Preparing a Virtual Book Tour (VBT) takes time and focus. Here are some tips for planning and organizing a VBT:
1. Create a planning calendar.There are so many steps involved in setting up a VBT that a calendar of tasks becomes essential. Using a checklist of TO-DOs, with dates and descriptions is a great tool for staying on track. Also include the names, websites and email addresses of guest hosts, and update the list frequently as you contact hosts and receive feedback. I use a calendar template from Microsoft Word to fill in each day’s guest post information.
2. Start planning at least 3 months in advance of your VBT launch. Since this is my first VBT, I had to learn the steps involved. I read lots of great info about book tours, aka blog tours, but the best prep was taking D’vorah Lansky’s guided online course, Virtual Book Tours Made Easy. The course materials and interactive webinars provided a practical roadmap for completing tasks and setting up the tour within one month of the course start date. This structured approach really helped me clarify my goals and strategies. Also wonderful were all the tips and insights from the interview I conducted with John Kremer. I’ll be posting D’vorah’s interview with me, and my interview with John here during the tour (click on Events for dates).
3. Clearly identify your target audience. I have multiple target audiences, so it’s a bit tricky coalescing around a central theme. First, I wanted to support the National Association’s annual Read Across America Project in March that promotes children’s reading and literacy. As a children’s book author, my target audience includes parents, teachers, libraries — similar to Read Across America. But I also aimed for broader exposure by creating my own VBT theme: Bloggers Read Across the Globe (BRAG). There are many wonderful book marketing experts online with fabulous websites and blogs about book promotion. Partnering with key experts provided an opportunity to expand my target audience via their loyal fans and subscribers.
4. Reach out to targeted guest hosts. As I honed in on my VBT goals, I started reaching out to potential guest hosts: mommy bloggers, children’s book authors, and book marketing experts. I tapped into my social media network groups and connections, sent email messages describing BRAG, and requested participation. I suggested ideas for articles I’d post on their sites during the tour — content geared specifically to their readers’ interests. The response was even better than I anticipated, so I think the key here is visiting those sites often, subscribing to their RSS feeds, and becoming familiar with their target niche.
5. Write content for posts as early as possible. BRAG begins February 28, 2012, so I have 26 days to write 10 of the 20 total articles — this includes preparation of podcast interviews. The topics have been identified and approved by my guest hosts (#4 above). Now, the looming task on my calendar is write, write, write! As soon as I draft each article, I’ll send it to the guest host for review. Remember to follow their guest post guidelines which can be found on their websites. If no submission guidelines are published, be sure to ask before writing!
6. Begin promoting your VBT on social media networks. I started a Facebook Page: Bloggers Read Across America (BRAG) to announce the tour and I post frequent updates about the event to garner interest, support and participation. I also announce on LinkedIn groups and Twitter. Building “buzz” for your tour in advance of launch date is key to accomplishing your VBT goals.
So, what are my VBT goals? One purpose of conducting a VBT is to maximize exposure for your book, so of course I hope the tour results in visitors to my website and new subscribers. Second, I hope to raise awareness about children’s reading and literacy — while Read Across America occurs in March, BRAG will become an ongoing effort to share information and ways to get involved in fostering love of reading among children.
How would you like to participate in BRAG? Do you have a children’s book you’d like to contribute as a giveaway? An article to write about literacy. A school project to share? I invite and encourage you to leave a comment with ideas and suggestions! There will be super prizes and giveaways on the last day of BRAG for the top 5 commenters (# of comments posted here and/or on guest host sites) during the tour. Why not start today!