Monday, January 31

Is Doing a Blog Tour Really Worth It?

In October 2010 I did a month-long blog tour to promote the release of Blue Fire. I did a few wrap up posts, and promised I'd get back with some more hard figures once we saw enough time pass to get good figures. It took me a tad longer than expected (blame Darkfall) but I have them now and they're not what I would have expected.

Here are the other posts for those who want to refresh or catch up with all the info.

First, a little context... 

Since its creation in March 2009, the blog has shown an average of 13% growth per month. There were several major jumps, the two biggest being a 60% jump October 2009, which coincides with the release of The Shifter, and another of 90% in January 2010. Again, probably due to the release of the first book and all the press around that. It's also when the blog started getting linked to by some notable bloggers like Charles Tan, and later SF Signal. (and a quick shout out to say "thanks a lot for that!)

I went on the blog tour during October 2010, posting between two and four guest posts on other blogs per day. I linked to those posts here, and gave a brief description of what I'd be talking about elsewhere. Considering the large jump the book release got the first time, I expected the numbers to go up, though probably not quite as high since more folks know about me now than in 2009.

But they didn't. In fact, they went down.

There was a 20% drop in October that continued into November by another 5%. December rose again by 30%, with another 30% rise so far in January. My 2011 January numbers have been the highest since the blog's creation.

As for book sales, The Shifter got a 20% bump the first week of the tour, and a 110% bump the second (which  coincided with the release of Blue Fire), and a drop back to the regular numbers the following week. Blue Fire was pretty much the same. A bump during release week, then back to consistent sales numbers. But no sales were recorded from the links to book vendors in the blog tour posts themselves.

So, overall, the blog tour did not appear to boost book sales or increase blog traffic. It actually appears to have hurt blog traffic, and there's a good chance my numbers now would have been considerably higher had I been offering fresh content for any new folks that found me during the month.

There's no way to know for sure about book sales, and that major bump could have been because of the tour, but it's probably more likely due to the release of Blue Fire. And if the bump was due to the tour, it didn't last very long.

I can't see doing another blog tour for Darkfall. However, others have had more success, so I'm not going to give up on blog tours altogether. I think a lot of it has to do with the right book and the right audience. My target audience is in the middle school range (though older teens and adults also read it), which has a lower online readership.  J.A. Konrath did a 100-stop tour and found it a valuable experience and got very different results. Bear in mind though, that he has a much bigger readership and blog than I do, so that probably played a role as well.

For those who want to do a blog tour, I have some advice.

1. Tour on blogs different from what you blog about.
I posted on a lot of bloggers who already read me, so I was very likely reaching the same people. Had I gone to totally different readership, I might have seen better results.

2. Don't ignore your own blog during the tour.
Not everyone clicks over (I really thought they would). And since I wasn't posting on my regular blog, the traffic-driving links I usually got weren't linking to me. In fact, I had one of those regular bloggers comment that I was on hiatus and hadn't been posting anything. (It was saying why they were light on links that month. Two main resources were on tour). But I wasn't on hiatus, I was actually putting out three times the amount of content, just not on my blog. And they didn't link over to the tour posts. I found this very interesting as a study in click-throughs.

3. Decide what the end goal for the tour is.
Part of me wanted to promote the book, the other part the blog, and doing both didn't work. I would have been better off promoting the book on blogs with different readership and done more general guest post or invited bloggers from other writing sites to blog here. Bring their readers to me and see how many stay.


4. If you want to see how the tour is doing, set up your tracking software well in advance and keep track of it.
I didn't have good numbers from before the tour to compare with during the tour vs after the tour. I was able to track some things, but the specific posts and who came from where I didn't get.

So there ya go. A bit disappointing for sure, but it's good to have some numbers and another experience out there folks can look up if they're thinking about a tour. I do think there was networking value in it, as I got to meet more bloggers and anything that lets you connects with fellow writers is a good thing. And it was fun, even though it was a ton of work.

I can see me trying this again with another book aimed at a different market. MG is a tough market to reach online, so when I have a YA out there, I'll have access to more online venues and that could make a difference. If/when I try it, I'll be much better prepared to track it and will try some new things. And I'll let you guys know about it.

