Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

Virtual Book Tours

Not too long ago, with the release of a new book, an author went out on a “book tour.”  Depending on the perceived sales potential and the size of the publishing house (as well as the author’s name), this involved the author traveling across the country for a few days to a few months to sign, speak about and otherwise promote the book.  The publisher (or the publishing house’s pr department) would set up a series of radio, TV and newspaper interviews in various cities in conjunction with public appearances and book signings at a combination of independent book stores and chains – usually focusing on those that reported sales to the New York Times or other major newspapers. The more signings, interviews and appearances, the more book sales.

In recent years, as publishing budgets have shrunk and the digital world has gained an ever-more-powerful footing, marketing and pr people have begun to redefine the book tour. While some major authors still occasionally ‘go on the road’, a new mode of publicity has begun to take over as the pr vehicle of choice – the ‘Virtual Book Tour.’

A Virtual Book Tour is one in which the “stops” are websites instead of cities, stores or other ‘real life’ venues.  Authors connect with readers online, via websites, blogs, podcasts, vlogs, teleconferences, chats, web-based articles and reviews, and Internet radio and TV, plus YouTube, Facebook, MySpace and other social networking communities.  Sometimes the author throws a ‘book party’ at his or her own website, but generally speaking he or she is visiting other people’s sites over a period of days or weeks in a structured, co-ordinated effort.  During these visits the author may be interviewed, answer questions from readers, have their book reviewed, or contribute original content in the form of an article, essay, guest blogpost, vlog or podcast.

Just as with ‘real world’ book tours, in order to be successful, the Virtual Book Tour must be a carefully organized and factor in the book’s subject matter and perceived audience.  Well before the tour begins, the highest profile and most related bloggers and website hosts are identified, queried and sent advance copies of the book, as well as media kits including press releases, author bios, photos and other pertinent materials (usually also in digital form).

It’s possible for authors to plan and set-up their own Virtual Book Tours, but as with the old-fashioned kind, tours are often most successful when a specialist is brought in to assist. Most of today’s publishers and marketing/pr agencies are well-versed in managing virtual book tours. In addition, there are some individuals and organizations who have made names for themselves exclusively in the Virtual Book Tour market. Among some of the better-known are Alex Mandossian (“VirtualBookTour“), Kevin Smokler (“”) and John Kremer (“”).

Once the tour begins, it functions in many of the same ways that the ‘real world’ tour does, except that the author never leaves home – and possibly never even gets out of his or her pajamas.


6 Responses to “Virtual Book Tours”
  1. Suzie says:

    That’s fascinating!

  2. Gary says:

    Dear Emma,
    A moment to say how much I look forward to your entries. Your honest perspective is fascinating and informative…I like your style.

    Thinking out loud…I imagine the virtual book tour lacks the romance and excitement of traveling, and meeting people face to face. Not to mention the segment of readers that are not as web connected as others (some grandparents, older folks). On the flip side, the reality of the traditional book tour is likely more exhausting than romantic, and the pr departments must have a handle on their target population.

    Staying home in pjs has it’s benefits, but isn’t it nice to occasionally get hit with a “pretty stick”, dressed up nice and feeling special? I suppose you’re out and about enough…the beckoning call from your pajamas must be pretty powerful with the schedule you keep. I, on the other hand, could use a road trip right about now.

    Care to buy any snow? I’m eager to sell.

  3. Beth says:

    I find the idea of virtual book tours fascinating, especially since I live far from the usual stops on a real-world book tour.

    I wonder how much the connections I’m making in the Kid Lit Blogosphere will help when I become involved in my own virtual book tours? (Especially since you say that the best book tours are those set up by the publisher.)

  4. Emma says:

    Beth –
    Your KidLit Blogosphere connections will be invaluable when the time comes, because at the end of the day, whether the tour is organized by you or your publisher, it’s all about the connections. Having those relationships in place will make it so much easier when the time comes!

  5. Emma says:

    Gary –
    Thanks for the lovely words.
    You’re right on all counts. It is important to meet people face to face whenever possible, and a traditional book tour IS often a lot more exhausting than romantic (though I’m not complaining, and never will.) With kids, and a day job, and other professional commitments, I really do LOVE working from home as much as possible… but it’s nice to dress up and feel special sometimes too. In the end, as with most things, it’s mostly budget-driven. And I’m not sure the virtual tour will ever replace the real book tour altogether. I guess it’s really about making the most of all the resources available.
    Oh – thanks for the offer, but we’ve got plenty of our own… snow, that is.

  6. Diane says:

    Thanks Emma for this fascinating information. Virtual tours do have its benefits, but I am a lover of travel, and nothing would be too exhausting for me. In either case I think I would make sure I had a specialist or publisher to assist me.

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