Thursday, February 24, 2005

BUY THIS BOOK! A Guided Tour of an Approach to Marketing You Don't Already Know About

One of the reasons I stumbled into the blogosphere a few months back was in hopes of learning more about how other people market their books--online or otherwise. Fact is, when my in-house people promised "web outreach" as a key component of a marketing plan, I never really understood, specifically, what the hell they were talking about; and wondered, on occasion, if there was actually much more to it than making sure posted the right jacket art...

Finally I got up the nerve to start asking my stupid-person questions. Not so long ago MJ Rose at Buzz, Balls & Hype told me about something called a "virtual book tour" that she'd had success with. Huh? Then last week I saw that a company called Virtual Book Tours (VBT) was putting together a "tour" for a novelist named Tom Dolby. Terrific, I thought--but what's that actually mean? What are the mechanics? Who comes to the party, and in what numbers? How much does it cost? And--the big question--does it actually sell any books?

So I went to the source, and asked the author--
Tom Dolby--if he'd give me the low-down. He agreed to provide a first-hand accounting of his "tour," which follows. At the same time, our friend MJ interviewed the man behind Virtual Book Tours, Kevin Smokler; Tom's chronicle, below, serves as a useful complement to MJ's terrific interview, "Betting on Bloggers" --or perhaps it's the other way around? Whatever--point is, even a technospaz (like me) can, by reading these two pieces, come away with a clear picture of what, for the right kind of book, is an exciting and innovative approach to marketing.

One such book is THE TROUBLE BOY, a Bright Lights, Big City-like novel about (to quote PW) "A Yale-educated gay freelance writer [who] navigates the shark-infested waters of Manhattan hoping to score a screenplay deal and a loyal boyfriend." PW concluded that "Dolby's writing is smooth and his flashy scene-setting spot-on. "

I'm pleased to introduce Tom Dolby, who has agreed to take us with him on his journey through the blogosphere--a case study, if you will, of his first Virtual Book Tour.

by Tom Dolby

My debut novel, THE TROUBLE BOY, was published in hardcover a year ago (2/04) by Kensington Books. It's the story of a young man's coming of age in post-millennial Manhattan; considering that it was a first novel--and one with a gay main character, at that--it was a successful launch. It received coverage on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle Datebook section, was excerpted in the New York Times, and was mentioned in both the Page Six column and the Lifestyles page of the New York Post; it was also covered by Publisher's Weekly, Out, The Advocate, Instinct, Genre, and many others. I went on a five-city tour which attracted excellent crowds, in several cases standing-room only. The novel was a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller, a #1 Gay & Lesbian bestseller, and was the highest-selling Main Selection ever of the InsightOut Book Club, shipping more than 5000 copies. In the end the book netted roughly 10,000 copies in hardcover. My website had strong traffic, and I had received hundreds of emails from readers begging me to finish my second novel and/or to come to their hometowns and make an appearance. All in all, a good showing for a first novel.

As I prepared to have my agent go out with my second novel, tentatively titled THE SIXTH FORM--an exploration of the relationships between two teenagers and two adults (one gay, three straight) at a New England boarding school--I felt sure that it had the potential to reach an even bigger audience than did THE TROUBLE BOY. It has become, over the three years I'd been writing it, a complex investigation into (as one friend put it) "the fallibility of personal narrative." In the meantime, though, the paperback publication of THE TROUBLE BOY was approaching...

Everybody knows that trade paperback releases historically receive little or no press; short of publishers putting money into marketing (which, no surprise, only happens for really big books), there is scant fanfare. Yet because of my positive experience with the hardcover--and my desire to build a larger audience for the eventual publication of THE SIXTH FORM--I was determined to find a way to get it noticed.

