Monday, January 20, 2014

Online Marketing Symposium (Creating Epic Blog Tours), a Bit of Romance, and a Fest!

I don't often talk about my writing journey, unless it's behind the scenes through personal emails to help other authors. BUT recently my debut novel, MOONLESS, was published, and as a part of that effort, I hosted an EPIC blog tour. I learned so much from it, and as knowledge is power, today I'd like to share that knowledge with all my wonderful writerly pals. (If you're not a writerly pal, feel free to jump down to the other bits at the end of this post.) 


I've heard chatter that blog tours are a waste of time. My blog tour was the single most successful advertising campaign to date with significant exposure, response, awareness, and visibility. Advantages of blog tours:

1. Getting the word out. You might think you've tired everyone's ears to death by screaming about your amazing future release, but you probably haven't even reached a tenth of the people in your circles. A year later people you know may be hearing it for the first time. From my experience, even people who are likely to buy your book will have to see/hear about it approximately 3 times before they make the investment.

2. SEO. The more links back to your site (especially on blogger or google+), the easier you are to find. This is a long term investment.

3. Sales. The reality is, for every 200 people you reach, you'll probably make 1 sale. BUT in a TARGETED blog tour, you are speaking to your soft audience. Some posts/locations were more effective for me, but typically I saw 3 to 5 purchases or adds on Goodreads per post. Remember, this is coming from a debut author who had no track record. Sales are easier when you have a track record. The high traffic blogs boosted that # to 10, and some gave me only 1. 

Now, there are a number of blog tour services out there. I haven't used one, but for reaching a wider audience, I think they can be a great resource. You're limited by your budget and their resources. Do your research. Find someone who SPECIALIZES in your genre and definitely price compare. Check out their other tours. BE IN THE KNOW. Typically they utilize between 20 and 40 stops, and those stops may not be high traffic locations. Do they take bloggers by volunteer, or do they have a long-standing roster of proven helpers? Do they tailor the tours to blogs that really hit your niche? 

I'm a bit of a control freak, plus I've got this amazing network of bloggies whom I LOVE to death, so what did I do? I organized my tour solo. But first, I did my... 


Study what has worked for others. There are a HUNDRED ways to launch a tour. Keep in mind, an effective tour is FUN for you, those who host you, and readers. Pick a theme. Get creative. Do something tailored directly to your book or writing. While you're brainstorming, let me give you some ideas.

Features. These depend on your theme. A warning. DO NOT PREPARE THE EXACT SAME FEATURE and then feed it to multiple people. You will have people who follow your entire tour and get ecstatic, even fanatical about your book. (Then they're even more likely to shout about it and start some word of mouth.) Every post should be unique.
  • Everyone and their dog is willing to interview you--and while I love author interviews, my eyes glaze over after the second lengthy paragraph. In a world where tumblr, twitter and facebook rule, keep in mind attention spans are shrinking. SHORT interviews (we're talking 5 or less questions) and a really focused theme can be SUPER effective. See a couple amazing examples HERE.
  • Character Interviews: Handle with caution. If you're an actor, you probably have this in the bag. These really have to be some of your most focused and creative writing. For these I suggest getting questions from beta readers, critique partners, and advanced reviewers who are already acquainted with your characters. (And don't be afraid to ask these people to host!) An effective interview looks something like THIS.
  • Excerpts are powerful things. Readers loves stories. (That should be obvious, right?) Remember to keep them short: no more than 500 words and preferably less than 300 (or a single page of print). Before my tour, I selected 15 different excerpts and asked a number of people to read and rate them from most engaging to least. I did this for a couple reasons. 
    • To figure out which were the best. 
    • To get others excited along with me. From that original 15 we selected 8, and they are bits I use with confidence now in all promotions. 
  • Reviews. I highly advise rounding up reviewers, but be sure you give them adequate notice. Two months was sufficient for some, but others require 6 months. If you're firm on your dates and you want REALLY HIGH TRAFFIC reviewers, I advise scheduling book blog reviewers 6 months out. (With a well timed reminder email. Or two.) How do you find these reviewers? There are online directories--just do a quick google search (and be sure to include your genre). 
  • Guest Posts. Be careful on these. Remember the focus is to share your book. I did some top ten lists that were just great fun, but they didn't end up contributing much to my bottom line. THIS ONE did. (You'll see why.) Here's an example of a guest post that was VERY effective: Moonless in Clips.
  • Games. Remember what I said about having fun? I hosted my Truth or Lie game across the blogosphere as well as a Mystery Sentence Game with hidden words in the excerpts. I've seen choose your own adventures, book blasts where the story continues in a chain of blogs, and so many others. This is where you get creative, but remember your readers have lives. If it's too invested, they're probably not going to play. Make it simple, quick and easy to be involved AND to share.
Giveaways. I suggest using Rafflecopter and posting an image of your prizes ABOVE the widget. A word on cash prizes... They're great and will attract a TON of attention (IF ADVERTISED RIGHT), but you really want to attract readers, not just people looking for handouts. Keep that in mind as you set reasonable amounts and offer more books/swag than cash. I suggest offering multiple prizes, and inviting other genre-centric authors to join your giveaway. Remember, they'll also help you spread the word. Also keep in mind, some potential buyers will hold off purchasing your book until the raffle ends. 

