Bookish Confession: I’m Not Interested in Reading Blog Tours

Over the years, bloggers have worked hard to build relationships with publishers by reviewing ARCs, interviewing authors, doing cover reveals, and more. One common way for bloggers to work with publishers and authors is to participate in blog tours–events where a different promotional post about an author’s book will appear on a different blog each day for period of time (usually one or two weeks). However, although I understand that bloggers participate in these tours because it is a sign that publishers recognize their hard work, I have to admit that whenever I see a post is part of a blog tour, I click away. I read blogs because I want to know an individual’s personal thoughts on a work; reading a blog tour post feels like I am being advertised to instead.

For me, the joy of book blogging comes from joining a community where people can express their honest opinions about books. Sometimes a book works for a person and sometimes it does not. That’s just life! Hearing honest responses to books not only keeps the conversation interesting, but also provides me, the reader, with valuable information that will help me to decide if I want to invest my time and money in a particular title. That is why I love the independence of book blogs. Bloggers are not typically getting paid for their opinions, so they are free to admit when a book did not meet their expectations. They are not working for a company, so they can blog about whatever they like–not just what is company approved. Book blogs are successful currently, I would argue, because they have this independence and so readers feel like they can trust the reviews and the content. But blog tours take a bit of that away.

By nature, a blog tour is advertising. It is meant to sell books, not to provide an in-depth critique at the pros and cons of a work. So, when reviews are written for the sole purpose of being part of a tour, there is the expectation that the reviews are all going to be positive. That is, after all, what the author was implicitly asking when they organized the tour. They are doing the tour to promote their book, not to take the chance that their blogging partners will scare potential readers away.

Saying that blog tour reviewers may feel pressured to only highlight the good stuff is not to impugn the integrity of any reviewers. It is a natural response to want to do a favor for a partner, or to keep a good relationship with authors and publishers who have shown themselves willing to work with bloggers and maybe provide free books in the bargain. In fact, this response is so natural that the FTC requires influencers to note when they have received a book from an author or publisher for review because that information is valuable to readers of the review. It lets them know that an influencer, by nature of having received something from a company, may be biased to review the product favorably. That’s not something specific to book bloggers. It’s just human nature!

I avoid blog tours because I do not like being advertised at in general, but also because I can already assume that the blog tour reviews are going to be mere promotional copy, and not an engaging critique of the book. This may be an unpopular opinion to express, but I do not think I am alone in feeling this way. I read blogs for the independent content. When I start seeing a lot of sponsored content, I am no longer interested. This is a response that bloggers may wish to consider as discussions about being paid continue. Will turning into a fully sponsored blog take away aspects of the blog that drew readers to it in the first place?

Edited to Add:

Some bloggers and blog tour organizers have expressed that they feel my post says that bloggers who participate in blog tours and write reviews for the book being promoted are “dishonest.” This is not the case! As bloggers discuss the possibility of being paid partners with publishers, I simply mean to open up a discussion about how I, as a consumer, view promotional/sponsored/paid content versus more organic content. I think it is natural and prudent for consumers to consider the background and affiliations of a post or review. I myself carefully consider this kind of context for all products, not just books. My post is merely my personal feelings about promotional content, and how I as a consumer perceive it.

Additionally, it has been suggested that I clarify that not all book blog tours are the same. To that end, we should recognize that sometimes blog tour organizers get paid, but maybe not. Some blog tours might ask that only positive reviews be posted, but some do not. The specific rules and expectations of each tour will be different. You might have to ask around or do some research to learn the particular rules of every blog tour.

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66 thoughts on “Bookish Confession: I’m Not Interested in Reading Blog Tours

  1. Carol says:

    I participate in a few selected blog tours….usually with publishers I’ve worked with before. I feel like I can provide an honest review to a certain extent. I know that blog tours prefer 4 and 5 star reviews. Once I had to contact the organizer and say I couldn’t give more than a 3. She accepted that but I don’t think that’s the norm. A friend gave a 4 star review for a particular blog tour in which she also included an excerpt (provided with the media kit)….the author filed a copyright violation in retaliation against every blogger that gave him 4 stars! What a mess! It was finally rescinded but I’m sure it affected her good standing in some way. I’ll never use an excerpt now because of that! I also don’t go out of my way to use their promotional materials. I treat it like a regular review post and include that’s it’s a tour in the same paragraph as my disclosure that I received a complimentary copy. Interesting discussion!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Krysta says:

      I think that makes sense! Each blog tour is going to be different, and some publishers/organizers might be easier to work with or more open to different types of reviews or content.

      It does sometimes feel awkward, for me, working with people to review books because, well, I want to be kind! I know that authors rely on good reviews to get the word out and get those sales, especially upon first release.

      I once worked with a self-published author who was very nice. We had I thought a good working relationship, and I’d review all their books as they came out. The books were kind of nice, but not remarkable, but I tried to point out the good things and balance out the feeling of, “Well, it’s kind of average.” Then one day I couldn’t review the latest book. I forget why. I might have been ill or something. Well, that was the last I heard from that author! Our relationship was ruined, I guess. And I am still haunted by it, years later. Like, should I have crawled from my sickbed to notify them that the review was not forthcoming? But, also, if this was the response for not giving a review, what would have happened if I had given a bad review? It’s scenarios like these that give me pause when working with people I don’t know.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. itsKoo says:

