This was not my planned post for today but last night an article came to my attention from Huffington Post that really made me think. If you were on twitter last night you probably saw my mini-rant. I thought sleeping on it would make me just forget it BUT alas that just didn’t work.
In the art of fairness, I will admit that haven’t done many blog tours this year. However the last two years, my blog was full of them! Some of them were good, others were painful, some were super-successful, and others were just complete bombs. Through all of that I learned that blog tours do work but they are not miracle workers!
Why Blog Tours are fantastic tools for authors, bloggers, and readers!
- For Readers: It gives us a chance to discover new authors that we might not have previously had on our radars. I have found several “new to me” authors through book tours. I have also found several books that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. This has usually been because of the bloggers review of the book. They took a chance and liked it. That made me more willing to take a chance. Book Tours have also given me a chance to learn more about the author, their characters, and how they approach their craft. Sometimes the author sells the book to me during the book tours by being the kind of person I want to support. As a reader, I find virtual book tours a wonderful tool for guiding my buys!
- For Bloggers: If the tour is done right it can bring more people to our site. Tours can encourage interaction and connect us with readers that might not have found our sites otherwise. For those blogs that run ads (I don’t but I know plenty that do) it can give the ads a boost and in turn make that space a valuable commodity in the future. It can bring us closer to other bloggers that we might not have previously known. Building our community and making it stronger through connections. Also, it is a great way to bond over books/authors/characters that we love. As a blogger, I have been very lucky to have been part of many successful blog tours and wouldn’t trade those experiences for the world.
- For Authors: If the tour is done right it can bring more people to your books. It can bring your work and characters to people who otherwise might have never seen your books to begin with. Each review, guest post, giveaway is a chance to connect with a reader that might become your biggest fan. If the author puts in the work this also can be another way to connect with their readership in a more meaningful way. By answering comments and following up with winners (for giveaways), the author has an opportunity to form bonds that will carry over to future releases of their books or even their backlist. For authors, despite the work, if you work a blog tour right then you can gain fans for life.
Here is the line from the Lev Raphael: Planning a Blog Tour? Think Twice article that really got me thinking about expectations from blog tours:
“Worst of all, I saw no bump in sales over the previous month whatsoever.”
Here is why blog tours aren’t miracle workers: We can’t sell your books if your package is not enticing! Everything counts! This is more true for independently published books that don’t have marketing teams behind them. However, I would argue that this holds true for traditionally published authors as well!
What do readers consider the packaging for a book (in the digital age this is far more wide-ranging than just what your book looks like on a shelf):
- Price Points: If you are an unknown or relatively unknown author then most readers are not going to be willing to spend $5.99, $6.99, or up on your eBook (they might on a paperback but that will depend on some of the points I list below). It is hard enough to get people to spend that much when they know and LOVE the author. For authors that don’t have many ratings or reviews usually the biggest price I am willing to pay is $2.99. However, I am willing to pay that because I know that is the point the authors start earning their full commission (if self published) but if I didn’t know that (which most readers don’t) then $1.99 would be my limit on “new to me” or “new to my friends” authors. Even for authors that we (most readers that I talk too) know and love, price point is a huge deal. Everyone has limits on what they will spend on eBooks and $4.99 to $5.99 seem to be a pretty sweet spot. Of course, some will pay more but this is a big part of your e-packaging and something that can stop sales cold! Paper Books (paperbacks, trade, and hardcovers) are a little more “flexible” in the pricing structure and what people are willing to pay BUT I would argue that it is still a selling point that can work for or against the author.
- Cover Art: A great cover can sell a bad book. A bad cover could make a “classic in the making” go unread. In this day and age of visual stimulation, covers are becoming more and more a huge part of the packaging. This is going to seem counter-intuitive but this is especially true in the digital world (I am talking the internet not just eBooks). You need something that makes people stop, take a look, and want to read more. People do image searches (which means you should be leveraging SEO on your images too but this isn’t an SEO class), if they are searching for Vampires and a cool cover comes up then you just got a pair of eyes on your book that might not have been looking for books at all. A great cover can do wonders! However, a bad cover will probably get you skipped over even if your book is free.
- Attitude: Just going to put this out there, once you have submitted something into the virtual world it is there for life. So those rants you want to do against those readers that didn’t like your book or those “woe is me, nobody understand my pain” confessionals that you blogged about are there for your readers (or future readers) to see. You may not think it at the time but who you are can help sale or hinder the sale of your books. Just think twice before doing something that might alienate your readership. I am not saying to keep your mouth shut (that is your decision) but be prepared that there are consequences to all your actions.
- Blurb: This is very important to people who are on the fence about a book. I have no idea how to tell you to write a good blurb BUT I do know that you should make it a priority in your packaging.
- Online Content: From author websites to Social Media presence in the digital age this is part of your packaging. Your website should be up to date with your latest information. If people are googling to find your books they should not have to “work” for this information. It should be on your page even if it is only a basic book list. I would also say that GoodReads, Library Thing, and any other social book site should be a priority. Make sure your books are listed so that people can add it to their shelves. Social Media can be your friend but also can be your enemy. Take time to look up social media do’s and dont’s! You need to educate yourself on the best ways to reach your readers and interact with them in the digital world.
A good blog tour combined with good packaging can be a win/win for all parties involved. Do bad blog tours happen? Absolutely. On a whole are they great tools? YES! Does the work have to be on all three sides (Coordinator, Author, and Blogger) for it to work to the fullest extent? YES! Overall Blog Tours are a great tool but the end result will depend on the work of everyone involved.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I was not part of the Lev Raphael blog tour so I can’t really say from the blogging side what went wrong. I can tell you as a reader that I looked up his books on Goodreads and Amazon. He has a high price point with limited reviews/ratings. Just with Goodreads/Amazon there was not enough information to “sell” his books to me at the price point he had listed. There were 54 ratings (his most rated) for one book on Goodreads but only 8 reviews. His average rating is 3.5 and that isn’t bad but with limited people rating combined with his price point that would not be enough to sale me on his book. On Amazon the number was smaller but the results were similar. So while there may have been some bad blog tour experiences for him, I am not sure that the blog tour is the whole reason for his problem. This is important to note because I think it plays into the whole experience. I am not saying there is anything wrong with him choosing to price a book a certain way or package it the way he did. I am saying that a blog tour can only bring people to your books, it can’t make them buy it if the rest of the packaging is unappealing.