Kelly Blewett (WaterBrook Press) and Liz Johnson (Multnomah Books) graciously agreed to participate in my interview series. You can check out their publicity efforts on their blog WaterBrook Multnomah Publicity.

How do blogging and/or blog tours fit into an author’s overall marketing plan?
The obvious answer is that it depends a great deal on the book and the author. For fiction titles, especially new authors, blogging and blog campaigns are an integral part of the campaign. For authors working to establish themselves in a genre or the CBA market, blogging is an excellent grass roots way to create a buzz about their book. Personal blogging can also tie in with other publicity and marketing efforts. For example, if an author has a booksigning or interview coming up, he or she can blog about it before and after the event, adding excitement for those reading the blog and those able to participate in the event. For nonfiction authors or more established fiction authors with a strong platform, personal blogging is important so that fans can keep up. Fans like to feel involved and connected to favorite authors and reading an author’s blog can be like reading an interview with them everyday.

Do you require or encourage authors to participate in blog tours to promote their books? Why or why not?
We always encourage our authors to participate in the blog tours, leaving comments and reading posts. It’s a great way for the author to see how his or her book is affecting the reader. As we mentioned before, it’s also a great way for the blogger, maybe a new fan, to feel connected to and appreciated by the author.

What type of blog tour do you suggest and why? (e.g. a short, blitz-type tour mimicking more of an online press release; a longer, multi-stop tour mimicking a physical book tour; or other structure.)
At WaterBrook Multnomah, we’ve modeled our blog campaigns similarly to groups like the CFBA—offering a short, blitz-type tour. Ours are usually 4 to 5 days long. From our experience this can have great results in increased sales and better Amazon.com ranking numbers, giving the book more credibility on certain sales sites. For example Jeffrey Overstreet, author of Auralia’s Colors noticed more Amazon activity during his 5-day blog tour than he did over 25 radio interviews. Often repeated words and phrases in a blog tour can also affect Search Engine Optimization, which is key to hitting the first page on Google or Yahoo.
We haven’t tried the more extended blog tours, although several of our authors enjoy running those and feel that they get good results from month-long, or longer, campaigns. Logistically, our publicity department is better able to serve our bloggers and our authors by running the shorter campaigns.

What should be the goals of a blog tour and how do you track whether or not a blog tour is successful?
The goal of a blog campaign should be to increase the awareness that leads to sales of the book that is being toured. There are several ways to measure awareness, including Technorati.com, which offers graphs and numbers of mentions of a specific word or phrase over a given time period. This is a good indicator of awareness—who’s blogging about the book. Sales departments can often offer information about sales by month or week. We noticed specifically an increase in the number of books purchased by Amazon the month directly following a 2007 CFBA blog tour of Sally Stuart’s Christian Writer’s Market Guide. This told us that they had sold so many books that they needed to restock.

What does a blog tour accomplish, if anything? What data or analysis has led you to believe that?
As mentioned above, awareness and sales should be the accomplishment of a blog tour. We’ve seen increased awareness in every blog tour we’ve done and sales data has shown increased sales via online venues in many of our campaigns.

What do you think are the big mistakes writers make when blogging for promotion?
From a publicity standpoint, we’ve found that it can become easy for authors to think blogging is the only promotion they need to do. The truth is that it’s very important, but definitely not the only thing to focus on. As writers are given the chance for radio interviews, to write articles for other magazines, or other opportunities, we encourage them never to turn down an invitation—unless there are extenuating circumstances. Every publicity opportunity is important—you never know who will listen to or read something. Smaller media can lead to bigger media!

Do you think the benefits to an author’s writing career are worth the costs of blogging? Why or why not?
Usually the highest cost of blogging is time. Authors are usually on tight deadlines, so blogging can take away from precious writing and editing time. But within reason, it’s a wonderful thing. Each author needs to carefully examine his or her schedule and see how much time can be dedicated to blogging. But making that time is important for reaching new fans as well as keeping those who wait a year or sometimes more for the next book. Even if an author blogs just a couple times a week, fans will appreciate the time and the author gets the chance to begin building excitement over upcoming projects.

Any other additional thoughts on blogging and blog tours?
Thanks for the opportunity to share with you and your readers!

Thanks, Kelly and Liz!

