Monday, October 8, 2012

Are Blog Tours Losing Their Promotional Power?

When I first started blogging three years ago, I witnessed firsthand the power of the blogosphere promotion

If you’ve been around as long as I have, you may remember the massive community machines that pushed books like Kiersten White’s PARANORMALCY, Elana Johnson’s POSSESSION, Beth Revis’ ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, and Lisa & Laura Roecker’s LIAR SOCIETY out into the world.

There were twitter wars, contests, vlogs, prizes, and blog hops galore and it seemed as though everyone and their mothers were a part of the festivities, all sincerely excited for the fellow blogger who made it into the big leagues. 

In just a few short years, however, self-publishing and small publishers have made book launches and releases so much more frequent! Instead of one book-release a month, or every few months, to support and celebrate: there are now several book launches throughout the blogosphere a week. 

More and more writers are taking the leap into self publishing. Small publishers are putting together their ebook releases a lot faster than traditional.  Established indie writers get a groove going and are able to come out with four, five, even six books a year! 

And, of course, we as a community want to offer support and positivity to those authors however we can. 

The problem is, the magnitude of book promotions happening every month makes it hard for any one book to really achieve the recognition it might have gotten three years ago. You know the old adage: ‘saying everyone’s special is another way of saying no one is’? Contests, free books, interviews, bloghops, etc…they may still spread the word, but I fear they’ve lost the originality and enticement they once held. Promotional posts are getting less and less comments. Contests are earning less entries. The buzz is feeling more and more forced.

We've got to face it- blog-blitz enthusiasm has wained:(

In the last year or so, I’ve come to the conclusion that having everyone post about one book or the author all at the same time gets old for readers fairly fast. I don’t know about you, but when I’ve seen the blurb and the cover once, most often my mind is made up about whether it’s a book I’d like to read based on genre, premise, characters, and yes- if it’s a writer I’ve been following or an author I’m friends with, that definitely counts for something too! That said, I’m afraid the repetitiveness of the run-of-the-mill blog tour often defeats the point, since a reader is more likely to pass over blogs that are re-sharing the information or have the same theme as a million other blogs that week. 

So where does that leave authors hoping to promote their new releases? If blog tours are losing steam, how else can an author create a buzz? I’ve come up with a list of things I’ve seen working these last few months despite the recent decline in enthusiasm for ‘another new release’. 

* Cover reveals taking place on one major site, and only one site, with authors asking for a twitter, or facebook mention and prizes to be one. (like an arc;)

* Vlogs are still cool ways to promote, especially if they’re unique or funny. They aren’t over-done (yet) and it helps build a connection between the potential readers and the writer behind the book.

* Book trailers. I actually like seeing a book trailer for an upcoming release featured on a bunch of blogs at the same time, as long as the actual posts have a different theme (ie- don’t just focus on the trailer or the blurb for the book) I like to be surprised and have the choice about whether I click on the trailer or not, so it’s not the same as a regular blog tour promo. And having the actual posts differentiate makes the reader less likely to skip them over.

* On that note -Related bloghops with a fun theme still work, imo. Is your book about a character making a big-fat mistake and the consequences? Invite everyone to share their biggest 'oopsies' and how they overcame. Got a futuristic theme? Create a blog hop where everyone shares their dream-gadget. Setting a theme that relates to your book gives bloggers a chance to do what they do best, all while second-handedly promoting your new title. 

* Promoting your book only AFTER release. I’ve actually seen this work for a lot of authors recently. Instead of the buzz created before hand, it’s like BOOM! The book is HERE! Positive reviews speak so much louder than the blurb or cover or a bunch of people promoting your book weeks before hand. The option to BUY is already there, so it doesn’t get pushed to the back of the reader’s mind like ‘oh, yeah, I should think about ordering that when it comes out.’

Do you feel like blog tours are slowly losing their promotional power? What other forms of promotion would you recommend to modern-day authors? Author friends out there, what do you think has made the biggest difference in sales for you when it comes to promotion?  


Jessica Bell said...

