Virtual Book Tours… why they don’t work, or do they?

I am bracing myself for a tirade or abuse about how book tours are brilliant and an effective way of reaching new audiences. You’re entitled to your view. In fact, I’d welcome some more success stories. Of course, you might be nodding in agreement, vehemently screaming “I knew it, I knew it” at your screen. I may disappoint you too, I’m afraid. The answer is that like anything else, the success of book tours depends on a number of factors – including your expectations and a hefty piece of your own leg work.

Once you’ve finished this, open your internet browser and search “why virtual book tours don’t work.” Will you get an answer to your query? Sadly, no. If you are looking for hard data on why you should bother with virtual book tours (or blog tours as the majority really are) you will be in for quite a bit of digging. The first two pages of search results are all pages for virtual book tour organizers. As a piece of SEO on their part, those promoters haven’t done a bad job – but my question remains unanswered.

The closest you will get to impartial data is finding posts or commentaries by authors who’ve been on tours. Although none seem willing to share sales figures, there is a bit of anecdotal evidence out there. It’s something I myself have turned my attention to, having hosted many tours and been on a few over – organised by different companies with different levels of success. We authors keep our cards close to our chest and I suspect most are reluctant to share any information that would imply we are anything less than highly successful, rubbing ourselves in dollar bills following the success of the marketing activities we’ve been banging on at people about.

So I’m coming clean. How many book sales can I directly attribute to a blog/ virtual book tour?

.

Here we go….

.

Brace yourselves…

.

.

.

Zero.

.

A.. Big…Fat…0

.

I can’t say that I went on a four day tour and there was a sudden and uncharacteristic leap in sales. What I can say, however, is that sales are consistent and steady because I market all the time – blog tours form a part of this, but it’s just a part. You must manage your expectations – perhaps you’ll pick up a new reader or two, if targeted effectively you should get some more reviews, and perhaps more importantly you’ll just build general awareness and drive some new subscribers to your blog or newsletter.

The world of PR has changed. It is now a digital one and any platform which allows you to build a presence and drive referrals for your product is important, but it’s a complex picture and relying on an occasional blog tour to market your book is frankly insane. I’m not saying that you should never do them, I’m just saying if you choose to do them at the right time, with the right produce and with a clear objective on what you expect to achieve.

The key is to time your tours and plan them well to get the most impact. Ensure you research the promoters or bloggers you choose to work with. What’s their readership like and what return in your investment will you get – not just in terms of money but also in terms of time? Research the clients they usually work. Ensure you provide a variety of content to bloggers so you don’t have an endless stream of identical posts – different excerpts, a range of images etc. A good tour promoter should encourage this and provide support and guidance. On that vein, I will admit that the most successful tours I’ve had have been one I’ve organised myself, and not with formal tour companies. The bloggers involved have turned into regular supporters, promoters and reviewers. We have a relationship! It’s great because I know I will always get an honest answer from them.

So are book tours good or bad, do they work or not? I suspect there is no definitive yes or no. The answer is probably hovering around the “maybe… um.. sometimes.. it depends” camp. For you, that may be good enough but when you’re doing your tax return at the end of the year, or reviewing your marketing campaign, at least ask yourself if it helped your objective… and if it did, hop on your blogs and tell us why. We could all benefit from some hard evidence and best practice.

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About the author

Helen Treharne is a UK based genre fiction writer and blogger. You can find out more about her and her books HERE.

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28 thoughts on “Virtual Book Tours… why they don’t work, or do they?

  1. Helen, many thanks for sharing what has been many an author’s experience with blog tours. However, the question is what the thinking behind the blog tour was. Did you go on a blog tour to build your author brand (ie raise awareness), or for direct sales?

    I’ve reached the conclusion that blog tour are far better suited to the former purpose, rather than the latter…

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Great article.Blog tours should not be the only marketing approach but one of many. And like you said it takes research to find bloggers or hire a company to promote your book. Virtual is one avenue but other methods should not be ignored. Overall my experience with bloggers and blog tours is a positive one and I have seen spikes shortly after tours so long as my sales are steady that means people are finding me somewhere and one of those places is blogs. I make the most sales through actual human contact (not virtual).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I must say that I’ve enjoyed participating in blog tours, though I don’t know what value they really hold for me. I know my name is put in front of lots of people, but I’m not convinced that translates into sales. Maybe a few. I, too, have found that word of mouth is the best way to get my books out there. Incidentally, I had one blog tour host who incessantly tweeted one- or two-word raves about my book and even I found it annoying. I can’t imagine what other people thought, if they even paid attention to the tweets. Thanks for a great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on Helen Treharne and commented:
    I’m delighted to have been asked to blog today for Chris. It’s great to have a blog that shares some honest insight and useful advice and not just endless promos (although there’s always a place for those in moderation). I hope that by sharing my experience of book tours I’ll help other authors make informed choices… better choices… and we can all start to get honest and open with the marketing strategies that work. Incidentally, I love Chris’ blog. It’s one of the few I go straight to most days. Keep up the great work Chris. Always a pleasure.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t think blog tours (virtual book tours) are of value unless you can somehow wrangle your way onto some prime sites that are popular with the public and have “name” hosts. And getting on those is nigh on impossible unless you know a connected “Somebody” or already are a “Somebody” in the eyes of the public.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I agree, blog tours were really popular a few years ago, but their effectiveness is mostly played out. They might be used as part of the scaffolding upon which you build your overall system, but if you spend an inordinate amount of time on them, you’ll likely undermind your more productive efforts.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You’re so right. Reviews, tours and blogging only help so much(and not that much). It’s the combination of marketing, writing multiple books, and staying in touch and finally that magic little thing that gets your books noticed. No tirade here.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Good post. Continue being fearless. As a reader – I choose books by word of mouth, directly from the author’s blog, book reviews and just browsing bookstores and online. I skip a lot of the blog tour posts because it just seems like so much SPAM.

    Liked by 1 person

    • According to the experts I studied in undergraduate marketing and professional selling courses, word-of-mouth is the key. Authors who do not have a very large number (estimated to be about 250) of supportive friends and relatives, personal acquaintances and satisfied customers, who are willing to vouch for them and their books, are not going to sell very much of their work.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks for the explanations and exploring the considerations. I haven’t participated in a blog tour or virtual book tour because, to be honest, I still don’t know exactly how they work, and I’m intimidated. Maybe someday:) These posts are helpful in setting expectations.

    Liked by 3 people

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