Vetting Vendors: Blog Tour Tips with Kate Annamal-O’Connell

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Working with authors, one of the questions that periodically pops up is how to locate a good blog tour company and KAOvetting one during the selection process. It is important to note that all book blog tour companies are not the same. Furthermore, once one finds a blog tour company, the author’s job does not stop. In an effort to educate readers on the ins and outs of blog tours so authors get the biggest bang for their buck, I asked blog tour founder, Kate Annamal-O’Connell of Book Tour.Tips to pop by and answer some of the basics of vetting blog tour companies and how to get your book ready for a successful tour. Being the guru that she is, Kate gives additional outlets for authors to expand their knowledge on this marketing option.

 

Naomi: There seems to be a lot of confusion among authors as to what a blog tour company is and what they do. First, what is a blog tour? What can a blog tour do for an author? What can’t they do?

Kate: A blog tour is a tool to get the word out about your book through book blogs and social media It is a fantastic tool to meet readers and get more reviews for your book. For some authors, it can also help with backlinks and overall SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). I want to stress that this is ONE OF MANY tools. A single blog tour will not sell you millions of book. A single blog tour will not give you one thousand reviews. I recently elaborated on other ways authors can break visibility barriers for their book, which is what I think more authors should be focusing on instead of utilising writing forums to “share experiences.”

I have nothing against writing forums that help authors develop better writing skills, but I see so many authors use writing forums as a platform for, “but this happened to me” and “that happened to me.” Book marketing does not work like that. While you have some common ground, books are like individuals. Each one is different. Blog Tour Type 1 from Company A worked for you. It might not for anyone else.

Ideally, you need to do one blog tour every quarter. Make sure you have a marketing plan before starting your overall book marketing activities so you are able to keep track of expenses and different types of book marketing. 

Naomi: There are so many blog tour companies out there. What should authors look for in evaluating their choices?

Kate: These days there are many blog tour companies which have been started by bloggers who have  a good social media following. Some are successful book bloggers, some are self-published authors and some are work from home individuals with previous experience in public relations. Blog tour companies are mostly run by individuals not huge companies with massive funding. When you pay for  a blog tour, you are paying this individual for his or her time of setting up the tour and contacting bloggers on behalf of you. You are not paying for book reviews. The fastest way to evaluate a blog tour company is their social media footprint. 

1. What are their qualifications? In general, a person with a degree in relevant fields (public relations, marketing, literature) will be able to understand what needs to be done for your book. Someone without a degree but relevant experience in the above fields are also helpful. 

2. What kind of bloggers do they work with? Are the blogs genre specific? What is the social media following of these blogs? Are reviews posted to GoodReads, Amazon or other book sites? Please be realistic when measuring this. You can’t expect 30 bloggers with more than 100,000 followers to join your blog tour. 

3. Do they offer short-term or long-term tours? As an author, ask yourself this – how long will your book be sold for? One month, one year, ten years? I am assuming you would like your book to be sold for a long, long time. For this reason, I say pick different tour companies who can offer you different lengths of exposure. Ideally, you want people talking about your book for a today, next week, next month and for the next year. Don’t sit around expecting miracles. 

4. Book Reviews. I see tons of authors getting ready for a blog tour with this idea in their heads that they will not receive negative reviews and that every action about their book can be controlled with every single review being posted to Amazon. Yes, and I’m sitting, watching flying pigs as I write this. This is not going to happen.

For evaluation purposes, look at some of the other books on tour by the same company. What kinds of book reviews have been posted, positive or negative or a mixture of both? Once your book is sent to bloggers, you cannot control what they think. 

You will have the blogger who gets excited about your book, starts and then goes, hmmm.

You will get the blogger who loves the book so much, he or she will share the book like there’s no tomorrow only to attract someone who likes the cover but decides “the book is not for me.”

You will also receive the bittersweet reviews where the blogger will honestly state everything he or she liked and also disliked about the book. Needless to say, you cannot control what others says about your book. Do not force people to change their opinions. It will not end well. More on that a little later. 

