For self-published authors, the sources through which a book can get reviews and exposure are limited. Book bloggers are a good solution. Established bloggers will have strong followings and a lot of experience, and some (not all) are willing to accept self-published books for review.
If you decide to approach a blogger for a review, be respectful of their time. Read their review policy to make sure your book is what they’re looking for. If they have a list of what info they want you to include in your query, follow it. And then be patient. Don’t email them every six hours demanding to know if they’ve read your pitch yet.
It’s entirely possible to manage your book’s promotion on blogs simply by querying bloggers, sending out books, and waiting for a review to be posted.
Or, you could apply the Project Triangle again. DIY querying is cheap and slow. And if you want good and fast? Then it might be time to look into a book tour provider. These are services that have connections with bloggers. They do all the legwork of querying blogs and getting your book into the hands of people who are willing to review it. However, as the Project Triangle dictates, if it’s fast and good it won’t be cheap. These services cost money, but if you get a spike in book sales out of it, blog tours can be worth the cash.
Kismet Book Tours has some unique ideas for blog tours. With various packages, authors can choose to give away certain prizes along tour stops. One of these includes a Kindle with a GelSkin of your book’s cover. Another involves pieces of jewelery custom-made to reflect on your book’s theme. These sound like really unique ideas, but I was hesitant. The problem with Kindles and jewellery, even if they are tailored to match a certain book, is that they’re too generic. Anyone could want to enter a draw for a Kindle, even if they have never read your book and never intend to explore your genre. Your giveaway will get a lot of attention, but not necessarily from potential customers.
BLB Blog Tours is less focused on giveaways and more focused on the style of a blog tour. The differences between their tour packages include number of stops, whether a review is required of a blogger, whether the author wants to do giveaways, and if interviews and guest posts are an option. Clients are allowed to choose the kind of experience they want to have on tour. BLB Blog Tours also allows you to place a deposit via PayPal, which may be an attractive option for clients outside the United States.
Both services require an author to supply review copies of books–either ecopies, ARCs, or finished copies–which is an expense the author incurs. I think it’s worth it to give away one book if I can sell ten as the result of a positive review.
In the end, I went with BLB Blog Tours for three simple reasons. One, they had a clear way to sign up for their services and I was able to pay a deposit that day. Two, they answered my emails. And third, they were willing to work with a newly published book.
This is an excerpt of the email I received from Kismet Book Tours (a whole week after I emailed them, I might add):
The main challenge we see is that your book currently has no reviews. While we do frequently do tours for self published and independant authors, we look for authors who have had some success with bloggers reading their previous works so that when we go to our tour hosts to sign them up, they have a level of comfort that the book will be something they’re truly interested in and meets their basic standards. We try our best to ensure that, while not every book is for every person, we’re minimizing the risk of a negative reaction to a book.
Of course the book had no reviews; it had only been on the market for a week. I tried to sign up for Kismet Book Tour services early because according to their website, organizing a tour can take up to two months and I wanted to get some exposure for the book before Christmas. Their response to my query really did not impress me. It demonstrates that they’re willing to take hundreds of dollars of clients’ money, but only if the commission looks like it will be a cake walk. They want bloggers to be clamoring for an author’s next release.
If an author had that kind of presence and clout, I don’t think they’d need to pay for a tour. They’d have the connections and relationships to be able to organize reviews and publicity posts themselves.
Minimizing negative reaction to a book is another point that made me feel uneasy. Perhaps the creators of Kismet Blog Tours feel that if an author gets nothing but bad reviews, he or she won’t patronize their services again. But the real issue is that if an author can’t handle some negative criticism, he or she probably wasn’t ready to publish anyway. And even though a service organized all the blogs on the tour, that service can’t police or be held responsible for the bloggers’ responses. It’s a flimsy reason not to work with authors who lack an established following.
So, I went with BLB Blog Tours. It started out as a wonderful experience. The tour was organized by a lovely woman named Theresa, and I was provided with a schedule for the blog tour. It included an ~50/50 split of reviews and guest posts. I spent the month of November writing guest posts and sending them to her for coding and SEO, and and tour was to kick off in December.
Initially, the tour went great. Reviewers were responding well to the book and the blog posts were getting responses and comments. Then things kind of broke down. In the middle of the tour, several bloggers blew off their commitment to review the book or put up a guest post. After spending the money to set up the tour and give away free copies to reviewers, I was upset that I wasn’t getting the service I’d paid for. Theresa generously offered me a partial refund, and the tour was cancelled. Reviewers who’d already started or received the book still had the option to review it, but were no longer under obligation.
Learn from my experience: choose a tour organizer well, and keep on top of the schedule. If you’re paying to promote your book, bloggers who sign on for the tour should treat it as a real commitment and not a casual request. Don’t be afraid to throw your weight around a little; you’re often going to be the only champion your book has.