Previous posts covered a lot of the passive marketing techniques, so go back and take a look at those, starting here.
By active, I mean techniques that will take a lot of time from your writing by forcing you to write something other than your normal worlds or by repeatedly taking writing time to do something that is not writing. Other active techniques will cost you a lot of money, as well. I’ll be discussing all of these.
And yes, I know, the passive techniques mentioned in the previous posts also take time and sometimes take money, but usually they’re a one-and-done project. (Once you’ve designed your cover, you don’t need to redo it every week—unless you’re repeatedly screwing up.)
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A few years back, a dear friend of mine sold the first novel in her urban fantasy series. Her then-publisher (a big traditional publisher) paid to have her website revamped and linked with their website.
The publisher insisted that she blog. Her blogs needed to be about her books, the publisher said, or about something related to her books. Think about that: the blog had to be about her one book or nothing at all.
I’m not telling you who this is because not only did she leave the publisher, but she took back her website. The publisher-designed site was impossible to use from both the front and back end. And the publisher’s stricture on how to blog was ridiculous.
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If you are only writing fiction, however, blogging about writing is a very bad idea. First of all, millions of people blog about writing and publishing. Secondly, except for writing about your own process or your own work, you won’t have a lot to add.
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With blogging, you have to do two things:
1. Be consistent
2. Provide good content
Like anything else, it takes time to build an audience for your blog, but an audience will come, particularly if you follow those two rules.
You are balancing something though: you’re balancing discoverability for yourblog with discoverability for your published works. And those things aren’t always one and the same. So do follow your website numbers (and your sales) over time to see if your blogging is worthwhile.
Of course, if you enjoy doing it, then continue no matter how it impacts your writing. But if you hate it, don’t do it.
That’s the rule of thumb for all of these active marketing techniques.
Remember, they are not one-size-fits all.
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A blog tour, for those of you who’ve never done it, is a press tour in the blogging sphere. A writer writes a guest blog for a well-known book blogging site. Usually the guest blog also involves a book giveaway.
The Sourcebooks publicist contacted the bloggers, set up the giveaways, gave me deadlines and word counts, and then forwarded everything I wrote to the blogger. The blog would go up, and I was supposed to comment on the site or answer questions if I could.
Each blog tour lasted one month and usually involved a dozen different blogs. The publicist made certain the writers who were blog-touring did not write the same blog for each blogger. (That would be a disaster!)
The writers use the bloggers to promote the books, and the bloggers use the writers’ name (and giveaway) to promote the website.
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Sometimes a blog tour includes interviews and sometimes it doesn’t. Often, a blogger will ask to interview a writer about the writer’s work. This happens after you’ve had a modicum of fame. It’s also something you can trade with your writing/blogging friends, if you so choose.
The interviews seem pretty straightforward. The blogger sends you a series of questions via e-mail, and then you respond via e-mail. Sometimes those questions run for pages. Sometimes there are only two or three.
Like the guest blog, the interview promotes the writer, but it also promotes the blogger and the blogger’s website.
Once again, if you choose to participate in something like this, then you cannot just cut and paste your answers from previous questionnaires. The internet lives forever, and nothing goes away. Fans who follow your work will see that you’ve answered the same question the same way before, and that will defeat the purpose of doing this kind of promotion.
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When I was doing blog tours for Sourcebooks, I initially did them as an experiment, to see if the tours were worth my time. After saying yes the first time, though, I really didn’t want to insult bloggers by saying no the next several times.
That was a Catch-22 set up by Sourcebooks, because they had already asked the bloggers if they wanted me to guest blog. Instead of saying no to my publicist, I would be canceling existing blog tour posts—which, in my personal opinion, would have been a bad thing.
Here’s what I learned on my blog tours. I wrote about 10,000 words of free blog posts each time I did a blog tour, not counting responding in the comments (if I remembered. Sometimes I was traveling, and simply couldn’t respond). The bloggers provided space, and did promotion to their readers. Sourcebooks provided the giveaways.
There is no way to know if the people who read my blog posts—with the topics often determined by the bloggers themselves (not me)—actually bought my books. I have no idea if the sales of the books went up because of the blog tours, because the blog tours, like so much in traditional publishing, occurred in the first month of publication.
So were my sales goosed by the tours? Or did the tours make no difference at all?
In talking with other romance authors who set up their own blog tours, I suspect the tours made very little day-to-day sales difference. There was never really a spike after visiting a single blogger’s site, even if that site had tens of thousands of readers.
But, remember, discoverability isn’t just about a single blog post or a single encounter with an author/book. Advertising—and that’s what a blog tour is—is more effective if your name/book title are everywhere at once. People see the name mentioned a lot and eventually, they’ll at least look at the book (if, indeed, it sounds interesting to them).
So, with that caveat in mind, a blog tour might be a way to raise your profile shortly after your book is published. If you can set it up yourself (or your publisher’s publicist does) and if you have the 10,000 words of writing to spare. And, if you’re doing it yourself, you want to foot the bill for the free giveaways, with no actual and obvious return.
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Interviews seem easier at first because the questions are there for you. But I find that interviews take me a lot longer than a 400-500 word guest blog. I’ve gotten very picky about doing e-mail interviews, and will turn down those of more than 10 questions. (Even ten is dicey these days.) Much as I like supporting my fellow bloggers, I simply do not have the time to spend three hours answering questions for someone else’s blog.
I say no more than I say yes. Although I admit, I still do the occasional short interview. I did one on the afternoon I wrote this blog post. That was a four-question interview and it took me 15 minutes. Will I get any book sales from it? I have no idea and I have no way to measure it.
Generally speaking, I’m doing the interviews as a favor to my fellow bloggers.
Now that I’m no longer published with Sourcebooks, I will probably stop doing guest blogs. They aren’t worth my writing time. I have other uses for that time that will aid discoverability. I’ll get to that in a future post.