Fully Booked: A Look into Online Blog Tours
By Caitlin Davies, Danielle Hernandez and Georgia Rees
As our reading habits continue to be shaped by social media bloggers and trends, online blog tours have emerged as a new marketing and publicity strategy. Whether the goal is to captivate a new readership for a debut novel, or keep fans coming back for more, blog tours are becoming a popular method of creating lasting connections with book lovers.
What are online blog tours?
Without having to worry about factors such as travel costs, event spaces and physically touring the country, blog tours offer a flexible means of promoting a new title. A blog tour often takes place over the course of a week or a fortnight, where a newly published book virtually ‘tours’ around several online book blogs and social media platforms. Tours often take place before or on the release date of a book.
Who is involved?
Marketing and publicity teams will pitch the book to a select group of bloggers that are either familiar with this promotional format, or that frequently review titles of a similar theme or genre. Participating bloggers usually share a review, but content can vary from author interviews, exclusive content or extracts, and even giveaways. Blog tours make an ideal campaign for targeting a specific readership, especially if a blogger already has their attention.
Cecily by Annie Garthwaite
Blog touring was a key strategy for the marketing and publicity team behind Annie Garthwaite’s debut novel Cecily. For two weeks, from 29 July to 11 August, Cecily toured fourteen ‘bookstagram’ accounts in a publicity stunt organised by the team at Viking Books, an imprint of Penguin UK. The tour commenced on 29 July, coinciding with the release of Cecily in bookstores and online. Continuing to heavily market and publicise the book in the fortnight after the release day ensures that potential readers can immediately go and purchase the book in bookstores. The symbiosis between online and bookstore marketing means that readers can easily find the book when they arrive, with the assistance of lavish stained-glass window displays, and dedicated Cecily feature tables. A two-pronged marketing approach – via visual marketing and online engagement – means that potential readers cannot fail to notice Cecily.
Cecily also toured across many online blogs during the same period, allowing for even more in-depth longform reviews. Each blog post included a ‘Meet the Author’ segment, providing a more personal side to the book, and highlighting Annie Garthwaite as a new face in historical fiction. A few blogs were also provided with exclusive excerpts from Cecily by the team at Viking, functioning as a hook to offer readers a taste of the book.
Blog touring is a successful strategy to attract readers to a debut author who lacks the committed readership of well-established historical fiction writers such as Hilary Mantel and Bernard Cornwell. Both prior and during the blog tour, publicity for Garthwaite, including a feature in The Telegraph, suggested that Annie Garthwaite could be the new Mantel. This was also mentioned in a few Instagram posts in the tour. Using predominantly historical fiction blogs and Instagram accounts to market Garthwaite’s debut novel to Mantel’s already established readership acts as a trusted recommendation, holding almost as much weight as an acknowledgement from Hilary Mantel herself.
Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Sophie Cousens
Another great example of this successful marketing strategy can be found in the recent blog tour for Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Sophie Cousens, the best-selling author of This Time Next Year, published by Cornerstone imprint Arrow.
Employing a slightly different tactic than the marketing team behind Cecily, Arrow chose to start their tour before the publication date. Beginning on Monday 23 August, this blog tour was a week in by the time the ebook came out on September 1 and still with plenty of time before the paperback version is set to launch on November 11, building anticipation for the release. A particularly effective tactic for an author like Sophie Cousens who has already begun to establish themselves within the genre. Each blog post and Instagram caption reminded readers to pre-order their copy so they wouldn’t miss out, building those all-important pre-order sales which can often lead to booksellers investing more into marketing the physical book when it arrives in stores.
This marketing strategy also takes advantage of well-established sites and accounts to further expand a book’s readership. Virtual stops along this two-week tour, included bloggers like @beverleyhasread who was a fan of Cousens, describing her as “one of my go-to rom-com writers” after taking part in the blog tour for her debut novel last year, and @overtherainbowbookblog who offered a different perspective as someone who was unfamiliar with Cousen’s style but “look[s] forward to reading more from this author in the future.” This cleverly gives trusted recommendations for both returning fans of the author’s work and newcomers.
Blog tours are a fantastic way to reach a wide range of readers. With the global pandemic still casting a shadow of doubt and complicating in-person events, the more intimate blog tour format has become crucial in recent months, giving marketing teams an alternative approach to creating buzz around a new release.