Book Blog Tours are a relatively new phenomenon and, while you can organize your own, it can be difficult without the proper connections and, with the cost of some of these tours, really not worth it. These companies promote their tours through a range of online media and, frankly, do all the work for you so you can focus on other things, like preparing your guest blog posts.  Though a service, a tour can be put together frequently with less notice than on your own and with far less hassle.

So I asked myself.  What are the various companies and how do they compare?

While this is hardly a comprehensive list, I tried as best I can to find as many services as possible for you to peruse.  Each service is slightly different and I also tried to highlight the things I felt were important between them, though they often have widely varying services, like Goddess Fish will make book trailers and Worldwind will make tour graphics for a price, even if you are not touring with them.

So, without further ado...

Price Comparison

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tour Company

Release Day

One Week (5-7)

Two Weeks (7-10)

One Month (15-20)

Twitter Party

Bewitching 

35

40

65

110

30

Virtual Book Tour Cafe

 

50

75

 

 

Enchanted

19

29

49

69

19

Sizzling

15

 

25

35

 

TLC

 

 

549

699

 

Goddess Fish

 

45

80

135

 

Worldwind

100

 

 

130

 

Bewitching Book Tours

http://bewitchingbooktours.blogspot.com/p/tour-pricing.html
This company seems to be able to hand a large quantity of tours at the same time with an impressive number of tour hosts.  Specializing in paranormal, urban fantasy, and paranormal erotica.  This company does a pretty decent job with the tour buttons.  The site does not make any guarantees about how many book reviews you'll get because it depends on host participation, only the number of blogs you will be hosted on.  It offers a variety of different types of posts.  Includes tour buttons in packages. 

Tour Packages Range from $35-155
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Example blog tour button for Bewitching Book Tours.

Enchanted Book Promotions

http://www.enchantedbookpromotions.com
I also like the tour buttons this company does and their new site is so much better than their old one (which looked like it was designed for a five year old obsessed with Disney Princesses).  Includes tour banner in packages.

Tour Packages Range from $19-249
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Example of Enchanted Book Promotions tour banner.

Goddess Fish Promotions

http://www.goddessfish.com/tours.htm
Not overly enthused with the quality of their banners.  They specialize in romance fiction (in all its sub-genres: fantasy, suspense, paranormal, historical, etc), other genre fiction (mystery, SFF, etc) and Young Adult / Middle Grade fiction.  Includes tour banners in packages.

Tour Packages Range from $30-225 (With Book trailer)
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Example of Goddess Fish Promotions tour banner.

Worldwind Virtual Book Tours

http://worldwindvirtualbooktours.weebly.com/services.html
The one day includes a $50 Amazon gift card, which will be raffled away as part of the package.  The packages don't exactly match up with some of the other sites I've reviewed here.  The $130 package is 15 tour stops in 1-2 weeks.  Packages include a tour banner, which are among the best I've seen.  This is a brand new company, but I really like their banners and there's no limit on the number of stops for each package.  That's the minimum stops for your tour, which is unique and is one of the reasons I like this company, despite the higher price point for their tours.

Tour Packages Range from $100-260
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Example of Worldwind Virtual Book Tours banner.
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Example of Worldwind Virtual Book Tours banner.

Everything else...

Sizzling PR
http://sizzlingpr.com/services/
Packages include tour graphics.  Single cheapest package.

Tour Packages Range from $15-70

Virtual Book Tour Cafe
http://www.virtualbooktourcafe.com/virtual-book-tour-package.html
Packages include a static banner.

Tour Packages Range from $35-360 

TLC Book Tours
http://tlcbooktours.com/services/
I'm not overly fond of their website as they do not list any rates on their site.  It doesn't say anything about other forms of promotion.  They focus on book reviews and getting books noticed by book clubs.  I can't, honestly, see a lot of new authors choosing this options.

Tour Packages Range from $549-1456

These last two had no information on their sites and I never got responses from the people involved so...

Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Tours
http://virtualbooktours.wordpress.com/what-can-virtual-book-tours-do-for-you/#comment-2916

Lit Fuse Publicity
http://litfusegroup.com/services/blog-tours
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Example graphic from Sizzling PR.
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Example tour banner from Virtual Book Tour Cafe.
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Example tour banner for Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Tours.
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Example tour banner for Lit Fuse Publicity.
 
As anyone who has read my blog would probably figure out, my primary goal is helping other deserving authors get their name out there.  Sometimes it is by doing book reviews, sometimes it is by compiling information that they might find useful in their road to success.

