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Archive for the ‘consulting’ Category

I met Mary a few years ago at Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference, and I am so thankful that she has become a dear friend since then. Mary is the reason I ventured into blog tours since she asked me to coordinate her tour for her book, Authentic Parenting. Mary is diligent and tenacious in her marketing efforts, and I admire how much she gives back to the writing community. I know you’ll enjoy her thoughts today.

1. How long have you been blogging and why did you start?
Three and a half years. I started to keep our prayer/financial supporters updated on our missionary journey as church planters to France.

2. How do blogging and/or blog tours fit into your overall marketing plan?
I will always do a blog tour for every book release.

3. What are three (or less) keys to your success in promoting your books (or other products) through blogging?
Give away free books. Developing ancillary products that I advertise on my blog. (For instance, 150 Conversation Starters. They also tie into Authentic Parenting).

4. What do you think are the Big Mistakes writers make when blogging for promotion?
Thinking it will make for big exposure and sales. It’s more micro than that. It’s said that a customer needs five touches to make a purchase. Blogging or blog tours is simply one touch.

5. What does a blog tour accomplish, if anything? What data or analysis has led you to believe that?
See this article.

6. What should be the goals of a blog tour and how do you track whether or not a blog tour is successful?
You have to tie it into actual sales. The only way to do that is to sell actual books on your blog or website. Then you can track them. Amazon numbers are fickle and do not necessarily give you the hard data you need.

7. What are the components of a successful blog tour?
Check out this article.
8. Any other additional thoughts on blogging and blog tours?
Do not send out the same content to fifty blogs. Totally boring. Do exclusive interviews or write fresh articles.

Thanks for sharing your insight, Mary!

Mary has two great blogs you will want to check out: Her personal blog, Relevant Blog and her blog for writers, So You Wanna Be Published.

To read the other interviews in this series, click here.

You can read the summary posts and discussion of what I’ve learned through these interviews over on my personal blog, click here.

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Our very first interview in this series on Blogging, Blog Tours, and Publicity features Randy Ingermanson. Randy talents come from both the left and the right side of his brain. He’s a physicist and an award-winning author who mentors and teaches others in the art of writing. His ezine reaches over 11,000 subscribers, making it the largest ezine of its kind in the world.

Randy shares some great insight and thinking into this thing called blogging, so grab a pen and paper to make some notes!

1. How long have you been blogging and why did you start?
I started in April 2007 because I felt it was time. Up till then, I’d had other things that were more important, but I thought the time was ripe.

I teach people how to write fiction on my web site (www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com) and I write a monthly electronic magazine that now goes out to over 11,000 people. It’s the largest of its kind in the world.

But I thought it would be good to have a more interactive forum for discussion. A blog gives you immediate feedback. If people love what you said, they’ll comment on it. If they hate it, they’ll comment. If they fall asleep, they won’t say anything.

Those comments can be incredibly useful. People will ask questions that expose a whole new topic I’d never thought to teach about. Or they’ll say something that makes me see things in a whole new light.

2. How do blogging and/or blog tours fit into your overall marketing plan?
Blog tours don’t play a major role for me. But blogging has proven to be a powerful marketing tool. I host my blog on my web site, so traffic to my site increased as soon as I started blogging. Google pays more attention to web sites with a blog on them, so it raised my rankings for some of my key pages. So now my site is in the top 5 results if you search on quite a number of keyphrases related to fiction writing. Because of that, the search engines are bringing me more traffic.

I would estimate that my traffic has roughly quadrupled on my web site in the nine months since I started blogging. Part of that is due to my blog, and part is due to some other things I’ve done, such as moving my “super-article” on the Snowflake method from my personal web site to my Advanced Fiction Writing web site.

For those who only care about numbers when they have a dollar sign attached, I will say this: the passive revenue from my web site has more than doubled since I started blogging. I didn’t know that would happen. I didn’t plan it. It just happened. Part of the reason for this is the increased traffic, and part of it is presumably that frequent blogging increases the level of trust people feel for me. Trust is something you have to earn and keep on earning.

The four key aspects of my marketing strategy are these:
1) My products (you can’t market without a product)
2) My web site (with articles and product-info pages)
3) My e-zine (maintains my visibility monthly)
4) My blog (daily visibility plus feedback plus relationships)

Every one of these is critical.

3. What are three (or less) keys to your success in promoting your books (or other products) through blogging?
I will launch a different blog in the future to market my books. At the moment, I only have one blog (The Advanced Fiction Writing Blog) that is key to marketing my “how to write fiction” products. Here are the keys to my success:

1) A fast start. I had a huge platform already with my e-zine and its many thousands of readers. So my blog launch was amazing. I had about 6000 readers the first day.

2) Consistency. I blog five days a week, and people know I’ll be there. They know how much I’ll write in a blog post. They know what quality it’ll be.

