Tag Archives: Blogging

V is for Virtual Tour

Many of you might have heard of a blog tour. These are also known as Virtual Tours, which is the term I prefer, because the sites visited might not all be blogs. So why would you do one, how do you do one, and what is involved in a virtual tour?

I love love love this idea. A Virtual Tour includes one of my favorite methods of publicity: article writing. In article writing, the article is not really about the book, per se, but about some element of its subject and there is usually some tendril that connects it to a bigger meaning. The publicity part is usually contained in the bio segment, a few tiny lines at the end of the article, where it says “Author Mary’s forthcoming book is xx.” The Tour part involves having the author featured on as many websites as possible during a given period of time. Typically this is the month during which your book is launched. But you can do these fairly effectively at any time during your book’s lifespan.

The Virtual Tour consists partly of content that you write yourself, and then offer to appropriate outlets, and partly of reviews that the site owners do when you send them a review copy. It is not a quick thing. Good Virtual Tours are planned months in advance. You need to be mindful of the editorial calendars and typical content of any site you approach, and you need to allow those who are doing reviews time to do the work necessary.

The most comprehensive and perhaps successful Virtual Tour I have ever seen was done by Mary Sharratt for the release of her novel Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen. She hired an agency to set up the tour, which ran from Oct 14 to Nov 15 (for a publication date of Oct 15). (Note that the tour linked to here was done for the release of the paperback edition.)

There were a good amount of book blogs (sometimes two a day), most of which only needed to have a review copy sent to them. (But again, this needed to be done months ahead of time, for the busy fall publishing season.) These placements included interviews, giveaways and contests. Because the company that organized the tour specialized in historical fiction, they had a waiting slate of blogs to pitch Mary’s book to. This is half the work of any virtual tour – finding your targets.

But Mary also wrote for many other sites that at first glance had nothing to do with books, but everything to do with her subject matter. By a lucky chance of fortuitous timing, Illuminations was originally released in the same month that Hildegard was named a Doctor of the Church, and right around the time that she was elevated to sainthood. (Actually, luck had little to do with it – Mary knew what was going on with her subject and communicated this to her publisher, and I think the pub date was moved to coincide with these other happy events.)

For the initial release, Mary wrote articles on feminist websites, she wrote opinion pieces, she wrote articles about Hildegard’s music, her botany work, and her relevance to our world today. Sometimes this was done in concert with an independent book review, and sometimes it was done on a website that was not a book blog. She had an article placed nearly every day of her launch month. The beauty of this is that the article would then reach people who were perhaps more interested in the subject matter, so more motivated to read the book.

When I asked her about this tour, she said that she had hired an agency to coordinate all the posts, but the link on her website only points to the book review sites included on the paperback release tour. So I can’t give you a link that lists all of the other sites on which she wrote wonderful articles for the initial launch (she has redone her website since then). However, as you can see from the one I’ve linked to, this went on for over a year after the paperback edition was released – though certainly not at the pace at which she did it right around the initial publication date.

If you find a website or online magazine that has a particular affinity for your subject matter, you might be able to arrange a regular appearance there, as Mary has done with Feminism and Religion. Search for her other articles on that site, and you will see what I mean. They are timely and relevant, and give new life to the extensive research that Mary did for Illuminations. You may even be able to use material that didn’t make it into the book.

In order to organize a Virtual Tour, it is first necessary to find your markets. You should be open-minded about what you can write about, but certainly make sure that there is a tie-in to the site’s main topic. (Make a list of the different areas you can write about, and sub-lists of what you focus on in articles in each area.) You will need to determine who to query, and operate as if this were a regular magazine query process. Writer’s Market can be helpful for topic-specific sites, and for contact information. You can usually find an email in the Contact Us section, or if all else fails, look under the advertising section. Spend some time looking around the site, and make your query specific.

For book bloggers, you will need to familiarize yourself with the blog. Make sure your book is a good fit. Don’t pitch to bloggers on social media, and don’t pitch something clearly not appropriate (like a mystery novel to a historical fiction blog). Support your work by sharing each post on your own social media. Offer giveaways if you can, or original content. This can be a Q&A, an excerpt, or some other piece that you write based on the book (like a character interview, etc).

A Virtual Tour allows you to access an audience that you otherwise would not have. It is ostensibly free – that is, except for the time involved, which is substantial. There are many agencies which can set up Blog Tours for you, but a complete Virtual Tour will take something more. Do your homework on this one.

G is for Guest Blogging

All right, so maybe you have a blog. I would guess that if you are reading this as part of the A to Z Challenge, you are already blogging and finding your audience. But consider another way to reach out to different audience. That’s right, guest blogging.

For many years, I didn’t have a blog at all. In fact, I was resistant to the idea (much as I am now resistant to creating a Google+ profile). I figured I had enough to do, and any writing I did should be either for my clients, or as part of my own personal creative writing. And I didn’t think blogging fit into that.

