How to use a blog tour, social media, and an email newsletter to launch a YA novel
Last updated 03 April 2023
Written by Jin Wang
Note from Jin: In today’s guest post, I asked Rachael to discuss her recent book tour, using social media, and the importance of email newsletters. For any author wanting to build a social media presence, have a look at the fun Rachael has on Twitter. Seamlessly connecting with both publishing peers and her #SparkArmy. Of course check out her website: rachaelcraw.com *wink*
One of the main marketing tools that my publisher used to help promote ‘Spark’ and ‘Stray’ was a blog tour. Most YA publishers keep a database of YA book bloggers and when they have a new book coming out they send a press release inviting bloggers to apply to be part of the book tour.
Why a blog tour?
Good online marketing is a bit like fishing: getting the right message, to the right people, in the right place. YA readers hang out online, joining groups and listening to recommendations. For publishers and authors arranging the tours themselves, blog tours a fairly low-cost strategy. The key is to make sure you’re touring on blogs that have the right audience.
How a publicist organises a blog tour
The ‘Spark’ and ‘Stray’ blog tours included 14 YA book bloggers mostly Australian and a couple of Kiwis. They each received a promo pack which included a copy of the book, background info on the author, book marks and details about the timing of the release and the tour.
My publicist then asked me to put together a list of topics I would like to talk about on the blog tour. This list was sent to the participating bloggers and they could choose one of those or suggest a topic of their own that they would like me to write about or they could submit their own interview questions.
Cave-dwelling and GIF harvesting
Almost two months out from the release date the bloggers started reading and the list of selected topics came in. For both tours I went into a cave for a couple of weeks, writing guest blog posts. I generally kept them short around 600 words with lots of visuals, photos/gifs harvested from the Internet to keep the text entertaining.
As I completed each blog post/interview I sent them to my publicist who then organised the order of the tour. She notified the bloggers who then scheduled their posts to appear on their given day. The tour ran in the week prior to the official release date of the books with 2 bloggers scheduled for each day.
Assets vs. Expenses
Blog tour posts or interviews are also more of an investment than an expense. Beyond the event, these posts stay available online and can be found and read for years to come – unlike a physical store event.
Most bloggers participating in each tour read the book, wrote an unbiased review, included background author information, links to find me on social media and links for purchasing the book. They also included my guest post/interview.
Topics for guest posts and interviews
I wrote about things like:
- What inspired me to write
- My writing process
- Learning to manage social media
- Learning to deal with reviews
- My favourite authors/movies/music
- Influences and inspirations
- Fantasy casting for a movie version of the book
- Identity/free will/choice
- Creating an authentic voice
- How to write a series
- Plotting verses pantsing etc…
Note from Jin: For more ideas, check out my ‘12 Ideas that turn fans into loyal true fans’.
Big social media days
Each day of the blog tour was a big social media day waiting for the posts to go live, sharing the links on FB and Twitter and responding to comments as they came in.
Some of the bloggers have hundreds of followers and others have smaller numbers but potentially the coverage is wide ranging. This means hundreds of YA fans probably saw the cover for my book, the reviewer’s rating for my book and if they were interested enough they may have even read the review and my blog post and clicked some links.
Engaging with readers and bloggers has been a big part of the experience of being published.
I know it’s not every author’s cup of tea but I have really enjoyed it. You can check out the blog tour for ‘Stray’ here.
Subscribing fans to an email list
For the ‘Stray’ tour I included a new link with my guest posts inviting readers to subscribe to my newsletter.
Thanks to Jin and Co who set this up for me I am now on my way to building a database of contacts. Jin and Co gave me training for how best to use my newsletter to connect directly with my readers and they updated my website with links on each page so readers can easily ‘Subscribe’.
Email vs. Social
More important than social media reach is ownership. Your website, and your email list is yours. You own it. Your followers on Twitter? You don’t own these contacts. Twitter does. As an author, your primary goal isn’t getting followers on social media – it’s to get your social fans to subscribe to a database you own.
Adding a subscription newsletter to my website was a great next step for me as I just had Jin and Co update my website to WordPress. My News Page acts as a blog where readers can comment on my posts, offering another means of engagement. I probably should have gone straight for WordPress from the beginning but I was fairly overwhelmed by social media when I first started out as a published author, I wasn’t sure that I would be able to manage it. Now that I am feeling more relaxed and confident managing these things, they have become useful tools.
At this stage I am planning a quarterly email for my readers that will offer them something special, either snippets of my work, a video greeting, competitions or prizes, general updates on the world of the Spark trilogy. If other unique events/opportunities/competitions pop up I may send out one off newsletter notifications.
Advice for those starting in online promotion
The most important thing about using social media is engagement. Don’t panic. Take your time, see what works for you.
Blog tours, social media and newsletters may seem like a lot of things to deal with but if you are just starting out don’t panic. Take your time, see what works for you.
The most important thing about using social media is engagement. It is much more effective than pushing your work with: BUY MY BOOK NOW type posts.
Almost all of the bloggers who first participated in the Spark blog tour have remained my internet buddies. Several of them went on to become a part the #SparkArmy (a Goodreads group of enthusiasts who use the hashtag to promote my work.) Their friendship and support has been a great encouragement to me.
Note from Jin: With Rachael generously sharing her experience, I hope this was both informative and inspiring. When your book’s ready to be published, where does it all start? With a professional author website. I’d love to help you get online with a distinct identity you can call home.