Let’s now look at the way in which you narrow down your choice of organizer by applying a 4-stage process. I'm going to assume you've made a list of the operators who offer tours that more or less match your requirements calculated using the above.
Here are some key areas to investigate when making your choice.
Track record Ignore their testimonials because you can never be certain of how genuine they are. Look at previous book tours and try to see what stops the organizer's sent the writers to. By all means ask the organizer for this information but don't be surprised if you’re firmly refused an answer because giving you a full list of their contacts kind of negates the need for their services, after all!
Most important about these stops is to ascertain:
- Roughly how much traffic they get. which you do by checking a traffic counter (if they have one), by basing it on how many 'Facebook friends' they have or by ascertaining how many of their posts have attracted comments. While no-one can promise you sales, the organizer should be able to guarantee you exposure and you aren't going to get that if only a small number of visitors actually view the blogpost.
- How relevant is the genre of the blog in relation to the books that are promoted there? It doesn't matter that the genre of the blog you’re looking at doesn't suit your book (unless you know for certain that this is one of the tour stops), it just matters that the organizer has sufficient contacts and has taken appropriate care when fixing up the tour stop for the other author’s book.
- Whether the book is properly presented - i.e. the text is nicely formatted, the links to the purchase pages and the author's blog are properly functional and that the blog-page is navigable from the home page.
If any or all of these are substandard, dismiss the organizer and move on.
Specify your minimum requirementsDraw up a specification in terms of what type of blogs you wish to appear on and include a statement as to the minimum level of traffic which you'll consider. For example, this might take the form of how many Facebook friends the blogmaster has to have or whether the blog is updated daily - another good indicator of how busy it's likely to be.
State your genreA busy tour organizer will be arranging fixtures for a multitude of books and it may well not be obvious which genre yours belongs to, especially if your cover doesn't contain a subtitle such as 'A swashbuckling historical romance' or 'Book 3 in the Planet Zombie series'. Thus (taking a literary classic as an example) a book titled 'Robinson Crusoe' showing a male face and a backdrop of a tropical island might well be assumed to be a travel guide. It's easily done and you'll tie yourself up in knots afterwards arguing as to why your book was advertised in the wrong place.
PaymentsThe organizer will want paying - that's only reasonable - but it's not true to say that they do all the work at the outset. They do the majority of the work before the tour starts but a lot of it is winged once you're underway. Try offering stage payments - e.g. 25% with order, 50% a day or two before the tour starts and the remaining 25% once all the blog spots have been filled.
There's nothing like a good old-fashioned cash incentive to persuade people to deliver on their promises.
List out these requirements in an email and forward it to your chosen contenders and see what they say. By all means include a 'softener' such as "I'd be pleased to hear your proposals which either match or provide a good approximation to my stated requirements." That doesn't (or shouldn't) close any doors.
Not only is your blog tour an expensive outlay, it's your debut and you'll never have a second one. I'm not suggesting tour operators are dishonest in any way but they do get very busy and, like any human, can be prone to cutting corners. Just make sure that's it's not you they do it to.
Clive West is co-owner of indie publisher Any Subject Books and you can see more about them on their website or on Facebook. He has also written a full-length novel called The Road and a collection of short stories with twists in their tails called Hobson's Choice. Both are available on Amazon with Hobson's Choice being produced in paperback format as well as Kindle.