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

reds rocks ina stream near sedona

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.

DSC_0158adj2a

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.

31 comments on “Paying to do a Blog Tour – Good Idea or Not?

  1. I was afraid you’d say something like this… I have a sneaky feeling that easy answers to hard problems (selling books!) are akin to old-fashioned snake oil. But what you hint at in this post is “buyer beware,” and that’s always good advice.

    I’ll be watching closely for more developments!

    • Thanks, Kevin. As consumers, we do need to do the research and know what we’re getting or not getting and whether our expectations are in-line. Definitely my bad on that one. I learn so much about this self-publishing business every single day. But what a steep learning curve it is. No easy answers for sure.

  2. Thanks for sharing! Sorry it didn’t turn out like you hoped. 😦

  3. SangitaS says:

    It’s a very relevant issue you have raised. I recently read another post with a blogger’s view.(not tour group who did it). They were as perplexed as you, by the author’s repeat post issue. So how I see it now, it all boils down to how good a tour operator is? As a blogger, I do find it limiting going with same format,(even though I have not participated in many) but its a tour operator’s call and we assume author and tour operators have sorted it out. I think it’s a time when authors have to get involved in every aspect of marketing and give it their touch even though that can be another debate all along.

    • Really good points Sangita – especially the point about the author needing to be involved in every aspect of promotion. We can’t hand this over to someone for a fee and expect that everything will go just as we want. Especially if we don’t do our own homework – and I’m guilty of that! Thanks for the comment.

  4. Gwen Stephens says:

    What an unfortunate experience. This blog tour seems like a really impersonal one – all about who’s going to make a buck. The more I learn from you, the more I’m convinced connecting with readers is about developing relationships. Even if that relationship only exists online. I’m sure the best experiences you’ve had in terms of promotion are those occasions in which you’ve come face to face with real readers (and I love reading about those). I also wonder if summer was the worst time to get involved in a blog tour. I’ve noticed a considerable slump in blog traffic over the last few months, have you?

    I’ve been following another WordPress blogger through her book promotion experience, and I’m learning from both of you what to do and not do. I appreciate the candor of every post you write. If you think it would help, I’m happy to post my review of Disappearing in Plain Sight again, maybe later this fall. I’ve probably doubled my following since I first posted it (although I have little interaction with much of this following…most of my regular readers come from a small core group…the whole concept of “followers” is still a mystery to me). Let me know what you think.

  5. Gwen Stephens says:

    Hey Fran – I came across this post that made me think of you. http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/2013/09/ten-things-ive-learned-four-months.html

    • Hi Gwen – thanks for the link and the comment. I’ll definitely check out the link. Hope you come back and check this comment stream. I’ve touched a couple of nerves by this post and am taking that pretty seriously. What a balancing act social media is – candor versus having an axe to grind. Hmmm . . . Oh – thanks for letting me know about your following increasing after the review. As you say though – following is a confusing thing.

      • Gwen Stephens says:

        Holy cow, Fran. Touched a nerve, you have indeed. Funny thing is, I interpreted a very different takeaway message than your commenters below. The way I read this post: you explained the mechanics of the blog tour, but in the end it didn’t live up to your expectations because you failed to do your research. I thought you were very candid about why you felt it didn’t work out the way you’d hoped, and time and again above you placed the blame squarely upon yourself. I guess you walk a very fine line with social media, as you said. Thanks again for sharing the ups and downs, the good and the bad, of your experience.

  6. Lisa says:

    I think you are missing some very vital information in your post. Either from not reading the fine print like you say or from having unrealistic expectations, this is the last day I read your blog. You cannot blame someone else for something that cannot be controlled.

    There is no sure way of getting sales, there is no over night miracle.

    I was one of the people who unfollowed your FB page and Twitter because all I saw were posts about your book. – This is my book. Here’s a review of my book.

    From what bing and Twitter tells me you were featured on at least 30 blogs, not 11. Again, misinformation.

    Authors like you expect book sales to be someone else’s responsibility. It isn’t. I have more than 400 reviews on my book. This is from 2 years of hard work and blog tours with more than one blog tour company.

    Blog tours do not function to increase sales. Their purpose is to increase visibility. It’s the same as doing as a nationwide book signing. You may shake hands with 200 people but only sell 2 books at the time while more sales will come at a later date.

    Self-publishing is not about the short-term, it’s about the long term. And if you don’t believe me, Kristine Rusch says the same thing as well. http://kriswrites.com/2013/09/18/the-business-rusch-aint-nothing-perfect/

    • I invite all comments and appreciate that anyone takes the time to weight in on a discussion. So, thank you. You make some good points and your comparison to a book signing and the number of people one interacts with compared to actual book sales is a good one. Also the point of visibility versus sales. I got the information about the number of blogs I was featured on from the list I was sent by the tour organizer. If there are other avenues of information on that, I am, as you mention, uninformed. I think I will just let my facebook page, twitter feed and blog stand for themselves. I will check out the link you attached. Thank you for taking the time to present your point of view.

