Wednesday, May 19, 2010

6 Tips on How to Be a Great Virtual Book Tour Host

As a virtual book tour (VBT) coordinator and blogger/book reviewer, I come to the online book promotion world from two different angles. Before I began working for Pump Up Your Book Promotion (PUYBP), I was just like any other blogger looking for ways to attract authors, publishers, and publicists to my blog in the hopes of sharing my love of books. In the early days that meant reaching out to writing friends and asking to interview them or review their books. There had to be a benefit for others to be willing to spend some of their precious time browsing around. Then I had to find a way to promote my blog so people would know about it.

In the three years I've worked for PUYBP, I've had the opportunity to foster relationships with many great bloggers. I always breathe a sigh of relief when I check my calendar and all my clients are right where they are supposed to be. While we have a regular group of bloggers who host a majority of our clients, we also add new bloggers all the time.

What separates the great bloggers from the rest? How do you make a good first impression so VBT companies will consider you to host their clients? And probably most important from your perspective, how do you drive traffic to your blog by being a VBT host?

Here is a quick list to help you in these areas:

1) Provide all the information a VBT company needs when you contact them.

Your initial email is the first impression you give a virtual book tour company. It should be professionally written, free of errors, and provide the company with the information it needs to determine if your blog is the right place for their client: title of the book you're interested in, author's name, your name, and the URL of your blog. If you aren't inquiring about a specific author's book, then be sure to include a list of preferred genres. Other items you might include is how you promote your blog, how long you have been blogging, and if you accept eBooks.

2) Respond promptly to emails.

If you've captured a VBT company's eye and they wish to work with you, then don't let their interest wane by taking a week to answer their return email. I typically respond to inquiries within 48 hours. Virtual book tour companies are working on deadline, planning one month's tours while the current month's tours are running. They will appreciate your fast response time.

3) Apprise the coordinator of any issues.

Things happen in the virtual world and in real life that impact our schedules. Sometimes books don't get shipped right away or you receive the book but don't have time to read and review it before the scheduled date. A quick email to the VBT coordinator at least two weeks in advance will eliminate surprises and allow them time to work with you on a solution. There is no worse feeling than reading an email from a blogger on the day a client is supposed to appear at a blog that says the book was never received.

I maintain a spreadsheet for the books I review at The Book Connection and The Children's and Teens' Book Connection. I also have a paper calendar that lists the scheduled date when I am hosting each author. I check my calendar first thing every morning. When I notice I don't have a book I am supposed to review, I zip a quick email off to the VBT coordinator to let her know.

4) Provide enough information in your review to help readers make an informed buying decision.

While I am going to write up a separate article on "How to Be A Good Book Reviewer," I feel it is important to talk about here. A book review should include a short synopsis of the book and your opinions on it: what you enjoyed about the book and where, if applicable, it fell short of your expectations. For the average size book, that can be done in 150 words or more. Any less, and you risk not providing enough information for a potential reader.

5) Be familiar with social media so you can draw attention to your blog and an author's review.

While Facebook and Twitter have been around for a while, it seems they didn't really start creating a buzz until a couple of years ago. Who's tweeting, what are they tweeting about, who's on Facebook, and what they are posting, have become part of the daily life of bloggers and virtual book tour companies.

The traffic at The Book Connection doubled within weeks of me beginning to use Facebook and Twitter. PUYBP uses Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks to promote clients, attract bloggers, and for pre-promotion buzz.

What I found however, is that social media can be a huge drain on productivity. You could spend hours just on promoting to different social networks each day. Then I found, which allows me to promote to numerous social networks all at once. I post a message on my dashboard, and it is sent out to every social network I have listed with them.

Considering the sheer number of blogs out there, if you want people to know about your blog and what it has to offer, you have to become familiar with social media. In addition, you can pre-promote by using your sidebar to tell your readers who will be featured on your blog on which dates.

6) Go the extra mile.

The bloggers I find myself going back to time and again are the ones who work hard to make posts eye-catching. We ask all our hosts to include the cover art and a link to purchase the book from Amazon--or other online retailer--but many times I find author photos, author bios, book trailers, blurbs from reviews at other sites, a link to PUYBP's publicity blog, and links to the next stop on an author's tour posted as well. These extras make a big difference. While they aren't required, they are always nice to see.

Being a virtual book tour host is fun. You can get some great books for free, learn about authors you might never have heard of otherwise, and VBTs provide you with regular fresh content for your blogs.

Look for my next article in this series, "How to Be a Publicist Bloggers Want to Work With," coming soon.


tweezle said...

Wonderful post, Cheryl!! I found some really helpful tips here. I hope is shows in the future :)

April said...

Excellent post, Cheryl!! I am anxious to read the next post!

