Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Promote Your Book Online the Offline Way – Part 2: The Virtual Book Tour

This is part 2 of a series of articles exploring new ways to promote your book or ebook using traditional venues adapted to the digital world. In part one, we explored adapting the use of publishing magazines articles to promote an upcoming or published book. In part 2, we look at another great classic of the publishing industry: The book tour.

Ah, the book tour. Aspiring writers dream about it. Seasoned writers often dread it (nothing is more ego-deflating that waiting for hours at an empty table while people walk by pretending not to see you). So why bother?

Well, although the book tour may seem dated in today's digital world, it is still a staple of the book publishing industry. Perhaps because it offers potential clients some of what Social Media excels at: a chance to interact with the author.

This allows them to put a human face to the book and to establish a connection – on a certain (if somewhat superficial) level – with the author. This connection creates an attachment to the author and although I have no data to back this up, I would advance that this attachment pays dividends down the line. People who have met an author are more likely to recommend the book to their friends and family (generating buzz) and to buy future books from the same author.

So how do we modernize the book tour to make it relevant to the digital age? Well, the beauty is that you can promote your book across the planet without incurring a dime in travel expenses.

In simple terms, this is how it would work: You will tour different sites/blogs and offer to answer comments/questions during a set period of time.

Now, if you search on the internet, you will find different variations and definitions of what a virtual book tour is. For some, it is simply having a presence on varying sites. Others equate it to guest blogging. These all lack, in my humble opinion, the key ingredient witch is the interaction aspect.

Here are some handy steps you may want to consider to make your tour more successful and productive:

  • First, if you have a publisher, let him know what you are planning to do. This is free publicity to them. They may even be willing to help by pitching in some $ for online advertizing and link to your blog from their main site

  • If you don’t have a publisher (if this is an ebook for example) or if your publisher is not interested in helping, then find some sponsors – sites willing to highlight your book tour on their sites and to follow you on your tour (i.e. link to whichever site you are touring on at a given moment)

  • Get some early reviews.
    -Send out your book to potential influencers in the subject your book is on and ask for reviews or comments.
    -Always be very polite and somewhat humble, especially if you are not already a star in that particular field.
    -Make sure to ask if you can quote them.
    Let them know about the book tour (they may want to help or even sponsor your tour).

  • Approach websites and blogs and pitch your book took to them.
    -Highlight the advantages to them (free content, visitor engagement, links to their site from your sponsors)
    -Highlight what you have done so far, if anything, to promote the book (include distribution stats, copies sold, links to online reviews or celebrities/experts who have supplied review/comments on your book)
    -Explain the process (how it will work, the duration of the tour, etc)
    -Use some of the tactics from Part 1 to make your offer more interesting

  • Put up a calendar of your “appearances” on your own site or blog. Allow enough time at each site so that a cross section of the site’s visitors can interact. Set up specific times (example, between 7:00 pm to 9:pm EST, December 15 to December 20) when you will be online responding to comments/questions. This is where you make connections

  • Prepare a blurb with links to you book tour that you can post on the social networking site where you already have a presence (Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc). Be cautious, the line is fine between alerting your friends to your tour and spamming (and alienating) all of your connections.

  • Prepare material in advance for each “appearance”
    -A list of interesting sites that complement your subject
    -A list of experts that support your position
    -A list of any reviews you have gotten from the requests you sent out or from sites like Amazon
    -A blurb that describes the event (You are touring to promote your new book – Social Media for pets ) and that includes a link to where the participants can purchase the book
    -Short blurbs on different topics that you can post intermittently to invite visitors to comment or ask questions

  • Get a friend or to drop by one the day of your appearances in case no one asks any questions. You can supply them with the broad picture of what you would like to accomplish but don’t “plant” questions. This is meant as a measure to stimulate engagement in the event of a lull in the conversation – don’t try to fool visitors by creating a bunch of fake and obvious interaction. Fake always stinks and makes you look bad. People have to deal with too much that is fake already; they are searching for something genuine in their interactions with you.

A word of caution!
Virtual book tour services and book marketing experts are popping up all over the place. Many of these services charge thousands of dollars for what is essentially just getting you a few guest blog posts. If you do elect to go with one of these services, check them out thoroughly first. Ask for references and make them specify exactly what you can expect them to do to promote your book.

Some pioneers of virtual book tours:
-Angie Pedersen for her book The Book of US: A Guide to Scrapbooking about Relationships
-Rolf Potts – Marco polo didn’t go there
-Post2Post: A Virtual Book Tour of Jack’s Notebook

Interesting resources on the web:
BookTour – Where authors and audiences meet

And of course…
Promote Your Book Online the Offline Way – Part 1

If you have anything to add, any suggestions for your fellow writers, please add them in the comments!