Touring in a Virtual World

One of our favorite students, and certainly one of the most successful when it comes to promoting her books with blog book tours, is L. Diane Wolfe. Diane is a successful professional speaker and author of The Circle of Friends young adult fiction books. Here's what we cover in our classes, and what has worked well for Diane, in her own words:

Successful book promotion requires effort on the part of the publisher and even more so from the author. With the rising costs of a physical tour and the increase of Internet users, a virtual tour is an effective and inexpensive marketing tool.

For those not familiar with a virtual tour, it involves visiting a different site on the web every day for a set period of time. The sites range from websites and blogs to social sites and online radio. The author schedules a visit with the site’s host in advance and invites fans and friends to follow the appearances. This increases the author’s exposure online. The posts also add to search engine fodder for the author’s sites.

How difficult is it to set up a virtual tour? It’s not hard, but it will require time and planning. Here’s a step-by-step guideline to follow:

· Check with your publisher. Find out if they are setting up a tour and coordinate with their efforts. Ask if they’re willing to do giveaways. If they’ve no plans for online appearances, consider setting one up on your own. There is also the option of hiring a virtual tour service, but they charge an average of $150-$3000, so weigh your options.

· Determine your assets. Are you an active blogger? To what social sites do you belong? Do you have a website and email list and/or newsletter?

· Build a list of potential hosts. Always consider where your target audience goes online. Look for websites and blogs relevant to your book’s topic. Seek out book bloggers who cover your genre and author blogs that share your audience. Follow these blogs and comment where appropriate. Look for podcasts and online radio shows that reach your target audience. Select sites with large amounts of traffic.

· Grow familiar with these sites. Read their guidelines for articles, guest posts, and reviews. Determine your best approach to each individual site - article or guest post; interview; book review; giveaway; or announcement. Many of these venues book dates months in advance, so plan ahead!

· Send a polite inquiry to the blog owner, webmaster, or podcast show host. Let them know you’ve been following their site and ask if you can make an appearance during your virtual tour. Be prepared to provide suggestions for articles and guest posts. Always include your book information, bio, and links. Let the person know the date range of your virtual tour.

· Respond quickly to replies. Confirm dates and type of appearance or topic of guest post. If they request a review copy or want to do a giveaway, pass along the information to your publisher. Be willing to acquiesce to their requests!

· Keep a calendar handy. Book one stop a day - two at the most. Make a list of all articles and guest posts required.

· Two - four weeks before appearance, touch base with your host. Send them your complete information - book synopsis and details, links to purchase, a short bio, links to your sites, and a couple of reviews. Send your guest post or article as well, or completed interview. (If you’ve not received your interview, let the host know you are excited to see the questions.) Be sure to include a promotional photo and book cover art.

· Let your fan base know about your virtual tour. Post it on your website, blog, and include links in your newsletter.

· Before the tour begins, check with any unconfirmed hosts.

· The day of your appearance, visit the website or blog several times and respond to comments and questions. If it’s a live podcast, be prepared for questions.

· Send your host a thank you email when it’s all over!

A virtual tour is a win-win for guests and hosts, as both gain exposure to a new audience. The host presents the author to his or her readers and the author brings followers and fans to that site. Not only will this gain exposure, new fans, reviews, and sales for an author, it secures options for future tours. If you’ve been pleasant, professional, and punctual, hosts will be happy to invite you to visit again.

It requires a lot of work in advance, but the rewards of a virtual tour are well worth the effort!

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