Cheryl said...

You're both on my list of great bloggers, so you're doing it right!

Thanks for stopping by.


kathy stemke said...

Great post Cheryl. Lots of good info. Thanks. I'm looking forward to the book review article.

Kris said...

Great post....I admit to at least one boo boo from the list and it was my fault all the way. But, we learn from our mistakes!

Katie Hines said...

Great article, Cheryl. I'm a little confused. Are you saying there are companies out there that all they do is taking a client's books and creating the virtual book tour for them? Is this different from a contract with an online marketing company?

Cheryl said...

Thanks for stopping by Kathy, Kris and Katie. Mistakes are definitely the way we learn, Kris, and I can't say I haven't made some of my own in the world of online book promotion.

Katie, various companies might offer different things, but Pump Up concentrates on blogs and podcasts to create a buzz for our clients' books. An author contracts us to find blog hosts for her. The author or her publicist ships books out to the bloggers for reviews. She also completes interviews and guest posts, which I'm sure your familiar with after setting up your own VBT.

Pump Up handles the behind the scenes stuff: finding the bloggers, scheduling dates, sending to-do items back and forth between the author and the blogger, and promoting the VBT--though many of our bloggers also promote these stops.

I hope this helps.

Thanks again for commenting on this article, ladies.


A Musing Mother said...

Thank you for posting that. Book tours are still so new to me but I want to share my love of reading and books. I appreciate the direction.


J. Aday Kennedy's A Writing Playground said...

I'm always looking for children's books and nonfiction writing and inspirational book authors to interview & review on my blog. Each books get 2 posts. Post 1 is the interview, author bio & book blurb, post 2 is review, book cover and marketing brainstorm. Let me know if you need tour stops.

I need to include the buy link Duh. ;+)

J. Aday Kennedy
The Differently-Abled Writer
Children's picture Book Klutzy Kantor
Coming Soon Marta Gargantuan Wings

Freelancer said...


This is great! I have interviewed and reviewed a few author friends, but! It really helps. I'll definitely be using this info.

kai said...

Cheryl, this is great information! Do you have a guestimate of time commitment a blogger needs to devote to hosting through VBT?

Penny Ehrenkranz said...

Cheryl, thanks for posting these great tips. It's something we all need to remember as we host folks on our blogs.

Cheryl said...

Hello everyone. Thanks for stopping by Nancy, Jess, Greta, and Kai. I'm glad you are finding this article helpful.

I haven't had a lot of children's authors, Jess, but I'll keep you in mind.

Kai, the time a blogger invests in hosting virtual book tours depends upon at least these factors: how many authors per month she is hosting, how she is hosting the author, and how much useful information is provided by the VBT company.

Hosting 3 or 4 authors a month will not take up as much time as hosting 12; though I bet you knew that.

A review requires more time than an interview or guest post (article provided by the author) or spotlight (synopsis, cover art, author's bio, author's photo, and link to purchase. I can read sometimes 5 books a week, but it takes me at least half an hour to write up each review.

The quality of the information coming from the VBT company greatly influences the amount of time you spend hosting a client. I do my best to send bloggers everything they need to host my clients: synopsis, cover art, author's photo, author's bio, excerpt (if applicable), and a link to where the book can be purchased online. Some companies send out media kits. I don't because a) they are usually in PDF format, so I can't easily copy and paste the information to my blog, and b) they often don't include all the information I need to host an author. What good is a media kit that doesn't provide a synopsis of the book? How can I drive traffic to the author's website if the media kit doesn't contain the URL? I spend a lot of time searching Google for information that should be provide to me as a host.

In an average week, I'll host 5 authors, which usually takes me about an hour if all I am doing is cutting and pasting information. Often times I have to search out cover art or author bios. If I have a book I'm reviewing that week, then an additional 15 to 30 minutes would be added on depending upon the length of time it took me to put together a review that I am satisfied with.

I also spend about half an hour a day promoting the stops at my blog. Sometimes more, if my schedule allows.

I hope this help.

Thanks again everyone.


kai said...

Great information, Cheryl. Thanks!

V.R. Leavitt said...

Excellent info. I was thinking about doing this at some point. This demystifies the whole process.

Cheryl said...

I'm glad you found this information helpful, Kai. Hi Vanessa, great to see you stopped by. Hosting virtual book tours is fun. It can be hard to get started sometimes, because VBT clients and authors are looking for established blogs with a decent following. I started by hosting some of my writing friends, which helped me to build up a following, then I was able to approach VBT companies about books and authors I was interested in.

You were doing that featured writer for a while, which should help. Plus your Flash Fiction spots are great.

Let me know if I can help you in any way.

Thanks again.