There are lots of reasons why self-published and indie authors should consider using a blog tour to raise their profile as and author and sell more books:
- blog tours introduce a self-published book to a new audience who otherwise may not have come across it
- they provide a new angle on the book that complements the background work already done on the author’s website, Amazon page, etc.
- they are positive, because if the blogger wasn’t well-disposed towards the book and the author, they wouldn’t have them on their blog
- they often include author interviews, allowing the writer to come out from behind the cover, adding another element of interest
- they’re a comfortable, controlled route to publicity that will suit even the shyest, most retiring of authors
- they provide a news story that the author can include on their own blog and social media, without retreading old ground
- they’re interesting and stimulating to the author, encouraging him or her to consider their work from new perspectives
- they provide a feel-good factor for both guest and host – good karma, whether the host is a book reviewer (and so is constantly on the look-out for interesting new guests) or an author (to whom the guest may like to return the favour, whether by sending new guests to the host via their own social media connections, or by offering a guest spot on their own blog in return)
Interesting Range of Formats
Guest posts can take a variety of formats, from simply publishing a guest post written exclusively by the guest, to a conversation between guest and host in the form of a Q&A or an interview, to a straightforward review of the guest’s book. A tour blending a mix of these will be even more powerful, because it will be more interesting for current fans of the author to take the whole tour. I guarantee that on a well-planned blog tour, even the most ardent follower of an author will find out something they didn’t know about the author and the book, adding to their enjoyment.
If you’re planning a tour, don’t assume that you will instantly see a spike in sales (although you will if you’re lucky). Bear in mind that before a customer buys anything, including a book, advertising experts deem that the customer needs to have seen the product at least half a dozen times before making a purchase. So don’t assume your financial investment in a tour will be offset by immediate sales.
What you can be confident of is that you and your book will have a higher profile, making future purchases more likely. What you’ll also do, if you follow the correct etiquette and respond pleasantly to anyone who comments on your guest posts, is make interesting new friends, attract more followers, and fuel that all-important factor: word of mouth recommendation, which is ultimately the best selling tool that any author can hope for.
Tailor-Made to Match Each Blog’s Purpose
From my point of view for this Off The Shelf blog, I’m always happy to host authors I admire on my Off The Shelf blog, provided that they bring with them some interesting insights into the promotion of their book, which is what my readers expect to find here. If you’re considering hosting a post, make sure it fits in with your blog’s purpose, or you’ll confuse and deter your own readers. A good blog tour, whether you’re paying a specialist to set it up for you or organising it all on your own, should be a win-win situation.
I definitely feel I’m on to a winner today when I introduce today’s guest on the blog: the historical novelist Lucienne Boyce and her wonderful novel To The Fair Land – one of the best novels I’ve read all year. Gripped by its story from the first page, I’ve been recommending it to friends ever since, thrusting it upon my husband the minute I’d finished it and buying copies for friends as birthday presents.
If Lucienne Boyce’s name sounds familiar, it’s because I also blogged about her earlier this week, in a piece on memorable book launches. In that piece, I was referring to the recent launch of her non-fiction history book, The Bristol Suffragettes. Read on to find out how she combines her roles of novelist and historian, and how her historical knowledge fuels her book promotion activity.
Interview with Lucienne Boyce, author of To The Fair Land & The Bristol Suffragettes
Debbie: When I first read To The Fair Land (in paperback), I was immediately immersed in the atmosphere of your setting – and again whenever the setting changed throughout the book. They are multi-sensory evocations of wherever the action is set. How do you get “into the zone” for writing about your setting? I’m imagining you sitting in a study packed with historical artefacts – or combing historic streets with a notebook and quill pen under your arm, popping into a Coffee House to note down your observations.
Lucienne: Thank you, what a lovely comment. Well, I’m more of a combing historic streets with a notebook sort of a writer. I do sit in a packed study – it’s packed with books! – but there’s a point where book research is enhanced by getting out and about. I like to walk in my characters’ footsteps as much as possible, and for Ben Dearlove (the hero of To The Fair Land) who lived in eighteenth-century Bristol that’s very easy to do, as there is so much of it left. Much of Clifton was built in the eighteenth century, and there are many buildings around the city Ben would have seen every day – churches, streets, inns.
I also use visual material a lot, such as paintings (landscape, portraits and interiors), drawings, cartoons and prints. I go to historic houses, museums and art galleries, and whenever I visit anywhere I write in my diary about it. So, for example, in To The Fair Land, some of my images of the ship were drawn from actually going on board the replica of Captain Cook’s ship The Endeavour, which came to Bristol a few years ago.
