining a Blog Hop or Virtual Book Tour and all aspects of book marketing.
I won’t even try to recap it all here. Nonfiction can or should be marketed differently than fiction, short fiction differently than long. Target audience for and chosen genre/subgenre of your writing change the PR scene as well. Poetry and memoirs are in their own niches. Etc.
Attend, read, watch. Take more notes.
There was an excellent month-long series of educational events and posts I attended last May, 2014. Well worth it. Thanks, D’vorah Lansky! The Book Marketing Challenge has both free and paid options. Look into them! Email D’Vorah and ask about the next round: email@example.com
If you are leaning toward “Yes,” before deciding whether or not to join a particular Blog Hop or Virtual Book Tour or to create your own, regardless of how enticing the organizers or instructors make it sound or you found theirs to be, there are some key questions to ask:
- What are the requirements? Are they easy, moderately easy or arduous to fulfill? If you have to create or acquire a lot of new graphics, redesign or add to your website, write new blurbs or text to fit their guidelines, is it worthwhile? Answer the other questions, below, to determine that.
- What’s in it for you? Are you allowed to promote/feature your own books, your blog, or just others’ books and blogs?
image from http://acupofteaandabigbook.blogspot.com
- How much of your precious writing time will be given over to this endeavor?
- How long does it go on? Does that timeframe work with your schedule (i.e., for visiting others’ sites, cross-promoting, posting widgets/modifying your own site, commenting, etc.)?
- Can you be ready to submit everything by the deadlines and post on your day as scheduled?
- How much does it cost to join, e.g., do you have to provide a “Raffle” prize, a “giveaway,” or any other “swag,” discount coupons, gift cards, or what? Is that affordable?
image from http://www.crystaljordan.com
- What amount of traffic is likely to be driven to your site from these other sites, i.e., how many followers do they have, what are their ALEXA scores?
- Are the other Blog Hop or Virtual Book Tour participants in the same or similar or at least compatible genres/subgenres with yours?
- Are the other blogs/sites/books/authors’ brands compatible with yours (NSFW [Not Safe For Work] vs. SFW [Safe For Work], for example)?
- Is this organized by a paid promoter or someone else with experience organizing a Blog Hop or Virtual Book Tour so that there is at least one person who will handle the responsibilities of corralling, collecting, scheduling, managing this event professionally and well?
- How many other participants’ sites are being visited on the same day as yours? Do that number and variety seem likely to be competitive, supportive, confusing, appropriate?
- What possible benefits will there be and how likely are they to accrue to YOU?
image from http://www.rtbookreviews.com
- Having answered all these questions, is this Blog Hop or Virtual Book Tour a worthwhile endeavor?
Bottom line, Sally, is that your writing time MUST be a priority, but you also have to put in time to create relationships in order to find readers, get more visible, be part of an online community with important and meaningful connections, and, oh, yeah, MARKET your books. Be cautious, be discerning, be wise.
I hope you are finding this series of Open Letters helpful to your decision-making and planning for your first and subsequent book launches and ongoing marketing and promotions. I might add to this series as I get even more experienced; we’ll see.
Meanwhile, don’t forget to ENJOY the ride!
Best to you!
Your future Sally