Category Archives: publicity techniques

Disappearing reviews

A fellow reviewer reached out to me because her reviews had disappeared from Amazon. She was understandably upset and I referred her to another reviewer whose fight to restore her reviews was thankfully successful. Ironically, I had just skimmed a different post from Amy Vasant about the subject (link below).

 

I have (slowly) begun “unfriending” authors on Goodreads since Amazon owns it and will evidently draw its own conclusion about whether I actually have ties to these folks other than liking their stories. I don’t use Facebook but evidently that is a significant factor in identifying links between folks.

 

I find it frustrating that trolls can go through and give one star to a myriad of authors and not trigger censorship, yet Amazon seems to forget that most authors are avid readers and definitely have an opinion about what they’ve perused.

Anyway, I hope this helps folks…

 

This is the opening paragraph of the Author Marketing Experts article on “Amazon’s Disappearing Reviews”

Please click on the title to be taken to the complete article.

 

Amazon’s Disappearing Reviews: The Surprising Reason Why Book Reviews are Getting Pulled (and how to fix it)

I write a lot about Amazon, some stuff is great – like the cool tools they secretly launch to help authors, while other stuff is more geek-related – like the Amazon Ads dashboard! I’ve spent a lot of time writing and talking about Amazon reviews, and also, Amazon pulling reviews. Sadly, this problem of disappearing reviews isn’t going away, in fact it only seems to be getting worse. What I hope to uncover in this piece, is not a big scope solution, because there isn’t one (and I’ll explain why) but rather add some additional check marks to your already long list of do’s and don’ts, when it comes to Amazon reviews, and keeping the book reviews you’ve got!

(click on title to continue reading)

 

 

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Author Amy Vasant discusses (and promotes her author promotion site and giveaways)…

 

How to keep your Amazon Reviews from disappearing

 

 

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Street Team chat for The Wild Rose Press authors

 

 

 

Street Teams:

Ok, what is a street team? Literally, it is a team that takes word to the streets…a publicity technique that has been used very effectively in other venues such as the music industry.

Authors are learning how to utilize this tool but should be aware that, just like any other of those dreaded publicity techniques, it takes time, but the investment may be well worth your efforts!

Typing ‘street team’ into a search engine will cause many different links to appear, such as:

https://www.iuniverse.com/Resources/Book-Marketing-Self-Promotion/6StepstoBuildaStreetTeam.aspx

http://wegrowmedia.com/the-power-of-enthusiasm-should-you-create-a-street-team/

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17563100-street-team-smarts

 

and I invite you to peruse some of these. I have been a participant on probably 10 or more street teams myself and offer observations from my own experiences.

What does a street team do?

All kinds of things, whether putting your book on their ‘shelves’ at Goodreads or starting a discussion thread there or on Amazon, wishlisting on various venues (AMZ, BookBub,iBooks, etc.)writing a review, “liking” or voting “yes” on positive reviews, having a Facebook or Twitter conversation about your book(s), passing out trading cards or bookmarks or other swag to their local libraries, booksellers or other gatherings, requesting that libraries order your books, posting comments on your blog tours, asking Amazon to price-match (especially useful when they are being stubborn about offering titles for lower prices), hosting ‘book parties’, the list can be long and creative.

I ask that you be careful about what you ask your team to do as I am not a fan of blitzing (and thankfully am not subjected to a lot of it since I don’t use FB or Twitter or most of the other social media) but that technique can become quite irritating although some authors are quite successful at utilizing it.

Please use caution when asking your team members to vote down low reviews because you do NOT want them to get into flame wars on your behalf and sometimes team members get a little too enthusiastic in their quest to support/protect you.

Please also realize that your requests reflect on you as a person, so asking people to join a particular forum JUST to garner votes for your title is not only frowned upon but actually forbidden in some venues and may reflect badly upon your integrity.

How do you find a street team?

First decide how large a team you can handle. Are you a hands-on person or not? Will it drive you nuts to have e-mails flooding your box asking you how you want to handle things? Do you want to set up an e-mail account just for the street team members?