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.


My Take:

I have skimmed through the first half of this book, and I add my recommendation to the host of impressive endorsements these young authors have received. I am excited about the idea of raising the bar on expectations of teenagers. While I never completed an internship for a state Supreme Court or spoke at conferences across the United States and in Japan, I was a teenager who dreamed big. Fortunately, my parents placed high expectations on me (not in a negative, unreasonable way), and for the most part, I lived up to them. As I now raise my daughter, it bothers me that we expect so little from our youth. I don’t want her to grow up in that type of culture. I’m excited to see where this Rebelution goes. Parents, youth workers, teens – pick up a copy of this book and let me know what you think. In fact, leave a comment on my blog by 5:00pm CST on April 20th and I’ll draw a winner for a FREE COPY (sorry, US mailing addresses only).

Official Summary:

With over 10 million hits to their website TheRebelution.com, Alex and Brett Harris are leading the charge in a growing movement of Christian young people who are rebelling against the low expectations of their culture by choosing to “do hard things” for the glory of God.

Written when they were 18 years old, Do Hard Things is the Harris twins’ revolutionary message in its purest and most compelling form, giving readers a tangible glimpse of what is possible for teens who actively resist cultural lies that limit their potential. Combating the idea of adolescence as a vacation from responsibility, the authors weave together biblical insights, history, and modern examples to redefine the teen years as the launching pad of life and map a clear trajectory for long-term fulfillment and eternal impact.

Written by teens for teens, Do Hard Things is packed with humorous personal anecdotes, practical examples, and stories of real-life rebelutionaries in action. This rallying cry from the heart of revolution already in progress challenges the next generation to lay claim to a brighter future, starting today.

About the Authors:

Alex and Brett Harris founded TheRebelution.com in August 2005 and today at age 19 are the most popular Christian teen writers on the Web. The twins are frequent contributors to Focus on the Family’s Boundless webzine, serve as the main speakers for the Rebelution Tour conferences, and have been featured in WORLD magazine, Breakaway, The Old Schoolhouse, and the New York Daily News. Sons of homeschool pioneer Gregg Harris and younger brothers of best-selling author Joshua Harris (I Kissed Dating Goodbye), Alex and Brett live near Portland, Oregon.

A Handbook for Discovering God’s Will by Gordon S. Jackson

It’a April 15th, but this has nothing to do with taxes! It is time for the Non~FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 15th, we will featuring an author and his/her latest non~fiction book’s FIRST chapter!

The feature author is:
and his book:

NavPress Publishing Group (March 26, 2008)


GORDON JACKSON is a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. He has worked at Whitworth as a journalism professor and college administrator since 1983. Originally from South Africa, where he worked as a journalist, he is a frequent speaker for churches and other groups. Dr. Jackson has spoken to scores of church, Sunday school, educational, and civic groups on a wide range of topics. In the past few years, he has also served as a consultant for church groups and Christian educational institutions in Uganda, Lebanon and Egypt.

He is also the author of:

Destination Unknown
Never Scratch a Tiger with a Short Stick and Other Quotes for Leaders



Choosing Well: Living Out God’s Will

Most of the time in our attempt to follow Christ, we already know perfectly well what God’s will is and what He expects of us. It is to continue the work He’s already given us, precisely where we are, according to the guidelines for godly living we know from Scripture.

But there come moments when we face major decisions, crossroads in our journey where the signposts aren’t as legible or well-lit as we would like. We face hard choices. Should I attend this college or that one? Should I switch jobs? Am I truly being called to full-time ministry, or am I just bored with my current vocation? Is this the person God would have me marry? Should I move to a new city or stay put?

Some decisions we’ve anticipated for a long while, for example what to do upon graduating from college. Others are thrust upon us suddenly, perhaps an opportunity that comes out of the blue. Yet others can brew or stew slowly over time, such as a growing sense of disillusionment and frustration with our current job.

Situations like these ultimately demand some kind of decision. Assuming we seek to honor God in all areas of our lives—education, family life, career, ministry—we want to make a godly choice. But how? Clearly, guidance is a difficult area for Christians.

