Finding Your Own Blogs to Tour On

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I haven’t had a good wrist slapping on social media all that often. Well, there was that one time on Twitter when I commented humorously to a tweet that was definitely not put out there in humour. Thanks for setting me straight on that one, Jian Ghomeshi of the CBC Radio program Q!

The first post in this three part series generated one hard-hitting response. I hope it’s the only time I ever get told to shut-up via a blog commenter! But, I decided to sojourn on. So we come to the final post in this series.

Today, I want to share experiences I’ve had when I sought out or was invited to appear on blogs. These appearances have taken the form of book reviews, author interviews or guest posts. Each one gave me exposure as an author with a debut novel and cost me no more than the time it took to prepare the materials that the blog host requested. Each one came about because I kept my eyes peeled on social media for invites and possibilities, followed book bloggers when I liked their style and was willing to put myself out there and ask if I could appear on certain blogs.

The advantages of seeking out your own opportunities or deciding whether to accept an invitation are huge. This fact only became clear to me when I paid for a tour and had to let someone else choose. When I stayed in the driver’s seat, I knew what to expect. I could go to the blog and look around. I could get familiar (if I wasn’t already) with the blogger, their followers, the level of interaction on the blog and the type of content a viewer would generally expect to find there.

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t say no to an invite or turn my nose up when it comes to pursuing an opportunity based totally on a blog’s following. I wouldn’t refuse an invitation in real life because the party was small or people weren’t particularly chatty, so why do it in the blogosphere?

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Since Disappearing in Plain Sight was published in March, I have been featured on the following blogs. (If I missed anyone, please let me know! I try to keep records and links of all these things but if I’m travelling or away having grandma fun I can let stuff slip.)

An author interview on The Flying Pony 

An author interview on Glynis Smy’s blog: Author of Historical Roman with a Twist 

A book review on author Gloria Antypowich’s blog 

Tea with a Dragon interview on Patrick O’Scheen’s blog – Dreamer 

A book review on Roy McCarthy’s blog – Back on the Rock 

Gwen Stephens of the 4 a.m Writer had me on her blog 3 times! A book review, and parts one and two of an author interview.

I guest post on Jessica Bell’s blog – The Alliterative Allomorph 

A guest post on the Alliance of Independent Author’s blog

A book review on Gaele Hince’s book review blog – I Am Indeed 

I’d like to give more detail on the book review that appeared on the I Am Indeed blog. Gaele is one of Amazon’s Top 1000 reviewers. I’m not sure how many reviewers Amazon has but they list this distinction beside her name when she posts a review to Amazon, so you can bet your boots it means something. Open-mouthed smile 

In March, I submitted an email form asking that my book be reviewed on Gaele’s site. A couple of months later she sent out a spreadsheet that had me slotted for the end of August. When my date came along, she wrote a lively and interesting review of my book that appeared on her blog, she put that review up to Amazon.com and Goodreads and she Tweeted out the link to her review of my book over 20 times! And this all happened free of charge. Thank you, Gaele!

I currently have three upcoming appearances in the works – a combination of book reviews, author interview and guest post. I’m looking forward to all of these. 

There are many, many people trying to capitalize on the dilemma that self-published authors find themselves in when it comes to promotion and marketing. Kevin Brennan describes this well in his recent post – Self-publishing Wake-up Call # 999 Please pop over to his blog. The man has a way of making a point. You’ll see when you get there.  

In our house the debate rages on. One partner takes the position that any service being sold via the internet is probably a rip-off. I’ve tried a few times to argue that the world is changing. Why is it any different to pay for a print ad than it would be to pay for an internet one? How would it be better to pay a publicist to book you on a tour to real places than it would be to pay someone to arrange a blog tour for you?

What side of this divide do you fall over to?

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In closing – a big thank you to the dedicated bloggers out there who promote self-published authors because they believe in what we do and they enjoy what they’re doing. I’ve benefited from your generosity and I hope this post gets that message across.

More on the Thorny Question of Blog Tours

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Do you ever get the feeling that without realizing what you’re doing, you’ve managed to tap into something a bunch of people are already talking about? Since my last post, I’ve run into two discussion threads (on author sites I frequent) that relate to blog tours. That got me curious, so I did a Google search using the words – what authors are saying about blog tours. That yielded a number of interesting links. The subject would appear to be a hot topic. Who knew?

P1080597I’ve decided to get on the bandwagon and stretch this two-part series to three. In part one, I was up front about taking responsibility for not having done my homework before I embarked on a blog tour. I’m certainly learning a lot now. Maybe it’s a case of closing the barn door after the horse is out – but better late than never.