Recently, I've been thinking about things like guest posts and promotional posts and blog tours.  I'm always looking for fresh ideas, for ways of taking someone who is just reading a blog post and making them into someone who is intrigued if not enamored with an author.  A common promotional tool is an interview, either with the writer or a character.  As I've thought on this, I've become more and more certain that interviews are mostly useless and a pain in the butt.  Sure, I can come up with intriguing questions that aren't your every day questions about where the author gets her ideas or his writing rituals, but does it really help to promote the author?

Does it give the reader a reason to want to check out the latest book?

Does it catch them and draw them in to where they have to click that link?

So I asked myself and came up with this conclusion.  Simply, no.  If I was reading an interview, I wouldn't be likely to get to the end, let alone be engaged enough to check out what he has written.  

I think, probably, the best types of promotional posts are those that actually advertise the author's skills.  Things like book excerpts, short stories, or creative writing exercises.  That might get me interested.  Actually, the right book excerpt and I would almost guarantee I would click a link, maybe to goodreads.com to add the book to my To-Read category or maybe Amazon.com to add it to my wish list.  Maybe, if it was really good, I'd buy it on an impulse.

But, what do you think?
 
In the early days, novels came about as serials.  Serials were books published in magazines much like how TV works today.  Each new "episode" (think chapter) would come out maybe once a month.  The readers were dying to get the next installment.  Readers waited breathlessly for the next copy of The Strand Magazine so they could get their Sherlock Holmes fix or any of a number of other well known authors and series.  But then printing costs went down and the era of the serialized novel evaporated.  It had no place anymore and simply disappeared.

But now we are seeing a new trend.  As new authors try to gain an audience, or maintain their audience between books, many are turning to serialized novels.  The books will eventually be published but, until the book is finished, authors are starting to give readers a jump on their next books.  The era of blogs and email subscriptions has revived this old art and created a new venue for writers and readers to connect on a regular basis.

I think it's great.  I did this with Forever After when I was writing it.  I wrote every week and posted it to my website.  It kept me writing and was rewarding knowing that people were interested.  I loved hearing people ask me when the next installment would come out (there were a couple times when I had to postpone installments due to a heavy class schedule).  I got feedback and the serialization actually helped to mold Justine as I got comments from the woman who is her namesake.

I plan on serializing Book 2 in my series here once the first book gets published.  I hope that it will keep readers engaged and stick in there with me as I finish the book (which is at about 40,000 words right now).

I will keep a list on the sidebar of serialized novels that I find.  Stay tuned and come back often to find more.  Here is what I have so far.

Kirk Allmond
What Zombies Fear

EJ Spurrell
Children of the Halo 
The Liar's Law
Twenty Past Midnight

Yezall Strongheart
Captain Lanie Romein, A.K.A The Ice Queen
 
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Image from blog.twitter.com
Twitter is a valuable resource for a wide variety of people and industries.  For many people, it is a way to keep up with friends, celebrities, authors, you name it.  For others, it is a great networking and marketing tool.  I use it to network, eventually will for marketing, and to rub elbows with other authors or people I find interesting.  It's a great tool.  Except when it's not.

I am a procrastinator by nature.  I bring it to an art form.  If there is a way to be distracted, delayed, or sidetracked, I will find it , utilize it, and waste the rest of the day at the enterprise.  It is not uncommon for me to start cooking, get distracted, and end up burning my food.  Or I forget I put on a load of laundry and let it sit way too long.  Or I forget to do the laundry entirely and end up on the seconds portions of my closet (or decide I just need to buy more socks because, clearly, fifty pairs of socks just isn't enough to tide me over...).  I've been known to spend entire days reading (I get absorbed).

Lately, twitter has been a major sink in my time.  I can write three blog posts in a day, which most people would be baffled at.  "How do you find the time?" they might say.  Well, it doesn't take near as much time as my twittering.  On days when I am actively twittering, I can spend hours on it.  Hours!  And what's worse, I have a hard time convincing myself that I'm wasting my time because I'm networking.  "You need to do this," my subconscious says.  "When you publish your book, you'll need to have a following," it continues, mocking me and my attempts to stop procrastinating and continue editing.  Still, twitter draws me back, enticing me with the line that says "X new Tweets".  I have to check.  I have to know.  I click and get absorbed for another half hour.