Scores of books on the topic have appeared over the past several decades demonstrating the ongoing quest for counsel on this issue. This book is intended to assist you in thinking through questions about guidance more incisively and, if you heed the shared wisdom handed down from two thousand years of our faith, to help you make wiser, more thoughtful, and more godly choices. The generalizations presented here are distilled from the wisdom of numerous thoughtful writers on this topic. In essence, the thoughts in this book are not new. The hope, however, is that their presentation and format will make these ideas more accessible and easier to understand and apply in your life. (A note on citations: For the most part, I’ve tried to avoid cluttering your reading by limiting the endnotes to some lesser-known authors for whom you may want to know the source.)

It’s plain that those who follow Christ could use ongoing help in this area. “In our quest for God’s guidance,” said J. I. Packer, British theologian and scholar, “we become our own worst enemies, and our mistakes attest to our nuttiness in this area.” This book is an attempt to head off some of those self-defeating tendencies and minimize the nuttiness. In doing so, this book differs from other writings on guidance in two ways. The first is its emphasis. This volume assumes what other authors carefully and painstakingly identify: the ample scriptural evidence that God guides those who genuinely seek His will and that He desires only the best for His children. So the assumption here is that you don’t need to be persuaded that God is both able and eager to guide us.

The second difference lies in this book’s approach. Most other books on this subject offer systematic, chapter-length expositions on the nature of guidance and its relationship to vital living as a Christian. By contrast, the approach here is far more hands-on, identifying practical problem areas, possible stumbling blocks, areas of confusion, and any other aspects of guidance that can lead to confusion and mistakes. What follows is a series of thoughts on topics about guidance. Each topic, summarized as a principle or key concept, serves as a stepping-stone through what often can be a mental and spiritual swamp for Christians seeking God’s will and direction.

All the topics are built around a foundational section called The Big Five—and Beyond. This is the assumption repeated by many writers that guidance is normally the product of five elements:

1. Scriptural guidelines
2. Prayer
3. The advice of other Christians
4. The circumstances we face
5. A sense of inner peace about our decision

It is typically the combination of these five ingredients that helps lead us toward sound, godly decisions.

Something else that holds together the sixty-two principles in this book is the understanding that guidance is a process that involves carefully thinking through and incorporating The Big Five, as well as other issues pertinent to your situation. Following this introduction is A Guidance Road Map—a set of common questions about guidance, along with the topics that are likely to help you most with each question. Please read The Big Five—and Beyond before dipping into other topics. Without the context it provides, the other sections will be less helpful.

The sixty-two topics, and the principles on which they are based, are presented as generalizations. As such, they need to be seen as part of the broader whole. What’s more, these principles don’t have to be read in order. After reading The Big Five, feel free to browse through the book and pick and choose among the issues that most interest you. Or you can scan the alphabetical list of topics at the back of the book and find subjects of particular concern to you.

As you read the pages ahead, please be aware of the following assumptions that are woven through the array of principles:

+ You take seriously your commitment to follow Christ and seek to live a God-pleasing life. In other words, you earnestly seek God’s will for your life, not His seal of approval for what you plan to do anyway.

+ You take seriously the authority of Scripture and are willing to apply its guidelines to all areas of your life.

+ You already are convinced that God is able and willing to guide you in all aspects of your walk with Him, and you accept that He will do so on His terms and with His timing.

+ You take seriously your God-given ability to think through whatever guidance issues you face.

It’s important to note a truly astonishing fact: We claim as part of our faith not only that the Lord of the universe sent His Son to die for us and redeem us from our sins but also that His interest and love for us continue day by day. Like the most loving of parents, God Himself seeks to guide and direct every facet of our lives.

Two reality checks also need mentioning. The first is that living our lives in a God-directed manner is never easy. Living as we do with a sinful nature, it is extremely difficult to do what we know we should and to avoid what we know we shouldn’t do. Paul said, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15). If living the day-by-day dimension of following Christ is difficult, it’s no easier when we face those extraordinary moments when tough choices must be made. Søren Kierkegaard, nineteenth-century Danish philosopher and theologian, said, “It is perfectly true, as philosophers say, that life must be understood backwards. But . . . it must be lived forwards.”

