How to Set Up a Virtual Book Tour

by Midge Raymond

November 2013

This article is excerpted from Everyday Book Marketing: Promotion Ideas to Fit Your Regularly Scheduled Life.

Virtual book tours are wonderful, especially if you're not able to do an extensive in-person tour. What is a "virtual book tour," exactly? It's simply another way to get out there and do what authors do-talk about your book, connect with readers, answer questions-only this way, you're doing it all virtually (on blogs, in interviews, and in virtual book club or classroom visits) instead of in person. The nice thing about this is that, unlike with a live book tour, on a virtual tour you can wear yoga pants the whole time. A virtual book tour is perfect for authors who aren't able to travel-and it's also a great way to supplement an in-person tour.

In terms of planning, however, a virtual tour may take as much work as a regular book tour; even if you're not traveling, there's a lot of scheduling involved. Below are a few examples of virtual events you can include on your virtual tour.

Throw a virtual book launch party.

You can host it yourself, or ask your publisher or a friend to host it. A virtual launch party is one that takes place on a blog instead of at a place. Pick a date, send out e-mail invitations, and show up online.

Be sure to set a time frame as well, keeping in mind that a virtual book launch party works well if it's a day-long event, so that people can drop in whenever they're available (before or after work, during lunch hour, in the evening, etc.). And of course, you don't have to sit there waiting for comments the whole time, but do check in as often as you can, at least every hour or so, and be available to "chat" about your book (i.e., to answer questions through the comments section).

To get the party started, introduce yourself (or have your blog host introduce you), and say a few things about your book, the publication process, the party itself-tell a story. Enlist a few friends to get the conversation going with questions or comments. Choose a few passages from your book to post throughout the event, which gives it the feel of a reading and also offers a chance for people to enjoy your book and to comment. Offer a giveaway-choose a random winner from everyone who came to the party, and send this reader a signed copy of your book.

Set a festive mood by posting pictures of food, cocktails, and images that depict the setting of your book, as well as other photos that add details and visuals. And, throughout the duration of the party, post on Facebook and Twitter that the party is going on, and invite people to join you for the next "reading," to stop by to be entered in the giveaway, and to join the conversation by posting comments.

Be a guest blogger.

Being a guest on writer/reader blogs is a great way to expand your audience. Approach bloggers whose audiences are likely to be interested in your book, then offer to do a guest post. Aim to plan these posts on or around the book launch date (most important is that the book is available when the post goes live, so readers can buy it with one mouse click), and always mention to your generous blog host that you'd love to return the favor someday.

In terms of content for guest blogs, be reader friendly. Talk about your book as well as your writing process. Offer things readers (and other writers) can use, such as top ten lists or a series of writing or revision tips. Talk about your writing routine or any special research you did for your book. Tell readers how you chose the name of your main character, or what music you listened to as you wrote. Just as you would at a live reading, delve into the process (and the person) behind the book, while offering glimpses of your writing. The idea is to introduce readers to your book while giving them a behind-the-scenes look as well.

And, finally, always include a bio, a book cover image, an author photo, a link to your website, and links to where people can purchase your book. Be ready to provide all this info so that the blogger who is hosting you doesn't have to scramble around to find it.

Schedule interviews and/or Q&As.

You'll approach bloggers the same way as you would for a guest blog, only instead of a guest post you can offer to do a Q&A or interview about the book, your writing process, or whatever best fits that audience. Be prepared to offer a review copy to the blogger, and have a few questions ready to suggest (things you want to talk about), which the blogger can use if he/she wishes and then add additional questions. You should also have a complete Q&A prepared for busy bloggers who prefer having a post that's ready to go.

Offer book giveaways.

You can offer giveaways on your own blog and other blogs, and of course, don't forget about Goodreads. Book giveaways are welcomed by most bloggers, as they draw in readers, and bloggers will usually ask you to send the book to the winner (so be sure to specify how far you're willing to send it, i.e., whether you're willing to mail it internationally). It's a great idea to order a box of extra books so that you can offer to do a giveaway with each guest post; also, many book blogs that offer giveaways also do reviews, so always ask if you can send a review copy along.

Offer an excerpt of your book.

You should have an excerpt on your own website already, and always offer to send the link along whenever you do a guest post or an interview. For the excerpt on your own website, I'd recommend the first ten to twenty pages of your book-but for guest posts, you might submit shorter excerpts, such as a favorite scene (as long as readers will understand it out of context).

Look for opportunities to do taped readings, interviews, and/or podcasts.

There are a great many Internet radio programs, and online literary venues often accept audio submissions or do podcasts (visit Late Night Library, Blog Talk Radio, and Lively Words, as a few examples).

Getting scheduled on a local NPR station or other talk radio programs can be challenging without a publicist who has these media contacts-but it's not impossible, especially if you are a local author and/or your book deals in some way with community issues. Seek out potential venues and send a pitch letter; ask your publisher to send a proposal for programs that don't accept them directly from authors. Put together a press kit that includes a press release; an author bio; a Q&A for prospective interviewers; a fact sheet with interesting facts about some aspect of your book, whether fiction or nonfiction; a page with blurbs and reviews; and anything else that might help a producer choose your book for an upcoming program. Make sure your proposal is as unique as possible, offer a sense of the person behind the book, and let people know what you hope readers will gain from it.

Finally, the nice thing about a virtual tour is that the possibilities are seemingly endless-you can go anywhere. The fact that you can do this also makes it a bit overwhelming. A few things to keep in mind...

Just because you can do everything doesn't mean you must do everything...

... at least not all at once. Launching a book into the world is a big deal, and it's tempting to want to do every single thing you can. However, you'll probably go a little insane if you try this. I suggest a virtual schedule that includes daily events the first week, then tapering it down a bit to two or three events per week over the following weeks. This will give you good buzz in the beginning, then allow you to breathe again. And remember that while book promotion is most important in the first few months, promoting your book is a long-term endeavor. Always keep an eye out for new opportunities to share your book with the world, months and years into the future.

Start developing relationships early.

You don't want to be rushing to get events lined up at the last minute, and you also don't want to be demanding of your fellow bloggers. Ideally, you already have a good network in place-if not, start networking well before your pub date. And, most important of all, ask not only what your fellow writers can do for you but what you can do for them: Offer them guest spots on your own blog; ask them how you can help them out, too.

Have FUN!

Don't make book promotion a chore, or you'll grow to hate it. Doing a great deal of writing and talking in a short period of time can get exhausting, so you'll have to find your own balance to avoid burning out. And while many people will tell you that you have to base all your events around the book launch date, I'm more of the mindset that "every week is book-launch week" in that, for one, book promotion never really ends; and two, it's not the end of the world if you don't fit it all into one week, or even one month. Rather than attempt to cram everything into a short period of time, you'll be better off in the long run if you think about ways to promote your book all year, and all the time.

Midge Raymond's short-story collection, Forgetting English, received the Spokane Prize for Short Fiction. Her stories have appeared in TriQuarterly, American Literary Review, Indiana Review, North American Review, Bellevue Literary Review, the Los Angeles Times magazine, and many other publications. Her work has received several Pushcart Prize nominations and received an Artist Trust/Washington State Arts Commission Fellowship.

Midge lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she is co-founder of the boutique publisher Ashland Creek Press. midgeraymond.com

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