You may wish to choose one of your team members to be your liaison to everyone else. Decide how you want to handle communication to everyone. Some teams have private Facebook sites, some use yahoo loops, some use a password-protected area on their website or blog, some communicate just through e-mails.

Just remember that if you only use one venue, you may be excluding some of your most ardent fans. Most of you who are just beginning would probably be advised to have 10 members or fewer to work out the kinks. You can post a message on your blog, newsletter, or Facebook page and ask for members, if you are in a chat you can mention it or if you do signings or go to some of the conferences where you interact with readers, you can pass out a little card with your website or contact e-mail, you can issue an invitation if you are doing a blog tour or writing guest posts.

Please use caution because there may be some who join only for the ‘freebies’ so ou have to decide what is the most comfortable way for you to decide who is appropriate for you.

What’s in it for the street team members?

First, you should decide what you can afford in terms of time and expense. It does you no good to plow all of your hard-earned profit back into a street team and have nothing to show for it. Be creative, often the most thrilling reward for these fans of yours is having access to you…to hear what you are writing about or other aspects of your life, to be involved in naming a character in your book (including their having their own name featured) or helping with a title or choosing a path for your hero or heroine to follow.

Some authors send out autographed or handmade items, or ARCs, or sneak peeks that are only given to a chosen few, others pass out T-shirts that loudly promote their most recent title (and offer prizes for pictures that show the shirt is being worn in public).

Naturally, you have to use care, because unfortunately, there are unscrupulous folks everywhere, but it has been my experience that some long-lasting friendships and mutually beneficial relationships can arise and the synergy is uplifting.

Some authors find beta-readers who are willing to help catch errors and critique or folks who will write reviews just for the privilege of receiving an early copy. Other authors offer prizes…e.g. all those who send a link to a review or a blogpost/Tweet/FB posting about your title get an entry into a contest for some particular prize.

The possibilities are endless…and those readers who are your fans and join your street team can offer wonderful inspiration and enthusiasm when they are able to share in your life. You may need to consider an extra special gift or some kind of reward to those who go above and beyond for you, especially if they become a virtual assistant for you. Just remember, the goal is to get your title out there in front of people and encourage them to become life-long fans so make sure you present yourself in the best possible light by always being respectful of others, having a nicely edited product (ha, my bias is showing) and displaying honesty and integrity.

I asked for tips from a fellow blogger who was an integral part of and very active participant on a street team we were both on until the author failed to follow through or appreciate this person’s efforts. I was disappointed at the way this author treated my fellow blogger and thus the author lost two members of her team in one fell swoop, compounded by the loss of the folks we would ask to help spread the word about new titles. Among the suggestions my fellow blogger shared with me were:

Limit the free stuff you give out. But give out free stuff to the teams. Cross-promote. e.g. if there are recipes in the book, consider guest posting on a recipe blog or invite them to guest on your social media. That way you may bring someone in who might not have looked at the book. Reach out to street team members that have connections elsewhere or have special talents. Don’t forget that not everyone has access to all of the social media platforms, so don’t exclude a segment of your fanbase.

Above all, interact with the team. Remember that it’s the connection to your fans that is important. And remember that we ALL have busy lives, so try to be mindful of that when requesting that your street team do something for you.

And finally, the delightful Sabrina York graciously shared her post on street teams with me, and she does an excellent job of listing the pros and cons. She’s done presentations at conferences about this subject (and yes, I am one of the more flaky members of her street team but she always graciously thanks me for whatever I remember to do, lol). I put the entire text on my blog at this link (https://musingsbyelf.wordpress.com/2018/05/05/street-team-gems-from-sabrina-york/) and I invite you to read it at your leisure.

Thank you for your attention.

Street Team gems from Sabrina York

 

 

The Most Powerful Weapon in Your Book Marketing Arsenal

By Sabrina York

 

Nothing is more powerful.

 

Nothing has greater potential to launch your platform into the stratosphere.

 

Nothing can get you where you want to go faster than this one tool.

 

What is it?

