Hi Writers. Cami here.

Recently, I was asked to spell out how to do a “virtual book tour,” and rather than write a lengthy email to the person who inquired, I said I’d explain the virtual book tour on our RWB blog here, so everyone can benefit. If you’re peddling a book or even just building your platform for the day you will be peddling your book someday, the virtual tour may be for you. Here goes.

Pug leaves homeThe idea of packing up and hitting the road is exciting. We’ve probably all imagined driving from town to town introducing our books to new readers, but is this the most efficient way to get the word out? What about embarking on a virtual book tour?

What is a virtual book tour, anyway, and why would you want to go on one?

Well, a virtual book tour is you touring with your book, just like you would if you went from one bookstore to another to do readings and signings, only instead of going to brick and mortar locations, you stop at blogs and websites. Instead of engaging with 25 people who show up to a reading, you engage, potentially, with hundreds (or even thousands) of readers of the blogs you choose.

There are many reasons to do a virtual tour. Touring virtually is cheaper and less time-consuming than a physical tour; you may reach exponentially more readers than you might reach in person; and you build a relationship with bloggers or webmasters who may love and support your material for years to come.

So how do you DO a virtual book tour?

Step 1: Make a spreadsheet with 6 columns labeled: website address, contact person, email address, physical address, date contacted, response from blogger. Now, do Google searches for websites and blogs that cover your topic, review books, or would be sympathetic to your book for some other reason. For example, if you’ve written a novel about a teenager with an eating disorder, find blogs about eating disorders, blogs that review books, sites that discuss parenting issues, and blogs that generally cover women’s issues or youth issues. Make your list long and keep adding to it every chance you get.

Step 2: Write a stock inquiry letter that you can alter and customize for each blogger (see one of mine as an example: Blog Tour Example Letter). This letter should start by being complimentary about the site and show that you’ve really familiarized yourself with it. Then it should introduce you and ask the webmaster to feature you or your book. There are several things you can ask for along these lines. You can suggest you do a guest blog on the topic the website covers. You can send a book and ask the webmaster/blogger to read it and offer a review on their site. You can provide an excerpt from the book. You can offer a give-away, where everyone who comments on the post gets put into a drawing for a signed copy of your book. You can ask the blogger to write some interview questions for you to answer. Or you can do a combination of any of these things together.

Step 3: Prepare an author bio, an author picture, a jpeg of your book cover, and links as to where readers can buy your book and/or contact you. When a blogger agrees to feature you, you’ll need to send all of these things to him or her along with whatever you’ve agreed to do for the blog (interview, guest post, actual book, etc.).

Step 4: Be ready to gently prod bloggers who agree to feature you. Bloggers get busy and sometimes don’t follow through without a nudge.

Step 5: Be generous with your reciprocity. Get on the sites of the bloggers who feature you or your book and respond to comments not only about your guest post or review, but also their other posts. Perhaps you can put links to their sites up on your own website or offer a chance for them to guest blog for you. Friend or follow these folks. RELATIONSHIP IS THE NAME OF THE GAME!!!

Step 6: Follow through and follow up. If you’ve promised something, deliver it. Say thank you for the airtime after you’ve been featured. Create good karma for the future.

Ultimately, while the setup of a blog tour is a great deal of work, once you get your ducks lined up, the process can be fairly smooth.

For those of you who don’t have a book out already but who are building your platforms in preparation for your book, you can still work this process. If you have an expertise and want to begin to make yourself more findable so that when you start to pitch your book to agents and editors you can prove you’re “out there,” go for it. You can still offer to guest blog or to do interviews. You can still offer excerpts of the book or give-aways of workshops or other services (if you have something to offer). Be creative and get yourself out there.