Length: I've seen tours done two ways: spread out over months (one feature a week), and run in succession (day after day for 3 days to a month). Remember marketing is a LONG TERM thing, so either one works. It comes down to how you are most comfortable. I asked for volunteers within a 3 week time frame and anticipated getting 20 to 30 people interested. I ended up with 63 stops in 18 days. Yup. Insanity. I could comfortably handle 3 posts a day, and I don't advise more than that in a single day unless you're doing a 1 day blast. Remember that as a guest, you are committing to getting the word out about each and every feature, as well as responding to comments. Be involved. It's etiquette. A word on signing people up: most bloggers will jump on board 1 to 3 months out. More than that and they're going to procrastinate making a commitment.  

Professionalism/organization. This attracts people. Remember how I said I ended up with 63 stops by passively mentioning my tour a couple places? Here's how I did it: 

Looks professional, right? It was an easy, pretty, sign up form and when people started raving about it, others stopped in to check it out and signed up. I admit, my techie did build this, but the investment was worth it. It's a form that with minor adjustments can be used again and again. I've seen other people use Google docs for sign ups. 

The biggest thing people complimented was my organization. After people signed up, I sent out an initial email with all the details of the tour, including options on different types of features and my ENTIRE media kit. If you'd like to see a copy of that email, I would be happy to share it. Just ask. In the email I set specific dates for interview questions to be sent.

I kept everything on a calendar and spreadsheet--who was hosting which feature and when, with a to-do list and deadlines. I pre-wrote several posts so I wasn't up against a deadline and tearing my hair out. One thing everyone appreciated was receiving the posts in html, so they could just cut and paste.

Communication. A week before the tour, I sent an email with the rafflecopter code and the tour schedule. Each morning of the tour I sent emails to the hosts for the following day, an opportunity to thank and remind them. 

Follow Up. At the tours' conclusion, there was another follow up email and thank you. It is nice to offer your hosts a gift for helping. I entered everyone in a raffle and gave away a few gift cards. With my rafflecopter entries, I sent people who didn't win a $1 coupon off the book on Smashwords. 

Things I would do differently next time: I would welcome volunteers, but target more blogs with high traffic and query them well in advance. Most people are flattered and more than willing to participate. The worst they can do is say no, and really, it's not a big deal if they do. I would arrange my sign up so that people can see the available dates and select from them. (Arranging them all myself was a bit of a headache.) I would pre-write tweets and facebook statuses to help announce each stop.   

And there you have it. The rest of the Symposium can be found below.

For NON-writers, and a few writers who like romance...

It's a celebration of that little thing called love, and today I'm excited to share this little tid-bit with you from my WIP without a title that we call Faux

Sam looked down. “When I hit rock bottom, when things couldn’t get any worse, I decided you deserved to lose just as much as I had. I blamed you. It was the only way I could deal with them abandoning me.” Sad eyes turn on me. “I blamed you.”

I stared.

“So I came. I watched you, scheming about how to make you suffer. Finally I decided I had to meet you, to figure out what dagger I could twist in your back.” He reached for me.

I stood frozen, disgusted.

“The first time we talked, you made me laugh. I…” His eyes lowered. “I hadn’t done that since, well, I couldn’t even remember. Everything, all my plotting, I just…” His fingertip grazed mine and electrical warmth swam into my veins. He seized my hand. “We met every day after school. It was innocent. We’d catch butterflies, or swing at the park, or just talk. You showed me how to live, how to really live.” He brushed my hair behind my ear. “You gave me a reason to live.”

The rest of the hop is HERE.

I'm STOKED to help reveal the cover for this wonderful New Adult novel by Kitsy Clare*:

Nice, right?

For Sienna, love and art are perilous games. Is she ready to take that gamble?

Sienna is a beautiful, talented artist poised on the precipice of soaring into the glamorous, yet cutthroat Manhattan art scene.

Dave Hightower is a hooked-up, handsome heir to the hippest gallery in NYC, Gallery Hightower.