 

Relationships.

 

No matter who you are, or what you write, or where you sell, relationships are the secret to success in this business…and every other. In a world where millions of books are fighting for reader dollars and thousands of authors are shouting to be heard over the fray, often the strongest voice is the whisper of a friend.

 

In a recent poll I took on Facebook, readers overwhelmingly reported that they rely on book referrals from friends, favorite blogs or reader networks (such as book clubs) when they choose their next read.

There are many ways an author can leverage this trend, but they all boil down to cultivating, fostering and maintaining quality relationships.

 

One tool—and a very powerful one, if used right—is having a street team.

 

What is a Street Team?

Simply put, your biggest fans. Readers, friends, bloggers, reviewers, fellow authors and others who love your books so much, they want to share them with their corner of the universe.

 

I started my street team about a year ago (note from ELF…this is probably a little dated, as Sabrina graciously shared this article with me, so I suspect it’s more like three years by now!) and it was one of the smartest moves I’ve ever made—simply because of the amazing connections that have come from it. I decided to keep it small at first, while I figured it all out, sending out a call to my newsletter subscribers only. I did not do a social media blast. I was shocked at the response I received.

 

Many of the charter members of the Royal Street Team (RST) were readers who had found me on Facebook, whom I considered friends because of our interaction there. But what surprised me was the response from bloggers and reviewers and other authors. I had assumed they were far too busy to promote my books. On the contrary, they are delighted to do so. In fact, they have become some of my most influential supporters.

 

While street teams do not come without cost or perils, the benefits can be gold. Author Cassandra Carr agrees. “I have a dedicated group of fans who are out there talking up my books. That’s invaluable in today’s world of a million books. There is a cost involved, but I like to think it pays off in the form of increased awareness and sales.” Author Cerise Deland loves that she gets to talk about her books in an intimate fashion to an engaged audience. As a bonus, many will write reviews for the books they’ve read because of this relationship with her.

 

And as we all know, reviews sell books.

 

How Does it Work?

 

Ask a hundred authors and you will get a hundred answers. But in short, I recommend following these steps:

 

FIRST: Develop a set of guidelines for your street team, including what you will be expecting them to do and how you plan to thank them. My street team guidelines include a section on the difference between erotic romance and porn (because I write erotic romance, I want my street team members to understand the difference). I also have a section on Push vs Pull Promotion—the difference between a hard and a soft sell. Because I want a relationship with my reader, I do not want them alienated by a hard sell.

 

Beyond that, know what kinds of things you will require of your team, and what the terms of your agreement will be. For example, some authors will eject members for not being active enough or not making benchmarks. If you plan to do that, ask yourself if you are okay with the damage that might cause to your relationship with that reader.

 

Tip: You should have your expectations firmly in mind—and in writing—before you put out a call.

 

SECOND: Decide how large a team you want. Some authors have hundreds of members. But if your goal is to create relationships and manage the team well, you may want to keep it small. I decided to start with a dozen or so members and let my team grow organically. I have discovered some members are much more active than others—which is fine with me, as it is the relationship that’s important to me.

 

Some of my team members have quit other teams that became too large—and unruly. And when the author didn’t step in to put the kibosh on bullying or unhealthy competition, the relationship with that reader was irreparably damaged—along with the author’s reputation.

 

THIRD: Once you know what you want your team to look like, craft your call. Anything from private emails to a full-fledged blitz on social media. When Cassandra Carr first started up her team, she posted about it on Facebook and Twitter and included it in her newsletters. She also has a sign-up tool on her website. Following a similar method, Cerise DeLand put out a call on Facebook. She immediately had 15 people join, and within days had over 40. This is an excellent example of how building relationships with readers via social media can pay off when you need it to.

 

FOURTH: Manage your team. I keep a data base with email addresses, home addresses, preferences for prizes should they win (with t-shirt sizes, ebook formats, favorite color, etc.). I also track what, if anything, I have sent them as well as any review they write for me so I can thank them.