Debbie: The notion of a voyage to an undiscovered world is a timeless theme in fiction that will, I suspect, be forever fascinating to readers. (I’ve been following with interest the current news story about thousands of volunteers applying for places on the proposed one-way trip to Mars.) Clearly the paradise that your voyagers discover is fictitious – but how much is that part of the story based on fact, and when did the belief in the existence of such a land start and end?
Lucienne: Yes, I wondered about putting my name down for Mars but was worried they wouldn’t serve decent tea… The paradise in To The Fair Land is based on ideas about the existence of the Great Southern Continent (or Terra Australis Incognita), a great landmass which people believed lay in the southern hemisphere. The idea dated back to the fifth century BC, and it spawned many weird and wonderful legends – of a land populated by people with only one enormous foot, for example, who would sit with their foot above their heads to ward off the heat of the sun. Many explorers went looking for the Continent – and of course wanted to claim it and its potential riches for their own nation – but it was Captain Cook who finally proved that it does not exist.
Debbie: What other fictional, undiscovered worlds have you enjoyed reading about in other writers’ works? (I’m a big HG Wells and Jules Verne fan myself.)
Lucienne: I was very keen on Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, and another of his stories I was very taken with was The Horror of the Heights, in which an aviator travels high into our atmosphere and discovers a world full of monsters. For voyages to lands on the hinterland of knowledge, you can’t beat the stories of William Hope Hodgson. You’ll never read anything else like them: I’m a huge fan of his work. Then there’s the work of my hero, William Morris – the quest in The Well at the World’s End, for example, which is very much based in the tradition of Arthurian and courtly, magical quests. I feel very rooted in work like The Mabinogion, those ancient Welsh legends where the “real” everyday world collides with the fantastic.
I very much enjoyed The English Passengers by Matthew Kneale – the Garden of Eden is, of course, the ultimate quest, whether you call it Camelot, El Dorado or even the Fair Land! One of my favourite books is Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirlees, in which the prosaic people of Lud deny the existence of Faery beyond their borders. And when I was researching To The Fair Land, I read some wonderful seventeenth and eighteenth-century other-world fantasies, both dystopian and utopian. They included a fascinating play called The Antipodes by Richard Brome, in which Peregrine Joyless is cured of his obsession with travel books by being tricked into thinking he’s travelled to the Antipodes, where everything is topsy turvy (or arsy-versy as the wonderful seventeenth-century expression has it!) – men do the needlework and women have the fun, lawyers work for nothing, poets are paid for their work, thieves are rewarded and their victims punished.
Of course a lot of modern fantasy stories are about journeys to distant lands – Elfland in Lord Dunsany’s The King of Elfland’s Daughter, Robin Hobb’s The Live Ship Traders and Rain Wild Chronicles, Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. And then there’s science fiction, boldly going where no one has gone before…there are so many wonderful worlds to discover in our reading.
Debbie: I enjoyed reading the paperback because its clever design and layout worked in tandem with your prose to create the atmosphere of the age – the playbill, for example, at the front, and the choice of typeface. How did you achieve this? Was it possible to emulate it at all in the ebook?
Lucienne: I owe the look of the book to the team at SilverWood Books who did a fantastic job. I wrote the playbill – it’s actually an integral part of the text as it sets the opening scene – and it is based on playbills of the era. SilverWood laid out the book, and chose the fonts, the paper, the line spacing and so on, as well as designing the cover. You know good book design when you see it because it’s just right – it isn’t flashy or showy, it enhances rather than detracting from the text. If anything, SilverWood have excelled themselves with the design of my non-fiction book, The Bristol Suffragettes, published this summer. Obviously reading a book on an ereader is a different experience from reading a print copy, but I think the playbill works well in the eversion.
Debbie: Would you swap living in your beloved Bristol for life in the Fair Land of your novel?
Lucienne: If I could still write I would!
Debbie: You are clearly very moved by a sense of place yourself, being drawn to geographical sites where you can literally be in touch with history. Are such moments the trigger for your writing, or do the ideas start in your head and you find the places later to substantiate your imaginings?
Lucienne: It’s true that I have a strong response to places, and they do often trigger an idea for a story. I might be out walking or visiting somewhere and I’ll get a sense of the people who once lived there…it’s almost like seeing ghosts and wanting to tell their stories somehow. I find it hard to write about someone unless I can see him or her in their place. For example, the story I’m currently working on – about a Bow Street Runner who is in Somerset investigating a murder – is set in a fictionalised version of Wellow, near Bath, which I call Barcombe. Now, I can see Barcombe and I can see Dan moving about in Barcombe and sometimes it’s like watching a film and writing it down. Which sounds a bit precious, I suppose, but that is how it can feel.
