Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday Salon: Do you fall for the hype?

The Sunday

First things first.  Did I send you a template for With Reverent Hands?  Did you send it back to me?  If not, please do so!  I have none in my arsenal to post in future!

I recently commented on Twitter that there were many blog posts this week all surrounding the book Raven Stole the Moon, by Garth Stein.  When I say many, I mean many.  I am not sure if I just follow all the blogs who participated in the Garth Stein tour, but I don't think I'd be exaggerating to say that for at least five days of the past week, I would see upwards of five blog posts a day around that book- either reviews or giveaways.

For me, it got old really fast.

I know that I said previously that it is only when bloggers come together and form a collective force that we have any true impact in the reading world.  But I also don't like the feeling that publicists or publishers can herd us like sheep and have us read and review books just because they want us to.  I don't like that artificial hype can be created around a book solely by a blog tour being arranged, that hits you over the head with the book over and over again, dozens of times in the same week.

I am sure that blog tours are very successful.  Obviously, they must be, if so many exist.  But when does it get to be too much?  Is it fair to throw the same book at people multiple times in the hopes that it will stick?  That maybe next time I go to the store, I'll think, "Wow, I've seen about twenty blog posts about this book in the past week, so it must be good and I should buy it"?  I resent that implication- that if I hear the name of a book often enough, I'll go and read it.  That I will fall for the hype generated not by the book or the story itself, but by a marketing ploy to put the book in front of my eyes.

I prefer the organic process of a book garnering attention.  A book is written.  It is good.  People read it.  They realize it's good.  They tell other people about the book and how good it is.  Those other people go out and read the book and think it's good.  And they recommend it, too.  So on and so forth, down the line.  This process takes months.  I understand that.  And we live in a world that demands fast results.  The organic method apparently doesn't work quickly enough.  So books aren't given the time to develop the hype through word of mouth.  They are rushed into readers' hands in advanced readers' copies and blog tours and giveaways and contests in the (desperate?) hope that that will be enough to boost sales and garner attention.

But, to me, that's not real.  It's a lie.  Just because a lot of people read a book at the same time, that doesn't necessarily mean it's a good book.  It means that everyone was sent a book for free and was told to review it on a very strict time line, and possibly to host a giveaway so that other people can also read and review the book, ASAP.  And so if you were to just glance through your Google Reader, you might assume that the book is really famous and popular and excellent, but really... it's just because that's what the publicists or publishers want you to think.

I understand that book blogdom is coming of age.  People are taking book blogs seriously and hoping that books get positive reviews on these sites.  But more and more, I am becoming uncomfortable with the way that our blogs are being used.  Yes, I like getting free books, but I don't like to feel as though I have unwittingly contributed to pushing a certain book on someone else.  I don't like to feel that I have to review a certain book by a certain time so that everyone hears about it all at once.  I prefer hearing about a book because a blogger wanted to pick that book up at that time, and wanted to read it.  Not because she had to read it at that time to meet a deadline.  I don't want books forced upon me in that way.  I end up resenting the book (silly, I know, as it's an inanimate object).  And I resent my blog being used in that manner.  I want to read books when I feel like it, and review them when I want to.  This is something I've been mulling over for quite some time recently, and for me, something needs to change.

I am not going to say that I will no longer receive any books to review.  I participate in LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program and am also a member of Amazon Vine.  And I want to support the small presses, too.  But over the next several weeks, I am really going to take a hard look at my review policy and make some changes so that I feel more in control of my reading life.

Does this system bother you, or am I just a drama queen?  Do you also feel that sometimes blogs are manipulated to create artificial hype?  Do you like the blog tour system?  Do you feel it's unfair to the smaller presses?


  1. I understand the distaste for seeing the same book in your Reader a dozen times. It bugs me too. But one thing you didn't mention was the quality of the review. If the book that is out there garners twenty rave reviews (and we trust our fellow book bloggers to be honest even when they receive a review copy) then why would you consider that the book is getting false hype? It's just timing. Twenty rave reviews over six months should hold the same weight as the same number over a week. Sure it's a bit tedious for those of us who follow large numbers of other book bloggers but I don't think it's a problem unless it starts to make you question the integrity of the reviews. After all, you can always delete reviews without reading them when you are burnt out on hearing about a certain book (like I also happened to be this week with Stein's book).

  2. I must admit to getting fed up when one book seems to take over the blogging world for what seems like days, as it tours the blogging world. I do feel like I am being brainwashed. Though saying that I wouldn't have found Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, if this had not happened. I have to say it is the best book I have read this year and coming from a new author, it would definitely have passed me by. So there is good and bad within this system.

  3. I am kind of torn on this issue. I was thinking exactly the same thing about the Garth Stein book which has been everywhere this week, and there are times when you see the same book for the umpteenth time and you think 'enough already'. The thing with me though is that it often takes multiple mentions for me to cave and then finally read an awesome, awesome book! It happened for me with The Hunger Games and The Name of the Wind.

  4. I hate publisher/company-sponsored book tours. In fact, I wrote a post about it awhile ago, but decided not to publish it, because I didn't want to create a storm of controversy. But basically, I feel like it cheapens book blogging and what it's all about. When I visit a new-to-me blog, if I see pretty much every post is part of a book tour, I don't subscribe, because that's not the type of reading I'm interested in.

    That's why I'm so annoyed that I accepted a review copy I was excited about it (Delaney's new novel, since I LOVED his book Ireland) and only later found out that he's got a tour scheduled in April. Now, I don't really want to post about the book. *sigh*

    I VERY rarely accept review copies of anything anymore. Only if it's an author I loved in the past, or a book that really, really catches my eye and isn't immediately available at the library. And I feel much happier with that policy.

    When I want free books, that's what my library is for! I don't think review copies are free, if you're promising to devote a post on your blog to them.

  5. I must admit I too get tired of blog tours. I often find that they're for books I'm not really interested in, and having so many posts about this one book just turns me off of it. Saying that, if it is a book I think I'm interested in, I like to see what everyone has to say. Publicity is generally bombarding the public until we want whatever they've showed us anyway; I think it's rarer for a book to be successful purely on its own merits as you've described.

