Most authors are focused on getting placement at blogs and networks for virtual book tours, but lately, several people have searched Market My Novel for information about how to become a VBT host.
It is not as difficult as you think, but it is time-consuming when you first start out. Here are some tips based on my own experiences as a personal blogger and editor of Pop Syndicate’s Book Addict blog:
Create a blog. You can create a blog specifically for your selected genre, or integrate virtual book tours into your current blog. Both formats work well, however, be warned that some authors will turn you down if you have questionable content (nude photos, profanity) on your personal blog. You can also host authors in all genres, not just one.
Get a good blog design. A terrific design makes a good first impression. You can find free templates for most blogging programs.
Let people know what you want. Can authors submit books for review? Can they query you to be on your blog? What genres will you accept? Do you do interviews or host guest blogs? Have a very blunt FAQ about your criteria. Have a prominent graphic or link above the fold so people can find it easily. Use a site like EmailMeForm.com for queries. I use the free service on this site for the Market My Novel question submissions.
Create content. When first starting out, you want to populate your blog with as many reading-related as you can. This can include personal book reviews, links to author Web sites and interviews, publishing news, a reader-oriented blogroll, book trailers and more. Show authors and publicists that you are serious about being a virtual book tour host.
Ask authors to drop by. Query authors you like about doing an interview or guest blog. Then, expand your network by joining groups on Ning or Yahoo specifically for authors. Ask members of those groups if they would like to drop by. Query your Facebook and Twitter followers. Visit open critique group or author meets in your community and network your blog. You can get low-cost business cards at VistaPrint. (Personally, I like the refrigerator magnets best. They go like hotcakes and are less likely to get lost.) Don’t get insulted if authors turn you down. It happens. When first starting out, don’t expect every bestseller on the New York Times list to come to your blog. It just isn’t going to happen. However, don’t hesitate to ask, because you just never know when one of these authors will be available and want to chat.
Promote, promote, promote. You cannot promote your blog enough. Use every social network to let readers know who is hosted at your blog. Post your tour stops on event Web sites and ask authors to include them on their Booktour.com account or Web site, and to promote to their fans. Also, consider creating a Facebook Fan page and put the widget on your site. A fan page is useful if your readers are different from your Facebook friends.
Hold contests. One of the best ways to get readers is to hold contests. Ask authors you host to donate books for contests. Use programs like Twivaway to promote on social networks. This may not happen in the early stages of your blog, but as you build content, you build a reputation. That reputation will give an added boost to your request for contest books – especially with in house publicists.
Get contributors. When I first started populating Book Addict with author interviews, I was the only one doing it. It was a LOT of work – but definitely paid off. Pop Syndicate developed a reputation among authors first, then publishers, for being a premiere virtual book tour host. Now, I have several contributors to the blog who cover a variety of genres, including publishing news, interviews and guest blogs. Contributors not only help with the work load, but they also help with publicity. The more people on your blog, the more people who are promoting it. That immediately expands your network to new readers, which drives up hits and makes your blog more attractive to authors.
Optimize for SEO. Some authors will only come to your blog if you have good Alexa and Google rankings. You don’t have to be a Google geek to get good SEO. If you have WordPress, install the All in One SEO Plugin. It does everything for you. You can also install a Google Analytics plugin, which puts this important free service right in your WordPress dashboard. I can safely say once I switched Market My Novel from Typepad to WordPress I immediately saw a spike in new readers. Blogger is also a good platform to use. Since Google now owns Bloggers, the search giant is certain to immediately index all pages on this platform. Blogger has added some new features that make it better than the beginning, but it is still limited in functionality. If you want to get more in depth into SEO, check out this post from Webconfs.com.
What tips can you offer a newbie virtual book tour host?