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?