That's where the the Virtual Book Tour came in. Kevin Smokler, a San Francisco-based literary organizer/editor/writer, came up with the concept of the Virtual Book Tour a few years ago, just as the blogging craze was gathering steam. The idea is this: for a modest fee--far less than a one-month retainer for a good publicist--Kevin "places" his authors on a dozen or so high-traffic blogs over the course of one day. Once he agreed to take me on as a client, he put together a roster of eleven different blogs, all of which would be linked together and accessible from his Virtual Book Tour site, as well as from my author site. He attracted such notable literary blogs--the bold-faced names of the blogosphere, if you will--as The Elegant Variation, Beatrice, Backstory, and Zulkey. To reach the gay market, Kevin booked me on such popular blogs as Towleroad, Bradlands, and OhlalaParis. And just for fun, on Largehearted Boy, an MP3 blog, he had me create a "Trouble Boy mix" of music that I had rocked out to while writing the novel. Kevin set the date of my tour for February 15. Passwords in hand, I started on my journey.

Being a confirmed workaholic, I spent a good portion of the week leading up to the VBT preparing content, writing essays, answering Q&As, and making sure everyone had images of the book cover and an author photo. (So many decisions: Did I send one that was serious? Smiling? Sexy? The beauty of the VBT was that I got to choose.) Aside from a few conversations with Kevin and a tutorial from Mark Sarvas on using The Elegant Variation's blogging interface, everything was done online, via email. Though I am neither, the Virtual Book Tour is a perfect vehicle for misanthropic, interview-shy writers--as long as they're willing to spill their guts over email.

Figuring that the lit crowd likes to read about lit stuff, and the gay crowd likes to read about gay stuff, I tailored the content for each site according to its demographic. For the literary sites, I wrote critical essays, including one on the connections between gay fiction and chick-lit ("Bright Lives in the Big City") and another on what it was like to write in the voice of a straight woman in my new novel ("What It Feels Like for a Girl"). For one of the gay blogs, I wrote a piece called "Just How Real Is It, Anyway?" about the similarities between my life and that of my main character's. I did Q&As with several of the blogs in which they got to pick the questions that would appeal most to their readership. (A favorite from SFist, a San Francisco-based blog: "In your opinion, what's the most debauched club on the scene today?" Hell if I know. Lately, debauchery for me has consisted of drinking too much green tea. Read my novel instead.) Two of the sites took the content into their own hands, and posted reviews that were snarky, yet also astute. At The Elegant Variation, I was the guest blogger for the day; I posted nine entries, from interviews with writer friends of mine to commentary on current events to personal posts, such as one about my second novel arriving on my agent's desk that day. The readers at TEV were a fabulous bunch, a virtual version of the Algonquin Round Table, except that instead of being vicious, they were all unfailingly polite.

After I had posted the majority of my content, the actual day of the tour was relatively low-key. Touring virtually isn't a job for the technologically averse, but I wouldn't say it was all that difficult, either. During the day, I fielded emails, read and responded to comments, and judged contests on two different sites, the winners of which would receive a signed copy of my TROUBLE BOY paperback. I posted an "end of day" entry on TEV around 10pm EST, and I was done.

According to Kevin Smokler, on February 15, 2005, content about me and my book reached more than 50,000 readers; this made my tour the second most successful he has done to date, trumped only by that of novelist/web guru M.J. Rose (and I'll take second place to M.J. Rose any day). What kind of sales did this effort result in? It's difficult to say exactly, but I do know that my Amazon numbers shot way up, and booksellers that I visited in Manhattan over the following several days appeared to be constantly in the process of restocking their copies, so I know it had a positive impact.

More importantly, as an author, I am interested in building a long-term audience. Naturally, I want to sell books, but most of all, I want to create allegiances with my readers, those fans who will continue to buy and read my novels years from now. From the emails I've received and the comments I've read, I know I'm developing a fan base who will tell their friends about my books, will attend readings, and will write about my work on their own blogs. As with much of book marketing, energy begets energy--not simply hype, but that ineffable phenomenon called word of mouth. To be able to create that from the comfort of my laptop, all through the medium of writing, beats sitting behind a table at Barnes & Noble any day.

