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Book Blog Tours That Accept Self-Published Authors

| Posted in Advertising, Blogging |

22

A book blog tour is when you “appear” on a number of blogs over a week or two (some authors go bananas and schedule a different blog each day for a month) to promote your book. This usually involves being interviewed or writing a guest post for the site. Some blog owners will also read and review your book.

You can arrange tours yourself and hand-pick the blogs, keeping in mind that some people won’t respond or be interested in hosting you, or you can pay someone else to arrange things for you. Prices vary, as do the quality of the blogs that participate (naturally, you want to appear on established sites with a solid readership).

It’s been a while since I did a book blog tour (almost three years), but I may check into them again this summer, since I’m working on some new series. As I recall, the two or three tours I did weren’t all that useful insofar as selling books, but they did result in me getting some much needed reviews back in the days when I didn’t have any readers yet. Several of the hosts reviewed my book on their own sites and also posted the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

I’m fairly certain most bloggers and tour operators don’t guarantee reviews, but it’s natural that some of the bloggers will be curious about the authors they host and might check out your book of their own accord (you can also include a free copy with your post or interview).

In case you’re interested in trying out a book blog tour for yourself, I’m posting a list of some of the tours that accept indie/self-published authors and that aren’t hugely expensive (thanks, Elise, for putting the list together for us!):

Book Blog Tours

Bewitching Book Tours

Genres: paranormal, urban fantasy, and paranormal erotica

Cost: $40-$175

Notes: Geared towards the new author, the ebook author, the small and independent press author, and the mid-list author. Also for the author who doesn’t have a huge marketing budget but wants the most bang for their promotional buck.

Enchanted Book Promotions

Genres: accepts all genres (though geared towards scifi, romance, fantasy)

Cost: $29-$249

Fire and Ice Book Tours

Genres: most genres accepted

Cost: $35 – $90

Notes: Not accepting new sign ups at lower package rates.

Worldwind Virtual Book Tours

Genres: accepts all genres (though geared towards scifi, romance, fantasy)

Cost: $110-$340

Notes: Price includes $50 Amazon card giveaway

Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours

Genres: all genres

Cost: $299 and up

Notes: Clients have some national media placements; website is difficult to navigate

Jitterbug PR

Genres: Many

Cost: $55 – $180

Notes: Not exceptional website graphics or quality of writing on blog. Also a PR, marketing and publicity company.

Xpresso Book Tours

Genres: focuses on Young Adult & New Adult tours in all genres of both pre-release and post-release books

Cost: $150 – $250

Notes: Professional easy-to-navigate site.

Read Between the Lines Blog Tours

Genres: specializes in fantasy

Cost: $25 – $100

If you have any comments on these outfits or want to suggest any other book blog tour sites, please let us know below.

Hear Me Talk About Self-Publishing, Marketing, Blogging, & Social Media

| Posted in Videos & Podcasts |

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If you’re tired of reading my words and would like something to listen to while you’re walking the dog, commuting to work, or performing that 382nd rep at the gym, I’m the interviewee on the Rocking Self Publishing Podcast today.

Episode # 09 – Developing an Online Presence with Lindsay Buroker

Even if you’re not into podcasts, Simon did a nice job typing up some notes to go with the show, so check it out!

Also, in case you missed it last year, I’ve been on Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn talking about marketing and self-publishing too: Build A Fulltime Writing Career Slowly With Lindsay Buroker.

 

How Can You Sell More Books Through Your Blog?

| Posted in Tips and Tricks |

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A lot of authors start blogs because of a vague notion that they should, that it’s part of “building a platform” and that it can help sell more books. Is it? Can it? Sure, though, for fiction authors in particular, one can argue that it might be more efficient (and financially rewarding) to put that time into writing more books instead.