    This was a thought-provoking piece, and I appreciated your frankness about blog tours. You are right in that blog tours are promotional tours with some of these groups stipulating that reviews less than a certain rating be withheld until after the tour is over. This might have caused some previous controversy, but the key is that it is afterall a promotional tour. It can be expected that those who post actual reviews during the tour will have positive reviews. Those who do not post a review may or may not have positive ratings for the book. This is something I wonder about when someone part of the tour doesn’t post a review. While I can’t speak for every person who participates in tours, my experience as a tour host is that it doesn’t explicitly affect my review. I still write it like any review and will alert the organizers if I cannot post a review since it does not meet their rating requirement, opting to post after the tour is complete. I often wonder about the potential implicit effects it has on tour hosts. What if being part of the tour affects my review without me realizing it? It means that tour hosts need to think a little bit more about their reviews and if it genuinely reflects their thoughts or if it is biased. Thanks for the confession. It was a good read.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Krysta says:

      Ah, yes, good point! Thanks for pointing out that sometimes blog tours ask that negative reviews be posted after. I don’t know that there’s anything inherently wrong with that. I know, as a consumer, that the blog tour is promotional. I expect the reviews to be positive. It, in fact, would be kind of weird if they weren’t positive.

      It’s kind of like how I don’t read the blurbs on back of a cover and expect Famous Author So-and-So to write, “Eh, it was okay.” No, it’s all, Famous Author raves, “A new literary star has dawned!” Because it’s promotional copy! Do I believe that all these Famous Authors are literally crying with joy over every book they’ve blurbed? No, and that’s okay. I MIGHT think, though, “Well, Famous Author didn’t HATE it. They liked it enough to give even the most generic of blurbs.” And that MIGHT be worth something to me as a book buyer. I have the consumer awareness to know I’m being marketed to, but also this tiny thought of, “Hm, I do like Famous Author and they’re okay with being associated with this book, so maybe it’s worth a try.”

      I think blog tours are similar. I have the consumer awareness to know that it’s marketing copy, and that will affect how I perceive the ratings and reviews. Especially because I know that book bloggers are kind, they love promoting books, and most of them are going to want to be gentle with authors. But that doesn’t mean the marketing isn’t still going to work on me, on some level.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Eustacia | Eustea Reads says:

    I used to participate in blog tours when I just started blogging, since it’s a way of getting eARCs but I always felt bad if I didn’t love the book and actually pulled out/replaced my review with a “book feature” when I didn’t like the book.

    And that’s probably why I stopped doing blog tours – I don’t like the thought of having to censor myself and post on a schedule

    Liked by 4 people

    • Krysta says:

      I think that’s valid! Book bloggers are generally kind and want to be supportive of authors. It can be really awkward to have to say we can’t give a five-star, rave review. But I also think it’s admirable that you were able, even as a new blogger, to admit to this and offer something different that could still be of value to the author.

      It’s that awkwardness that keeps my from wanting to participate in blog tours. I really don’t want to have to email someone with, “Er, hey, I didn’t connect with your book. I’m sure it’s a great book and others will connect with it, but…I can’t give you the glowing review you probably hoped for.” And, yeah, I don’t like posting to a schedule, either, and having to have certain posts up on certain days and times.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. whatcathyreadnext says:

    Although you say you don’t intend to impugn the integrity of those who write reviews as part of blog tours I think the whole tone of your post suggests the opposite. You don’t trust us to be honest. I have NEVER written a review for a blog tour that wasn’t my honest opinion or felt pressurised to give a positive review or a particular rating. I choose the blog tours I want to take part in based on my interest in the book in the same way I would if I was buying a book. I an not an advertising billboard for hire. However you’re entitled to your opinion and I won’t be losing any sleep over the fact you won’t be reading any of my reviews.

    Liked by 7 people

    • Krysta says:

      I think it’s admirable that you feel able to give negative reviews to books you are asked to review! I know that’s a difficult thing to do, because it can feel very awkward having to email someone with, “Oh, hey, sorry I didn’t connect with your book the way I thought I would…. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t still a good book others would like!” I find having to write a negative review for a book I especially was looking forward to can be extra disappointing.

      Like

  5. annecater says:

    Hello. This is a really interesting post.

    However, as a blogger (of over 12 years), and a Blog Tour organiser (over 6 years), I would have to disagree regarding your comment that a Blog Tour ‘s aim is to sell books. I always advise any author or publisher that they cannot expect sales from a blog tour. They are not a sales mechanism, they are a way of gaining more reviews for their books. Reviews that can be used and quoted in the future.

    Of course, I would prefer positive reviews during a Blog Tour, but I have never ever told a blogger that they cannot post a less positive review, all I ask, is that they let me know prior to posting, so that the author can be prepared.

    I do not supply any text or pre-written material. All bloggers prepare their post in their own way, yes, some prefer to share an extract from the book, but that is clear from the post.

    Personally, I write a lot of reviews, some are blog tour reviews, some are not, every single one of them are my honest thoughts. I have chosen not to write negative reviews on my blog, this is because I abandon books that I’m not enjoying, therefore I do not feel qualified to write a review about a book that I’ve not finished.

    As bloggers, are are expected to state if a book was give to us free of charge, whether a blog tour book or not, so that’s not so relevant really.

    You’ve chosen not to read blog tour posts and that is entirely your right, however, I’m not sure it’s correct that you post misleading information in terms of sales, or try to influence your readers to assume that blog tour posts are dishonest. I find that really puzzling, especially from a fellow blogger when this is usually such a supportive community.

