Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Paid Blog Tours: Yes or No?

by Holly West

In preparing for the publication of Mistress of Fortune earlier this year, I wondered if I should book a paid blog tour. In truth, I wouldn't have considered it at all--I'd already put together a blog tour of my own by contacting various blogs (mostly written by people I already knew) and scheduled a series of interviews and guest posts. I figured that would be enough.

But when the subject of blog tours and marketing came up on the Carina Press author loop, my ears perked up. One of their more successful authors mentioned that she'd booked a cover reveal "tour" months in advance of the publication of her latest title. She said it had resulted in 300+ GoodReads "adds." She had a blog tour scheduled for dates surrounding the actual publication of the book, but all I had was my little DIY blog tour. It made me think that I should've planned the promotion of my launch better, but by that time, it was too late.

That said, I was very pleased with the tour I put together myself. The contacts I'd made in the crime fiction world really came through for me and while it was a lot of work, I enjoyed writing the posts and answering interview questions. But had I done enough?

The second book in my series, Mistress of Lies, was scheduled to come out on September 29, 2014, and this time I started planning my promotion well in advance by booking a cover reveal and blog tour. My rationale was that with the first book, I'd done a good job reaching out to the crime fiction community, but I hadn't done enough to get the word out to other reading communities--historical fiction, in particular. I knew I needed to expand my audience as much as possible.

While I paid for these promotions out of my own pocket, my publisher also paid for a tour to promote several mystery titles that they were publishing on the same date. My own book tour included a high end giveaway, which again, I paid for myself. My hope was that somehow, eventually, these upfront expenses would pay off in sales.

So, did they?

Probably not. I say "probably" because up to now they haven't, but who knows how this promotion will affect future sales? Will there be enough over time to justify the expense incurred by both myself and my publisher? I'm thinking it's doubtful.

This post isn't meant to be pessimistic, but I want to be honest about the results I got from booking a paid tour. There's no question that I achieved a bit more reach (and a few new readers) by participating in a tour. I got some additional reviews, which I'm very thankful for. As they say, every little bit counts.

The problem with paid blog tours, I think, is that they are more about the give-aways than they are about the books. People establish Twitter accounts for the sole purpose of following and re-tweeting give-aways. It feels generic and impersonal and the actual book gets lost in the shuffle.

The draw for authors is that they seem like a relatively inexpensive way to get the word out. And I suppose that's true, to an extent. Marketing efforts often feel like you're throwing strands of spaghetti against a wall to see what sticks, so depending on your budget, you try everything you can think of.

In my honest opinion, blog tours don't stick.

Have you ever participated in a blog tour? What was your experience?


Kristi said...

Great topic, Holly.
My publisher did a blog tour for both of my books and I think the pay off for me was the reviews - a few really good reviews resulted from it (I think I posted them all on my website or at least links) Other than that I'm not sure if they helped at all (in other words if they helped sell my books.) BUT, here is the other think I do trust the marketing team for my book - they were really upfront about what they believed was NOT worth the time and money - giveaways, author swag, book store tours, etc. I think they have done their research enough that if they thought a blog tour was worth it, it probably was even though we don't necessarily see the direct result of it.
I think most marketing effort is throwing spaghetti at the wall ... we just really don't know. I'd love for others to weigh in on this ...

John McFetridge said...

I decided a while ago to just leave it up to the fates. When people ask to interview me for their blog or something like that I say yes but I don't spend any time seeking out marketing or promotion myself.

But, just like the writing itself I think you have to find what works for you and do that.

Kristopher said...

As a book blogger, I chose from the get-go not to participate in "official" blog tours. My experience with them is much like Holly said:
1. They are more about the giveaway, than the actual book.
2. In many cases, especially with a cover reveal, the provided content is repetitive and thus, not useful to my followers.

I don't do any giveaways on my blog. Sure, it probably hurts the "reach" of my blog, but what I don't think it hurts is the quality of my followers. Giveaways can artificially inflate blog stats to an extent that makes their "reach" for authors seem much larger than it actually is. My blog stats may not rival some of the larger blogs, but I know that my followers are interested in my content (reviews, interviews, conference recaps) because they are interested in the books - not because they might get something for free.

I think Holly and John's method of setting up a pseudo-blog tour yourself and/or accepting all offers of blog coverage is the better (and cheaper) way to go.

Just an opinion from the other side of the table. ;)

Dana King said...

I can't think of anyone off the top of my head who thinks their own paid marketing helped them sell any books, usually for the reasons already cited. I do know of a few people who took baths paying publicists and marketers.

There are two primary problems, as far as I can tell:
1. No one knows what works. I have yet to hear from a marketing person or a publisher's rep about any empirical data on how many books the marketing has sold.
b. Even if it works, it doesn't. I was at a conference a few weeks ago where the story was told of an author who got booked into the Today Show, interviewed by Matt Lauer. The PR/marketing folks touted it as a sign of how wonderful they are; books sales had a bump, but nothing dramatic, considering several million people must have seen the author.

Naomi Hirahara said...

I feel strongly that most paid marketing and advertising efforts should come from the publisher, not the writer. The writer can do some research and suggest some options with the publisher but in terms of ponying up some money -- don't.

So many things we can do for free (it's costs time, however). Our own blog tours, press releases for local press and special interest groups (authors forget about them -- so easy and the payoff is really great), blog posts, etc. Berkley arranged for a blog tour for my first Prime Crime book. Yes, it was about the giveaway and the same blog post was repeated, but I was being introduced to the cozy reader market -- a very strong readership -- so I feel that it was effective, especially since my publisher was handling most of the logistics.

Steve Weddle said...


Sybil Johnson said...

I don't think I'd pay for a blog tour. My first book (a cozy) is coming out soon and I'll be doing a 15 day blog tour arranged by Great Escapes Book Tours. Lori puts together a short blog tour (7-14 days) free for cozy mystery authors. I have no idea if it'll make a difference, but since this is my first book I figured I'd give it a shot.