Ines Johnson writes erotic, paranormal and fairytales romance novels.
Ines writes books for strong women who suck at love. If you rocked out to the twisted triangle of Jem, Jericha, and Rio as a girl; if you were slayed by vampires with souls alongside Buffy; if you need your scandalous fix from Olivia Pope each week, then you’ll love her books!
Aside from being a writer, professional reader, and teacher, Ines is a very bad Buddhist. She sits in sangha each week, and while others are meditating and getting their zen on, she’s contemplating how to use the teachings to strengthen her plots and character motivations.
Ines lives outside Washington, DC with her two little sidekicks who are growing up way too fast.
Ines shares her secrets to a successful blog tour campaign:
DIY Blog Tour
If You Publish It, They Will Come
That may have been true ten, five years ago in indie publishing. It is no longer the case today. Readers have a lot of authors and books to choose from. They don’t know you, so you have to do something to get their attention.
Okay, but what something? After visiting Google, I decided to do my own blog tour. I went to listservs and chat rooms for authors and asked questions. Established authors said a blog tour was a waste of time. But new and indie authors said to go for it. I had nothing to lose, and no money to spend, so I did it myself. Here’s how I did it.
- Build a MEDIA KIT
Honestly, this wasn’t the first thing I did. I realized I needed it as responses started rolling in with bloggers requesting the same materials over and again. But I recommend it be the first thing you do.
A media kit is everything a blogger could possibly want or need in order to host you on their webpage. Include in your Media Kit the following:
- Your book blurb. I included different lengths of my blurb, including the full blurb that’s up on Amazon. A shorter three sentence blurb. And a one sentence blurb. My debut book was erotic romance, so I also had to be sure and include a PG version of my blurb for bloggers who also showcased YA books.
- Book excerpts. Choose one to two scenes that you feel would get readers engaged in your story. I recommend the excerpt should start somewhere in the middle of the scene and end before the scene is over at a high point of tension. If you choose well, this tactic would naturally lead a reader to push the ‘buy now’ link so they can find out what happens next. Again, make sure you have a PG excerpt for bloggers who showcase YA books.
- Guest Posts. I wrote three guests posts for my tour. I found that bloggers liked craft pieces, writing tips, and social commentary. So, I wrote one of each. I also found that some bloggers wanted you to answer their list of questions instead of using your posts. I complied, and then saved each question and answer. I included these Q&A’s in my media kit and made them available to all subsequent bloggers.
- Author biography. Be sure to include the bio you’ve written for yourself and posted on your website. I found that some bloggers preferred a one sentence bio, called a tagline. So, I paired my long bio down and included two options in my kit.
- Links. Be sure to include your store purchase links, your website url, and all social media links and handles. In my ebook, I have fancy graphic links. I assumed the bloggers would do something graphical with my link, but few did. Instead they just left the entire URL up under my name. I didn’t like that, but I had to realize that many of these bloggers weren’t graphic artists or any more tech savvy than your average person. Moving forward, I’ll need to think of a better way to list these links.
- Images. Attach images separately, as well as in the body of the kit. If you have a lot of images, make them available upon request.
That was a lot of information, but I suggest you get started on that before contacting bloggers. Many get back to you straight away and begin making requests.
- Find BLOGGERS
Once your media kit is assembled, you need to start finding blogs to host your amazing information.
I began my search at the Book Blogger Directory: https://bookbloggerdirectory.wordpress.com/
I made certain to check for bloggers who were in my genre.
I also checked their sites to see when their last activity happened. You don’t want to spend time querying a blogger whose last post was in 2013.
- Make CONTACT
Once I had my list of vetted bloggers in my genre, I began to contact them. Be aware that some of these bloggers have handy Google Docs. They’d prefer you use these instead of emailing them directly.
For those I emailed directly, I made a form email, but I sent each blogger an individual email with their name in the salutation. I also tailored the form email to each blogger where possible. For example, if I saw that a blogger was only interested in author interviews, I didn’t mention that I had blog posts and excerpts because I knew they wouldn’t be interested in those items.
Here’s an example of the basic form email that I sent out:
Dear [Book Blogger],
I write erotic romance, paranormal romance, and fairytale retellings under the pen name, Ines Johnson. My newest release, Pumpkin: a Cindermama story, which is a fairytale retelling of the Cinderella story will hit the print and virtual shelves on March 17th.
I’ve planned a book tour throughout the month of March to create some buzz and garner a bigger audience for my book. I’d love to make a stop at your site. I’m happy to do a Q&A, a blog posting, submit my book for your review, or any combination of the three. I’ve prepared three posts for the occasion. If you feel that one of the topics might interest your readers, I would be happy to make it available to you any day during the month of March and April. Attached you’ll find my Media Kit for your convenience.
- Keep RECORDS
It looks bad to contact the same person over and again. Or to forget that you agreed to give this blogger that post on this day. I kept a spreadsheet in Google Docs so that I had access to it at all times.