YES. totally agree. It's a sad sad truth, but we have to accept the fact. Things that have worked for me? Luck. That's it. No matter how hard I work, I see positive outcomes at the least expected times. Usually when I'm sitting around doing nothing.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I do agree that having all your friends shout out about your book cover or your book release loses effectiveness. I think a few shout outs at cover release time on popular blogs with a contest would work good.

I do think blog tours with book giveaways work well. My contests have gotten more popular, not less, for popular books people are waiting for. I'm thinking offering a limited number at release time and then again later might help promote your book best. Contests are the key, because I've noticed even on popular book review blogs, few comments if there's no comments.

I think the problem for self-published authors is that they are putting out so many books each year. It's hard to be a part of all their release celebrations and to read all their books. Because there's always more books to read than we can read.

Sarah said...

This post is ironically timed for me, since my blog tour starts today. I have no idea if it will help me or not, but I can say that over the next 3 weeks I'm guest posting about a host of topics at blogs I don't usually frequent, so I know they're not familiar with me or my book, either. I'd say this is just one piece in a big machine.

Also: I think the effectiveness of a tour depends on a range of factors because it can be done so many different ways.

Timely and interesting post, Katie :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's why for my third and final book, I'm going to have to come up with something really different. (Three hundred posts for my release day overwhelmed ME!) Continuously keeping my name out there has done just as much for my sales. Do hope my publisher does another trailer.

Vicki Rocho said...

I was just thinking about this yesterday. I think you're right - it's more important than ever to be original AND yourself.

Vlogs and trailers are hit and miss with me. It's something I have to click and sometimes it takes F-O-R-E-V-E-R to download on my machine, so I skip them when I'm in a rush.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I definitely think there's a smart way to do it and a not-so-smart way. First, a blog tour that only circulates around your own circle of bloggers is the equivalent of shouting with a megaphone into the ears of a small group of people. (Who are more likely to get annoyed than buy the book.) Honestly, I am only going to read ONE promotion for a book release on a given day, no matter how many appear on my blog roll.

Secondly, I think it's better to spread your tour out over time, gently reminding people of your book over a period of weeks or months, rather than blasting them during a single week. This makes it more likely they will actually read the posts and possibly get interested in a book that they weren't first attracted to.

Creepy Query Girl said...

' First, a blog tour that only circulates around your own circle of bloggers is the equivalent of shouting with a megaphone into the ears of a small group of people' - Dianne and Natalie- Exactly!

Sarah- It's good that you're lengthening your reach with unfamiliar blogs and places where you and your book might be more of a novelty. (Not that your blogging circle don't have yo' back:) But,yes, the point I was making is that the 'same ole' is becoming less effective)

Tasha Seegmiller said...

I've recently seen authors who are giving away ARC's to anticipated books to people who leave reviews of their book on amazon and goodreads. This seems so smart to be because it requires the review AND it changes so that every post by the author isn't and all about me fest.

Great post - intriguing really. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I've never participated in a blog tour, but my eyes tend to glaze over after seeing too many of them.

When it comes to effective promotion, I think it is where we concentrate our efforts that matters. Reaching out to a wide audience is great, but make sure they're the right audience. ;)

Lisa Shafer said...

I've never liked blog tours and always skip over blogs that are doing them -- so redundant. I also prefer to read about books that are already published (or just a few days away from release) so that I can get to them.
Vlogs I hate. Most authors and bloggers are WRITERS, not TV show hosts. Every vlog I've ever seen has left me LESS likely to buy the book in question. Book trailers, when done well, can be very helpful.

Connie Keller said...

I agree with you. Even when blog tours first started, I tended to read one of the posts and ignore the rest. And I usually waited for reviews before I decided whether to buy the book or not.

BTW, I really liked your suggestions.

Louise said...

I do much the same thing Connie does - read the first blog tour post that pops up on my feed, and then ignore the rest.

I'm not a huge fans of book trailers or vlogs, personally, but that's just because I usually have classical music (or kids audio books) playing in the background during the day, and if I pause them to listen/watch something else, there is great indignation from the small people in the house.

I do love your last suggestion, of having themed bloghops. That's the sort of thing I would love to follow, and might even participate in!

