Why Blog Tours Work For Authors & Readers
I’m used to an interviewer saying ‘I haven’t had time to read your book’, but to have one say ‘I haven’t had time to look at your book jacket’ was a first. Journalists are now desk-jockeys with ten items a day to produce. Once they went out into the street to seek stories. Now all that can be heard in a press office is the opening of press releases.
Getting your book read or promoted in tough these days. Our PRs would scramble to find space in an increasingly squeezed-out market. Physical newspapers have less and less room for the arts, or follow specific agendas that favour celebrity authors and artificially created fads, and now even the same is true of much online press. Fewer readers are buying newspapers, and it says a lot that the two papers I read daily for their reliability and refusal to be swayed by peer pressure are the Independent and the New York Times.
So this year marked a subtle change for me in the way advanced book information reached the public. My publicist set up a blog tour, and I handled around thirty blog interviews for ‘The Burning Man’. There were a few repeat questions, but generally the standard of question was far higher than it would have been from a harassed national paper, who would most likely get the details wrong anyway. Many now write for more than one paper at a time, just to cover the bills.
Bloggers are like old school journalists; there are good and bad ones, but the good ones are well-read and well-prepared, and the blog tour was an absolute joy to do, my only criticism being that some were a little too respectful; I’m quite happy to have an honest exchange of opinions. A good blogger will ask you things you’ve not thought about before, or will get answers out of you that no-one else has. Here are some examples;
Q. The Burning Man marks the end of the second of two six-book story arcs in the Bryant and May series. Are you going to start a third arc?
A. Iâ€™ve been signed to four more books now, but Iâ€™d always planned to go on, and Iâ€™d planned a way of doing so even though it appears that Iâ€™ve now written the characters into an impossible corner. But I won’t be arcing the stories in the same way as before.
Q.Â My personal favourite of the series so far has been White Corridor, because of its shorter timescales and for taking Bryant & May out of their comfort zone. Â What’s your favourite Bryant & May novel and why?
A. That was one of my â€˜precinctâ€™ tales, where you deliberately limit your story options. Theyâ€™re hard to write but very satisfying. I plan to do another in which I limit my options further. If you look at the timescales youâ€™ll find that nearly all of the stories take place over one week and in exactly 50 chapters. I’m proud of â€˜The Burning Manâ€™, but then I tend to be most excited about the latest one anyway.
Q.Â What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve personally received?
A. â€˜You donâ€™t need to explain why people fall in love, you just need to know that they do.â€™ That, and â€˜Dialogue is not conversation.â€™ I’ve found that most good advice concerns having confidence. You can’t get away with explaining less unless you’re really sure of your story and characters.
I was asked about characters of colour, about the loss of London’s distinctive atmosphere, about the effects of globalised branding on the city, about reflecting changing public attitudes to the police and the loss of confidence in the banking system – all questions that no national press journalist would have ever thought to ask.
Being interviewed hy readers who run websites also gives you a direct link to your readership. You can afford to be more erudite – you’re talking to people who actually buy books – and have more relaxed and honest discussions. From my experience this year, it feels that publicising books in this manner is the way forward – and it’s bloody good fun.
(Shown above, Barcelona’s ‘Gigamesh’ bookstore, one of the best genre stores in the world)