This week’s guest post is by author Bryan Thomas Schmidt, a frequent guest on this site. Bryan is on a blog tour to promote THE RETURNING, the second in his Saga of Davi Rhii science fiction series. We considered doing another interview, but as we’ve now interviewed each other at least four times between our two blogs, I thought a guest post by Bryan would be a nice change of pace, and what better topic to discuss than how to do a blog tour for a sequel without spoiling the first book in the series? So here he is, ladies and gentlemen, Bryan Thomas Schmidt:
How To Run a Blog Tour For A Sequel Without Spoiling Book 1
Okay, first of all, the fact that Anthony asked for this topic proves he’s not really my friend, let’s just get that out of the way first. I mean, I suppose it’s a compliment that he thinks I actually have the answers to this. After all, The Returning is only my second novel ever published. And having been a beta reader for me on it, he of all people should know how tightly the storylines interlap as well as how much the success of this particular sequel depends on suspense and surprise. To be fair, though, I did it to myself. I’m the one who wrote the novel this way, after all. The fact that he’s an opportunist taking advantage of my self-made quandary is just an unfortunate side effect really.
So let’s get on with it then. How do you run a blog tour for book 2 of a trilogy? Very carefully. Just as craft goes into the writing, so must it be applied to your marketing.
First, choose some excerpts and plot/character details which can be shared to tease the book without ruining the rest of the plot. Not easy, but doable. They should involve the old familiar characters, particularly the protagonist and also the antagonist when possible. And they should be fast-paced and tension filled. You can share the romantic subplots sometimes but usually those emotional highs are best saved and it’s the drama of the obstacles which draws most readers in.
For example, the reading excerpt from this book I have been using is a subplot scene involving my protagonist, Davi Rhii, fighting with his girlfriend/fiancée, Tela, witnessed by his archrival Bordox. It’s told through Bordox’s POV and so we get not only character and plot development for Davi and Tela but also for Bordox. Their relationships were all established in book 1, The Worker Prince. We knew Bordox would want revenge because he always blames Davi for his troubles and Davi really put him in his place in Book 1. Davi and Tela’s romance developed in book 1, but most couples go through phases where they have fights, so no surprise there. Thus, that scene is not a spoiler but it does have enough juice to intrigue fans of the series and new readers as to the kinds of issues book 2, The Returning, holds in store.
Second, choose story descriptions which don’t give too much away about the prior book or the latest. You can tell them the basic plot without ruining the ending. You don’t have to ruin the first book’s ending. Instead of saying “they fought and so-and-so won, but now they’re at it again,” you can say: “In book 2, the characters find themselves in conflict over x, y and z and the repercussions of book 1 are impacting their personal relationships and lives.” See how that avoids mention of the ending yet sets up the conflict in the second book as well as characters? It tells you there’s going to be obstacles to overcome and that the events of the first book do play a role in shaping things but also leaves you room for new things as well. (Dang, even when I’m describing generic sentences I’m writing generic sentences. This could ruin my craft.)
What intriguing tidbits can you offer to tease without giving it away? With The Returning, for example, I can say: “Davi and Tela find their future together threatened by difficulties with their relationship.” Generic? Yes, but promising because our favorite couple, the antagonist and his love interest, aren’t so perfect after all. In The Worker Prince, we rooted for them to get together so now that’s threatened? Readers will want to know why. There’s complication and complications make for interesting drama. Here’s another example: “Xalivar is back with a vengeance seeking revenge on Davi and all those who defied him.” We don’t know if Xalivar won or lost in the last book, but he wants revenge and that’s well within his character so we’re not spoiling anything. People who enjoyed the larger-than-life villain will enjoy seeing him up to his old antics and how the heroes overcome it.
Here’s a third: “Davi, Farien and Yao reunite for a mission to investigate the murders of Vertullians throughout the system by those opposed to their obtaining citizenship, finding their lives and friendships threatened by what they discover.” Our three buddies with great rapport are back and they are hunting killers and in danger? Who doesn’t want to know what happens?
