The Book Publicity Blog

News, Tips, Trends and Miscellany for Book Publicists

What authors (and venues) need to know about scheduling book talks / signings

Over the years, many publishing houses have been scaling back on traditional book tours — not the least because bookstores themselves are disappearing — because travel can be expensive (and time-consuming) and sometimes there can be cheaper and just as effective ways to sell books. That being said, there continue to be plenty of authors speaking at non-traditional, i.e., non-bookstore, venues.

If you are an author booking a talk for yourself (or a book publicist trying to answer an author’s questions), here are some tips to keep in mind / pass on:

  • Before agreeing to a speaking engagement, consider requiring the host venue to either sell books themselves, arrange for a bookseller, or — the holy grail of arrangements — purchase them in advance for attendees. Venues are looking for stellar speakers. For them, book sales rank somewhere between a secondary issue and an annoyance. If they won’t / can’t sell books, think about whether your personal connection to the organizer, the “caliber” of the audience or, in some cases, the fee, make it worthwhile for you to speak anyway.
  • Some venues assume that authors will sell their own books. Some authors don’t mind doing this (books are purchased at a steep discount but sold full price — you do the math), but if you do not want to go through the trouble (many authors don’t), make sure you inform the host that you will not be selling your books and that they will need to make alternate arrangements.
  • If you will be speaking at a venue shortly after a book comes out, you might consider waiving a speaker’s fee if the venue sells books. Or ask the venue to use the fee to buy books for attendees. (Obviously, this is not an option for everyone, particularly if the venue is not covering travel costs.)
  • Be vocal with the event organizer about the importance of book sales. If you feel awkward “hawking” your book, talk about how hard you worked on the book, how much it means to you to get the book into the hands of readers and how strongly you feel about supporting local bookstores. If you don’t raise the issue of book sales, the organizer won’t know this is concern for you — don’t assume they will “get the message” because a publicist or someone else has asked about book sales on your behalf.
  • Make sure the organizer / bookseller knows about your most recent book — they may not think to promote this title. (Many authors are well-known for books they wrote years ago.) Likewise, if your paperback has just been published, let them know this edition is now available.
  • If at all possible, meet with the bookseller just before the event to sign all their books (signature only — no personalization); that way people who dash out of the event before the end are still able to purchase signed books. (Of course, people who want books personalized, i.e., “To Mary …”  will need to wait for you after the talk.) The bookseller will bring back unsold (signed) books to their store where they can sell them or they can return them to the publishing house.
  • Plan for your talk and Q&A to last no more than about an hour — people tend to get antsy after that and many will head out without buying books. Discuss the timing with the organizer / moderator ahead of time and have them issue a “Last question” just before the hour is up (or you can do so).
  • If you anticipate a large crowd have someone — the event organizer, an assistant — work the line with a pad of Post-Its. This way, your helper can flap all books to the title page and write names on a sticky attached to the book cover before the reader gets to the front of the line. (Otherwise, you will be scrambling to find the appropriate page to sign and figure out how to spell the name … for every single person in line.)
  • If you regularly speak to large crowds and have any restrictions when it comes to signing books (signature but no personalization, no photos, only signing the current book, only signing books purchased at the event), let the event organizer and / or bookseller know ahead of time. (Of course, if you are a celebrity author, there will likely be a number of other issues with which to contend including fans bringing gifts / memorabilia and security, but that’s another post for another day.)
  • If you are cornered at the end of the talk, rather than remain on stage, encourage the people asking questions to talk and walk with you to the book table so you can start signing immediately.
  • Bring a nice signing pen — although it’s not against the law to sign with a Bic pen, people are spending good money on your book!
  • If you have any time restrictions, i.e., you’re rushing to catch a flight, make sure to let the event organizer and bookseller know beforehand.

And here are some suggestions to pass on to event organizers. (Bookstores are old hands when it comes to events and probably don’t need this information.)

