You’ve likely heard of or participated in a blog tour, a sequence of pre-scheduled, consecutive reviews that often coincides with a publication date of a book, or a holiday. Blog tours are a wonderful way of growing your readership and gaining free publicity for your book.
But how on earth can independent authors find bloggers who want to take the time to review their books?
Option 1: Hire someone to put together your blog tour.
A quick google search will turn up dozens of folks who do blog tours in your particular genre (ex: Lucy Felthouse for erotica and romance). The cost of hiring a blog tour coordinator range anywhere from $30-$100+, depending on the size and quality of the tour. Many authors don’t have that kind of budget for book promotion, which brings me to….
Option 2: Research and organize your own blog tour.
In recent years bloggers have become inundated with review requests. Some of the more popular blogs (i.e. Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and Dear Author) are quite selective in their coverage because of the volume of submissions they receive. However, there are quite literally hundreds of bloggers who are chomping at the bit to review your book—you just haven’t found them yet. (cue Michael Bublé’s “Haven’t Met You Yet”).
With careful research and an organized approach, you can put together your own blog tour, and develop genuine relationships with these bloggers that last for years to come.
Step 1: Ground Work:
Add a page to your website specifically for bloggers.
If a blogger comes across your site and wants to give you a review, they’ll look around for a good way to contact you about it (or to see if you have a blogger program). If none is readily available, they might simply move on to the next book, and how sad would that be?
It only takes a few minutes to create a page that welcomes bloggers. You can call it “for reviewers” or “for bloggers” or something similar (see the one I created at Cleis Press for reference). Include on this page a list of titles available for review (or make it clear that all of them are), what format(s) they can choose (print or .mobi or .pdf), and how to get in touch with you for a free review copy.
Prepare a blogger kit
Blogger kits, also called an electronic press kit or EPKs, help your outreach scale; after you gather these resources once, you’ll simply send it out to interested parties. It’s far easier for you, and quicker for bloggers, too. Your kit doesn’t need to be fancy; simply gather together all the materials you’d like a potential blogger to have. When you start getting “yes’s” you can immediately send bloggers what they need.
Basics to include:
- The book itself, in all the formats as you are offering
- A blurb describing the book
- Your social media and/or website links, including a preferred purchase link (Amazon, Kobo, your own site, etc.)
- Your author bio
- Book cover image
Step 2: Research Tools
Before beginning your research, Make sure you have a system in place to capture and track your research results. I recommend using a Google spreadsheet, and tracking the blog url, blogger’s name, email address or means of contact, and any special notes about their preferences.
A word of caution: many directories will have links to out-of-date sites, or sites who don’t accent book review requests at all. Be sure to click through to the site and ascertain that they do reviews, and that they review your particular genre.
BuzzSumo is a website that lets you search for “influencers” in any sphere you can imagine. For instance, if I were looking for paranormal romance book reviewers, I might search “paranormal romance” in the “influencers” tab, and filter out everyone but bloggers. Note: you’re only allowed a limited number of searches per day with a free account, so use ‘em wisely.
Be sure to navigate to the “influencers” tab in the top menu (rather than “content”), and use the “filter by type” tool in the top lefthand corner. You’ll then enter a keyword, and you can sort by your choice of metrics. Personally, I like sorting by their Twitter followers and by their “page authority,” but fool around with it until you start finding ones that you like.
Insider tip: the top results will likely be bloggers who are peppered with review requests every day, so it’s strategic to keep gathering results beyond the first page or two.
As a bonus, Buzzsumo is also wonderful for finding awesome content to share to your audience.
Like BuzzSumo, Followerwonk lets you quickly search for influencers in your particular category.
Use sites like BlogMetrics to determine the influencers in any category (books and literature, or DIY). Directories are lovely because they’ve already done 90% of the work for you.
You can even try searching for “DIY Blog Directory,” or “Paranormal Romance Blog Directory,” and chances are you’ll find a pre-curated collection for your particular type of blogger. Score!
Blogrolls on similar sites
Identify a few similar blogs to your target research demographic. Using the running example, if I were seeking paranormal romance bloggers, I might check the blog rolls, or recommended blogs, on a popular paranormal romance blog. After clicking through to the recommended blogs, it’s likely that those blogs will recommend more, and believe me when I say that it’s a never-ending chain of recommendations. Goldmine!
Twitter’s algorithm automatically suggests accounts that it thinks you will like to follow, based on whom you’ve recently started following. You can put this algorithm to work for you in blogger/influencer research by following a few—say, five to ten—accounts similar to ones you’d like to discover. If you’ve already done some research or know of a few blogs in your target demographic, follow those to begin with. Twitter will immediately start suggesting relevant accounts in the “Who to Follow” sidebar, and if you continue following them, the algorithm will only get smarter as to which pique your interest.
Step 3: Outreach
At this point you’ll have a rich database of bloggers who might be interested in your book. Now it’s time to reach out to them.
Write a pitch
Make sure that your pitch offers more than just a review—not everyone has time for reviewing, but many bloggers will happily post a free excerpt, a guest post from you, or an author interview. If you can spare a few books, you can add in some giveaways, too.
Reach out with a personalized—never automated—email
Use their name if you know it, and mention why you think your book would interest them in particular. This can be very brief, but it goes a long way in showing them that you’ve done your research. For instance, I might write “I thought Alchemy xii might be of interest to you because you reviewed Fifty Shades of Grey but you thought it lacked depth” or “The Edible Garden seems to be in line with the sort of cookbooks you typically review, so I thought you might be interested in a free copy.”
You can batch your pitches if you don’t have time to do fifty million emails in one day. Set reasonable goals for yourself and send them out a few at a time.
Step 4: Organize
Once you’ve sent your pitches to your newly-compiled list of bloggers, you’ll start receiving responses. Immediately record the reply in your spreadsheet, even if it’s a “no.” You’ll want to keep track of which bloggers aren’t interested in your books for the next time you host a blog tour.
For the “yes’s,” record their responses and group all the participants together on the spreadsheet. I prefer to scoot them all up to the top of the spreadsheet for easy access.
Reply back with a grateful and enthusiastic email, and send them your prepared blogger kit (see above). Also suggest a date for their blog tour stop, but be flexible with their schedule.
Your goal is to create a consecutive tour, with one stop per day from beginning to end. It’s up to you if you’d like to include weekends. If you do, you’ll need to be willing to do a little bit of weekend work when the posts go live. If there’s a day or two without coverage, don’t worry about it—nobody but you will even notice.
Record the assigned date and type of post that the blogger will be doing (review, guest post, etc.) in your database. If there is any action required from you, like writing a guest post or sending an excerpt, note that as well, and highlight it until it is complete on your end.
Step 5: Maintenance and sharing
When the time comes for your tour to go live, go pour yourself a glass of bubbly. Or Prosecco, or sparkling water; whatever floats your boat. You did it!
As every tour stop rolls around, go to the site and check for the scheduled post about your book. If it’s there, awesome. Share it around your social media, and consider linking to it on your own blog. If it isn’t, send the blogger a gentle check-in (“Hi, wanted to check in to see if there’s anything I can get you for the blog tour; I had you schedule for today!”). Make an effort to comment on every post to thank the blogger for their help (note: if it’s a negative review, use your judgement. You don’t want to appear passive aggressive).
Step 6: Follow-up
Personally thank your bloggers at the end of every tour. Bloggers make the world go ‘round, and they’re taking time out of their busy lives to give your writing a boost. How cool is that?