Interactivity. I encourage comments and I often respond to the comments. If somebody asks for help on a particular problem, I’ll either give advice right there in public on the blog, or I’ll ask my blog readers to make suggestions–and I’ll offer a prize for the best suggestion. This has fostered an enormous sense of community on my blog. I could die and my blog readers would still care about each other and give each other support, advice, encouragement. That’s pretty cool.

4. What do you think are the Big Mistakes writers make when blogging for promotion?
Here are the main mistakes.

1) Blogging for promotion. The fact is that nobody wants to read a blog that’s about promoting you and your products. How many times have you ever turned on the TV saying, “Gosh, I wonder what great commercials I’m going to see today?” I’ll bet you only do that during the Super Bowl. If your blog exists solely to promote you and your stuff, then shoot that blog in the brain, because it’s just a commercial. You should be blogging to give people something–information or entertainment or whatever. If you are blogging so people will give you money, then switch to something more lucrative, such as selling tofu to tigers.

2) Inconsistency. Ever come across a blog where the last entry is six months ago? I have. Do you ever go back? Nope, of course not. Why should you? There most likely won’t be anything there. If you leave a comment, you can bet nobody will read it. So you don’t bother. Have a set schedule for your blog, let people know what it is, and stick to it.

Hosting the blog anywhere other than on your own web site. I host my blog on http://www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com, not on Blogger.com or Blogspot.com or WordPress.com or any of the other public hosting sites. Why should they get my traffic? I want my blog readers ON my site, where they can see what else I’ve got. I want Alexa to count my blog readers as traffic on my site. I want Google raising the ranking of all the pages on my site because it’s got a blog on it. This is a key mistake that I see even big-name authors making sometimes–hosting their blog somewhere else. It’s a little more work to host it on your own site, but you reap the rewards forever if you do.

5. What does a blog tour accomplish, if anything? What data or analysis has led you to believe that?
That depends entirely on the blog tour. I’m not overly amazed at the effectiveness of blog tours.

I did participate in one last year when Allison Bottke launched her novel ONE LITTLE SECRET.
I was kind of nervous, because I was the lead blog in the tour. So I didn’t want to mess up. It turned out pretty well. Here’s why:

I gave people some serious incentives to buy Allison’s book that very day. For people who bought the book, Allison and I gave people a 50% discount on a CD that she and I had created. The discount was actually larger than the cost of the book, so it was like getting the book for free. Allison’s Amazon ranking reached about #2000 during that day, and she and I also earned quite a bit of money during that 24 hours. (Isn’t that a cool concept–earning a little money by running a marketing campaign?)

So I think blog tours can in principle be useful, if they’re run right. It all depends on whether the bloggers on the tour have a decent platform and on whether you’re able to create what the marketing-droids calls a “Unique Selling Proposition.”

6. What should be the goals of a blog tour and how do you track whether or not a blog tour is successful?
I can only answer that for myself, since I’m sure other people will have different goals. If I ran a blog tour, I’d want to see strong trackable sales of the book. “Strong” means hundreds or thousands of copies sold per day. “Trackable” means that you have an exact count of how many.

How do you do that? You create an irresistible offer that includes the customer buying the book on Amazon via a specific link that you can track and also includes giving the customer some freebies during a specific launch window. If the offer is truly irresistible, then people will buy the book in droves.

7. Any other additional thoughts on blogging and blog tours?
Blogging is not some magic cure-all. It should be part of a well-defined integrated strategy. I believe that marketing for a book starts months or (preferably) years before your book hits the bookstores. A blog is part of that, as long as it fits in with your brand, your web site, your e-zine, etc.. It is possible to make your blog a very large part of your strategy, since a blog can fill the role of a web site (if you have links to your products) and it can replace an e-zine (if you use an e-mail notification scheme like FeedBlitz.)

The most important thing to remember with blogging (or any web-based marketing) is this: “Content Is King.” If you have good content on your blog (or web site or e-zine) then it will practically market itself. So focus on creating good content and then use all the marketing techniques to get the word out.

Thanks so much, Randy for participating kicking off our interviews. Be sure to check out Randy’s latest discussion on websites and blogs, as well as the other great products and information on his website.

To read the other interviews in this series, click here.

You can read the summary posts and discussion of what I’ve learned through these interviews over on my personal blog, spaghettipie.

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Communication is key during a blog tour to ensure everyone is on the same page. Participants in Mary DeMuth’s blog tour felt like the communication was “just right” so I’ve outlined our communication plan for you below.

1) Invitation email from author: Mary sent out an email to her various networks asking people if they wanted to participate in her upcoming tour.2) Welcome email from author: I created an email list from all the people who were interested in participating and we sent a welcome email from Mary. This email stated the goals for the tour and introduced me as the Blog Tour Director.

3) Instructional email from director: This email announced the blog tour website, provided general instructions, gave an overview of the options for posting and requested answers to the following questionnaire:

1) Does your assigned week work for you? If not, please let me know which week you’d prefer.
2) Please verify for me which blog(s) you’ll be posting on and what day(s).
3) Please let me know what buzz post option you selected.
4) Any other questions or issues?

