Last month Karen Wojcik Berner shared a post on blog tours here at IU. As I was reading, it occurred to me that a discussion of blog tours from the perspective of a blogger might be of interest and potentially of value for authors, whether they’re doing the hard work of putting a tour together on their own or hiring one of the many blog tour operators to coordinate the effort.
Personally I have a love/hate relationship with blog tours because they have plenty of positives for a blogger, but depending on the blogger’s perspective, a non-trivial list of negatives as well. I’ll start with the good.
The possibility of getting content, sometimes unique content, for the blog with relatively little effort on the part of the blogger is always a plus. Writing a review involves work, but some of the other content options a blogger might be able to choose from during a tour only require building the post. Everything else is already done for them. Guest posts, book excerpts, and cover reveals are a few examples of that. Other content options – interviews for example – may require more from the blogger, but will still take less time and effort than the typical book review.
Some blog tours run giveaways. Whether an Amazon gift certificate, a copy of the book being promoted, or something else, these are a perk for the blog’s readers. Providing benefits to their readers also benefits the blog.
An author or blog tour operator are going to promote the tour stop at your blog to their followers and drive traffic that you wouldn’t normally receive.
This is partially a side effect of the last item. Anyone visiting your blog for the first time is a potential new follower or fan. They come to read your review or a guest post from a favorite author, like what they see, and start to follow your blog. A slightly less organic way that blog tours help increase your followers is that sometimes entries in any giveaway require following a participating blog in some fashion.
Insulation from the Author
Blog tours put together by a tour operator have a couple advantages. One is that you can establish a good working relationship with an operator. The more you work with each other, the smoother the process goes.
The other is they’re a buffer between you and the author, if one is needed. I once agreed to participate in a tour put together by an author I’d never read. I was committed to reading and reviewing the book. When I received it, I discovered the proofreading (if that even happened) was atrocious and the writing left a lot to be desired. Posting a two star review on a book by an author you hardly know is quite different than posting the same review for a book by an author with whom you’ve exchanged many emails, and who you know will be reading the review shortly after you post it. That the author has started promoting your blog as a tour stop and is committed to sending readers your way doesn’t help either. (I was lucky in that this author was gracious about the experience, but it could have easily gone the other way.)
Some content options on a blog tour result in a post that is almost the same (sometimes exactly the same) as the posts from other bloggers on the tour. Cover reveals and book excerpts are the obvious examples. Some tour operators will even provide HTML than be can copy/pasted into a post, requiring virtually no effort on the part of the blogger, but resulting in a post exactly like all the others who take advantage of that option. Guest posts that are offered to every blogger rather than written specifically for your blog are another example of non-unique content.
You may be asking, “why does it matter if the content is unique? It will still be unique to most of the blog’s readers.” Two reasons. The first is that Google and other search engines detect content that isn’t unique and penalize sites for that when prioritizing their search results. Second, for bloggers who use the free option for a WordPress blog provided by WordPress.com, it puts them at risk of running afoul of the terms of service. Specifically, sites that are promotional in nature and deemed to primarily have a commercial purpose aren’t allowed. Book sites that have too large a percentage of non-unique posts with affiliate links driving people to retailers have been shut down.
Some Content Doesn’t Fit the Blogger’s Mission
Hand in hand with the previous item is how the blogger views their mission. Some content, primarily cover reveals and book excerpts, are 100% promotional. Personally I feel my mission is to help guide readers to books that are a good fit for them, not as a venue to run free advertising for authors and publishers. While I’ve done infrequent posts of a purely promotional nature, I feel as though any promotional post has a certain amount of implied approval from the blogger for whatever is being sold. There are book blogs out there that run a review every week or two with five or ten cover reveals or book excerpts between. When I encounter these, I view them as one big ad.
Jumping the Queue
Most bloggers get enough review requests during the course of a month that they could fill their to-be-read list for several lifetimes. Depending on a blog’s submission and scheduling process, agreeing to participate in a blog tour is often going to move your book ahead of others waiting in line. Why would a blogger want to do that? If you’re an author the blogger has read before and liked your previous books is one reason. Any reason that might make a blogger pull your book from the stack of requests might do it. Certainly if the blogger feels that the benefits listed in the positives above will offset the negatives, there is a chance. But a review-only tour for a book with a blurb that doesn’t have much appeal from an author previously unknown to the blogger is going to be a hard sell, at least for me.
Disruptive to the Blogger’s Normal Schedule and Workflow
Depending on the blog tour operator and their policies, author follow through, timing, and other factors, this can be a minimal irritant or a much bigger deal. One tour operator I worked with a few times required the tour stop post be published by a certain time and be the top post on your site that day when someone came to your home page. Not normally a problem, but an exception a blogger has to remember when scheduling posts. One author’s promised guest post arrived the night before it was scheduled. Not the best way to make me happy when I normally schedule a week’s worth of posts over the weekend, have other commitments for my time, and like to think I have a life outside of work and my site.
Like everything, it depends. How each blogger weighs the considerations, both pro and con, will be different. Some blog operators appear to feel the free content and insulation from the author are important enough that virtually every post is part of a blog tour, many of those posts of non-unique content. Others think the disadvantages outweigh any benefits and never participate.
I’ve fallen in the middle although much closer to the non-participant end of the spectrum. I’ve been a frequent participant in blog tours arranged by one small publisher, not only because the quality of their books is consistently high, but their process and expectations delivered better than most in the positives (giveaways, content choices, traffic, and followers) while minimizing the negatives. I’ve sometimes, but rarely, participated in other tours with a guest post or review, normally for authors I’m already familiar with. Cover reveals and book excerpts ain’t never gonna happen on my blog. I just don’t feel they are a good fit.