The days of the all-expenses-paid, nationwide book tour are a thing of the past. Today, smart indie authors can maximize their publicity with a well-planned virtual tour of the blogosphere. Generally, a tour lasts about two weeks with an author “visiting” a new blog every day, while promoting each stop on social media. Whether an author chooses to hire a publicity professional to book a tour, or decides to go it alone, a virtual book tour is increasingly an important part of the publication process.

Research and Outreach

A blog tour starts with a lot of research. An author can usually aim to begin planning at least three months before her book’s publication date. The first step involves making a list of 50 blogs that might be interested in her book—this can be for a book review, a question and answer segment, an excerpt, a book giveaway, a webinar, a guest post, or a combination of these.

Publicist Caitlin Hamilton advises authors to read the blogs before they pitch. “If the blog fits your audience, how do you feel about the actual reviews and other coverage?” she asks. “Is their tone and philosophy of reviewing a fit for you?” Authors will likely have a good idea of the types of blogs that will be appropriate, but should think outside the box—a memoir about an author’s experience with Lyme disease might work on a parenting blog as well as on a healthcare site related to the illness, for example.

Once an author has identified her target blogs she can begin to interact with them—posting comments, tweeting, and linking to them on social media. This raises an author’s online profile and can make bloggers more inclined to at least reply to a future inquiry.

Pitch and Promotion

Next, authors should prepare a short, professional pitch tailored to each blogger. Pitches tell bloggers a bit about the book, why it may be a good fit for their site, and conclude by asking if they would consider being a stop on the tour. There are many useful online templates to guide authors through this process. Follow-up materials are important to have prepared in the event an inquiry is successful—this can include a PDF of the book, a high resolution image of the book cover, an author photo and author bio, and a short description of the book. If just 14 of the 50 bloggers approached are interested, an author will have laid the groundwork for a two-week book tour. Authors can then work with each blogger to ensure they have the content they need.

Promoting the tour on social media is key. An author should tweet links to each blog post as it goes up and link to the posts on her own blog or Facebook.

As a final step, the author should track what kind of posts and which blogs were the most popular in preparation for future tours. “A blog tour should be part of an overall marketing strategy,” says Hamilton. “A writer needs to consider how the blog tour fits into meeting his or her overall goals.”

Additionally, it's important for writers to be realistic about the potential benefits of virtual book tours, according to Nereyda Gonzalez of YA Bound Book Tours.

"I think the most important factor when booking a book tour or book blitz is to have realistic expectations and to not expect to be skyrocketed into immediate success" Gonzalez says. "Bloggers are a great resource at spreading the word and sharing their love for books and book tours and blitzes provide the perfect outlet for this. If bloggers and readers love the story, we will do everything we can to spread the word."