As we grapple with trying to understand God’s guidance in our lives, we often recognize His leading only as we look back. But we must make difficult choices while living life in forward mode. No book on guidance can completely answer anyone’s questions; we each need to answer those ourselves. The ideas outlined in this book are only tools, and they are worthless apart from your commitment to seeking God’s will and your willingness to struggle through issues.

The second reality worth noting concerns our limitations in understanding how God moves in our lives. It is the height of presumption to think that any book can prescribe how God may choose to reveal Himself to us. The only absolute we can be sure of in this regard is that God will not guide us in a way that is contrary to His nature.

A final thought on how God directs our lives: While those who follow Christ agree that God is keenly interested in our lives, they differ on the degree to which He has a “perfect plan” mapped out for each of us. Some contend that God has a carefully worked-out blueprint for our lives: His guidance helps us discover that perfect will, and His Holy Spirit helps us live it out. Other Christians see this approach as artificially narrow. God, they believe, is not boxed into some lockstep, foreordained approach to how our lives unfold. God’s grace, power, and imagination surely transcend whatever mistakes we make or sins we commit, which would presumably otherwise relegate us to a “second best” plan. Rather, God is always able to offer constant, uninhibited love and direction, regardless of how far we might have fallen from His standards in the past.

If the issue of a “perfect plan” is important to you, understand that the bias of this book is clearly toward the latter position. God’s boundless grace in dealing with us makes Him love us no less when we choose something other than His best at any given moment. Yes, God’s discipline may follow our poor choices. But for the Christian who is wholeheartedly seeking God’s will, He presents us with far more of a buffet table of legitimate options than some stiflingly healthy yet tasteless diet. A. W. Tozer, a well-known teacher and writer, said, “The man or woman who is wholly or joyously surrendered to Christ can’t make a wrong choice—any choice will be the right one.”

That remark captures the spirit with which this book is written: that ours is a God of freedom whose guidance we can seek with confidence and enthusiasm. He’s a God of infinite love who enthusiastically champions our case and seeks our best. He is the architect wanting to help us build holy lives, lived to the full (see John 10:10). Yet we sometimes regard Him as the county planning officer who’s looking for every weakness in our plans, smugly catching yet another way we’ve fallen short of the building code. God is not a stickler; rather, He’s the architect who brings our possibilities to reality for our benefit and for His pleasure.

This book is an attempt to assist you as you invite God, the ultimate architect, to help you build your life in keeping with His overall design to make us holy persons. From the foundations to the finishing touches, He is eager to help at each step. The pages that follow are intended to help you build your own house of faith that shall last through eternity.


The Big Five—and Beyond

Every quest for guidance should be shaped by scriptural guidelines, prayer, the advice of other Christians, the circumstances we face, and an overall sense that this course is what God wants.

It’s the big picture that counts. A recurring theme found in books on guidance is that you need to look at the big picture as a whole when making major decisions concerning God’s will. Far from basing our decision entirely on a chance remark made in last Sunday’s sermon or on an obscure verse in 2 Kings, God expects us to use all the vehicles He’s made available for our decision making. That’s why it’s important to consider each of The Big Five factors and see how they mesh together as we consider our decision. Again, these five factors are:

1. Scriptural guidelines
2. Prayer
3. The advice of other Christians
4. The circumstances we face
5. A sense of inner peace about our decision

Until you’ve got a thumbs-up on each of the five, you’re probably not ready to make a decision. If, for example, you’re seriously considering a career change, but your spouse or closest friends are advising you against it, you need to check your thinking. Or if you’ve been invited to go on a short-term mission trip and the first four points check out just fine, yet you’ve still got a nagging feeling that something isn’t right, once again it may be best to hold off on your decision and give it further thought.

If you were leaving later today for a trip abroad, you’d make sure you’d taken care of your passport, airline ticket, health insurance, luggage, and spending money. If you were heading for the airport and realized you’d left your passport at home, it’s unlikely you would keep going and say, “Well, four out of five isn’t bad.”

Similarly, you’re probably asking for trouble by heading into a decision without a check mark against each of The Big Five. Is it possible that the advice from your spouse or friends is wrong, or that you’re confusing a lack of inner peace about a decision with plain old nervousness? Of course. The point here isn’t that missing one of these five checkpoints means you shouldn’t go ahead; it simply means there’s a warning light on the dashboard and you’re well advised to take a second look at what’s happening. Or, to switch metaphors, if these five principles don’t line up neatly like lights on a runway, you need to question seriously whether you’re ready to come in for a landing.