The author discussion threads were fairly unanimous on the conclusion that blog tours don’t translate into direct book sales. They’re about exposure, getting eyes on your book and increasing your book’s presence on the net. This echoed points made by commenters on my last post. The issue of cost was also raised. As one wise person wrote – you get what you pay for. You can’t expect to sail first class when you’ve only paid for steerage.

I checked out a post entitled: Reasons why it might be your fault that your blog tour sucked. Stacy Deanne lists several ways that I could have played a role in the outcome of my tour. I picked up some questions to ask myself:

  • Did I choose blogs with low traffic? If the tour is about exposure, then a low traffic blog is unlikely to help me.
  • Did I refuse to have a give-away? There is so much competition now – let’s face it – a hook is required.
  • Was I disorganized about getting my material to the blog hosts? Big no-no.
  • Did I do a poor job of promoting and participating in my own tour? I have to be invested for the best outcomes.
  • Did I provide boring content or the wrong type of content? Just asking for trouble.
  • Did I treat the blog host like crap? Never a good idea.
  • Was my tour too short? Apparently, two weeks won’t be enough unless I’m featured on high profile blogs or I’m already famous. (Alas, no to that last point – as one commenter on the last post pointed out – the last time she looked I was no Nora Roberts or Stephen King.)

Check out Deanne’s blog for more details.

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Next, I hopped over to the  Authors Helping Authors blog and a post entitled – I did a blog tour and nothing happened by Mercy Pilkington. Mercy makes a number of great points:

  • Blog touring isn’t a novelty anymore – everyone’s doing it so that makes it harder to stand out.
  • Not all blog tour organizers or blog hosts are created equal.
  • No real data exists to prove one way or the other if a blog tour is a good investment of promotional dollars.
  • When you sign on with a blog tour organizer you often have no way of knowing if you will be featured on blogs with adequate followings.
  • There is a ton of room for screw-ups. The longer the tour the more chances that dates and deadlines might not be adhered to.
  • You have to do your homework! (Oh, the lesson I needed to learn – there it is again.)

Mercy offers a few suggests:

  • Consider the fact that there are many generous bloggers out there who will host you for free. Find them and connect with them.
  • If you do pay – make sure you get the names of the blogs you’ll be appearing on so that you can check them out.
  • And remember – a blog tour is no guarantee of sales.

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Elene Sallinger’s post – Blog Tours: Lessons Learned provided a few more things to consider:

  • Is the tour organizer reliable and can the organizer give assurances that the individual blog hosts will be reliable? Can blog hosts deliver what they promise on the day they say they will? These are important considerations when an author is trying to participate and promote the tour on his or her own social media platforms.
  • Next you must consider if the blogs you will appear on have adequate reach. Again, the point is made that paying to appear on low traffic blogs is not helpful.
  • Then there is the huge question of what type of exposure you will receive. Will the post consist of a picture of your book’s cover with the Amazon synopsis and a few links? Will there be book excerpts? Will there be author interviews, guest posts or reviews?

In the discussion threads mentioned above, more than one participant wrote that a good blog tour must deliver reviews. Book reviews are what matters.

Consider the following blog post by Angela Scott – Blog Tours: Busted and Broken. Scott writes that she knows blog tours won’t result in direct sales. She does a tour for the reviews. BUT and this is big BUT for her – the review must be posted to Amazon as well as appear on a blog. That is absolutely key for self-published authors. Scott wonders why bloggers would go to the trouble of writing a review and then not post it to Amazon. Good question.

I’ve given you a brief look at some of the ideas that are circulating when it comes to blog tours. I’ve learned more than a few things I wish I had known earlier. I’m no longer sure that I would unequivocally say no to paying for another blog tour. If I did it again, I would understand it’s about exposure and not direct sales. And I would make sure I had data on the blogs I would be appearing on before I signed on the dotted line.

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There you have it – older and wiser! Stay tuned for the third part of this series. I’ll talk about how I sought out bloggers who would host me and the way that worked out.

Paying to do a Blog Tour – Good Idea or Not?

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My limited experience with paying for a blog tour was less than stellar. I did it once and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else. It’s nothing against the group I went with – I’m not even going to name them. The thing is, I didn’t sell any more books while doing the tour than I had before it started. All blog tours are pretty quick to tell their customers that they do not guarantee sales. Fair enough. Eyes wide open and all of that. I was warned.