  • There are several ways for books to be available for attendees: your organization can sell books (purchased at a discount, sold full price), you / the book publicist can arrange for a bookseller (if you don’t already work with one regularly) or, if budgets allow, you can purchase them in advance for attendees.
  • If you are looking to buy books in bulk (you will get a discount), you can do so in a number of ways:
      • Purchase directly from the publishing house — the editor / publicist can provide the phone number / email address of the appropriate contact.
      • Purchase from 800 CEO Read (if they carry the book).
      • Purchase from Hooks Book Events. I have worked with owners Perry and Loretta for years and have always been impressed by their initiative, organization and — most importantly! — ability to sell loads and loads of books. Sales go through their local independent bookstore, but they offer discounts comparable to what can be obtained elsewhere.
  • If you choose to work with a bookseller, you will need to let them know all the event details (date, time, location, etc.) and also how many people are expected at the event so they can bring an appropriate number of books. Typically, most booksellers will operate on the assumption that one out of three attendees buys a book. Unless you let them know otherwise, they will plan to spend about two hours at the event, arriving about half an hour beforehand and leaving about half an hour after the talk ends.
  • If you or a bookstore are selling books, at least one table and chair with the books should be set up, about 30 minutes prior to the start of the event (since some people do like buying books beforehand). A second table and chair may be required at which the author can sit and sign books, particularly if there is a large crowd.
  • The book selling table should be positioned where people enter and leave the room / auditorium — usually just outside works. If you don’t force people to walk by the book table, they won’t.
  • If you are working with a bookseller, you can expect them to bring a cash box and credit card machine (and books, of course). They will take away unsold books at the end of the event; if at all possible, it is helpful if you have packing tape on hand. Some booksellers need to be near electrical outlets (for certain credit card machines) — they should specify this if this is the case, but it probably doesn’t hurt to check.
  • If a post-talk reception / dinner is planned, please allow some time for the author to sit and sign books once the talk finishes (usually 15-30 minutes, more for a couple hundred people or more). It’s tricky for an author to sign books at a reception (no matter how informal) / dinner.
  • Promotional materials for the event should mention the book signing (in addition to the talk). If you can, include the name of the store that will be selling books — they will appreciate the mention.
  • At some point during the introduction, the author’s latest book should be mentioned. Also, as the talk begins and ends, the moderator should let the audience know that the author’s book(s) are available for sale.

For more information about book events in general, you may want to check out:

Book publicity FAQ: book events

Why we schedule bookstore events and why we don’t

What you need to know about off-site book sales

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What are your top book event tips (or questions)?

September 15, 2011 Posted by | Book Tour, Bookstores, Events | 12 Comments

DIY Book Promotion and Publicity

As a publicist at a large publishing house, my inclination has always been (and possibly will always be) that authors should more or less leave book promotion to the experts: book publicists (either in-house or those with book PR / PR firms). Publicists keep on top of the latest news, know how to craft pitches and press materials, work to establish — and maintain — contacts with the media, and have access to vast media databases. That having been said, I realize authors are playing a greater role in marketing and promoting their books — not to mention those authors who self publish — and there are, in fact, some sites / tools that specifically cater to those striking it out on their own (and which are pretty handy for book publicists too)!

Here are a few; feel free to add your own in the comments.

Events:

Booktour.com: As the name implies, the site lists author events around the country. It boasts several features I think helps set it apart from other event listing sites (and this is why I use the site religiously):

  1. Events listed on Booktour.com are automatically fed to many online calendars and also the Author Page on Amazon. In other words, when I spend time entering event information on Booktour.com, I know those details will not only be emailed to subscribers (a fairly typical feature for most such sites), but will also go to dozens of sites on the web.
  2. Booktour.com offers a widget that authors can grab for their websites. Instead of painstakingly updating the events section each time an additional event is booked or a time or venue is changed, an author simply needs to drop in a line of code on their website and if the publicist is using Booktour.com, the events will automatically update.
  3. Booktour.com also offers various other events and media services that authors might find helpful.