Erik is the live drawing model with his sizzling green eyes fixed only on Sienna.

Three’s a crowd, so Sienna must make a choice: date Dave and ride the fast track to landing a show at Gallery Hightower and hobnobbing with the art glitterati, or follow her heart and take a chance with Erik, the stunning male model who’s stealing her heart. But Erik has some worrisome secrets, and who in their right mind would make live modeling their career?

Dare Sienna throw away her chances of hitting it big to follow her heart?


When Kitsy Clare isn’t creating stories on her favorite Mac Air, she teaches speculative fiction and creative writing workshops. She also loves to draw, travel, read spicy romance, sci-fi and all kinds of thrillers. She divides her time between New York City and her studio in the Catskills, where she enjoys the sounds of birds, bullfrogs and the random coyote. 

*Kitsy Clare is the pen name for her new adult romance. She also writes young adult fiction using her real name, Catherine Stine. Her YA futuristic thriller, Fireseed One won finalist spots in both YA and Science Fiction in the 2013 USA Book News International Book Awards. It was also granted an Indie Reader Approved notable stamp. Her YA Refugees, earned a New York Public Library Best Book. Ruby’s Fire, the new companion novel to Fireseed One, is receiving high praise from reviewers. She’s a member of SFWA, SCBWI and CBIG. She can be found on,, and
AND LASTLY, it's not too late to join the

Meet my AMAZING co-hosts: Pk HrezoTammy Theriault, and Michael Di Gesu.

If you lived in a society where arranged marriages were a la mode, who would you beg your parents to set you up with? (Literary characters and celebrities welcomed.) Who and why? Come tell us February 10th! Sign up below. Be sure to grab my button and post it on your blog, share it with everyone and let's make it a party!

What have you learned about blog tours? 


  1. Great post, Crystal! I learned a lot from it and will bookmark it for further reference. Thanks for sharing all those tips. :)

  2. Crystal, this is great info! You really have done your homework. I had a friend offer to do my first tour (she had experience doing them) so I went that route. She did a wonderful job. There are some things I'll change next time around, and this list will help a great deal. Thanks so much for sharing; it'll be a big help!

  3. Some excellent tips for blog tours! (I offered mine today as well.)
    My tour is one week daily and then spread out over months. More effective than a short burst.
    Agree with the interviews.
    Excerpts not so much. Maybe it depends on the genre.
    Thanks for participating in the symposium!

  4. The excerpt you chose is fabulous! Nice done.
    All this marketing knowledge is amazing. It's a great post. Sharing for you...

  5. Thanks for the great info. I've done a few different tours for my books and like the ones the span a week or two that include a mix of reviews, excerpts and guest posts. I agree about interviews and excerpts. Short is always good. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Great tips, Crystal! I agree that it can be overwhelming. Also agree completely that Rafflecopter can be a great tool too, although trying to find your target audience vs. everyone looking for freebies can be daunting.

  7. These are some great ideas Crystal... thank you for sharing... I will be back once my book is compete... I'll want to share it around ♡

  8. Oh my gosh where were you when I needed this advice... thank you.

    Jeremy H.

    There's no earthly way of knowing.
    Which direction we are going!

  9. Great advice on spending time that turns into something (as far as sales and getting the word around).

  10. Wow! Another super busy woman today. Thank you so much for participating in our romance blogfest along with these others. Where to start?

    First, great information on marketing. I love the sign up form for blog tours! What a great idea.

    And your romantic snippet! Great tension and emotion in there. I kept waiting for her to bolt at his admission of his initial intentions. Every second I was whispering, "hear him out" and then waiting for her for what would come next. Very real and tender admission of "love against my will" almost. :) Makes me think of Mr. Darcy!

    Great cover for Kitzy!

    I can't think of anyone I'd want to be married to other than my hubby. That's the honest truth! I've looked at your blogfest several times over the last few weeks and couldn't think of one person! Not even a celebrity. I don't even have a (what do you call it when you have a freebie if?) celebrity. As if! Is that sad?

  11. I definitely bookmarked this for Whenever. Thanks for the great advice!! So glad your blog tour went amazingly well. :)

  12. I think it's impressive that you could tell so much about sales from each blog on your tour.

  13. Oh my! You really did it up good. Lots of good stuff to chew on.

  14. I love all these ideas. If I ever fulfill my dream of writing a book someday I will refer back to this for certain :)

  15. Great stuff, here, Crystal. I agree as a blog reader that game-style contests requiring a big time commitment won't garner the same level of participation as easy ones will.

  16. Thanks for the marketing ideas, Crystal. I agree that trying to hit the blogs with more traffic is a good idea. Good to hear what you thought worked and what didn't.

