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 ping.fm, which allows me to promote to numerous social networks all at once. I post a message on my ping.fm 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.