Maestro Market: You can think of Maestro Market as an online speakers bureau. However, unlike most speakers bureaus / lecture agencies which will only take on well-known clients, anyone can sign up to be a “Maestro.” They key is to properly tag yourself so that you can be found by people seeking speakers / experts. The site is currently in beta and should be relaunching later this year.

Square: a small device that plugs in to your iPhone / iPad / iPod Touch / Android phone that enables you to accept credit card payments. You open an account on their website and download the app, they mail you the device (for free) and you’re good to go. They take 2.75 percent of each transaction. I haven’t had an occasion to use this, but it seems like it would come in pretty handy for authors selling books at events (or for booksellers who don’t want to lug around a credit card machine).

Media:

Google Alerts: You can sign up for Google Alerts for free, even if you don’t have a Google / Gmail account (although, given the amount of free services Google provides from email to document sharing to e-commerce, I’m not sure why you wouldn’t have an account)! The alerts allow you to track any online mentions of a name, title, term, phrase, etc. Set up one for your name so you can see when / where you’re mentioned and, if applicable, set up one for any topics or phrases that pertain to your book so you’re aware of what the media is covering and where you might fit in.

HARO / Reporter Connection: Both sites allow you to sign up as a source, i.e., author (or as a journalist if you’re looking for a source). Once you’re in their databases, reporters looking for an expert in your field will be able to find you. As a book publicist, I find these sites useful because I get to see numerous reporter queries so I can suggest one of my authors if their field of expertise is a good fit.

Who’s tried these sites? What do you think? Any others you like?

June 9, 2011 Posted by | Book Tour, Events, Media Monitoring, Online Marketing | 13 Comments

Why we schedule bookstore events (and why we don’t)

There’s no doubt that bookstore events (talks / signings) are an important part of the book promotion process.  At the same time, the goal of a book publicist isn’t simply to carpet bomb bookstores within a 50-mile radius of an author.  Let me break it down.

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Why We Do Schedule Events:

Sales: Sending an author to a store to talk about / sign their book usually (hopefully) helps increase sales.

Support:  Thus, scheduling events is a way for authors and publishing houses to support bookstores.

Audience: An author appearing at their local bookstore is as close to a sure fire hit as you can get since authors can, generally speaking, get their friends / neighbors / colleagues to show up a book signing and buy books.

Way back when, I thought the only reason for an author’s friend (or mother) to show up at a signing was to keep the seat warm — they probably already got a free book, right?  Then my friends started writing books and I found myself buying books at their signings — even though I work in publishing and can often get them for free.  Moral of the story is that bookstores know they can count on pretty robust crowds and sales when an author’s friends show up at an event.  (Not to mention that as foot traffic in the store increases, so do spur-of-the-moment purchases.)

And Why We Don’t:

Topic:  Some topics work really well for certain stores — fiction, for example.  Other stores find novelists simply don’t draw an audience.  Some topics are great for certain types of venues, but not for general-interest bookstores.  Some stores only sell mystery titles, or travel, or science fiction.  Bookstores know what works best for them.

Location: Typically, we’ll schedule no more than one signing in a given area.  Realistically, there are a limited number of people in a designated location who will attend a talk / signing for an author.  If they show up for the signing at the local independent bookstore on Tuesday evening, that doesn’t leave very many people attending the signing at the Barnes & Noble half a mile away that Saturday (or vice versa).

Audience size: When was the last time you went to a book signing for a non-celebrity author?  How many people were there?  Bookstores do their best to promote events with in-store signage, information on their websites, newsletters and sometimes, advertising, and book publicists do likewise by trying to schedule interviews for the author with local media prior to the event, but sometimes even the best efforts don’t pan out.

Which is why if an author has no local connections and the book’s topic would not be of particular interest to a community, stores may be a little more reluctant to schedule events.  Of course, we know that plenty of stores do welcome authors with no local connections,  but they spend a fair amount of time and money promoting their talks and signings, so they do need to be selective about the authors they host.

