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So, Spring book-release season is upon us, and I've been receiving invitations to join blog tours. I love craft books and I want to support authors and publishers where I can. So I'll always review books on this blog. But I'm giving up on the blog tours.
I thought I'd share my reasons here, partly so I can point people to this link instead of explaining myself over and over. And I also hope that, by sharing the ways that the blog tour model is too labor-intensive and broken for me as a blogger, maybe we can come up with better ways to spread the word about new books.
Let me break down my biggest blog-tour pain points:
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Those Crazy Link Lists
So, when you join a blog tour, the publisher will generally send you a long list of links to the other blogs that will be in the tour. The purpose of these lists is twofold: they're supposed to give the reading public a way to follow a blog tour around and get more detail on the book in question. And supposedly, these links also bring all participating bloggers lots of new traffic.
These lists are, to be a little blunt, a waste of time. (Okay, maybe a lot blunt. Sorry.)
As a blogger, I never, ever see a bump in traffic for participating in blog tours, and I've participated in a whole lot of them. As a blogger, there isn't any concrete benefit for me in being part of a blog tour. I blog about books because I'm also a craft book author and want to support the craft book industry.
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…And the idea of readers being able to follow the blog tour around via these links? Nope. When those lists are sent out, the links all point to the homepages of the participating blogs – not each blog's review. So if someone comes to my blog tour post, say, three months from now, not one of those links will point directly to the other bloggers' coverage – they'll land on homepages, and my reader is forced to go hunting for the book post. And not all bloggers have a search box installed on their blogs, so that hunt becomes too time-consuming, and most readers drift away.
Many times I've asked publishers to update the list with permalinks to each blogger's coverage and re-send it out after the tour, but no one has ever followed through on this request. I get it - the tour is over and everyone's on to the next one. But seriously, why bother with these lists, then?
Image by Jon Candy, via Flickr
One other small peeve about the link lists and I'll shut up: the other way they waste time is in formatting. Book publicists nearly always send these lists out in the form of a rich-text email, which means I have to do a whole bunch of work to convert them into an HTML format that my blogging platform will read. I've tried requesting the list in HTML in many cases, but not everyone understands how to generate that code. Frustratingly, reformatting this link list (which, as we just established, brings me no traffic benefits) can take upwards of an hour.
I know that's a lot of angst to spill over a harmless link list, but honestly, they're 90% of my reason for giving up on blog tours. Although there are others...
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I've noticed that publishers' invitations to blog tours have increasingly emphasized giveaways over the past year. To my mind, this has harmed blog tours greatly. What publishers have done (not intentionally) is to train the public that Blog Tour = Giveaway.
You know what that does? It draws a readership who cares only about getting a free book. Increasingly when I participate in blog tours, I get lots of comments, and most of them say things like "Great review! Thanks for the chance to win this book!"
…Except that I don't do giveaways on this blog; I stopped that several years ago. But people who've been trained that Blog Tour = Giveaway aren't reading my review; they're assuming and entering. My favorites are when I put in bold at the top of my post: "I am not doing a giveaway" and they all still try to enter a giveaway. Oy.
As a blogger, this all becomes a huge pain in the patootie, and a big reason to avoid blog tours. It's tempting, I think, to consider any traffic as "good traffic," and to assume that giveaways bring more eyeballs to a book. But as both a blogger and a book author, I would much rather have people taking a thoughtful look at my content than doing a drive-by giveaway entry.
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OMG, So Much Overuse
I feel like it's high time that we (meaning bloggers and publishers) starting playing around with this blog tour thing a little. The traditional model (if you can call something less than five years old "traditional") has been repeated with so many new books, it's gotten fomulaic. Line up bloggers, set post dates, send link lists, rinse, repeat. It's become boring to create and boring to read.
I do agree that having some kind of formal launch period, in which we make an effort to get a chunk of online coverage, makes sense for building good word-of-mouth about a new book. But does it always have to be one week or two weeks long? Does it always have to involve a blog post every day?
Image by Jari Schroderus, via Flickr
…And I totally agree that it helps to create some kind of structure where bloggers commit to actual post dates. (I know how easy it is for an unscheduled review to slip down the To-Blog List.) But do we have to always make that into a kind of pageant? Heck - does book promotion always have to involve blogs? Can we find promotion events based in social media, or Amazon, or Goodreads?
I think we could also benefit by thinking about the point of all this coverage (to encourage book sales), and then asking ourselves: what information do crafters want and need in order to make an informed book-buying decision? Is a single project excerpt enough information? Is a review that only uses the three publisher-approved photos enticement enough? Have we thought about the different craft-book-reader niches, and what coverage each one might appreciate? (For instance, a deep technique craft book delights me, and many lifestyle craft books leave me a little flat. Plenty of people feel the opposite. So what kind of online coverage would appeal to each group?)
I'd love to hear your thoughts. There's gotta be more interesting and effective ways to do online book promotion – right?
(And let me reiterate: I'm always open to blogging about your new book. Just please let me do it outside the bounds of your tour. If you're experimenting with a fresh form of tour, then let's talk about it.)