Here at IU, we do our best to stay up-to-date on sites that are helpful to indies, whether that’s advice on writing, lessons learned on self-publishing, or ways to market and promote books. Keeping our finger on the pulse is difficult, however, just because the digital world changes so rapidly. Since we’re not dealing with brick and mortar stores anymore, businesses can (and do) change their operating procedures at the drop of a hat. We’ve seen it over and over: a site starts out giving free information, but then suddenly a paywall goes up and you have to ante up to get the good stuff. Or a site offers free promotions, but then switches to a paid process. We all know it costs money to keep a business going, so moving to a paid service is not surprising. But like everything else online, the important thing to consider is: are you getting value for your money?
Back in 2012, Jim Devitt mentioned the site Tomoson in one of his posts. I came along a year later and gave it a try, then wrote a post about my experience. At that time, it was free to offer my book to a large pool of bloggers who were eager to review books and products in exchange for receipt of a free copy. My experience wasn’t as good as I’d hoped, and it seemed that the bloggers who reviewed were more tuned into products than books, so I said in my post that I would not use the service again. Since it hadn’t cost me any money it was worth a try, but it ultimately did not have the value I was looking for.
Recently we got a letter in our mailbag from a woman who found the earlier articles about Tomoson and thought it sounded like a good fit for her. She duly went to the site to create an account and was dumbfounded when a pay page came up during the process. She noted that she had seen the advice frequently on our site about NOT paying for reviews, so needless to say, she was confused.
I don’t blame her.
So what’s up? Well, obviously Tomoson is one of those web-based businesses that has changed its business model since its early start-up days. Now, using the site is free for the first 30 days; then there are monthly subscription fees based on usage. Tomoson declares that it represents over 20,000 “influencers,” bloggers who get the word out to their large followings. Here’s the way they figure the cost, as noted on their webpage:
For sponsored campaigns Tomoson recommends multiplying an influencer’s total reach by .002. This is the industry suggested budget price. For example: an influencer with a total reach of 100,000 multiplied by .002, the suggested rate is $200. Pricing can be negotiated up until the influencer is approved.
Total Reach is the sum of an influencer’s social channels.
Total Reach = website visitors + Facebook friends & likes + Twitter followers + Youtube subscribers + Instagram followers
I have to say, I’m not sure where this “industry suggested budget price” comes from; I’ve certainly never heard of this. I understand the formula, but have to wonder how effective a promo would be to YouTube followers as opposed to Twitter followers. Seems like apples and oranges to me. And obviously it would be up to the client (you) to do your research on those influencers, to make sure they’re influencing the right audience for your book. Blasting the word out to people who have no interest, even if it’s to 100,000 of them, does no one any good.
So here’s the rub: at one point, some of us said Tomoson might be a good thing. Tomoson has now changed. It could still be a good fit for you; or it might not. That’s something only you can decide. The takeaway from this is that, no matter who recommends a site to you, no matter what the process, what the reach, or what the cost, only you can decide if it sounds like a good deal and it fits into your promotion plan. And if the site’s offerings have changed since it was recommended to you, do your homework. Make sure you know what the changes are, and how it might affect your plans and your pocketbook.
Now, that second thing, about not paying for reviews? Most of us here at IU, I believe, still hold fast to that. Paying for reviews is chancy, may not be the value you think it is, and it’s very possible that you could be breaking the usage rules for Amazon, which could get very ugly. Do you really want to take a chance on being banned by the biggest bookstore on the planet just to rack up a few more reviews? As always, it’s up to you how you answer that question. All I’m saying is: be aware. Be a smart consumer. Check out the businesses before you buy. Do your homework. Do diligent research. In the end, you may find that you’ll get more value from the time you spend doing that than from the “great deal” you may have been offered.