Wednesday, June 24, 2009

JRW: Today, Jungle Red welcomes Chester Campbell who writes two mystery series featuring private investigators. The Surest Poison, first book in the Sid Chance series, deals with a chemical pollution case. He is working on the fifth Greg McKenzie novel, featuring a retired Air Force investigator and his wife. Chester is here to tell us about his recent experience with a blog book tour. Welcome Chester!

CHESTER: Thanks! Jen Forbus recently featured my six-word memoir on her blog: “Took the plunge; never looked back.” At Hank’s suggestion, however, I’ll ignore it and take a look back at the blog book tour I did for my new Sid Chance mystery, The Surest Poison.

I visited 15 blogs between April 15 and May 1. I had viewed bits of tours and read author tales before setting off on mine. Tours for hire were available, but I ran across a site ( run by Dani Greer that offered free instruction.

Under Dani’s tutelage, I set up my own blog (Mystery Mania) and wrote daily during January to get a feel for regular posting. She had us sign up for Facebook and Twitter to make our presence known around the social networks. I researched subjects other touring authors had dealt with and drew up a list of topics. The final step involved contacting potential hosts. I fished about for popular blogs that should have good readership.

One of the lists mentioned Book Roast, and I set my first stop there. It’s a popular site and brought the most comments of any blog. I did three interviews during the tour. One involved an interview with me, another with my protagonist, Sid Chance, the third with his associate, Jaz LeMieux. Some days I covered writing topics such as setting, style, dialogue, subplots, and POV. At other stops I discussed promotion, electronic rights, and keeping mysteries free of sermons.

You can read the full schedule with links to the blogs and the subjects covered at

The tour turned out to be a lot of fun but a lot more work than I had anticipated. With everything else I was doing to promote the new book, which came out five days before the tour started, I felt like a one-armed driver with a stick shift in heavy traffic. Some of the posts were written only a few days before they appeared on-line.

I conducted two drawings for people who posted comments. At the mid-point of the tour, I gave away two copies of The Surest Poison. On the last day, I awarded one copy of the new book and a set of all five of my books, which included four Greg McKenzie mysteries. I had to check each site the day after my visit to harvest all the comment writers’ names. There were about 180 in all. I tried to get total visitors for each day, but several hosts didn’t have stat counters. Needless to say, it would have numbered a lot more than the comments.

The question everyone asks is was it worthwhile? I believe it was, particularly from the standpoint of getting my name and the name of my book spread around. Did it sell a lot of books? I can’t say, at least not until I get my sales figures. My Amazon ranking went down early in the tour, then gradually climbed back up. And who knows what that means?

I learned a few things you might consider if you do one of these tours. Number one is start your planning early. I began four months out with Dani’s on-line blogbooktour course. You should begin planning at least six months before the tour begins. And start writing those posts two months out. It’ll save a few strands of gray hair. Although each had a contingent of readers, the blogs that hosted me directed their articles primarily at writers. Writers are readers, too, but try to find some blogs compatible with the subject of your novel aimed toward non-writers. You’ll sell more books that way.

JRW: Thanks for all those tips Chester--we're exhausted just listening! Now Chester is standing by to answer your questions...And don't forget to come back Friday to visit with literary agent Paige Wheeler.


  1. I'm taking Dani's class now and can echo all the things Chester mentioned. It's a ton of work, but I already feel like I've gotten my upcoming release a lot of exposure.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  2. Good luck with your tour, Elizabeth. It's hard to measure results of something like this, but you get a feeling that you've stirred up a lot of talk. Which is good.

  3. Welcome Chester:
    I'm just starting a small blog book tour next week to herald the arrival of Royal Flush, so it will be interesting to see how that goes. You are right about the amount of time it takes to create all those blog topics and make each unique and interesting.

    Good luck with the new book

  4. Hi Chester,
    Welcome to Jungle Red! I absolutely love that line -- a one armed driver with a stick shift in heavy traffic!! That's just how I felt during my blog tour.

    I'm never sure what does any good - and I'm not sure that I'll know even when I get my book sale numbers -- because who knows what they'd be like in those dark, post crash days without the blog tour?

    Best of luck and congrats on The Surest Poison!

  5. Hi, Chester, Great summary of what you did and what you learned. Thanks for including the link to your tour stops. I’ll look at each, that’s for sure.

    Short question: You suggest writing the blog posts early-on. Would that compromise what a particular host wanted you to discuss? That is, if host X wanted you to talk about characterization, but you had planned to discuss pace. Did that create a conflict? Or, did the hosts generally not care what you wrote about?

    Lastly, did you encounter blogs that just weren’t interested in hosting a guest author?

    Best regards, Galen

  6. Hi, Rhys, it's a time-intensive project for sure but hopefully will pay off. Good luck with your tour.

    Thanks, Jan. What works promo-wise and what doesn't is one of those great unknowns. We have to do what looks promising and hope for the best.

    Thanks for the comment, Galen. To answer your question, I suggested a topic for each stop. Some hosts wanted a particular twist on it. I cleared those before writing the posts. The majority accepted my suggestion, so I could have written several before lining up the hosts.

    I don't think I encountered more than one potential host with no interest. Some had scheduling problems. That's what happened with Jungle Red Writers, so I'm visiting here now.

  7. And we're glad you're here Chester! I think many blog hosts are glad to have suggestions from the guest--particularly if they relate to the theme of the blog. Dani is very good at brainstorming. When I did a tour, she suggested a stop at White on Rice, a cooking/foodie blog, because my protagonist was a great cook. We did a post on dinner party disasters that was a huge hit.

    Anyway, good luck with your book. The cover is terrific!

  8. Thanks, Roberta. That was a great idea for the cooking/foodie blog. My book deals with chemical pollution, but I couldn't find any blogs related to it except organizations that were technically slanted.

  9. Hey Chester! So wonderful to see you here. It's intimidating, what you undertook and accomplished.

    WOuld you do it again?

    Have you met people you otherwise would not have known?

    DO you feel less compelled to make personal visits?

    I'm saving your post--it's a wonderful blueprint. And it'll be intereting for you to look at, say, a year from now. Do another blog with us then, ok?

    Thank you so much!

  10. Good questions, Hank. Yes, since I'm a glutton for punishment, I'll probably do it again.

    I met a lot of new people, particularly among Dani's blogbooktours group, but also from those who wrote comments along the route.

    I presume you refer to visiting other blogs. I do a lot more of that now. Before getting into the tour groove, I rarely read blogs. Now I follow lots of links on Facebook and Twitter.

    Thanks for the suggestion. I'll check back next year and see what's happened. I'm just getting going with my fifth Greg McKenzie book.