    Besides that, I don't think bloggers are reading tour books because they're forced to. We're given a choice in the matter. I have stopped accepting so many ARCs because I don't really like the pressure (and because I'm not around to get them very often) but that doesn't mean I wouldn't have enjoyed some of the books I turned down, or that I won't seek them out in the future. I do agree that there are way too many book tours, but I just skip over the posts if I'm sick of reading about certain books.

    So, in short, I don't think blog book tours are a lie, because I hope my fellow bloggers are honest about what they're reading, but they do get tiring. I don't see them ending, though, because it's certainly more useful for publishers to designate a date for posting - they're more likely to get a review when they want that way.

  6. I totally agree. When I started reading book blogs all the blogs I liked were busy buying their books, or they had trade connections because they were in the book business. I'd really like to see book bloggers take a step back and put down the review copies. Let's go back to organically generating hype as well as pushing older books into peoples hands (that's why The Classics Tour is ok by me) because I kind of think that's what makes blogs so different from the established print media.

    In terms of the smaller presses, who can't afford to send out ARCs much anyway I'd love to see some sort of collective resource grow where the publishers can submit details of their new titles, that bloggers can receive updates on - it's impossible to remember to check all small publishers catalogues all the time. Bookslut used to do a really great spotlight on small presses at their blog.

    And I think someone mentioned review quality above. When you know the author and the publisher is following your post because its on a tour I think there's a tendency to soften your review in some way, which perhaps leads to unintentionally obscuring the negative aspects of a book.

  7. What bothers me about some of these tours (and not all are so bad) is that when you sign up for the book you have no idea how many other people are on the tour. It could be 10 or 100! When I review a book, I don't want to see the same book on every blog I visit for the next month because I know people are going to get sick of seeing it.

  8. I participated in my first couple tours this year and they've been interesting. I think some of them work really well and others do not. For the most part, the tours I'm on spread out the reviews so you read them on several different blogs over two weeks or so, never is there more than one review a day. I like this method a lot more than the onslaught we received with When Raven Stole the Moon. The only reason I'm still interested in that book is because I was interested in it BEFORE the book tour. The tour hasn't really made me any more or any less interested in reading it, it just gave me ample opportunity to get a free copy. (And even if I did get a free copy, I probably won't be posting about it for at least a year...) But there have been book tours in the past that have totally turned me off to a book. Like the Heretics Daughter. I'm never going to read that book because I got so sick of seeing its cover everywhere.

    So, yes, I agree with you! But I think that it's also fair to say that there are book tours that are very well run and successful. Especially when the authors make an effort to "attend" the tour and leave comments on blogs and start the conversation!

  9. I get what you are saying here - the saturation of a book on the blogs can be like "Oh, and there it is again" ...
    I really have to believe in the reviews that are on the blogs that I read. It really falls back on us to not only do our best to accept good quality books that fit our tastes, but to also review well.
    While I truly enjoy when I go on a blog and I read a raving review on a book that is new to me.... I also would never have read Hunger Games if it were not for the blog hype about how great the book was. If that was a book I would have seen at the store - the cover would not have drawn me in and if I would have read what it was about I would have put the book down.

    Great topic! (Oh and Hunger Games was one of the best books I read last year) :)

  10. Funny. I was thinking of writing a post on a similar topic today.

    I'm not much of a fan of blog tours either. I'm not totally against them, but I strongly prefer the ones where posts are spread out over a longer period and where not everyone who has a blog or has thought about having a blog is offered a copy. In that case, the buzz really does feel manufactured. It's not so much a matter of the bloggers being dishonest, because I think most are honest in their reviews, it's more a question of timing. Would so many people have read the toured book right then had they not been asked to? Would this book be a priority, shooting right to the top of the TBR piles?

    I will say that I think things are somewhat better recently than it was a couple of years ago. When I started blogging (going on 2 years ago), it didn't seem like many books were toured, and the few books that were were everywhere because the people who participated in tours all ended up reading the same few books. Now that more books are being toured, it seems like the people who do participate are not all reading the same thing. Plus, there's more variety in the books being toured.

    As for me, I don't accept many review copies and haven't done any for tours. I try to stick to books that I'd probably read anyway, and then usually only if I can't get them from the library or think I'll want to keep them for my permanent collection. That amounts to about a book every month or two, plus whatever LT Early Review books I win. I've haven't done tours, but I'm not totally ruling out the idea--it would just have to be a book that meets those other qualifications.

  11. When we talked about this earlier in the week I hadn't actually seen all the Raven reviews. I had a busy week and was not on top on my GR. Yesterday I finally sat down and sifted through it and I found that so many of the entries were reviews for that book or a book called Glitter (I think, it didn't stick with me) or they were contest posts for those two books. Now I am not going to rant about the contests because that is my own bugbear but I have to admit I just scrolled through the reviews of those two books. There were simply to many. I couldn't read them all.

    Personally I prefer to see just need one or two reviews raving about a book to read it, when more start getting piled on like you I get resentful. It just takes time when I could be reading a book :D

  12. Well you already know my opinion on all this from our discussion on twitter. I wonder if sometimes publishers choose so many people to read/review on a specific day because they worry many won't follow through. I know of at least one person who didn't follow through on that specific book. Maybe they just grab 5 people each day incase 3-4 don't get it read on time? I think that's a little extreme - get two people on each day, but seriously you don't need more than that! - but I understand the mentality.

    Honestly I think publishers don't understand the book blogging world very well at this point.

  13. This has been a very lively discussion! I'm relatively new to book blogging (within the past year or so), and I've never done a tour. I have only reviewed a few books, sent by authors, and none by publishers; I do review for Amazon Vine. And that suits me.

    Most of the books I read and review are books I've purchased because they caught my attention. And I am reading and reviewing mostly those, because my TBR stacks are HUGE (I'm a bookaholic!).

    I will say this: I see a lot of books over and over that do not appeal to me at all, so I'm assuming my tastes are different that most people, and/or those people are bombarded with publishers' review copies.

    My Salon:

  14. Man, I'm glad someone else got really tired of the Garth Stein overexposure last week. After the second or third review, I just stopped reading them. I've participated in a couple of blog tours for books I was really excited about, but they didn't flood the blogosphere in the same way.

