A blog tour is where your book features on a different book blog every day for a week or two. Content will range from a review of your book, to a guest post from you, the author. This content will then be shared on social media.
Some publishers will run a blog tour for you, usually in the lead up to publication day. They will liaise with bloggers, get dates sorted, let you know any content you need to write, send out your book (physically or digitally) and chase bloggers.
Often your publisher's publicity team will sort this. Sometimes, they will pay a blog tour organiser to arrange it all.
If a publisher isn't doing this, authors can choose to pay a blog tour organiser to run one themselves. The cost is usually a one-off fee of under £100. You could just run one yourself but this can be a challenge without the contacts and experience.
(A note: this isn't to be confused with people who charge to do reviews of your book, something that is frowned upon and red flagged by the likes of Amazon.)
The question is, are blog tours worth it for authors? I don't just mean if you pay to have one organised, but also in terms of the time spent writing guest posts and sharing content on social media.
My answer: in terms of actual sales, probably not. In terms of brand development, yes.
Let's delve a little deeper by looking at book bloggers. I think they're great! Their enthusiasm, support, professionalism and dedication for authors is amazing. They can actually be a lifeline for authors. A community to hold onto when an author feels unloved, devalued, alone.
And damn, they work hard! Many bloggers spend a huge amount of time drafting posts, scheduling blog tours, liaising with publishers and authors, and publicising their posts. Most do this in their spare time, while holding down a job. And all for the 'payment' of a free book. Hours of work for less than a tenner, basically.
Thanks to bloggers' enthusiasm and hard work, if a blog tour is done well, it can result in a lovely buzz around your book. But even with all that online excitement, can you guarantee all those blog posts will reach beyond the publishing world bubble?
My first experience of a blog tour was when my debut novel, The Atlas of Us, was published back in 2014. It was organised by my publisher at the time and played a big part in their marketing strategy. I spent hours writing content for book blogs, doing interviews, organising a virtual book launch and more. The resulting 'buzz' on social media was amazing. Such an ego boost. Plus I got to 'e-meet' some amazing book bloggers. It made my debut experience extra special.
I was so pleasantly overwhelmed with the response, I began to dream it might be reflected in lots and lots of sales. So I was confused when it didn't go straight into, say, the Kindle top 100.
But looking back, the people who shared any blog tour content online were doing so to a follower base mainly made up of other book bloggers, publishing staff and authors… not necessarily the people who would actually end up buying my book.
Before I became a full-time author, I worked in PR and social media for many years. I learnt one of the biggest challenges publicists face is getting messages ‘outside the bubble’.
So a social media campaign can appear to be hugely successful because it gets lots of engagement and shares on, say, Twitter. Mentions of your book bounce back and forth between people, generating an exciting cycle of retweets and likes, creating a real ‘buzz’ in the air.
But the truth is, that message might never quite penetrate the walls of the echo chamber to reach the people that count… the ones who might actually buy the product you’re trying to promote.
The book world is a great example of an echo chamber. This is for the loveliest of reasons: the community is truly one of the most supportive I know on social media. But the evidence the buzz created from a blog tour converts into actual sales isn't easy to come by.
This can be because it's hard to drill down into the specifics when looking at web stats. Authors can ask bloggers to use trackable links, like bit.ly or Amazon affiliate links, to see how many people have actually visited their book product page from a blog page. Affiliate links will even show you if that visit converted into a sale. You can keep an eye on Amazon rankings and see if there's an obvious jump after a blog post is publicised. You can check your own website stats to see how many unique users were referred to you by a blog post.
Simply asking readers can be useful too. I did a poll in The Reading Snug group I run on Facebook to find out. A tiny proportion said they read book blogs but that might be because I don't engage with book blogs as much as I used to. But the authors I run the group with do so who knows?
Of course, it can depend on genre too. I think if I wrote, say, fantasy, book blog tours would be more likely to feature.
What's telling is that authors and publishers are running less blog tours. Bloggers simply don't have the time any more. Publishers aren't always seeing the sale benefits. If a publisher does run them, it's usually more an author relationship exercise to show they’re fulfilling the publicity side of the deal.
So while blog tours aren't always the best sales generating tool, book blogs themselves can be excellent for building content and connections in the community which in turn can help build brand recognition.
Remember I mentioned word of mouth as one of the main ways of drawing attention to your book? Book bloggers can play a big role on this. If a blogger loves your book, they can be your best advocate, talking about your book at reader events and to any influencers they meet. I know one author who got a film deal after a book blogger gushed about her book to a film producer she met.
Blogger reviews are a great source for blurbs too, those lovely sentences of praise that appear on your book’s product description and inside the front cover. Not to mention the fact the professional bloggers will make sure they add their reviews to platforms like Amazon and Goodreads.
Then there's that buzz of reading a great review of your book and seeing it mentioned on social media. It’s a fab ego boost!
Finally, you should never underestimate the value of content. It can be used as an asset on social media for years to come (if it’s not too dated) and the more content you as an author have online, the more likely you are to appear in searches.
They key is to weigh up the benefits against the time or money spent. I'm aware of several authors who have spent a considerable amount of time writing content for a blog tour to then feel disappointed when they don't see a notable uptick in sales as a result. If you're busy or you just don't enjoy writing anything other than novels, it's important to know you shouldn't feel you have to take part in a blog tour. There are many ways to connect with book bloggers, whether that be through offering your book for review or simply connecting on social media, ways which take up less of your writing time but still mean you can support the community and they in turn can support you.
It's all about weighing things up, asking the right questions and not saying yes to everything.
Next time, I’ll be discussing whether sending out hundreds of free books via platforms like Netgalley is worth the effort...