Plan a Powerful Blog Tour
by Steve Weber
Many Internet marketing
programs focus on luring readers to your Web site. But you can reach even more
people with a campaign that meets your potential readers where they already
This means arranging a series of
appearances known as a blog tour, a virtual author tour, or guest blogging.
Blog tours are especially valuable for authors who can’t travel or are
uncomfortable with public speaking, and when touring is impractical because a
book’s readers are widely dispersed.
While blog tours expose your book
to a much larger audience than a traditional bookstore tour—and cost you
less in time and money—they also help your host bloggers by providing
free content for their readers and affiliate revenue from book sales.
Typical blog tours include these
· an excerpt displayed on each host
blog in the days preceding the tour to publicize the tour appearance
· a one-day appearance, beginning
with a short essay on the topic of your book and then inviting discussion
· follow-up visits for the next four
to seven days to answer questions and comments from blog readers
Targeting Host Blogs
The first step in arranging a blog
tour is finding potential host blogs. Identify the most popular blogs read by
your book’s target audience. Some likely candidates may spring to mind, but new
blogs can gain readership quickly, so it’s worth surveying the field
Building your list of target blogs
requires legwork, because no comprehensive directory exists. To determine the
popularity, authority, and quality of blogs in your market, you’ll need to
sample contents yourself.
Three sites are good starting
places for your search:
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> This blog-tracking site lists the 100 most popular
blogs at www.technorati.com/pop/blogs.
But to find niche content, you’ll need to look beyond the mainstream. Use the
advanced search tool—www.technorati.com/search—to drill down into
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Type in keywords related to your book. Ignore results
from personal blogs that focus on the author and get little traffic.
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Forbes’s “Best of the Web” directory reviews blogs with
Once you’ve created a list of
potential blog hosts, prioritize them in terms of three criteria:
level. How frequently do new posts
appear on the blog? Bloggers usually must post new content a few times a week
to sustain a loyal readership. Scan the past few months of a blog’s archives to
determine the posting frequency.
involvement. How often do readers
chime in with thoughtful comments? The vast majority of blogs allow readers to
follow up with their own commentary. Frequent and thoughtful reader comments
indicate audience engagement.
volume. Traffic is the natural
result of audience loyalty and involvement, and it’s an objective measure of a
blog’s impact. A handy yardstick for measuring blog traffic is available at
which provides estimated traffic reports on many Web sites. (A subsidiary of
Amazon, Alexa isn’t limited to blogs, so you can also use it to find all sorts
of Web sites targeting your readers.)
At Alexa.com, click Traffic
Rankings at the top navigation bar. Enter the address of the blog you want to
evaluate and click Get Traffic Details. For most blogs, you’ll see an Alexa
rank from 1 (the most-visited site on the Web) to about 5 million, meaning very
low readership. For the top 100,000 sites, Alexa provides detailed traffic
estimates. Under the heading Explore This Site, you’ll see these links:
Details shows the blog’s relative
reach and number of page views, and whether traffic is trending up or down.
Links shows other sites popular
with the same audience (which makes this a good place to discover still more
potential blog hosts).
Linking In shows which sites,
ranked by authority, have incoming links to the blog (follow these links to
identify more sites that target your audience).
Depending on how narrowly focused
your book is, you may find only a few relevant quality blogs, and that’s fine.
It’s better to focus on a small, well-qualified audience who will respond to
your book instead of a general audience on whom you’ll have little impact.
Alexa’s reports aren’t foolproof;
they’re drawn from a small sample of Web users who use its browser toolbar.
Rankings for high-traffic sites are more statistically accurate than reports
for niche sites. But Alexa is a handy, free source of objective information
about Web traffic, and more accurate than anecdotal reports from bloggers and
Webmasters, who are notorious for overestimating.
Another good source of traffic
estimates is MetricsMarket (www.MetricsMarket.com), and Google PageRank can also help
you determine how much juice a blog has. Google’s patented method ranks the
importance of Web sites on a scale of one to 10 based on the authority of
To check rankings, use <span
Quality blogs and Web sites will have a PageRank of at least five. To determine
PageRank, check a blog’s main page or a Web site’s home page; other pages often
Building Your Excerpt
Once you’ve identified appropriate
hosts for your blog tour, the next step is creating your excerpt—an
online document providing a description of the book, a passage from the text,
cover artwork, and an author photo and biography.
Your excerpt can resemble a
traditional paper flyer but include more detail. It should serve three
· convince the blogger to host your
· promote your appearance to the
· prepare the blog audience to
discuss issues and ideas raised in your book
Essential information like the
author name and book title should be embedded and visible in the photos of the
cover art and author photo. That way, if a Webmaster accidentally leaves out
part of your text—or it’s deleted at some point—readers will still
have enough information to buy your book. If possible, combine all the elements
of your excerpt into a single document to ensure that it’s displayed properly
and that nothing is omitted.