 

When a new member joins, it helps to have a boiler plate welcome with your guidelines and expectations ready to go. In her book, Street Team Smarts, Sara Humphreys recommends sending a welcome package to new members, including promo materials for them to share, instructions and a thank you gift with the street team logo. Sara’s book has more ideas on networking with booksellers through your street team.

 

Once your members are active, remember to stay engaged. I like to send regular updates about my books, or things I need to have shared. I never require any member do anything. But I ask that they share when they can. See—my preference for a soft sell at work. You may get a better response by barking demands and issuing commands, but only for a while. These are volunteers you are dealing with, after all. And THEY CAN QUIT!

 

How Can You Use A Street Team?

 

Many print authors use street teams to reach out to brick and mortar bookstores or take promo materials to libraries. In a digital world, such sharing is still useful, but our focus turns more to social networking. Regardless, your team can reach outlets you may not have access to like book clubs, blogs, and an audience of their own on Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest and other popular sites.

 

Beyond this power of promo and reach, I have street team members who are excellent editors and are willing to beta read chapters or excerpts. This also gets them excited about the book’s release. As an example of this, Cassandra Carr told me: “I just started a new book, and as soon as I wrote the prologue, I posted it for my team. Right now they’re helping me name characters. They like to feel involved—invested—in their favorite authors’ careers.”

 

What do you think? Are those readers going to rush out and buy that book when it comes out? Are they going to share the news with their friends and contacts? Are they going to blog about a book for which they feel ownership?

 

Sample Assignments

 

Well, first of all, I dislike the term ‘assignments’ and so do some of my RST members. As busy people with their own responsibilities, I ask them only do to what they are comfortable with and have the capacity for. And thank them regardless of the amount of work they do. Very active members, however, do receive “Princess Points” which are entries into special street team only drawings.

 

But here are some examples of tasks you could offer your team:

  • Deliver promo material to booksellers
  • Ask local librarians to order books
  • Post a blog for a new release, author interview or contest
  • Share information/ links for a new release or promo opportunity
  • Give honest reviews
  • Follow on Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, Google+, Goodreads, Shelfari etc.
  • Refer a friend
  • Review sharing—One of the most powerful sales tools nowadays is a good (and sometimes a poor) review. Vanessa Romano, the Jeep Diva, a blogger, reviewer and street team member reflects, “I’m more prone to buy a book based on a review vs. seeing 50 buy links to it on my Facebook feed. On one of the street teams I put together, we’ve been sharing reviews from blogs, retailers, Goodreads, Shelfari, Library Thing and more.” Asking street team members to share links from various places helps avoid the dreaded Spamalot.

Be conscious of how much you are asking of your team, and how easy you are making it for them to share your work. I recommend producing a media kit for a new release with a blurb, excerpt, sample tweets and sample facebook post with links and covers.

 

Consider providing a list of tasks and asking your team to pick one or two—or more if they have time. Remember, they have a life of their own, and they may be on many other teams!

 

Benefits You May Offer Your Team

 

  • Exclusive access to information about coming books
  • First looks at covers, ARC’s or excerpts
  • Gift certificates
  • Swag, including autographed items, mugs, t-shirts, pens
  • Use their names in books—I do this occasionally, but try to limit myself to last names, on account of my subject matter.
  • Bestselling author and Golden Heart and Daphne du Maurier winner, Ann Charles has a “street team only” page on Facebook. It’s a place for her die hard fans to hang out and chat amongst themselves. I have one as well, which I keep “Secret,” so members feel safe talking about whatever they like.
  • Drawings for exclusive prizes— Cassandra Carr has a point system for monthly drawings. She also holds special contests just for street team members.
  • Free books— Cerise DeLand gives away occasional copies of certain books, requesting a review in return. “Not everyone who asks for a free book follows through,” she warns. “It pays to keep lists and reiterate the agreement.” She also has contests for reviewers only.

 

But there is a benefit to a street team member beyond all this. Something far more powerful than a peek at what your favorite author is working on or a t-shirt no one else has… A sense of belonging, of being part of something exciting, something they love.

