And Dorothy Thompson is one of those interesting people.
Ms. Thompson approached me about hosting interviews with three authors she's been working with: Shel Horowitz, whom you've already read about; and Sandi Kahn Shelton, who you'll read about on May 15th when she stops by to talk about her book, A Piece of Normal. I'd done a virtual tour before as part of the Dirty Sugar Cookies blog extravaganza, but I'd just filed the whole concept away in the back of my mind. It was in between email exchanges it occurred to me that Dorothy was capitalizing on the ever expanding power of the internet for writers, and it would be interesting to find out how she got into the field of virtual tours and how she goes about setting one up.
Bookseller Chick: Thanks for joining me here today. I want to know more about your company. How did you get started in the business of helping others market their books and how long have you been doing it?
Dorothy Thompson: Thank you for having me! I’ve been learning how to promote books over the Internet for about six or seven years now, partly because I was interested in finding out ways to use the Internet to market my books, but also because I knew that online marketing was going to be the new age of promoting. Being a small press author, I was a little frustrated with how I was supposed to get my books into book stores, using consignment and practically begging to stock me. So, I took to the Internet and, so far, I’ve found out that you can market your book right from the comfort of your home and virtual book tours is only one way of doing it.
In my ebook, A Complete Guide to Promoting & Selling Your Self-Published eBook, I show authors what I’ve found out to be the ultimate experience in online marketing and ways to get your book into top placements in the search engines. Don’t let the title fool you. This works for any kind of published author. For your marketing plan to work, it’s a combination of things you must do and virtual book tours are one of them.
I had heard about virtual book tours and wanted to try it out with my ebook, sort of as a guinea pig, and because I used the methods outlined in the ebook to promote the ebook, my virtual book tour was a success. It’s a lot of work, but it’ll pay off. The main thing you want to do before you even begin a virtual book tour is to zero in on your key search words and use them in every bit of promotional literature you send out. That’s the secret to getting your book into the first page of the search engines for your key search words. For instance, one of my set of key search words (and you should do this with as many groups of key search words as you can) was "promote your self-published ebook". Even today, it’s #1 out of 90,700 without the quotes and #1 out of 985 with the quotes. And anyone can do it.
It was then that I decided to start my own virtual book tours business and I call it Pump Up Your Book Promotion Virtual Tours after my blog, Pump Up Your Online Book Promotion because I wanted to help others do what I did so that they can sell their books, too.
B.S. Chick: I hear you (or in this case, I read you), I’m a huge fan of notes and learning from experience. So tell me, what goes in to putting together a virtual book tour?
Dorothy: The first thing I do when someone is interested in becoming a part of my tours is to send them an application which will have all their vital information so that I can get familiar with their platform and determine where I can place them. For example, there’s the basic stuff like the name of their book, etc., but what I also look for are things like do they have a print book to send to these hosts because in order to get on the high profile blogs, it’s a must. Another thing I do is ask them if there are any particular literary blogs they’d like to appear just in case one of them comes back at me and says, “Well, so-and-so appeared on such-and-such blog; why didn’t I?” There are a lot of factors involved in why some books appear on more high profile blogs and the key factor is whether they have a supply of books to send to these high profile blog hosts. However, I do try to give them the best service I can. Some of my clients have ebooks only, and that’s fine, so we start finding blogs that will take them, but concentrate on ones that are active and ones in which would give my clients some exposure.
The next thing I do is set up a tour page for them here. This is not only for them to see where their tour is taking them, but also as a guide for the blog hosts to refer to in case they want to grab the cover or the author’s picture, or just to find out more of what their books are about.
And, then we get to work.
As each contact is made, I cc the author so that the author, blog host and I stay on the same page. Some of these are interviews, some are guest blogs and some are reviews. It all depends on what the blog host wants. We’re all very flexible.
When a client signs up with me, I go beyond just the tour. I help them set up their blog so that it’s SEO-friendly, teach them about tags and get them to learn about google alerts so that they’ll see how well they are doing as their tour evolves. It’s more of a science to see what happens…we do this, then this happens. It’s fun, though. The authors are real excited and are such a pleasure to work with. I try to answer whatever questions they might have so that it’s a pleasurable experience for everyone.
B.S. Chick: Do you specialize each one to the book involved?
Dorothy: Yes, I do specialize each tour. Someone asked me that the other day. If an author writes inspirational, for example, I aim for bloggers who write the same thing. I like diversity and try not to use the same blogger in a month's time. I have four authors going out next month, and have tried not to double up on any of my bloggers, but sometimes it can't be helped. But, I do try for diversity.
B.S. Chick: You've approached me about working with a self published title and a big house title, does this represent your spread of clients?
Dorothy: Yes, I work with any author who has a published book. That's the difference between me and those other guys. I used to hate it when a high-trafficked blog would turn me down because I wasn't with a big house. I guess it's my pet peeve. It doesn't matter who you are published with. An author is an author.
B.S. Chick: Why do a virtual tour? How can this affect the success of an author's book?
Dorothy: Why do a virtual book tour? Many reasons, actually. When you do a tour in a bricks and mortar house, how many books do you sell? Let's say you've sold maybe ten. Well, that's not bad, but look at what you have to go through? There's gas, there's getting ready, there's tension. Over the Internet, you can do the same thing and the only one going through all the tension is me, lol. There's a lot involved when you have four authors going out in one month, especially since this is really the first real month that's going to test me as to whether I can do it or not. I've had blog hosts turn me down; I've had blog hosts think it's the neatest thing since Cheez Whiz.
The successes, though, are the things that really keep me going. I am so excited when I get to email an author and tell her/him that I've got them on so-and-so blog. And, the strange truth of the matter is, most of these authors wouldn't have been able to do it themselves for one reason or another. It's really strange that if you go through a third party like myself, people respond faster. But, wouldn't you? If an author emailed you, you might do it, but if a publicist emailed you, your subconscious figures that this author must be really serious if they've hired outside help, you know? And I love playing publicist. I've worn the author's shoes and I know what they feel like, so this really helps me to help other authors. I know their frustrations. I know their fears of losing a publisher if the sales aren't there. If I can make a difference, then that's all that matters to me anyway.
I do want to mention another reason for going on a virtual book tour. If you are touring bookstores, you're there maybe a couple of hours. When you do tours online, what happens is that whatever blog you are on, it doesn't matter where or with who, your tour will be archived indefinitely in the search engines as long as the blog host keeps it in their archives. This builds up your online presence which is going to work in your favor. Let's say you appear on 20 blogs for this. Well, that's 20 more links you'll have in the search engines, which raises your presence there. I've done studies on SEO and I tested it out with a couple of free ebooks that my writing group and I wrote and I managed to get the last two we did in the number one spot in the search engines in one day for our particular key search words. It's actually fun watching it happen. It doesn't happen miraculously. It takes a lot of hard work, but the end result is what is going to sell books. ;o)
B.S. Chick: Thanks, Dorothy, for stopping by and explaining why virtual tours can help an author out. So what do y'all think, are virtual tours worth it? Have you ever picked up a book after reading an author's interview or guest column on a blog?
If you have any questions for Dorothy about her business and virtual tours in general, leave it on this thread and I'll pass it along.