Here’s the full description I’ve used for the back of the book, Goodreads, etc.:
The Vertullians are free and have full citizenship but that doesn’t mean they’re accepted. Now someone is sending assassins to kill and terrorize them and it’s riling up old enmity all over again. On top of that, Xalivar is back with a vengeance seeking revenge on Davi and all those who defied him. So Davi, Farien and Yao reunite for a mission to investigate the murders of Vertullians throughout the system by those opposed to their obtaining citizenship, finding their lives and friendships threatened by what they discover. Meanwhile, the new High Lord Councilor, Tarkanius, Lord Aron, and Davi find themselves fighting all over again to preserve the unity of the Borali Alliance, while Xalivar’s allies and even Lords on the Borali Council work against them in an attempt to tear it apart. Davi and Tela find their future together threatened by difficulties with their relationship, and Miri’s adjusting to her new status as a non-royal. The action packed, emotional, exciting Davi Rhii story continues.
I tease familiar character names and remind readers new and old that there will be more political backstabbing, family drama, romantic entanglements and life-on-the-line action. All things people loved about The Worker Prince.
Second, choose the types of post you’d most like to feature: interviews, excerpts, reviews, video blog entries, character interviews, humorous dialogues, guest posts, etc. It’s best to have a variety and spread them out so you don’t run a whole week of reviews or excerpts, etc. Then contact the bloggers you’d like to see participate and ask if they’d be interested, offering post options. When guest blogging, it’s usually best to find a topic or way of discussing one that relates to the blog’s theme and offer that. I also use anchor blogs, big blogs with lots of traffic, on Mondays to start my week and Wednesdays for a boost when I can and scatter the others between. When possible, I have each link to the next day’s post.
It’s important to pick a variety of blogs, too. You don’t want all blogs that reach the same audience. You are trying to let as many people as possible know about your book. Now if your book’s family friendly, an erotica blog probably isn’t the best fit (i.e. use common sense) but I’ve had mystery writers invite me to write about craft on their blogs and so on. Small blogs can reach people, too, especially as they grow and the posts sit there over time. Obviously, the more built-in the audience, the better, but still, you can benefit from the variety of sizes just the same.
Third, start writing. It’s best to start a month or more in advance. You’ll have a lot of content to develop and the more time you have to prepare it, the better quality it can be. You’ll also have time to adopt any changes the host sites might request, etc. Remember to capture the excitement you had in writing the book. There’s plenty of elements from craft of dialogue to plotting to genre choices to character arcs and more you can guest post on. By being creative, you can still tease your book and work in aspects of it without a sales pitch, like I’m doing with this post. Readers love to dig in more in depth to the workings of a novelists mind and they find the behind-the-scenes insight helpful and interesting. And, if you want them to buy your book, you need to convince them you’re interesting. Why else should they agree to dedicate hours to hanging with your mind and creative output? Use humor, provide links and examples, and provide pictures and a bio on every post, including links to not just your book page and site but also to other helpful tools and books you might mention in the post.
Fourth, visit the posts and answer comments. Dialogue with the blogger and readers. Don’t just let it post and disappear. A key part of what makes blogs and blog tours successful is the chance to interact with bloggers/authors. Be personable and have fun. If you get a troll, either ignore them or make a joke. Don’t engage in a flame war. Instead, have fun and answer with as much personality, intelligence and interesting data as you can. That will build relationships with whole new readers. I’ve had people buy my book and even become friends doing that. And those people will then help spread the word with no effort from you.
Blog tours are a lot of work. So is book promotion. But in the present climate of publishing, more and more of that onus falls on the authors. The beauty of blogs is that they’re free and you can reach out beyond your own circles to a wider band, helping draw traffic and attention for others doing solid work and writing while, at the same time, promoting yourself. So there you have it, a few tips to doing a blog tour for a second book without ruining the first. Hit me back in a month or two and I’ll tell you if they work or not. Meanwhile, thanks to Anthony for inviting me to Rambling On.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories featured in anthologies and magazines. He edited the new anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. His children’s book 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids from Delabarre Publishing. As a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.