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.
Picture
Example tour banner from Virtual Book Tour Cafe.
Picture
Example tour banner for Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Tours.
Picture
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?
 
The other day I was thinking that, since I write book reviews that drive traffic to places like Amazon, a good way of earning revenue on my website would be Amazon's Associates program, which gives you a percentage for traffic you drive to their site that results in a sale.  I get revenue without annoying my readers with ads.  Win, win, right?

I read all the rules and regs, caveats and addendums, and decided to join.  I started the process, they asked for my address and allowed me to choose my information from my Amazon account, then I got an error.  I didn't realize it was an error at first.  It just wanted me to type in my address and select my state.  My state wasn't listed.  WTF?!?

Okay, no worries.  I'll send an email to them asking about the problem.  This was the response I got:

Hello Danielle,

Because you are located in North Carolina, we are unable to accept your application to join the Associates Program because of unconstitutional legislation enacted in your state. In the event that North Carolina repeals this tax collection scheme, we would certainly be happy to re-open our Associates program to North Carolina residents.

Information about this legislation may be obtained from the Performance Marketing Alliance Website:www.performancemarketingassociation.com.

We appreciate your understanding.

Thank you for your inquiry. Did I solve your problem?

If yes, please click here: 
http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/survey?p=A1XFF90M6HDTXZ&k=hy 

If no, please click here: 
http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/survey?p=A1XFF90M6HDTXZ&k=hn

I wanted to click no, but knew it would only put me through a redundant page-looping hell.  No, you didn't help me.  And, yeah, I found it real amusing that you called it a "tax collection scheme", like North Carolina is a con artist with no right to collect taxes.  Amazon, you're a dick.  I know the "unconstitutional legislation" Amazon is referring to.  And, no, it isn't unconstitutional.  Requiring that Amazon pay the state the taxes it is OWED is not unconstitutional.  Did my state go about it wrong?  Yes.  That doesn't change the fact that Amazon owes the state of North Carolina (and almost every other state in the US of A) hundreds of millions of dollars in sales taxes.  For all I know, it might be in the billions of dollars.  There's no way of knowing.

Amazon, as many people know, works on a loophole in sales tax laws.  Other internet companies work with similar business models, but Amazon is the biggest offender.  Because the company is based in one state and the sale is made in another, the sale falls into this no man's land.  The company is only required to declare in-state sales to its taxing agency.  In these cases, the buyer is technically required to declare all out of state purchases where they did not incur sales taxes.  This never happens.  So, in a revolutionary move, the state of North Carolina passed a law requiring online businesses to pay sales taxes to the state when the sale is made to residents living in North Carolina, regardless of the state the business is based out of.  They have been unable to implement it and, to my knowledge, are probably still locked in a legal battle with Amazon over the new legislation.  I shudder to imagine their next move.
 
I've come to think that a lot of new authors have this erroneous idea of "the editor".  They see an editor as this end all and be all of editing that makes your book perfect and that's that.  I was probably like this at some time as well.  In truth, "the editor" largely doesn't exist - especially for self publishing.  I've known people that published their books through publishers that were completely unsatisfied with their editors assigned by the publishing company.  Some are better than others.  And even then, you should never rely on the editor.  After all, editors are human too. They'll miss some too, so it's always a good idea to put your book in as many hands as possible.

For clarification, I'd like to also eradicate some myths with regarding to the editing process as well.  Editing is not a one step process.  It has many steps and they can seem endless.

Steps to Editing:
  • Writer Edits (and there are many)
  • Beta Readers
  • Copyediting
  • Proofreading

Though I've only mentioned four stages here, you must also understand that the editing process loops back a lot.  So you've finished the writer edits?  Yay!  On to the beta readers.  Beta readers finish?  Back to the writer edits!  On to the copyediting?  Yay!  Then back to writer edits. Repeat as needed.  And you can get stuck in a vicious cycle, looping between copyediting and writer edits (for example) as you try to work with your editor correcting what he or she sees.

By the time you finish editing, you've seen the book so many times you feel like your eyes should bleed and you get to where you really don't like the story anymore.  I got that way a few years ago and have severely rewritten it since then.

So, whether you are self-publishing or going through a publisher, be paranoid about editing.  It will save you from being surprised by a reviewer later.
 
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...

 
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but a list of a few that I saw referenced in a blog and got curious.  I was already seriously considering Smashwords for ebook publishing... still am.  But I thought I would put together a comparison so my reading writers can make their own minds about what is right for them.

Smashwords:

Smashwords has probably become a leader in the Indie ebook publishing market.  They have everything a (and this is the key part) self-motivated  writer needs to get started.  It is the bare bones service it'll take to get your polished manuscript into ebook formats in as many markets as possible.

Pros:
  • Completely free
  • Wide range of ebook formats including HTML, JAVA, ePub, MOBI (Kindle), PDF, LRF (Older model Sony eReaders), PDB (Palm), plain text, and RTF.
  • Wide range of distributors including Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Diesel ebooks, Kobo, Sony Reader Store, Baker & Taylor's Blio.com, Aldiko, Stanza, and, of course, Smashwords.
  • Relatively fast and straight-forward process for converting to ebook formats.
  • The books have no DRMs, allowing for less hassle for your readers.
  • They will give you names of third party vendors to go to that won't break the bank.


Cons:
  • No additional services like cover art, editing, formatting and et cetera.
  • Conversion service is completely automated and relies on the author to get it right (or whoever the writer pays to format the book).
  • The books have no DRMs, increasing the potential for piracy (if you are concerned about that... I am not).
  • Distribution through Amazon is currently down, however a writer can easily publish the book through Amazon's own services reasonably enough so this isn't too much of a hurdle.


FastPencil:

FastPencil has a free service, like with Smashwords, however they also have packages that allow a writer who isn't as comfortable going it on her own to get the services she wants to get her book to her audience.

Pros:
  • Extensive services like custom covers, interior book design, editorial reviews, formatting reviews, and et cetera.
  • Packages can be tailored to match the writers needs.


Cons:
  • Costs $299 to get the same distribution Smashwords give the writer for free.
  • A writer could probably find many of the same services from Third Party Vendors for less, especially if she can negotiate a bartering of services.
  • Can't even get a free ebook unless you pay for a certain tier package.


Your Ebook Team:

Your Ebook Team is a lot like FastPencil in the type of service it gives, although this publisher seems more focused on the success of the writer than milking you for every last dime of your budget.  One of the things I found interesting about this one is that they claim to work with you even after the book is published to make it a success.  This is a one package deal, with variability is cost being largely due to the amount of editing required.  That being said, it doesn't say anywhere on the site how much it costs to use their service.

Pros:
  • Full service from start to finish - by far the most user friendly service.  The writer has no question as to what she needs.  It's all included.
  • 25 complimentary paper books (didn't see that anywhere else).
  • They help you build a marketing plan and implement it.
  • Is both ebook and print.


Cons:
  • I have no idea how much this service costs...


Book Stub:

Not a publisher, but a unique service.  Book stub allows you to sell your ebooks in person by basically selling vouchers with the book cover on it.  Afterwards, the reader can redeem the voucher from a participating service.

Pros:
  • Could potentially boost sales by allowing writers to sell ebooks at events.


Cons:
  • New and limited availability.  Only available on the following imprints: AuthorHouse, Abbot Press, Balboa Press, booktango, Inspiring Voices, iUniverse, Palibrio, Responder Media, Trafford Publishing, and West Bow Press.
 
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?