A typical excerpt includes these
· a brief setup describing the
book’s topic, audience, and perspective
· title, author name, and retail
· blurbs and testimonials
· credentials of nonfiction authors;
previous books by fiction authors
· a short passage from the book
· affiliate links for buying the
book at online retailers
· author photo
· standard bibliographic information
such as ISBN, binding, page count, and publisher
Try to cap your text at 2,000 to
3,000 words. Some readers won’t scroll down through two screens of continuous
content. Interested readers often print longer excerpts, however, so when you
provide them, include a message at the top that encourages printing.
What Makes an Excerpt
Your elevator speech should be the
heart of your excerpt. Don’t automatically take a passage from the front of the
More hints for a compelling
· Give chunks, not boulders. For
nonfiction, select the most essential, engaging nuggets in your book. Winning
excerpts often contain lists, like “Top 10 ways to save money when buying a
car” or “Three ways to ask someone on a date.”
· Use cliffhangers. For fiction, try
leaving readers in suspense. Encourage interest in one or two characters.
· Find a news angle. For both
fiction and nonfiction, try to provide a news hook. Does a current controversy
or movie relate to your book’s topic? Topicality is blog oxygen, and a strong
current-events hook can persuade A-list bloggers to host your tour.
· Highlight benefits, not features.
For nonfiction, briefly describe the problems your book solves. Explain how it
differs from competing titles.
· Include white space. Break up your
text. Separate paragraphs with blank lines, to relieve gray blocks of text.
Readers are more likely to read your excerpt if they can scan chunks.
All together now: If you are
providing more than one image, assemble everything in a layout file in PDF or
HTML format. This prevents the blogger or Webmaster from losing any pieces.
Don’t send your excerpt as an
email attachment. Most people are apprehensive about receiving files from
unfamiliar sources. Instead, post the document on a dedicated page on your own
site and provide the link so hosts can copy the document or link to it. After
you’ve posted the file on your domain, don’t delete it, because some blogs will
link to your page instead of keeping the material on their sites. The excerpt
on your domain may get traffic for years to come.
For an example of an excerpt, see:www.PatronSaintPr.com/samples/mclaren/mclaren-obd.htm.
And Here’s the Pitch
With your excerpt ready and your
A-list of blogs for your tour on hand, it’s time to pitch the tour to host
bloggers. Contact each blogger individually by email, explaining why your book
is of interest. Provide two or three compelling reasons why your tour will be
thought provoking and entertaining for this blog’s audience.
Start with your top prospects and
work your way down as time permits. Contact bloggers directly; don’t simply
leave a comment on a blog and hope the blogger notices it. Most blogs have a
mechanism for contacting the blogger through an email address or form.
The more popular bloggers are, the
harder it may be to get their attention. If you can’t find contact information,
look at the bottom of the home page, where you may see instructions for
contacting the Webmaster. Or try reaching a decision maker via an “advertise
with us” link.
Make the subject line of your
email specific; a generic “Please read this” is often deleted unread. Tailor
your pitch for each blogger, addressing everyone by name so your message won’t
be mistaken for spam. Offer a complimentary review copy of your book. Provide
your complete contact information—including phone number—to further
differentiate your message from spam.
Not every blogger will accept your
pitch, and you shouldn’t take the rejections personally. Some sites simply
don’t use book excerpts. Blogs run by newspapers or magazines often don’t use
third-party content except in sections labeled “Opinion” or “To the editor.” An
acceptance rate of 25 percent is a good target, and you shouldn’t schedule more
than three to five blogs per week.
As realistically as possible,
pitch yourself as a potential long-term partner, not a drive-by opportunist.
Successful blog tours will prompt return invitations and can launch mutually
Acing the Appearances
Depending on how a blogger
administers a site, you may be given a login and password or simply email the
blogger. After opening with a short statement that recaps themes expressed in
your excerpt, ask the blog audience for reactions.
Responses can continue to come in
for several days, giving you the opportunity to reappear, replying to comments
and answering questions.
Make your own responses succinct
and keep the conversation moving. Blogs are two-way streets, and exchanging
ideas makes compelling content. At the end of each of your responses, ask a
question, such as “What’s your take on that?” or “How do you feel about this?”
Be prepared for the occasional
rude or embarrassing question. For example, if your book is about barbecuing,
be ready for questions from animal-rights activists. Feel free to ignore
off-topic comments, and simply continue with your message. But don’t shy away
from substantive arguments—nothing sells a book better than controversy.
At each stop on your blog tour,
mention your previous appearances on other blogs, and provide the links. This
will generate continued readership and cross-linking among blogs.
Blog tours don’t always cause a
big spike in sales, but they do fuel word of mouth for your book and build name
recognition. Each time you appear in front of your target audience, it’s a
plus. When a blog appearance goes particularly well, don’t let it end there.
Offer to write a monthly guest column for the blog in exchange for a link to
your site and a permanent buy-the-book affiliate link.
Steve Weber is author of <span
class=8StoneSans>Plug Your Book! Online Book
Marketing for Authors (Weber Books, 2007). For more information,