Click here to order THE TROUBLE BOY, just out in paperback from Kensington Books.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Max and thank you Tom--that was both enlightening and encouraging. This internet thing may yet catch on...

Anonymous said...

There are other, less formal, virtual book tours going on out there as well. For example Girlfriends Cyber Circuit (GCC) tours two authors a month on 18 like-minded blogs by female writers. Its run as an exchange network.

Martha O'Connor said...

Just following up on the above-mentioned Girlfriends Cyber Circuit, which is the brainchild of smartypants Karin Gillespie. If you're interested in seeing what we do, author Jennifer O'Connell is being hosted today on my blog and on Mindy Friddle's.

Ami said...

Another member of the GCC here...

Re: bill peschel's comment...
You're spot on when it comes to your ideas. The GCC now has a nifty logo that some of us use when we're posting a GCC book tour entry. We also have a main page/blog that has links to all the other bloggers in the group. thing I like the most about Kevin's VBT as well as the GCC is the fact that each blogger brings their own ideas and personality to the tour. I was on yesterday's stop for Jennifer O'Connell and chose to incorporate two comments Jennifer had sent me about the topic of my post for the day, "Why Chick Lit Matters". you've read from Tom's play-by-play, postings can fall into a wide range of things - from interviews to guest hosting a blog, to posting book reviews etc. The possibilities are endless! I just hope that the nature of it stays as fun and fresh as it is right now.
The minute someone brands it and turns it into a cookie-cutter machine of book promotion is the minute people will learn to ignore it and it will loose it's appeal.
(Sort of like the 'new' bands you listened to in your university dorm soon as their songs were blasting from every-other dorm room window, you threw the record, casette, CD, away.)

AbbotOfUnreason said...

Wow, that was interesting. Maybe I was overly naive before, but this post really changes my view of blogging and makes me uncomfortable.

I had imagined all those blogs out there to be so much more personal. Now, I'm going to be thinking this about each post I read: "Is this person just trying to sell me something? Is this post a genuine personal reflection or was the content arranged by some unseen agent?" Even our diaries seem to be consumer-driven.

Anonymous said...

You took the words write out of my mouth, taleswapper. Is what started out as a more direct and honest form of communication morphing into its own incestuous world?

Anonymous said...

I have sincere doubts with the model of blogging as "a more direct and honest form of communication," since, disintermediation aside, I don't believe that blogging is inherently more honest than writing for somebody else's publication, no matter how earnest individual bloggers may be, nor do I believe that the diary is the one true format for the blog. But then I have a longstanding beef with the whole "indie vs. sell-out" dichotomy in the first place.

The only way that bookbloggers will have any sort of substantial impact on the publishing industry is to engage directly with it at some level. There is no reason to believe that doing so requires any sacrifice of personal integrity or degeneracy into an "incestuous world."

Anonymous said...

I love this analogy from MJ Rose's blog:

"You're a mom. You take your kid to the ocean. There's a big sign that says lifeguard on duty. You feel great. A lifeguard. That's what you wanted. So you send the kid in swimming. He's having fun. You're having a great day at the beach. And then you see your kid flailing. He's starting to drown.

You know how to swim but you don't know life saving. You came to this beach expressly because there was a lifeguard on duty. A professional who is trailed to save kids. But the lifeguard is saving some other kid and is nowhere to be found.

What do you do?

Hint. You don't f**king stand there.

So if your publisher isn't marketing your book to your liking, do your best to save it on your own.

Anonymous said...

Oops...forgot the end-quotes. That last sentence was mine, not Rose's.

"So if your publisher isn't marketing your book to your liking, do your best to save it on your own."

Anonymous said...

While I think blogs have a purpose - mainly, in my opinion, to give people who have a desire to share their opinions and world view the opportunity to do so in a more public way than ever before - I really question the impact they have on publishing.

