Virtual Book Tours 101

“Will you be going on a tour?” people asked me as they heard that I’d soon become a debut author. It seemed that in many cases, visions of packed bookstores and big-city auditoriums were dancing in their heads.

“My book is coming from a quite wonderful, but quite tiny new publisher,” I’d respond. “There’s no budget for a tour.”

No time, either. I’m a writer with a full-time, Monday-Friday “day job” that pays my bills. I’m not a professor blessed with lengthy winter vacations or summer breaks. I’m no longer a freelancer with control over my schedule.

“But I will be going on a virtual tour,” I’d add.

More often than I expected, that response would evoke another question. “What’s that?”

I learned about virtual tours a couple of years ago, when, as a blogger, I began to receive invitations to host “stops” on other authors’ virtual tours. But I've since discovered that the practice of virtual book touring is often credited to Kevin Smokler (who, by the way, will be a special guest at Grub Street's upcoming Muse & the Marketplace conference).

The basic idea behind virtual book touring is this: Instead of journeying in person from one physical location (often a bookstore) to another, a "touring" writer follows an online itinerary, essentially traveling from one URL to another. In exchange for a complimentary advance copy of a new book, each host is asked to present what amounts to an authorial visit on her blog or website. Ideally, each host commits to a date within the time span of the author’s “tour," most of which seem to last between two weeks and one month. Hosts also receive cover images and author photos to post alongside the featured content. (Some hosts require touring authors to offer a giveaway copy of the book as well, to help draw more readers/commenters.)

Through these invitations, I came to understand that the content for each stop should be unique, and that a number of structural options existed. One stop might consist of an interview or Q&A between the host and the author. Another might feature a guest essay provided by the touring author, targeted to the focus of the host site—often a blog—and its readers, who might then post their own comments and questions. Still another might present the host’s own review of the new book. Even in the short time I’ve known about them, virtual tours have expanded to include newer technologies such as podcasts and videos, and they appear to be poised to integrate “Twitter book parties,” too.

Planning a virtual tour requires a lot of work, and some authors hire publicists or other professionals to manage the task for them. I chose to organize my tour myself, not only because I had an unbeatable fee (I didn’t charge myself a cent!), but also because I had maintained a sufficiently active online presence long enough to have discovered numerous blogs and websites—and to have connected with the people who run them—that I knew I could pitch for possible “stops.”

My tour began the week my book was published last January, and it ran about a month. My book, Quiet Americans, is a short-story collection inspired largely by the experiences of my paternal grandparents, German Jews who immigrated to the United States in the late 1930s. Correspondingly, my tour stops encompassed blogs focused on a variety of relevant areas: fiction, Jewish literature, language and translation, and writing, among them.

For one stop, I contributed to an ongoing series in which authors share their thoughts on inspirational short stories (I wrote about “The German Refugee,” by Bernard Malamud). For a blog that concentrates on language and translation, I explored the craft issue of using “foreign words” in one’s fiction. Over the course of multiple interviews, I addressed questions about historical fiction, useful writing advice, creative inspiration, and more. And then there were several smart, insightful reviews. (You can see the full itinerary, with links to each stop, on my website.)

The virtual book tour worked wonderfully for me. If you’re looking for more ideas and specific hints about running one of your own, I'd recommend that you start by checking the following links:

Other suggestions or ideas? Which resources would you recommend for authors considering a virtual book tour? And if you’ve participated on a virtual tour—as planner, host, or author—what advice do you have to impart? Please tell us, in comments. Thank you in advance!

Erika Dreifus is the author of Quiet Americans: Stories, published by Last Light Studio in early 2011. Although she was a proud Cantabridgian for many years, she currently lives in New York City, where, despite her aforementioned full-time day job, she still manages to publish The Practicing Writer, a free monthly newsletter for fictionists, poets, and writers of creative nonfiction. She will return to Massachusetts for The Muse & the Marketplace in spring 2011, where she will lead a session on “Writing What We Know: For Love & for Money.”

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About the Author

Over the past few years, Erika Dreifus has assisted authors and publishers in promoting books released by companies large and small: HarperCollins, The Jewish Publication Society, University of Nevada Press, Orison Books, Palgrave Macmillan, Jewish Storyteller Press, Fig Tree Books, and more. She has also publicized her own books, including Quiet Americans: Stories (Last Light Studio) and, most recently, Birthright: Poems (Kelsay Books). Visit Erika online at, and/or follow her on Twitter (@ErikaDreifus), where she tweets on “matters bookish and/or Jewish.”

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