Yesterday I officially began my first virtual book tour for my new novel, The Tapestry Baby. The whole idea of social networking is fairly new for me. Until recently, I saw Facebook and Twitter as those annoying activities my students like to engage in during classes instead of focusing on what I’d like to teach them. Having entered the world of blogging and tweeting and posting several months ago, however, I beginning to come around.
Six months ago, if someone had referred to a VBT, I would have had no idea what they were talking about, and when my publisher first suggested a virtual book tour, frankly, I was skeptical. My former books had been reviewed on-line and I had participated in quite a few interviews, but I was still thinking of a book tour as something you did in person. I was used to doing signings and readings and participating in panel discussions and going to book festivals, places where I talked to my readers in person. That was part of the publication experience that I truly enjoyed, an unexpected benefit that I was looking forward to again. Authors, especially those with smaller publishers, tend to be very supportive of each other and I was looking forward to making new friends and discussing my work with people who were interested.
My thinking changed when I attended the AWP Conference in February. I went to a session on virtual book tours that was intended for publishers, although half the attendees were writers like myself with books about to be released. The presenters discussed the advantages of virtual book tours–the fact that so many more people can be reached through the internet, that the posts don’t go away (the tour essentially lives one even years later) and the practical problems of arranging live appearances, such as expense and the fewer number of physical bookstores that are available.
The presenters gave a lot of practical advice. Publishers or authors can arrange book tours on their own, without a publicist, but it is a time consuming activity. They need to search the web for blogs that are related to the type of book they have written and send in requests for interviews or reviews or an opportunity to write a guest post. Because of the time involved, most try to focus on more established blogs that have a good reader base, though the presenters emphasized the importance of treating every blog as though it were The New York Times Book Review. As with any form of social media, authors should always remember that they are talking to people, even when they aren’t talking to them face to face. Virtual book tours give an author an opportunity to connect with a audience, and should always be approached in a personal, human way.
A good tour, they said, should ideally involve about 60 different websites. After listening to the presentation, I was sold on the idea of a VBT and was also sold on the idea of hiring a publicist. From past experience, I had a pretty good idea just how long it would take to locate appropriate blogs and make contact. My teaching schedule simply didn’t give me that kind of time. I signed on with Dorothy Thompson at Pump Up Your Book for a one month tour and am happy with the decision. While we are doing far fewer than 60 sites, I’m content with that, too. Writing interviews and guest blog posts has been interesting and has given me new insight into my own work, but is also time consuming.
I have also arranged quite a few personal appearances. One benefit I’ve discovered is that the VBT and other forms of social networking have led me to other writers and, through them, invitations to all sorts of events.
At the end of the month, once my tour is complete, I intend to offer more impressions about what it is like doing a VBT. In the meantime, information about my tour is available here. I’d love to hear from others who have experience in or who are thinking about organizing a virtual book tour.