  7. Rachel D. says:

    WOW! According to you NOT a single book. Strange, very strange. I purchased the book on July 3rd after reading about this during the blog tour. And according to you NOT a single book purchased.

    My Order: Amazon.com order number: D01-2189537-8927230

    I started following you from the Rafflecopter and even voted for your book the Hall of Fame thing.

    After reading this post and several others (including Facebook & Twitter) about BUY MY BOOK and NOTHING else I am going to stop following you. I can understand promoting your book. What I cannot understand is why you cannot find a different way to promote. All research shows the Buy My Book post, tweets, etc and nothing but spam and people will ignore them and usually unfollow the person doing this.

    But then I guess you are one of those authors that is expecting 1 million books sold just after one blog tour. Good luck with that, last time I checked YOU were not Nora Roberts or Stephen King.

    Either BE THANKFUL for what you received or shut UP!

    • As I mentioned in a previous comment, I will let my facebook page, twitter feed and history of blog posts speak for themselves. I’m pretty sure I said no more books sold during the tour than before. I appreciate the fact that you bought my book, followed me from the Rafflecopter draw and voted for my book in the Hall of Fame. The point of my post, is what the point of my entire blog is – to share my experience. I’ve tried to make it very clear where my own responsibility lies. I invite all comments – so I accept all comments – give each one weight (as it is something for any of us to have the time to actually make comments) – and try to respond in a thoughtful manner. It was not my intention to offend anyone by my blog post.

  8. Great information – thanks!

  9. Gemma Hawdon says:

    Thanks Francis for such an educational post – I feel we shall be well-equipped when we’re at your stage! I have a friend who recently self-published and swears it’s all about getting to the top of the kindle rankings. She recommends this book, not sure if you’ve already read it: MAKE A KILLING ON KINDLE (WITHOUT BLOGGING, FACEBOOK OR TWITTER) by Michael Alvear. Maybe worth a look at??

    • Thanks for the book suggestion, Gemma. I’ll check it out. The Kindle rankings are such a mystery to me because they do seem to be based on a number of factors other than sales. What a complicated business! I do like the idea of not having to spend so much of my writing time on social media.

  10. Maggie Thom says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience Francis and for being candid about not doing your homework. I was like you in that I had assumptions about blog tours. I have now worked with four different companies. Two I won’t work with again (eye opening and like you I learned the hard way) but I will the other two. Not all blog tour hosts are made equal. Some do outstanding jobs and others well we won’t go there. Blog tours are really about exposure to a bigger audience, sometimes I have seen sales immediately and other times it has come after the tour. I find the more that I do them the better I do because others now see me more often. I think there is a trust thing for buyers. They say people have to see something seven times before they buy. So book tours are a way for readers to get to know you and see you over and over. I do a lot of my own in finding blogs but I also pay to do them as it is very time consuming. I think blog tours are beneficial. 🙂 If you are looking for a good book tour host, let me know. Great post.

    • Hi Maggie – thanks so much for sharing your experience. I know that having done only one tour with one company limits my knowledge on this subject. I’m glad to hear there are tours that work out well for a self-published author. I’m thinking that this whole topic may require another post that focuses on the intangible benefits – things like exposure and allowing readers to get to know me.

  11. Cate Macabe says:

    I haven’t done a blog tour myself and have wondered about their pros and cons. I will keep your points in mind for the future. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  12. […] first post in this three part series generated one hard-hitting response. I hope it’s the only time I ever […]

  13. Susanne says:

    Hi Francis, I just appreciate that you shared your experience! I had no idea blog tours existed, and self-promotion has always seemed to be a balancing act, so kudos to you for just putting yourself out there, and for the courtesy you extend to critical remarks.

    • You’re very welcome, Susanne 🙂 That type of sharing and transparency was what I wanted my blog to be about from the beginning – a real person doing real things and telling others how it went.

  14. […] tours are a method of promotion that sounds intriguing, but it seems like there are a lot of negative experiences as well. It’s easy enough to say the authors who had bad experiences screwed up […]

  15. peter says:

    Thanks for sharing a great piece of information with us,As a newbie it helps me a lot to learn

    • You are most welcome, Peter. Many posts on my blog are about describing my own learning curve when it comes to the complicated world of self-publishing. No need to reinvent the wheel or for all of us to make the same missteps.

  16. Annonymous says:

    I would of ask for my money back. Sounds like you were screwed. Sorry to put it that way but that is what I am reading. If the so-called tour company could not post the information for all to see about the tour then that looks to be dishonest.

    There are only a handful of tour companies that I use/recommend. I do not know who you use and I am not asking. Sorry you went thru this and maybe write some article/post about the company letting others knows how bad the company is about explaining stuff.

  17. I appreciate the information you have provided here. It’s important to know the pros and cons. I have read other articles about blog tours and the authors’ results have been disappointing. I think I will pass. Thank you for helping me make a decision.

    • I think it really helps when other authors post honestly about their experiences with marketing – always being clear that we are sharing what happened for us and not advocating one way or the other – people can decide for themselves. Thanks for stopping by!

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