Friday, February 13, 2015

Promotions, or Why Self-Pubbing is Such a Slog

So I'm finishing my Disciple series (yay! woohoo!) after two years of hard work and I want to make some noise about it. Like most other self-publishers, I've arranged many a blog tour myself over the years and this time I thought you know, I've got a little cash and it would be nice if someone else could do the work and get me into some new blogs.

Because let's face it: if we're all just posting on each other's blogs all the time that makes for an incestuous little neighborhood. How many fresh eyeballs really get in here?

So I Googled. I found a list of "book blog tours that accept self-publishers". Bearing in mind how unimpressed I was by the blog tour I purchased waaaaay back when I published Disciple, Part I, I set about vetting some blog tour services.

How do you "vet" a tour service?
Step 1: Get a fresh drink, this is going to take a while.

Sample blog tour page
Step 2: Tour services will list current and past tours on their websites. Click on some and try to find a book that's similar to yours in some way. Scroll down to the list of tour stops and start opening the hosts in new tabs.

Step 3: Try to answer these basic questions about the host site

  • How long has this site been active? (does it have a substantial archive?) 
  • How active is it? (how old is the top post, how many posts per month?)
  • Does it have followers? (check sidebar for listings) 
  • You'll probably see blog awards -- a lot of these are given by friends to friends and don't mean anything. You may also see a list of tour services that this blog is a host for. Those are worth noting.

Step 4: More advanced questions

  • Click on their Twitter and see how many followers they have. This is a judgement call, but I consider anything under 500 to be useless. 
  • Do they tweet about books? Sounds like a no-brainer, but some of these are spam mills.
  • Likewise for Facebook. How many friends? What do they post there?
  • Do they post reviews to Goodreads? Amazon? 

Work your way through six or eight blog stops and see how many of them look genuinely worthwhile vs. just another dark corner of the internet.

You're being mean!
What right to I have to dismiss small blogs, given how tiny my own blog is? Look, I've been doing this for years and I know how tough it is to run a blog. I know that real people live in small blogs and they work hard and love books too. But we're talking about advertising here and advertising is a numbers game.

I want to maximize my chances to get eyeballs per dollar spent -- because no, there's no guarantee that any dollar spent will get me any eyeballs (let alone a purchase.) The hard truth of advertising, especially when you're a small fish, is that there's no guarantee it will get you results.

But that doesn't mean I'm just going to throw my money away. I'm going to choose my gambles as wisely as I can.

Does this page offer promotions on its own?
Some of them do. See if there's a tab for reviews, promotions, or running ads on the blog. If there is, more questions:

  • What size ads? How much per month? Where exactly will it be posted? (I ask this because so many people browse from phones now. You don't see sidebars on phone browsers -- but they might see a banner.)
  • This is important: do they give any site statistics? Most importantly, how many unique visitors per day/week/month? (FB friends, Twitter followers, etc., don't matter here. Your ad isn't going to appear there.) 
  • Can you buy a review? If you've been doing this long, you know how risky that is.
  • Are they spammers? One site I saw bragged that my book would be promoted every 2 hours through all social networking channels. No thanks! 

Overall, you could save some money and target your advertising more precisely by promoting at individual sites rather than buying a blog tour.

What's the verdict? 
Jury is still out. I've gleaned out a couple sites that I might target individually, but so far the overall tours are still only looking marginally useful. Better than nothing? Maybe. We'll see.

What's your experience with blog tours been?

1 comment:

Amelia said...

I organised my own tour for Scrapplings, and if I do one again when I wrap up the series I'll probably hire someone to do it, because it was a huge logistical PITA. I don't think I saw more than a couple (2-3) sales as a result, but I felt like I made some connections and I did get a few high-quality reviews, so for that it was worthwhile. I've looked at a few blog tour companies but haven't tried any of them yet.

Also, I think that the best publicity is probably to write stories or articles in magazines/blogs with large readerships. I should try for more of that, too.

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