    Enjoy the rest of your day

    Liked by 2 people

    • Krysta says:

      Thank you for adding some additional clarifications for our readers! I can agree with you that book blog tours will not guarantee sales. However, I would suggest that the point of a book blog tour is exposure or marketing–and that sort of exposure is supposed to eventually lead to sales, even if it’s long term. I might not buy the book directly from a link posted in a blog tour or on any review, but after I see the book mentioned several times, then my interest might be piqued. I’ll think this is a book everyone is talking about, and I should look into it.

      So, are book blog tour tours promotional in nature? Yes. Do I see them recommended for authors as part of (a larger) marketing strategy? Also, yes. The book of getting reviews, or getting reviews to be quoted, is so authors and publishers can promote the book. Publishing is a business and businesses don’t put time and money (usually) into things that aren’t supposed to benefit them in some way. I will add that that’s not inherently wrong. Businesses are supposed to make money. I want publishers and authors to make money, so they can give us more books. Whatever they want to do to that end is up to them, and it’s perfectly valid for them to organize blog tours to get the word out about their product.

      It’s the fact that blog tours are promotional in nature that makes me put on my consumer-savvy hat. And I do this for everything, not just books! If I am buying soap or a toaster, or anything, I scroll past any review tagged, “I received this as part of a promotion.” Not because people are “dishonest,” as has been suggested, but because people are kind, or want to be gentle with authors and products and companies they like.

      And, you are right! The FTC guidelines for disclosing where products come from go beyond book tours and includes book reviews, as well as reviews for products that are not books. And there’s a reason for that. It’s because the FTC believes that people have a right to know what kind of affiliations people have with a product, so they can make an informed decision. My assessment that blog tours are promotional in nature is part of how I try to make informed decisions.

      I do think it is valuable to note, as you do, that every blog tour is different. Some might accept negative reviews, while others don’t. Some provide marketing copy and other’s don’t. It’s up to consumers to do their research online when they read about books–or anything else, for that matter.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Books’n’banter says:

    I have never and will never give a review for 4 or 5 stars if I don’t mean it. It’s not given because of expectation. Honest means honest in my reviews. Always has and always will. I am primarily a reader. I join blog tours because I enjoy them, not because anyone demands 4/5 star reviews. Of course people like them, but they’re neither expected or demanded, in my experience. I find your post demeaning and insulting to myself and other bloggers.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Nish says:

    It’s been years since I posted/read content about blog tours, cover reveals, and such. I have even unfollowed blogs where that is the majority content. It’s not that I doubt the integrity of these reviews, it’s just that the books which are generally on these blog tours are not my type of books anyway.

    Liked by 2 people

    • whatcathyreadnext says:

      If the books aren’t your type of thing then the fact they’re part of a blog tour is irrelevant surely? Your comment could equally apply to a review NOT part of a blog tour. It’s the same for me. I wouldn’t read a review of a YA book because I don’t read that genre.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

        I think you have a good point here that of course one would read blogs where the genre of book being reviewed aligns with one’s own reading tastes. I’m wondering if perhaps blog tours are more common for certain genres, though, which may be what people are seeing. For instance, I see a lot of blog tours for romance or maybe fantasy romance, which are genres I don’t really read. I see a medium amount for YA. And I only recently started seeing more tours for middle grade books. Previously I would have said MG tours were rare (or I personally was just not seeing the posts for whatever reason).

        Like

    • Krysta says:

      I wouldn’t necessarily say I doubt the integrity of the reviews, but I do recognize marketing or promotional content as different from organic content. And, as some have noted above, while some blog tours accept positive reviews, others don’t. It’s hard to know the rules of each tour as just a casual reader of blogs.

      Some have said that they will offer different content for a tour if they didn’t like the book. I think that is kind of them to offer to support a book they didn’t personally enjoy, but think others might like. Something else I have seen is that reviewers will only post a summary of the book, instead of a review. I normally don’t avidly read bloggers who post summaries instead of reviews (with their opinions and not a recap of the plot), so when I see bloggers who are normally open with their opinions mostly summarize, I do wonder if it’s because they felt bad saying they didn’t like the book.

      For me, recognizing that blog tours are meant to be promotional is just part of my trying to be a savvy consumer of information.

      Like

  8. Steve Smith says:

    Interesting view, though I’d disagree. As a reviewer, I’ve taken part in tours and in some instances have given a bad review. If the book is not for me, or has problems, I will say so. I’ve had a few publishers who actively loved it because it was refreshing.

    As someone who has published a book and had a blog tour run, I received a mix of reviews. I think to catch all under this banner of “biased reviews” could actually do more harm than the tours themselves. Yes, some (many) probably will be biased, but not all.

    But then I have come across reviewers that will only review a book they enjoyed. So are those reviews also not inherently biased? It means you have no balance there.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Krysta says:

      Thanks for your perspective! As others have noted, while some publishers might ask for only positive reviews, others don’t! It’s important to recognize that all blog tours are different.

      I do agree that negative reviews are important! Personally, I prefer to read reviewers who post both negative and positive reviews because it does give me that sense of balance. I respect people who want to support authors and who try to do that by being only complimentary. I appreciate, though, when they make it clear on their blog or reviews that they only review positively, so I can have that context. Otherwise, I will start to wonder how a person could possibly love every thing they’ve ever read, because that seems like quite a feat and not entirely believable.

      Like

      • Steve Smith says:

        Agreed. I try to keep any negative reviews constructive ans highlight that for whatever reason it wasn’t for me. I still feel ultimately that the reader can make their own call.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Krysta says:

          So true! And someone’s negative review might be someone else’s positive review! We all have different tastes, so sometimes I read a negative review and think, “Well, that’s actually a trope/genre/whatever I enjoy!” So a negative review could still convince me to read a book!