On the list I listed the blog title, the blog URL, the contact person’s name and email address. In other columns, I placed what each blog looked for from guest bloggers, when I contacted them, if they responded, if they said yes and what they wanted, when the post would be live, and when they needed the information by. You should also note if they want exclusive content, and if they want you to provide them a giveaway.
|Promo||NOTES||CONTACT EMAIL||RESPONSE||DATE Requested|
* a note about giveaways: try where possible to offer your book as a giveaway. I got my highest sales on the days I offered my book as a free giveaway. I didn’t want to offer a gift card, remember I was broke by this time.
- Be SOCIAL
As the blog tour began, I made a fancy banner announcing the tour for my webpage. I linked to each blog that hosted me.
On the day of each tour stop, I tweeted and posted each blog. And I visited each site to try and interact with any commenters and responded where appropriate.
- Send THANK YOU NOTES
But the most important thing I did, was mind my manners. After each post I wrote a personalized thank you note to each blogger. I told them how they affected my sales rank that day. Each one invited me back!
- The VERDICT
I had phenomenal success with my tour! I was on thirty blogs over the course of my launch week. As soon as those posts went live, my debut novel was launched into the Top 100 where its stayed for a week after my launch. I could see the effects in real time. When a tour stop went live, an hour or so later, I’d see sales. I didn’t see much of a blip on social media (ie, my newsletter or Facebook Likes). My twitter followers did see some of an uptick, but mostly from the bloggers themselves as they tweeted about the post.
Single mother Malika “Pumpkin” Tavares lost faith in fairytales after she fell for a toad. Now she believes she’s not cut from the storybook, heroine cloth and searches for Mr. Good Enough amongst the sidekicks and supporting men of the town.
Love at first sight isn’t a cliche for town royalty Armand “Manny” Charmayne. For generations the Charmaynes have spotted their soulmates by seeing a golden aura the first time they laid eyes on The One.
When Manny meets Pumpkin he sees…nothing, but sparks fly off the richter scale. The more he gets to know her the more he considers defying fate, if only he can convince her to take a chance on love again.
Pumpkin turned and stopped in her tracks. Not because of the near collision, but because of the Adonis who stood before her. Tall and lean with dark, thick curls atop his head. But it was his eyes that arrested Pumpkin. They took her back to her teen years, watching Donnie Simpson on Video Soul; or farther back to Smokey Robinson doo-wopping with The Miracles. They were a pale gray. And he smelled… edible. Like fresh baked, butter croissants sprinkled with earthy spices.
“Excuse me,” he repeated, with a slight Southern drawl that was more refined than lazy. He prolonged his vowels just enough to let you know he was Southern, but the consonants he pronounced perfectly. “Are you Heather?”
And of course, he was looking for someone else. “No, my name is Malika.”
He looked at her and squinted. Then his eyes rolled past her up the steps of the Department of Family And Child Services building. “Oh, sorry. I thought you could have been one of my volunteers.” He stepped away, clearing her path to the entrance.
I thought you could have been one of my volunteers.
Pumpkin looked beyond him to see a voter registration table.
I thought you could have been one of my volunteers.
Part of her knew she should simply walk into the DFACS building to find her cousins and her son, because who knew? LaRon and LaTom could’ve let him go to the bathroom by himself and just forgotten about him —again. But another part of Pumpkin smarted. He’d taken one glance at her, paired it with her Eubonic-consonant-rich name, added it to her current location, and come away with an incorrect assumption.
“You know, I could have been yours,” she said.
He turned back. “Mine?”
“I mean, I have done something like this before.”
“Something… with me?”
“No! I’ve never met you before.”
He opened his mouth to speak, thought better of it, then started again. “What exactly are we talking about?”
This was not going the way she’d planned. But what exactly had she planned when she opened her mouth? Her filter malfunction needed to be repaired soon.
Pumpkin took a deep breath, clearly aware of his smokey eyes watching her with… was that wariness or amusement? Growing up in her family, she had trouble deciphering the two.
“I mean, I have been a volunteer. I’ve done a voter registration drive before.”
Having cleared up that misjudgment, Pumpkin assumed the conversation was over. Only, he looked doubtful at her proclamation.
Pumpkin gave her internal filter a kick. In response it sputtered, “I organized it, actually.” Pumpkin gave it a mental shove to keep quiet. And then, “It was very successful, actually.”
“Where did the drive you organized —successfully— take place?”
“Oh,” she said. “At my school. My college —university, actually. Louisiana State University.”
“I know LSU,” he grinned.
Good. Grinning meant amused. He had a nice grin, Smokey Eyes. Straight white teeth. Plump lips that stretched wide. Maybe a little too wide. Almost big bad wolf wide.
“Well,” she said. “There’s a community college with the name Louisiana so…”
“You have a problem with community colleges?”
“No! I just… I just wanted to make sure you knew… which one I meant.” Pumpkin wouldn’t have thought it possible, but his grin stretched even wider.