  17. Ha, ha, you said three, I've heard as many as ten times: that people need to hear/see something before they're spurred to action. Thanks for sharing so many details about your book tour. And I loved your flash fiction Moonless post on M. Pax's blog and your shout-out to favorite fantasy books that inspired you to write Moonless on Ashley Chappell's blog. Good stuff!

  18. I'm glad you mentioned SEO and doing one's homework and research. These can make a big difference in online work.

  19. Wow! Now that's a professional sign up sheet. I'm going to go back and spruce mine up, which looks totally boring in comparison.

    Thanks for sharing!

  20. Awesome information! Congratulations on such a positive start, and thanks for sharing. That's what it's all about today! Great organization! Wishing you all the best with Moonless!

    Thanks for participating!

  21. I've both used a blog tour service and set them up myself. I think the services aren't worth the money. It will put you in front of new people, but not many, as often the stops are at low-traffic blogs.

  22. I've toyed with a blog tour service,however,I'm skeptical about hiring people to market for me. Loved your post and will definitely keep your ideas for future marketing efforts. Great job.

  23. Crystal,

    I've done over a half dozen blog tours & other than the contests (which I'm going to try next time!!) we've done them basically the same. I didn't have much success with the first two, and my third for my debut fantasy novel is still in question. My problem is that I didn't do my homework like I should have. Volunteers ARE great, having blogs focused on your genre is certainly a must.

    Thanks for the great tips. I've made notes for this year's sequel release.

    Terri @ Scribbler's Sojourn

  24. Great, concise advice. I keep reminding myself it's for the long haul.

  25. Wonderful advice on blog tours! I am doing my blog tour on my own and I like it better that way. Although it can get stressful at times, I like to be in control. I haven't done a blogfest yet to promote my book, but I am planning on it for future works. ;)

  26. Incredible, concrete advice! I've bookmarked this as I will be doing a blog tour. . . looks like I'm already a little late in starting, but you make me realize it does't have to happen at launch.

  27. Nothing is a waste of time if done right and it creates results. I'm dubious of a lot of blog tours, but you've really got it down to a science. Great post with a lot of good info and exemplary links. This is the kind of post we were hoping to see for the What Works... event.

    Thanks for a top rate post.

    Tossing It Out

  28. Stunning male models try to steal my heart all the time.


  29. You sound like me with the obsessive organizing! I like it. ;)

  30. Wow, that's alike of good advice to soak in. Thank You, Crystal!!

  31. I meant a Lot of good advice. Geez, finger's are typing way too fast...

  32. Lots of useful information here, Crystal and I like that cover.

  33. Clare's book font is making me go gaga. Did I say I love creative book fonts. Crystal I remember my cover reveal giving me great spots on google so I'm with you on advantages of blog tours. Finding out the best marketing strategies is the way to go. Also that excerpt for Faux was both beautiful and chilling. I went from is this person going to kill someone to just WOW.

  34. If only I knew then what I know now! My goal is to do an abbreviated blog tour and just do better next time. Lesson learned!

  35. Great advice. Especially about the targeted blog tour. I must bookmark this page!

  36. Wow. This is one blog post I've bookmarked! Such an awesome amount of advice. Thank you!

  37. Love all your information about blog tours. I'll have to refer to it in the future! Thanks for sharing the scene from your WIP, love the tension! Congrats on your debut novel!!

  38. One thing that I loved about your tour was that you made everything so fun.

    And yep, pre-writing posts & pre-scheduling Tweets, etc. makes the whole thing go more smoothly. I've done blog tours w/ romance book bloggers and ended up disappointed---if I do another one, I'll organize on my own, so i really appreciate these tips!

  39. Great tips and advice! Thanks for sharing!

  40. Super post, Crystal, thank you so much. I've done one blog tour with someone setting it up and I was very pleased with it. I think I should do one every year though!

  41. That idea about having people rate your excerpts is a good one. It's like beta reading to get the most reader-catching piece of your book.

  42. Excellent tips! I'm learning so much from this blogfest. And yay for Kitsy Clare's new book! :)

  43. Great tips. I'll have to keep them in mind if I ever need them.

  44. Awesome tips on blog tours! I like the idea of doing different excerpts. I didn't think of that for mine. Next time. :)

    Congrats to Kitsy on her book!

  45. Very thorough and helpful post on organizing a successful blog tour! I"m going to bookmark this for later. Wishing you the best of everything with Moonless!

  46. Very informative post, thank you. I've bookmarked it, because really, I want to be able to read it over and over, take some notes. Thank you.

  47. Already signed up for the tour Crystal, via Goodreads (just letting people know it does work).

    Lots of very helpful and informative tips, thanks!