          Like

  9. Books Teacup and Reviews says:

    I have participated in blog tours a lot but I usually enjoyed all books I read, I have rarely come across book that I rated less than 3 star and in that case I step out of tour by just posting synopsis and post my review when tour is over. But yes, nature of blog tour is to advertise the book. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      Thanks for explaining the process more for our readers! Some have mentioned above that some blog organizers ask for only positive reviews, while others have no such rule. It’s all about the individual blog tour!

      That being said, I do think blog tours are meant to be promotional and, if I were in a blog tour and wanted to leave a negative review, I think I would also ask to post it afterwards, as a courtesy to the author. That’s not to say that blog tours are inherently bad, just that they have a specific function that I try to recognize when I want to be a savvy consumer of information. And if I were part of a blog tour and couldn’t participate in that function–to market the book–I would feel bad.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Books Teacup and Reviews says:

        Yes, most blog tours have a policy to post review with at least 3 stars but they also get not all books work for readers so all they ask is you notify them early and post synopsis or extract instead of review during the blog tour and post your opinion after the blog tour. Some tour organisers cancel the tour if all readers are not liking the book but of course we can post review after the blog tour if we want.

        From my experience I trust some tour organisers that brings all the good books in my radar like, Rache”s random resources. She herself read books, i dont know before after process but but I like her taste.

        I stopped participating only because I honestly don’t have time, I get tons of widgets from publishers, and I can’t work in deadlines when my kid needs attention too.

        Like

        • Krysta says:

          Yeah, I think that’s the promotional aspect of the tour. They are hoping for positive feedback, so if a reviewer can’t provide it, it seems that a lot of commenters are saying that the reviewer either backs out of the tour or offers to do some sort of other promotional feature that isn’t a review. That makes sense to me! If authors are paying blog tour organizers to get posts, they want those posts to make their product look good.

          And, so true! It helps to know which reviewers that have tastes that align with your own.

          And, also yes! I don’t like having to post to someone else’s schedule because blogging is a hobby for me, so I don’t tend to accept a lot of books for review.

          Liked by 1 person

  10. Jordyn @ Birdie's Book Nook says:

    I have a confession to make, too. I never read Blog Tour posts. Most them all come out at the same time — being the nature of the tour, of course — and I don’t really feel like reading what essentially becomes the same post eighteen times. Like you, I think they usually sound like advertisements, and I would rather read someone’s honest thoughts on a book rather than something that SOUNDS like they’ve been made to post. I know, of course, no one is made to post anything. BUT STILL, I don’t read them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Krysta says:

      That’s a good point, too. Sometimes when a blog tour is happening, I keep seeing the same book in my feed and I start to feel oversaturated. I understand that just the name recognition alone is a marketing tactic–you’re supposed to have to see a product a certain number of times before you get interested. But if I’ve just read two or three reviews about a book, I’m not necessarily going to keep reading more all at the same time.

      I am quite confused that some people don’t see blog tours as promotional material? I specifically see blog tours suggested to authors as part of their marketing strategy. For me, knowing this is just part of being an informed consumer.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Ari Augustine says:

    I’m highly selective with which book tours I participate in these, and I’m happy that many tour companies (there’s really only one at this point) I work with are okay with me not boosting a book I didn’t like. But I’ve slowly also come to this place of not wanting to really participate in them anymore because there’s the pressure to like a book and I dislike having that pre-bias. The same with ARCs, to be honest. I’ve been inching away from requesting a ton of arcs because I do feel that sort of relationship with publishers has caused some level of bias on my part. I do my best to be organic/authentic with my reviews–I’ve been known to be relatively critical in some of them–but dislike the stress of feeling guilty when I don’t love an arc. I’m torn, though, as both can make lesser-known authors more visible and connect them with readers who truly love their stories. So, it feels like a double-edged sword to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, I’ve seen a number of bloggers admit in comments and whatnot that there is this tiny sense of pressure to want to like a book received as an ARC. I get that feeling, too, and I think it’s natural! Book bloggers tend to be kind, generous with their time, and supportive of authors. It’s awkward to receive a book for review from a publisher or author you like, and then find out you don’t like the book as much as you thought you would, and can’t leave the glowing review you expected to.

      I also think it’s important to note, as you do, that blog tours are different! They have different rules and some might be more open to negative reviews or content in lieu of a review.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. theperusingmuse says:

    Thanks for sharing! It made me think. I haven’t read a book tour review before, and I’m not sure if I would do one or not. I liked what you said about how book bloggers are independent; I feel like we need honesty more than marketing. And sometimes I disagree with negative reviews of books I like, but it helps me see the book from a different perspective.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I think blog tour posts depend a lot on the tour itself. Some publishers and authors seem to offer more original content, while others seem to have more repetitive or very short content. Some organizers request only positive reviews, and that negatives ones be posted after the tour, while others don’t. It’s just hard as a casual reader to get a sense of what the individual rules of each tour are.

      Liked by 1 person

      • theperusingmuse says:

        That sounds quite complicated to navigate. I feel like longer content would make a better book tour, it seems more authentic and it allows the reader to have space to be critical while also giving a good review overall.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies says:

    Interesting topic! I participated in more blog tours earlier on as a blogger, as a good way to access ARCs and develop some new relationships, but I’ve done fewer and fewer over more recent years. I do feel there’s more pressure to be positive if part of a blog tour than if just reviewing a book received via NetGalley. I’ve unfortunately had the experience of feeling really negatively about a blog tour book, and ended up reaching out to the tour organizer to see if they’d prefer me to back out of the tour? In the end, we agreed that I’d post a “spotlight” post, but not share a review, and I was comfortable with that.

