Beth Groundwater’s first amateur sleuth novel, A Real Basket Case, was published in hardcover in March, 2007 and was nominated for a Best First Novel Agatha Award. The second in the gift basket designer mystery series, To Hell in a Handbasket, is set in Breckenridge, Colorado and was released in May, 2009. Beth lives in Colorado Springs and enjoys gardening, skiing and traveling with her family. Please visit her website at http://bethgroundwater.com/ (and click on the “May 2009 Blog Book Tour” link to see her tour schedule and articles) and her blog at http://bethgroundwater.blogspot.com/
Here's what Beth has to say about her blog book tour experience:
Rob Walker asked me to discuss in my guest post how I put together my successful blog book tour in May for the release of my second book, To Hell in a Handbasket. I presume that if I have some advice for authors planning their own blog book tours, Rob would agree that I should offer that, too.
First, I learned as much as possible about how blog book tours should work. The Blog Book Tours website at http://blogbooktours.blogspot.com/ has an excellent article from author Liz Zelvin about using cyberschmoozing to plan your tour.
Also there is a February 22 post from me about using the Goodreads social networking site for book promotion. Lastly, a helpful guide on planning a blog book tour can be found at: http://quickest.blogbooktourguide.ever.com/. On that same website is a link to join the yahoogroup called blogbooktours, a classroom-type email list hosted by Dani Greer. I learned a ton from this class. Active participation is a must, so plan on dedicating some time to the group to get the most out of the training.
I started collecting a list of potential host blogs over a year before planning my tour by noting what blogs posted information about author visits in the mystery fan email and social network communities where I hung out. Once I started requesting guest spots on blogs, I kept a table listing tour dates, links to blog websites, point of contact information for hosts, topic of each visit, and due dates for articles, photos, interview answers or whatever was needed for each blog post. I started requesting guest appearance dates in February so I could spend March and April writing my articles or answers to interview questions before the tour started. This is vital. You’ll go crazy if you try to write articles during your tour, and the quality will suffer.
A lesson learned for me on tour logistics is to specify not only dates with your hosts for your blog posts, but also times (such as between 8-9 am EST) and to get the phone numbers of your tour hosts. Three of my hosts posted my guest blogs late, and I couldn't reach them immediately via email when I noticed the posts weren't there. Being able to call them would have been helpful.
Promoting the tour is crucial. There’s no reason to go through all the work of writing the articles if you aren’t going to tell people about them. Your hosts will promote your visits, but you also need to list the tour dates on your own website and/or blog, create event notices and update your daily status on your social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, or Goodreads, and send notices to your email groups. To encourage comments, run a contest to give away something to one or more of your tour participants who comment on your posts, such as autographed copies of your books.
From the statistics I gathered during my tour, I averaged 20-30 comments on each of my blog posts and 8-9 times that many unique visitors. Also, the visit counters for my blog, my home page, and the page listing my blog tour stops all rose during the tour. For example, during the week prior to the start of my tour, I had 49 unique visitors to my blog and during the last week of the tour, I had 274 unique visitors. My hosts appreciated that my tour posts drove visitors to their blogs who hadn't visited before, so that was a benefit for them. Also, my posts generated more comments than their usual posts. Having mutually beneficial results makes everyone appreciate the work they put into the tour.
As for sales, it's really hard to determine from your Amazon and Barnes & Noble rankings what a change means as far as number of books sold. Also, my first book (A Real Basket Case) went out of stock at Barnes & Noble almost immediately after the beginning of the tour and that didn't get fixed for a week and a half. Then, when To Hell in a Handbasket passed its release date, it went out of stock there for a week before that database glitch was fixed. Customers couldn't order the books during these time periods and my publisher's B&N sales person had to scramble. A lesson learned is to alert your publisher before you have a blog book tour and make sure their sales department alerts Amazon and B&N to order more books prior to the tour start. Hopefully, all parties would be interested in making it easy for customers to order books.
The highest Amazon rank I saw on To Hell in a Handbasket near the beginning of the tour was over 660,000 and the lowest I saw near the end of the tour was under 55,000. From my worst-case estimates of the meaning of the in-stock numbers and the movements in rank at both Amazon and B&N, I estimate I sold at least 10-12 copies of A Real Basket Case and at least 16-18 of To Hell in a Handbasket at these two sites during the tour. Those numbers don't include sales after the end of the tour or from other on-line sites or bookstores. So, yes, the tour resulted in sales, but I have no idea how many overall.
I won’t have an answer for the ultimate question of whether the tour was worth the work I put into it until after my fall royalty statement and my fall conference visits (to see if attendees remember my tour), if then. One conclusion I did make, however, is that a month is too long. I should have limited my tour to two weeks and about ten posts, both for my own sanity and to keep interest high during the whole period. Would I recommend that other authors conduct blog book tours? Yes, every author should do it at least once, for the exposure and networking it gains you, regardless of sales.
What have you learned from Beth's experience, or maybe your own? Do you plan on going on a blog book tour? Please share.