Sometimes those landing lights don’t line up neatly, or one warning light keeps flickering on the dash—and yet a major decision still looms. Remember, guidance is seldom a simple, clear-cut process. The words of C. S. Lewis provide a helpful reminder of the many ways God can speak to us: “I don’t doubt that the Holy Spirit guides your decisions from within when you make them with the intention of pleasing God. The error would be to think that he speaks only within, whereas in reality he speaks also through Scripture, the church, Christian friends, books, etc.”

Because working toward the decisions God would have us make can be complex and can lead to ambiguous answers, it’s necessary to dig deeper into our understanding of The Big Five. The separate entries of The Big Five are not of equal importance. The simple flowchart that follows shows that scriptural principles are the starting point. But they’re only the starting point. Each of these five principles merits careful attention. The next step is to examine any of the five elements that merits special attention in your situation. (These topics are addressed in the pages that follow.) Alternatively, you may want to turn directly to other individual topics that speak to your needs. The Guidance Road Map on page 17 will help you do that.

As we move into the next phase of interviews in this series, I’m excited to welcome Jeane Wynn of Wynn-Wynn Media. Jeane is a publicist (not to be confused with publisher), and I’m excited to share with you her perspective on blogging and blog tours.

How do blogging and/or blog tours fit into an author’s overall marketing plan?
Every type of media is essential to book promotion these days, from print to broadcast to online venues, especially blogs. Blogging is really just good, old fashioned grassroots word-of-mouth marketing. It enables us to get books directly in front of particular audiences who are smart, inquisitive, well-read, and amazingly discerning.

Do you require or encourage authors to participate in blog tours to promote their books? Why or why not?
Yes, we certainly encourage author to participate in blog tours. Though we have never had an author refuse, we have had authors who might not have initially grasped the enormous potential and the positive impact a blog tour can have. In those cases, we are able to cite specific examples of blog tour successes and once they have a full understanding of the importance of blogs, there is genuine enthusiasm for blog tours.

If yes to the above question, what type of blog tour do you suggest and why? (e.g. a short, blitz-type tour mimicking more of an online press release; a longer, multi-stop tour mimicking a physical book tour; or other structure.)
We have done both types of blog tours and had successes with them, but we really prefer the short blitz-type tours done in conduction with the books’ release.

What should be the goals of a blog tour and how do you track whether or not a blog tour is successful?
Our goal for a blog tour is to provide opportunities for blog owners—who are increasingly becoming experts in certain niches and specialties—to have an opportunity to be among those who shape opinion and have a say as to the quality of what is being published. As the popularity of blogs increases, amazing regular people are able to build and grow audiences who come to trust and respect their opinions. So, in addition to the many traditional media members who get to express their opinions and exercise their influence, we are thrilled that many of those in the new media are also able to do the same. The general goal of all publicity campaigns is to increase exposure of the author and their title. That goal can be, and in fact is, furthered by the number of—and quality of—the blogs that cover an author and their works. We represent the best authors working today, so we know that when we get their material in front of bloggers, the results will be positive.

What does a blog tour accomplish, if anything? What data or analysis has led you to believe that?
Blog tours are the modern-day word-of-mouth promotion. It’s really that simple. For years, Ron Popeil has offered discounts on his products if buyers would just tell their friends about his products. He did that (and became a millionaire) because he knows that we are more likely to trust our friends’ and family members’ opinions than we are slick advertising and high-priced spin. Likewise, blogs are online communities whose readers are invested in the opinions of the blog authors. They may not agree with everything the blog owner posts, but they come to know them, trust them, and respect their opinions. And, though it can be hard to pin down hard and fast numbers, especially in an area that is truly still emerging, we are able to come up with approximate numbers regarding blog tour successes, and we’re very happy with them. All buzz is good buzz, and blogs definitely produce a buzz.

What do you think are the big mistakes writers make when blogging for promotion?
Authors’, and indeed all bloggers’, biggest mistakes are usually that they do not post often enough. Authors should blog about their books, release dates, reviews, and anything else that pertains to the book. Authors need to make sure they schedule time to post several times a week, especially as their release date approaches.