The bottom line of promotion is that it’s supposed to sell books. I know the arguments that the tour could contribute to my social media platform – building a following, slowly creating a buzz that will magically catch fire one day. I’m not arguing with that point of view. But when it comes to spending money, analysis after the fact is important.

Here are the facts on the tour I chose:

Tour cost $55.00 (CND). Rafflecopter Draw to augment the tour, $58.00 (CND). The tour ran from July to September and I appeared on a total of 11 different blogs.

My first mistake was misunderstanding what I had purchased. I thought I was buying a one week blitz tour. I never imagined the tour would be spread over the whole summer. (Obviously, this information was there for me to figure out – but somehow I didn’t.)

My book was promoted the first day of the tour. After that, (I’m not listing these in any particular order) I had five guest posts. (The tour organizers had asked for only one guest post so it appeared multiple times. I stopped using my social media platform to promote these over and over.) I had three guest interview pieces on three different blogs. These were easier to promote because the content differed from blog to blog. Excerpts of my book were featured on three different blogs. There was something called a Twitter view and a Twitter blast. I didn’t take full advantage of these because I didn’t understand what I was supposed to do. I was listed in a Book Expo on-line site and entered in a contest, against four other nominees, to win the best book in the literary fiction category. I did win this competition, but I suspect this had more to do with my ability to garner votes via my social media platform than anything about my book. (Maybe it’s wrong for me to be so cynical. What do you think?)

I received five book reviews, featured on five blogs on five different dates (an overlap of the blogs I had already appeared on.) One review was put up on Amazon and the rest are on Goodreads. If a part of the tour sold even a handful of a e-books, it was those reviews.

On the last day of the tour, Disappearing in Plain Sight was the book of the day and a chapter of my novel was put up on most of the blogs I had originally been on. I also received 4 Tweets on that day – all from the same site and all posted at the same time.

And there you have it.

I could have discovered, before I ever made the decision to choose this tour (by doing my own research) that the types of blogs I would be featured on were not going to be what I was expecting. I have no one to blame but myself for not doing this.

All the blogs were all quite similar. To be frank, I could hardly tell them apart. Most of them contained prominent ads for the same books, over and over. All of them did multiple posts per day. In all cases the interaction with followers (judging by the lack of comments) was not great.

The reviews were a different story. I was appreciative of the fact that these reviews, based on a question and answer format, got at some unique aspects of the novel. Not sure why they couldn’t have all gone up on Amazon – but reviews on Goodreads are great, too.

The Rafflecopter draw was discouraging. I had suggested people should like my Facebook author page, follow my blog, and follow me on Twitter. To these requirements were added the need to like other blogger’s Facebook sites – bloggers who were hosting my tour. Since I paid extra for the draw, I wondered about that. (There was probably some fine print somewhere about this.) I suppose it’s a way for the blog organizer to reward bloggers who take part.

Since the draw ended, I have seen a steady decline in the likes I gained on my Facebook page. I should have guessed this would happen – if people sign-up only for the chance to win a prize they probably won’t stick around. For those of you have stuck around – my apologies for the generalization and my sincere thanks.

A few people suggested (on a writer’s discussion site that I frequent) that I not pay for a blog tour. They recommended, instead, that I  search out blogs I wanted to be featured on and then approach those bloggers with my ideas for a guest post, request for a review or author interview. I should have listened. The moral of the story is this – do your own research; know what you’re getting into. Don’t be dazzled by the idea that exposure on a blog tour will translate into extra book sales – it probably won’t.

Stick around for part two of this reflection when I compare my paid blog tour experience with what has happened when I’ve sought out fellow bloggers to review my book, interview me or allow me to do a guest post on their blogs.

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I put these photos in today because the sound of rushing water is supposed to be soothing. Can you hear it? Are you suitably soothed?

Have you done a blog tour? If so, weigh-in on this discussion. What was your experience like? But please don’t mention any blog organizers by name. Let’s keep the discussion about blog tours in general.

Why I Chose to Dump the Blog Roll Page

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Hi all:

Just wanted to drop everyone a line and explain why I chose to dump the Blog Roll page from Disappearing in Plain Sight. It was a separate page (like the About page) where I was listing all the blogs I follow with a link and a few words describing each.

It was one of those things that seemed like a great idea when I came up with it but turned out to be counter-productive. Have you ever had one of those kind of ideas?

After the initial work of creating the page it had to be constantly updated and culled. There are so many wonderful blogs to follow and, it seems, I can’t resist pressing the follow button. On top of that, some blogs are here today and gone tomorrow. I felt I should stay on top of that.

