Monday, July 4, 2016

How I Put Together my Great Big Blog Tour and Giveaway

For the release of my YA action and adventure novel The Gladiator and the Guard, I put together a
huge blog tour, along with a giveaway. Some parts went better than others, so here's what I did, how it went, and how it all worked. I hope this will benefit someone out there!

Several weeks before the release date, I used SignUpGenius to create a form where people could sign up to host my new book on their blog on certain dates. I love that site - it makes everything so convenient, and keeps track of all the information in a nice organized format! If you haven't used it, I highly recommend checking it out. (Best of all, it's free!)

I used Rafflecopter to set up my giveaway. In case you're not familiar with how that works, it's another great free site! It creates a form that can be embedded in or linked to from a blog or website, and the same form can be placed on multiple sites. People can enter the drawing for the giveaway - in this case, to win an Amazon gift card and a digital copy of my first book in the series, The Collar and the Cavvarach - through a number of means. I set it up so that those included retweeting a tweet about the giveaway, following me on Twitter, liking my author Facebook page, etc.

I set up the blog tour to last about six and a half weeks, which in retrospect was too long. At least, it was too long for me, what with my day job and other things going on in life. I just didn't have the energy to keep up with everybody's blog posts toward the end! For each day, I gave bloggers several options for different types of posts: author interview, excerpt, review, basic premade post, or "other" (with a place for them to fill in their suggestions). That meant that most days, four or five different people were featuring my book on their blog at once. Which was great for exposure, but it got to be a lot for me to keep up with in terms of sharing the links on my social media and visiting each one. And I think my Facebook friends got tired of me crowing over all the places The Gladiator and the Guard was being talked about every day!

How did I get bloggers to sign up? Well, I posted in four or five different author groups that I'm part of on Facebook, asking people to click on the link to sign up to host my book. Then I went through my records in my author email account and also on this blog, and made a list of every author who I had ever hosted or whose books I had helped to promote in any way. I typed up a form email describing my new book, explaining about the blog tour, and asking if they'd be willing to help. But I sent it out to one person at a time, personalizing each email by addressing them by name and sometimes making additional comments based on how well I know them or what interactions we'd had in the past. And for each participant, I offered to include one of their social media links in the Rafflecopter (so that following them on Twitter, for example, was one way for people to enter the drawing).

Although I included the link to the SignUpGenius form in my email and asked people to put their info there, it was amazing how many people did not click on it but instead just emailed me back to say that yes, they could help. With some, it took a few emails back and forth before they understood that SignUpGenius was the place to let me know what kind of post they wanted to do on what day. A few never did fill it out, so I just filled it out for them. (Besides keeping all the information in one place, the advantage to having it on SignUpGenius is that the system will automatically email participants a reminder about what they signed up for a couple of days beforehand.)

Responses came in thick and fast, several per day for the next couple of weeks before eventually fading off to a trickle. I didn't want to lose track of who I had already communicated with about what, so I created an Excel spreadsheet with columns for the blogger's name, their response (if they were willing to help or not), what I did in reply (e.g. sent them a review copy of the book if they requested it), what I still needed to do (e.g. send them the links for where to post their reviews, once the book was live). Unfortunately, SignUpGenius does not allow people to leave links anywhere on their form, so authors had to email me separately to tell me their Twitter handle or Facebook page to include in the Rafflecopter. So, I made another column in my spreadsheet to keep track of that information and whether or not I had added their link yet. Then I made a final column to fill in later, to indicate when I had sent all materials they had requested for their blog.

Many busy bloggers requested the premade post. I posted it on my own blog too; you can see it here. It included basic info about the first book in the series, plus the covers of both books. I also included The Gladiator and the Guard's back cover blurb, buy links, my own social media links, and a brief author bio and author pic (though I didn't include those last two on my own blog, since my readers already know me and that info is available elsewhere on my blog). Of course the Rafflecopter giveaway was on there as well. I offered to send all this to bloggers in html, so that they wouldn't have to format everything and put in all the pictures separately. Almost everyone enthusiastically took me up on the html offer, with only two or three people asking for the text and pictures separately so they could set it up themselves. I always prefer html when I'm hosting someone else's post on my blog. It's so much quicker and easier!

I know from my own experience in hosting others' blog tours that I don't always remember exactly what I've signed up to do, especially when I sign up far ahead of time. It helps when the author emails everyone a list of who is doing what kinds of posts on what dates, or when she sends me a specific email with the exact info I need. When she sends one email with fifteen attachments to everyone who signed up, saying, "Download and use the ones that apply to you," it's a lot more confusing. (But SignUpGenius makes it easier for everyone to check exactly what they signed up for.) Anyway, I sent out separate emails to people, giving them exactly (and only) the materials they had requested, which I think helped to avoid confusion and frustration. It did take me a little longer that way, but I'm glad I did.

As a blogger myself, I know that many bloggers host lots of authors' books and help with various blog tours. When I emailed people about the event, I made sure to mention the name of my book each time. After all, I often get confused when someone sends me an email that just says something like, "Please add a note to the bottom of your post to tell readers my book will be free at the time," with no mention of what their book is or when it's scheduled to appear on my blog.