There is an incestuous nature to blogs. To me it's kind of like preaching to the choir. Blogs reach out to other bloggers, who tend to be writers. They don't seem to be reaching out to readers. I'm in the Midwest, the suburbs, and I know for a fact the only Internet sites most of my fellow suburbanites go to are those like Flylady, maybe some newspapers, that's about it. They do not spend their time reading literary blogs. Why should they? They don't care that editors allegedly don't edit, or who was snubbed by the National Book Award committee, or who's giving a reading at some very hoity-toity literary salon in Manhattan.

Yet they do read. They still need to be reached by the publishing industry. They're the people you need to have buying your books if you want to have any kind of career.

Blogs are nice, for those of us who are starved for communication with fellow writers, and who want to know more about publishing as an industry. But in my opinion, depending on them to drive sales of books is rather shortsighted, at the moment. The blogs that seem, to me, to be successful in reaching out to readers rather than writers are those that don't dwell on the industry. They talk about the author's life, their mistakes, their everyday ups and downs - things that the majority of their targeted audience can identify with. In other words - just like any good writing - they are written for the reader. Not the writer.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree that "depending on [blogs] to drive sales of books is rather shortsighted at the moment," which is why I don't think any intelligent author or publisher is doing that. Testing blogs, maybe; depending, certainly not. And I think you're absolutely right to question the impact blogs currently have on the publishing industry; I've been asked a number of times in recent months what impact we're having, usually by people who want to position blogs as the vanguard of some sort of revolution or ascribe specifically to bookbloggers the same power attributed to political bloggers, and I tell them honestly that I don't think we have any significant impact right now and that the question really won't be answerable for at least five years, if that.

I consider myself extremely fortunate that what I have to say about literature and publishing is sufficiently interesting to get a couple thousand people to pay just under a minute's attention to me five or more times a week. And if anything I've said persuades them to buy a book, that's great. But that's just a drop in the bucket, and even it you add us all up together, it's...well, it's a bigger drop, maybe big enough to keep an eye on, but I wouldn't presume to say with any confidence that it's a running stream yet. (And, yes, endings like that are why I hate following metaphors through to their conclusions...)

Anonymous said...

Why would an author pay for this? Find a blog you like, email the host, and offer to do an interview. Then drop the link in technorati and work your way up the chain. The only thing VBT brings to this is Kevin's friendships with lit bloggers and writers - and he's asking authors to pay for access, which seems a bit sneaky and un-bloggish to me. I deliberately avoid the tour. If I wanted cliquish, biased pronouncements I'd rely on the NYTBR.

Anonymous said...

Intresting Post
Feel free to visit
Advanced Business Marketing
For mor tips.
Feel free to leave your Comments.

Anonymous said...

Hey, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!

I have a internet marketing plan site/blog. It pretty much covers internet marketing plan related stuff.

Come and check it out if you get time :-)

Anonymous said...

Interesting blog. You make some good points. You might be interested in herbal tea. There's a vague connection to what's been discussed here.

Free Traffic System said...


I am your counter free site traffic web niche member with
href="">Free Traffic System

I offer your to make counter free site traffic web articles cross-change between our web sites.

Kind regards,

Anonymous said...

Tattoo and
Angel tattoos are very popular now a days..

Anonymous said...

laser medical device prevents hair loss

Anonymous said...



