Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Artist Unleashed: THE 7 MYTHS OF VIRTUAL BOOK TOURS, by Pandora Poikilos

More than two years ago when Orangeberry started out, there were only a handful of people doing book tours. Now, every other blogger has his or her own clique with the ability to do virtual book tours.

Is this a bad thing? Not at all.

If anything, it means self-published authors now have more means to promote their books in a timely manner. However, with the boom of book tours, also comes some misconception. 

1: If I go on on a virtual book tour, I am going to sell tons of books and immediately recover my costs of publishing my book and the price of the book tour. 

I am not sure how this idea started, and it is not impossible, but the chances of it happening are extremely rare. People who tell you otherwise, ask them for proof. 

Virtual book tours, as with any other marketing effort, are something you will not see immediate returns from. Also, the returns may not come in the form of sales. You may get increased book reviews or you may meet a particular group of readers you can connect with and keep updated for your next release.

Think long-term, always.

Think about this. In November 2013, Volvo set social media on fire with the epic split ad. The ad was said to have to have cost more than $4 million for 3 days of test runs,15 minutes of getting it in the exact light they wanted for an ad that lasted no more than 1 minute and 20 seconds. That’s a lot of money. Did you see everyone who spoke about the ad running out to buy a Volvo truck? No. The main purpose of the ad was to get people talking about Volvo. Was the mission accomplished? With more than 71 million views and counting, you tell me. So the purpose of a virtual book tour is to create enough buzz about your book that will make people want to know more about it and you. Eventually, this will translate into sales, but the trick is to stay in the limelight without spamming. 

2: This means, if I go on many different book tours with different tour companies and have them post the same content during these book tours, people will know more about me? 

'I’m too busy for a book tour.' 'I don’t have time to promote my book.' These are some of the common phrases I’ve heard from authors.

Well and good, we all have personal lives that need attention, and technology changes so fast, it’s sometimes hard to keep up. Some authors do their best to learn and keep up. Some don’t bother at all, and then you have the ones who take the road in between. They duplicate content. They go from one book tour company to another company saying, I need a change, but what this actually means is he or she is not going to generate fresh content.

Previously, Google had very little issue with this. It was even believed the more duplicate content you could churn out on different blogs, the better your SEO and the more people will know of you. Not anymore. As of January 2014, Google put their foot downon duplicate contentWhile the article pinpoints guest blogging for SEO purposes is what they are going after, we have noticed a big change in how Google search generates results. We recently had an author reuse all guest posts from two years ago in January 2014. Even after a month, the first page of Google search displayed links from two years ago and not the current ones. There may be many technicalities involved, but the point is duplicate content is a BIG FAT NO. If you can’t generate fresh content, then opt for a review tour or don’t go on a virtual book tour until you can generate fresh content.

If you don’t have time for book marketing, hire someone to do it for you, or make time for it. No one else knows your book better than you do. 

3: Book marketing is costly and I don’t have enough money. Why can’t people do it for free? 

It isn’t that expensive. If you can spend $5 on coffee, you can set aside another $5 a day towards your book marketing fund. If you do this every month, you will have a monthly book marketing budget of $150. If you set aside a $1 a day, you will still have $30 a month which will give you ads on blogs, a shorter book tour, or an ad on Goodreads. People can’t do it for free, because like you, they too have bills have to pay.

When Orangeberry started, all tours were free. But as site maintenance bills and advertising needs increased, fees were put into place. To this day, money made from the Orangeberry site goes towards the Orangeberry Goodie Bag which covers site maintenance, site security, artwork, advertising, blogger gifts and the annual virtual Orangeberry Book Expo. 

4: I visited this one blog during my book tour, I didn’t like it, so it’s okay for me to publicly trash the blog, right?

Blogs for some people are like their second homes. Ask anyone who has blogged for more than a year and they will tell you it’s been a journey, a learning experience, or the blog has become their foothold through a bad experience. Just as you hate getting one-star reviews for your book, how would a blogger feel about you publicly trashing his or her blog? Think about it. You have feelings. So does the person sitting on the other side of the screen reading your negative remarks.

Some tour companies use new bloggers as fillers or as extra stops, trashing their blog isn’t a fantastic welcome to the book blogging world.

