Nightshade wrap-up

Last November, Susan Wittig Albert graciously shared with us information and tips for a successful blog book tour after completing her very first. You can read about it here. In this conversation, she'll share with us her latest experience and insight after finishing a second tour, this one for Nightshade, the most recent release in her long-running and popular China Bayles herbal mystery series.

Welcome back, Susan.

In the most recent tour, you had a new approach to get blog hosts. Tell us how that worked (with the online questionaire). How many bloggers filled out the form and how did you choose the finalists?

For the past 7 or 8 years, I've been building an active email list. Currently, mailings go out to about 10,000 people. On my email list, I invited bloggers to visit an online information page: an outline of what I wanted to achieve with the blog tour, how hosts could participate, and what we both might gain. I also posted the URL on various lists. The page is here. 400+ bloggers visited the page; 24 applied. I visited the blogs, looking for those that seemed compatible with the spirit of the books. I was interested in traffic (of course), but also in introducing the books to a variety of audiences. I chose blogs that targeted gardeners, naturalists, mystery readers/writers, and (in one case) library patrons. I invited two bloggers (who had not responded to the questionnaire) because they are friends and have a different audience.

You decided to promote the entire series, and not just the new book, in this three-week tour. How do you think that worked? Could you tell if you got sales boosts on all the titles in the series? Would you do this again? Do you feel it diverted attention from Nightshade or did it help?

I promoted all the books because new readers to the series don't want to start with the new hardcover. I'd like to acquaint readers with the series, not with just one book. Does that help Nightshade sales? Eventually, sure. One of my jobs as a writer is to write a book--any book--that makes the reader want to read more. A reader who starts with Book 5, might go back to Book 1 and read the whole series, eventually reaching Nightshade (probably about the time it comes out in paperback).

Sales? No, I can't tell a thing. The only way you can ever tie sales to a specific marketing strategy is to direct buyers to one sales point and I don't do that. The books are sold in chain bookstores and big box stores, independent bookstores, online, and on my website. There's no way to judge the effect of my blog tour, as I designed it, on the book sales. I do this on faith, and because I enjoy it. And yes, I will once again promote the whole series, if I do this again. (That said, it was gratifying to see Spanish Dagger hit the New York Times extended bestseller list, the Booksense list, and two Barnes & Noble bestseller lists.)

How did you prep your blog hosts this time? Did you have any new tricks developed since the first tour? Cheat sheets? Reminder schedule? Kick in the pants? Threats from Guido??

I sent everyone a welcome email, a how-to email, an email about promoting the visit, another how-to email along with my guest post, and a post asking for traffic counts. The posts all went up on time. One blogger had trouble posting photos. Another just didn't get it (poor choice on my part—this was one of the invited bloggers) and two bloggers had no traffic stats.

How did you promote the tour? What forums, communities, listservs? How did you use your own blog to promote tour stops? Any new insights since the first tour?

I promoted the tour in my eletters, my blog, on my website, on related listservs, on MySpace, on GoodReads. I did more coaxing/directing from my own blog than I did on my previous tour (with The Tale of Hawthorn House, in the Cottage Tales series), and I posted a "preview" of each host blog. Readers commented that they enjoyed the previews--I'll do that again.

How are you gauging results of the tour? What numbers are important to you? Hits on the book drawing page, your own blog traffic, reports from other bloggers,, what else?

All the above. The blog hosts collected the unique visits for the three days of my visit (the three days readers could enter the drawing for that blog) and reported the numbers to me. I have no way of verifying their accuracy, but they all seem more or less in line. In addition, I have the number of entries in the 15 book drawings, which stayed high throughout the blog tour. Traffic to my blog is up by about 20%, to the website, about 15%.

You had an overlapping live tour with the blog tour? How did that work? Would you do that again?

Most of the people I meet on the live tour aren't Internet-oriented. They belong to garden clubs, library Friends groups, and so on. It's not the same market, so there's not really an overlap. The time element is an issue, yes. I usually plan to devote April to book promotion, though (the books are published in April), so in that sense, it doesn't matter whether I'm blogging or live-touring.

Time commitment from me. This was a biggie. Estimated times, probably conservative:

Obtaining a pool of potential blog hosts and choosing the hosts, 8 hours.
Calendaring and confirming with blog hosts, 4 hours.
Mailing ARCs, 2 hours.
Writing blog posts, 20 hours.
"Previewing" host blogs on my blog, 4 hours.
Communicating with blog hosts, 4 hours.
Promoting tour, 4 hours.
Checking guests posts and commenting 15 hours.
Sending thank-you books to host, 2 hours

Total: 63 hours, a bit more than 4 hours per blog

Maybe I overdid it? Should I have cut back to 10 blogs and saved 20 hours? Should I have cut back on the complexity of the blog posts, or the previewing, or comments on the blogs? Maybe. I was stretched for time, certainly.

Length of tour. When the posts were written and I saw what I'd done, I thought it was too long. But some people didn't find out about it until halfway through, and were glad it was still going on. Also, now I have all that material, and am thinking about ways I can recycle it.

Thanks, Susan. I already have a few more questions, but will wait until you're back from your live tour! Anybody else? Leave a comment for Susan or me if you have anything you'd like to add or ask.


Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

this was a very impressive tour Susan, thanks for sharing! The most useful reminder for me is to move away from the mystery blogs and find the niche markets with fresh readers. and plan way ahead...

Michelle Gagnon said...

Lots of great info here, Susan, I second what Roberta said- thanks for sharing!!!

Xujun said...

A very informative interview! Thank you, Susan and Dani.

Susan, how did you promote the tour on Did you send a note to all "friends" there?

Anonymous said...

Susan, I'm impressed with the amount of time you devoted to this tour. In planning mine, I will not be able to devote the time you did, so I now have some idea of how to scale back from your tour for mine. Does that make sense.
Thanks for the interview, Dani.

Helen Ginger said...

Susan has stopped at my blog, Straight From Hel, twice now -- and both times I have been amazed at the work and time she puts in. She really could teach a class on doing book blog tours. Not only do my own stats go way up when she stops by, I learn so much from seeing how she does it.

Helen Ginger said...

Dani, your post from Susan was so informative. I'm going to mention it in this coming Monday's post on Straight From Hel and direct readers to come here to read the full post.

Terra said...

Hi Susan,
I love your books and you did leave a comment at my blog recently, after I posted about your books.
Please consider my blog for one of your blogs on your next tour, in April, it sounds like.
I am a gardener, love mysteries, and with the co-authors of my first book we are preparing a big book blog tour this September, aiming for 100 blog hosts.
Our book is Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts.
I subscribe to your fun newsletter "About Thyme".

Anonymous said...

Today is the first time I have ever even heard of a Blog tour! I guess I have a lot of work to do considering I already wrote my book: Get a Date Today, How to Market Yourself for Love.

I'm glad a friend passed me this info. Thanks Susan