 

One of my loyal street team members is on 4 teams. Why? Because she loves the “relationships you can develop with the authors and other readers. You have an inside track to information on what’s coming, which is very fun.”

 

One of my star RST members, Gaele, a reviewer and blogger with I am Indeed, is on six street teams. “I enjoy interacting with the authors but I’m not there for the swag or the giveaways,” she says. “Those are nice bonuses, but if it’s an author I enjoy I like being able to help promote and support.  It’s really about the interaction for me.” She only stays in the teams that amuse her. “Make me smile – let me help you promote when I can. That’s good for me.”

 

Danger Zones?

 

With all the benefits, there can be pitfalls as well. Here are some danger zones to watch out for.

 

Attention Fatigue. If you have 200 members on your street team and the assignment is “share the buy link to this book from this retailer on Facebook,” the result can be a flood of something that looks an awful lot like spam. Nothing can make a reader shake her head and murmur, “Oh, her again?” like spam.

 

A Heavy Load. Gaele cringes at incessant requests for promotion. “I’m busy,” she says. “If others on the team have more time to share and promote, that’s great. But for me, a laundry list of mandatory shares /posts is not feasible.” After all, she has her own business to promote. And be careful of mandatory anything. As I think I mentioned, these are volunteers.

 

Negative Attention. Encourage positive, professional behavior from your team. Remind your members this is your business. There have been examples of street team members flaming a bad review of their author’s book. Not only does this create bad press for the author, many people in the business will assume the author encouraged it. If the review is from a professional review site, this kind of negative karma could really backfire.

 

Inappropriate or Offensive Requests. Be careful what you ask of your team. One of my RST members, who is a professional reviewer, objects to assignments to vote down bad reviews. The problem here is, what constitutes a bad review is subjective. Professional reviewers will tell you a 3-star review is not a bad review. But even if it is a 1-star review, asking members to vote it down can have unintended impacts.

 

Professional reviewers are ranked on Amazon. Being voted down because they gave an honest review is not fair to them and will annoy them. Consider this: If you are sending out a blanket assignment to your team (some of whom may be reviewers), are you asking them to shoot themselves in the foot? What’s that going to do to your relationship with them? And do you really want to annoy a reviewer? On purpose?

 

Beyond that, Gaele tells me, “voting down a review on Amazon does little but give it more weight and play—and sticks it to the front page.”  Her team has tested this hypothesis–repeatedly. She also declines requests to add a street team button or badge to her blog because, while she only writes honest reviews, a badge or button could give the impression she has been influenced by the author.

 

And another thought on requesting 5-star reviews (rather than an honest review), one of my RST members who is a blogger reports, “I hear readers say they disregard all 5 star reviews because they are certain they are coming from the street teams.” Aside from that, word that an author is asking for 5-star reviews will get around. Either way, the practice is counterproductive.

 

Ask yourself, if you were relying on a review to make a purchase decision, would you want the review padded if the book was not a satisfying read? And if you were a reviewer, would you be willing to put your sterling reputation on the line for an author? Or anyone?

 

Poor Management. When asked why they’ve quit teams in the past, nearly all my survey respondents said the same thing: poor management by the author. And even when the problem was caused by other team members, the general consensus is that poor author management lies at the root. Here are some examples from my RST members about other teams that turned sour:

 

When asked why she quit one team, one of my loyal street team members said she didn’t like “being called out by other team members when she gave an honest review.”

 

Other members I polled reported leaving teams because some of the members criticized others for not doing enough. “I don’t believe any fan should feel that they aren’t ‘enough’ because they don’t hand-sell as much as others,” one told me.

 

Yet another comment: “I would like to see fans spread the word that their favorite author has something out, but not turn into a lynch mob. In my opinion, this tone is set by the author.”

 

And: “Ultimately, the author needs to be involved 100% in her street team for it to be well run and effective. Sadly, I find some authors aren’t willing to risk the wrath of one ‘super fan’ by keeping them in line.”

 

I believe effective management of a street team—including “problem children”—lies in the first step of this process. Formulating a thoughtful and thorough set of guidelines and expectations for your team members to follow.