Time: Events take time.  Book publicists take time to set up events.  Stores take time to promote them.  Authors take time to talk and sign at them.   All that time is time not spent promoting books in other ways.  So while scheduling some books events is a good thing, it is possible to go overboard and reach a point of diminishing returns.

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I realize it looks like there are far more reasons to not schedule bookstore events than to schedule them, which isn’t necessarily the case — I think it’s more like the “Don’ts” just need more explanation than the “Dos.”

How do you feel about scheduling / hosting / speaking at bookstore events?

March 2, 2010 Posted by | Book Tour, Bookstores | 7 Comments

Book publicity FAQ: book events

Last week I posted about book publicity FAQs that pertained to the media.  Of course, book promotion also involves scheduling author events, which is another area in which book publicists often get questions.  Here are a few of the most common.

Can you add [city(s)] / [bookstore(s)] to the book tour?

Sometimes it simply isn’t possible to make changes to a planned book tour; in cases where it might be, we need to approach additional opportunities strategically.  (You may have heard that Seattle has great bookstores, but that doesn’t mean we’re automatically going to add Seattle to a book tour — or that you would get a good crowd at a Seattle bookstore.)

What you need to know: First off, book tours are scheduled after very careful consideration about whether a tour will help sell books (or whether this is a media-driven title), potential local interest in an author / book, a store’s / venue’s history with a certain type of book / author, media possibilities in the market,  budget (of course) and with input from sales representatives and from stores themselves.  Second, book tours are typically scheduled three-six months in advance of the book’s publication.  If you have any questions about the tour (or if you are wondering whether there will be a tour), your best bet is to ask about it early.  If you’ve been assigned a publicist, talk to them; otherwise ask your editor.  (A month — or even two — before the book’s publication is really too late in most cases.)

Sometimes authors do a fair amount of traveling on their own.  If it happens that your personal travel will take you to certain cities at certain times and you’d like to see if a bookstore talk can be arranged at the same time, talk to the publicist as soon as you can.  Keep in mind that bookstores are most inclined to host signings for authors with recently-published books (“recent” being in the month or so before the event) and  will want to know if an author has local connections — friends / family in a city who will attend an event (and buy books) — or if the book would otherwise be of local interest.  Stores spend time and money promoting their events, so they really need to be selective about scheduling author talks.  Do keep in mind that even if it’s not possible to schedule a book talk, you can always stop by stores to sign copies of your book(s).  Signed books, particularly hardcovers, always go over well with readers, and some bookstores may order additional copies of a book (assuming they think they can sell it well) if they know in advance that an author will sign copies.

Can you arrange for books to be sold at an off-site event?

Possibly, if we find out early enough.

What you need to know: Rule of thumb — most booksellers will ask for an anticipated audience of at least 100 people in order to consider selling books off site.  Arranging for books to be sold at off-site events can be time consuming for the book publicist and unless an event is expected to draw hundreds of people, selling books off site often isn’t particularly lucrative for the bookseller.  (The bookseller needs to send at least one staff member to the event, which means they’re now shorthanded at the store and people who buy books at lectures don’t browse and make additional purchases at the store.)

For details about off-site book sales (including options for selling books if it’s not possible to find a bookseller), check my post What you need to know about off-site book sales.  And again, contact your publicist early so they (and the store) have time to make arrangements.

How do virtual events work?

With fewer authors traveling on book tours, more bookstores are trying out virtual book events these days, for example Skyping in authors or having authors participate in Facebook or Twitter conversations.

What you need to know: Being something of a technogeek myself, I’ve talked to a number of bookstores about the possibility of them hosting virtual events.  For the most part, stores have found that while virtual events can be successful for big-name authors, it can be hard to entice a large audience to interact virtually with lesser known authors.  (Truth be told, it’s hard enough enticing people to interact IRL.)  Which doesn’t mean that it’s not possible if you target the right readers for the right author, but generally speaking, stores seem far more willing at this point to experiment with virtual events with known quantities.