  15. Truth be told, yes a blog tour perhaps makes me remember a book more. Cos as it is now I forget books. With tours I get to see people who liked it and didn't like it. And that is what I need.

    Like with Hush Hush and Fallen, everyone loved those...then I came over reviews that weren't that positive. Love those.

    And I never really buy books, the books I buy are those that have been out for years.

    My own participation....I like to read books, and this way I get to read books I wouldn't get a hold of otherwise

  16. I've been tired of seeing Garth Stein everywhere too. On the other hand, the marketing departments in several offices where I've worked have impressed upon me over and over that the key is getting the product in front of people as often as possible. "Even to the point where it's annoying!" is what they always say. :P

    I can see Amanda's point about publishers not understanding book bloggers: for example, there are certain bloggers whose opinions I trust enormously and I'll read just about anything they think is good. But even if publishers do understand that, they can't really control for it. As far as they're concerned, the best way of marketing the book to book blogs is just getting it discussed as widely as possible.

    I'm not going to read the Garth Stein, but mainly because the plot doesn't appeal to me much. If it were a book of a different sort (like a manor house mystery :P), I very well might. So I don't know that the idea is wrong-headed, even if it can be really annoying.

  17. I definitely get sick of seeing the same book over and over. I figure they've all been given the book to read/review. I do skim the first few I see to find out if they've liked the book, but after that I'll admit I do a lot "mark as read".

  18. Kristen- Actually, to me, the quality of the review doesn't really matter if I've read so many of them in one week. I just skip them completely, which is unfair to the blogger that I follow and really like. But it's also unfair on the publisher's part to push that book on me so much. I don't think it's the same thing to have 20 rave reviews on one book in a week as it is for them to be there over several months. That seems less forced to me.

    Vivienne- Yes, it works sometimes! But it also feels manipulative. Like a book will just succeed if you give away enough free copies of it.

    Marg- Were The Hunger Games and The Name of the Wind part of a blog tour? Or were they just hyped through the more natural methods?

    Eva- Yes, I don't subscribe to heavy blog tour blogs, either. I am sorry about your Delaney experience :-( I don't think it's fair when publishers don't tell you that you are part of a blog tour, either.

    Meghan- Yes, I guess what bothers me is that part you said about "bombarding the public until we want whatever they've showed us anyway." That makes me sad. I don't want to want a bad book.
    And I don't think blog tour reviews are a lie- I think that they are just designed to make you want the book you see in front of you all the time.

    Jodie- Yes, I like the Classics Tour and the Spotlight Series for the reasons you mention in your comment! I like that bloggers are in control of what they read and the review copies disrupt that balance. Blog tours even more so.

    Chris- YES, you are absolutely right. Publishers should tell you how many people are participating.

    Lu- Yes, I think they work better when reviews are spread out more, too. But at the same time, I don't like the blog tour format in general. I don't like so many posts about one book hitting blogosphere in a very concentrated period.

    Sheila- It's not so much not believing my blogging friends. I am sure if they like or dislike a book, they say so. It's being upset that publishers have set up so many people to read and review the same book at the same time. That seems manipulative to me.

    Teresa- I absolutely agree with everything you say! Though I don't know about the blog tour thing today being different than before because I don't really remember blog tours from some years ago.

    Zee- I hope you write a post about the contest thing. I am interested to see it.

    Amanda- I never thought about the lack of follow-through. In that case... doesn't the publicist know the blogger's reputation a little bit, at least? I suppose not. It's a bit too much to plan for FIVE and only expect one or two to follow through, I feel. But quite possible.

    Laurel- Yes, some people really are bombarded with review copies. And it's hard to say know, I am sure.

    Bookshelf Monstrosity- Yes, it was a FLOOD. A very annoying one.

    Blodeuedd- I forget books, too, so I always have my Amazon wishlist open at the same time as I go through blogs :-)

    Jenny- I see your point, but I feel publishers are taking it WAY too far sometimes with the blog tours. It's one thing to push a product, it's another thing to force people to take note of something they have no interest in.

  19. Anonymous3/14/2010

    Again, intersting post. I agree with you. I only review books that I want to read. If a publisher wants to send me a book that doesn't interest me, then I don't want it. I also don't like to be rushed to finish a book in a specific time frame. But I am lucky, because until now, no publisher specified that they wanted me to read a book in a certain time frame.

  20. I think this is exactly the reason bloggers have to be transparent about where they get their books from. Seeing the same book over and over again because of book tour hype rather than organic love makes a difference to some people, and those people should know about it.

    The best example I can think of is The Hunger Games series. I don't think those ever went on a blog tour, but the organic hype they got was huge. You could hardly read any blogs around the time Catching Fire came out without seeing reviews of it. But that sort of organic love is way different than blog tours.

    I myself have done one blog tour (and I'm scheduled for one more in April). But over almost two years of blogging, I think I've done review copies of less than 10 books, which works for me.

  21. I don't have a particular problem with blog tours. It's really no different than having the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Washington Post review the same book within the same time frame. Tours are understandably based on publication dates. The publisher wants people to see the reviews when the book is (or shortly will be) available in stores, and, of course, not months after it comes out!

    I've been asked to participate in a few blog tours, but I have only accepted those where I thought the books was something I'd really like. (I have two coming up, one a book by an author I've read before and enjoyed, another on a subject that I find quite interesting.) If I'm asked to review a book that doesn't appeal to me, I just say "No, thanks."

  22. Agree with everything you say in this thoughtful post. The other thing that I have found with book tours is that you are not receiving the best books often. The quality of the books being pitched to me sometimes makes me stop and say "Really?" Definitely a case of book pimping.

    I say no to review copies all the time. And still get some unsolicited. But I tend to choose only books that I would seek out on my own regardless of whether or not a free copy is available. I do give copies of books away all the time on my blog but the same thinking applies. Only things I like and would like to see read by others as well. I am after all a teacher and librarian. Spreading the bookish love.

    Sometimes the buzz about a book is generated simply because it is new and not because a book tour or in house publicist has hit the blog circuit hard. Look at the new Ian McEwan book. It seems many are purchasing this book on their own. Bloggers do sometimes get caught in the book of the moment.

