Blog Tour Promotions: Do They Help You Sell Books?

by Ron Vitale

Back in November 2011, I participated in the Indie Book Collective's   Blog Tour de Troops promotion that consisted of several dozen writers who gave Smashwords coupons for a free ebook version of your book to  readers who left comments on our blogs in support of U.S. troops. I had stumbled across a tweet advertising that the IBC promotion would be  starting in a few weeks and I decided to sign up. The $25 entry fee  would be put toward a Kindle that would be given away in a drawing to  one random reader who had signed up for the IBC newsletter during the  promotion or left a comment on one of the participating author blogs.

Once signed up for the promotion, I wrote a blog post for the promotion with mentions for the writer who came before me on  the tour and the person to come after me. That way readers could easily visit the official IBC site and see the full list of all the authors  participating or find books on an author's website. Having never  participated in such a promotion before, I was warned to be prepared for   the flood of traffic coming to my site. Thankfully, I listened. For the  holiday weekend, I received a flood of comments on my blog with readers  telling me such amazing stories about their loved ones who were serving  in the armed forces. I wrote back to each and every one thanking them  for posting on my blog and then sending them a Smashwords coupon for my  book Cinderella's Secret Diary. To date, I gave out 114 coupons and 105 have been redeemed.

Did  I earn any money from this campaign? No. So why did I participate? I  learned two extremely important  lessons from the IBC Blog Tour de  Troops promotion: The event was a great way to network with fellow  writers and also a wonderful way to interact with potential readers. I  saw the $25 fee as part of my marketing campaign to help drum up  interest about my book.

I found the promotion to be of such value  that I signed up for the IBC's "12 Days of Christmas Blowout" that took  place between December 12-24, 2011. For the Christmas event, 145 authors  (with approximately 200 books available) came together to lower their  books on Amazon for $.99. By working together using social media, blogs  and the IBC's mailing list, we were marketed to tens of thousands of  people. The cost? Option 1 was $25 and to be a premium participant the  fee was $50. I chose the premium option to make certain that my book was  highlighted at the top of the IBC webpage during the promotion in my  genre.

For the first few days of the event, I had a hard time  keeping up with my email. With 145 writers working together, there was a  lot of discussion regarding the event. Day 1 I received approximately  60 email, day 2 more than 110. Whereas the Blog Tour de Troops event  last November put me in touch with readers, the flood of email during  the Christmas event was with fellow authors. My connecting with actual  readers was extremely limited. With my book being listed on day 1, the  first email blast that was sent out to those on the IBC mailing list,  advertised that my book and those of around 12 others would be on sale  for $.99. To help spread the word about the event, I also tweeted, put  notices on my Facebook fan page and sent out a notice to my followers  via a Goodreads event. And the other authors involved in day 1 did the  same. What were the results? Mixed.

From December 12-24, I sold the following for my book Cinderella's Secret Diary:

Amazon Kindle version: 44 copies at $.99 each. For each ebook sold, I earned 35% ($.35) for a total of $15.40.

Indirectly,  traffic from the event did drive up interest for the Nook version (also  priced at $.99 during the 12 Days of Christmas blowout): 6 copies at  $.99 each. For each Nook version sold, I earned 40% ($.40) for a total  of $2.40.

Let's add everything up:

Blog Tour de Troops event (Nov. 2011): $25
12 Days of Christmas Blowout premium fee (Dec. 2011): $50

Total expenditure for two IBC events in Nov. and Dec.: $75


Kindle: $15.40
Nook: $2.40

Total sales: $17.80

After  all is added up, I was $57.20 in the negative. Not good. There are  several ways to look at the data I'm sharing there. Email blasts via a  newsletter do not necessarily convert to sales. If I look at the December 2011 event, I spent $50 and did not earn back the money I  invested. I see 44 Amazon sales in 12 days as decent number, but that  translates into very little profit when earning only $.35 per ebook  sold. To complicate matters, Amazon launched their KDP Select program right before the December "12 Days of Christmas Blowout" promotion.

Looking  at all the learned, the money I spent for the December IBC event did  enable me to network with 145 writers. We quickly learned that replying  to "all" on an email chain only created a lot of headaches for everyone.  The IBC did set up a Yahoo Group approximately two days into the event  to help foster better communication, but, in retrospect, that group  needed to have been set up in advance of the promotion.

With  working a full-time job, raising two young kids, I'm thankful that my  wife was so supportive that I could come home at night and plow through  the 100 plus emails. The Yahoo Group did solve a problem, but some  authors didn't sign up to the group so they dropped off the discussion.

Yet  in looking at the numbers, my book rose to #45 in books > Romance  > Gothic on Amazon. I went from 164,871 on Amazon to around 12,700  for all of Amazon. That's a big jump for a small investment. But,  remember, that jump did not translate into high sales.

However,  the November 2011 Blog Tour de Troops event was a great way for me to  reach out to readers and build up my mailing list, but I did not make  any money from the event as I just gave out free coupons to be redeemed  on Smashwords. Even with giving the book away, over 3 days, I only gave  away 114 books.

Each promotion taught me something different and  that's what I wanted to share here. With the November blog tour, I  connected with readers, but not so much with writers. I would have liked  to have had a forum (personally, I like Ning communities over Yahoo or  Facebook) to discuss what I learned with my fellow authors. The same is  true for the December 2011 IBC event: With so little time, being able to  go back over posts in a Ning community forum would have been extremely  useful. As a sidenote, I did set a Ning community up for all of the  authors participating in the event but was asked by IBC co-founder to  change the name of the group or to please take the site down. Because I  couldn't change the name due to an inability to do that in Ning, I had  to shut the community down after two days. Still, IBC did come through  and create a Yahoo Group for everyone. With these bumps aside, better  communication tools are needed to enhance collaboration among the many  writers who participate in such large events.

Having a common  forum to populate (marked private) that would be set up in advance,  would allow each author to add to their profile:

  • Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Blog listings
  • Suggested tags for Amazon
  • Links to their books
  • Easy way to email individual authors

I  will end on the following: Before signing up for any promotional  tour/event, be certain you know what you're getting in return. Will you receive reports from the organizer on how many email blasts, tweets,  Facebook posts, etc. will be sent out and anonymous data on  access/usage? If gifts are being given away (free Kindle to a random  reader or gift cards to readers), how can you find the list of the  winners after the event? Will the organizers set up a group community  for communication for the authors involved in the event or is that not  in their sphere of responsibilities?

Knowing what you're getting  into and what to expect in return, will allow you to know if an event is  right for you. I learned a lot from the two IBC events I participated  in. No, they didn't translate into amazing sales for me, but I met a  good many readers and authors. Would I do an event like this again?  Honestly, probably not. I spent a lot of time for very little return.  Having better connections now with writers and readers, I could have  coordinated a similar campaign on my own with fellow authors for no  money. Now I know better and wanted to share this information all with  you. Granted other authors had different experiences and their success  rates--some were worse and some were better than mine.

If you have  participated in a blog tour or a similar type of an event, please share  your information here so we can all learn from your experience. Thank  you.