Needless to say, virtual events will be much easier for authors with some technical savvy, but most people with a computer and the ability to follow instructions can probably muddle their way through.  (FYI regarding Skype events — Macs have built-in webcams; otherwise you can find one at an electronics store for under $100.)

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As a book publicist, author, agent, or other publishing industry professional what other book event questions come to mind?

February 18, 2010 Posted by | Book Tour, Bookstores | 8 Comments

Aging publicity practices to jettison for the new decade

Book publicity has changed a lot in the 10+ years I’ve been doing it.  Here are some things I try to stay away from these days:

Blind copying pitches.  In an ideal world, all pitches would be personalized.  But there are few (if any) book publicists who have the time to personalize every single pitch.  (Realistically, most of us do some of both.)  Still, nothing screams mass email like a blind carbon copy.  With the mail merge options available today, using the Bcc function seems crude (and doesn’t even save that much time).

Being wedded to one application for all author itineraries.  For years I used Word for author itineraries (and I still do use it for those authors who prefer it), but about a year ago, an author requested I use Google Calendar for her tour schedule and it turned out to be a life saver (given that she and two co-authors were all traveling at the same time, but not always to the same place).  These days, with more and more authors using calendar applications like Outlook or Google Calendar for their appointments, it saves them time if I provide their interview /event information in a format that doesn’t require retyping — and double checking — time that could better be spent networking online, or writing guest blog posts, or just getting some extra shut eye.

Static” data.  Generally speaking, anything stored offline is static (my word — those of you who are more technologically savvy feel free to correct my terminology), while data stored online (on the Web or on a company’s intranet) is live.  In book publicity, we need to transmit data frequently — schedules to authors, publicity hits to editorial and sales, etc. – and we need to make sure the information is accurate and up-to-date.  Sending this information via email (or a Word attachment in an email) is quick, but it’s not long before this static information “degrades” and we’re no longer sure if it’s accurate.

The solution is to maintain a “live” source of data.  Larger publishing houses generally have network applications that allow publicists to input interview / events and other publicity information (that then generate schedules and reports and that can be accessed by others in the company).  But even publicists who do not have access to those applications can make use of free (or cheap) file-sharing applications like Google Docs and others that allow multiple concurrent users to view real-time information.

You may be wondering what that means.  It means that more than one person can access an author schedule without being locked out of a Word document because someone else is using it.  It also means there’s no ambiguity about what information has been added (or taken out of) a tour itinerary.  It means you don’t get confused about whether this version of a press release is an early version or a revised one.  (The key to file sharing, though, is that you, well, share files.  Resist the urge to download information and then save it to your hard drive — you’ve just broken the chain. )

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How have your publicity practices changed over the years?

January 19, 2010 Posted by | Book Tour, Papyrus Files, Pitching Tips | | 8 Comments

Book tours for the 21st century

Book tours really hit big shortly after Jacqueline Susann drove across the country to promote her hit Valley of the Dolls.  Today, some authors still draw large crowds while on traditional book tours; a lot of others, not so much.

As a book publicist, I do hope that bookstore events thrive (and I continue to schedule bookstore events with authors) but realistically, there are fewer events — and, unfortunately, stores — than there were before, so I think it’s important that we try new ways to get readers to stores.  Enter the virtual book tour.

Facebook is an obvious application to utilize for a virtual event given that it’s free, easy to use and a lot of bookstores, authors and readers already use it, but the downside, of course, is that you can’t see or hear the author.  Virtual author events could be conducted via Ning, Skype, Twitter or other applications too.  A virtual event could be a stop on a book blog tour in which the publicist has made arrangements for the blogger’s local bookstore to sell signed copies of the author’s book.  Or it might be a book club gathering at which an author is Skyped in.  Here are some examples:

– Back in July, Barnes & Noble hosted its first Facebook “event” with an author, with author and readers trading comments on B&N’s wall and they recently hosted one for Sophie Kinsella.  (I tried something similar with an author last month.  We did tour him, but the Facebook chat gave still more readers a chance to interact with him.)

Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists hosts Tweet the Author sessions with clients.

– Sometimes, the “new” way of touring is sort of like the “old” way but with a 2.0 twist: Stephen Elliott, the founder of theRumpus.net whose memoir The Adderall Diaries: A Memoir of Moods, Murder and Masochism, is just out from Graywolf, has been going on a reading tour (as in, reading in people’s living rooms) to about 20 cities in addition to where Graywolf was sending him.

The tricky part of the virtual book tour is making sure there’s a bookselling component to the event in addition to the conversation part of it.  This may mean having a bookstore host the virtual event on its Facebook page.  Or it may mean that a store makes some sort of arrangement with an author to make sure books (preferably signed) are for sale.

What do you think about the virtual book tour?  Would you “attend” a virtual event with an author in whom you were interested?  What kind of events do you envision?  As a bookstore, would you host a virtual event?

October 1, 2009 Posted by | Book Tour, Online Marketing | | 18 Comments

Promoting author events on calendar / listings sites

Since we know readers head to Google to check up on their favorite authors, it’s now pretty much de rigeur to post information about an author’s speaking engagements online.  Authors should add this information to their websites and / or social networking profiles / fan pages (and some authors with a lot of followers find it effective to Tweet about their appearances).

Also, make sure to submit information about events to various online calendar / events sites.  Earlier this week, BookTour, the website that lists author events, announced a new partnership with Amazon wherein book events that appear on the BookTour site automatically appear on Amazon’s Author Pages.  (BookTour still includes buy links for multiple online booksellers on their site, though, including Barnesandnoble.com and Indiebound.)

BookTour is also introducing a new service, TourBuilder, that allows you to build your own book tour.  Also, for book publicists / stores / authors tired of entering events individually (or submitting them in an Excel document), BookTour will now enter events information in any format for $1 an event.  Check the site for the various options for submitting author events information.

And a couple month’s back, Bookforum debuted a new website that features an Outposts tab that lists author events.  Information about author events can be sent to: events[at]bookforum[dot]com.  You should include the title of the book as well as the author’s name, the host venue, its address and website and the date and time of the event as well as any ticketing information (if applicable).

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Where else do you like to submit information about author events?  (And more importantly, what calendar / listings sites have you found to be effective in getting a crowd to show up?)

July 1, 2009 Posted by | Book Tour, Online Marketing | 12 Comments

What’s a book blog tour?

An interesting discussion emerged on Colleen Mondor’s blog Chasing Ray a couple days ago about the blog book tour and in particular who schedules them and how they are set up.  I caught the tail end of the discussion on Twitter.

Blog tours aren’t new — this New York Times article from a couple years back explores one author’s blog tour experience – and sites like Blog Book Tours or this post at The Dabbling Mum contain some excellent information about what exactly a blog tour is.  But beyond that, I thought it might be useful to look at how blog tours are set up and how they differ from online publicity in general.

First, the basics: for those of you who attended the book blogger panel at BEA, you will have heard the blog tour explained as an author going from blog to blog (rather than from store to store as they would on a traditional book tour) which is a great, quick way to explain it.   Depending on the author and the blog, coverage may consist of any of the following: book review, Q&A (either posted or live) or book giveaway and then I’m sure some bloggers have gotten creative and come up with other ideas.  Blog tours, like traditional bookstore tours, will feature a designated number of “stops” — often 10 to 20 blogs — and can roll out over the course of a week or a month (or whatever other length of time that has been decided upon).

Here’s some more information about blog tours.

How do blog tours get set up?

Blog tours are typically set up either by the publicist of a book or by blog tour companies / coordinators.  Since it takes time (and expertise) to schedule blog tours, publishing companies sometimes feel it is worthwhile to pay a third party — an online marketing company, a freelance publicist, a blog tour company, etc. — to set these up.  (We’ve been doing this for years with the broadcast industry — we hire companies to set up a series of radio or TV interviews, also known as radio or TV “tours.”)