Jennifer Hoffine said...

I've noticed the same things lately, especially no comments when I promote a book for someone on my blog.

And thanks for sharing your ideas of what still works...I especially love the blog hop idea.

Anne Gallagher said...

I've never done a blog tour. Well that could actually be called such. I think in my whole time blogging I've only done 4 guest posts.

I don't read blog posts that host blog tours. It's all very redundant like you say.

As for promotion, I'm a minimalist. One blog post, one or two Tweets and that's about it. It's all about writing the next book for me. A a self-published author, I don't have time to waste by doing promotion that won't work.

Annalisa Crawford said...

I'm learning about promotion the hard way for my own book, so I have no original ideas.

As for blog tours, you're spot on when you say you make up your mind about the book the first time you see the cover/blurb... seeing it a lot doesn't change that. I skim through Google Reader, and if I'm short of time, I don't even read some of the blogs with the same content. It's hard to admit, because I really want to support my fellow authors, but sometimes it just feels like everyone has a book release and that's overwhelming.

Angela said...

So true. I agree with this. Wish I knew ways to really up sales, but I could always use more ideas. I've heard good things about radio and podcasts, but that's a bit harder to pull off unless you're well connected.

And then there's forums. If you've established a relationship with a lot of people in a forum, sometimes they'll want to buy your book when it comes out.

Linda Kage said...

What a coincidence! I'm trying to put my book on a blog tour now. It's one of those after-release ones. since I'm such a small (really small) name ebook author, I knew I wouldn't have that much traffic. But on some of the stops, no one has even entered the giveaway. It definitely makes me cherish the few peeps actually following the tour though!

Laura S. said...

These are all great suggestions! I think the first one and the last two are the best. I'd definitely be more into the promotions if those were what the author is doing.

Old Kitty said...

I say less is more! Ahem! LOL!
Anyway!! Good luck to all those promoting their stories! For me word of mouth is always the best way to promote rather than blanket publicity blitzing.

Take care

Cynthia Lee said...

I never read blog tours and I skip right over giveaways and all that, for the most part. I have to admit - I don't read that many YA books. After writing them myself, they are the last thing I want to read. That's just me, though.

Really, the only thing that gets me to read a book is word of mouth. I honestly don't think that social media is that effective a marketing tool. I say work on the next book and the one after that.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Have you ever seen a great movie and spread the word? Then, Hollywood spews out ten movies just like it. How many Harry Potter and Twilight clones have you seen on the book shelves.

How many of those movies have you seen? How many of those books have you read?

Blog tours and cover reveals and giveaways have become old hat. I did a cover reveal today instead of this Friday due to what you wrote: an avalanche of same day cover posts blunt impact now.

I even put a twist on the cover reveal by having it in my fictional jazz club and the ghost of Oscar Wilde stealing the book for his own in the shadowlands.

I like your idea for several blogs from friends highlighting your book trailer. But that done too many times will also wilt as a means of garnering attention.

I keep emailing Megan Fox to be photographed reading one of my books, but her lawyers keep replying with silly words like CEASE and DESIST. Go figure.

Johanna Garth said...

Such a great post on a subject I've thought about more than once as I've skipped other posts featuring the same book over and over.

Blog hops with fun themes are a good idea and gentle pushing instead of nonstop shouting, also good ideas.

lisa and laura said...

Fascinating conversation. Lately I've been starting to feel like posting on Twitter about our books is the equivalent of me standing at the end of my driveway and yelling about it. So...yeah. The real question has always been (and always will be) how do we use social media to reach readers outside of our current circle of friends and fans. I hope someone has the answer in time for us to promote The Lies That Bind! :)

Botanist said...

Sobering food for thought. Not only are blog tours losing their power, the whole blogging world seems to be running out of steam (as you posted about yourself recently).

The idea of putting something out there on many blogs is to reach an expanding audience, but others have already commented that these tours are often hitting the same relatively small audience time and again.

I'm not fretting about promotion yet, because by the time I'm ready for that, the world will probably have changed again :)

Unknown said...

