Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Planning a blog tour? Read this first!

Sandra Parshall

Remember the writing life before blogs? It’s hard to recall those dim, distant days when we wrote in isolation, without a million online distractions at our fingertips, and the term “web log” – shortened to blog – wasn’t part of our everyday vocabulary.

For better or worse, here we are in 2012, when every writer is expected to have a blog and “blog tours” are all the rage. If authors can’t or won’t do full-blown, rigidly organized blog tours when their new books come out, they feel the pressure to at least do a respectable number of guest blogs. That means contacting bloggers – most of them other writers – and inviting yourself into their space, their online homes.

In the case of well-known authors with major publishers, the chore of scheduling is often handled by in-house publicists. Other writers have started hiring publicists, at their own expense, to arrange blog tours for them. Some of the publicists, to put it gently, seem unfamiliar with how blogs work and who the blog owners are. And that can cause frustration on both sides. This has happened to us a few times lately at Poe’s Deadly Daughters, and we’d like to offer some tips to authors who may want to visit us. All of this applies to individuals arranging their own guest blogs as well as to those employing a publicist.

First, please remember that writers with blogs are writers first of all, just like you, and they’re busy with their own work. They fit blog duties into their few free moments. Never forget that the blog host is doing you a favor, not the other way around.

Can you imagine Eddie on a blog tour?

If you have a publicist arranging a blog tour for you, please pass this on: Don’t request a guest spot on very short notice, then proceed to be inflexible about it. Many bloggers – and the Deadly Daughters are among them – schedule guests weeks or even months in advance. Sorry, but we are not going to reschedule someone who arranged his/her guest blog months ago just to accommodate somebody who asked at the last minute.

Some publicists are savvy about the way blogs operate, but others are clueless. An author should find out which type of publicist she has working for her, and make sure that person isn’t ticking off the very bloggers who

would love to have the writer as a guest.

Even when the date is arranged by a publicist, the author herself should discuss the blog directly with the host and send the material directly when it’s ready. That goes for bestselling authors as well as lesser-knowns. Few things are more insulting to a blog host than being kept at arm’s length by a publicist, as if she or he is not worthy to communicate directly with the author. Again: the blog host is doing the author a favor, not the other way around, regardless of how famous the writer is. 

When you commit to a date, get the guest blog in on time – and that doesn’t mean late the night before it’s due to run. Your host needs ample time to get a guest blog ready to publish, especially when the guest’s typos and spelling errors have to be corrected and the author’s photo and book cover have to be sized and positioned with the text. If the host asks for the material a week ahead, or three days ahead, make a note of that deadline and be sure you meet it.

Don’t offer material that has already appeared, word for word, elsewhere. As fellow writers, we understand how difficult it is to come up with something fresh for every stop on a 15-blog or 30-blog “tour” – but our sympathy does not extend to letting you use our blog to recycle tired material. If you can’t write something new for every stop... well, to put it bluntly, that’s your problem, not ours. Perhaps you should scale back the length of your blog tour.

If your guest appearance takes the form of an interview, please recognize that an interview is extra work for the host and it’s up to you to make it worthwhile. Be reasonably expansive in your answers. Don’t answer every question with a yes, a no, or a single short sentence. Don’t use canned answers that you’ve copied and pasted from your website.

While we realize that your guest blog’s purpose is to interest people in your new book, we won’t use a post that is a relentless hard sell or little more than a summary of the plot with review quotes added. If you have a funny or intriguing story about what inspired you to write the book, tell us about it. If something unexpected turned up in your research and forced you to alter the plot, write about that. Choose a particular aspect of the story and write about your interest in it, or tell us how your kids or spouse contributed to the plot.

Unless you’re at a loved one’s bedside in the ICU or in Timbuktu without internet access, you should visit the blog on the day your contribution runs and respond to comments. It’s the least you can do for people who take the time to read what you’ve written.

Any questions or comments?


Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Amen to everything you said. Nothing is more frustrating to me than having a guest who never makes an appearance--meaning they never stop by to leave a comment or even read what others have written. I'm guessing that guest has not bothered to do any promotion either.


Janet Rudolph said...

Great tips! I'm going to tweet this so authors and publicists see this

Sandra Parshall said...


Linda Rodriguez said...

As always, great advice, Sandra!

Sandra Parshall said...

Marilyn, yes, it is frustrating when a guest sends in the material and then doesn't take a couple of minutes to respond to comments on the day it runs. I adore writers and understand the demands on their time because I have those same demands, but we need to remember that few things will sell a reader on you and your work the way personal contact does. If you can't meet people in the flesh, an exchange of comments on a blog is a good way to fill that gap.

Jeri Westerson said...

Sell it, Sister!

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Mark Sandy's words, or Jeri will stab you with her sword. ;) Seriously, I think authors' first reaction on hearing that their publisher is willing to supply a publicist to "do" the online networking for them is relief and gratitude--but the whole point of networking is the connections that you, not somebody else, make, whether the environment is RL (real life--now there's a retronym for you) or virtual.