Do you think the benefits to an author’s writing career are worth the costs of blogging? Why or why not?
They definitely are. Just think about it; as far as reader care goes, an author can’t ask for a better opportunity than having their readers come to them. For years (not that long ago), to have the kind of contact authors are now able to have relatively cheaply via a blog, one would have to invest great sums of money in mailing lists and direct mail campaigns. Some of the most affordable aids to success are often overlooked because they are so simple. We encourage authors to take advantage of the huge opportunities they have in blogging because it enables an author to connect with their readers and peers with immediacy. That said, there are times—when a writer is on a tight deadline, for example—that it is certainly okay to slow blog posts, though they should not be abandoned altogether. The ability to connect with readers and to have a reader to be able to see what is happening with their favorite author is truly invaluable.

Any other additional thoughts on blogging and blog tours?
If an author is hesitant to blog because he or she doesn’t want to share personal information, they shouldn’t hestitate because blogging does not have to be about personal things as much as it is about connecting with readers who want to see into the lives of writers they admire. Who among us hasn’t thought how thrilling it would be to sit near a fire in a cozy British pub discussing Narnia or Screwtape with Mr. Lewis himself? No one would think of asking him about the mundane personal duties of his day, but most would love to get a glimpse inside the brilliant mind. Blogging is one of the best modern equivalents of that fireside conversation, wherein readers are privy to immediate information that isn’t the “official” marketing or catalog copy, press release, or standardized meta data. Blogs are the perfect place for writers to write and share just for the sake of connecting, and that’s why they are worth an author’s time and efforts.

Thanks, Jeane! Hopefully Jeane’s new website will be up and running soon. Bookmark it and check back.

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.

Marcus is another friend I met through blogging. He did a series on what worked and didn’t during a blog tour, so when I was asked to coordinate Mary’s tour, I immediately contacted Marcus to gain some insight. We’ve been friends ever since. I appreciate Marcus’s desire to give back to the writing community and the fact that he’s just an all-around great guy. I encourage you to get to know him!

1. How long have you been blogging and why did you start?
I’ve been blogging at GoodWordEditing.com since December 2006. Before that I had a blog called HillCountryWriter.blogspot.com, from September 2005 to December 2006. Before that, I had a LiveJournal account, though I don’t even remember the name of it. I blogged on LiveJournal in 2003 and 2004 before I left teaching. I didn’t even know to call it blogging at the time.

2. What are three (or less) keys to your success in promoting your books through blogging?

Blogging is just an easy vehicle for participating in viral, word of mouth marketing. In order for that to work well, Andy Sernovitz says you need 1) something people want to talk about, and 2) an easy way to share it.

So blogs (as a tool) and blog tours (as a strategy) are the easy way to share. But they don’t give you anything interesting to say necessarily. You must have something interesting to share.

Some people like to say the medium is the message, and that’s true to a point. But that doesn’t mean you can expect the medium to perform without any message at all. You must have something interesting to share. You must.

3. What do you think are the Big Mistakes writers make when blogging for promotion?

They don’t comment on other blogs enough. They don’t link to other blogs enough. They expect the community to come to their site like they would go to a book store. And that doesn’t work.

You want to know a blogger who does this well? L. L. Barkat. Her comments are EVERYWHERE. Mary DeMuth and Camy Tang are really good at it too.

And I am always surprised at the authors who go on tour, and then never leave comments at the blogs of the people who are promoting them! These authors are telling bloggers that they don’t care about what we say. Probably, they just don’t fully understand social media. It’s social. You comment. You respond. You engage. You discuss.

When authors stay out of the discussion, it feels weird at best.

4. What should be the goals of a blog tour and how do you track whether or not a blog tour is successful?

Become a real person to readers and bloggers. When bloggers know you, they want to buy your books. When blog readers know you, they want to buy your books. They can get to know you through your comments, posts, interviews, etc. on a blog tour.

You can also think the direct marketing route of building email lists and recruiting RSS subscribers. If you are dedicated to providing information through those routes–like Randy Ingermanson has proven to be–that can be really successful.

Thank you so much, Marcus! Great insight here.

Be sure to go explore Marcus’s blog. He has a ton of great resources on there!

