Let’s face it: Unless you are a celebrity, traveling the country and hitting up bookstore after bookstore for signings is probably not going to sell many books. You’ll more than likely spend way more for travel than you’ll make in book sales. Enter the virtual age. From the comfort of your own home or office, you can set up a virtual author book tour and reap real rewards from this effective—and inexpensive!—marketing tool.
So what is a virtual author book tour? Basically it involves visiting—virtually, of course—a group of websites for a period of time. The visits can take several different forms: interviews, guest posts, book reviews, book excerpts, and so on. (You can read more here in an interview I did with Penny Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., and author of Red Hot Internet Publicity.) The sites usually range from blogs, websites, online radio stations, and social networking sites. The purpose is to increase an author’s online exposure, drive additional traffic to his or her website, increase search engine rankings, and hopefully sell more books.
It’s not difficult to set up a virtual tour, but it will take some research, planning, and followup. You can do it yourself–or you can hire a company to do it for you. We’ve been setting up tours for authors for the past year or so, and we’ve learned a lot as far as what is needed to make a book tour successful.
I consider the first two items on the list to be essential; we have found it is much more difficult to set up a successful tour with authors who are not active online and who do not wish to blog regularly. I believe it is far less beneficial to the hosts as well, to host these types of authors, and they are less apt to agree to an appearance. And frankly, I don’t blame them!)
- Be an active blogger who not only blogs regularly but who comments on others’ blogs. Make yourself known in the “blogosphere.”
- Be active in social media sites (we recommend Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter). You don’t necessarily have to have 10,000 Twitter followers, but you should be networking on these sites, providing valuable content where appropriate, and building your following.
- Have a capture system on your website (and I’m assuming you have one that highlights your book or that has a page about your book) so you can collect email addresses and build your list. Provide those who sign up with something of value—such as a free report or subscription to your newsletter.
- Have a call to action on your website instructing visitors to purchase your book, such as “Buy your copy today!”
- Develop a list of potential hosts based on sites your target market hangs out on. If you’re an active blogger in your genre already, chances are you’ve got a list of sites you check regularly. Find others. Concentrate on those who get a fair amount of traffic.
- Be familiar with the sites you plan to approach so you can avoid those that would not be appropriate. Send a personal inquiry, letting them know you’ve been following their site and emphasizing why your appearance there would benefit their readers/listeners. Include a link to your website where they can read more details about your book, your author bio, and other pertinent links. Indicate the date ranges of your tour; plan ahead as some sites are booked well in advance. You probably won’t want to book more than one or two appearances per day.
- Respond immediately to replies, sending a review copy of the book promptly when it is requested. Confirm the details—date, type of appearance, and topic desired.
- Keep track of where you will be appearing and when. (We use an Excel spreadsheet.) Follow up with your host a couple weeks before your appearance. Make sure they have everything they need from you, including a photo of you and your book as well as your bio.
- Let everyone know. Once you start getting appearances scheduled for your virtual tour, start letting your friends and fans on Twitter and Facebook know about it. Be sure to include details—including links—on your website, blog, and newsletter.
- Visit frequently.The day of your appearance, make sure to visit the website or blog regularly, answering questions and responding to comments. If your appearance involves a live podcast, be ready for questions.
- Follow up with all your hosts afterward and be sure to thank them.
We love virtual author book tours. It’s a great way for authors to increase exposure, gain new fans, and sell more books. Hosts too benefit by gathering additional visitors to their sites. And there is no chance for jetlag!
Guest Post by Sue Collier from her blog at Self Publishing Resources
As a writing coach and publishing consultant, Sue has worked with hundreds of authors, helping them write, edit, and publish hundreds of books. My book The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing is slated for publication by Writer’s Digest in March 2010. I currently own Self-Publishing Resources; we provide book writing, book packaging, and book marketing services for self-publishers and small presses.