Buuut, let’s assume you’re going to blog. How can you make sure your blog is doing everything it can to help you sell books? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Monitor which sales come through your blog in the first place

If you don’t know, you’re simply guessing as to your blog’s effectiveness. It’s true that Amazon and the other book sellers aren’t going to make this easy by telling you which sales originated from clicks on your blog, but if you sign up for the various affiliate programs out there and use those links, you can see how many sales come from your site each day (and you might make a few dollars from other things people buy at the same time, eh?).

You can also use services such as Bit.ly to see how many times certain links on your site are being clicked. If a lot of people are clicking through to an excerpt but nobody’s buying the book… you might want to choose a better excerpt. For WordPress users, you can go a step further and install the Pretty Link plugin. This lets you make trackable links, similarly to Bit.ly, but the links will appear to originate from your domain name. (People can be wary about clicking bit.ly links because they can’t tell where it’ll take them.)

2. Put the sales links to your books in a prominent place on every page of your blog

In other words, make them part of the menu. Use the cover art as well as text links and make the cover art clickable (since the earliest day of the web, we’ve been trained to click on pictures, so it’s an utter waste if clicking on your cover art only takes a person to a larger version of your cover art — or doesn’t do anything at all). Since Amazon is the biggest online store and accounts for the majority of my ebook sales, I make my cover links point to Amazon, but you could also point them to an excerpt on your own site (one that includes links to all the stores).

By having your sales links on every page, you can catch the eye of someone who surfs in via the search engines and lands on a post you did two years ago. It also ensures that people who want to jump right to downloading a sample of your book (or even buying it) can do so without hunting around your site. I can’t tell you how often I’ve simply said, “Forget it,” after clicking through about three layers of an author’s site and still not finding the Amazon link for the book. I also recommend that you not waste someone’s time by sending them to Bookbuzzer or some third party widget site. Your links should go right to the store where the reader has his/her credit card information stored.

3. When appropriate, link to your books from within your blog posts

If you’re lucky enough to get people to subscribe to your blog, remember that they may be reading your updates from a third-party RSS feed aggregator. That means they’ll only see the blog post, none of the stuff in the menu. Linking to the book right in the post lets them easily click to its excerpt or sales page.

Also, there are still scraper sites out there that will steal your content and post it as their own. These sites usually steal verbatim, links included. It’s unlikely they’re getting much traffic, but just in case someone stumbles across you that way, it’ll help to have a link back to your blog or to your book sales page in the content.

4. Increase traffic to your blog

This is the answer to a lot of questions, including, “Why aren’t I selling any books from my blog?” There are encyclopedias devoted to the subject, but the basics are:

  • Write content that’s useful for people (it should answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” for your visitor).
  • Work on getting more links to your site, via other blogs, social media sites, etc. The more links there are pointing to your site, the more weight Google will give it, and the more traffic you’ll receive from people’s searches. Of course, visitors can also surf in from the sites that are linking to you as well.

5. Make sure you’re writing for your target audience

Yea, yea, this blog is mostly about self-publishing instead of about fantasy or steampunk or the books my target audience reads, but I’ve found that there’s enough overlap (lots of writers are readers too) that I sell quite a few books via my blog. It also happens to be what I’m interested in (more so than reviewing new fantasy books or something of that ilk), so it’s working for me. That said, I also include excerpts from upcoming releases, do interviews with characters, and post snippets from cut scenes now and then. And it works for me.

My warning here is that you’re probably not going to get as many sales from writing about something unrelated to your books as you would if your books and your blog were closely linked.

What about personal blogs? Stories about the adventures of your kids and your dogs? Can they sell books? If you think you have a Dave Barry-like gift for making entertaining observations about the real world, these could certainly attract people and get them enthusiastic enough about your writing style to buy books. That said, you’ll probably find it easier to get links from other sites and increase traffic to your own by posting articles that are genuinely useful for people. In most cases when you see popular personal blogs by authors, they’re popular because the person had already become something of a celebrity from his/her books before jumping onto the blog bandwagon.

So, there you go, five ways to sell more books through your blog. Do you have any other suggestions for the authors in the house?