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.

LL Barkat is one of those friends whom I met exclusively through blogging. We’ve never met in person, although I do look forward to the day that I can sit down with her and a cup of her homemade tea. I was originally attracted to LL’s blog because she can take everyday experiences and draw out a spiritual truth. I also appreciate her commitment to building community and “spurring each other on toward love and good deeds.” I love her perspective on blogging.

1. How long have you been blogging and why did you start?

18 fascinating months. As to why I started, can I quote my own blog post?

Here’s what I said in part:

“Over a year ago, I heard Andy Crouch’s public declaration: ‘Blogging is a waste of time.’

His declaration coincided neatly with a bit of advice I received from a Simon & Schuster Director of Marketing and Promotion. ‘You should start a blog,’ she said. ‘We ask all our authors to start blogs.’

The S&S person’s enthusiasm tempted me to begin blogging post-haste. But I admit it was the nonconformist in me that provided hidden energy. I wanted to confront Andy’s bald-faced statement. I wanted to become a blog scientist of sorts, to test out the veracity of his assertion.”

2. How do blogging and/or blog tours fit into your overall marketing plan?
Can I be honest? Many blog tours bother me. When I’m blogging and I come across them, I tune out. Worse, I often have this odd sensation that it’s not for real. I feel like it’s a “rigged” effort and I’d rather come across posts from people who just blogged about a book because they really loved it. Bottom line: blog tours tend to lower my respect for the book being highlighted.

One exception is the Sci-Fi tours I often come across when I visit my colleague Mark Goodyear‘s blog. Maybe these tours don’t bother me because I feel like they are a club kind of thing. Sci-Fi people talking to sci-fi people. I never read the full posts, but I always comment on something in them, because I respect Mark and support his efforts regardless of whether these fit with my own interests.

As for how blogging fits with my marketing plan, I feel that an author must respect the medium. It’s a social affair. I show up week after week and if people like me and my work, then they do. If not, well, I can’t force it.

If people are attracted to my writing, this may ultimately turn into book sales, but my experience has been that blogging is more likely to create unexpected and important connections. Would I, for instance, have met Scot McKnight if not for blogging? And would he have given my book such a strong endorsement? I doubt it. Yet even with that, it is not something I could have “planned”. We happened to meet, to genuinely like each other’s work, and so it went.

Beyond this, I think blogging is part of marketing at a much different level. It’s not about me selling to people. But I do learn what sells, what interests others. And this is the early part of marketing . . . finding ideas that the marketplace has a positive response to. In fact, my latest book idea, which you can see here: God in the Yard came from this kind of “market research”. But of course that’s almost a ridiculous thing to say. I never set out to test the idea. Rather, it was an organic occurrence. I did a series of posts on Wendell Berry and living small and focused, and people showed a deep interest. Bing. I realized there was something deeper that just might be worth exploring in a longer work.

3. What are three (or less) keys to your success in promoting your books through blogging?
It remains to be seen whether my book will be a success due to blogging. In fact, I expect blogging will only be an enhancement to what my publisher is doing. I’m happy to be with InterVarsity Press because they have reach into established groups, and I think this will be the main cause of my book’s success.

4. What do you think are the Big Mistakes writers make when blogging for promotion?
Self, self, self. Bloggers generally want authentic connection, so the promotion of self is inappropriate to the medium. That doesn’t mean that a writer can’t talk about his life work and books. I do. But it’s just a small part of what I discuss. My larger focus is on other people, their cares, sorrows, dreams and struggles. As I’ve said elsewhere, I write to love. It’s really hard to do that and always be talking about one’s self.

5. What does a blog tour accomplish, if anything? What data or analysis has led you to believe that?
For this, you must go to my Mount Hermon co-presenter Mark Goodyear. He’s the stat man. And as I recall the stats weren’t so great. On the other hand, he and I have discussed the success of a book that tipped to best-seller status as a result of about 300 blogger’s efforts. This is mentioned in the book The New Rules of Marketing & PR.

That said, I don’t think the bloggers that New Rules mentions participated in a tour. They received books and maybe they blogged about them and maybe they didn’t. The effort had, I believe, a more natural feel to it from the user side.

