A blog book tour in retrospect
Last week we hosted Susan Wittig Albert on her first-ever virtual book tour. Susan is a long-time web aficionada who for many years has utilized various internet tools like e-letters, websites, and a marvelous Lifescapes blog of her days in the Texas Hill Country. We were curious to know her reactions to the blog book tour experience and here are her responses:
How did this experience compare to your live tours?
Much less physical effort! I could stay at home and work, instead of driving for hours, giving a couple of talks a day, sleeping in a different bed every night, eating other people’s food (not my own cooking).
Did you feel you connected to your readers?
Actually, yes, although I didn’t expect that. I received a great many email comments and notes, as well as the comments on the blogs. And since I was seeing the names/email addresses of the people who dropped in on the drawings, I got a sense of the “attendance”—that part of it, anyway. Turns out that fewer than half of the people who read the blog entries participated in the drawings.
How much work/time involved compared to a live tour?
The up-front time was actually fairly comparable. I manage my own live tours, so I choose the venues (much as I chose the bloggers, by soliciting invitations), book my own motels, do my own maps. On a live tour, I have a couple of talks and repeat them (to the point where I’m pretty sick of them when it’s over)—the prep time is minimal. On the blog tour, each stop was a different prep, most of which required maybe 2-3 hours of writing, revising, doing photos, setting up links, and so on. Also, Peggy (my wizard of a webmistress, She-Without-Whom-Nothing-Happens) clocked quite a few hours in developing the program for the drawings, setting up the tour schedule webpage, etc. The big thing that was missing: the driving! On a live tour, I usually try to book two events a day, which usually means 4-5 drive-time hours, sometimes more.
How do the tour costs ($$) compare?
Hey, how do you spell M-O-T-E-L? $100 a night? Also, gas ain’t cheap nowadays. A 10,000-mile-tour (like the one I drove, yes, me myself and I, in 2005) would probably cost around $1200 in today’s gas, plus the daily tab on the rental car (or the wear/tear on a personal car), and a couple of plane fares, getting me where I couldn’t drive. I’m a cheap date where food is concerned, though. I’m perfectly happy with McD’s salads. Sometimes publishers pick up the costs, but an author who is paying her own way is chalking up a big tab.
What do you see as the greatest advantage of the virtual tour over a live tour?
Less time on the road, more time in my own bed (with my own DH), and lower cost. The carbon footprint is distinctly smaller, which counts for plenty, seems to me.
I got to spend some quality time with nine great blog hosts (thanks, guys!). We worked out problems together, figured out what sort of post to create, and communicated—more or less successfully. My live tours are longer and more hectic, and I never feel as if I really get to know the tour hosts.
Also: I got to “meet” some blog readers who would never in the world have made the effort to attend one of my live events—people who are regular readers of the host blog, who had never heard of my/my books before. If they read the post and remembered it, they might be inclined to remember that, the next time they run across my name/book title. Or they might go to the library to pick up the book. Or even look for it on a bookstore shelf. You never know. So I think the chances of picking up a new reader may actually be higher in a blog tour than a live tour. (I have no statistics on this, so don’t hold me to it.)
Plus: When you do a live tour, it’s in-one-ear-out-the-other. People remember the event, but not what I say. Also, the audience is fixed: it’s the folks who came that night, and that’s it. On the web, the tour posts hang around for a long time. People stumble over them much later. The audience is larger than the audience that showed up at the original time of the post. That’s a big plus, seems to me.
I’ll try to be systematic about this. Forgive me.
1) Impact on the attendees. Seems to me that a reader who makes the effort to come out to a bookstore or a library or wherever to hear me is going to remember the occasion longer than someone who comes to one of the blog stops. I’m guessing here, but I think that’s probably the case.
2) Non-blogging readers. I have a great many older readers who don’t do computers and stick their fingers in their ears when they hear the word BLOG. (They think it’s an obscenity.) On live tours, I reach them through libraries, garden groups, reading groups, herb societies, and Red Hatters. I can’t reach them through a blog tour.
3) Media impact. When I do a live tour, I put some up-front effort into encouraging the tour hosts to get strong local media for the event. Usually, I have pretty good luck: newspaper coverage, some local radio (by phone), some local TV. Also, the event is promoted in the host’s newsletters and website. Even though I may see only 40-50 people at an event, it’s likely that 400-500 have seen a notice of it, read something about it, or heard about it from a friend. On last year’s tour, I did a benefit for a university alumni event. There were a couple of hundred people at the event, but 5,000+ people all over the U.S. got a mailing from the university, with the book cover/my photo/all that good stuff. You don’t get anything like that with a blog tour.
4) Book sales. Let us not forget the point of this exercise, which is to sell books. Live tours sell books—not just the books I sign/sell at the events, but the books that I sign at various local bookstores, where I’ll do drop-ins whenever I can fit them in. Signed books sell, so when I leave a stack in a bookstore, I can figure they’ll be sold eventually. Blog tours, on the other hand, are more like advertising. You’re just putting the word out there, raising awareness, getting people’s attention. You can’t measure whatever sales you might achieve.
What did you love about the Blog Book Tour?
Getting all over the web! I have a Google Alert on my name (how’s that for chutzpah?) and I was delighted to see it flashing across the sky. That’s why I did this. I think it worked.
What did you loathe about it?
Nothing, really. Oh, yes: I got really impatient when the posts weren’t up by 8 a.m. Eastern Time, as I asked. That’s because I knew that readers would be there before the posts appeared, which feels really counter-productive to me. But then, I’m a former English teacher. I’ve been known to lock the door of my classroom at two minutes after the hour. (Not quite, but almost.)
How did you track your statistics throughout the tour?
That’s hard. I had to depend on self-report (not always accurate, and a couple of bloggers forgot to tell me that they didn’t have a statistics package). But on this tour, I had two other statistics of my own: the number of people who came to the tour schedule page, and the number of people who entered the drawing for each blog event. Those are my “hard” numbers. I’ll be curious to see if my next blog tour brings in more traffic—or less.
Thanks, Susan, for giving so generously of your time and insights once again.