    Overall, I’m not that drawn to reading others’ posts that are blog tour posts, but the exception would be for bloggers I routinely read and/or for books I’m already interested in, But I do so knowing (as you’ve pointed out) that blog tours are promotional vehicles, and that they’ll always slant more positively than a non-tour review.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, I think it is common for new bloggers to start out trying new and different things. It helps build relationships, as you say, and it gives you some idea of what kinds of things you like to do and might want to focus on with your own particular blog. Some people get more into memes or discussions or photography or tours–or whatever their interest is! But it helps to test all those things out first and to see if it’s for you.

      I’ve seen a lot of bloggers mention that there is an implicit feeling of wanting to be positive for blog tours or even ARCs, and I think that’s natural! Book bloggers tend to be very generous with their time and want to support authors. It’s awkward to have to admit a book you read didn’t work out for you, especially if you’re being asked to email that information directly to the author and not to an intermediary.

      Several commentors have mentioned pulling out of review agreements and working out an alternative promo material because a book wasn’t working for them, and that makes sense! The purpose of the tour is, after all, the spread positive feelings about the book. I think it’s kind and generous for bloggers to offer an alternative post if they feel they can’t write a glowing review.

      Like

  14. Karen Cole says:

    I regularly post blog tour reviews, I find having a set date keeps me on track and prevents me from procrastinating! I am invited to several tours a day and only accept those that I genuinely think I’ll enjoy. I have been book blogging for almost ten years and have developed a keen sense of what I enjoy. I’ve only ever been unable to post three reviews and that was my choice, not because I felt pressurised by the blog tour organiser.
    I only post positive reviews on my blog – not because I’m concerned about being unkind – I just don’t finish books I’m not enjoying and therefore, it’s unfair of me to review it. If I have small criticisms to make, I will mention them and I treat my blog tour reviews EXACTLY the same as any other review I write.
    Book bloggers are constantly accused of not being ‘real readers’ and I’m afraid that divisive posts such as this which cast doubt on our integrity don’t help at all. If you don’t want to read our blogs that’s your prerogative but to potentially put other people off really isn’t in the spirit of what I consider a mostly supportive hobby.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      I have seen many bloggers over the years admit that they feel implicit pressure to be more positive when they receive a book for review, and I think that’s natural! I don’t think it casts doubts on the integrity of reviewers in general. My knowing that a review is part of a sponsored or promotional campaign is simply important information for me to know as a consumer. The FTC agrees with that, which is why they require reviewers to note where they received products they are reviewing in a clear manner.

      And I think most people are aware that biases may come into play when products are received for review. I have, for instance, seen influencers who decline all products for review and instead ask their followers to donate so they can buy the product instead. That’s not because they are going to be “dishonest” if they receive a product from a company, but because they are aware that consumers tend to view sponsored reviews differently from non-sponsored reviews. And they want their followers to believe that their reviews are going to be free from any internalized pressure to find positives about a product.

      This has nothing to do with bloggers not being “real readers,” whatever that means. It is simply a post noting that consumers should be aware of the affiliations reviewers have with companies and products. I take this information into account for all reviews, not just books. I scroll past sponsored reviews and sponsored products on online shopping sites, for instance. Knowing a product was received for review purposes is just part of being an informed reader on the internet.

      Like

  15. Briana | Pages Unbound says:

    I think of blog tours as having similarities with “native advertising” in a magazine or website (Buzzfeed does this a lot). So I open the magazine and see “10 Best Skincare Products for Acne-prone Skin.” I read it, find it somewhat interesting, ponder buying some of the recs someday. Then I see the “Sponsored by Neutrogena” line at the bottom of what initially looked like a “regular” magazine article. Now I know that it’s not just an article with recs from the minds of the editors; it’s an ad that was influenced by Neutrogena’s input. Of course, I am going to read that differently than something that was not sponsored in any way, even if I ultimately do decide to buy the products.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, I think people understand that there IS a difference between organic material and sponsored material, and marketers sometimes try to get around that by attempting to make the promo material look more organic. That’s why the FTC is so clear about any items received for review needing to be stated at the top of the page and not hidden in a hashtag, etc. So it’s harder for ads to post as organic content.

      I also have seen book blog tours that try to look more like organic content, too, which makes me think that the bloggers also understand that organic content is viewed differently by readers than promotional materials. The title might sort of mislead me into thinking it’s an organic review, and then I’ll realize three paragraphs in that it’s actually a blog tour post. I much prefer to have all that stated clearly at the top of the page and not embedded in the middle.

      Like

  16. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    I totally get what you mean- I’m really not keen to be advertised to most of the time. I’m ok with it occasionally and I’ll usually be fine with a review, but I don’t pay as much attention to blog tours. I think the longer I’ve been blogging the less attention I give them! I have to admit I’ve done a couple as favours for indie authors, when I’d already liked their arcs, but the whole scheduling thing didn’t sit quite right with me and I’ve no plans to do one again. Tbh I think it didn’t do any favours, because people see those reviews more like advertising, so a regular arc review would’ve been better.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      It seems like quite a few commenters have mentioned liking to participate in tours to meet people and access few books. I don’t see a lot of people strongly enthusiastic about reading them, though. And that makes sense to me! I see blog tours as something that primarily is meant to benefit authors. Some bloggers are passionate about spending their time working to promote authors, and doing blog tours would meet that goal. For others like me, though, blogging is more about talking about books and with other readers. So I don’t have a strong impulse either to do promo work for authors or to read it.

