Friday, July 31, 2009

Beth Groundwater About Lessons Learned from a Blog Book Tour

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.

19 comments:

L. Diane Wolfe said...

My fourth and largest tour starts in a few weeks, and Beth's tip is vital - plan it out long in advance!! I had seven articles to write for this upcoming tour and finished the last one weeks ago.

L. Diane Wolfe
www.circleoffriendsbooks.blogspot.com
www.spunkonastick.net
www.thecircleoffriends.net

Paty Jager said...

Would you suggest only doing a tour for a new release? Especially since you say to plan it in advance? My latest release was in June so would planning a tour now which would probably put me in January be too far out from a release date to make it worth my while?

Helen said...

As a blogger who hosts authors, I agree that authors have to plan way ahead to make the tour successful. I ask visiting authors to get their post and author info and pics to me two weeks ahead of the scheduled date. I need that much time so I can create three posts and put them on an unlinked page on my website for the author to review and make edits if s/he wants.

I would also encourage touring authors to only schedule one blog a day. I, and probably most other host blogs, expect the visiting author to check in multiple times during the day of their visit to answer questions or make comments in the Comments section. I'm looking for an interactive visit from the author.

Guess that's enough from the host side of the triangle. If you want to know more about the host side of it, I have a resource article on my website at:
http://helenginger.com/blogging_advice.htm#blogtips

Helen
Straight From Hel

Beth Solheim said...

Beth, Great advice. Thanks. I'm in the book tour planning stages for At Witt's End release in early 2010. You mentined several points that will help immensely. Preplanning is the key.

carl brookins said...

Fascinating and useful stuff, guys.
Thanks Beth for the report and to the rest of you for other perspectives.
I've captured the info for my own planning purposes in prep for the next book.

julielomoe said...

I'm a recent Blog Book Tours alumna, and I'm planning a BBT for this fall after I reissue my mystery Eldercide as Evening Falls Early. I've been having a great time blogging and learning about online networking, and I know some people have already ordered my books after reading my blog. But this blogging has been all-consuming, and I'm afraid an actual tour might be even more so. I'll be very interested in hearing from you once your royalty statements come in.

One thing I still don't understand: what's the advantage of doing an intensive "tour" rather than doing random guest blogs here and there?

Beth Groundwater said...

Paty,
Yes, I only suggest doing a blog tour for new releases.

I agree with Helen that you should only schedule one blog visit a day, so you can focus on promoting that one blog that day and checking for and responding to comments there.

Julie,
There IS a difference in the volume of response and "buzz" between a concentrated tour and doing random guest blogs. The Amazon and B&N ranks of both of my books continued to slowly increase (a bad sign indicating no sales) for the first couple of stops on my tour, but after the third stop, the ranks dropped (which is positive) and kept bouncing lower repeatedly over the length of the tour with an overall downward trend. So, the tour had to ramp up some before folks started buying. They had to see information about the same book & author multiple times in close succession before they started buying.

I've done random blog stops (about one a month) for quite a while now, and I've seen nowhere near the volume of sales and comments I got during my blog book tour.

Mark said...

Hi Beth,

Congratulations on the release of your second book, "To Hell in a Handbasket" and for sharing what you learned on your book tour.

One thing that caught my eye was that you would not know if your tour was worth the work you put into it until after you received your fall royalty statement. That's a long time to wait.

I encourage you to track your books on www.metricjunkie.com. It's a free service that tracks the Amazon sales ranks for books you add, and displays the results through vibrant charts and graphs. Estimated sales and market share are also provided.

Hope this helps you in the future.

Beth Groundwater said...

Mark,
I DID track my Amazon and B&N ranks, but those online sales outlets only contribute a small percentage to my sales. The vast majority of Five Star books are sold to libraries, then there are the customers orders from brick & mortar stores. The two online outlets are only a small part of the total picture.
- Beth

Mark said...

Beth,

Reasonable enough. It would be interesting to know what correlation, if any could be derived from Amazon sales. If one could be drawn, then Amazon sales could be used to provide early indications of what an author could expect down the road and adjust their campaigns accordingly without waiting several months to find out. Just thinking out loud... :)

Morgan Mandel said...

Thanks for stopping off at Acme Authors Link, Beth. I hope you had a good time.

Morgan Mandel
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com
http://www.morganmandel.com

Beth Groundwater said...

I did have a good time, Morgan! Thanks to all the Acme Authors for having me.
- Beth

Maryann Miller said...

Very helpful post, Beth. I did a virtual book tour last Sept. and agree with you that two weeks is better than a month. It is very time intensive to follow up on all the little details every day and two weeks about wore me out. No time for writing. :-)

And thanks for the tip about getting phone numbers of blog hosts. I never thought of that, but you are right about how important that would be to alert the host of a problem.

Blair said...

Very helpful, thanks! I didn't do a blog book tour with my first book, which came out in January, because I thought the audience/subject matter were a little too "niche-y.) ("Accordion Dreams" is a Cajun music memoir published by a university press.) But I'm now completing a mystery, so I would certainly want to consider it for the future. I did get some exposure in other ways, and your before-and-after stats (Amazon, visits to your personal blog/website) look comparable to my own experience during the book launch period. Thanks again for the informative post!

Rob Walker said...

Darn, I put up the first comment to say what a great job you did on this subject, and somehow it didn't get posted...bummer. Thanks for coming to us at ACME and you will have to come back again sometime...
Rob

Maggie Toussaint said...

I enjoyed the tips, Beth. I will certainly be interested in hearing the outcome of your efforts with your hardcover Five Star book.

A fellow Five Star-ite.

Margot Justes said...

Beth,
Thank you for the tips-I've never done a blog tour-but now I will, even though my book came out in 2008.
Thank you,
Margot

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I've been saying I'm going to do a blog tour for almost a year now, but keep putting it off. I find the whole process daunting and I don't think I come anywhere close to having the amount of energy Beth seems to have which made her tour so successful.

Nancy J. Cohen said...

Thanks, Beth, for giving us a role model for blog tours. The thing I would find most daunting would be coming up with so many different topics.