I asked every blogger involved if they would please tell me the permalink to their post once they got it set up. Only a small handful did (maybe 10%?) though a few others emailed me the day their post went live to let me know. In most cases, I had to simply search online to find that person's blog in order to share the link on my social media. If you're featuring someone, I suggest you let them know exactly where and when! You want them to help drive more traffic to your site, right? And it's easy to set up a post ahead of time, at least on Blogger. (I can't speak for Wordpress, but I know people who do it there too, so I don't think it can be too hard.) Just use the "schedule" button at the right to choose a date, and click on "permalink" to see the exact link to that exact post. (I'm editing this to add: someone who blogs on Wordpress just told me it's easy there too. You can do it through the calendar icon to the right of the "publish" button.)

When the book was live, I emailed everyone who had agreed to review it and gave them the links to several places to leave reviews: Amazon, Goodreads, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo. By the next day, there were 10 reviews up on Amazon, but only a few in any of the other places (though someone did point out that you can't leave a review on Smashwords if you haven't actually obtained the book from there). More reviews trickled in over the next few days and weeks from people who couldn't quite make the deadline. I found I didn't mind too much about the delay. I'm grateful for reviews any time I receive them! But I do wish more people had left reviews in more of the places I'd asked them to.

I have no way of knowing how many people visited each blog when my books were featured there. However, I definitely noticed that I had more entries in the giveaway when the title of the person's blog post mentioned the giveaway. It makes sense. Not everyone cares to read every blog post, even by a blogger they like. But if they know beforehand that they could win something - well, who doesn't like free stuff?

Each day, I made sure to visit each of the blogs that was hosting The Gladiator and the Guard that day and leave a comment thanking the blogger. I've always been told that's good etiquette, and people seemed to appreciate it. I admit that I did get a little behind, especially toward the end of the blog tour when things got busier in my non-writing life, but I caught up on all of them eventually. I also made sure to share the links on my social media every day (though I didn't do that for the ones who just posted the premade post, since I figure none of my friends wants to read the same description day after day). Each time, I tried to say something unique and interesting about it, such as a hint of what the excerpt was about, or a question or two from the interview, to get people curious and make them want to click on the link. I always tried to tag the blogger when I did so, so that their friends would see it too. I was surprised at how many of the bloggers did not say anything on their social media when the posts went live on their blogs. I've found that doing so is the best way to drive traffic to my blog. (Well, that and having other people share the links too.)

Anyway, here are a few of the main points that I took away from the whole blog tour experience. I intend to make sure I apply both the suggestions for authors and the ones for bloggers from now on!

Suggestions for Authors:
If you have a premade post for people to share on their blogs, get it formatted on your own blog first, and then give them the option of receiving it in html format. It saves bloggers time!
Only send each blogger what she really needs. Including lots of attachments that don't apply to everyone just makes it confusing and makes more work for people who are doing you a favor.
Mention the name of the book being featured each time you communicate with a blogger.
When emailing bloggers individually, mention the date on which they will be featuring your book (at least if they have not sent you the permalink to the post. If they have, they've obviously got it scheduled and don't need a reminder).
Visit each blog that is hosting you when the post is live, and leave a comment to thank the blogger.
When you do, check the box that says you'd like to receive email notifications when anyone else comments (so you'll know if other people are talking about your book or the post).
Share about each blog stop on your social media to help direct more traffic there.
When you do, tag the bloggers involved.

Suggestions for Bloggers:
Even if an author sends you a pre-formated post in HTML, look through it after you paste it into your blog. It might still need minor adjustments to look right. (Yes, I speak from unfortunate experience.)
If you're hosting a giveaway, mention it in the title of the post. (e.g. "The Gladiator and the Guard: an Exciting new Adventure Story with a Giveaway!")
If you're hosting a giveaway, say so when you share about your blog on social media.
If you share on social media about an author you're featuring, tag her so she can easily share your post, retweet your tweet, etc. Plus, then her friends and followers will see it too.
Set up the post as soon as you have the necessary materials and schedule it for the day you agreed to post it, so you can't forget closer to the time. :-) (I had several bloggers who forgot!) 
Then send the author the permalink right away. Why wait till the day it goes live?
If you agreed to review the book, post your review in all the places the author asked you to. If for some reason you can't, or if you can't do it by the agreed-upon date, email her and let her know so she doesn't think you just can't be bothered.

Authors and bloggers, do you have any suggestions of your own to add to these? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!


HLBurke said...

Just some feedback on sign up genius: from the sign up side, for me, anyway, it did not work well. There's a reason I had to email you to get signed up. The first time I did it it got to the end and had an error. When I tried to sign up again, it wouldn't let me because it seemed to think I'd already signed up. It just wasn't user friendly for me, at all, and I tend to be decent at computer stuff.

Annie Douglass Lima said...

Sorry you had that problem! It's a good site in a lot of ways, but definitely not perfect. It did give me a few issues from time to time too, as I worked with it over the course of my blog tour.

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing the great information.

BTW WordPress's scheduling feature is easy; it's the calendar icon to the right of the Publish button.