 

When to Just Say No to Street Teams

 

When should you avoid street teams like the plague?

 

When you don’t have time or the interest to foster these valuable connections. Cassandra Carr sums it up nicely when she says, “If you’re going to do it, do it right.” And that means giving them your time and attention. If you don’t think you can spare that…don’t. Just don’t.

 

Because that’s what a street team is all about. The precious, potent bond between an author and her readers.

 

The Bottom Line

 

Be careful and present when you request things of your street team. Treat them with the respect they deserve. Protect their gentle hearts. And treasure that relationship. Honor an honest review. Be appreciative for whatever they can do.

 

And thank them for it.

 

They are volunteers after all.

 

They can always quit.

 

 

About Sabrina York

Her Royal Hotness, Sabrina York, is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of hot, humorous stories for smart and sexy readers. Her titles range from sweet & sexy to scorching romance. Connect with her on twitter @sabrina_york, on Facebook or on Pintrest. Visit her webpage to check out her books, excerpts and contests. Free Teaser Book. And don’t forget to enter to win the royal tiara!


Follow Sabrina

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Blog Tour Information

When trying to publicize your work, one avenue to try is a blog tour. You may take the extremely frugal route and try to do it yourself (make sure you have a LOT of time and patience) or you may wish to use an established company and avoid reinventing the wheel. Make sure that you look around the blogosphere and check out different companies, talk to your colleagues and find out what they have been most happy and most disappointed with, and find out whether they believe it has been a good return on investment.

Ideally, a group of colleagues will host each other and help cross-promote, but if you go that route, make sure that you can depend on those you choose to work with and that you provide reciprocity. You also may want to keep in mind that if you are only working with those you have in your own clique, you may be limiting your audience. You also want to check out some of the blogs who are willing to host you. Do they seem to have a lot of traffic? Do they feature more than one title a day? What kind of giveaways seem to attract the most attention? Make sure you review your budget and decide what you can afford, and if you are offering a cute tie-in to your title, how much is it going to cost to ship, will it arrive intact, and are you willing to offer an alternative if the prizewinner is not in your country?

Having made that decision…how you’re participating in a blog tour and what, if any, kind of giveaway you are offering, make sure you are prepared well in advance. Are you prepared to do interviews or guest posts? Do you have several excerpts you can use? Do you have all of the information you need to disseminate? Even though I am a procrastinator, it’s really important to me to have the information well in advance, and, if a review is needed, most of us need at LEAST 4 weeks, if not more, to have time to work the story into our piles and get it read and written up. So, if you are always frantically juggling, make sure you get everything together well in advance of the time you are going to need to provide it. (Maybe work on it while you are waiting for your editor to do the next edit!)

Make sure that you drum up an audience. Promote in the forums you belong to (on the appropriate days, if there are rules for that sort of thing), post on your social media, participate in chats and mention it, etc. Please do the hosts the courtesy of going by and at least saying hello or thanking them. Leaving a comment or responding to the visitors is always appreciated (although you may have to figure out how many ways you can respond to… “I liked the excerpt/cover/blurb” because that is often the default comment folks use to cover the requirements for entering the giveaway.)

Blog tour elements

Blurb: Most of you have a blurb that has been vetted by the committee, but if you are publishing independently, please remember that the idea is NOT to tell the entire story, but to pique a reader’s interest. Include key words…lost love, lovers to friends, wounded hero/heroine, etc. that you think will attract a reader’s notice.

Buy links (written out or live link). I am only SEMI-computer-literate. For some reason, links don’t always transfer live for me when I copy and paste, so it really helps to have the web address written out in the info I am given. I like my blog neat, so I like to just have the link itself, but I often have to manually put it in, so it is essential to have the entire address.

Banner? If you are using a banner, make sure that it isn’t too large or too busy. If you are using a fancy one that cycles around between different titles, make sure it works!

Author picture or picture related to book. I am camera-shy, so I don’t want my picture out in the ether. If that is you, make sure you have a nice substitute graphic that can either represent your brand or a link to the book.