I'm not saying twitter is bad.  I love twitter.  I just have no will power.  I imagine it is probably the same as my tendency to eat a bag of chocolates or chips.  Can't stop at just one.  It's always, "Just one more."  Productivity?  Not tonight.  If I'm lucky, I'll continue reading Lichgates by S. M. Boyce.  That's being productive.  Hopefully, I'll have the review up in the next couple of days.  Anything else?  Not a chance.  My browser tab says, "(20) Twitter".  I wonder who tweeted...

 
What's the right price for your ebook?  This is a question I've been asking myself more and more often in the past few days.  I know what I think is too high (75+ % of the paperback price is too much therefore $8 for an ebook of a title that costs $10 in paperback is too much) and I know what I think is too low ($0.99 is too low for a full sized book so long as it is not temporarily on sale).  But what is the right price?  I just don't know.

I've been checking out a lot of new authors recently (a lot of self published because that's what I intend to do myself - I'm just too independent to do things someone else's way).  While I don't think I've seen a self published author list her ebook (I'm using her because a lot of these authors are female) for more than five dollars, the book prices can fall anywhere in the spectrum between free (for promotionals and sometimes the first book in a series to get a reader hooked) to 4.99.

So, I thought I'd do a poll (and encourage people to comment on the why of their pricing schemes and how successful it has been for them.  What do you sell your ebook for?


 
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So, Pass the Links was an idea that a twitter friend of mine came up with.    It is simply a list of some of the authors that follow the blogger on twitter.  I thought it was a great idea and decided to steal it (with her blessing, of course).

Unlike with her posts, I thought I would feature an author with each Pass the Links post.  This week's featured author is Rebecca Hamilton, author of The Forever Girl.  I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would highly recommend reading it.  You can find my reviews on my blog, on Amazon,  and Goodreads.

You can find her book on Amazon.  
Her website is http://www.paranormalfantasybooks.com.
Follower her on twitter: @inkmuse.

A special thanks to A. M. Day (@intheamday) and Samantha LaFantasie (@samlafantasie) (Day for coming up with the Pass the Links idea and LaFantasie for alerting me to it).

Authors and their links:

Samantha LaFantasie, author of Heart Song
Website: http://samanthalafantasie.com
Twitter: @samlafantasie
Book: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/226420

Calen Kat Spindler
Website: http://www.katoninetales.com
Twitter: @katsidhe
Not a published author but her blog is well worth your time.

Carolyn Crane, author of Mr Real
Website: http://authorcarolyncrane.com/
Twitter: @carolyncrane
Book: http://www.amazon.com/Mr-Real-Code-Shadows-ebook/dp/B009YLUFLU/ref=sr_1_7?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1351600324&sr=1-7

S. M. Boyce, author of Treason
Website: http://blog.smboyce.com
Twitter: @thesmboyce
Book: http://www.amazon.com/Treason-Grimoire-Trilogy-paranormal-ebook/dp/B009O3D7WM/ref=sr_1_4?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1351726145&sr=1-4&keywords=treason

 
This is one of those topics that, in the past, would just be about the art of writing.  Or you'd pick a title because you used the phrase in the book somewhere and it was a good representation of the plot.  There are a lot of reasons to pick a book title.  But, I think a lot of people don't consider the digital era when titling their book.  There's more to a book cover nowadays than a catchy cover and a title that draws the eye.  We're in the age of SEOs, Amazon, and eDistributors.  What works on a bookshelf in Barnes & Noble or your local book store might not necessarily work on Amazon or Google.

So, what needs to be taken into account when naming your book?  Searching.  You want a reader that is specifically looking for your book to be able to find it.  If I search for "The Forever Girl", will that be the first thing that Amazon or Google pops up?  Well, I'd hope so, otherwise, you're losing readers that are truly interested.

Now, for some examples.  My friend, Glenda Poulter has a book titled Welcome Home.  From what I've heard, it is a good book, although I have yet to read it.  If you search "Welcome Home" in amazon, it returns 47,372 paperbacks.  I will never find her book that way.  It doesn't even show up in the first 100 search results.  Fortunately, I can find it very easily by searching her name.  But not everyone will remember your name.  They may remember one or the other, but maybe not both.

Another example is Riley J. Ford's Into You, which is on my list of books to read.  "Into You" returns nearly a half a million paperback results, although Ford's book, thankfully turns up first in the search results.  I can't guarantee that this isn't because I've been to that page before, though, as search engines tend to be dynamic.  I couldn't find this book at all on Goodreads.com and had to add the entry for when I eventually reviewed it.  Because the phrase "Into You" is part of a lot more titles that just exactly what I searched, it returned a lot of variations of the title that I didn't want.