Do Book Blog Tours Work (and how do you set one up?)?

| Posted in Guest Posts |

39

This is my on-vacation week (where I’m supposedly not working on anything related to ebooks or writing — hah?), so I’m glad to have a guest post to share with you today. Middle grade and YA author, Michelle Isenhoff, is here to talk about book tours and how they help (or do they…?) with promotion and book sales. She’s fresh off a big tour and has learned a lot from the experience. So, without further introduction, I give you…

Michelle Isenhoff on Book Blog Tours

The End

Nope, that’s not a typo. Today is the end. The end of my first-ever blog tour.

Ahem, I see I better start at the beginning…

Let’s see, the beginning would actually be nine years ago, when I penned my first children’s novel. But that would make for a long story involving rejections, rewrites, vastly improved writing skills, four additional novels, and a Christmas present. So let’s just skip to the gift, shall we?

In 2010, my husband gave me a Kindle, which opened up for me an awareness of the whole digital world, including self-publishing. By then I had four novels sitting in a drawer, so I jumped in with both feet, quickly self-publishing all four books in the spring of last year. I may have jumped into the Pool of Publication, but my books slipped in with hardly a ripple. Such a beginning taught me a great deal about what not to do. So for the release of my newest middle grade novel, Beneath the Slashings, I decided to make all the waves I could. Part of that involved organizing a blog tour, which brings me back to “The End.” But instead of writing a how-to tutorial, I’ll just let you in on my experience.

Putting a Tour Together

A blog tour is simply a consecutive run of posts about a particular book on a variety of blogs with an aim to give your book as much exposure as possible. Since I write in the children’s genre, the first thing I did was compile a list of blogs that review middle grade fiction. They’re easy to find, especially when you find one with a long blog roll of similar sites, but I was a bit choosey. I wanted active blogs with a fair-sized audience to get the most publicity for my efforts. I also searched out a few blogs by kids.

It took much longer than I thought. Only about a third of my queries were accepted (or even answered). Also, many of the larger blogs do not review self-published work—but they often accept guest posts. So, in addition to soliciting reviews, I wrote a variety of articles, including character interviews, a post about lumberjack lingo, a few aimed at teachers, and this one, of course. (Thanks, Lindsay!) I even put together a handful of lumber camp recipes on a cooking blog. With a little creativity, you can find many “angles” to write about.

I do have to admit to some bribery. To provide incentive and thank those who participated, I promised a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift card at the end of the month. Any review left on Amazon during August qualified. I also priced my book at ninety-nine cents for the entire month of August so my review bloggers could offer their readers a special price. I avoided giveaways, as those have never worked out well for me.

As the tour progressed, I learned to never assume things will run as planned. Several bloggers backed out or forgot to post. Some didn’t include links. A few needed further explanations. A couple rescheduled. And two dropped off the face of the earth; I never got another response after their initial agreement. My advice is to stay organized and keep in touch with your bloggers as much as possible. Send out reminders, graciously untangle crossed wires, link to their posts, follow up with thank you comments, and roll with whatever happens.

My Conclusions

And now I’m really to “The End,” the part where I summarize results. Honestly, a blog tour is a lot of work. Was it worth it? Yeah, I think so. Here are some of the benefits I reaped:

•    feedback from many different reviewers
•    lots of eyes checking for those last slippery typos
•    new contacts
•    reviews posted on Amazon and Goodreads
•    thirty different blog audiences exposed to my work
•    interaction with my audience through blog comments
•    a spike in Newsletter sign-ups
•    a few more followers on Twitter and Facebook
•    fan input which resulted in a new and improved cover image

But what about sales and Amazon rankings? The increased sales of other books? That’s really what all the effort boils down to, isn’t it? Honestly, I was a bit disappointed. The children’s genre is a tough, tough market for a variety of reasons, and my monthly sales usually hover just under the three digit mark. I had hoped with the low price tag the new book might move a little better than it did. I must take into consideration, though, that it is the third in a trilogy, and even though they are each stand-alone novels, I’m sure that put some people off. I did, however, see an increase in the sale of my other books, particularly the first one in the trilogy, so I may yet reap further sales later (when the book will be priced at 2.99). Overall, my digital sales are on track to double this month, and I netted two bulk paperback orders, but I think the most significant benefits will be long-term rather than immediate.