  23. I was offered a copy of the book for the Garth Stein tour, but turned it down - there was very little notice, and there was a condition that the review MUST be posted within a one-week period. I declined because couldn't meet the timeframe, but I also agree with you about the saturation. On tours like that, where multiple reviews are being posted every day, I'll read a few if the book interests me, and then that's it. More and more reviews just make me tired of seeing the book.

    I agree with whoever mentioned that the publicists and publishers don't really get book bloggers. Many of us subscribe to a LOT of blogs - I know I do. I understand that they want to get word about a book out to the widest possible audience, but they don't realize that the audience has a lot of overlap - that's why, to me, the "blog blast" approach to reviewing is not particularly effective. People just start to feel beaten over the head.

    I'm not sure about The Hunger Games; as far as I know, Catching Fire didn't tour, but there were ARCs at BEA last year. I've heard there won't be ARCs or tours for Mockingjay - and it won't matter. There is genuine, organic interest in reading that book ASAP.

    BTW, they sent me a copy of Raven Stole the Moon anyway, and I will read and review it, since I liked The Art of Racing in the Rain - but I'll do it when I get around to it.

    You ask some great questions, Aarti!

  24. Personally, I got a little annoyed seeing so many Raven Stole the Moon reviews, especially since this book was originally released in 1998. Why the big hype for a re-release ?

    While I loved The Art of Racing in the Rain, Raven Sole the Moon (which I read a few years ago, IMO, just did not warrant all press).

  25. I don't mind book tours and I've participated in a few. I dislike when the publishers require the bloggers to post the reviews the same week or worse, the same day. It is a complete bombardment and I start skipping the posts in my reader after the first few.

    I understand the need to require reviews for book tours. That's the point. I would much rather the publishers require the reviews be posted within 30 or 60 or 90 days, therefore keeping the pressure off the bloggers while spacing out the reviews.

    Personally, when I participate in blog tours, I review at my leisure (usually early) and post a guest post or interview with the author on the day of the tour. At least it gives a little different content amidst the the many reviews.

  26. I think the problem with Raven was that it was on such a strict timeline - I think people only had the span of one week during which to post their reviews. That's why I didn't accept it for review. I think blog tours can work, if the organizers are smart enough to space out the reviews (that's why I really like working with TLC Blog Tours!)

    I also don't guarantee reviews for unsolicited books and only accept review books that I would want to read regardless of whether I was receiving it for a review copy!

  27. I don't mind the idea of blog tours, but I think the execution is very important. Having too many blogs participate and/or having reviews go up too close together makes me feel over-saturated, and I start to ignore the book, even if it is one I might be interested in. I second the emotion re: TLC Book Tours. They do a great job selecting the right bloggers for each book and spacing things out, and there's always plenty notice.

    I cut back on blog tours and review copies this year b/c I was feeling out of control of my reading life, and I'm really enjoying being able to go to my shelf and pick out whatever I want much more often. However you decide to take more control, I hope you'll enjoy it!

  28. Anonymous3/14/2010

    I've only been doing this book blogging thing for about three months now. I've done no book tours, but I wouldn't be opposed to doing one. It would be a new experience for me. That being said, I've definitely enjoyed picking what I want to read without the pressure of reading something I have to in order to meet a deadline. Since I've started book blogging my TBR list has grown a mile long, but I don't think many of the books have been on book tours; the bloggers just had such great things to say about them. I did just finish reading The Art of Racing in the Rain, and probably wouldn't have known about Raven if it weren't for the tour. It does sound like a book I would like, but it was EVERYWHERE. I will admit I stopped reading the reviews after the 5th or 6th as well.

  29. I signed up for the Raven Stole the Moon blog tour.You're asked by the publicist to review the book within a week. I thought I could do it but couldn't. I haven't read the book yet. What surprised me was seeing so many reviews for the book in the past week. It made me not want to review it but I still do it.

    I've read a few reviews for the book but the one that got my attention was Amy's who didn't like the book at all.

  30. Very lively discussion, Aarti! I’m glad I stopped by this morning.

    I just want to say a few things about Terra Communications. We are a small company (there are only five of us) based in Bend, Oregon. We are a literary marketing firm, not a publicity firm, not a publishing house. We represent authors who don’t necessarily have the resources to plow through the publishing world on their own, and in fact, are often ignored by their publishers. I think the most important thing to know about us is that we whole-heartedly, passionately believe in our authors. We promote them heavily because 1) It takes repeat messaging to make an impact in the highly competitive world of books. Unfortunately, bestseller lists are one of the most important tools of the trade 2) We want to share Terra Com authors, big and small, with the world! We’re excited about them on a very intrinsic level and can’t help but share that excitement with the blogosphere.

    I am in no doubt affected by repeat exposure. If I see a book in the NYT review, and then in The Week, and then on Amazon’s homepage, and then on a bestseller list, and all over the blogosphere… if the subject matter appeals to me, you can bet I’ll be heading to the bookstore. There is, most likely, a very real reason why so many people are reading and talking about it. And I would dare say that most often, a marketer or publicist was the original root of all the coverage. How else does it get out there in such a robust manner? I want to read what’s new and what other people have found enjoyable, inspirational, thought-provoking. A great example of this for me personally is what Rebecca over at the Book Lady’s Blog has going on right now. Her review of Flow, and the ensuing conversation about women’s periods is all over the web. It’s brilliant and very worthwhile. And, after two days of reading hilarious, eye-opening menstruation stories and seeing that great cover, I went out and got it. And now I’m in the middle of an incredibly fascinating read. If I hadn’t seen it multiple times, including on The View, I might have thought it was a textbook for a women’s studies class. But, it’s so much more than that!

    Your points are well taken, and it’s very educational for me to hear your side of the story and what it looks like from the blogger’s perspective. I’m giving all the points brought up here serious thought this morning, and will in the future. (Good reason for a third cup of coffee!) Perhaps a handful of reviews would have a different impact than 50. With Raven Stole the Moon, we made some last-minute decisions (during my first week on the job) because of a lack of active promotion on the part of the publisher. I never forced anyone to read the book. From my perspective, it felt like the great majority of bloggers I approached were excited to be included in a review of Mr. Stein’s work.

