MEMBERS IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Sharing Tips from a Successful Blog Tour
Thinking about a blog tour to promote a book? Kim Shimer has some recommendations based on her recent work setting up a one-day tour with more than 15 bloggers for Tending to Eden: Environmental Stewardship for God’s People by Scott Sabin from Judson Press.
Allow at least two months to set up a tour, she says, and your preparation should include:
Identifying appropriate blogs with the help of Google Alerts. Enter the keywords for your topics, and you’ll receive daily emails highlighting blogs that posted something on those topics. Supplement this with basic searches for “[your topic] + [blog].”
Evaluating the blogs you’re considering. Are they regularly updated (when was the latest post)? Do they have followers (do people comment on their posts)? Are they well-ranked by Google? Add a Google rank feature to your tools, and it will show you a site’s rank from 0 to 10.
“Of course, the higher the rank, the less likely a blogger is to respond to you,” says Shimer, who handles marketing for Judson, adding, “I typically have success with those ranked in the 3–5 range.” Not all sites are ranked, she adds, so you may need other qualifiers.
Preparing to track your Amazon sales rank before, during, and after the tour. Shimer uses TitleZ.com. Set it up before the blog tour dates so you can see the changes.
Inviting bloggers to participate at least a month before your tour date. Be specific about why you’re contacting them; reference a specific post on a related topic that led you to believe this blogger would be interested in your book. Explain why you think your book is a good fit for the blog’s focus.
If time permits, find an opportunity to comment on the blogger’s posts. It’s helpful if bloggers are familiar with you (or at least your name) before you ask them for help. If bloggers do not provide contact information on the site, you may be able to reach them by commenting on a post and asking the blogger to contact you about interest in your tour. Or use Facebook to contact the blogger.
Besides explaining why you’d like a specific blogger to participate, your invitation should include the date, what you’d like the blogger to do, and how you’ll promote the tour (in other words, how you will be driving traffic to that blog).
Shimer recommends that you ask bloggers to:
• review your book
• post a Q&A session with the author
• have the author serve as a guest poster
• post an excerpt from the book
Here’s what Shimer does to promote a tour:
• create a Blog Tour list and add it to the Judson Press Web site with links to
• send a press release wherever she thinks it might be published
About a week before the tour date, she sends participating bloggers a reminder email to:
• thank them for participating
• request that they link the book title to the publisher’s Web site, to Amazon’s listing for
the book, and/or to another primary retail outlet or outlets for the book
• include a brief bio of the author
• include the book cover image and the author photo
After the tour is over, you’ll want to:
• use Google Alerts for the book title to see who has blogged on it
• send thank-you notes to those who participated
• request that bloggers share a couple of comments from their posts on Amazon (this is
a great way to build up reviews on Amazon, Shimer says)
How did this work pay off for Judson Press? “The day of the tour, the book was ranked at 126,020 on Amazon.com,” Shimer reports. “The seven-day average rank had been 293,740. The morning after the tour, the rank had improved to 42,012, and it got up to 38,201.”
Even better, Amazon.com orders sharply increased. Before the tour, it had purchased a total of 11 copies. At this writing, within a week of the tour, it had ordered 40 more.
Separately, Judson Press announces that nuChristian: Finding Faith in a New Generation by Russell E.D. Rathbun has been recognized by Outreach magazine in its annual Outreach Resources of the Year issue.
Title Z (titlez.com) is an interesting Web site, by the way. It provides an easy way to get Amazon.com sales rank figures (not sales figures) for your titles and your competitors’. For books with established sales through Amazon, you can quickly check current, recent, best, worst, and lifetime sales. It’s currently free.
From IBPA Independent to a Reality Show
That ascent in exposure isn’t guaranteed for IBPA authors, but it’s what has happened to Palmer/Pletsch cookbook author Liz Edmunds since publisher Pati Palmer was interviewed for the Independent in late 2009.
Palmer, whose publishing focus has always been sewing, took a foray into uncharted (for her) waters with the publication of The Food Nanny Rescues Dinner in 2008. She gave it an impressive launch (the Web page, palmerpletsch.com/thefoodnannyrescuesdinner.htm, provides almost all the information that readers or media could need), and her marketing-savvy author is taking it all the way to the small screen with The Food Nanny. You can tune in to the 30-minute show on Thursdays (byutv.org)—or you can ask Edmunds to rescue dinner for your family (your SOS has to include a video showing what a mess mealtime is at your house).
