ABCs of Book Marketing: Blog Hops 1-2-3 or Tips for Herding Authors

Over the last couple years, I’ve organized three blog hops.  I’ve learned a lot from each one and the process has grown progressively smoother. The purpose of this post is to document what I’ve learned for posterity and also so I don’t forget.

 

What is a Blog Hop?

Basically, a blog hop is a multi-platform event sponsored by authors for readers. Blog hops are almost always themed. Per the name, author blogs have traditionally participated. However, I’ve more recently seen author websites and even Facebook pages taking part. A grand prize is offered as well as individual prizes. Readers are provided access to a Linked List of participating blogs and urged to “Follow the Hop”. A hop lasts more than one day. Five or six days seem to be most common.

Now, you might wonder why would I, as an author, want to participate in a hop? In simple terms, it’s a cheap and simple means of improving your site’s traffic and also introducing new readers to your books. During the last hop I participated organized, traffic across The Snarkology increased by an average of 2-fold most days and 4-fold on the first day of the event.

 

Organizing a hop:

(I’m not going to lie. Hops are time-consuming and they can be aggravating, especially if you’re not sure what you’re doing. But they’re also an inexpensive, fun, and effective marketing tool.)

 

1.  Hop organization starts with signups. The easiest method is typically via a Google Document. With any hop, there are four essential pieces of information you need to collect:

a)  Author’s name

b) Author’s email address

c) Name of the author’s site

d) URL of the author’s site

After all this information is collected and signups are closed, be sure to keep the master list up-to-date with any changes in participant info.

 

2. Use the signup spreadsheet to build the Linked List.

a) I prefer Simply-Linked because it’s free but there are other Linky List platforms out there. Some are paid.

b) The Linked List offers a signup form you may be tempted to use as an alternative to Google Docs. Word of advice: don’t. You’ll save yourself a headache later if you personally enter and test every single link to make sure it’s valid.

c) Simply-Linked provides some Java script HTML code that can be copied and pasted into most WordPress sites to show the up-to-date list. This is desirable because the software automatically distributes changes across the Internet. If a participant changes their url or drops out, changes are implemented seamlessly without the hop mistress having to send out a hundred emails.

However, at the time of this post, there are two issues with Simply-Linked to be aware of:

  • WordPress.com sites don’t support Java script so the HTML code won’t work.
  • Blogger supports the HTML but the Linked List won’t show in the preview mode. The post has to publish before it becomes visible.

d) Every participant in the hop must receive and post the HTML to the linked list or the URL to the landing page.

 

3. Work around Linked List issues by setting up a Hop Landing Page.

I typically create a Hop Landing Page on my Blog and then pass out the direct URL to participants to link to so readers have access to the Linked List.

 

4. Create a Hop banner.

Hop banners can be made in a variety of sizes for use on sidebars and advertising in other social media. You can either commission banners from a graphic design artist or ask around to see if any of the hop participants have the skills and willingness to donate a set of banners. Every participant blogger must post the hop banner.

Below is a sample banners used in a prior hop.

howlinggoodhop-500px
Artwork by Shawntelle Madison

 

5. Ask for volunteers.

I’ve never had any difficult obtaining volunteers who help verify that complete and complaint posts are up the first day of the hop. Also, ask your helpers to check their assigned blogs at least one more time during the week.

A fair division of labor looks something like:

Total number of participating blogs / Total number of volunteers

As a rule, I don’t like to assign more than five or six blogs to a volunteer. If the ratio got higher than that, I’d ask for more volunteers.

 

6. The hopwide grand prize contest is the engine that drives your hop.

a) Begin by setting up another Google Document to collect the names, email addresses, and buy in amounts of those interested in donating.*

*Some hops have a mandatory minimum donation. Others are completely voluntary. I prefer to keep the donation voluntary so authors who are experiencing financial hardship aren’t excluded. Ultimately, it’s up to the hop planner.

b) Announce the grand prize buy in to your participating authors and ask them to fill out the form. A $5 donation toward the kitty is a common buy in amount.* Each buy in gives the author one option/action for readers to perform in order to achieve an entry.

*Funds can easily be collected via Paypal. Remember to remind folks that you’re their friend and/or second cousin to avoid those crazy fees.

Examples of buy in options:

  • Support the author on Amazon
  • Join the author’s email list
  • Follow the author on Twitter
  • Tweet a message
  • Follow on Goodreads

Warning: Facebook has been counting incoming “Likes” from Rafflecopter as click-farming and deleting them. I’d advise your authors not to include any Facebook Pages for liking because it’s essentially a wasted option now.

c) Rafflecopter is the popular go-to option for hop wide giveaways.

Set up your Rafflecopter and ask your participating authors to verify their own entries.

d) Rafflecopter will provide HTML code for distribution to blogs. The code with pull the giveaway through to the blog so all prizes and entry options will be visible. Alternatively, Rafflecopter will also provide a URL to link to where readers can go to enter the grand prize giveaway. Once the hop is complete and winners are chosen, the Rafflecopter can also be used to display the winners.

e) Every participant blogger should receive and post the Rafflecopter HTML or URL.

 

7. Close signups at least a week prior to the start of the hop.

You’ll need the time for administrative tasks. There’s a lot to do without trying to stay on top of new people joining at the last minute.

 

8. Along the way, send out informative emails at regular intervals.

Communication is key. Be sure to let your participants know what’s going on and what’s expected of them. Repetition is also important. Email will be missed, go into spam folders, etc. I also like to double-post the information to a private hop-related social media group when the option is available.

 

9.  What should a blog post include?

a) A hop post must include:

  • The Hop Banner
  • The Rafflecopter HTML or a link to the Rafflecopter URL
  • The Linked List HTML or a link to Hop Landing Page

b) A hop post may include (optionally):

  • An entertaining article
  • A book spotlight
  • An site specific giveaway
  • Information about the author

 

10.  Promote your hop across various social media!

 

11. Have fun!

 

Every October I run The Snarkology Halloween Hop. Anyone interested in learning more, please consider following my blog via email. There’s a signup to follow the Snarkology via email on the left sidebar at the top.

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