Will I do a blog tour again? Yes, I will. I still think it’s an effective way for an indie to gain exposure. But I think I’ll top the next one off at two weeks rather than a full month. The prep work took a LOT of time, and though the tour was fresh for each new blog audience, it began to drag out for my regular readers. In the meantime, I’ll be putting into effect a new marketing campaign with the start of school: Teachers get them free (any digital edition anytime). It should be a lot less effort!

Michelle Isenhoff is an elementary teacher and the author of several middle grade and young adult novels. Her new release, Beneath the Slashings, takes place in a Michigan lumber camp and concludes a trilogy of Civil War historical fiction. You can find Michelle and her new free-for-teachers policy hanging out on her children’s literature blog.

7 Blogging Mistakes Authors Make

| Posted in Blogging |

21

Whether you’re traditionally published or self-published, if you’re an author, you’ve probably been told you need to blog. There’s a reason for that. A blog can be a great promotional tool if you know what you’re doing.

By tracking my sales via affiliate links, I know that an average of 3-4 ebook sales a day originate from my blog (I also make some extra change as an Amazon affiliate when I promote other people’s books). While that’s a small number compared to overall sales, I think it’s a nice reminder that blogging is worth it and can help an author increase the size of her audience.

When I talk about blogging, I try to keep the posts positive, but I know it can be useful to get a list of what-not-to-do suggestions as well. I’m offering up “7 Blogging Mistakes Authors Make” as a general guideline, coming from someone who blogged for a living for seven years before turning to writing stories full-time.

Common Blogging Mistakes Authors Make

1. The blog fails to offer something of value for the audience

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve checked out authors’ most recent blog posts via their Twitter links (often they’ve retweeted something of mine, and I want to return the favor), and I get to the post and think…hm, I can’t imagine many people finding this interesting or useful.

You can “make it” as a blogger by writing about any number of topics. The important thing is that you can answer the question, “What’s in it for visitors?” Every post should inform or entertain (maybe both).

If you’re a fiction scribe, it may make most sense to focus on your genre (you could do anything from reviews of movies, tv shows, and books in your field to interviews with popular authors to making up lists of books you love and that everyone should try), but there are lots of authors who have done well giving tips on writing, the publishing business, or how to get started with self-publishing. (If, as a fiction writer, you decide to blog about non-fiction, I recommend making it related to the biz — a cooking blog probably isn’t going to sell many copies of your space opera adventure for you.)

You may find that your blog evolves over time, and that’s fine. Just keep a pulse on who your readers are and what they want. I started out exclusively writing about self-publishing and what I was doing in terms of book promotion, but as I sold more books and more actual readers started visiting, I began mixing in news and teasers from my upcoming projects.

2. There’s no attempt to retain visitors or turn them into book buyers

Time to be honest. We authors are an arrogant bunch. We think that people will read one of our books and immediately put us into the stalk-this-person-relentlessly-so-I-can-buy-their-new-books-the-instant-they-come-out category. It’s wishful thinking. How many authors do you feel that way about? And, of those authors, how many only became die-hard favorites after you read five or ten books by them?

A blog is even less likely to make a lasting impression. Don’t assume people who surfed in from Twitter or another blog’s link will remember to come back of their own accord. Encourage people to sign up for your RSS feed, to “like” your Facebook page, to follow you on Twitter, and (perhaps most important) to sign up for your newsletter (you’ve read my Newsletters 101 post, right?). And, yes, I could do all of those things better myself!

