Okay, so when I first heard the phrase “virtual book tour”, I kind of rolled my eyes at the cheesiness of the entire concept. I figured it was yet another ploy to make people pay for a ridiculous service that was pumped up to sound valuable and in reality was just a waste of money.
I found websites for several companies offering to plan virtual book tours for authors and they charged a good amount to do so.
Along with book trailer services, which oftentimes set authors back several thousand dollars for a thirty second promo video, I figured virtual book tours were kind of a gimmick and dismissed the whole idea.
While it made sense for established authors who already had a following, I didn’t think it made as much sense for self-published authors who were less known.
MY VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR EXPERIENCE
That was until I realized that I had already done a virtual book tour myself, back in 2010 after publishing my memoir Sex, Drugs & Being an Escort.
Of course, I didn’t hire a company to do this for me. I didn’t have the budget for that kind of shit, so I did it all myself. And yeah, it wasn’t THAT easy and it DID take a good chunk of time.
However, the results I was able to pull off made it worth the effort and the hours I had to put into land all the interviews, reviews and appearances across the web. Because of that, it turns out, is exactly what it means to go on a virtual book tour, my friends. I just didn’t know that at the time, so I didn’t think of it as one.
But as I came to learn, it definitely was. The only real difference was that I didn’t pick out set dates for my tour, it was more of an ongoing tour that lasted for several months and I didn’t secure all of the online appearances beforehand. Instead, I sought out the opportunities and managed to book dates on a case-by-case basis.
You can do this too, and I am going to help you out by telling you exactly what I did.
SEARCH FOR VENUES
The first step to planning a virtual book tour is scouting out the different online “venues,” you are going to pitch your book to, so to speak. The best way to start this process is by heading over to Google and punching in your genre + book reviews.
Here are a few more search queries to try:
- genre + book blogs
- self-published book reviews
- get your book reviewed
- book review blogs
That should be enough to get you started. As you find blogs, be sure to bookmark them because you’ll be coming back to this list in the next step.
READ REVIEW POLICIES
Once you’ve put together a list of at least 20 book review blogs, revisit each one and read the review policy. There are really only three questions you need to find answers to by reading their review policy.
- The first is whether or not they accept submissions from self-published authors.
- The second is whether or not they are accepting submissions at all (many of them are swamped with requests and have to close submissions for a while to catch up).
- The third question to answer is whether or not they review books in your genre.
Get an idea of what type of books they prefer to read by checking out a few of the other reviews posted on their blog before you contact them.
REACH OUT TO BLOGGERS
Now that you’ve read the policies on all the blogs in your list, cross off any of them that are not a good fit based on this new information. Once you’ve narrowed your list down to the most appropriate blogs for your book, the next step is to start sending emails.
In my opinion, your best bet is to always personalize each email you send to a blogger about your book. Keep in mind that these people get tons of emails on a daily basis, all from new authors just like you who are probably desperate to get their book in front of someone in exchange for some exposure in the form of a review.
Basically, this means you need to stand out, for good reasons. Mention them by name, be friendly and make it obvious that you not only read their review policy but also have spent some time on their blog by reading other reviews and do your best to build some rapport immediately. Your response rate will be much better if you do.
Offer to send them a review copy of your book if they are willing to post an honest review. Make your story sound intriguing and build interest if you want them to consider reading it.
TRACK YOUR RESPONSES
As you begin to contact bloggers, you need to start a new spreadsheet to track your responses. You’ll be using this spreadsheet not only for reviewers but also for hosts of online radio shows, producers, journalists and anyone else who you correspond with regarding your virtual book tour.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, I have included a template at the bottom of this post which is based on the exact one I used myself when I was promoting my book.
Essentially, you need to have the following:
- Person’s name
- Email address
- Date you first emailed them
- What type of contact they are (reviewer, etc)
- Address of their website/blog
- A column with a Yes/No option to indicate whether you receive a response
The very last column is for results from those who do respond to your email. For example, a blogger writes you back and agrees to review your book. They may or may not give you an approximate date, so that would go in the results column obviously. Feel free to edit the template to best suit your own needs.
BEYOND BOOK BLOGGERS
If you thought your work was done, think again. Each blog will be different and some will expect some sort of guest post or may even offer to run a giveaway for your book, so be aware of this and try to accommodate the blogger’s wishes.
Remember that they are doing you a favor by choosing your book over the thousands of other stories pitched at them for your specific dates.
Basically, give their readers something valuable or entertaining for free and subtly promote your book at the same time.
But don’t limit yourself to book review blogs. You can also find tons of publicity opportunities by pitching your book to other media outlets, such as press release distribution and online radio shows or podcasts that need guests.
For press release distribution, I highly recommend PRWeb.com. Go with the standard package and optimize your press release for SEO first, of course.
The best part about this is that it will have the media coming to you and requesting an interview, rather than you having to go out and ask. However, these people are bombarded by pitches all the time too, which means your press release really needs to shine brightly to get their attention.
For radio shows and podcasts, I recommend using RadioGuestList.com to find shows that want author guests and experts in different fields. Subscribe to their RSS feed and check it daily.
When you see a show that catches your eye and seems like a good fit, send them a personalized email pitch that makes it obvious you are just the person they are looking for to be a guest on their show.
THAT’S ALL THERE IS TO IT
Use Google Calendar to add your tour dates as you book them. Setup email and text message reminders for several hours in advance, just to be sure nothing slips your mind.
Be professional and have a quiet space for phone interviews, to avoid background noise. Call in on time, be polite and all that common sense stuff that is expected in such a setting.
This stuff is all really easy to do, folks. There really isn’t much more to it.
The only real value that a virtual book tour service has to offer is saving you the time you would spend on booking your own tour and they may have a slight advantage in some cases due to their media connections. Of course, this becomes truer when you just go out and hire a devoted publicist or publicity firm to handle your promotion.
But this is for authors who don’t have the budget for that kind of stuff… at least not yet, that is.
Guest blogger Ashly Lorenzana is the author of Speed Needles, and can be found on Facebook and Twitter @ashlorenzana.