You're right. Author interviews and "where do you get your inspiration from" I have to admit I tend to skip over them now. The blogosphere is changing, it's true. I really like your suggestion about picking a theme though...oh you've given me food for thought. Thank you!

Laura Pauling said...

I agree! I think blog tours are completely unrelated to the success of a book. Books take off or they don't. I could be wrong about that but if a book takes off and does well it's very easy to point to the blog tour and marketing efforts of the author. I really do think it's word of mouth, the cover, and the blurb. And of course, writing the next book. Promotion does nothing for a book that the majority of the market doesn't want.

That's my opinion in what I've observed so far. My second book, I'm releasing with an announcement in my newsletter, my blog and some tweets. That's it!

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

I do admit, blog tours lately make me want to run in the opposite direction. I agree with you, they've been overdone. If you're not interested in reading a book after one interview, you won't be interested in reading it after two. I agree with someone else -- word of mouth is so much better! But you can't manufacture that.

Elana Johnson said...

Concur! As an author on that end, and having gone through the first book -- and subsequent ones -- I can definitely feel the decline of enthusiasm with blog tours. As a blogger, I feel the same. So many people want me to use my blog to promote, and it's too much.

I'm not sure what to do about it. There has to be something new and different that authors can do. I'm always looking for something, and watching what others do, and yeah. Online promotion. It's a work-in-progress.

Raquel Byrnes said...

LOL!'re crazy.

I agree though that blog tours need to change or evolved in order stay effective.

There's so much noise out there it is tough to be heard.

Great post! :)

Unknown said...

Seriously. I don't get why authors get 40 or more blogs to sign up for their release. Why does anyone want to see the same book/blurb/cover on every other blog they visit during a week? After the first 2-3, I have nothing to say.
(On a related note, why do some bloggers write 2000-word posts? Do they think anyone really has the time to read that?)

Angela Brown said...

It is interesting that you mention this topic. I self-published a novel, and alongside an online buddy of mine also self-publishing her novel, we did the whole cover reveal together, as Partners in ParanormYA, letting folks know they didn't have to do it all at one time.

Today was our launch day, sending our book babes out into the world, and we're giving the blog tour a try. But instead of sharing repetitive things, words of wisdom (frankly, we don't put ourselves out as being all that wise lol!!), we're trying to take ourselves seriously as authors but not so serious when it comes to what we share at each blog we're visiting. We're hoping to spark entertainment in most of the blogs, though there will be a few that actually have a grown up feel lol! We're involving our characters heavily, and trying to keep the posts from being too long.

It's only the beginning for us but I think you make a true point that we should keep in mind. The next time we come out with something, we won't have the "first-time novelty", and something new will be needed.

LTM said...

GREAT post. To which I say, "Maybe." You know I'm kind of in the middle of this, so I'm studying what seems to be working. I don't know if blog tours "work" in the way people want or expect, but I think the main thing is to be selective and get that WORD OF MOUTH going--however possible. Yes? WOM totally sells books. :o) <3 xoxo

D.G. Hudson said...

I'm watching to see where the marketing gurus will lead the flock. In the meantime, I keep writing and learning.

This is definitely a topic that needs more discussion.

Patti said...

I concur. I find myself skipping over blogs with book promotion unless I'm looking for a book to read and let's face it everyone's TBR pile is huge. I really liked your last idea of promoting the book after the release.

Stina said...

YES YES YES!!!! My TBR pile is growing because of word of mouth. Not because of Twitter or Facebook. Not because of blog tours. And not because everyone is hyping the book before it comes out.

LTM recently mentioned EASY by Tammara Webber on her blog. That didn't get me to buy the book. It was our email discussion that had me rush out and buy it. It jumped to the top of my TBR pile. I read it and gushed about it to my friends. They then read it. Someone else then mentioned another New Adult book I should read. Again, it jumped to the top of my pile. :)

Indirectly, social media was responsible for all of this. These are my friends I meet through blogging. lol

Katrina L. Lantz said...

Very insightful and timely post! I agree the book blitz gets old. I love your ideas for mixing it up, especially the one about a book-related theme (like the biggest oopsie you've ever done).