Most bloggers have an account with GoodReads. Purchase sites such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords are a different story. Do not assume everyone walks around with accounts to all three sites. If you want reviews to be posted to these sites, be specific about this request before purchasing your tour. You also need to understand that no matter how experienced a blog tour company is, no one controls Amazon or other purchase sites. Policies change, terms of conditions are altered and in the process a really fantastic 5 star review gets deleted. It isn’t the blogger’s fault. As a business person, you need to take these things into account when creating your marketing plan.

Outside of evaluation, I don’t think I can mention book reviews and not bring up recent events.  It is not okay to stalk a reviewer or any other person. This is the third time I have seen this happen in a span of 4 years and I think it’s gotten to a point where it is ridiculous. This issue about bloggers and reviewers having to be real, using their real names and being open about where they live, raises only one question with me, should authors then not be allowed to use pen names? Most bloggers and reviewers do not receive money for the reviews they post. Some monetize their blogs, some do not. Most do it because they want to.

Authors on the other hand receive money for every book sold. Should readers not be given the privilege of knowing who is receiving their money? Hmmm, not so fun when it’s happening the other way around is it? 

Naomi: How much should an author expect to spend?

Kate: Blog tours are anywhere between $25 to $800. This depends on duration, type of blogs, giveaways included in the tour and additional items such as artwork and social media exposure. Most companies have a list of available tours and services so please pay close attention and pick what you need for your book. Always remember, you know your book best. You can ask for recommendations but there is no one size fits all when it comes to book marketing. 

Naomi: What does an author need to do to prepare his/her book for a book tour?

Kate: Excellent question. When you hit publish and your book is now available on a purchase site, it becomes a product. When this product is faulty – if it has spelling errors, formatting errors or has plot issues – you WILL receive feedback whether you like it or not. This is not the reader’s issue or a problem with ‘interpretation’, it’s your issue. 

Some authors recognise their books have multiple issues but insist on blog tours. The results are no way near satisfactory. The book gets trashed, the author gets annoyed and cue more drama. 

An eye-catching cover, a detailed book description, professional editing and a good story are four things you cannot forgo for a blog tour or any kind of book marketing. But these things cost money. They do but that is also why you need a marketing plan or at the very least a budget.

You also need to take into account that blog tours need to be scheduled minimum four to eight weeks in advance. There is no way of making it happen “now.” Bloggers need to be contacted, banners need to be done, books need to be distributed and read, schedules need to be checked. For the author, if you are not on a review tour, you will need to write guest posts and answer author interview questions. This is especially why you need a marketing plan that will be able to guide you on time frame and deadlines for your overall book marketing. See how we just keep coming back to those two precious words – Marketing Plan. 

Self-publishing is not a walk in the park. It is a business. Just because you have self-published, you cannot change this fact. If you do not make your books your business, I assure you, no one else will. No one owes you anything.

Thank you so much for having me, Naomi. I hope my answers have helped in clearing the ever smoggy issue of blog tours. 

A huge shout out of thanks to Kate for stopping by The Author CEO. Readers, what have your experiences been in participating in blog tours? Do you have any advice that we missed or tips for authors venturing into the book blog tour arena?

 

Bio : Kate O’Connell was awarded a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications and also studied journalism. She has worked for over 15 years’ in Public Relations. Before her public relations career took shape, she used to work in a book shop, which according to her, was a very happy time being surrounded by her passion. She has also worked as a freelance writer and as a ghostwriter, which included writing SEO articles and corporate documentary scripts.

BookTour.Tips is her latest adventure where she dedicates her support with her years of experience and skills in providing support to each client to meet their individual needs. She takes care of the things that take away time from doing what you need to be doing as an author, writing.

Affordable, reliable and including many other services related to the marketing of your book, BookTour.Tips takes on these tasks. The website includes frequently updated FAQs, SEO tips, and articles related to publishing to help you in your quest.

 

Want to connect with Kate on social media?

Find her here:

Twitter:@booktourtips

Facebook: BookTour.Tips

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