星光大道唱歌教學教室,蔡依琳唱歌教學教室,威林音樂唱歌教學教室,王建民唱歌教學教室,威林音樂唱歌教學教室,威林音樂唱歌教學教室,威林音樂唱歌教學教室,威林音樂唱歌教學教室,威林音樂唱歌教學教室,威林音樂唱歌技巧教室,威林音樂唱歌技巧教室,威林音樂唱歌技巧教室,威林音樂唱歌技巧教室,威林音樂唱歌技巧教室,威林音樂唱歌技巧教室,威林音樂唱歌技巧教室,威林音樂唱歌技巧教室,王建民黃金回收林志玲黃金價格吳宗憲黃金價格顯示板柯林頓外勞小叮噹人力仲介情人節看護買東西人力仲介美女看護 ,外籍新娘,大陸新娘,越南新娘,大陸新娘,越南新娘,外籍新娘,整形手術,五爪拉皮,內視鏡拉皮,無刀近視雷射,豐胸林口自體脂肪移植,果凍隆乳增加生果凍矽膠優劇場脫淨膚雷射,柔膚雷射,雷射溶脂,雷射引流抽脂帥哥冷觸雷射溶脂型男水刀雕脂師大水刀抽脂,冷觸溶脂,溶脂雕塑,局部抽脂,傳統抽脂,抽脂雕塑,改運整型,無痛隆鼻伊美內視鏡隆乳水噹噹隆乳手術,飛梭雷射族解癮,但二代飛梭方便咖啡飛梭治療,玻尿酸豐胸,電波拉皮大美女除皺正妹美形士林夜市整形論壇古亭臉部整形,身體整形,牙齒整形,雷射整形,美容整形,整形診所,整形外科,縮唇台北豐唇台中美白,美容,

阿勞斯;其他入酒店經紀六日晚間為酒店經紀他入榜的還酒店經紀,酒店經紀,酒店經紀,酒店經紀,酒店經紀,酒店經紀,酒店經紀,酒店經紀,酒店經紀,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,酒店兼差,酒店兼差,酒店兼差,酒店兼差,酒店兼差,酒店兼差,酒店兼差,酒店兼差本和台灣一直維持著一酒店兼差,年齡最大的則是酒店兼差,酒店兼差,酒店兼差,酒店兼差,酒店兼差,酒店打工,酒店打工,酒店打工,酒店打工,酒店打工,酒店打工,酒店打工,酒店打工,酒店打工,酒店打工,酒店打工,酒店打工,酒店打工,酒店打工法國總統的賀雅爾暫酒店上班模出身的酒店上班,酒店上班,酒店上班,酒店上班,酒店上班,酒店上班,酒店上班發表您的看酒店上班態度,老實說轉變的太大了前些酒店上班,酒店上班可能會帶點政治色彩酒店上班,酒店上班,酒店上班,暑假打工,暑假打工,暑假打工,暑假打工,暑假打工女模的義大利平暑假打工,暑假打工昂豔冠群芳暑假打工,寒假打工,寒假打工,美容整形,整形,雷射美容,臉部整形,雷射整形,整形外科,微整形,醫學美容,臉部整形,雷射整形,整形外科,微整形,醫學美容,臉部整形,微整形,美形,身體整形月收增加 4-8萬,又美容整形,美容,雷射美容,美形,身體整形,美容整形,美容,整形手術,美形,身體整形,整形手術,整形論壇,牙齒整形,整形診所,整形,整形論壇,牙齒整形,整形診所,整形,雷射美容班牙政壇入選者整形論壇,整形診所,

Anonymous said...

您好 與您一起分享有關於黃金回收的

A VOCATION OF UNHAPPINESS [Courtesy Georges Simenon (1903-1985)]

"Writing is considered a profession, and I don't think it is a profession. I think that everyone who does not need to be a writer, who thinks he can do something else, ought to do something else. Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness. I don't think an artist can ever be happy."

PRACTICAL MARKETING [Courtesy Zornhau, 2005]

"They should put the 1st couple of pages up in subway adverts. Having read them several times, you'd feel compelled to try the book - if it was any good."

PLATE OF SHRIMP [Courtesy Alex Cox’s REPO MAN, circa 1984]

"A lot of people don't realize what's really going on. They view life as a bunch of unconnected incidences and things. They don't realize that there's this like lattice of coincidence that lays on top of everything. I'll give you an example, show you what I mean. Suppose you're thinking about a plate of shrimp. Suddenly somebody will say like "plate" or "shrimp" or "plate of shrimp" out of the blue, no explanation. No point in looking for one either. It's all part of a cosmic unconsciousness."