Social media links. I am one of those folks who barely keeps up with the mailbox and, hopefully, my blog. I don’t use the rest of the rapidly exploding social media, and, I find it frustrating when the author I am hosting has more than three or four links for me to make sure are live. I understand that you want your readers to be able to find you, but perhaps you can include one or two AND a link to your social media page that has the rest of the listings. When you have a laundry list of links, that takes away from the focus on the book you are promoting.

Other titles? Some of you are really prolific (congrats), but again, I don’t want to make live links to a myriad of titles. Part of that is my own pickiness, I am an Amazon affiliate, so I MIGHT get a small stipend (one of these years) if someone clicks through and buys anything, so I try to make the book titles link to Amazon BUT the other issue is that I highlight and italicize titles so they will stand out, and it is time-consuming. If the title being promoted is part of a series, by all means, mention one or two titles…but please don’t list all 200 of the books you have written!

Excerpts? Various tour companies have different techniques. One of the companies I like to work with assigns a particular excerpt to a group of hosts, thereby making sure that there are a variety of excerpts. I think it is great when at least 3 different excerpts are provided, and make sure you mention if they are PG or R or X-rated, so that the blogger can put the appropriate warnings up.

Guest posts. I usually request guest posts. I am always crunched for time and have tendonitis issues, so having to deal with an interview and highlighting and boldfacing the questions and answers is just too cumbersome for me. Other people prefer interviews. Usually those are pre-written and you can include a link or two in them. One of my favorite types of interviews to read is between the characters and the author or the blog host. If you are comfortable with it, you can give a great introduction to your characters by having them interviewed.

Some folks love recipes. You can tie them into your story, provide pictures, give anecdotes on how you stumbled upon this particular recipe or give hints on how to serve it.

Playlists seem to be popular also. Lists of the music that either connects to the characters or that you listened to while writing the story.

Anecdotes about the story. Readers are always curious how you came up with the story/characters/setting. You can include a picture or two that you used (if you own the picture), talk about where you did research, places you visited.

Some of you are great with YouTube or Pinterest pages, so you can include links to that as well.

Decide how much personal info you are willing to share and how. Euphemisms for family members? Broad statements about where you live? Unfortunately, there are fairly odd people in the world, so make sure you protect your privacy as much as you can.

Giveaway. Some authors are talented and offer something handmade, or something that reminds them of something in the book, a copy of the book (decide whether you want to offer an e-copy or a print copy and don’t forget about price and postage when you budget that in), or a gift certificate to different places. When figuring out what you want to use in the rafflecopter or whatever method you use, please remember that not everyone uses all of the social media. Increase traffic to your website (but make sure it is current and error-free), get subscribers to your newsletter, blog or Facebook/Pinterest or other social media.  One of the companies I work with offers an incentive giveaway to the tour hosts, which doesn’t compensate for the time and effort that go into posting, but does offer a nice surprise sometimes!

Complaints:

Timeliness is important (especially if trying to get reviews)—life gets in the way for ALL of us, if you aren’t going to be able to meet your deadlines, have the courtesy to inform the blog hosts (or tour company) so that bloggers are not scrambling at the last minute to either post your material or fill the day with something else. I like my review copies at LEAST 1 month in advance, my blog materials at least a week or two early, because I tend to procrastinate and end up posting a week’s worth of blog posts at a time.

Use relatively clean copy (irksome if formatting issues/typos, etc.). Sometimes the formatting doesn’t translate, so the apostrophes, dashes, and quotation marks don’t come through, so make sure you check to see what format you should save your copy in. Personally, I tend to ignore posts that have a lot of machine code in them (especially in the forums) so you may be turning off potential readers.

Again, don’t have too many links, and make sure links work! (I like clean pages, want live links but they don’t always translate live, so should have it both as a live link and written out (with a note to delete one form or the other) but don’t overwhelm the poor anal retentive person such as myself who goes through trying to tidy things up and ends up having to work through 15 different links! If all else fails, put a link to your social media page that has your Twitter, FB, Goodreads, Tsu, Pinterest, website, etc. links)

Long excerpts…if you really can’t find a short eye-catching excerpt, post a link to a space on your own site that has a longer excerpt.