In  the future, I will only ask participants to verify the schedule, verify the blogs on which they will post and ask for any additional questions.

4) Reminder email from director: A few days before the participants’ assigned weeks, I sent out an email reminding them of the goals for the tour, some key points, any updates and an overview of what they could find on the website.

5) Summary email from director: After the participants’ weeks, I sent out an email thanking them for their participation and summarizing the postings on each blog during their specific week. (I made all of these summaries available on the centralized website as well.)

6) Follow up email from director: At the end of the entire tour, I sent out a final email to all participants that included a thank you note from Mary, a thank you from myself, and a short questionnaire to solicit feedback on the tour itself.

A few final pointers about your communication: Make it quick and concise. People skim over long emails, and if you’ve included important information they may miss it. Along those same lines, place important information at the top of the email. Use short paragraphs and highlight key dates or actions with bolding or underlining.

Hope that helps get you started!

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As mentioned in the previous post, the centralized website was a key component of Mary DeMuth’s blog tour. From the end of June through mid-August, the website was viewed nearly 700 times. From my perspective, that’s around 700 emails with questions or requests for information that I did not have to answer. The website also allowed participants to access the information they needed at any time of the day or night and provided a consistent location to find it. They didn’t have to remember where they filed all of the emails about the tour or worry that they accidentally deleted it.

So for those of you who wish to set up one for your next tours, I’ve outlined the pieces that were included. While it may feel overwhelming to set up, the reduced number of questions and emails is worth the time and effort. Every piece of information was used by at least some of the participants, so I recommend including it all.

Welcome page: Included a welcome message, blog tour instructions, overview of the posting options, posting schedule and contact information. See a sample here.

Sidebar: Was visible from every page in order to allow easy navigation around the entire site

* APT Home
* APT Summary – link to a page summarizing all of the posts on the tour
* Book Excerpt – link to Mary’s book excerpt on the publisher’s website
* Interview Example – link to a good example of an author interview
* Book Review Example – link to a good example of a book review
* Topic Reflection Example – link to a good example of a topic reflection
* Buy Post Example – link to a page we set up with an example of a buy post
* Mary Interview – link to a page we set up with the text of a canned interview
* Book Cover Image – link to the image, remember to make the dimensions small enough to be easily used on a blog
* Photo of Mary – link to the image, same note to remember as above
* HTML Codes – link to a page we set up that allowed bloggers to literally cut and paste all the HTML codes they might need (see additional info below)
* Blog Links – link to a page where bloggers could click on any blog participating in the tour, organized by participating week
* Other Important Links – links to Mary’s website and blog, where to purchase the book, my blog, and Marcus Goodyear’s blog
* Contact Mary – mailto link to email Mary, when you clicked on this link it opened a new message in your default mail program with the subject “APT Tour”
* Contact Tour Director – mailto link to email me, when you clicked on this link it opened a new message in your default mail program with the subject “APT Tour”

HTML Code page: Provided the HTML code to create a link to Amazon, the book excerpt, Mary’s website, Mary’s blog, and to all of the participants’ blogs (by week). Also provided code for posting a picture of the book cover and the complete buy post.

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As you consider whether or not it’s worth your time and effort to plan a blog tour, think about the following questions:

1. What is your goal(s) for the blog tour?
What do you hope to accomplish by doing a blog tour? Think about this in both general and specific terms. Remember that your goals should be specific enough that you can define what achieving them looks like, whether through your gut feeling or with hard statistics. So far, our studies have shown blog tours to be ineffective at selling books in a measurable way. They seem to be effective at initiating relationships and building upon networks, which may eventually translate into sales, but don’t expect a blog tour to give an immediate boost to the sale of your book or product.

2. How does this fit into your overall marketing plan?
A blog tour should not make up your entire marketing plan; it’s only one small piece. Your blog tour should support your overall marketing goals and supplement the other activities you will conduct. Consider ways to leverage other pieces of your marketing plan to boost your blog tour and vice versa. For example, if you will be conducting a radio interview, consider mentioning your blog tour during the spot. Be sure to include the dates and times of your radio interviews within the blog tour information as well.

3. Why are you considering a blog tour?
This seems like an obvious question, but you really need to think through the answer. While a blog tour is cost effective because of limited overhead, it still requires dedicated time on your part. Designing and organizing the tour is definitely an investment of time if you want to do it well. Even if you hire someone to organize it for you, you still must be available for interviews, guest posting and making comments.

4. What are your expectations about the tour, how it’s run, how it’s designed?
Take a look at how other blog tours have run and decide what you like and dislike about their design. Think about your goals and consider the type of design that will best support them.

After thinking through these four questions, you should be in a better place to discern whether or not a blog tour should be a part of your marketing plan.

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