By Lisa Maliga
I've done two virtual blog tours. Both were for different contemporary fiction titles. Tours lasted for 14 days and they were with two different blog tour companies.
The second blog tour company has been around longer than the first, but longevity doesn’t mean scrupulousness. For my second tour, my optimism was shattered after receiving the interview questions. On five out of seven questionnaires, I was asked what inspired me to write my book?
Guess the blog owners didn't tax themselves when it came to thinking up questions. Copying the questionnaires in a Word document, I read the rest of the prosaic queries. Then it struck me: not one single question pertained to my book. They'd all gotten free copies of it, had seen the cover, had received the blurb, and had ample time to read or at least skim it. Yet there was absolutely no level of interest in a novel that took me years to write and rewrite and have edited. I also checked out the various bloggers' sites and noticed that most of them had a boilerplate template where they asked the same questions repeatedly and only the answers differed.
While I was aware that many of the bloggers preferred romance/YA novels and its subgenres, I also knew that a contemporary novel wasn’t that far of a stretch for blog owners to promote. As the second tour company allegedly had an extensive list of bloggers I thought that they would be able to effectively match up my book to blogs that were also contemporary fiction-friendly.
Another problem was the size of the blogs: some had as few as 20 followers while others had more than 2000. But how accurate was that? I'd once sent a nonfiction book to a blogger to review who had 500 followers. Sales of my book increased and there were also several comments on the book review and giveaway. But that never happened to me on either novel tour. Admittedly, I probably wasn’t giving enough of an incentive [bribe] for readers other than free PDF copies of my novels. No Amazon or B&N gift cards, no free Kindles or Nooks, nothing of any "value" other than my eBooks.
I was told to provide three excerpts and some of the interviewers asked for other excerpts making the total seven plus one blog topic of my own choosing. As the second tour progressed, I began seeing the excerpts repeating themselves. In some cases, bloggers were adding two excerpts instead of just one.
Blog tours are coordinated several weeks in advance, yet more than once during the first tour, I had to contact the blog tour owner and ask why my scheduled interview/excerpt/review hadn't been posted.
Instead of opting for a review-only tour, I went for tours that featured interviews, excerpts, and reviews. The first time I garnered four reviews, but in my second foray in virtual booktourland I received one generic review.
I'll admit it: twice I made time-killing mistakes. I spent a few hours answering the questions. I wanted to be sure they weren't repetitive, which is tricky when faced with many similar questions. I opted for lighthearted answers to keep the content enjoyable for the reader. As a "veteran" of one blog tour with little upsurge in eBook sales, I wasn’t expecting anything different the second time around. As the tour limped on, I knew I was right but not in a good way.
I was paying to give any available blogger the tour company lined up free material. My writing was helping promote their blog. It was getting them page views, ad revenue and touted their own books and/or products. They got fresh content that only required them to format each post. Aside from the money and time spent on the blog tours, the sheer lack of interest became apparent -- a blogger/reviewer often won't bother to read your book. There are reviewers who'll read an entire book and write a lucid review—but I have no idea what percentage that covers—it's just the luck of the draw. Weeks after the second tour was over, I happened to look up my book to see how it was doing on Google. Randomly clicking a link to a blog where I'd contributed an excerpt, I saw the page was now blank -- the blog owner had removed the post.
And that summarizes how I feel about doing a third paid virtual book tour…it's not an option I would consider again.