6. What should be the goals of a blog tour and how do you track whether or not a blog tour is successful?
Hmmm…. As you can probably tell, I don’t have plans to do a blog tour. It would be a compromise for me to do so. That doesn’t mean I won’t engage my blogging community in ways they find affirming. For instance, you can take a look at my two book club efforts to see how I plan to serve my readers in what may be understood as a reciprocal relationship.

This site is mostly for readers who just want to say something about their experience with the book: Stone Crossings Book Club Blog.

And this site is for readers who really want to go deeper, approximating a true book club experience where people can hear and see each other and participate creatively: Stone Crossings Book Club Wiki.

For someone who chooses to do a blog tour, I would simply suggest considering different forms than what’s been classically done. So. If blog tour participants are enabled to engage creatively and they actually achieve this, then I believe that’s a measure of true success, because it will buffer some of the “rigged” feeling that’s problematic.

7. Any other additional thoughts on blogging and blog tours?
Just to encourage people to respect the medium. As I said before, this is a social medium. It’s important not to be anti-social at this great blog party we’re privileged to attend. To paraphrase a famous bible guy, “Let everything you do be guided by love.” Even blogging for promotion.

Be sure to stop over at LL’s blog and witness community in action.

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.

To be honest, I don’t know Dillon Burroughs personally. He heard about the series I’m posting from his publicist and kindly offered to participate. Immediately, I appreciated his willingness to share his experience and insight. A quick perusal of his website reveals an impressive resume. Also, in this interview Dillon offers an additional perspective on using Facebook which I think you will find helpful.

1. How long have you been blogging and why did you start?
Four years. I’ve been horrible about starting a blog on a topic or book and then ending it to start a new one. However, blogs are not a diary for me. They serve a specific purpose and I kill them off as soon as that purpose is completed.

2. How do blogging and/or blog tours fit into your overall marketing plan?
Blogs currently play a secondary role. Speaking and direct, face to face contact is still the most effective form of communication, but online communications are right in there at number two for getting the word out.

3. What are three (or less) keys to your success in promoting your books through blogging?
1. Personal: I switched to Facebook almost exclusively at one point because I knew every note would be seen and likely read by the 350 people on my list. It’s only 350 people, but they are people who know me and will spread the word to others.

2. Accurate: Accuracy still counts. If I misquote a person, link, or key fact, there could be big problems…like people not being able to find my book.

4. Why do you focus on Facebook and how effective it is in meeting your goals?
Word of mouth is still the best form of advertising. I work on building friends, not sales. Then I post the latest info just for my friends (359 as of today) who pass along via facebook and word of mouth what they think is worth sharing. This results in reaching thousands of people every time I send a note about a radio interview I’ve done or a newspaper that has featured my book. Word gets around without me even leaving the office.

The other factors are that I am trying to focus on a younger audience, most of whom are on facebook, and the fact that facebook is simple to use. Myspace and blogs are great, but at one point I have five different blogs to keep up. Now I have facebook and I copy and past blogs occasionally to my account at myspace. This has been the best combination to date on keeping it simple and spreading the news to the most people in my target audience.

5. What do you think are the Big Mistakes writers make when blogging for promotion?
They write for people who will never read their blogs. Blogs are most effective for people already connected with you, not strangers. They’ll just look at your bio or watch a video clip for ten seconds and decide based on that.

Dead blogs are also bad. I had to put a note on my Amazon blog telling people I had quit using it, so my friends wouldn’t ask when I was going to update it. If your blog hasn’t been updated at least within the past two weeks, shut it down or update it. Blogs work because they are personal and instant.

6. What does a blog tour accomplish, if anything? What data or analysis has led you to believe that?
I’ve never done a blog tour. Again, I blog to get the word out to my existing contacts so my friends will tell others.

7. What should be the goals of a blog tour and how do you track whether or not a blog tour is successful?
Exposure and book sales. If these cannot be measured based on a blog tour, why do it?

8. Any other additional thoughts on blogging and blog tours?
Blogging is great, but you have to be aware that what you write is there for good. Don’t make comments about your boss or mother-in-law unless you can handle seeing it ten years from now.

Thanks for sharing with us, Dillon.

Please be sure to check out Dillon’s website, as well as his work at the Ankerberg Theological Research Institute.

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.