    OK. You’ve probably heard enough from me. Sorry for the long post. Thanks again for the stimulating conversation. I’ll look forward to more in the future! ☺

  31. I do like it when the tours are spaced out. It gives me a chance to read more of the reviews (without getting overwhelmed) and form an opinion. I have found some books through tours that I would not have noticed. One problem is that some people feel pressure to post a good review so they can continue with that company. Once I did a tour and wrote a bad review and was contacted again for another book tour with same group. Another time I wrote a bad review for a book with a different company (and the review was not as bad as other bad review) and I was never contacted again by the person that runs the tours. So I no longer believe any of the reviews by bloggers that work with that tour group. And some of them are the bigger bloggers!
    I prefer to have plenty of time to read and review a book and to write an honest review.

  32. Anonymous3/14/2010

    Aarti, I saw this post and knew immediately I had to comment as well.

    In answer to your questions, yep, the system does bother me and nope, you're not a drama queen; yep, I "also feel that sometimes blogs are manipulated to create artificial hype;" nope, I don't like "the blog tour system;" and yep, I do feel it can be "unfair to the smaller presses."

    All that said, though, I really don't let it get to me. If there's a blog that constantly is promoting blog tours, I most likely will unsubscribe. Personally, I think there are enough classics out there that I don't need a lot of new books to read (not to say I don't, or won't, read newer books, just that my preference would be to delve into those classics I never got around to reading in high school and college). Interesting that you should bring this up now, because this morning, I received a friend invitation on Facebook from a blog tour company, which I declined.

  33. Anonymous3/14/2010

    I sent you my With Reverent Hands template with my book described in it!

    I don't like it when book blogs get too commercial - it takes the soul from them. I like free books as much as the next person but when every other review is 'so and so at such and such sent this to me' and everyone else in the blogosphere is reviewing it too it just gets boring and impersonal. Blogs should, above all, be personal rather than a vehicle for peddling other people's books.

  34. I was fed up of seeing posts about When Raven Stole the Moon too! The promotion backfired on me as I know nothing about the book. I was annoyed before I read a single post. I always ignore competitions which are only open to the US/Canada and so ignored about 5 of these before I saw the first review. I was so irritated with it that I didn't bother to read the review, or any of the subsquent ones that followed.

    I try to avoid reading the same books as eveyone else, but sometimes it happens by accident. I don't mind that, but I am thinking about avoiding all blog tours now.

  35. You know, I really don't mind when there's a blog tour with a bunch of bloggers (although, really, do you need more than 20 stops?) and they are honestly reading and reviewing the book. It's certainly not dishonest as a blogger to want to read certain new books, and if a blog tour allows you to do that and that's what you want, go for it.

    What does bother me somewhat is when I see the same book over and over again but it's not even being reviewed -- just promoted for a giveaway! That just screams "bloggers being used for promotional space only".

  36. Great post, Aarti. I've participated in a few book tours on our blog, but generally speaking I only do so if the book in question is one I really want to read (independent of finding out it's being covered on a tour). Like you, I get REALLY tired when the same book gets covered on multiple blogs, because while you get some variety in opinion, so many of the blogs I follow are ones that share opinions and tastes to me, much of the content becomes redundant and tiresome.

    The one thing I will say is that of course when participating in a blog tour, this does not mean that the reviews of a book will be overwhelmingly positive or that bloggers who accept books that are part of tours must write raves. One of the first tours I participated in involved a book I was really underwhelmed by and I wrote so when I posted about it. When I checked out the other stops on the tour, I found quite a few people felt similarly. I get that the book still got publicity, and some argue there's no such thing as bad publicity, but I don't think that accepting review copies and publishing about them on a timeline means that book bloggers will necessarily be sacrificing their integrity or their own tastes in return.

  37. Great post, Aarti! I have never participated in a blog tour (excluding the Classics circuit) and only rarely accept unsolicited review copies anyway (mostly the books I receive from publishers are books I want to read anyway and often request).

    Like you I begin to resent the hype and the book. If a particular title is being reviewed over and over in the one week then I will begin to switch off and not read the review (there was a certain author at the end of last year who was being continually reviewed and I began ignoring posts that even *mentioned* the writer; it's not fair on the reviewer but I don't respond well to monotony).

    I know myself that I become resistant to hype and tend to hold back or bring forward my own reviews so that they don't coincide with an influx of the same (hey, I don't want my blog ignored!) Blog tours are less common amongst UK bloggers as our publishers tend to operate somewhat differently but I have noticed the same boredom that comes from many reviews over the same period of time of literary prize-nominated titles (e.g. when a number of us were reading the Booker longlist). It isn't a case of distrusting the quality of the book or the integrity of the reviewer but a saturation of the blogosphere; the monotony and unoriginality of subject matter begins to grate.

  38. We talked about this on twitter, so you know how I feel. I definitely felt there was oversaturation in this particular case, and no longer have much of a desire to read the book. Like Amy said on Twitter, it's possible that these yours are aimed at people who read a blog or two, not hundreds of them like we do. And maybe it works for them - but it definitely doesn't for me.

  39. passionatebooklover- Thank you! I don't like being rushed, either.

    Kim- I fully believe in transparency as well, though I think most nowadays say when they receive books for free. But I agree completely about Hunger Games- I think it's one of those successes, too.

    Lilithcat- I think it is slightly different because there are only so many newspapers and most people don't read several newspapers. But many people follow more than one blog.

    Frances- I say no to review copies, too, and only give away books I'd read myself. But you're right about sometimes the buzz being natural- I prefer that.

    Florinda- I also heard bad things about the way the Stein tour was managed. Again, I agree on Hunger Games. I still haven't read that one, but I want to because it seems like it is well-received by many people. But I need to read it later, after I forget all these rave reviews!

    Diane- I didn't realize it was a re-release! But I agree, that is odd on the hype front.

    Jennifer- I agree absolutely. Over 30-90 days would be much better than over a one-week timeframe.

    S. Krishna- Yes, it seems like the time line thing was a big problem for Raven.

    Rebecca- You're right. It's more execution than anything else. Though at the same time... I just don't like the way it seems like we are being pushed towards one particular book just due to review volume.

    brichta- I also really love the reading without pressure thing! I am looking forward to returning to that!