The task became overwhelming. As I fell behind, I found that I was resisting the urge to follow new blogs, telling myself – think about how long it’s going to take to update that damn Blog Roll page.

Reassessment was in order. It’s unlikely people are going to scroll down the huge list that now exists on that page. I don’t want anything on my blog that is out-of-date. My blog has a nifty feature on the sidebar for readers to check out the blogs that I’ve liked as well as an area that highlights bloggers who have made comments on my posts. Promoting others is important to me.

Bye-bye Blog Roll page – a good idea that didn’t quite work. Let me know if you have gone down some avenues with your blog that required reassessment and perhaps revamping.

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And, enjoy the Illuminated Crowd – my favourite Montreal sculpture. Those blogs listed on that page were most certainly that !

Writing Can Feel Like an Exquisite Form of Possession

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Over the last five days, I have been utterly possessed by what could become a significant work-in-progress. Some of you, who have been following my blog for a while, will remember that I wrote a post about my mother being a writer. For years, as I was growing up, my mother was writing a book. My father worked the night shift at a lumber mill, and night after  night we kids would be lulled to sleep by the clacking of my mom’s old Remington typewriter, complete with the ding of the bell to indicate she had come to the end of a line and then the crank-swish of the carriage return.

As I got older and curious about this book, my mom would dole out little bits and pieces of the story like Scheherazade in the Arabian Nights. The characters and the plot wove its way into my being, in much the same way that I’m sure it was a part of hers. After going through the process of creating two novels, I certainly understand the urge my mom had to talk about her writing.

Over the years of her life, my mom continued to write but the unfinished book seemed to take a back seat to other projects. After I moved away from home I don’t remember ever seeing it or hearing her talk about it.

P1080576Like a lightening bolt from the past, a part of my mother’s original manuscript has resurfaced. It was in a box of things she had left to my son. This manuscript is double-spaced and typewritten on white paper placemats – the kind they put on the table at a restaurant. The pages are nine and half by fourteen inches in size with pretty fluted edges. (My mom worked on and off as a waitress. I guess she got a deal on cheap paper.) It starts at page eighty-six and ends on page one hundred and ninety – approximately forty thousand words. And even at that length, this is only a fraction of the box of these typewritten placemats that I remember from my childhood. It appears my mother was every bit as wordy as I am.

Five days ago, I thought – what the heck – I’ll start typing what I have of this story into my computer. It was as if I had opened a door and walked right into my own childhood, even the smell of the paper evokes so many memories. As soon as I began to type, I began to revise. Hold it, I told myself. What was happening? Before I knew it, I had abandoned any hope of transcribing and was rushing through the long sheets of paper, reading, taking copious notes, trying to understand where she might have started the story and then where she might have been going with it. My memories of what she used to read and share with me are almost always from the beginning of the book. I confess to never having a clue how the damn thing was supposed to end.

As I listened to the character’s voices, they sunk their hooks into me. It’s as if, now that they have been discovered, they are demanding that their stories be told. Somewhat melodramatic, I know – but the story leans in that direction. I am gleaning every piece of information I can from what I have left of my mom’s writing. From that, I am creating character and setting profiles. At the same time, I’m writing the back story – something that may have come in the first eighty-six pages because it sure isn’t in the next one hundred or so.

How can I describe what working on this story means to me? It’s as if my mother, who has been gone now for over sixteen years, is standing right behind me. I can almost feel her lean in close; I can sense her smiling as I go in the right direction and then frowning if I veer off down the wrong path.

A thought occurred to me, late last night as I hunched over the laptop typing away at breakneck speed. What if the rest of the book is ever found? I am swiftly approaching a point where my mother’s story will have become so welded to my own imagination and writing process that I certainly won’t need the rest of her manuscript to write this book. If the remainder of the original work were found, I would read it out of curiosity. It would be fascinating to see if her unseen hand, or my own buried memories, would have guided me along the exact same plot twists and turns that she took. Or, perhaps, I would learn that I had gone in a totally different direction.

I sense that some people close to me (Bruce, are you reading this blog – hahaha) may think I’m a bit nuts for immersing myself in this project, but I’m hooked and that’s that. I am also feeling remiss for all the excellent blog posts I’m passing up these days, to say nothing of summer’s last hurrah. I’ve hardly gone outside or into social media since this project grabbed a hold of me. But writers must write and stories must be told. When a golden opportunity falls right into my hands, I know what to do with it. I’ve also discovered that I can work on writing one book (albeit a decidedly different kind of book) and edit another book, simultaneously. A discovery like that is worth a lot.