So, was doing a blog tour worth it? Maybe not in the way I would have hoped, but it was an invaluable learning experience and I think it'll be worth it in the long run.

19 comments:

  1. Thanks for this useful post. It's so difficult to quantify marketing efforts, but you've done a great job and given me some useful tips for the future (when I'm published and do my own blog tour).
    Judy (South Africa)

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  2. I've never done a blog tour, what with being unpublished and all, but I admit to being an antsy reader-- sometimes I click over when a blogger is on tour, sometimes not. And if the same author appears on several different blogs that I already read, I'm less likely to read the entire post with each successive one. But I had no idea this was a general malaise-- I thought it was just me being ADD!

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  3. I have to say, I did read through all the blogs on the tour and was greatly impressed with the amount of diversity between all those posts. And I'm glad I got to learn not only what you shared during the tour but the evaluation after for whenever I actually finish a book, get it polished, and then into print.

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  4. Very interesting. I'd wondered if blog tours worked. I wonder if it would have been more helpful to tour the month *before* the release, but write all new posts during the release month.

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  5. I came here because I saw one of your tour posts. Though I'll admit, I didn't read any of the rest of your tour but that was mainly because I got married at the end of October so didn't have much time for reading blogs.

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  6. So very interesting analysis, but I think it's hard to take anything away from this kind of data - also I'm wondering, by growth do you mean adding more followers or tracking your hits? You'd have to take into account what kinds of followers you were picking up and what was going on during those months. I mean if a lot of your followers are writers (and I think they are) then maybe Oct-Nov wasn't a good time as NaNo was getting underway and maybe people weren't wandering around blogs as much because they were working on their own writing. Also I think that January is a time when a lot of people get pumped up to really do things, they blog more themselves and in turn follow new blogs more. Have you ever noticed just how many people start doing Tuesday Teasers in January? (I figured this out last year when I was teasing - suddenly in January there were about 3x as many people posting teasers in the AW blogroll forum). Anyway, I guess that sales is the bottom line and there I think that it probably didn't hurt, though maybe it didn't help either.

    Fwiw - I enjoyed the tour, though I understand for the amount of time you put into it, it may not have been worth it.

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  7. Thanks so much for all your hard work here, Janice. I must admit - I ended up missing most of your tour as you had SO much content, I was a little overwhelmed by it..

    I also remember there was another writer whose blog tour I DID end up following at that time. There wasn't so much, so I was able to keep up easily. Also, this tour was for a nonfiction book - it wasn't a topic I see a great deal of info for, so it helped me peronally to follow this tour.

    Interestingly - to me, at least - the writer's blog posts since the tour have been remarkably light on the subject that attracted me to the tour in the first place. So I no longer follow that writer but still read your posts daily. I imagine you do a very nice job of keeping people - you've always paid attention to your blog's focus.

    Your numbers - do they include when people read your posts through an RSS reader app??

    Amy

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  8. This is a really interesting recap of your stats, and I really appreciate that you shared it with us! I know that you put an incredible amount of work into your blog tour, and I sincerely wish it had been more rewarding for you. And whether or not you stop by the FNC for your next release, you know that we'll highlight Darkfall in October! Can't wait!

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  9. Angie..
    Some additional information to help illustrate the blog tour response:

    For a 30 day window, Janice was doing 3 to 4 unique blog posts per day (believe me it had her running ragged and I'm the one that gets the pointy end of the stick on that deal) but there were no new posts actually on her bog, just pointers to the tour.

    During the 30 days, the number of total visitors to the site decreased somewhat steadily throughout the month. Essentially as more people saw the blog and found that day after day nothing new was posted on the blog (just links) they stopped returning regularly.

    During that period our Bounce Rate (people who visit the blog and leave without interacting at all) went up. So the hits we were getting, were less productive (they did not explore to see what else the blog had to offer, and I anticipate that the return rate for first timers was low).

    The blog's normal growth is 13% monthly, with some variations. Based on observations of previous book launch numbers and other factors, we would have expected around 50% growth.