    Vasilly- Yes, I think a few people didn't like the book. I stopped reading a lot of the reviews eventually, but I never really thought bloggers would be untruthful in their reviews and automatically review positively.

    Sarah- Thank you for taking the time to write. I agree that repeat exposure works well, but I just don't like having the same book pushed SO MUCH in such a short period of time. I'd much prefer them to be spread over time, and it seems a bit manipulative to push one book so much on people. I think sometimes it can backfire and make people NOT want to read the book there is just so much going on. I'm glad you might take these thoughts into consideration and please be in touch if you want more conversation on this topic!

    bookmagic- Wow, that's shady! I didn't think about that possibility...

    unfinished person- Thank you for commenting! I agree with pretty much everything you say :-) And how ironic about the FB invite!

    bookssnob- I just found your template, thank you! I like more personal blogs as well, and am really looking forward to my method of liberation.

    farmlanebooks- Yes, there were SO MANY giveaways! And then posts about winners, and then reviews. Not sure if there were also interviews. I wish bloggers knew how many people were participating in a tour so they could gauge.

    lenore- I don't think bloggers are dishonest, I just feel they are being manipulated. But I agree about the massive amount of giveaways! VERY promotional.

    Steph- No, I don't think book bloggers sacrifice their integrity, either, by participating. I think they are just used to promote books in that manner.

    Paperback Reader- I didn't realize it was so different in the UK! How interesting.

    Nymeth- Yes, I think we both know our opinions :-)

  40. I definitely agree with you. Whenever I see a billion reviews for the same book in my google reader, (rational or not) I develop an antipathy to the over-hyped book and go out of my way /not/ to read it, unless I see a good review from someone I trust. Then again, I can be contrary/rebellious at times :P But I feel like when I see that kind of hype for a book, it sort of obscures the book itself for me. Not sure if that made any sense. Anyway, great post!

  41. As a participant in that particular blog blast, I feel almost guilty about it. However, I didn't really love the book and I think that was reflected in many of the other reviews I saw. In a way, it could end up hurting the book if you see a ton of reviews and they are all ho hum. The other aspect of that particular blog tour was that it was a rerelease of a book he wrote earlier and I think they are trying to capitalize on the success of his book "The Art of Racing in the Rain." I didn't do my research and thought it was a new book by him and wanted to (ironically) see what all the hype was about this author.

    I understand what you are saying ... but I just ask that everyone give their honest review. And if I don't feel like reading a post, I'll just skip over it.

    In the case of this particular book, I think they are trying to generate hype to hide that fact that the book is a bit mediocre. : )

  42. I have participated in many tours and the specific one you're discussing. In general, I enjoy participating in tours. To my knowledge, the Garth Stein book was the first time I have ever been involved in a tour having so many reviews over such a short period of time. I was irritated myself and knew that I made a mistake. I enjoyed The Art of Racing in the Rain, so that is what attracted me the most of this tour. Going forward, I won't be participating in such a mass production.

    I guess where I stand is that I will continue to participate in my standard book tours like TLC Book Tours. I have never felt the need to be less than honest when I don't like the book.

    I do feel bad for those who don't feel like writing about a book they've read just because a tour is going on at the same time. I don't know what the solution is there. I think it's sad not to post about what you've loved because of it.

    So, I'm sorry if people irritated by my participation in the Raven book tour. I don't plan on making the same mistake again. I understand if you didn't read my post and I hope that you didn't unsubscribe just because of it. If you did, I won't hold that against you either.

  43. I tend not to fall for tour-hyped books. A lot of the time they just aren't books that I'm all that interested in reading.

    Now, if it was a tour for a book I wanted to read, then yes, by all means I'd still want to read the book.

    That said, the majority of the books I add to the TBR come from blog reviews, new releases, and of course I add older books constantly based upon what I see being reviewed.

  44. Anonymous3/15/2010

    I have mixed feelings. Yes, there is definitely such a thing as too many reviews for a book, but at the same time out of say 40 reviews of the book, I'll glance at 20, really read 10 and maybe only 1 or 2 of those will say something that grabs my attention.

  45. Well, you know where I fall in The Raven Stole the Moon blogging campaign, and I do really feel that the publisher took extreme liberty with the bloggers that she chose to contact. Though I was one of them, the whole affair left me with a lot of negative feelings. I agree with what you have said in this post. Just because a book bursts onto the scene in several blog posts that are published at the same time doesn't mean it's a stellar book that everyone should read. Mostly, I think it just means that the publicists are doing their job well. As far as book tours go, I am involved with a lot of them, but only for books that I am genuinely excited about reading and featuring on my blog. Some of the books I have read for tours have turned out to be really outstanding reads, but I wouldn't think twice about turning a book down that I felt no interest for. I also really understand the feelings of pressure you have about reviewing sometimes. It can make reading seem like a chore instead of fun, so I am excited to see that you will be making some changes. I am thinking of heading that way myself, but for right now, I will live vicariously through you!

  46. Anonymous3/15/2010

    I understand over-saturation of a book in a compressed time period, but I don't think that makes blog tours "fake." As long as a reviewer is honest (and the tour company and publisher don't ever find fault in that) I think book tours are a valuable tool for learning about the book.

    As Jenners noted above, it's easy to skip by posts and reviews you don't want to read. I feel bad for the bloggers who put time and effort in to a tour to be unappreciated by the poor timing that was out of their control. I love reading all reviews, and as long as they're thoughtful (both positive or negative) I'll continue to participate in, and suggest, blog tours.

    But Aarti, thanks for the thoughtful post! Paula Butturini, whom you participated in a blog tour for, cited your "Riveter's" as a favorite part!

  47. Dana- I think I know exactly what you mean about that much hype obscuring a book for you! I never thought of it like that, but instantly understood what you mean.

    Jenners- It seems like a lot of people disliked the book, you're right. I think that's part of the problem. It wasn't very well-received, but one might think, just from a quick glance (and not a read-through) of her Google Reader that somehow, she is missing out on a MAJOR new book, and then go to the bookstore and get it next time just because of seeing it so much. At least, that's what I feel this particular blog blast was like.