      I admit I assumed most people do see blog tour reviews as akin to advertising, so I am surprised at the backlash we got here and on Twitter from people saying that blog tours AREN’T promotional in nature and should not be viewed differently from organic content. To me, it’s part of what you learn in school, to recognize people’s business affiliations and how that might or might not cause bias. Like obviously if a company is pushing out content for people to promote it’s for business purposes, not just for fun?

      Like

  17. Mint says:

    ARC and book tours have the same purpose – advertise books – but weirdly, I feel more strongly about book tours. I don’t know if I’d click away from a blog tour post, but I definitely think about it differently.

    I think I feel this way because there’s just so much variation with how book tour companies treat reviews. Like you said, some require positive reviews, some don’t. Some pay reviewers, some don’t. And there’s just no way for me to keep track of which companies have which policies – if these policies are even publicized.

    On the other hand, I feel like all the big ARC sites do things very similarly Reviews can be positive or negative, no one gets paid. And people who work with indie authors directly often follow the same guidelines. Because of this consistency, I’ve got a better idea of what I’m getting with the review.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      This is something Krysta and I were just discussing: different tour companies have different rules, and as a consumer/reader of the tour posts, there is basically no way for someone to know what those rules are. So some tours allow less than three star reviews and some don’t — but that information is not posted where you would actually see it, which is on the tour posts themselves and it’s generally not on the tour website. You have to actually participate in the tour to be emailed the rules, so there is no transparency.

      I am also very curious how often there is genuinely a fully negative “I did not like this and do not recommend this” review on a tour. It may be allowed by the technical rules, but does anyone generally post something like this, or do they self-opt out and choose to do other content and post their negative review later? I ask because I would. I would feel bad bashing a book on a book tour even if the host said I could, and I freely admit I would struggle giving a book on tour 1 star.

      I worked a whole for a review company (not a blog tour company) that lets indie authors pay for reviews, and it was a selling point of the service that reviews would be 3 stars or higher. You had a guarantee you were not paying to have your book bashed. If the reviewer assigned your book didn’t like it, you would get an “advertising spot” instead. Reviewers were allowed to dislike the book but strongly encouraged to find positives in it and write about that — because a bunch of authors didn’t really want to be told the reviewer hated the book and get an advertisement instead of the review they were hoping and had paid the company for (I was not paid for reviewing, just the company owner). It was also obviously not written anywhere on the site that an advertisement was code for “the reviewer didn’t like the book,” so that was never disclosed to site readers.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mint says:

        The lack of transparency is really troubling to me. I understand there’s a concern that being up-front about review practises on a tour company website or blog post could harm the advertising campaign. But at the same time, not openly sharing practises may make potential customers like you or me very skeptical, and end up harming the campaign.

        If only positive reviews are allowed, a company should be up-front about that instead of leaving things vague and to the consumer to guess. Something like “Our mission at Mintlovesbooks Tours is to uplift authors. We therefore ask that our reviewers only post reviews that are 3 stars and above. Negative reviews will be privately sent to the author for their consideration.”

        From my perspective, I’d think that it’d be a *good* idea for book blog tours to be open to people leaving a fully negative review. It’s often a red flag for consumers when they see nothing but positive reviews, and I think the same thing applies for book tours. It’s kind of fishy looking if 10 book tourers only left reviews, interviews, guest posts, etc. and had nothing even remotely negative to say.

        Of course, an author may be disappointed with receiving multiple negative reviews (in which case, perhaps the tour could be cancelled). But having some negativity should make the rest of the bunch look more legitimate. Like you, I’m skeptical about how often a fully negative review is allowed to be posted. My guess is, very rarely because the blogger experiences a lot of pressure to post something at least vaguely positive.

        Like

        • Krysta says:

          I would appreciate more transparency about the blog tour policies as a consumer, though I understand how, from the company’s position, having transparency might seem harmful to them. I think marketers are highly aware that organic content is often valued more highly than sponsored content, and it’s not uncommon to see posts/Tweets/videos/whatever where the fact that there is a sponsor is kind of sneaked in and not loudly announced at the start. I think I’ve recently read that there were issues with some online companies, too, where they were asked to clarify for consumers that the top results on their websites were typically sponsored. People/companies wouldn’t try to make the text for that really small or hard to understand or whatever if they weren’t aware on some level that consumers might be more skeptical of products that companies are paying to be promoted.

          I think in general it is a red flag for me if I see only positive reviews on a shopping website or something because then it looks like they aren’t coming from legitimate consumers. As far as blog tours go, however, I recognize that they are promotional in nature and so I expect the reviews to be positive. It’s kind of like when I read the blurbs from Famous Authors on the back of book covers. Most of them are really over the top and glowing, and I’m not really convinced that all these authors are dying with ecstasy over this latest book, but, hey, they were probably asked to write a blurb to help promote the book and they delivered. I read all their exclamations of, “This book is the best thing I’ve read in my whole life!” with a grain of salt.

          Even though some commenters have said they would leave a negative review on blog tours, a bunch of others said that they declined to do a review for a book they didn’t like and instead offered to do some other type of promotional post. That says to me that, even if there isn’t an Official Rule about no negative reviews, a lot of people seem to think there is still an implicit expectation to promote the book positively on a blog tour. I wonder if a full-blown, one-star review totally trashing a book would truly be accepted as part of a tour. Or if the negative reviews in question would have to be more of a balanced three-star review. It would be interesting to see if anyone could link to a review on a blog tour that really decimated a book.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

          Since we got a weird amount of backlash for this post (and I don’t mean the people merely disagreeing; I mean the people who told me they hope my blog fails and no one reads my crappy content either and things along that line), I decided to be petty and look at all the blog tour posts I could find. I went through my WP reader for June and found 21 blog tour posts. 11 were reviews. 2 of them were 3.5 star ratings, and the rest were higher. I did not see any of these negative reviews people have stated are allowed in blog tours (in this admittedly limited sample size).