5: The more followers a blogger has the better my chances for visibility.

In general, yes. But bear in mind, Facebook changed this dramatically with two things.

One, people who promoted their page via Facebook (i.e. paid money to Facebook) found their pages were no different than likes bought via click farms because, as it turned out, Facebook was promoting pages to countries like Bangladesh despite people selecting target audience as the USAor Europe.

Two, their recent decision to focus more on more popular pages and profiles means a page can have 10,000 likes, but minimal visibility. How do you then judge? Go for click-throughs. One blogger posted a link on Twitter, how many clicks did that generate? Another blogger posted to Goodreads, how many clicks did that generate? Most bloggers and tour companies can accommodate these requests, but be patient when asking as they probably have more than one author to who is asking the exact same thing.

6: All book communities are bad because they bully me my book. 

I know I am walking on glass with this one, but here’s my take on it. If someone says, 'I didn’t like your book because “insert constructive criticism”, this is not bullying. You have opinions about what you like and you do not like, so do others. Definitions of cyberbullying can be found on sites like Stop Bullying, and National Crime Prevention Council.

Don’t write off bloggers and reading communities for the wrong reasons. You may get a few bad apples, and yes you’re bound to get some bullies, but if you stay away from every reading community or group because of something you do not like, how do you then reach readers? 

7: Virtual book tours can be set up quickly and bloggers will immediately give me positive reviews for my book. 

The answer is no. We learnt the hard way as well. As you will notice, many tour companies work with smaller groups of bloggers, which is why we recommend going on tour with more than one virtual book tour company so your reach is wider.

We opted to work with a book club and about 100 other bloggers to get reviews going quickly. While some books were easy to sail through and reviews were favourable, others consisted of multiple plot issues, formatting errors and genre classification errors. So the books would have to be returned to the author to be corrected. In some cases, some bloggers may not like your book for reasons not related to technique, so again, other bloggers are needed to read and review.

TBR (to be read) piles can get out of hand fast, which is why we recently revised our lead time for tour bookings from three weeks to six weeks which gives us more time to source out more bloggers. Where possible, any book tour company will seek the best targeted readers for your book, so you do not get negative reviews. The downside of this is that the process is not quick and it isn’t 100% fool proof. No, really, it isn’t. 

While the world of self-publishing changes everyday, there are a few constants. You need a good book. You need an edited book. You need an attractive cover. And you need patience, by the truck loads. Patience to learn, patience to plan and patience to see how it all comes together. In some cases, it doesn’t, so try again. There is no magic bullet, and there is no secret to overnight book sales. 

Each marketing effort produces different results for different authors and different books. Regardless of what some “experts” will tell you, there is no fast track to increasing book sales. It takes effort, money, and time.

Marketing your book is not a race, and it does not have a finish line. In the words of JA Konrath, “eBooks are forever.”

International best-selling author, Pandora Poikilos has been writing for more than 10 years for various media which include newspapers, radio, television and various websites. Diagnosed in 2003 with a rare neurological disorder, Benign Intracrannial Hypertension, she has since undergone brain surgery to have a VP Shunt fitted in her brain. Her debut novel – Excuse Me, My Brains Have Stepped Out was written when recovering from this surgery. A social media enthusiast who is passionate about blogging and finding her way around the virtual world, (when not managing Orangeberry) she wills away time in the real world by reading, writing and people watching.

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  1. Wow, how useful to have insight into book blog tours from the organiser's point of view - thank you, Pandora. It is far too easy for we authors to forget the complex process and strategic planning that goes in to making a commercial blog tour service happen, so it is really helpful here to have the opportunity to get behind the scenes of Orangeberry. Thanks, Jess, for setting it up. And now I must go and look up her novel - can't resist that title!

  2. Thank you very much for taking the time to read and comment Debbie.

  3. Very interesting and useful - thank you. I've participated in several book tours now - and believe me they are hard work! I make it a point to ensure I visit the blog I'm appearing on at least twice, always leave my own 'thank you' comment and ensure I reply to any further comments.
    I've also taken part in - and organised - blog hops. These are similar but several authors tak part at once with visitors 'hopping' from one blog to the next. These are free - but again hard work. Worth it though!

  4. this was a really fascinating post because i don't know anything about tours


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