Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Interview with Jodi Webb

BDWN: Thanks for speaking with us, Jodi! You’ve been a freelance writer for quite a few years—can you tell us about some of the publications you’ve written for?

JODI: It’s exciting to be the interviewee. Usually it’s the other way around and I’m the interviewer! I think I’ve been writing magazine article for 15 years. It feels like a lot of different publications with no rhyme or reason—I’m not an “expert” on any one subject. My first article was for Matt Holliday at Pennsylvania Magazine and I still write for him—in fact I’m working on an article right now. So many others…Grand, Grit, Birds and Blooms, Toy Directory Monthly, Reunion Magazine, Christian Science Monitor, The History Magazine, E-the Environmental Magazine, WOW-Women on Writing, Writers Weekly to name a few.

BDWN: So what exactly is a blog tour, and how did you get started as a blog tour organizer?

JODI: We all know what a book tour is. An author visits different book stores (and sometimes other venues) speaking about and hopefully selling their book. This is the same thing except it’s “virtual.” The author goes to blogs—book review blogs, writer blogs, parenting blogs, teen blogs, 50+ blogs—it all depends on what their book is about. Sometimes authors are interviewed (in print, audio or video) and sometimes they contribute guest posts. Often the blogger post a book review. And, if the budget allows, the author sponsors book giveaways.

Actually I started out selling advertising space for WOW-Women on Writing. After a few months the founder Angela Mackintosh asked if I would help her with something new she was starting at the request of some followers: WOW Blog Tours. Truthfully, I had no idea what blog tours were but I thought I’d give it a try. I found out arranging blog tours is so much more fun than selling advertising space! Although it can get a little crazy.

BDWN: Why would a writer participate in a blog tour? Do you think more writers are opting to do blog tours over regular book tours?

JODI: There are so many reasons to organize a blog tour. First, overall you can reach more people over a large area for less money. Sure, you don’t pay anything to appear at a book store but there are transportation costs, meals, lodging and you can go through all that trouble and have no one show up. With blogs you can target blogs that have large numbers of followers all over the country (even the world).

It’s also more convenient, both for the author and the reader. A person who doesn’t have time to head over to a bookstore at 6:30 pm on Tuesday night might read Bonnie Blogger’s Blog every morning before they start work and will read about your book. Also traditional book tours are a one shot deal. If the readers don’t show up on Tuesday night at the bookstore they aren’t going to hear about your book. Bloggers archive their posts so readers could show up the next day, the next week, the next month and still read the post about your book.

There’s also time. You have to continue writing (and probably working a day job). If you’re visiting the bookstore from 6:30-8:30 on Tuesday, with the commute and preparation you’re probably investing at least three hours of your time. By comparison an appearance on a blog can only take one hour of your time (if that) to answer interview questions and check in to interact with readers through the comments section. And you can do that hour on your lunch hour, using your iPhone as you’re waiting to pick up your kids from basketball practice, whenever. Blog tours give you more freedom. And through archiving the post lasts forever.

I think more authors are turning to blog tours because they want to go where the readers are—and frankly it isn’t in book stores anymore. Everyone is online. And the opportunity for word of mouth about your book is better using online outlets. If someone hears about your book at a bookstore how many people will they tell? A dozen if you’re lucky? Online a reader could hear about your book, click on their Twitter account, send an email, or post on their blog and tell hundreds of people. Literally in seconds!

BDWN: It seems like everyone has a blog these days. Why should writers have one? How can it help?

JODI: I don’t think every writer needs a blog. I think every writer needs an online presence. This can be a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter account. I think every writer needs an online presence because of the opportunity to connect with readers. Penny Sanseveri, a publicity maven, once said a person needs to come in contact with something (in this case your book) seven times before they decide to purchase it. Online just gives you that opportunity to get your name in front of your audience.

Blogs are a significant time investment. You shouldn’t have a blog if it’s going to keep you from writing for payment or if you can’t contribute to it regularly (at least once a week). Blogs are great because not only to they help you attract reader’s attention initially but it can help you keep their attention for when you release your next book. If you have people loyally following your blog you can keep them updated about future releases—it’s especially helpful if you are working on a series.

A blog can also set you apart from all the other authors a person hears about in a year. It makes you a friend. It gives you the chance to tell readers that extra something about yourself or your book that makes them want to buy it and tell others about it.

A blog can also show agents and publishers that you understand the importance of marketing yourself. If they had two manuscripts for similar audiences and one is blogging and has a built in following and the other wrote their book in their basement and never told a soul who do you think has a better chance of selling books? And that ultimately is what agents and publishers are interested in—-who can sell books.

BDWN: Any pointers for what not to post on a blog?

JODI: Do not burn industry bridges on you blog. If an agent turned you down or your publisher strong armed you into changing the title and you’re not thrilled your blog is not the place to vent.

Although it’s fine to get reveal personal info, consider your audience. If you’re writing children’s books don’t get into your sex life. If you’re writing romances you might not want to get into controversial topics like religion and politics. That is, don’t talk about them on your professional blog where you’re marketing your writing. Why alienate any of your audience? Of course if you’re writing a book about politics, definitely let loose with your political rants on your professional blog. But generally, if you have some controversial topics you want to talk about start a second personal blog.

BDWN: Can you tell us a little bit about what you’ll be covering at the March BDWN meeting?

JODI: I’m going to give everyone tips on organizing their own blog tour from where to find high traffic blogs that match your book’s audience to how to publicize the tour to what to talk about in your guest posts. Basically, how to make the most of the publicity a blog tour generates. Although setting it up can be time-consuming, a blog tour can be an effective(and inexpensive) way to spread the word about your book.

Thanks again, Jodi! BDWN's March meeting will be held on Saturday, March 20 from 10 a.m.--12 noon at the Tamaqua Public Library!

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