I am currently reviewing Heart Song by Samantha LaFantasie.  "Heart Song" returns 24,440 paperbacks.  LaFantasie's book returns 6th in the search results.

So, I'll close with a word of caution.  Do some research before settling on a book title.  See how many titles come back when you search a title you are interested in.  Tens of thousands might not be bad (even The Forever Girl returned nearly nine thousand results), but I would seriously reconsider anything that returned in the hundreds of thousands range.  Be a big fish in a smallish pond, not a zebra fish in an ocean.
 
Twitter is a great tool for writers to get their name out there, get exposure, network with other authors, gain readers, and learn how to better their writing and learn vital skills they need in order to be successful.  But there are also a lot of ways, in our eagerness, that we can end up aggravating our followers and risk people unfollowing us because they're fed up with us.

So, what are some do's and don'ts for marketing on twitter?

So, you've published your book.  You've got it in ebook format on Smashwords.  You want to shout it from the rooftops.  Congratulations.  Now lets use that same creativity that helped you write the book to sell it.  Anyone will tell you that tweeting, "Buy my book.  Buy my book.  Buy my book," over and over again is a terrible idea.  In fact, what I've found (from my experience on the receiving end) is that the best way to go about it is to never even mention it.  Don't mention it.  It's okay to say that your book just got published and is on Smashwords.  Once, maybe twice.  That's cool for those followers that have been waiting impatiently for you to finish.  Remember, if somebody is impatient enough to actually care that you've published your book, they can always check your twitter profile directly for the much awaited update.  For the rest, you need to draw them in.  Think covert, not overt.  

Pick quotes from your book and post them with a link to your book's Smashwords page.  If you want, you can even mention that it is from your book.  I am still undecided as to which would be better, but knowing that it is a quote is important too.  You don't want people to give up on checking your links because they think they are always the same.  By using quotes from your book, you have a massive supply of varied content to pull from.  You could tweet about your book dozens of times a day without actually being repetitive.  This is important.  There is nothing that will lose you followers faster than repetitiveness, especially for a new author that hasn't established him/herself yet with a reader base.

So, you've published your book.  People are reading it.  They're raving over it.  Again, rooftop shouting time, right?  Wrong!  Seems like a good idea at first, but eventually reviews get repetitive and if all you do is retweet your reviews, people will stop listening.  It's okay to retweet good reviews, but be selective.  Pick a few you really like and make it be only a small portion of your tweets.  If you do 30 tweets in a day, maybe retweet one review.

Free books.  Everyone likes free samples.  The quotes thing above falls into this category.  A lot of new writers give away books for people that will give reviews.  I have a growing number of books that I received that way and look forward to getting to all of them.  But it doesn't hurt to come up with little games for your followers to get a free copy.  After all, an ebook doesn't really cost anything to give away.  Selling it on Amazon or Smashwords costs money (from 15-40% of the book cost), but emailing a free copy is easy and, well, free.  A great game that Jacquelyn Frank does is to ask her followers questions from her previous books.  The follower has to find the book it is from. "But I don't have a previous book," you say.  That's fine.  Make them find something from your website or your tweet feed.  The first person to get it right gets a free book.  Free books = word of mouth = great marketing!  People love free and they love to talk about things they got for free.  They give reviews, tell their friends, tweet about it, tell their facebook friends.  In today's world, a single free copy could reach a massive number of potential readers when it comes to exposure.

Give you an example.  I'm just starting with twitter and blogging.  I've only been at it a week.  Today I have 39 followers.  I get about 50 unique visitors to my site a day.  I have only 39 friends on facebook.  So if I assume overlap, I probably reach about 70 readers directly.  Most people have more followers/friends than I do.  If one person retweets or comments on it, that's probably at least doubled the exposure of the book, changing that one free book into exposure to anywhere from seventy to tens of thousands of viewers, depending on the follower.  That type of exposure would cost a lot of money.  More than the average author can afford, for certain.
 
I've decided I'm going to start rating and reviewing the books that I read.  I'm doing this for several reasons.

The first reason is for the authors.  Whether to keep their ratings good because Amazon deletes positive reviews after six months and not negative reviews, to build good ratings of a book in the hopes of building a reader base, or because it just feels good to now you are appreciated.

The second reason is because I am forgetful.  I can't count the amount of times that I have read a book, then months later remembered some anecdote from it or wanted to check and see if the next book in the series was out yet and couldn't remember the book or author.  It's extremely frustrating and I'll wrack my brain for days trying to remember what is, in the end, a pointless exercise in recollection.

