Blog Tour Blues

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I’ve been participating in blog tours for several years, and most of them have been smooth sailing. But in recent months, I’ve had two REALLY bad experiences with blog tours, and so I’ve decided not to seek them out anymore.

First of all, my old WordPress.com blog was shut down because apparently, blog tours are FORBIDDEN. (You can read the sad story here.) I still don’t think I did anything wrong, but WordPress never gave me the courtesy of listening to my side of the story, so to this day I feel very bitter toward WordPress.com.

And just a couple of weeks ago, I participated in the blog tour for The Game of Love and Death, and for the first time EVER, I had a publisher ask me to change my review, or they would not promote my blog during the tour. (So that tour is now over, and I feel comfortable talking about this.) I do not fault the blog tour company AT ALL. They are a professional and very organized company, and I’ve done several tours with them and had very positive experiences. The directive came from the publisher, who said the author had read my review and was uncomfortable with it.

Now, I do understand that the purpose of a blog tour is to positively promote the book in question. In fact, the tour company asks that if you don’t feel you can give the book at least four stars, you can do something else for your tour stop besides post your review. I read the book, and even though I had some issues with it, I felt it was a four star read for me. When I wrote my review, I emphasized the positive aspects of the book, but I did add a paragraph explaining the main issue I had, which was that I didn’t feel the book was truly a YA book.

Unfortunately, I used the word “pedophile” in that paragraph, which was the trigger word that caught the eye of the author. Looking back, I can understand why she had an issue with it, after all, my review said that the main LBGTQ relationship was a pedophilic one. The relationship in question was between a seventeen-year-old boy and a much older man, and although I understand that seventeen is technically “of age” as far as sex goes, it still made me feel uncomfortable (and let me be clear—it was the ages of the characters, not their sexual orientation, that made me uncomfortable), and I questioned whether a book with this kind of relationship should be targeted to ages 12 and up (according to the sales information on the ARC). Hey, I’m a mother and I pay attention to these things!

And so I took that entire paragraph out of my review. If you can believe this, the publisher actually offered up several suggestions for ways to change what I was trying to say to give it a more favorable spin! I felt it was easier to just delete the whole mess. Frankly, I was horrified that I had committed some unintentional sin by pissing off an author, especially during a blog tour. But later, after my shame had worn away, I realized that I was pissed off. The point I want to make is not that I may or may not be wrong in my assessment of this relationship, but that my freedom of speech was taken away. Readers will have many different opinions about this book, and all of them are valid. But in expressing my opinion, I was slapped on the wrist and told to behave, or there would be consequences.

I never feel good giving books bad reviews, or even complaining about aspects of a book that I didn’t like. But as Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” I may not be a wielder of “great power,” but I don’t want to lie when I review a book. After all, everything I express here on my blog is my opinion, and I don’t claim to speak for the masses. It’s our responsibility, as book reviewers, to tell the truth as we see it. And by taking out that paragraph from my review, I ultimately lied about my feelings for The Game of Love and Death.

I’m not letting that happen again. And I’m not going to let other people tell me how to rate a book. So, no more organized blog tours for me. I will continue to support books I love, and I will also continue to participate in publishing events if a publisher contacts me directly. (For example, I love helping out Angry Robot with their author promotions, and I will continue to do so.) But as for working with blog tour companies? I think I’m done.

What’s your opinion of blog tours? Do you participate in them?

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Posted May 20, 2015 by Tammy in Ruminations / 43 Comments

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43 responses to “Blog Tour Blues

  1. That really is too bad. Ugh. Then again, if the point is supposed to be positive promotion and that is what you are agreeing to, I can see that side. But that I why I don’t do blog tours or read blog tour posts. They strike me as far too promotiony and not particularly authentic in most cases. Which means that this reader would have enjoyed that blog tour post far more if your negative thoughts on the book had been left in. I really think that authors and publishers hugely underestimate the positive power of a negative review to interest people in a book/get them talking about it as well as to make things more than just “this has to be positive promotion.”

