Most authors and publishers these days understand that online book promotion is important, whether for a new release or encouraging sales of existing titles. Blogger relations can play a significant role in the success, or lack thereof, of your online book marketing efforts.
Blogger relations is a topic somewhat regularly discussed among PR and social media types, but it's something I've very rarely seen brought up among authors. Yet, authors (and some of their publishers) have been one of few groups I've seen exercising "good" blogger relations rather consistently (and as a former online PR specialist and a very active blogger for years, I've seen more than my fair share of bad examples). Today I'd like to share two small-scale examples of blogger relations--both cases where I was the blogger, and I was approached by an author.
Last year, I came across two books promising to help you come up with an outline or rough draft of a novel in 30 days. Karen's First Draft in 30 Days was one of those books.
I decided to do a special feature / review of the books, comparing them side-by-side.
I then decided to take it a step further - I wanted to put both programs to the test and document my progress through them (which led to two novel outlines last year, and a spin-off blog). As a writer, I thought the experiment would be fun, and as a blogger I thought it might equally amuse some of my readers. So I went ahead with it.
While I was documenting my progress with Karen's program and book, she got in touch with me. In many cases when I'm contacted (as a blogger) about something I'm talking about, it's just a blatant pitch trying to get me to promote it more heavily (review a related product, join an affiliate program to include their ads, etc.). Not with Karen.
Instead, she took an active interest in what I was doing. This is good blogger relations. She went beyond simply seeing that I was a blogger writing for potential buyers of her book. She took the time to see that I was going above and beyond a traditional review, and she did the same - she offered some advice on using the book more in line with the experiences I was already blogging about. In other words, she listened to what I was saying and she got involved in a productive conversation. In fact, I then shared those thoughts as a psuedo "guest post" here so others could benefit, further promoting the book and author on the blog (without her doing any kind of "pitching" at all).
Karen later released a follow-up to that book--From First Draft to Finished Novel. Knowing that I was already a fan of her work (what companies would call a "brand advocate") she sent me a review copy and more details on the release. Without her having to ask for anything specific, I turned it into a post here relevant to my ABM readers - I used her and this latest release as a sort of case study for you, detailing her use of pre-launch promotional tools.
And as soon as I have time, you can bet I'll be evaluating and blogging about the book more thoroughly, as I did with First Draft in 30 Days. I'm currently drafting another book, but when that first draft is finished I'll be using the outline I created using her first program to follow the guide of her newer book to share the experience with my readers.
That's something I probably wouldn't even consider doing (simply for the time involved to actually document each step along the way) had Karen not reached out to build a relationship with a blogger. That's what good blogger relations is all about--building relationships with bloggers who in turn have built a relationship with a relevant group of readers. And in this case, their publisher even got in on the blog love, posting to one of their own blogs about the review (which happened to be comparing two of their own titles). You don't have to be as in depth as Karen was to maintain a good relationship with bloggers. Quoting them, mentioning them on your own established blog, etc.--they're all good steps in the right direction (just make sure you never border on pandering).
Evan's case was a little bit different. I didn't do an all-out review of his book - The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing. I had, however, used his own novel outlining plan in the past (in 2004 - for the novel I'm currently drafting as a matter of fact). I adored the book. I mentioned it (and the fact that I loved it) in a post or two.
Again, we have an example of an author who was able to recognize a fan / brand advocate. He contacted me.
In this case, he wasn't looking for feedback on another book. Instead, he had personally turned the plan from his book into a software package (he even learned to do the programming himself, which still impresses me). He asked if I'd try it out.
I did. I loved it. Again, I wrote about its launch without any kind of pressure from the author himself to do anything, and I intend to eventually do a much more thorough review (previously I moved my old outline into the software to test it out--I'll likely use it for mapping out another outline or two later this year).
What I hope other authors and publishers learn from these two folks is that good blogger relations is about more than sending out free review copies and hoping for the best (honestly how most people asking me for reviews approach me, and very few of those books ever actually get read for that reason). Others simply aren't taking the time to target me (and other bloggers) based on what our audiences want.
Remember, a blogger only has a real incentive to review your work or talk about you if it's relevant to their readers (and those who would review it simply for the freebie aren't likely bloggers with enough influence over their niche readers to really give you what you want anyway--generic buzz alone does not equal good blogger relations).
While it's perfectly understandable that you won't be able to devote a huge amount of time to every single blogger that you might like to reach, it's important to give them as much time as you can. Read a post or two on their blog to see if their style fits with your book. See if they have an engaged audience (does anyone ever comment?). See if they even do reviews (if they've never done a book review on their blog, chances are that you'd be better off targeting a blogger in the niche who does). See if they're already a fan of your past work (and you might be more cautious about targeting someone who actively promotes a competitor's books regularly--they could be much harder to win over).
You already should know your own market / readers. Try to target bloggers with those readers in mind--not just the bloggers themselves--and you'll have a far better chance of creating a great blogger relation campaign of your own.