Of course, it doesn't help the sheer quantity of books I read in a given time period.  I read an article that said a "prolific" reader reads at least thirty books in a year.  That equates to less than a book a week.  I've read more than that in a three month semester before.  While taking a graduate level class.  And working 50+ hours a week.  Based upon my reading habits, I would say that my read total for a year's time is probably closer to 180+ books a year.  What does that make me?  An obsessive reader?  It's not uncommon for me to finish a book in less than a day.

Now granted, I go through slow periods.  Recently I had a period where I hardly read a thing for a week or more.  I had rotations for graduate school, exams, and papers clogging up my time and simply couldn't free up the time to go anything else.  But after that time, I think I spent three days straight doing nothing but reading and finished maybe six or more books.

I've also gone through spells where I ran out of books I had planned to read in a given genre (I tend to have specific genres I feel like reading at any given time - my current genre is paranormal fiction).  After reading at least fifty books in less than three months, I exhausted every book I could find of NYT bestselling vampire fiction.  I'd had a list of authors I had wanted to read and completely wiped it out and found myself at odd ends not knowing what to read next.  I ended up rereading things.

Well, off to continue reading The Forever Girl by Rebecca Hamilton.  I plan to write the review for that novel on Friday so see ya soon!
 
Piracy is a word that is bandied about a lot nowadays.  You see ads about how piracy is theft and how it is illegal.  As a writer, it utterly baffles me the take the video, music, and book industries as a whole have with regard to this phenomenon.

Piracy didn't start with the internet.  It started with people recording TV shows and movies off of their TVs, copying VHS movies that they rented from Blockbuster, copying CDs and cassette tapes, even recording songs off the radio!

And even when a person gets a hold of something legally, it doesn't necessarily mean that the people responsible for it will get a cut.  A person can legally buy something used or borrow it from a friend.  In fact, to this day, most of my reading is done from books that have seen at least a dozen hands.  Whether that be books I get for a quarter in a yard sale, books I buy for a couple bucks at Edward McKay, books I check out at the library, or books  that go through my mom's book circles.  It was only purchased once, and yet it saw many hands legally.

And really, from personal experience, the people that download illegally would have never bought the book (or other media) anyway, new or used.  Sometimes it is a matter of budget (a teenage or college age student on a low budget).  Sometimes it is a matter of not knowing an author/artist well enough to want to pay full price for it.  Simply, if a person downloads it illegally, it isn't stealing because it would have never been bought to begin with.  It's not taking any money out of the copyright owner's hands.

However, these illegal downloads are not without their merits.  There are many an artist that I discovered, before Napster got shut down, that I would have never found if not for illegal downloads.  It allowed me to sample the music and discover something new without paying (and let's face it, the little snippets that iTunes gives us isn't exactly enough to go by).  That's great, because word of mouth is the single most important form of marketing in the music/book industries.  One satisfied listener/reader might point out the new find to a dozen (or now via Facebook etc, hundreds) of new potential listeners/readers.  That one lost sale could results in hundreds or, via repeated postings from friends of friends and on and on, thousands of sales.  It's free marketing.  In fact, a major Scifi/Fantasy publisher has taken this idea and ran with it.  Thus, the Baen Free Library.  It is a library of, generally, the first book in a series.  It encourages potential readers to download, free of charge, the first book in a series, get hooked, and want to read the rest of them, which, of course, they'll have to purchase.  It's a brilliant idea, especially in a genre that frequently has its readers buying books new because many libraries don't carry them and most used book stores are not large enough to include them.

And to make matters worse, the book industry is killing itself with its handling of the ebook platform.  Many of these formats are only recently starting to figure out that by restricting the transfer of books so severely, they are in fact crippling what has always been an invisible, but very effective means of marketing... borrowing.  I buy a book, like it, let a friend read my copy and then they get hooked.  It might pass into a half a dozen hands before it gets back to me and I sell it to a used book store.  Because of this limitation, I for one, am less likely to buy ebooks because, at least to me, I'm just not getting that good of a deal out of it.  They are too expensive for what you are getting.  There's no real printing cost (I'm not actually getting a hardcopy book that they have to print), I can't lend it out, and I can't sell it to a used book store.  So why are they frequently nearly the same cost as the paperbacks?  It makes no sense.  If the price was more reasonable, the industry would do far better, especially when we are talking about people potentially transferring their collections to a new format.

So quit being so touchy and remember that word of mouth is your best form of free advertising.