    Literate Housewife- I will not be unsubscribing! I emailed you directly as well.

    April- Yes, more and more, I appreciate the bloggers who add older books to my TBR list.

    Carol- I think a lot of people assume that is what happens- that we only absorb a very small amount of what we actually read. Which makes blog tours a great idea, but in my opinion, not this particular tour.

    Zibilee- Yes, I know where you stand and I can see now why you stand there. I was not expecting such a huge deluge, but I should have known, from what you said to me!

    Novelwhore- I don't personally think the reviewer being honest has anything to do with blog tours being "fake." I think the fakeness comes from artificially creating hype for a book by having so many posts around it fall at the same time, rather than coming out over time. I know it's easy to skip posts you don't want to read, but it's also really, really frustrating to be skipping about 10 posts a day by bloggers you really like because none of them knew other people would be posting about the same book on that day.

    I think some blog tours are done really well (such as Paula's, where she would give out different recipes on different blogs), but regardless, they all make me feel slightly uncomfortable, personally. This one in particular did so.

  48. Whatever happened to the idea of free will? Don’t we trust that bloggers will review a book honestly, and only participate in promotions/advance review copies if they are sincerely interested in the book and/or author? I do.

    I was impressed with those who eloquently turned down my invitation to review Raven, whether it was because of timing, not wanting to deal with embargo dates, the subject matter of the book, or the hesitance with advance review copies. And for those who were sincerely interested in the book, but opposed to the time constraints, I sent them a free copy of the book anyway. And several have thanked me for that.

    I never forced a blogger to accept this book, and honestly, I’m a little offended to see that word being used.

    Let me be clear: when we offer an advance review copy, we ask for reviews to be posted during a given time frame. This is not manipulative. It works much the same way in the print media world. Advance review copies are received “in advance” of the general public, meaning the “sneak peek” opinion should be out before the book actually hits bookstores. I’m sure you’re all aware of how this works. Further, we take a chance when we send out advance review copies. No matter how much we believe in a book, we know that there will be good reviews and bad reviews. That’s the whole point of this, right? And, one would think, the more reviews you have, the more honest and true the consensus will be.

    Terra Communications is a grassroots company, and we want to work with the blogosphere in a grassroots manner, so it is up to you, the bloggers, to decline if you don't like the parameters. It is up to you to say no to a book that doesn’t fit into your format or subject matter. It is up to you to back out if you start reading and don’t feel like posting a review or even finishing the book. I don’t require that you follow through on your commitment… I’m just offering you an opportunity. And, I’d like to offer it in a way that includes a broad spectrum of bloggers. A few bloggers that participated in the Raven promotion went out of their comfort zone and tried a new book they never thought they’d be interested in. They ended up loving it, and maybe some of their readers will too. If I had been more selective, only choosing the perfect blogs, the blogs with the most readership, only the blogs that loved The Art of Racing in the Rain, well, I don’t think we’d have such a diverse discourse out there right now.

    I understand that it might be irritating as a blogger who subscribes to hundreds of blogs to see the same book every day. But, do you think your readers do? Do you think your non-blogging readers subscribe to hundreds of lit blogs? If not, then why should this matter? What audience are you concerned about here? There are thousands of lit blogs out there, as I’m sure you well know. We saw Raven reviews on less than 5% of them. I wouldn’t say that’s exactly flooding the blogosphere.

    And what about the dozens of reviews that have happened on their own? I’d say that’s organic, and we can't help it if the vast majority of readers are loving the book, reviewing it favorably, and continuing to spread the word.

    I welcome your thoughts, and will be happy to continue this conversation.

  49. I am a little tired of saying in every single one of my comments that yes, I do trust bloggers to review honestly. I am not sure where people got the impression that I disagree with this, but I do not.

    Sarah, I also never said that Raven was forced on bloggers to review. I said the book was forced on *me*, as a blog reader, by being put up on blogosphere about 10-15 times in one day. Personally, I dislike this.
    I do not subscribe to "hundreds" of blogs. I don't think I even subscribe to 100 blogs. I still think a deluge of posts on one book DOES matter.

    I am not sure what audience you are referring to. Do I want my blog readers to appreciate my book reviews? Yes. Do I suspect non-bloggers subscribe to hundreds of blogs? Probably not. That doesn't make my concern invalid. As you can see from many of the comments above, a lot of bloggers are tired of the over-exposure to certain books that can come with a blog tour. It's not just me. And I disgaree- I think hitting 5% of book blogosphere IS flooding it. That is a huge amount of blogs.

    As for reviews that happened organically- I must admit that I don't think any DID happen organically. If they did, and were posted in the same week that all the rest of the reviews were posted, then I am pretty sure they would be lost in the shuffle for me. Maybe if another review posts in a month or two, I will see it as organic hype, but not at this point.

    Again, I understand the blog tour format works from a marketing perspective. I just feel, as a reader, that it doesn't really work for me and I wondered if others felt the same way. That was the reason for my posting the question in the first place.

  50. Aarti, if you will excuse me for a moment hijacking your comments, I'd like to address Sarah. You mention in your second comment that us book bloggers have an audience outside other book bloggers. That may be true in some cases, but many of us with large audiences have primarily readers who are also book bloggers. I have hundreds of readers and I'd say that at least 98% of them are fellow book bloggers. They are people who ARE subscribing to many book blogs. I personally subscribe to about 100 and just like Aarti, I got sick of the Raven posts within a day or two. The book actually sounded interesting to me - until the 5th or 6th review I came across. Now, it's no longer a book I'd consider reading, which is unfortunate because I do have a large audience. Book blogging does not work like typical marketing, and it would be wise to learn the way it does work, because a mass attack like this one causes many well known book bloggers to turn away from a book - as evidenced by many, many comments above.

  51. Well...I've already said a bit how I feel, but I actually know I have readers who aren't book bloggers. And I must be reading different blogs because I saw only a handful of these reviews.

    I understand your frustration, Aarti. I mean, I tend to feel annoyed even with the "organic" buzz when everyone is posting about the same thing (actually goes along with recent book bloggers frustration with memes I suspect), particularly if I'm not interested in it.

