Guest Post by Tristi Pinkston
Of all the questions I’m asked about marketing, foremost is this: “How do I set up a virtual book tour?” (Okay, the very first question is, “What the heck is a virtual book tour?”) It’s something you definitely need to know—and here are your answers.
When you go on a virtual book tour (VBT), you essentially arrange for several different blogs, websites, and other social platforms to feature you in some way. They might do a book review, they might interview you, they might just talk about you—and it all helps promote you and your book. It’s like going on a book tour from the privacy of your own home—hence the name virtual book tour.
Virtual books tours will probably always be a thing in one format or another. Blog tours were all the rage at one point. Instagram tours another. #BookTok is big in 2022. When you read this article, it might be something else. But no matter the platform, the goal of a virtual book tour is to promote your book!
So, how can VBTs help you with that?
- They introduce you to the hosts of the sites and platforms you visit.
- They promote your name to the buying public.
- They garner reviews on your book that otherwise might be difficult to get.
- They make you look special, because the more times your name appears on the internet, the more special you look. And special = sales.
- They drive traffic to your social platforms, blog, and website, helping readers learn more about you. And increased traffic to your sites also = sales.
So, how do you set up a VBT?
Let me start with a quick note: If you’re self-publishing, you can do all of the things below without a publisher, using e-books or hard copies (depending on what the book reviewers prefer).
- Find out how many review copies of your book your publisher is willing to send out. Some publishers give you a stack of books to mail out yourself; some publishers mail the books for you; and some publishers give you a discount so you can buy books and mail them out. Sadly, some publishers won’t do any of those things—but we won’t focus on that. Talk to your publisher and find out what you can expect.
- Now that you know how many books you can send out, find the right reviewers for you. Go to Google and type in book reviewers and your genre (romance, fantasy, young adult, etc.). You can customize your search however you like. Make a list of the top hits on your search. Go to each reviewer’s platform and check out their content to determine if they are the best fit for you. Then, go to each platform and see how big a following they have, keeping in mind that a reviewer with a smaller follower base focused on your topic is more effective than a reviewer with a huge follower base who doesn’t have the right audience for your book.
- Now, you need to connect with the reviewer. Start by leaving a comment on a post to establish a good relationship. Then look for a contact link or the profile link, which will lead you contact information. Politely ask if the reviewer would be interested in hosting your tour, offer the reviewer a free book, and thank the reviewer for their time. You do not have to pay the reviewer for the review; the free copy of your book is your thank-you gift.
- When the reviewer replies, establish the date when the review will appear. You want the reviews of your book spread out so that the fervor you create will be sustainable. If you schedule all the reviews for the same day, you’ll make a big splash but it will peter out quickly. (However, this could be a good minimal strategy if you have limited time or money and if you can’t get dozens and dozens over a month or so—it’s sometimes called a book blitz). You should schedule your tour far enough into the future that your publisher has time to mail out the books and the reviewer has time to read it. If your book will be in the warehouse on April 1, schedule your tour for the middle of May.
- Five days before a review is set to appear, email to politely remind the blogger of the commitment for the upcoming review, and then send a brief note the night before. When the review appears, copy the link, post it on your social platforms and website, and invite all your followers to go take a look at it. You can then send your publisher a list of links so the publisher can link from its website to the review.
These are the basics but there are many other ways to do your “tour” if you want to mix it up, and you can make your online appearances/interviews as simple or as complicated as you like. For example, the tours run through Eschler Editing include a mixture of dedicated blogger book reviews, book excerpts, guest posts by the author, top-ten lists, interviews, and playlists. And/or you can do a themed tour. Talk to the bloggers you involve and see what they’d like or be willing to do. I suggest that your tour proceed at the rate of one stop a day over an extended period of time.
Your tour can include both already-released novels and upcoming releases, and what you do is up to you. Just remember that increasing numbers of people are now shopping and connecting online, so if you take the time to learn how to use the Internet for marketing and to really help readers connect with you and your work, you’ll be riding the wave of the future.
Do This Now
- Determine what your tour will include—will you be featuring your upcoming release, or are you going to pump new life into an already-released novel?
- Figure out how many books you have to play with on your VBT. If you’ve got a publisher, see what’s available within your budget. If you’re self-publishing and need to send out hard copies, determine what you can manage.
- Do a web search and identify which bloggers would be most appropriate for your book. Remember: focus more on the type of audience than the size of audience.
- Before you actually contact any bloggers, get creative! Identify three different elements you’d like to include in your tour—reviews, interviews, guest posts … you decide what would be most fun for you.
- Start making your contacts!
Have you ever arranged for a blogger to review one of your books—or have you read a review on a blogger’s site that made you check out the author? Let us know about your experience!
Tristi is the author of over twenty books, ranging from historical fiction to cozy mystery to a reference series to help new authors. She works as a freelance editor and is a popular presenter at writers conferences up and down the Wasatch Front. You can learn more about her here.