3. There’s not enough author in the author blog

I’ve visited a lot of indie author blogs that are full of guest posts, interviews, and book promotion tidbits for other authors on book blog tours. There’s nothing wrong with networking with writing buddies and helping each other out, but those kinds of posts on your blog aren’t going to help you sell your book

I suggest keeping this type of content to a one-day-a-week (or less) type of thing and making sure most of the posts are filled with your voice and your words on a topic that matters to you. As I said, people want to be informed and/or entertained, but they also want to get to know you and come along on your journey. If they like your voice on your blog, they’re going to be more likely to try your books (I’ve had lots of nice folks tell me things along the lines of, “I don’t read fantasy, but I tried your books after reading your blog, and I ended up liking them.”

4. The blog posts are infrequent

For a blog to grow, you need to publish new content on a regular basis. You’ll get more traffic from the search engines that way, you’ll have more to plug on the social media networks, and you’ll get people coming back (most people will stop checking a blog that rarely has new content).

A lot of authors get frustrated, trying to find time to blog and engage in social media and work on the next book. You may need to choose one or the other. That’s okay. It’s probably better not to do a blog than to do a half-ass blog full of content from/about other people.

There are authors who sell extremely well and who don’t blog at all.

5. The author isn’t doing enough (effective) blog promotion

Only in baseball movies from the 80s, do the words, “If you build it, they will come” ring true. You have to build a quality blog and then let people know it’s there.

Guest posting is one way to do this. Being active on social media sites such as Twitter is another way. Applying some basic search engine optimization principles will set up your blog in a way that it’s more likely to rank for various terms on Google and the other search sites.

6. Blog comments are turned off

Comments are a little like book reviews in that most people who read your post won’t leave them, but those who are inclined to voice their opinions like a chance to do so. Often, those opinions can add useful information to the conversation. They can even help bring more traffic to your site (the more content on your site, the more likely one of your pages will show up for someone’s Google search).

Comments can be useful when it comes to social proof as well. If I visit someone’s blog, and they’re getting 50 comments per post, I might assume that the person knows what they’re talking about and that I should seriously check them out. If I see comments off, it’s akin to seeing zero comments. For all I know, no one is paying attention to the blog, and maybe I’d be better off doing the same.

Beyond those aspects, having comments off can be seen as kind of an F-you by some folks, since blogs have, from their earliest days, offered commenting as a built-in feature. People are accustomed to being able to leave a note with a link back to their site as part of the deal (if they leave a useful comment, maybe someone will like what they have to say, and follow the link back to their site). Remember the “what’s in it for me?” question that your blog post should answer? For some people, “a chance to leave a comment with a link attached” is part of it.

7. The blog has barriers to commenting

Things like CAPTCHA annoy the tar out of me, and I’ve heard complaints from many others as well. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve just backed out without leaving a comment because I couldn’t get something I could read. People’s time is valuable so it’s not a good idea to put obstacles in their path, especially when they’re doing you a favor by leaving a comment (even if they don’t say anything earth-shattering, the fact that they’re there makes your blog look more popular, eh?)

If you’re worried about spam, you probably shouldn’t be. I get more than 10,000 visitors a month to this blog, and spam isn’t a problem because Akismet (a built-in plug-in you get when you install WordPress on your own hosting account) catches it. Spam is about as subtle as a sledgehammer, so it’s not hard for a program like that to detect. Questionable comments (those with links, typically) get held for manual approval, but that doesn’t take me more than a few seconds each week. If you find that spam is a problem when you remove CAPTCHA, then it’s probably time to invest in your own hosting account ($5 a month at the most) and a (free) WordPress blog that lives on your own server.

It’s good to remember that people are doing you a favor by taking time out of their days to read and comment on your blog, so it’s worth making things as easy as possible for them. Then they’ll be more likely to come back!

Okay, those are seven big blogging mistakes I see a lot of authors making. If you’d like to add to this list, feel free to do so below. If you’re looking for more blogging advice, please see my posts on How to Use Your Blog to Sell More Books and 5 Tips for Bringing More Readers to Your Blog.