    Sorry you had a bad experience though. Being asked to sit down and be quiet about criticism is not awesome in any way.
    nikki @ book punks recently posted…so it begins: the beauty by aliya whiteleyMy Profile

    • Tammy

      That’s a really good point, Nikki. Negative reviews often make me PICK UP a book, only because I want to see if I agree with the reviewer or not.

  2. Lesley

    I’ve got a lot of feelings about this, but I’m only one cup of coffee into the morning so I’m not sure it’s all coherent yet. Hmmm…

    I have never and I would never contact a reviewer and tell them to change their review of an Apex title. (Once I did contact a reviewer to let them know they had the name of the main character incorrect, but that’s different.) Sending books out for review is a game of chance. Not everyone is going to mesh with every book, and that’s okay. Of course I want positive reviews of our titles, but I realize that may not always happen. And while I don’t run out and point everyone to a bad review (“Hey, look! There’s a new review of *insert book title*. The reviewer hated it. Read their review to find out why!”), I don’t strike that reviewer from my contact list either. Basically, I shrug, think to myself that I made a misjudgement in sending that reviewer that particular book, and move on because I’ve got way too much to do to worry about one negative review.

    I’m sorry this happened to you. It isn’t cool. But I’m glad to hear you’ll still work directly with publishers. Apex loves working with you! 🙂

    • Tammy

      Now I wish it had played out that way, but I guess that’s how lessons are learned. I was worried about the blog tour company black listing me, but I was obviously worried about the wrong thing.

  3. Oi! Sorry this happened. The whole point of reviews is to share what you really think of a book and explain your reading experience with it, so I wish you had left the review as you wrote it, but can understand how that is easier said than done sometimes. My guess is that if there’s a next time (really hope not), that you’ll stick to your words. And I remember the WordPress fiasco! I’ve participated in a publisher run event, but never one run by a blog tour com. This doesn’t make me very sad I haven’t been a part of it.
    Lisa @TenaciousReader recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday: The Fifth House of the HeartMy Profile

    • Tammy

      I’ll probably go back and restore my old review, I just haven’t had time. What I want to do is delete the entire post!

  4. I don’t think you did anything wrong by being completely honest in your review about how you felt. Sometimes, it’s a lot easier to cave to the pressure, but you handled this how you should (and trust me I definitely know how it is being a reviewer and a mother when reviewing certain books). I imagine your courage to stand up for yourself and the integrity of your reviews.
    Tiara recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday 05/20/15My Profile

    • Tammy

      Thanks Tiara. Like I said, everyone has different opinions when interpreting what the author is trying to say, and mine was just one opinion.

  5. 🙁 That’s too bad, Tammy. I’ve never participated in blog tours, mostly because I’d rather wait to “promote” a book in some way unless I’ve read it and want to tell the world how much I truly enjoyed it. I have interviewed a few authors in the past, but those interviews were a) outside of any blog tours, and b) ones I pursued myself because I enjoyed each author’s work and wanted to give them a little more publicity.

    To be honest, I wasn’t aware that WordPress sites aren’t allowed to participate in blog tours. So thanks for sharing that bit of information with me. It doesn’t change my method about promoting authors, books, and such, but it’s still important to keep in mind.
    Sara L. recently posted…The Real Neat Blog AwardMy Profile

    • Tammy

      It’s one of those things most WordPress.com users don’t know, but I do know I’m not the only blogger that’s had their blog taken down because they used the words “blog tour” in a post. I do get tired of reading generic “positive” reviews of books in blog tour posts. I realize most bloggers are trying to keep that positive vibe going for the tour, but the reviews often feel false to me.

  6. In the moment I probably would have considered doing what you did but after I would just be pissed (both at myself for changing it and at the publisher for asking). The fact is that the beautiful thing about reading is that we all have our own experience with books. I wouldn’t want to be part of a tour that didn’t allow differing views (especially a 4 star read) but then again it has been a long time since I have done a tour. I occasionally (rarely) do promotion but like you it is either authors or publishers that I love. Sorry that happened to you.
    Felicia The Geeky Blogger recently posted…Audiobook Review: The Walled Flower by Lorraine BartlettMy Profile

    • Tammy

      You have the right idea, only promote books you can get behind! With a blog tour review, you have to give yourself plenty of time to read the book before your tour stop, but often I’m behind and doing my post only a couple of days before my stop, so it’s really too late at that point to back out or change your post.