  48. A mountain of information! Bookmarking your post for later reference.

    Your excerpt was perfect. I was there, in the scene, felt like a peepiing Tom, no less. Good one.
    Author of Wilder Mage at Spirit Called
    Facebook Wilder Mage

  49. Awesome list, Crystal, thanks so much for sharing your experiences with us!
    Love Kitsy's cover!

  50. Excellent tips! You did a great job with your blog tour. I thought your games were a lot of fun, too!

  51. Hi Crystal .. talk about being organised and having so much going on - obviously very well put together. I sure hope Moonless does really well ...

    I agree on length .. including excerpts can add in too much - though understand the need for extra info ...

    These marketing symposium ideas are great .. thanks for detailing yours so clearly .. cheers Hilary

  52. I've done blog tours for each one of my books, but they haven't led to so many sales. Congratulations.

  53. Great info, Crystal. Thanks for sharing! I signed up for your fest as it seems like lots of fun!

  54. Wow, so many great blog tour tips! Setting one up sounds like so much work. I'll have to remember this post if I ever decide to do one...

  55. Crystal, you win the Nobel Prize for Most-Organised-Book-Blog-Tour-Containing-A-Million-And-One Details... you really made it seem like a breeze.. wow!

  56. These are wonderful ideas. Thank you. I'm saving them for my next book release.

  57. Good scene except for one thing.

    Have you ever heard a man talk like that except in a romantic novel?

    I kid, of course!

    I've had the blues, the reds and the pinks
    One thing's for sure....
    Love stinks


  58. I'm a long way aways from needing a blog tour, but this is a very helpful guide, so I'm bookmarking for future use. Thank you for sharing what you learned!

  59. wow. WOW. thank you so much. i'm so excited to go indie I can't even stand it. I just need to finish my dang revisions! tammy's interview was so perfect. I loved the cheese question. my husband is a cheese maker's son and works in the business..and holy moly, you know your cheese! and Bethany's interview. MADE ME WANT TO READ MOONLESS. he is the perfect male character/love interest ever. so well done. so. so. so. and I haven't even finished reading the post yet. back up I go! christy

  60. Holy crap... Too much info! But seriously. Thank you. I'm bookmarking this. Amongst everything else going on with my debut novel, I am in the planning stage of the inevitable blog tour. This is the single best collection of advice I've found so far.
    Thank you.
    So, without me writing my email here and inviting Pandora's box of spam into my mailbox, how can I get my eyes onto the media kit you made? It sounds profoundly helpful.

    1. Quick heads up, I transition my media kit over to the "media" link at the head of my blog. Other than links to pinterest, wattpad, and linked in, it's pretty much got everything a host could need. I'd suggest getting your own media link up so people who love your book have an easy reference. I also included all of that information in my opening email. Shoot me a message crystal AT crystal-collier DOT com and I'll send you my welcome email.

  61. PACKED post! I loved loved loved the excerpt! Also, Kitsy's cover is beautiful and her new books sounds great.
    There's sooo much going on right now!

  62. Hi Crystal, just stopping by to say how delightful your blog is. Thanks so much for sharing. I have recently found your blog and am now following you, and will visit often. Please stop by my blog and perhaps you would like to follow me also. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Chris

  63. I think I'm gonna save this post under favs and come running to you when and IF I ever get published!!

  64. Super advice, Crystal. I've bookmarked this page and may even hit you up for more advice when it's my turn! lol! Fantastic post!

  65. What an amazing post! Just saved it under my favorites for future reference. You touched on so many great points! I especially like the part about writing different posts for the tour because people will follow the whole tour. Very smart! WOW! Lots to think about. :)

    Thanks for sharing!

  66. Wow! Great advice for blog tours, and marketing! I definitely need to pre-write tweets next time.

    I would love to be a part of the fest for Moonless, but Mondays are busy bears at the moment, and I re-discovered with the Marketing Symposium that I really can't be online like I would like to be . . . if I could post late on Tuesday, I would love to highlight Moonless! Or you could always stop by for a 1 Word Interview Challenge . . . if one fits in your schedule.

  67. Thank you for the marketing tips. I'm more organized this year than compared to my debut year in 2011. I hope to improve.

  68. Wow. Lots of great tips here. I'll definitely mark this page as one to come back to. When I get to the blog tour stage.

    I never would have thought of doing a game on a blog tour, but that's a terrific idea.

  69. Thanks for this very useful online marketing tips. Can I share this on my WebDesignSolutions blog? I would love to share this to my readers.

  70. It proved to be Very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commentators here!


Hit me with your cheese!