Debbie: Reading the book gave me a new appreciation of the history of Bristol, and of Covent Garden too. What other places have sparked your imagination/might crop up in future novels?
Lucienne: North Wales. I’m half Welsh – my father was Welsh – and its legends and landscape mean a lot to me.
Debbie: I wasn’t at the launch party for To the Fair Land, but I was there at your subsequent launch of your excellent non-fiction book, The Bristol Suffragettes – another book that changed the way I looked at Bristol and which triggers a powerful sense of place. I’ve written elsewhere about the great sense of atmosphere at that launch. Did you do something similar for the launch of To The Fair Land, to get readers in the right frame of mind?
Lucienne: I was thrilled to hold the launch of To The Fair Land in Goldney Hall because it is mentioned in the book. And because there’s a voyage at the centre of that book, I wanted to celebrate that in a fun way, so I put together little goodie bags with nautical gifts – silly trifles like key rings and tiny ships in bottles. I bought some of them in Brittany, in one of those funny little maritime souvenir shops they have there. I put in recipe cards – burgoo, lobscouse, macaroons and so on – and everyone got a ship’s biscuit. Luckily for them, it wasn’t one of the several-times-baked, bug-infested biscuits the sailors would have had to eat, but a nice choccy biccy! (Apparently some of the beetles tasted quite peppery and gave flavour to the stale biscuits.)
Debbie: Supposing that The Fair Land really had existed and been discovered – how different might the modern world be now as a result? Is there an alternative history novel waiting to be written about the outcome? I’m thinking here of books like Alison Morton’s alternative history novel Inceptio, set in Roma Nova.
Lucienne: Alison’s book is on my reading pile and I’m really looking forward to reading it…I do have an idea for a sequel to To The Fair Land which I suppose could be viewed as an alternative history of a sort, in that it would be about changing the shape of the eighteenth-century world and after. Sadly, though, I suspect it wouldn’t be all that alternative. As one of the characters in To The Fair Land says, “What do you think happens to a land when it has been discovered? What do you think it becomes once it has been exposed to our greed and cruelty?” Would the Fair Land change that pattern of history? I don’t yet know…when I’ve written the book I’ll let you know! Though I can’t say when that will be – as I mentioned, I’m working on another eighteenth-century story at the moment, and there is a suffragette-era story hoving into view…
Debbie: Oh good, I’ll look forward to reading both of those! Any fellow authors reading To The Fair Land will find your evocation of the London publishing scene in that era fascinating – the crush in the bookshop hoping to get the latest book, the laborious printing process, the extraordinary efforts to illustrate them – so unlike the 21st century publishing technology. Which age would you rather be writing in and why? Which aspects of that historic London publishing world most appealed to you?
Lucienne: I wanted to have a bit of fun with this really, because I sometimes suspect that we’re going back to an eighteenth-century model, for example with the return of the subscription-model of publishing in the form of websites on which you can raise funding for your novel. The bestsellers, hacks, and plagiarists are always with us too, bless ’em. And I think in both ages publishing was a crowded world, with more books churned out than people could read. Lord Chesterfield wearily greeted a new instalment of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire with the words “another damned fat book”.
On the other hand, if you view literature as a number of conversations going on between different groups, then the fact that there are so many books is a wonderful thing – there’s something for everyone! It’s an appealing theory you can read about in So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance by Gabriel Zaid, translated by Natasha Wimmer.
There’s one aspect of the eighteenth-century novel publishing scene I’m drawn to, and that’s the world of the woman writer. There are many, many forgotten female novelists, and many of them were literary pioneers working in sometimes very hostile conditions. They are the mothers of the novel, and I’d have been proud to be numbered amongst them.
On the whole, though, I think I’d rather be writing in this age. There’s better lighting, heating and sanitation.
Thank you for inviting me on to your blog, Debbie. I loved answering your thoughtful questions.
Debbie: Thank you, Lucienne, it was a pleasure to talk to you and find out more about one of the best novels I’ve read this year, and I hope that my readers will not only learn from your guest post how interesting and constructive guest posts will be, but will also be persuaded to buy To The Fair Land!
- Those still not convinced that it will be a rollicking good read might like to check out my book review here.
- If you’d like to know more about Lucienne Boyce, visit her website at www.lucienneboyce.com.
- To be among the first to know about her future books, follow her on Twitter at @luciennewrite.
If you are a self-published author or indie writer who would like to be a guest on this blog, please send me a message via the contact form, suggesting a particular aspect of book promotion that you’d be happy to share with Off The Shelf’s readers.