  7. This sparked off all kinds of bad feelings in me. Like some of the commenters have already mentioned, your blog should be your opinion and your words. If a publisher/author had contacted me and told me to change something I would have flipped. We’re unpaid hobbyists reviewing books on our own time because it’s fun and we like doing it. And there’s the trust that you’re allowed to express your thoughts and opinions no matter what they are. I’ve not participated in any organized book tours in the past, but I wasn’t closed to the possibility. However, reading this probably just put me off from them forever. And I think less of the book tour group, the publisher, and the author now. Whenever you put any kind of product out there, you should be aware that not everyone’s going to like it and some people are going to have OPINIONS that might make you “uncomfortable”. It’s just the way it is, and trying to shut them up is just not cool. You had such a favorable review of that book otherwise too. I can understand why you’re miffed, heck I’m right there miffed with you.
    Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum recently posted…Comic Stack – 05/20/15My Profile

    • Tammy

      Yeah, I thought it was odd when it happened, but I guess some trigger words just don’t sit well with publishers. I’m never vicious when I post negative reviews, so now I don’t feel like I did anything wrong (although at the time I did!)

  8. That’s horrible, Tammy! The author could have mentioned herself that she was uncomfortable with your wording and asked you to phrase it differently, but asking to change your review? That’s incredibly rude.

    Both of my recent blog tour posts have been not-so-great as well, since I gave both books one star each. Also, I use free WordPress and I’d really rather not have WordPress.com remove my blog, so for now, I won’t be signing up for any new tours. So sorry you had to experience this. 🙁
    Aimee @ Deadly Darlings recently posted…Waiting On Wednesday #13: Anything Could HappenMy Profile

    • Tammy

      Yes, be careful if you do participate in more blog tours. I literally did blog tours on my free WordPress blog for three years before they flagged me. It was so random!

  9. Ha! I read your post first thing this morning thinking wow, I’m really glad that’s never happened to me. And then I got an email about an upcoming tour post of mine…

    I find this frustrating for multiple reasons. First, unless someone wants to set up a tour featuring ONLY readers who have already read the book there’s no way to guarantee that everyone on the tour is going to enjoy it or write positive, glowing reviews. As the reader/reviewer obviously I’m choosing books that I want to read and hope I’ll enjoy. And I do hate writing bad reviews. But with a non tour book I can just not do a post. There’s no option with a blog tour title.

    The second reason I find this frustrating is that you actually did enjoy the book and they still took issue with the review itself. I sympathize with them, I really do, but as one of the other commenters pointed out it’s a bit of a crap shoot.

    I’ve agonized in the past about “bad” reviews of tour titles. I hope this kind of experience isn’t becoming a trend. It will definitely sour the whole thing for me personally and make me think twice about taking on certain titles in the future.
    Becky LeJeune recently posted…Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy + a GiveawayMy Profile

    • Tammy

      At this point I’m just wondering what benefit do I, as a blogger, actually get out of blog tours? Maybe my stats go up a little (but honestly, not a lot), maybe there’s a giveaway, maybe I get a free copy of the book, but otherwise, I’m under someone else’s directive as to what I can post, etc.

  10. I haven’t had any bad experiences yet with a blog tour, although I’m sure one will come along, based on the trends I am hearing about.
    A big problem I have with blog tours is when they send the blogger a huge long post with a lot of junk in it. No one wants to read that; I know I don’t! I would like to be able to choose which elements of their press kit to use.
    Elizabeth recently posted…Wondrous Bloggy WordsMy Profile

    • Tammy

      I agree, there is so much “filler” that you sometimes have to post, and I always feel like you do, that it’s boring and 20 bloggers are going to post the exact same thing?? I think book blasts are even worse, though. I just hate them, and I used to participate in them, but I stopped after I realized a lot of the blogs I follow were also posting the exact same book blasts! It just annoyed me, rather than get me excited about the book.