          What really surprised me, however, is that almost 100% of the promo posts were literally just the book summary and author bio — the information you find on the back of the book cover. I assumed blog tours were still doing things like favorite quotes from the book, author interviews, book playlists, etc. (And I assume they are sometimes, but apparently just posting the book summary is EXTREMELY common now!)

          Liked by 1 person

          • Mint says:

            Thanks for going through the reader and logging your finds, it’s very interesting! It’s not crappy content to me to be critical of something in the bookish industry..

            Even with the limited sample size, it seems improbable that not one review was negative (or at the very least, 3 stars). Which makes me look even more skeptically at blog tour posts, to be honest.

            I’m also surprised that the promo posts are just book summary and author bio! Because that doesn’t sound like exciting promo to me, to be honest? A book playlist or author interview might require more work, but they seem more fun and unique than something I can just find myself on Amazon.

            On another note, I just think blog tours are unlikely to drive as much of a return as other methods like general ARC reviews or Amazon ads.

            Like

            • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

              I admit I laughed a bit, too, at the 3.5 stars. I haven’t even seen just a 3 yet! And I am still keeping track every time I see a blog tour in my feed or on social media. At this point, I’m just generally curious, and if I don’t see even a 3 star by the end of the year, I am going to laugh even more.

              I do actually think authors can get a similar/better marketing effect from just sending out ARCs in general or doing guest posts, and if I happened to be an author, I think that’s the approach I would take. I personally am significantly more likely to read a generic ARC review than an ARC review that’s part of a tour, and I’m even more likely to read an author interview or something that’s not in a tour. I honestly think some bloggers recognize this because they’re not literally writing the words “blog tour” in their post titles. So they know the traffic for the post is better if readers don’t realize they’re clicking on a blog tour.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Mint says:

                I also thinks ARCs are the way to go. In addition to what you said, the review is flexible enough to be posted on multiple platforms (Goodreads, Instagram, Amazon, whatever) while blog tours seem to be pretty exclusive to blogging.

                It’s crazy that with all your tracking, you haven’t even seen a 3! That just seems wildly improbable to me…

                Like

  18. robinandian2013 says:

    Well, you’ve stirred up quite a response. But I couldn’t agree with you more. The minute I see a post for a blog review I delete it.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I thought most people just knew and accepted that blog tours are promotional in nature and thus subject to any feelings I as a consumer might have about that. I’ve even seen influencers who decline review products from companies in general and ask their followers to donate so they can buy products for review instead–because they understand that the average consumer thinks that a review for a product given to them by the company might be subject to bias, even if it’s implicit. I like and respect that type of influencer because they understand consumer concerns and they aren’t offended by it. They just use that knowledge to consider how they might want to address their audience’s concerns.

      Like

  19. ReadWithCristina says:

    I definitely understand your point. I used to be a book blogger and I stopped taking books because I just felt a pressure to read the book as soon as possible and sometimes, if I didn’t necessarily liked the book I was a bit embarrassed to write my exact and honest reviews though I was getting past the embarrassing part and I was doing it. As a new author, I think it’s actually important to have book bloggers read and review your book for an honest review. And I mean…an honest review. Because I would really like to know if my book has potential or if I’m just loosing money trying to advertise it everywhere. That being said, I do understand your points and I find they are valid in a way. 😊

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, it can definitely be awkward to accept a book for review and then have to admit you didn’t enjoy it as much as you thought you would! I know even if I try to read books that look like ones I would love, the book doesn’t always live up to my expectations–but that’s not something I would generally want to communicate directly to the author!

      I do think negative reviews are valuable and have their place. And it can be good to hear different opinions, even if they’re not the opinions we were hoping to hear! But still, do I want to email an author, “Hey, thanks for sharing your book! It’s, um, two stars from me.” Nope, nope, nope! Too embarrassing!

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Charvi says:

    I agree with you partly I too have felt the external pressure of either rating a book more than three stars or just doing a spotlight during the tour or the internal pressure to rate it a half star higher or maybe only talk about the plus points. I’ve been trying to include my criticism in blog tour posts as well but I’ve still been participating less and less in blog tours because I do get influenced no matter what.

    As for reading them, I generally gravitate away from reading book reviews hence blog tour reviews are the same. Never thought about what I would have done if I were searching to read book reviews. Would I still stay away from blog tour posts? Who knows.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I think it’s totally natural to feel a bit of internal pressure when we receive a book for review. I feel that pressure even when I receive an ARC and it’s not part of a blog tour. And it makes sense! As bloggers, we love authors and books, and we know that oftentimes the initial sales could be what make or break a title. It’s awkward to come out and leave a negative review in those cases!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Sammie @ The Bookwyrm's Den says:

    I’m definitely of two minds about this post! On the one hand, I absolutely LOVE participating in blog tours. It exposes me to books I may not have otherwise considered, and usually gives me access to books I wouldn’t be able to get through my library. I also write the same in-depth reviews, including both things I enjoyed and things I thought were problematic. That doesn’t change just because it’s a blog tour post.