I also really loved the physical mailing blog tour Elana Johnson put together for Bethany Wiggins' SHIFTING. We each took turns with the physical ARC, penned our comments into the book for the author, and then mailed it to the next person on the ARC tour. Then we each could blog about it, not on a schedule but as we had read it. I think this gave it enough time in between reviews/blog features, and Bethany also ended up with a really cool ARC of her book with all sorts of love in the front and back covers.

Self-publishing just means more book love and more competition, and it means we have to be more creative, like you suggested. We will rise to the challenge. That's what artists do. :) Thanks for this post!

Tara Tyler said...

totally agree!
we need more originality, a single promoter site or two, a live weekly review vlog would be awesome! like the old "at the movies" w/siskel & ebert. how awesome would that be!

Stephsco said...

I connected with the book and writing community around the same time as you--Elana Johnson's blog was featured on Publisher's Weekly and I followed all the Possession promotion. I enjoy that sort of thing, but totally agree that it is overwhelming now with so many self-pupped and indie authors joining in. I don't fault them at all--it's the way it goes right now, and for authors who don't have a publisher with many resources, organizing a blog tour may be some of the main media exposure they have.

I think you nailed it when you mentioned more tailored media blitzes. Stuff with actual content, that engages bloggers, is what pulls me in. I am not the target audience for Liar Society books--even as a writer, but I really like what the authors have done over the years to promote their books. They created a community, and I notice they genuinely interact with readers. It's more work than a rafflecopter giveaway, but as writers we know there are no shortcuts to success!

Great thoughts on all this. Creativity wins out.

Elise Fallson said...

Hi, stopping in via Tara Tyler's blog and wow, I'm a bit late over here but do agree with you. Even though I'm relatively new to the writing community, I do feel the same way about a lot of book tours. I prefer short, sweet and creative with a dash of crazy humor. At least that's what gets my attention. (: And "bonjour" I live in France too!

Julie Hedlund said...

I DO agree, and it is worrisome. It's getting more and more difficult to get noticed.

One solution for self-published authors is to think more in the long-term. Set the blog tour over a longer period of time so you don't fatigue people early on so they never want to hear about your book again. With traditional publishing, early sales are critical, so this may not be an option, but this may be where those with self-published books have an advantage.

I have an app coming out in January. It's not self-published (I have an e-publisher who acquired the manuscript, found the illustrator, is doing the production and publication, etc.), but because we're focusing more on the long-term for sales, I'm planning to stage my blog tour so that posts come out every week or even every two weeks. We'll see how it goes.

Even Facebook launch parties and Twitter launch parties are getting more difficult. It's just a crowded space and we have to get more and more creative to stand out.

Great post!

Patricia JL said...

I've sworn off blog tours after my last one. Had too many participants unable to posts what they signed up for because they didn't have time to read the book despite having over a month. (The book was about 50K words) I don't think I got a single sale. One thing I noticed was how many other tours the participants were doing during mine. That takes away from the focus of any book.

Lately, I haven't given much thought to promotion. Trying to get the next book ready (and I have bills that need to be paid first. ^^;;)

Unknown said...

Ok I want to first say I am a first time author of young adult paranormal. My very own style IMO and not another "COPY" of what is already out there lol. Anyway, this is my first time seeing or doing any type of blog and book promotion. I see you all keep saying how the themed blog hops are a cool idea. How do you go about doing something like that the right way with out looking like your a NEWBIE lol. I would love the opportunity to get to know some of you guys. My name is Travis. I live in South Arkansas with my wife and three beautiful kids. Thanks for the post I got alot out of it. Any more reading suggestions about promotion would be greatly appreciated. lol.

Nicki Elson said...

Okay, so I'm a few months late to this party, but I'm reading at a perfect time with a new book on the verge of coming out. I've been feeling this same way, which is why I haven't been able to bring myself to organize a blog blitz and why I'm restricting my cover reveal to ONE blog by someone who's also grown bored w/ the ol' slap up a cover & a blurb.

I totally agree that promo posts in which the blogger adds their own voice are so much more enjoyable. Thanks for your tips on how to be more effective. I'll definitely take them to heart.


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