Why blog tours are bullshit and I won’t do them anymore

Updates

EDIT: A point has been raised with me about the original introductory paragraph that I entirely agree with. It named a specific book which, in addition to potentially making things uncomfortable for the author, also made it very easy to identify a particular blog tour organiser, who have been seen as the specific target of the points I make in this post. I want to make it crystal clear that, while I stand by the points I’ve made, this is in no way a personal or targeted attack on any one blog tour organiser. In that spirit, I’ve deleted the introductory paragraph. Everything else remains the same.

For anyone who doesn’t know about blog tours, they’re basically publicity events for books where a bunch of reviewers and bloggers review and blog about the book over the course of, say, a week. They can be organised by the author, a publicist or a third party. Usually the participants get a free copy of the book to read and review. Seems fine right? Not all that different from getting a free copy from NetGalley or the publisher in exchange for a review? Nah man, blog tours are bullshit, and here’s why.

For starters, it’s pretty standard practice for most blog tours to have a policy of no negative reviews during the tour. Not only that, but if you didn’t like the book, you’re still usually asked to promote it regardless, by spotlighting it and posting an excerpt. This is how I came to be required to promote a book I didn’t like. And I mean look, that’s all well and good right, I recognise that taste is subjective and a book I didn’t get along with might be someone else’s five star book of the year, so I have no problem talking about books that weren’t my cup of tea. Hell, in past reviews I’ve said stuff like “this didn’t work for me, but if you’re a fan of this trope/writing style/type of humour etc then you’d probably enjoy this book.” The problem for me arises when I have to uncritically promote it and mask the fact I didn’t like it. Besides the intellectual dishonesty wound up in that it also just seems obvious, on a practical level, that discerning readers will pick up on the fact that excerpt is just code for bad book anyway, especially if the excerpts are continuously followed by negative reviews the following week.

And hey, this just sounds like my own personal discomfort with blog tours. And of course that’s true, this is just my opinion, and many other bloggers and reviewers out there won’t share my views and be more than happy to spotlight books and hold off on (or never even write) negative reviews. I still think that’s perfectly legitimate stance. However, I do think if that’s the position you’re going to take then you owe it to the readers to think about why you’re happy to carry on doing that. Because this is where my big gripe with blog tours surfaces. While I’m more than enthusiastic to shout from the rooftops about great books and get the word out about the authors I love, I never lose sight of the fact that fundamentally reviews are for readers. And if we’re honest about it, blog tours are for authors. They’re for authors to drum up positive reviews, and only positive reviews, that leave the reader with a warped and frankly, inaccurate reception of the book. Given that blog tours are often organised to promote new books with very few (if any) other reviews to balance this out, that leaves the reader, who the review is supposedly intended for, in a very shitty, uninformed position. As a side note to this, I actually think some negative reviews are a good thing for authors. No book is universally loved. Even the most critically acclaimed best-sellers have their detractors and one star reviews. So if I see a small title with twenty ratings, and those ratings are all five stars, I wouldn’t trust that book not to keep my change. The positive reviews become meaningless. Whereas if most people enjoyed it, but there’s some people in there saying it didn’t work for them, it actually lends a degree of authenticity to the book’s reception.

The other (and I think most insidious) thing I want to talk about is money. Payment. Publicists and blog tour companies are usually being paid to organise these things. And they don’t let you write negative reviews. Think about that. Most people would consider it reprehensible for an author to pay a blogger directly and say they could only write a positive review. Yet this is precisely what is happening, albeit with the insertion of a middleman in the form of a publicist or blog tour company that masks the transaction. And it gets worse! I’ve actually seen the organisers of blog tours – the individuals receiving payment – reviewing the book themselves. And shock fucking horror, they’re always positive and very often five stars. That’s messed up.

I took part in two blog tours before I came to the conclusion the whole ecosystem is a corrupt mess that subverts the purpose of reviews. I remember signing up for the first one and very quickly getting anxious about what to do if I didn’t like the book. As it turned out, I enjoyed the first one, which allowed me to sweep the problem under the rug and not think about it for a while. I couldn’t do this the second time round, when I had such a negative opinion of the book. When I talked about this, a few fellow bloggers got in touch to tell me about similar experiences they’ve had. Some went so far as pulling out of tours altogether because they didn’t feel comfortable promoting a book they didn’t like. That’s always an option, but for me there’s a couple of problems with that approach. The first is simply a matter of professionalism. When I signed up to those blog tours I made an agreement right? And the rules of that agreement stated that if I didn’t like the book I was still expected to promote it. To wait and see if I like the book before deciding whether to uphold my side of the agreement just doesn’t seem right. The second, most fundamental problem is that by participating in it and continuing to review books when I do like them and just withdrawing when I don’t, I’d still be propping up an ecosystem awash with the other faults and issues I’ve already highlighted. Either way, the practise goes on and I’m doing nothing to challenge it, even offering my tacit approval. And I’m not willing to do that.

If you’re a reader who’s followed blog tours and never considered this angle before, I honestly think you’d be better off avoiding them; they don’t serve you well. If you’re a blogger considering being part of a blog tour in future, just give some thought to what I’ve said. If you do that and still think I’m wrong, I’m always open to a good faith chat 🙂 Peace out bookwyrms.


