I recently had a correspondence with an author that asked about my publicity services. When we determined that the fit wasn’t quite right, she asked me for a few tips on running a blog tour for her book’s publicity. I agreed to share some tips and after giving it some thought, I distilled my best practices into these five tips for running a better blog tour for your book, comic, or web series. Or CD. Or many other creative enterprises, for that matter.
Step One: Quality Means Research
The most important thing to take away from this article is that–if you’re doing it right–preparation for a blog tour is time-consuming work. So if you only have limited time, it’s far better for you to contact five or ten quality targets than it is to send 100 ill-fitting queries.
Indeed, sending out queries scatter-shot is ineffective and a waste of your time. It is likely it will even make you look bad. For example, if you send a romance blogger your military fantasy or a kids’ book blog your erotica, you’re going to get a reputation as someone who can’t read directions and doesn’t care about anyone else’s time or effort.
So, ask yourself which bloggers are going to like your book or film, and then only contact those bloggers/media outlets.
Once you think you’ve found a blog or newspaper or magazine that seems to be a good fit, take the time to read a few of their reviews to get an idea of what they say about books, or the kinds of guest posts they host. Then you must read the “about”, “policies”, and “contact” pages (or anything similarly named) that outlines, usually quite specifically:
- What he or she likes to read
- His or her name
- Whether he or she accepts the kind of book you’re offering (some don’t accept ebooks, some only accept ebooks, that kind of thing)
- Most importantly, whether he or she is even accepting queries and review copies at all–or even accepts guest blog requests. Some don’t.
You will make no friends among book bloggers if you go against stated policies and preferences. And you want them to like you… right?
Logistics Note: I also advise making a note of your findings about the blogger or publication’s tastes and preferences in what ever way works best for you. I use a Google Drive spreadsheet because I like the ability to easily edit from whichever device I am using at the moment, but if Excel, Open Office, or paper work better for you, then use them. Whatever you do, do it consistently and clearly so you stay organized.
Step Two: Send Good Queries
Now you’ve got your targets and you know what they like, write each person a personalized and very brief email. Here are some components of a good query letter:
- The subject line should contain the book/work’s name, author/creator’s name, and date of release. If you have space, you can also add “Blog Tour Query”, but be mindful of a ridiculously long subject line.
- Address it to the blogger by name.
- The body should be polite, humble, and brief. The reader gets to decide whether your book is the best thing ever, not you, and not even your publisher.
- Did I mention brief? Bloggers and columnists and entertainment editors get a lot of email. If you ramble, you’ve lost them. Use a clear and active voice, and don’t use ten words where you can use two.
- In the opening paragraph mention something that confirms you read their guidelines and preferences (and make sure you are actually following them).
- Give a brief (there’s that word again) synopsis of your book or project. You can just include the cover copy if you like. Make sure you say it is the cover copy if you do this though, since you want to generally avoid a sales type voice and cover copy can verge into that territory pretty easily.
- It’s OK to include a personal touch. Is the blogger from your hometown? Did you both like the same book? Do you have a favourite track on the CD or a favourite episode of the web series? It is OK to say why, but again–brevity. Don’t spend more than a sentence on this.
- It is best to ask for what you want. If you are hoping for a review, say so. If you are hoping for a guest blog, say that, too; but, be polite and considerate. If the blogger isn’t interested, though, then leave it at that. Never ask “why not?” or ask for exceptions.
I also suggest that when sending these queries you not follow up too much. I often don’t follow up at all when it is a completely cold contact at a larger publication, since I know how busy they are and that they didn’t ask for me to contact them. If it is someone I know or to whom I was directly introduced by a mutual acquaintance, I will follow up on the initial query at that point. If you do follow up, stick to the same general rules above about brevity and manners. Don’t email a third time unless specifically asked to do so.
The entire blog tour process is a delicate balance of research, copy writing and interpersonal skills. Never discount those interpersonal skills in this process.
Step Three: Writing, Proofreading, Editing
Once you have a reply and you decide on a mutually beneficial posting date with the blogger, then you can answer your interview questions or compose your blog post. Make sure the content you are writing is interesting. Don’t just talk about your book, find a topic and give it a little effort. If you just write “buy my book, buy my book, buy my book” the audience will get bored with you. It’s great to tie it into the topic once or twice, but the topic at hand should carry the blog post.
When you finish writing, have a trusted reader look it over and offer suggestions. If you don’t have someone who can help with proofreading and editing, save the file and walk away for a while. When you return with fresh eyes you are more likely to catch errors or unclear ideas. This writing deserves your effort. These blogs or media outlets are giving you publicity and you aren’t paying for it. Respect what they’re doing for you.
Be sure to include anything that will be helpful. Do they usually post websites, excerpts, and social media links and an author photo? Include those. Always include a very brief biography for use in the blog post. Here is some helpful information about composing a biography from Rachelle Gardner.
Step Four: Deadlines
Typically you’ll want to get your blog post or interview to the blogger/publication two to three full days before the posting date. So, for example, if you have a posting date of June 1st, then you should have your copy turned in by May 29th. Confirm with each outlet what their preferences are. Some want the post a full week in advance.
This is where the keeping careful notes I mentioned in Step One comes in handy. Be sure you have your due dates on a calendar or in some other format that will help you remember and stick to them. Again, I like to use electronic tools, because I can set up alerts at varying intervals to make sure I don’t forget a commitment.
If for some reason you will be late, email your contact immediately. As I said in Step Three, respect what they’re doing for you, and respect their time and their editorial schedules.
Step Five: Manners and Consideration at All Times
Don’t forget all the things I have shared with you about deadlines, respecting the outlet/blogger, politeness, humility (i.e. not using a sales voice and being realistic). I also like what Chuck Wendig said about this topic. His was in reference to asking for blurbs, but all of these things apply here. What you put out in the world becomes your brand. Make sure you manage your brand like the professional you are.
Questions? Leave them in the comments, or if you prefer to ask privately, contact me. ———My inaugural blog post is cross-posted from my personal blog, elsewords.com. While you’re here, have a look around, and thank you for your interest.