Although typically book publicists ask authors not to contact the media directly, different rules apply to (some) blogs.  For example, Natasha from Maw Books Blog, mentions that authors sometimes contact her directly to schedule a “stop” on a blog tour.   (Other bloggers may prefer to work directly with publishing houses — many bloggers will have information about how to contact them on their sites.)  Sometimes, a group of bloggers may come together on their own and contact the author (or publishing house) to schedule the tour.

Regardless of who sets up the blog tour, the end result is the same.

What’s the benefit of a blog tour?

As with radio and TV tours, blog tours enable a book and author to generate buzz for a book without having to travel.

How is the blog tour different from online publicity?

A blog tour is simply one type of online publicity.  One difference between a blog tour and online publicity in general is timing.  Blog tours start and end on designated dates, the goal being to generate a certain amount of publicity within a certain amount of time.  A general online publicity push, on the other hand, could start months (or weeks) before the publication of a book and could end months (or weeks) after.

Also, while the goal of online outreach is to generate any coverage of a book — from a mention to a full-fledged review or interview — blog tour “stops” will typically skew on the more robust end of coverage, e.g., a post rather than a one-line mention.

Are bloggers paid to participate in the blog tour?

No — paying anyone to cover any books would be unethical.  (Paying for ads is a perfectly ethical practice, of course, but with PR, coverage — good or bad — should come free).   To clarify — since this can get confusing – with blog tours (or with radio or TV tours), publishing houses aren’t paying bloggers (or radio or TV hosts) to cover a book; we’re paying someone to schedule the tour: finding blogs that would be appropriate for the book, arranging dates for the reviews / interviews, reporting back to us about who is running what when, etc.  It’s like we’re paying a party planner to put together a party and the guest list (but we don’t pay guests to actually attend the party).

What’s in it for bloggers?  They have to read the book and write a post and someone *else* gets paid for their participation?

Bloggers are never obligated to participate in a blog tour — like radio and TV hosts (or like bookstores), they cover books and authors only of their choosing and only when they have the time.  If and when bloggers do choose to participate in a blog tour, we assume they are indeed willing to take the time to read the book and write a post because they are interested in the book and because it helps the blog (by, say, maintaining / increasing the audience), much like the way a radio host interviews an author because they’re interested in the author and it helps the radio show.  (To get back to the party analogy, guests are welcome to accept or turn down our invitations, but if they do accept, they attend because they want to and not because we’re paying them to show up.)  Just as some radio shows choose to find interviewees on their own and never accept pitches from PR people, some bloggers choose never to participate in blog tours and only write about books and authors they find on their own, which is fine — to each his own. 

The blog tour coordinator (or the freelance publicist or online marketing company) only gets paid for being the liaison between the publishing house and the blogger — for doing the “party planning” that is involved in scheduling the blog tour.

Will all coverage in a blog tour be positive?

It’s understandable that authors who take the time and effort to engage in promotional efforts for their books don’t want to walk the online gauntlet.  However, just as you can’t guarantee that a guest won’t get drunk and go on a rampage at a party, you also can’t guarantee that a blogger (or a book reviewer or a radio or TV host) will positively cover a book.  Some may love the book while others may give it a more lukewarm reception — the hope, though, is that coverage will at least be intelligent, substantiated and thought-provoking.  (This is where the expertise of the “party planner” comes in handy — they will find blogs where book coverage is intelligent, substantiated and thought-provoking.)

Some bloggers who find a book absolutely dreadful — or who feel so neutral about a book to the point of not having much of anything to say — may opt not to participate in a blog tour, but loving a book or author isn’t a prerequisite for tour participation.  (I don’t think it should ever be a prerequisite — I don’t think publishers should try to steer coverage of a book beyond sharing our love for it — but should the author or publisher insist on the hagiotour, that should at least be made clear up front.)

I’m an author.  Should I ask my publishing house to set up a blog tour or should I try to set up one myself?

First, it depends on the book — some books lend themselves to online discussion; others don’t.  Also, what blogs are available in that genre?  Are the blogs actively updated and is there a vibrant community of readers?