So for about the past five years, I have been using guest blogging as one of my primary outreach tools. This meant that I didn’t have to maintain my own blog, there was no schedule involved, and there was no pressure to come up with content every week. I blogged for someone else, and then shared the heck out of the link. I had several active social media profiles, so that was all in place to get the word out. I got exposure to my host bloggers’ audiences, likely people who would not have heard of me otherwise. And they got exposed to my followers.

Why then, you might ask, am I now blogging? Well, to tell you the truth, I just felt like I had a lot of information to share. I wanted to lay it out in a comprehensive manner. The Publishing Bones website allows me to do that. I have different sections for articles of different topics, and will soon add multimedia capabilities. But the blog was part of the theme package. It was there, and anyway I wanted a place where I could share timely information: maybe industry news or news about clients. Maybe have some of those fun special features I’d been seeing (I do have one, called Freakin’ Friday, but I have only used it once). I wanted the blog to be more business, but it seemed to swerve over into the personal part of what I was doing pretty fast. And that’s okay.

So the blog, which I call The Bones, is part of the fabric of Publishing Bones. And I decided to do the A to Z Challenge to get myself in gear. I figured if I could write 26 posts in one month, I’d be on a roll and it would continue. Plus I thought I would get to meet all kinds of other bloggers, which is proving true.

Which brings me back to guest blogging. Once you have a blog, you can still continue to guest blog on other sites. In fact, it makes even more sense. I just did a guest post on the site of Molly Greene last week. It was a phenomenal experience, and the response has been really encouraging. She was very happy with the content, and I think the traffic and her readers’ responses have been worthwhile for her. By the way, I met her through Twitter, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Guest blogging when you already have a blog is a win-win situation. You get the other blog’s traffic, and they get yours. Usually this is done in tandem – bloggers swap entries. But not always. I think if you already have a blog, though, and you guest blog on someone else’s blog, you should definitely let your readers know. It’s a great way to build community and get to know other bloggers. Try it!

B is for Blogging

Here’s the pot calling the kettle black, the cobbler who has no shoes – whatever way you want to spell it. I am a writer who started a blog and then abandoned it for almost a year. There were, of course, extenuating circumstances, but there are certainly things I could have done differently. Like followed my own advice. Read on.

Blogging concept

To blog or not to blog? I get this question a lot. I also hear a lot from authors who tell me they have heard they must start a blog. I know that it is a good way to build an online platform. But I also know that many writers abandon their efforts after just a few months.

So how to know if this is for you? Think: about what you want to spend your time doing. How much time do you have to spend writing each day? How comfortable are you with technology? A lot of bloggers are very tech-oriented, but you don’t have to be. What do you have to say? Do you have a given topic that you are very passionate about and that has a large online community? Or are you just trying to get readers to like you and buy your book?

If your answer to some of these questions is “No” or “Not much/not very,” then perhaps your time is better spent on other activities to promote your work. A blog can be a great way to get into the writing habit or jumpstart a project, but if it’s not the type of writing you want to do, and you don’t have a lot to say about a particular topic, or have precious little writing time anyway, then move on.

If, indeed, you have a topic for which you know there exists a large online community, then yes, blogging may be a good way to go. But you still have to come up with content and be patient. I suggest that those starting a blog write a month’s worth of posts before they even begin. That way you will always have something ‘in the can’ and you won’t have to fret about it each time you go to post. And batch your content creation. This means sit down and write a few posts at a time. Batching content is more efficient and especially helpful when you are doing a series post.

Your posts do not have to be long. People reading online have shorter attention spans – have you heard this? A 600 word post is plenty. That’s why you might consider doing multiple part posts if you have more to say about one topic. Or simply writing about an aspect of that topic, instead of trying to cover it all in one post.

How often do you need to post? Not very often, really. Once a week is fine to start with. Yes, there are those who post every day. I honestly don’t know how they do it. Twice a week is a good frequency to aim for, especially if your community is very active. That means if you are posting twice a week, you should have 8 posts done before you launch your blog.

But how do you generate content? Well, there are lots of great mechanisms you can use. A mind map is one that I love. Think in terms of an infographic, where you ask a question and follow the rabbit hole of answers. Also, there is a great breakdown of types of topics and lists of ideas at Molly Greene’s fabulous blog. There are many other ways to get content. Look at what your comments are, and take cues from there.

Above all, be consistent in how often you post, and be sure that you are posting good content. Don’t just slap something up there to get a post up. Be sure to run a spellcheck and hey, especially if you are a writer, know that this counts. Good grammar, error-free posts and well-spoken content will get you closer to your goals.

And don’t forget the ‘community’ part of blogging, either. Visit other blogs and see what they are doing. Leave a comment, so they know you’ve been there. Don’t expect direct reciprocity, but you will likely get more visitors after visiting other blogs.

And be patient. Consistency and good content will eventually garner you an audience, if you take the time to find it. It can take a year or more for a blog to catch on. Keep at it if you decide this is really what you want to do.