      • What they SHOULD do is give people one or two elements of the blast and ask them to select one to post with a mini review. That would make it more personal for the blogger and the readers. It’s like they want to make their own job easier by sending out all the press info to everyone instead of picking and choosing. And I don’t get cover reveals, although I love cover art. If I am anticipating a book, it’s the story I want, not the cover.
        Elizabeth recently posted…Wondrous Bloggy WordsMy Profile

        • Tammy

          I have to say I do love cover reveals, especially if it’s a book I know I’m going to read:-D

  11. Wow, I’d be pissed to! I sometimes wonder if my review style of always including clear negatives loses me opportunities because pubs or tour companies don’t want anything negative said, but I would want to know about that negative no matter how much you loved the book and am obviously a strong believer that every book has problems big or small. I tend to do very few blog tours through companies because I don’t want to commit to a book that I might not love and have to include promo material that I didn’t write instead if I end up disliking the book. Also deadlines D:
    Anya @ On Starships and Dragonwings recently posted…The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness + Swag Giveaway!My Profile

    • Tammy

      Deadlines are the worst! I don’t think you’re missing out on much, I feel like the publishers who work with bloggers regularly will contact us when they need help, and that’s the kind of support I like to give, not just randomly “applying” to get on a tour.

  12. I don’t participate in blog tour because er… mostly, the books I read don’t get that kind of marketing 😀 But the rare time I had the opportunity, I declined. I’m a difficult reader and there’s no way I can guarantee I’m going to enjoy it. And if I don’t… I’m not going to write a positive review. No way.
    It did happen to me that I was offered a book to review and didn’t like it (at all). In those cases, I contacted the publisher before I started to write anything and propose a choice between a negative review and no review at all. I prefer it too because I don’t enjoy writing bad reviews. But I was never asked to write a positive review ANYWAY. What’s this?!
    If an author can’t take bad reviews, he/she’d better find another job because books, movies, music, art in general, are things people can have strong opinion about. You can’t please everyone.
    Angélique recently posted…Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John MandelMy Profile

    • Tammy

      I totally agree! But there are authors out there who really don’t understand that not everyone is going to like their book.

  13. I’ll be honest-. I try to avoid blog tour posts, even when there’s a giveaway. I’d rather read a plain old review any day, because I know the ‘blog tour’ rating *must* be a positive one (and variety of ratings is the little surprise in the book reviews I read). It’s very disheartening that you had that experience though. I’ve rejected every tour company who has pitched me, mostly because I have better luck finding books I’ll love with my own.
    ~Litha Nelle

  14. I’m sorry to hear you had such a bad experience! I can’t believe they asked you to change your review! I’ve only done one blog tour before and they were really nice, even though I think it was my most negative review ever. Needless to say I wasn’t asked to participate again. I agree, I hate saying bad things about a book! They shouldn’t have made you censor your opinion though.
    Molly Mortensen recently posted…Uprooted By Naomi NovikMy Profile

  15. I love that you were brave enough to pour this blog post up. How rude of them to ask you to change your review and then try to dictate what way to phrase things. Poor poor form on their part. I’m so thankful this hasn’t happened to me. I’ve given three stars on blog tour reviews before. And hey they don’t see my review until it goes live. #evillaughter. There have been a few instances where I read the book and backed out because I didn’t like the book. Personally tho now a days I don’t do scheduled blog tours because I want to read and review on my own time and I don’t want to have to worry about backing out. Also my schedule is just unreliable with the baby, what if I blow an emotional gasket that week you know. Anyhow, no review blog tours for me. I might consider interviews or guest posts from authors of I’m excited about the book even if I haven’t read it yet I’ll occasionally do those. But not really anymore since I’m just skating by, by the skin of my nose right now.

    I’m just so mad on your behalf…The nerve!! Stick to your guns. 🙂
    Tabitha (Not Yet Read) recently posted…Review: The Grace of Kings by Ken LiuMy Profile

    • Tammy

      I don’t feel like I was being brave, rather I wrote this as a warning to other bloggers. I was so shocked when it happened, it was hard to think straight. Thanks for being mad with me!

