This week we continue with Part 2 of our August post, written for us by Odyssey Writing Workshop graduate Alex Hughes, author of the Mindspace Investigations Series. Clean, Sharp and Payoff are all set in a future dystopian Atlanta and feature a down-on-his-luck telepath. Alex has also written 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 attended Odyssey in 2011. You can learn more at www.ahugheswriter.com.
Reach your readers where they are through a book blog tour.
In Part One of this series, we discussed how to get set up. Check out the post, get your ducks in a row, and then follow us here as we finish out the tour.
We begin with Step Seven.
7. Write your pitch email for the bloggers.
This should be in the general format of:
“Dear [NAME OF BLOGGER], I’m writing to ask if you’d like to review my novel BEST TITLE EVER. [Your elevator pitch sentence here. Add a positive quote or two if you have them. I used my pitch sentence and then, “James Knapp called my book a ‘fun blend of Chinatown and Blade Runner.” Include genre if it fits.] The book will be released by PUBLISHER in September 2012. [Leave out publisher information if you’re an independent, but make very sure to have a great quote or two.]
Would you be interested in a review copy of the book? If so, would you prefer an electronic or paper copy?
Also, would you be interested in being part of my blog tour in [MONTH OF RELEASE DATE]? If so, when would you prefer, and what topic would best suit your audience?
[Something personal about blog if possible, i.e., loved your review of Such and Such, loved your design, etc.]
Thank you so much.
Contact info, including Twitter and website.
8. Keep good records.
Back when I worked in marketing, a very good response to a mass email was about a 5% open rate. For this kind of project, if you can get 10 to 20% of the bloggers to respond to you, that’s a huge accomplishment.
Now comes the time for records. Either on your existing spreadsheet or on another, keep track of who gets back to you. Keep very careful records as to who would like review copies and in what format, and then check off the person’s name somehow when you’ve sent the copy.
Also, figure out in advance how many “blog tour” stops you’ll do – I’d recommend no more than 30 and as few as 10 – and schedule people over the entirety of the month you’re touring. Try to get them to give you a topic, as this will make your life easier. Make sure you know when they want the piece, how long it should be, and then mark your calendar for three days before their deadline. That’s your target.
9. Mail (or email) your review copies.
I’d recommend sending out your review copies in batches of about ten. You want to strike a balance between getting out the copies as early in the process as possible and not going to the post office every day. Wait until you have a decent-sized batch of mail and/or email to send, and then send out the batch. Make sure you mark whom you sent to and when! Trust me, you’ll forget if you don’t keep careful records.
A note to the traditionally published folks out there: the Grand Rule of Publishing is that publishing is slow. Contact your publicist at the publisher early, figure out what format they’d like review copy addresses in, and follow this to the letter. Then, get on to contacting folks immediately—even before you get marching orders from the publicist, if necessary. Your publisher may be willing to bear some of the cost of sending review copies (which, trust me, is awesome) but they’re likely to take three to four weeks or more to send out the electronic copies, so you’ll want to make sure you have time for this in the schedule. (Also, if it takes that long, prepare yourself for questions from the bloggers. Be super nice about these – they’re doing you a favor by reviewing, after all.)
A general rule of thumb is to send out all review copies about 2 months before the release date. By using the rules I’m sharing and being very nice, I’ve contacted people as little as 6 weeks out, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Your book will get more timely reviews if you work with the bloggers’ schedules, and more people are likely to review you. Reviews sell books, so working with the usual schedule if you can is very worth doing.
10. Assemble your to-do list for the blog stops.
As noted above, I’d recommend accepting no more than 30 stops on your blog tour for the simple reason that you’ll have to write each one from scratch. Yes, if you get pressed for time you can use an exclusive excerpt or a short opinion piece, even a character sketch, but these are last minute stopgaps which you will need for that purpose. As a general rule, each blog post should be between 300 and 1000 words, and each should be original and unique. *Do not* recycle blog posts. You will anger the bloggers you’re trying to get on your side! And yes, they will find out.
You’ll notice that my example email has a request for a topic included. This is for a reason—it’s really difficult to come up with 30 new topics for your book, especially if you’ve been working on it for years. Coming up with a new topic can take a lot of time by itself, time you probably don’t have. Plus, the bloggers will know what their audiences like far better than you do. On my own I’ve written about imaginary pets, profiled characters, answered interview questions galore, and gone into various aspects of world-building. But far and away the best posts I’ve written have been on odd topics the bloggers have suggested. If you can get a topic from them after asking once or twice, do. It’s well worth the time.
Then, make yourself a list of blogs you have to write, in order of date with the first stop first. Include topics right there on the list with the due date and email address of the person to send them to. You’ll thank yourself later.
11. Write the blogs and send them out.
So let’s take a moment to think about the task. Thirty posts at, say, 600 words apiece. They generally take me no less than 45 minutes to do, and often longer. That’s maybe 25 hours in just writing time, on the low end. I run much higher, because I respond to interview questions with long responses I think connect with the readers; crafting 2000 words or more of responses takes a couple hours for each interview. Even if you’re concise, you will be creating a third of a novel by the time you’re done.
You’ll want to start on this as early as possible. Plus, build in at least two to three weeks’ margin for when and if you get sick. I got bronchitis once during the process and without the margin, I would have been dead in the water.
Go ahead and send your completed blog posts to the people you’re writing for as you complete them, but be sure to include the date it’s supposed to post. Also send a picture of your cover, an author picture, and the back cover copy of the book—often, the bloggers will include these in your post as a free promotional section, and you want to give them that option. If you’re very early, however, be prepared to re-send it later if needed.
12. Respond to comments.
So you’ve finished all your planning, your writing, and you’ve even posted a schedule of your blog tour on your website. Good for you! Now the real fun begins—interacting with readers.
On the day of your stop, visit your blog post or posts several times. (The bloggers should send you a link in advance, but if not go to their front page and look around for it.) It’s important for you as an author to respond to comments in a timely manner, as this shows you care about your book and your readers.
Also, it’s considered polite to share a link to your post through social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter, as this increases the page views for the blogger. For your long-term fans, make sure you tell them in advance you’ll be doing a blog tour so they don’t feel spammed by all the links. Label each of the posts with this “blog tour” label somehow, such as by “the blog tour rolls on today at…” or “#blogtour.”
For bonus points, share the first paragraph or so on your own website’s blog, with a link to read the rest at the blog you’re visiting that day.
Congrats! After your month is over, you’re done. Throw yourself a party to celebrate the culmination of all your hard work on so many levels.
A note about reviews: As you’re online speaking to readers during your release month, you’ll come across many, many reviews of your book. This is a natural and normal part of the process, and it means your book is being read. You actually want both good and bad reviews to be posted on Goodreads, Amazon, and blog and review sites, because this makes you look legitimate. Some people will love your work. Some will hate it. If you’re the kind of person who obsesses about negative remarks others make, I’d simply recommend not reading any reviews under 3 stars. Knowing what your fans want and expect will help you make good decisions moving forward, but hearing from those who are clearly not your fans is unlikely to do anything but frustrate you.
During this process, I print out the most positive reviews and comments from readers and bloggers and put them in a “Happy File.” Only the best comments make it here, where I will look at them on days when the writing is stalling and the project looks hopeless. Don’t allow the negative comments to crowd out this kind of glowing praise; if you’re like me, you got into this in the beginning to touch one reader’s heart. Focus on that reader. Focus on those reviews.
Thanks to our readers for sticking with us, and thanks to Alex for sharing some wisdom. We’ve discovered some useful information and hope our readers have as well.
Watch this space for our September post!