A Session with Ethan Cross
Chances are that in this day and age, you know what a blog is. In fact, you may follow a few. And chances are that if you’ve ever published a book or are considering publishing a book then you’ve heard the terms “book tour” and “blog tour”.
Physical author promotional tours or book tours have become a thing of the past for all but the most elite of authors. James Patterson and John Grisham may have the fanbase to draw a crowd to an event in every city in the country, but for those of us whose books don’t regularly top the NYT bestseller list, book tours require a large investment of time and money, result in events with (if we’re lucky) a handful of people in attendance, and never come close to giving us a return on our investment.
That’s where “blog tours” came in. They allowed authors to do a virtual promotional tour which could reach many more people without nearly the same investment of time and money as a traditional tour.
There you have it, right? All you need to do is reach out to some bloggers who would like your book and watch the copies fly from the shelves. Or you can hire a third party to schedule a string of appearances and reviews for you.
Unfortunately, the blog tours that we were all doing two years ago are not as effective today. This (and a great many other issues faced by the industry) is due to the level of saturation in the current marketplace.
So how do we adapt?
Here’s what I’ve found:
Bloggers are readers and people who love books
These bloggers mostly want to develop a relationship with authors directly (not with the publisher)
It’s much better not to schedule the posting or to have a specific timed schedule (better acceptance rate)
So what I’ve been doing myself and advising others to do is to reach out to bloggers individually as the author simply asking for a review. No timeframe. No deadline. No schedule. This has resulted in a much better ratio of acceptances to requests.
IS IT WORTH DOING A BLOG TOUR?
It’s very hard to quantify the impressions gained from blog appearances into sales numbers. Many people discover the book and add it to their to-be-read pile (in the digital age, they do this without actually purchasing the book until they are ready to read it) or even discover it on the website at a later date than the scheduled appearance. This makes it nearly impossible to say that XX appearance results in XX number of sales. Books are sold most effectively by word of mouth, and blog tours are one of the best ways to generate that buzz (much better than traditional advertising which often has no effect at all).
Let’s think of a virtual appearance in comparison to an in-person signing. Most signings result in a handful of people showing up and a handful of sales, but let’s say that it’s a really successful signing with a hundred people in attendance. In order to accomplish that, the author has to spend hours traveling and sitting at a table, the book store and author have to promote and pay for advertising, etc. A virtual appearance on most reputable blogs usually results in a minimum of several hundred impressions (usually thousands), and it remains on the site indefinitely and continues to be found by readers. All this with much less time and money invested. That’s not even mentioning the fact that most bloggers post not only on their personal blog, but also on high-traffic sites like Goodreads, Amazon, BN.com, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.
An author recently commented to me: “I know why I and my friends buy books: blurbs by people we trust, recommendations by friends, reviews, one of a series we enjoy.” What do several of these have in common (blurbs by people we trust, recommendations by friends, reviews)? They involve word-of-mouth. People respond when a friend tells them that they enjoyed a book or movie, especially if it’s a friend with whom they share similar tastes. That’s what blog sites are and what they do. They are a community of people all reading the review of someone whom they trust, a friend who is recommending a book to them. But not on a singular scale, instead on a larger scale to a greater number of people.
This is also exactly why ads don’t sell books very effectively. Because they are recommendations from untrusted sources.
In our consumer culture, we have been trained to ignore things that are trying to sell us something. Sure, we may notice the ad, which will help it to stick in our subconscious and allow us to remember it when we see the product again or have to choose which product to purchase, but this is far less effective than being told by a trusted source that we should use Product X or, in our case, buy Book X.
Regarding the content of guest posts or posts on an author’s personal blog, it’s not about selling your book, at least not directly. In fact, if people feel that it is all about selling your book, then they’re turned off. They don’t want to be “sold”; they want to be “engaged.” Blog appearances and engagement (as well as social media) are to let readers get to know you as a person and feel a connection to you. Then, when they are faced with the decision of which book to read next, they choose you over an author with whom they have no personal connection.
Promoting locally is something that I feel to be very important for authors, and something that is often overlooked. An author should try to encourage articles surrounding their book in several local and regional newspapers and have events scheduled at local schools, libraries, community organizations, and bookstores. I think that it’s part of human nature to have a certain amount of community pride, and most people are very interested and excited to hear that someone in their surrounding area has written a book. It’s viewed as quite an accomplishment.
These people see you at the grocery store and at community functions. They feel like they know you, even if they only have a thin connection to you. It’s important for authors to remember that these people are far more likely to support them and tell others about their books than people who don’t feel any kind of attachment.
But all of this can be very time consuming, and it’s only a few sales…right?
This is true; local promotion most likely isn’t going to transform you into a bestseller. But we can’t forget the importance of customer ratings and reviews for online retailers. These ratings are an integral part of the new world of digital publishing. When local fans comment to you about your book, encourage them to post a rating and review. This, in turn, helps get the word out to the rest of the world. Those that feel a connection to you are more likely to take the time to post something because they want to show their support.
So while promoting locally isn’t going to make you rich, it’s definitely not something to be dismissed or ignored. In fact, I feel that promoting locally can be one of the most cost effective and rewarding forms of marketing that you can do as an author. As always, the important thing to keep in mind is that it isn’t one specific thing that makes a book a success, but a great many small snowballs that roll up into a larger avalanche.
About the Author…
Bestselling author Steven James says, “Ethan Cross is one of the sharpest emerging writers on the thriller fiction scene today.” Bestselling author Anthony J. Franze concurs, saying, “Ethan Cross is one of the best damn writers in the genre.” They’re not alone. Others have compared this international bestselling author to James Patterson and Thomas Harris. Ethan Cross’s work is an unforgettable combination of high-intensity thrills, memorable characters, and complex scenarios. The Bookworm called his first bestseller, The Shepherd, “a thrill ride that takes off from page one,” and that’s the experience you can expect from everything Ethan Cross writes. http://ethancross.com