    Instead there was a net loss. The only such loss since Janice launched her blog. It's hard to not associate that with the tour.

    An interesting question for the future is “How many days a week can you be on tour and be effective?” My advice for anyone contemplating this is to keep up your daily posts on your blog. The tour should occur around your normal routine so that you do not suffer a drop in your regular readers and reduced stickiness for your first time visitors.

    The part of a blog tour that is not easy to quantify is eventual traffic. The posts that Janice made during the tour sit out there still, on various blogs. What amount of the ongoing growth is attributable to them (either directly or through name recognition) is unknowable.

    Do the short term losses equate to long term gains? Is going 20% on blog tour produce better results than 1005 on tour? Do blog tours get you the nifty stamps in your passport? The answers to these questions and more, on the next episode of Soap.

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  10. Thanks for sharing your numbers with us. I'm just amazed that you kept track of all that math! *eyes glazing over*

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  11. thanks for the additional info Thomas (Tom?). Makes more sense now. :)

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  12. Judy: Thanks! I wish I'd done a better job on the front end, but that'll leave me something to do next time.

    Su: It looks like you're not alone there. Good stuff to know for next time.

    Jaleh: Thanks! I'll have to see if I can find more authors who toured and blogged about it. Be nice to have a really solid reference guide with more than just my experience.

    Deb: From what my marketing people over at Harper said, the point of the tour is to get people to click over or go out and buy the book. So if the book isn't out, you wasted that momentum.

    F.I.C: Grats! And welcome to the blog :) That's good to know. The more I hear about what folks did and did not do, the more I think targeted guest posts during release month is a better idea.

    Angie: It really is tough. So much of it is so ambiguous. My hubby goes into more detail for you below about the actual tracking, but followers was another thing I tracked during the tour (it's mentioned in one of the other posts) The followers DID go up, and faster than the usual growth.Great point about NaNo. I bet readership was down a bit due to that. I think the tour was worth it in some areas, but not in others. And I'm glad you enjoyed it ;)

    Amy: Very interesting. I don't think the numbers included RSS feeds. Those are a bit hard to track. Working on that, though, so maybe we'll find a way for next time.

    Donna: I'll still do some guest posts next release, just not a full-on tour. And I'd love to come back to FNC anytime at all :)

    Elle: LOL, not me, the hubby there did it all. If I'd pulled him into it sooner, we'd have had more comprehensive daily figures. It has been a fascinating study of how the blog works and what draws folks in though.

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  13. Thanks for sharing. I do think it's good to get the book out there on the web. Some people may not have heard of it and bought it as holiday gifts. But I suppose you won't ever know.

    I agree it's harder to get buzz about middle grade books through blogs. So many bloggers focus on YA books. It's a shame because there's so many upper middle grade books that I think they'd enjoy.

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  14. Hi Janice,

    Thank you for sharing your research results on blog tours.

    When I access another writer's blog and their post of the day directs me to another site, I move on. Why? I want to read my selected list of blogs and time constraints force me to focus rather than navigate all over the web.

    I am in the process of self-publishing my first novel and will use your statistics as a guide for future blog posts. Thank you again for sharing.

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  15. I don't like blog tours as a reader. The tour itself is too much content too quickly spread over too many websites, so I don't read it. The original blog becomes a graveyard. I'd rather see authors do a few select guest posts here and there and keep up with their main blog.

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  16. Natalie: I know! I'll certainly still work on getting out there, I'll just use different tactics. I enjoy guest blogging, and it doesn't have to just be during a tour.

    Gail: Thanks for the info! I click on links all the time and follow post to post, so I just assumed that was how everyone else did it. Really interesting to see it's just as varied as everything else.

    Polenth: Thanks! This is all great info.

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  17. Very interesting recap - thanks for posting!

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  18. Anna: You're welcome. It'll be interesting to check back at the sixth month mark and see how many hits I got due to the blog tour posts. This isn't over yet :) Long-term effects will be an interesting thing to look at.

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  19. I am planning a book tour, and this will come in useful for me. Thanks for sharing.

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