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Tuesday 15 May 2012

The Blog Tour - Tuesday Talk

I wrote this original article for a blog appearance on Carolyn Schriber's excellent (worth taking a look at when you've finished reading this!) She asked me to write something about doing a Virtual Book Tour, via the Blogs. I suggested that I do a follow-up of how the tour went.... so this is the follow-up of the follow-up : 

 I have a vague suspicion that writing a book is the easy part. Getting sales is much harder work, especially if you are a self published indie author.

You have produced a well written, entertaining novel and you are now glowing with pride as you see it appear on Amazon. 
Next comes the patient waiting for Amazon to alter the pre-order here box to add to basket. This may take a while, a lot of finger-drumming, several rude words and a couple of e-mails to Amazon Customer Services (if you are lucky you might even get a reply!)
The big mainstream publishers do not seem to have this problem; I suppose they have the weight and power of numbers of books in print behind them, but for the small time author (without an agent to do these menial tasks) we are akin to a loan voice crying up the Amazon Without a Paddle.
You get there - your book is available to buy! Yay! (do happy dance) It is  - ranked at something like #346,000. Is that good, you wonder? 

The problem here is - your book is now on Amazon, but how do we get readers (and buyers) to know this very important fact? Without going into the detail, ranked at something like #346,000 means there are at least another #345,999 books for sale, (actually you can add a few 0's to that figure.)

What was particularly frustrating for me back in 2011, my small UK publisher had gone bust in March and I had already planned a summer Blog Tour for my Sea Witch books. A little matter of not having a publisher, however, was not going to stop me!

I terminated my contract, asked for my files back, and signed up to a reliable assisted publishing house in Bristol UK, SilverWood Books. My intention: to get back in print as soon as possible and to go ahead with the Tour.

The files were never returned, so my old unedited copies had to be re-edited, typeset and prepared – thanks to the heroic efforts of Helen Hart and her team at SilverWood, and my wonderful graphics designer, Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics, we made it.
The Sea Witch books were in print by July 1st 2011 and a month long blog Tour started with a bang (a broadside of cannons I suppose, seeing as the Sea Witch Voyages are based around pirates and nautical adventure.)
On July 2nd I appeared on Jessica Hasting’s Laugh, Love, Write, followed by the delightful Amy Bruno’s – and then  a first post on Carolyn’s Blog - I was off, hitting the ground running.

A pause here: not everyone knows what a Blog Tour is. Like a real book tour, where you go to a different book store every day to sign books and chat to the hundreds of people who drop by to buy it (or the odd one or two, depending how well known you are) a blog tour is dropping by someone's blog to chat about your book/s. Usually the host has already read said book and puts up a glowing review (ain't much point in doing a guest appearance if the reviewer didn't like the book.)
Quite often there is a give-away competition to win a copy of the book, and an interview (pre-written a few weeks before hand) with the delighted (and delightful) author.
I did almost one different blog a day for a whole month which meant I was a guest on 30 different blogs. Actually, it ended up as 35. That meant 35 articles or interviews and/or reviews. That in turn meant keeping an eye on 35 blogs, making sure I responded to any comments that kind (or occasionally, not so kind) readers had left.

Believe me a blog tour, even  if it is a virtual one, is hard work and tiring!
I will also add here, for the benefit of Indie writers, that you will have to organise the tour yourself - unless you can afford to pay someone to do it, you will have to supply the books for the host to review, and you will have to do all the follow-up. 

For almost every day somewhere on the Internet my books were being reviewed, discussed, advertised – and marketed. I had the task of visiting each Tour Post, responding to comments and doing my bit by linking to Facebook and Twitter.
I had completed several previous blog tours with my historical fiction books which are published in the US by Sourcebooks Inc – but even knowing (sort of) what I was doing, this Tour was nothing like I had expected.
For one thing, the organisation involved is very demanding. You have to keep in touch with the bloggers, ensure the posts are made, follow up any comments with your own – answering questions, saying thank you. Post links, be generally present etc.

I was lucky enough to have one of the ex-members of staff from my defunct gone-bust publisher willing to initially help me. Samantha had organised the setting up of the tour in February, neither of us aware that the company was about to go belly-up, that she was to lose her job (without receiving any back pay owed) and I was to be without a UK publisher. Sam had all the details backed up on her own computer, so I followed her initial enquiries with an explanation of what had happened and asked whether anyone would be interested in carrying on now I had decided to Indie-publish the Sea Witch Voyages myself.
The enthusiasm, support and eagerness I received was overwhelming.

I have an advantage over most self published authors in that I am already well known. My Historical Fiction books have received attention on the review blogs – I even made it on to the USA Today Bestseller List with Forever Queen (US edition of A Hollow Crown) and I have quite a readership following.
The Sea Witch Voyages were a different matter, however. They are a series of nautical adventures with a touch of supernatural fantasy, based around the pirate Jesamiah Acorne and his girlfriend (later his wife) the white witch, Tiola Oldstagh. By the spring of 2011, thanks to the not very impressive track record of my collapsed UK publisher, the books were on the verge of hitting the rocks and sinking without trace. As was my writing confidence.

This Tour was to be the make or break (sink or float?) for my pirate and his adventures – and my career. If the result was not encouraging I was prepared to wind my writing up as a lost cause. Self confidence is a difficult thing to maintain when you are on your own.
Some of the review blogs were keen to have an interview in the form of questions and answers, a couple wanted articles about myself or my books, all of which took time to compose.
Other blogs posted a simple review – and the books had to be sent out in the first place. I had a few copies from the previous publisher, but postage – considering many of these review blogs are in the US and I am UK, was expensive. Quite a few bloggers accept PDF electronic copies now, which is a much easier way of sending novels for review purposes – but self published authors take note – many bloggers want to see the quality of the book itself, its design, layout, the general “feel” of it.
Plus, several blogs offer giveaway copies as prizes, which the author is often expected to provide.
In all, I reckon I notched up at least £200 in expenses.

Would I gain this back via sales? I had no way of knowing until the next round of royalty statements. * I needed to ensure that I followed up the Tour with getting on with the next WIP (a fourth Sea Witch Novel), and maintain contact on various sites, including Facebook and Twitter. To sell books you have to market books, and Social Networking is an art in itself, one I find enjoyable – but it eats time like a hungry Hour Monster.

So was my month long Virtual Book Tour worth the cost and effort?

Put it like this – there is now an eager buzz on the ‘Net about a certain pirate called Jesamiah Acorne; I have a ship load of new followers and fans, and as the saying goes, ‘From little acorns mighty oak trees grow.’

All I have to do now is be vigilant, tend the seedling, and nurture the sapling…. 

Watch this space.

* Yes, I exceeded this particular cost in the recent round of royalties.

For the full blog tour and Going Indie Published:  Going Indie
SilverWood Books
Avalon Graphics


  1. Facebook eats time from me like a hungry hour monster as well :)

  2. I reckon FB is some sort of Time Warp.... LOL


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