    On the other hand, though . . . there definitely is a pressure for *most* tour companies I participate with to write positive reviews. Most tour companies ask that you not post a review if it’s below three stars (which is generally when I just spin the post to be something other than a review instead). I also realize that while I try to post detailed reviews regardless, I have noticed, going through blog tour posts that I go through, that’s not always the case. For example, I’m not a huge fan of spotlight posts for me, personally, because I think that if I post a spotlight, I’m not actually providing any sort of meaningful content to the readers.

    I have a slightly more unique approach, too, because even if I don’t like a book personally, as a librarian, my job is literally to match people to books. xD Almost every day I recommend books to people that I didn’t actually like but which I know will suit them. So if I need to write a blog tour post for a book I didn’t enjoy, I approach it from that lens.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Oh, yes! I think several bloggers mentioned liking to participate in tours to receive free books and meet new people! I think that these aspects can be beneficial for bloggers, especially new ones who want to get an idea of what’s out there and what types of content they might like to focus on.

      I do think the content of tours will vary, too. Some seem to have the author more involved and there might be more original content, while others might have a bunch of bloggers essentially posting the same thing. Sometimes the content provided seems in-depth and sometimes it seems like it’s just a paragraph the author threw together last minute. I think the challenge is sometimes finding the right tour company that works for a blogger and their specific vision for their blog.

      And that makes sense to try to find an aspect of a book others might like! I know sometimes I read a book and it’s not for me, but I could see a younger audience liking it more, for instance.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. inkspellonyou says:

    I appreciate this post and the discussing you are trying to begin, but as someone who was invited to be part of a bookstagram tour for the first time this year I might have some insight to you: 1) I already had read the book (an eARC through NetGalley) and reviewed it and I also had post about how much I loved the book previously to the invitation; 2) I was not offered any money or other compensation (the published book for free for example, since eARCs are not forever) and I didn’t ask for it when I was invited for the bookstagram tour. They also not made any demands about what to post. And I didn’t tell them what I planned to post; we just agreed on the date. So, I think blogger/bookstagram tours can be honest and I think you can tell by how many times someone talks about said book besides the tour post. I hope I could shine a light on the topic with my testimony,

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yep, every blog tour is different! Sometimes the organizers get paid (or not), but usually the reviewers or bloggers who do other promotional content aren’t. Some bloggers might have already read the book, while others have noted that they do blog tours specifically to access free books. It all depends on the specific tour and the bloggers who participate.

      We can also consider that influencers don’t need to be paid to be subject to bias. The FTC specifically asks that any influence who received a product for review note that at the front of their review, so that consumers can be aware of the affiliations influencers have with companies. So my point here wasn’t that bloggers are getting paid for reviews, but that blog tours are promotional in nature and that I as a consumer do take that into account when I see them.

      I would also want to clarify for our blog readers that receiving an eARC from a publisher/author DOES count as receiving the product. It may not be a physical copy, but it’s still the book. Readers are receiving early access to the text and to the experience of reading it. And bloggers should still be putting the FTC disclosure on top of any posts if they are reviewing an eARC they received for review.

      Liked by 2 people

      • inkspellonyou says:

        I’m from Portugal so I don’t actually know what the FTC is, but of course I agree with when you say influencers don’t need to be paid to be subject to bias. As long we are humans we are all subject to bias. We can try to aknowledge and control it, but we are not immune to it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Krysta says:

          The FTC is the Federal Trade Commission and their goal is in part to ensure that consumers are not prey to deceptive advertising. I know bloggers have discussed before where the FTC rules might apply, but I don’t know that anyone had a solid answer. It’s not always clear to me what the jurisdiction is because, well, I’m not a lawyer, but I guess the question would be if posting about U.S. goods or on a U.S.-owned platform would be enough for the FTC rules to come into effect.

          The FTC website itself says: “If posting from abroad, U.S. law applies if it’s reasonably foreseeable that the post will affect U.S. consumers. Foreign laws might also apply.”

          I know other bloggers have mentioned in the past that their own countries often have similar governing bodies with similar rules for disclosures.

          Liked by 1 person

  23. Ann says:

    I don’t usually care for blog tours as I mainly read review books that are backlist. To help out a blogging buddie I did try one but it failed. For some reason I was having trouble with my email For some reason the information and graphic didn’t show up.

    If a blogger wants to do these blog tours that fine. Part of book blogging is to help promote books. Weather their new release or backlist.

    Like

  24. _tirilu says:

    What a great post. I find your perspective interesting.
    I do take part in blogtours, mainly because that’s my only way to actually get my hands on earcs. Unfortunately, I live in the “wrong” country to be approved for most books, so blogtours give me not only opportunities to get one of those arcs but also to build my percentage so I will be approved in the future. I always try to be as honest as possible and I don’t really care about getting paid for my reviews. I just do it for fun and in the hope to be able to discuss books with people since I don’t have many friends who read the books I read. (Or read at all.) I do tell the hosts if I cannot rate a book well because I thought it’s rubbish and release my review afterwards.

    And I guess that’s exactly what you don’t like? That a booktour is mostly positive reviews? I get that. While I like being part of blogtours and some of them have really creative posts, I don’t really like reading the other posts that much. I guess that’s the same with most people.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I guess in a way book tours are boring to me because I already know the reviews are going to be positive? It’s like reading a book where you already know the ending. And then the promos are of varying quality. Some tours might provide in-depth content, while others just provide the book summary or a cover real–something I could easily find elsewhere. I would be more interested in exclusive content, but there’s not always a way for me a consumer to know who’s running a tour or what they’re going to be providing.

      A lot of people did mention that participating is a good way to get free books, though! So that’s a plus!

      Like

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