Alex Hughes is the author of the Mindspace Investigations Series–Clean, Sharp and Payoff, all set in a dystopian Atlanta–as well as a number of short stories. Alex has written since early childhood, and loves great stories in any form including science fiction, fantasy, and mystery. Over the years, Alex has lived in many neighborhoods of the sprawling metro Atlanta area. Decatur, the neighborhood on which Clean is centered, was Alex’s college home.
On any given week you can find Alex in the kitchen cooking gourmet Italian food, watching hours of police procedural dramas, and typing madly.
Alex is a graduate of the 2011 Odyssey Writing Workshop. You can learn more about Alex at www.ahugheswriter.com.
One of the best ways to publicize a book these days is to do what’s called a book blog tour online. More and more readers are finding their next books via book bloggers–people who read and review books on their own private websites. So reaching out to these folks may really help you reach your readers better.
Here’s what I’ve done the last few years. While I’m coming from a traditionally published perspective, this process should apply equally as well to the independently published professional, provided you have a great product with a great cover and a good selling “blurb.”
1. Determine your book’s release date.
In the case of a traditional publisher, they will generally tell you when the book will release. (Although, be aware–some books’ release dates are pushed back occasionally.) In the case of a self-published book, choose a date a few months out from today. You’ll need the time, trust me!
2. Set aside time-—a lot of time. Or, hire an assistant.
A properly done blog tour will take upwards of sixty hours to produce the first time. This is a big investment of time, but costs very little and yields many, many readers for your series. I promise you the payoff is worth the investment if you can do it. On the other hand, if you have money but not time, go find yourself an author assistant. I’ve done both, and both methods can work. The important thing is to realize this is a very large undertaking, and should not be done sloppily. If you don’t have the time to do it well, limit your involvement. A bad impression is worse than no impression at all.
I’ll mention here that there’s a thriving trade out there for “publicists” who set up blog tours for a hefty chunk of change. Always ask about what you’re getting for the money and ask to speak to previous clients. I’ve found that, if you have a good idea of what you want, an intelligent, experienced assistant is both cheaper and more useful than a publicist. But I haven’t hired a publicist personally, so do your research and make your own decision. Either way, you’re doing the majority of the writing work. (Keep that in mind.)
3. Assemble a list of blogs that might be interested in your book.
Conduct Internet research for “book blogs” and your genre. Find an author similar to you and figure out where he or she guest blogged in the last year (often this information will be on the author’s website). Make author friends and reader friends and ask what blogs they follow and/or guest at. Sometimes people will share their lists with you-—and if they do, be very thankful and offer chocolate. You’ve saved yourself a few hours. As you’re researching, though, keep in mind that the Grand Poobah Rule of the Internet is that the more niche you go, the bigger fish you’ll be. If you write High Fantasy with Elves, for example, look for book blogs specializing in high fantasy, elvish high fantasy, and Terry Brooks fans who also review other books. You’re more likely to get more reviews this way, and create more “True Fans.”
On the other end, also think creatively. My book lives in a funny space between urban fantasy, science fiction, paranormal and mystery. I’ve successfully pitched the book to everything on the list except mainstream mystery blogs, and I’m working on that. One of my writer friends was a romance writer with fantasy elements in her work, so I’ve pitched to and successfully gotten spots on some romance-themed blogs who like fantasy elements.
Think outside the box, and keep researching until you have a spreadsheet with at least 100 book blogs (ideally 200 or more) with email addresses and contact names. Make sure each of the people (as you’re researching) is currently accepting submissions. Also, if you’re independent, make sure the blogs you’re researching aren’t actively turning away independents. You can talk a “maybe” into a “yes,” but an outright “no” is probably a waste of time.
Building a good list is probably the most time-consuming step of the process. If you do it well the first time, however, you can re-use your list for subsequent books in the series and tweak for other books. A good list is gold!
4. Decide where to draw the line.
There are many, many book and media blogs on the Internet, some of whom have many followers and some of whom have almost none. Decide for yourself how many followers your target blogs need to have, and how you’ll determine that. If they don’t have numbers posted, see how many Twitter or Facebook fans their pages have. I drew my personal line at about 1000 followers. I made exceptions for people I knew personally and for blogs that were particularly good fits for my book.
5. Buy books and/or sweet talk your publisher.
One way or another, get yourself a case of your book–at least 50 copies. You’ll likely need 100 or more if you’re doing giveaways. If you’re independent and you have the option to do this part electronically, do. You’ll save yourself a lot of money. Still, bloggers sometimes prefer hard copies, so you’ll need a few anyway. I find it’s best to have these lined up before you start.
6. Polish your pitch.
Now, here comes the hard part. Hopefully, you’ve already got great cover art and a great back cover blurb for the book. That’s awesome. You’ll need them. But first, you’ll need an amazing elevator pitch to use in your emails to bloggers. You need to say in 25 words or less what the book is about (and therefore why they should “buy” it). Polish this. Practice. Get help. Practice the pitch on total strangers in the elevator. Repeat until you’re comfortable and the total strangers get interested and/or ask for a book card. (Don’t have book cards or bookmarks with your cover on it and info on how to buy? Do that now. It’s cheap online and well worth it.)