Indie authors are always looking for ways to get their names out in front of readers – and doing it inexpensively is a plus. One typical way is to contact bloggers and offer to write a guest post for them. This process works, but it takes a lot of time to line up your guest shots – time you would probably rather spend writing.
While you’re sending out your tenth or 25th email to some blogger you barely know, you might wonder whether there’s a more efficient way. Well, sure – you could do a blog tour or a blog hop. But what’s the difference? And will either of them sell any books for you?
A blog tour is essentially what I outlined above – lining up guest posts at other people’s blogs – except that you hire a professional to set up the tour for you. Once you’ve paid your money, your tour operator will ask you to write several posts well in advance of the start date of the tour. These might be Q&A responses, or a guest post or two on specific topics, or even an interview you conduct with one of your characters. If you’re launching a book as part of your tour, your operator may put together a post featuring your bio and your book’s cover and blurb.
Once the tour operator has these materials in hand, he or she will shop them around to the bloggers they work with and set up a schedule of appearances, which they will then provide to you. Your job, then, is to stop by each blog on the day your post is supposed to run, thank the host for featuring you, and answer any questions people may have about you or your book. It’s common for the tour operator to offer contests: one for bloggers to entice them to sign up for your tour, and/or another for blog visitors. Sometimes the prizes are included in the cost of your tour and sometimes you have to pay for them yourself. (In my experience, the prizes for visitors often attract regular contest entrants rather than people interested in your book.)
Some blog tour operators also offer review tours. The tour operator lines up book bloggers who promise to read your book (a copy of which you have provided to the operator in advance), give it an honest review, and post that review on their blog on a certain date. This is not the same as paying for reviews. You’re paying for the tour operator’s services in finding reviewers for you, not for the reviews themselves.
What if the blogger doesn’t run your post on the scheduled day? Then it’s the tour operator’s job to follow up with the blogger and figure out what happened, and whether there’s any way to make good on the missed stop. That’s why you’re paying the operator the big bucks.
And you are most definitely paying for their services. Depending on the tour package you buy, prices can range for $25 or $30 for a cover reveal tour, to hundreds of dollars for a several-week-long tour with ten or more stops.
A cheaper option is a blog hop. This requires that someone – usually an author – get a bunch of authors to promise to write a post for their own blogs on a specific topic or range of topics, and to post them all in the same time frame. The organizer then sends around a list of participating authors with links to their blog posts. Authors append the list to their post for the hop, so that readers may hop from blog to blog, reading and commenting on each post. The advantage for the authors is that participation is free.
I have participated in a magic realism blog hop for the past couple of years. Zoe Brooks organizes the tour every year, usually in July. This year, we had 23 authors and bloggers participating, with quite a range of posts.
So with a tour, readers follow you from blog to blog; but with a hop, readers bounce from one blog to another to read all the posts. But which one is better for selling books? It depends. I’ve done both tours and hops, and my advice is to think of them primarily as exercises in getting your name out there. Remember the doctrine of effective frequency: It takes seven (or more!) repetitions of your message before a prospective customer will be primed to buy your product. Don’t go into the tour or hop focused on getting an immediate return on your investment; that way almost certainly holds disappointment. Think of it instead as one more mention to pique the interest of the fans who haven’t met you yet.