For those who are not familiar with blog/virtual tours, think about traditional book tours that travel from city to city. Now, imagine instead of flying around the country, surfing the internet. Viola, a virtual tour. (I like to call them virtual tours instead of blog tours because appearances can be on other internet resources besides blogs - more on that in a minute).
Whether you are an author organizing your own tour or a blogger organizing it on behalf of the author, these tips will benefit you.
1 - 3 months in advance of the tour: Decide the type of tour. Will it be for an individual author with one book, an individual author with more than one book, or a themed tour with a group of authors? Depending on the type, you will next decide the length of the tour and the dates it will run. If you are doing a group tour, think of a fun theme, i.e. Summer of Love Tour, Haunted Reads of Halloween, etc., and enlist authors to be part of the tour. You may need to be flexible on your dates with a group tour in order to accommodate authors' schedules.
Now that you have the who and when, the fun begins. Decide on giveaway items. I highly recommend that there be something offered at each individual stop, if the host desires. People like to win and it can be a big draw to the stop. If the item can be sent internationally, all the better (about 20 - 25% of my daily traffic is from outside the U.S.). While books are always great, there are other swag that can be offered - Be creative!
Some tour groups have the authors make a monetary donation for participating in the tour which then is used to buy a large giveaway item - i.e. Kindle Fire, or prizes for bloggers who participate.
You will want to make a graphic to go along with the tour. Bloggers and authors can post them on their sites to help advertise the upcoming event. You may want to make a few different size graphics so that bloggers can choose the size that fits best with their layout. Banners make the post recognizable as being part the tour. Landscape orientated banners are good for posts.
You can also link the banner/badge, so that when people click on it they are directed to a main tour page or to a site for the author/book. If you need help with the coding, this site explains it well. (If you want to visit the A World Apart tour, go here. Thank you Coral, Donna, and David for allowing me to use your graphics in this post.)
Now, you can start scheduling bloggers. This is also when the organizational nightmare can begin. USE A GOOGLE FORM to have bloggers sign up for dates, type of post, and any information you need (i.e. the format of the review copy). The information goes to a spreadsheet that then can be shared with the author/s. It will cut down on the emails you send back and forth with updated schedule/requests.
Throughout the sign up period: Remember to follow up and confirm with each blogger who signs up. Send review copies as soon as possible. You will also want to change the dates of the tour on the form to indicate which dates are still available. You can have multiple stops on any given day, but it is best to limit it to 2 stops per day. Also make arrangements for guest post topics and interviews.
In the week leading up to the tour: Send out a preliminary schedule to all bloggers participating to make sure everything is accurate, including the urls to the blogs themselves. If a blogger is given a schedule, they will likely include it with their stop post. This encourages their readers to visit the other blogs, thus, giving participating blogs extra exposure and readers may discover something that will make them purchase the book.
No later than 48 hours before the tour kicks off: You should send the finalized schedule, graphics, and buy & author links to all those participating in the tour (bloggers and authors). If it is a group tour you may want to send only graphics/links that are applicable for that blog's tour stop.
Once the tour starts: you will want to check each stop to get the direct link to the post. Update the main schedule page with the direct links to make it easier for latecomers to find the post on various blogs. Remember to share out each day's stop(s) on your social media.
After the tour ends: Contact the bloggers to thank them for their participation. Ensure giveaways are fulfilled. I like to encourage book winners to leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. as a way to thank the author.
Odds 'n Ends of running a tour: As I said, I prefer to call these virtual tours. You can be creative with your stops and not limit yourself to just blogs. Twitter parties and chats are becoming increasingly popular. There is an app to create a chat room on Facebook if you rather do a live chat there. Also, you can include appearances on internet radio shows or Blog Talk Radio. I like the site Radio Guest List for finding radio shows across the country. I haven't tried SpreeCast, yet, but I can see some great virtual tour opportunities. These real-time appearances add another layer to the tour by allowing readers to interact live with the author.
I recommend authors treat each stop as if it is an in-person appearance. You are wanting to connect with the readers. How would you connect with them if this was a city tour? How can you apply those methods to the virtual tour? Because you want to treat the stops as in-person appearances, don't be concerned with requiring bloggers to post a review as part of the tour. I usually gave the option to post the review on their tour stop date or to perhaps post it the week before to advertise the upcoming tour stop - this helps build pre-tour buzz (much like the posters that are put up in the stores to announce a city tour stop).
Make the tour FUN for bloggers and readers both. Be creative, look for unique opportunities or topics.
Pricing for tours: I've seen tour organizers charge from $40 to $1,000. Whether you are the organizer setting the price or an author looking at pricing, here are somethings to keep in mind. How many stops are GUARANTEED? Who is doing most of the work? What is the organizer's responsibility and what is the author's responsibility - recruit all the stops, act as liaison between host and author (including sending guest posts/interviews/bios/review copies to blogger), proofreading/editing guest posts/interviews, sending out giveaway items, creating graphics, promoting the event, etc.?
Just from the amount of information I've shared in this post (sorry it's so long), you can see a virtual tour is a lot of work. I don't think it is any less time consuming or labor intensive to organize a professional virtual tour than it is to organize a city tour - you just don't have to worry about being stuck over night in an airport.
I have more tips, tricks and thoughts to share about virtual tours. Please ASK any questions you may still have. If they can be briefly answered in the comments section, I will. Otherwise, I will schedule a follow up post. If you need more immediate or personal assistance, I can be reached by email for consultation.