  16. I can’t believe that happened to you. I am sorry to hear of that, I can understand why you got angry and that’s pretty bad practice from the publisher and author. I own a blog tour company and as a bogger myself I would never ask anyone to change their review. I do have the policy that if someone rates the book lower than 3 star I ask that they post it after the tour, but that’s normal practice. I still think those bloggers should have the right to publish their reviews afterwards. I agree with your summary that you freedom of speech was taken away, if you wanted to describe it in that way you should. And the thing that surprises me most was that this was a 4 star review and probably was a pretty favourable review. It’s a shame things like this still happen :(.
    Lola recently posted…Blog Tour: Regina Shen by Lance ErlickMy Profile

    • Tammy

      Thanks Lola! I’m sure running a blog tour company is hard work, I don’t think I could handle it.

  17. I’m so sorry that what happened happened to you! That would have been so stressful and honestly, shocking. This is mainly why I sign up for very, very few blog tours – I’m afraid of stuff like this happening to me. I don’t want to write a review, telling the positive and the negative aspects, and then receive an email dictating how I should write it. And even then, if you don’t give a stellar review, you’re pretty much forced to post generic content. Sigh. I’m so sorry that this happened to you. I’m so mad right now that they had the gall to do that! >:(
    Faye M. recently posted…Random Things in Motion #20: Dear Generic Fantasy Books, Orcs/Dwarves/Elves Have Stories, Too!My Profile

  18. I’m also not happy to have anyone else tell me what to say on my blog and perhaps even more importantly, I feel as though the main purpose of my blog is to do what’s best for my readers, not for an author or a publisher. For that reason, I’m very careful to only commit to tours where negative reviews are still included in the tour. Thanks for sharing your experience!
    Katie @ Doing Dewey recently posted…So What’s the Deal With Bitcoins? A Review of Digital GoldMy Profile

  19. I agree with Pabkins – it was brave of you to post this, and I appreciate that you did. I can’t believe (but can at the same time) that the publisher contacted you and offered suggestions on how to change your review.

    I think a lot of blog tour companies are shiny and easy content for new bloggers, who often feel like they have to post every day. I can understand that drive, but I scroll past any kind of generic book blast or blurb post. They’re boring to me.

    When I do tours, I only do review spots. That way I can make sure I feel comfortable promoting the book on my blog. I have backed out at the last minute if I’m behind and end up disliking the book — that’s the only time I’ll post a blurb.
    Leeanna @ Leeanna.me recently posted…Book Review: Ink and Bone by Rachel CaineMy Profile

  20. I’m offended on your behalf. As a writer who cries over bad reviews on occasion, I think it’s sinful to expect you to put a positive spin on something you considered a negative. I mean, who doesn’t want good reviews? I do. I eat them up. But I want to earn the good ones. And cry over the bad ones. Because at least they’re honest. I’d feel worse knowing a good review wasn’t genuine.

  21. I participate in very few blog tours, but I’ve had a very favorable experience with TLC Book Tours. They don’t point black tell you “Your review must be 4 stars or higher or don’t bother posting”. I’ve posted 3 stars before and they were completely fine with it. I worked with one of those tour companies once and while I did like the book I didn’t like the feeling that I HAD to rate it 4 stars. Honestly it made me not want to rate it at all and just post my review but that probably was breaking their rules too. I agree completely… my reviews are honest and being told right off the bat that if I don’t feel a certain way then I can’t post is constricting and I don’t like having those expectations set from the very beginning.
    Bonnie @ For the Love of Words recently posted…Book Review – Scarlet (Scarlet #1) by A.C. GaughenMy Profile

    • Tammy

      Thanks Julie! Yep, book blogging definitely has its challenges! You can’t please everyone, so I guess it’s best not to try:-)

  22. First of all, I’m amazed that WordPress blocks blogs for book tours – and how is that not more widely known in the community?? 😮

    I think you were in the right about that book though, it doesn’t sound like something that 12 year olds should be reading. Sure, the older end of the YA spectrum, but probably not the younger. I think that’s pretty ridiculous making you change that, I mean you still gave a positive review in general, and definitely a positive rating! I can definitely see why this has changed your mind about blog tours.

    You know my thoughts on blog tours – thanks for commenting on my post 🙂
    Rinn recently posted…Dragons & Jetpacks: Books of the Month, June 2015My Profile