“My opinion matters to you that much?”
Definitely a wolf.
Then, in confirmation, his eyes slipped from her face and did a quick assessment of her body: the B-cups she no longer bothered to pad, the stubborn muffin top she’d given up on a year ago, the wide hips that looked voluptuous on her cousins but pear-shaped on her.
“I don’t even know you,” Pumpkin said. And she had no intention of getting to know him. Wolves blocked the paths of good girls whether in the forest or on the road of life. Pumpkin had no intention of getting jammed up by a man, ever again.
“Yet, within sixty seconds of meeting me,” he said, “you offered to be mine.”
“No I… That was a misunderstanding, and you know it.”
A chuckle escaped through that predatory grin. The sound rumbled through Pumpkin’s body like a divining rod sensing danger.
“I’m sorry, Malika.”
But then, with the sound of her name on his lips, the humming of the rod ceased. All previous warning signals muted and Pumpkin’s feet took root in the concrete.
“It’s been a long day,” he smiled and a small sigh escaped his lips at the same time.
She’d read the term Cupid’s Bow in romance novels, but the visual didn’t do the term justice. The top of his upper lip, where you’d handle the bow was in the shape of a perfectly symmetrical M. Stretched in a smile, his full bottom lip made her wonder what it would be like to get caught in the crosshairs of his kiss.
“I couldn’t resist having a little fun with you. I hope I haven’t kept you.”
Pumpkin took her eyes off his lips to gaze into his smokey eyes. A smile started to creep over her face, too. “No, you haven’t kept me.”
“You’d better hurry. I’m sure they’re about to close soon.”
“Yeah… wait. What?” Pumpkin followed his gaze to the DFACS entrance. Everything unmuted and red flashed behind her eyes. “I just told you, I went to college.”
“Oh?” His gray eyes furrowed this time. “So, people with degrees don’t fall on hard times?”
“Well… yes. They do. But I’m fine,” she insisted, tapping her new shoes on the pavement for emphasis. “I have a job.” A job that she hated, but it paid all her bills. No government checks came for her and Seth. No child support checks either.
“So, you’re not here to volunteer to help. And you’re not here seeking help. What? Are you here to gloat?”
He chuckled again, but Pumpkin was no longer amused.
“I’ve taken advantage of some social programs, like federal grants for the university I attended while on academic scholarship.” Pumpkin conveniently neglected to mention that her childhood kitchen had been stocked from food stamp monies. “But I’m not gloating about my successes because I’m resentful that this society assumes that I can’t succeed without its help.”
He cocked his head, eyes intent on her. “So, you’d rather the rules be unfair and harder for you so that you can save face?”
Pumpkin blinked. “No, that’s not what I mean.”
What did she mean? How did she get into this conversation? All her life, Pumpkin typically kept her opinions to herself. It had been the safest way to navigate her adolescent and teenage years in a household where the family motto read: everyone for themselves.
“You know how they say if you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day,” she continued. “But if you teach a man to fish, he’ll eat forever?”
Smokey Eyes nodded.
Pumpkin hesitated, realizing he was actually listening to every word she said, and waiting for her to say more.
Why not? Her internal filter had taken the day off. “I think the flaw with social programs is that the poor start to believe they can’t do for themselves without it and the rich believe the poor can’t act without their help. And it winds up being a vicious cycle with each side resenting the other.”
Pumpkin glanced at the DFACS door remembering her son was still inside with two professional “cyclists.” She turned back to Smokey Eyes.
He stared up at the clouds in concentration. She could see him turning her words over in his head. It gave her a thrill. She was used to men leering at her body, because, though her curves weren’t artful like her cousins’, they were round enough to grab attention. Watching Smokey Eyes focus inward and contemplate her words was possibly the most intimate experience of her thirty years.
After a moment, his tongue peeked out, like an arrow, to pull taut his upper lip. Pumpkin’s own lips parted as a quiver went through her long dormant core. Any moment now, he would aim words at her.
Any moment now.
Turning his gray eyes back to her, he said, “I do see your point. But I also feel that with great wealth comes great responsibility. And if you’ve caught a lot of fish, you should share. It’s good manners. It’s how I was raised.”
Pumpkin gave a woeful shake of her head at that. “I was raised by people who wouldn’t fish; would take yours; and then demand you go get more.”
“But not you.”
It wasn’t a question. There was something behind those smokey eyes. Not empathy. He was obviously moneyed, in his expensive shirt and tailored pants, where Pumpkin’s teen closet had been sponsored by Goodwill, and her adult closet now sported Target.
“Me? No,” she said holding his gaze.
“And you wouldn’t ask for any food off my table? Even if I’m willing to share?”
It seemed like a trick question. On the one hand, Pumpkin harbored an image of him feeding her bits of food. On the other hand, “Is there something wrong with a woman who is self-sufficient?”
“No. Those are my favorite kind.” He grinned again, the wolf rising to its haunches once more.
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