Has anyone else ever had an experience similar to the one I’m describing? Weigh in with your thoughts one way or the other. I’d love to have the input.

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Breaking Apart for New Beginnings

Emma at Kindergarten

September is upon us. At this time of the year, I often have a feeling of angst for all those who embark on new educational journeys. Over the last couple of days, I’ve seen the pictures on Facebook of little kids starting school. They’re all carrying brightly coloured backpacks and have big smiles plastered onto their little faces.

My granddaughter has just started what she calls grade kindergarten. She told her mom she was ready for school because she knew everything. We laughed but it made me think of a very common phenomenon across the lifetime learning spectrum. We often enter learning programs with the sure sense that we already know everything there is to know.

We all wear our own personal blinders when it comes to acquiring new knowledge. We often have to let go of previously held beliefs in order to let new ideas and concepts take hold. This can be a painful process because our current knowledge becomes welded to our sense of self.

Unfortunately, we never have the perspective of hindsight as we go through the breaking down and building up anew process. If we did, we would know that we will come out the other side intact. What we thought we knew before will not be gone – only altered and enhanced.

A while back, I wrote a flash fiction piece entitled, New Beginnings. Though not autobiographical in the strictest sense of the word, I once was an older graduate student setting out to learn to be a counsellor. Of this piece, I will only say . . . some truths are best represented through fiction.

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“Well . . . I didn’t think it was the right time to challenge her . . . I suppose I could have been wrong.” Shit . . . why had she tacked on those last words in that tentative, weak tone? It made her sound like she didn’t have a clue about what she was doing. As if she was openly admitting her client would have been better off telling her problems to the first passerby she saw on the street. Shit, shit, shit.

Monica clutched at the file in her hand and told herself to breathe. Weekly peer supervision rattled her composure. Members of her graduate cohort were required to pair up and share case notes from their practicum counselling sessions. They were supposed to be helping each other identify blind spots and work on their learning edges. What a colossal load of shit that was. It was pure one-upmanship spurred on by mutual insecurity. The first person in the dyad to show a hint of weakness would be brought down like a crippled zebra before a slavering lion.

And who the hell did this guy think he was to be questioning her judgement? The thought that someday this egotistical blowhard would be a counsellor made her pity anyone who might end up as his client.

What a joke the entire program had turned out to be. Why she had ever thought that going back to school, to get her Master’s degree, would be a good idea was a total mystery to her. At her age . . . it was laughable. She knew how to help people. She’d been doing it for years. But instead of being out in the world doing what she was good at, she was stuck in a corner of a classroom being grilled by a know-it-all, stick-up-his-butt wise guy who was young enough to be her son. Peer my ass, she told herself.

One month into the program, if she let herself dwell on what her experience had been so far, she was sure she’d vomit. The program was taught, for the most part, by a group of out-of-touch-with-reality professors who were – by the way – also younger than her, all busy nitpicking over ridiculous crap. One half of her fellow classmates had come into the program thinking they already knew everything. The other half were so busy spewing back every word the professors said – as if those words had just come down from God on high – they couldn’t possibly open themselves up to learn anything.

Voluntarily placing herself in this world, allowing this process control over her and going into debt for the privilege . . . it was quite simply the act of an insane person. It was all a huge mistake.

“Monica, can we drop the peer supervision roles for a minute? I really need to talk to someone.”

The tone of his voice propelled her out of her spiral of negative thoughts. She sat up straighter and met his pleading eyes, “Sure . . . what’s up?”

“I haven’t slept for days. Work is crazy right now and I need the job. I’ve got to pay for school. I don’t have a silver spoon in my mouth like some people in this program. My girlfriend is on my back every minute about how much time I’m spending on campus. I’m behind in the readings for every course. Forget about that bloody theories paper for Mr. Dickhead – it’s not going to happen.”

Monica watched him drop his head into his hand and rake his long fingers through his hair. When he looked up his voice shook, “I admire you. You’re the one person in the whole frigging cohort who seems to care about anybody else or even slightly have her shit together. I watch you and I wonder what the hell I’m doing here. I feel like it’s only a matter of time before they find out what a total incompetent I am and kick me out of the program. Sorry to dump all my crap out like this. I feel like I’m going under.”

Monica took a deep breath and reached across the space that separated them to put her hand on the young man’s arm, “Let’s take things one step at a time . . . OK? Maybe, together, we can figure out where you can get a little room to manoeuvre.” As she smiled warmly at him, she felt her world pivot back to where it was supposed to be.

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