Here are five essential skills required to pull off a successful, well written virtual tour. They cover both the planning for and organizing of it, as well as the actual writing for it. Let’s examine them one at a time and compare them to writing a good book.
1. Planning Ahead. Virtual tours don’t organize themselves. You do it. You do all the work. And I do mean work. Lots of it and way before the proposed opening date. I recently went on a blog tour in December, 2008. When did I start planning the tour? In August of 2008. Yep. Four months in advance. I was researching blogs, clicking all over the blue nowhere, networking, looking up lists, Googling, twittering, finding top quality blogs with high traffic that were on topic with what fit the demographics of my intended readership. When I found a good fit, I started visiting often, leaving comments, getting my name and what I do known by the blog’s host and readers.
For writing a book, planning ahead has some relevance, but not nearly as much as with a virtual tour. A book may require research, but that’s a different type of planning than what I am referring to here. Some authors write books that are on topic with public, political, social, or religious events. In those cases, you may want to make sure your book is published at a certain time of the year to coincide with public interest on your book’s subject matter. But other than that, you just write your book and publish it whenever you have your manuscript finished and can get a contract.
2. Planning the Content. Think of the tour stops as chapters in a book. A book with chapter after chapter of the same content would be pretty boring, would it not? After two or three chapters, you would put the book down and figure the author was going nowhere with this story. Same with a virtual tour. Each chapter should have its own story within the larger story. At the same time the whole story and all its chapters should be cohesive. One stop should lead you with interest to the next. Nothing is worse than a month-long dirge of same old same old “Interview with the Author,” or “Meet the Author” posts. I’m sorry, but I don’t need to read for the umpteenth time what your favorite color is or what your five pets’ names are. Maybe give me that information in ONE of your tour stops, that’s lovely, but beyond that … it’s boring. If you can’t get more creative than that, I don’t want to buy your (most likely) unimaginative book. So two words for you. Variety and cohesiveness.
3. Writing the Chapters. Some authors write books from a detailed outline. Others have a plot stirring in their head and just start writing. Both methods work, depending on the author, but writing for a successful virtual tour demands an outline. Could be as simple as a sketchy idea for each post, but in order to pull off skill #2 above, you better know where you are going with each post and have an agreed upon format with the host. Q & A interview formats can be interesting or they can be real yawners. Know your hosts. Have you read any of their other interviews? Are they creative with their questions, do they draw depth, imagination and valuable information out of their guests? Have the Q & A done well ahead of post date. Read and revise as necessary to make sure the content is a good and worthy read. One of my hosts on my recent tour got online with me in a chat room and we did the interview live. This method adds conversational realness and spontaneity, but it requires lengthy and careful editing. Make sure your host is a good editor. If not, ask to do the editing yourself. A host may ask you to compose an article for his or her tour stop, something that is on topic for that blog. This is your chance to shine. Write the article with all the care and attention you would give to a chapter in your book. Your writing ability is going to be on display and will be judged. Do it well, you may sell some books. Do it poorly, you have lost some potential fans.
4. Change up the voices and pace. When you write a good book, your characters have different voices, with unique personalities. Also in a good book, you change the pace to fit the scene. Same goes with writing for a good blog tour. Have the host interview one of your characters. Or how about this – if some of your hosts are authors, do some scenes in which one of your characters interacts with one of theirs. Have a fight scene. Quick paced. Short sentences. Slam bang action. Or have an in depth discussion. Slow the pace way down and delve into deep psychological, social, political, emotional or spiritual issues. Make sure you have these changes of pace and voice arranged in a well thought out plan. Just as with crafting a good book, too many fast paced scenes back to back with the same voices screaming at you can get nerve-wracking. Conversely, a lengthy run of scenes paced like a tortoise on valium will send your readers into a coma. Mix it up. Make it interesting. Have fun.
5. Interact with your host and readers. This skill is only unique to virtual tours in the way it is done. On personal appearance book tours, you may give a talk about your book and/or some subject that pertains to its content. Then you hang around after and chat with the people, let them get to know you better and visa versa. On a blog tour, the post is the talk. Just as with a personal appearance, you should hang around after and chat with the readers and the host. Plan on visiting the host’s blog multiple times during the day and well into the evening. Ask the host to announce that you will be answering questions and talking with readers in the comments. When done right, the comments gallery goes crazy good bonkers with lively interaction. By evening, people will be revisiting the blog over and over to get up to date on the conversation going on. The host’s page views will go off the hook, making them very happy, and they will be glad to have you back on your next tour.
Marvin Wilson is the author of three books, I Romanced the Stone, Owen Fiddler, and the just-released Between the Storm and the Rainbow. Marvin is a full time writer, is on staff at All Things That Matter Press as an editor, and also does freelance editing.