That’s how Publishers Weekly recently described several IBPA members and their growth in the last year. In “Carpe Diem: The Indie Presses That Grew in 2009 Benefited from Bold Decision Making,” PW’s Jim Milliot covered:
Turner Publishing, which increased its sales almost 10 percent, crediting print books with virtually all the increase.
Square One Publishers, which boosted sales 19 percent, reporting that many sales resulted from a movie tie-in and from publication of Macy’s: The Store. The Star, which was offered to employees at a discount.
Prufrock Press, which had a 21 percent increase between 2007 and 2009 as reported by Reed Business Information, publishing titles for parents of children with special needs and titles for gifted learners. The special needs area is the newest for Prufrock and had the greatest growth in 2009.
Ulysses Press, which had a 16 percent increase between 2007 and 2009 as reported by Reed Business Information, with sales in the first seven weeks of 2010 up 30 percent over 2009 and much of the growth attributed by the press to finding authors to write for underserved niches.
Chelsea Green Publishing, which had a 10 percent increase between 2007 and 2009 as reported by Reed Business Information. Backlist got most of the credit for the sales gains. Frontlist sales also increased modestly.
Tips from E-blast Trackers
The importance of stating your topic in the subject line of email announcements was emphasized by IBPA assistant director Lisa Krebs, who, along with such members as Learning Zone Xpress, is using Constant Contact for e-blasts.
Both Krebs and Londa Arnfelt, who handles national sales for Learning Zone Xpress, say one advantage of the Constant Contact service is that it reports how many emails were opened, how many recipients responded, and, if there are multiple links in the message, which ones attracted the most readers.
“An excellent tool for tracking promotional efforts,” said Arnfelt, as she was preparing an email announcement of the company’s recent recognition in Telly Awards. (The company, which creates videos, posters, and lesson plans for children’s health, nutrition, and life skills, is a candidate for these awards since they honor local, regional, and cable television commercials and programs, video, and film productions, as well as work created for the Internet.)
At IBPA, the Constant Contact statistics are reviewed tosee how many members are interested in certain topics. “This tells us where the interests and concerns are,” Krebs notes.
Overall, about a third of IBPA’s emails via Constant Contact are opened, and the click-through rate is about 20 percent. A specific subject line significantly impacts the open rate, says Krebs.
Other valuable information: Constant Contact shows which members forward an email.
Whatever email program you use, determine whether you can obtain some or all of this information. In some cases, you can gauge the open rate by requesting a return receipt when you send an email. This often shows how many emails are discarded without being opened.
Involvement as an Asset
Put people’s names in your book, and chances are, they’ll buy copies. Involve them in the creation of the book, and you’ve created a reason to contact their local media. At the Well Bred Book, Chrysa Smith is doing both with her YA fiction, and she calls it a “win-win-win” strategy for even more reasons.
“As a self-publisher I can engage students in the reading/writing process by getting them involved in decisions about plots, illustrations, and editing,” she tells us. Smith’s third title, scheduled for late-summer release, is under review in more than two dozen elementary schools from southern New Jersey to the Poconos. Students are being asked to choose a Halloween costume for the story’s only human character and to comment on Halloween activities to be included in the book.
For their efforts, each school is credited in the back pages of the book and receives complimentary copies for its school library. Schools near the Well Bred Book’s Bucks County, PA, location also can invite Smith to visit and provide what she calls a “bird’s eye view” of the book publishing process.
Getting Tons of Testimonials
Marv Marshall of Piper Press reports that emailing the manuscript of Parenting Without Stress: How to Raise Responsible Kids While Keeping a Life of Your Own got him 27 testimonials from Americans and 19 from people elsewhere in the world. Marshall reports that he has more than 15,000 subscribers to his newsletter, and many responded to his offer to provide copies of the ms. as a PDF. With each one he sent, he requested a two-sentence comment. They’re posted at parentingwithoutstress.org.
Members in the Spotlight is compiled by Linda Carlson, who welcomes news of unusual special sales, significant media coups, and other achievements at firstname.lastname@example.org . Please submit information in the text of your email. This column does not use images or news about nonmembers. Since information for Members in the Spotlight is needed at least six weeks in advance of an issue’s publication date, news you submit by May 15 can be considered for the July and later issues. Items that are time sensitive and miss the Spotlight deadline—awards, events, mentions on TV and radio, and co-opportunities—can be directed to email@example.com for the IBPA e-newsletter Independent Publishing Now.