Second, it depends on the author — blog tours will be most successful if the author has at least some time to participate in either an ongoing discussion or at least to contribute in some fashion (for example, by providing a Q&A).

And lastly, it depends on the resources of the author and publishing house.  How much time and / or money are you willing to spend?

How do you promote blog tour “events”?

Just as we promote bookstore events to try to get people to attend traditional author talks, we also want to drive people to blog tour postings.  Participants in blog tours will often promote their participation on the blog itself as well as on Facebook, Twitter and other networking sites.  Authors should promote the tour on their websites just as they would promote bookstore events.  Also, keep in mind that the site Booktour.com can be used to list events for both IRL and online book tours.

Where can I find blog tour companies?

This list (in alphabetical order) is made up of companies I know of, companies I found on Google, and companies suggested by Facebook and Twitter contacts.  (I haven’t worked with all of these people, so I can’t vouch for their services, but all reputable blog tour companies will provide details about their services and prices as well as references.) 

Blog Stop Book Tours

JBH Marketing & Public Relations

Kidz Book Buzz

Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists

Promo 101 Virtual Blog Tours

PTA Interactive

Provato Marketing

Pump Up Your Promotion Virtual Book Tours

TLC Book Tours

If you set up blog tours and are not listed here, feel free to add your website in the Comments section, but please do not email me since I may not have a chance to post your information.  Also, please only add your company name if you work on blog tours specifically(not in online marketing and publicity in general).

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Have you participated in (or arranged) blog tours and if so, what was so your experience?

June 11, 2009 Posted by | Blogs, Book Tour | | 73 Comments

For authors on book tour, don’t forget your …

Some people prepare long checklists when traveling.  I don’t, in part because the checklist is inevitably missing some item anyway, in part because you can usually obtain with relative ease whatever it is that you forgot.  But here’s my abbreviated checklist of must-have items for traveling authors:

1. Medication(s) — if applicable

2. Glasses / contacts (including an extra pair) — if applicable

3. Travel documents including a government-issued ID if you are flying

4. Rechargers for gadgets — if you can, recharge your gadgets fully before you leave so you don’t have to worry about a phone going dead, at least at the beginning of your tour.  If you have a lot of gadgets (laptop, phone, iPod, Blackberry, ereader, etc.), consider bringing a surge suppressor.  It sounds funny — after all, your Blackberry can recharge on the hotel bathroom floor — but a surge suppressor is convenient if you have the space for it in your luggage.

5. At least one extra copy of your book

6. A nice pen — please don’t sign books with Bic pens!

7. A change of clothes and basic toiletries that you carry in your carry-on bag if you are flying — pack as though your luggage will be lost.  It’s a pain having to wait for lost luggage to arrive when you’re on vacation and spending a week in one location.  It’s about 10 times worse not having lost luggage arrive before you have to decamp the next morning for the next book tour stop.

What other items are “must haves” for authors on book tour?  Comment at will.

May 20, 2009 Posted by | Book Tour | , | 4 Comments

Getting people to show at author events, the music way

On Saturday, I attended a Harvardwood panel entitled “Making music in tough economic times.”  Music is often compared to books, in part because book publishing is facing the same digital growing pains the music industry did several years back, in part because concerts and literary readings often draw similar audiences.

I asked the panelists about concert promotion, since a little-known band or singer and a mid-list author face much the same challenge in getting people to show up for events.  They suggested double billing — something bookstores do sometimes when they can find two “matching” authors available on the same day — and also finding an audience locally using the online tools at our disposal (which for the music industry continues to be MySpace — probably because it remains one of the few social networks on which you can post music tracks).

What are your favorite ways to promote author events?  What have you found to be the most effective?  Traditionally, book publicists have relied on scheduling author interviews to promote events, but with interview opportunities drying up, do you find yourself spending more time on online event promotion?

May 4, 2009 Posted by | Book Tour, Events | , | 5 Comments

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