Michele Drier said...

This is great advice. I don't have my own blog, but I'm part of a blog group and I do four or five guest blogs/interviews a month. I'm always aware that the blogger is doing me a favor, letting me talk to their followers.

Lee Lofland said...

Wonderful post, Sandy. Excellent, even.

I've basically stopped soliciting guest bloggers due to some of the very reasons you've posted.

Not that my blog is anything to write home about, but I do receive thousands of visitors each day, and that alone could translate into new fans/readers. It's great, no, it's stellar free PR, but it's not worth having to beg someone to get the material to you when you need it. And I absolutely refuse to recycle a post that's already made it's rounds to the author's "preferred" sites before coming to me.

And, of course, the guest who doesn't bother to check in on the day their post is up...grrr

But my biggest pet peeve is the person who approaches us, begging to write something for our blogs, and doesn't have a clue who we are or the theme of our blogs.

I had one person write to say they'd been following my blog for years - a huge fan - and would consider it an honor if they could write something for The Writers' Police Academy, their absolute favorite blog on the web.

Well, needless to say, since the Writers' Police Academy isn't a blog, I never replied.

Anyway, I hope you don't mind, but I posted the link to this article on my Facebook page.

Sandra Parshall said...

I should say that although this post has my name on it, it was a group effort with input from all my sister bloggers.

Patricia Gligor said...

Great post and I couldn't agree more!
Sandra, I'm looking forward to spotlighting you on my blog this coming Sunday. I hope those of you reading this will stop by to learn more about Sandra.

carl brookins said...

Excellent comments, Sandra. Authors need to take a business-like approach to blog tours. You wouldn't show up at a posh, upscale bookstore in ratty,. smelly old short and a tank top, would you? So you need top plan and execute just as you would if you were hosting. And because there's no such thing as a universal template, send the material far enough in advance so your host needn't rush formatting.

Sandra Parshall said...

Since I'm venting about recurring annoyances, I'll add another: fancy fonts and weird formatting embedded in a blog post. It doesn't happen often, but when a guest blogger does send something like that, oh boy, is it a pain to deal with. This blog has a simple, clean format, and we are not going to use a guest's purple type inside a red border or nonstandard spacing. (Odd spacing of the text is a nuisance in a class by itself.) Simplicity, please! 12 pt type, single spaced, no indents on the first lines of paragraphs, two spaces between graphs, and no colors.

Katharine Russell said...

Unfortunate things often happen when there is a middleman (or woman)between the blog host and the author. I once provided material related to my second book for a blogger who was really interested in my first book. Somehow, the publicist failed to tell me which novel I was expected to write about. In fairness to her, we were in the middle of promoting the second book.

Susan Oleksiw said...

This is the kind of practical advice that everyone needs to hear at least once. It sounds like common sense, but it really isn't. Good advice.

Dru said...

Great post.

jenny milchman said...

Good tips. I love reading posts by authors on blog-tour, and also as a blogger who hosts, I have to hope tours get the word out about all the great books out there...

Clea Simon said...

Great tips! Of course, the problems start when you get totally excited about doing a guest blog and then realize you have nothing left to say... but maybe that's just me. Great post, though.

cncbooks said...

Oh, you are SO on the mark! I've seen everything you've brought up and I'm getting really tired of it, plus the don't-give-a-d*** attitude of some of my guests has begun to affect my traffic. I think it's time for me to get a backbone and stop accepting the bad behavior of the few bad guests who muddy the waters for the terrific ones (which, thank the gods, are in the majority). And don't get me going on the publicists who have no clue.

It IS kind of a relief to know I'm not the only one feeling this way ;-)

Lelia Taylor

Sasscer Hill said...

Good advice, Sandy. I am always so grateful when someone asks me to do a guest blog! If you can't give it your best shot, stay off the firing range!

Lesley Diehl said...

Good advice and especially that the individuals hosting the blog are writers too. Publicists should read this.

Patg said...

As usual, Sandy, another of your great posts with useful information.

cncbooks said...

Lesley, we're not all writers but we feel the same pain on this subject ;-)

Lelia Taylor

Alicia said...

Great advice!

Terry Odell said...

Ah, the dreaded publicist. I understand authors who need (and can afford) them, but I do wish the publicists understood blogging. I've been contacted by enough publicists who were clueless about my blog and its focus, so I now simply respond (politely, I hope) that I deal only with the authors.

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Anonymous said...

I know a couple of writers who need to start guest blogging & these are perfect get-started tips!!!!!

Karen Emanuelson said...

Interesting & informative. I never even read blogs until recently, so this is all new territory to me.

Judith Starkston said...

I'll second your recommendations! Fortunately the authors I've blogged have observed all your rules of courtesy, but I can see I've been lucky.

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