    And there are others who feel the same way you do, but I don't know that I necessarily feel manipulated. I think it's important for each blogger to decide what the goal of their blog is and act accordingly. So if a book comes along they want to read and they are willing to work with the stated time frame and it fits into what they already enjoy, then it makes sense for them to accept the copy.

    I love the book blogging community but I do hope that our influence extends beyond each other. But I might be alone in that.

  52. Amy- Again, I don't think it's so much a blogger participating in the tours. I think it's having to see so many posts on the same book on the same day, over and over. I don't think bloggers are manipulated into reading and reviewing books, but I think when no one knows how many other bloggers are participating in the review process, all happening in one week, that is bad form. I also stand by my comment that, as a blog reader, I saw far too many of those posts in one week to feel ok about it. And I know everyone subscribes to a different variety of blogs, but it doesn't look like I am the only one who came across that many of them.

  53. I think the question (as brought up in the comments here) of whether readers of book blogs is already a blogger or not, is irrelevant.

    I'm a book blogger. Why? Because I love reading books and talking about them. I even love reading others' opinions on books. That's why I read/subscribe to a lot of book blogs. There are other reasons, also; such as a sense of community, etc.

    If I were a non-blogger reading book blogs, I'd probably be tempted to start up a book blog of my own. And on and on it goes, in a circular manner.

    Additionally, if I was a non-blogger who loved books, I probably would be reading more than one book blog on a regular basis.

    Therefore, to have one book saturate the blogosphere within one week would be noticed by both book bloggers and non-bloggers.

    I guess the point I'm trying to make is that most people who follows book blogs, for whatever reason, probably have noticed the flurry of posts of this particular book. I know I did.

    I tend to notice when the same book appear again and again because of new-release book blog tours; which has made me hesistant to participate in them; although I'll be part of one for the first time next month.

    It'd be interesting to find out why the publisher of this book isn't marketing the book adequately and why a marketing company is being used instead! To be a fly on the wall at both places! I mean, Garth Stein isn't a total unknown because "The Art of Racing in the Rain" did very well.

  54. When I pondered the Classics Circuit, I worried about this because I'm one who personally gets annoyed with blog tours and don't follow them. I guess I just consider blog tours as marketing, and the Classics Circuit is just that too. Except the author is dead so we have to decide to promote them, whether or not the reader of the books likes it, it gets the name out there...

  55. Rebecca- I actually love the Classics Circuit because it's one author but so many books. Or one theme, but a lot of different authors. That was the inspiration for the Spotlight Series, too- much less fatiguing to have so many different books to choose from!

  56. I LOVE your thoughts on this. I dislike blog tours because of the artificial hype as well. Your concern about being publishers using bloggers is interesting, although I am not certain I agree completely. Publishers can only use us as long as we are willing to accept any free review book and are willing to abide by their deadlines. In addition, unless we do amend our reviews and make them more positive than they should be as a direct result of receiving the book for free, I do not see how we are being used. Just because we receive a free book does not guarantee that we will like it or that we will write a positive review about it. As long as we have that power, I feel book bloggers, as a whole, are safe.

    But I do think blog tours get to be a bit tedious. For me, whenever I see a blog tour post, I hit "mark as read", but I am quite contrary like that when it comes to specific marketing pushes!

  57. Michelle- I didn't mean using bloggers to get positive reviews. I meant just using them to create hype for a book by putting the book out there, everywhere, so that there is no avoiding it. Again, I don't think bloggers lie or give positive reviews to books they dislike just because they're free.

  58. I'm coming into this conversation a little late in the game, but I thought I'd add my thoughts.

    I'm a fairly new blogger (I just really started posting in January), and I've found that book tours are a great way to increase my contacts in the publishing world. I've made some great business contacts by volunteering for some tours, and I've been able to get to some books I'd never have found otherwise (The book I'm currently reading for a blog tour is a great example).

    On the other hand, though, I am not so fond of the blog tours that inundate us with posts on a book for two or three days. I got so sick of seeing Raven Stole the Moon on other blogs that I almost don't want to read it. However, I did notice that the majority of the reviews were really varied and honest -- I saw bloggers who loved the book, hated the book and were somewhere in between.

    I only participate in book tours for books that I find interesting, much like I only read books or accept review copies if the book sounds interesting. I'm not going to do a blog tour just for a free book or to drive traffic to my site. Also, I tend to, at least at this point in my blogging life, read a good 5-6 non-review books per 1 review book, and I'd really like to keep that balance.

  59. I've stopped participating in blog tours a long time back, but I did take part in them at the beginning and I do have my reasons.

    Sometimes when the book offered is by your favorite author, you tend to not think about the fact that it is a book tour. You are going to read it anyway sometime in the future. Why not take advantage of the opportunity?

    I know you can get books from the library but sometimes international bloggers don't have a choice. I get a lot of review pitches in a week but 95% of them are not available for international shipping. When I lived in India many books that were offered for review never turned up in the book stores. So when it was a book I really wanted to read I accepted, even if it was for a book tour.

    Now, Singapore has an awesome library, at least YA, so I turn down most of the book tours and even review pitches because like you I want the freedom to read and review when I want to.

    Hope that made some sense :)

  60. Anonymous3/23/2010

    Guess I'm out of the loop b/c I've never heard of this book and haven't read any reviews on it. Of course I only follow a few book blogs (I'm very picky) and while sometimes a publicist contacts me about a book I've never heard of before but most of the time I'm putting in requests for books that interest me and I have eclectic and somewhat highbrow tastes. Yes, I'll read James Patterson's Women's Murder Club or a chicklit book on occasional but it's just to break up my reading.

  61. Anonymous3/28/2010

    Blog tours don't seem to be so prevalent in the UK. I've only taken part in one which worked because the author made himself available to the bloggers so that posts were not just reviews, but discussions and Q&A etc.

    Like you I get Librarything ER books and Amazon Vine ones, plus increasingly books from publishers. I'm learning to be more picky, so that I can maximise my own book choices.


I read every comment posted on this blog, even if it sometimes takes me a while to respond. Thank you for taking the time and effort to comment here! Unless you are spamming me, in which case, thanks for nothing.