Authors’ experiences with tour hosts (don’t name names) can be good or bad, and that works in both directions! Talk privately with your colleagues, ask how the experience went.

I tend not to sign up for tours with companies that have not been timely. If I have to poke the hosts in order to get my material, I don’t have time to do that, and I tend not to host for them any longer.

Don’t criticize the blog tour or host in public. I had an author go into some rant about how useless blog tours are and how irresponsible the hosts are…and cite my blog. When I pointed out that he was being really insulting and that he wasn’t scheduled to be on my blog until a future date, he had to retract some of his statements, but he left me with a REALLY bad taste in my mouth, especially since he fails to realize that I do this in my (snort) spare time and I DON’T OWE ANYTHING to the author. If you have an issue, try to contact the person directly, don’t get into a flaming war, and remember that you have no idea how folks can be interconnected, so things can get really sticky sometimes.

Which brings me back to reviews. You and/or your tour company should make sure that the host is reminded that the story given for review is for the use of that reviewer ONLY. It is not to be shared, posted or otherwise used for anything other than the review. Also, diplomatic language should be used to remind the reviewer that you have no problem if they did not like the story, but if they have a negative review, you politely request that they not post it as part of the tour, but to feel free to post it after the tour is over. There is no point in your paying for a tour to bad-mouth your hard work!

Input from a couple of blog tour companies: I reached out and asked a couple of the tour companies I interact with for their input and received the following comments (with a little paraphrasing).

The author should take the initiative in opening dialogues on the tour posts … ask the commenters a question to get the ball rolling. The author should be the one that drives the interaction.

Read ALL the instructions the tour company sends you BEFORE you ask a question.. there’s a good chance you’ve already been given the answer. (Made with the assumption that other companies send comprehensive instructions like we do — if they don’t they should, and maybe an author should keep that in mind when booking a tour).

Conversely, if you can’t find the answer to your question in the instructions, never be afraid to email with questions and make sure what’s expected of you is clear.

Things that make us a little crazy is getting completed posts a day or two prior to the stop.  Not stopping by the tour stops to say thank you.  They should always be polite, even when something makes them unhappy — I’m assuming that all tour companies want their authors to be satisfied, so we’ll do everything we can to make it so, but being yelled at for things just makes everyone cranky.  

OH … and do everything with the tour company (at least when it comes to us — other companies may be different). I hate when authors contact a host directly for something. First of all, that’s what they’re paying us for and secondly, it’s hard for us to make sure everything is coordinated properly when that’s going on.  Ditto hosts contacting the author directly.  The tour company is the intermediary for a reason.

and…

Major Pet Peeve, response time to emails! When authors contact you for a tour and you set dates, etc, then never hear back, not good!  Be on top of things, if I email for info needed, etc, work to make sure I have the info and the correct info at that.

I have had numerous indie authors who don’t even send the buy links on release day (say if we are waiting to get out to hosts for a blast, etc), I have had to chase down the links myself to get out to the hosts.  Which I don’t mind, but you would think the author would want the links to purchase to be a top priority.

Definitely time is an issue always.  I prefer to book two months out and sometimes you will get a request from an author for a tour and her book is releasing next week.  That is just unfair to the coordinator and hosts.  I can work magic when needed but with a full schedule, I usually have to turn a lot of people away or recommend another company that might have an earlier opening.  

I thought those were great points, and I admit that I salute the tour companies for their patience as they deal with computer-challenged procrastinators such as myself and interact with authors and try to keep everyone happy.

My other blog is http://thereadingaddict-elf.blogspot.com/ and you are welcome to come by and see what you think. I tend to work primarily with two tour companies but I have been a host for about 15 of them over the years, so I have seen a lot of variation.   Please leave a message in the comments if you would like to ask any questions or have suggestions that would help others.