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36 thoughts on “Why blog tours are bullshit and I won’t do them anymore

  1. This is exactly why I stopped doing blog tours. Although I do still participate in some PUBLISHER blog tours, but that’s a whole other thing. I’ve actually had blog tour hosts tell me to CHANGE parts of my review because the author was upset by some of my opinions and wording! I also have a hard time promoting any book I haven’t read unless it’s a book by an author I’ve read in the past or a book already on my TBR, usually from a publisher I’ve worked with for years. I personally hate “spotlight” posts which seem empty and almost pointless. So I’m glad you’ve seen the light! I wrote a ranty post about this a couple of years ago on my blog too, lol.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Oh no I actually have a spotlight post going up tomorrow I think? Or later this month? I think i have 2 this month as favors cuz I didn’t feel like reading welp lol.
      I totally get it though. I used to never do those kinds of posts and I think this will only be the 3rd and 4th time I have done posts like that. I probably won’t do many in the future either.

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        1. I get it though–I also don’t like to do them a lot, mostly only if I have a previous relationship with the publisher or author. I read your post you linked on it and I totally get why you stopped doing them for the most part. ❤

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  2. I totally agree with you, I gave up on blog tours a couple of years ago as all I seemed to get were mediocre books. Plus I wasn’t keen on using my social media platforms that I had spent lots of time building up being used to promote a book that someone else was getting payment for, when I wasn’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep very fair. I honestly wouldn’t even mind the organiser being paid to organise the thing if there were no restrictions on what we could say. What they’re really being paid for, whether it’s openly acknowledged or not, is to provide positive reviews for the author.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. thanks for explaining and bringing up this topic.
    I guess it is always credible to learn from failures and do better.
    The most important currency a blogger has is the trust from readers. Netgalley (and others) expect a “honest review” for the arc. There is no other payment involvement. The only thing that a blogger would get from promoting books is individual hits. Thereby risking the said trust from their followers.
    What I wonder: Why did you engage with this at all, what did you expect?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Totally agree trust is so important for reviewers. If we can’t be trusted to give an honest opinion then we may as well not bother.

      Honestly I didn’t think about it much at all. I was fairly new to blogging when I took part in my first blog tour a few months ago and thought it would be a nice way to get more involved in the blogging community and get more eyes on my blog. I had no experience of how blog tours operated at the time and I quickly realised they aren’t something I want to be involved in.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Let me know how you find it and if you think you’ll carry on doing them. Worth considering though, that even if you do like the book, the structures of blog tours are still pretty broken. At least I think so anyway :/

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is exactly why I don’t host blog tours on my site either. I don’t think the average reader necessarily knows about this issue (but hopefully they will now that you’ve talked about it!)

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  5. I’ve only participated in one blog tour, for a book that was third in a trilogy I adored and was pretty sure I would at MINIMUM enjoy (and I was thankfully write). But for the most part, I haven’t done blog tours because I too get a bit uncomfortable committing to promoting a book I potentially don’t love. And that’s on top of any additional scrutiny that my blog post would come under from the promoter to make sure I did it “right.” I’d much rather stick with NetGalley and ARCs where I am free to review as I see fit.

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  6. I have had a lot of these reservations, as well. And that is why I have only ever done ONE blog tour. It was for a book that I requested an ARC of, and adored. Got a few friends to request it, too, because I knew they would love it. And as a group we didn’t feel the publisher was doing a very good job of promoting the book (honestly, they were doing nothing) so we basically *begged* them to form a blog tour of other ARC readers to try and get the book more publicity. It took us a lot of work to get the publishers to do it, and we were even talking about forming an unofficial blog tour if they weren’t going to get back to us.

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  7. It is very weird that every ARC/review request post is headed with ’Provided for free in exchange for an honest review’ but this rule seems to perhaps be put to one side when it comes to blog tours.
    Your original tweet, and certainly this post has really made me question whether I’d be involved with more moving forward.

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  8. I was actually thinking about this the other day! I quite like a blog tour but I’m getting very selective in choosing and I’m only really working now with 2 blog tour organisers who I feel comfortable saying I didn’t enjoy the book. I have wondered before about an extract = bad book. I’ve written a few middle of the road reviews for tours, but I generally don’t write negative reviews on my blog anyway.

    I’m stepping back a bit from tours. Great post and I’m happy to have found your blog – now following 😁

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  9. I’m such a noob at all this book blogging stuff. I just assumed that blog tours consolidated unfiltered reviews. I’m so used to seeing disclaimers at the beginning of some reviews that say ARCs are provided in exchange for an honest review. I don’t participate in the sphere of upcoming releases (too busy trying to read stuff that was popular 10 years ago,) so this is good information for me, thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. You made so many good points. I stopped for awhile but I started again because I didn’t have a lot of content to post and I liked most of the books that I read but you are so right. Certainly makes me question if I want to continue doing them in the future.

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  11. I understand your points and I think, at least most of us if not all of us, can agree that being dishonest in a review is really wrong and unethical. However, I think it’s harmful to lump all blog tours in and say they all suck. I too think that adding bad reviews to book tours would increase the credibility of the tour. However, I dont agree with saying that spotlighting an excerpt or something like that is inherently dishonest. I am actually doing that soon because I DNF-d a book, but I dont think of it as a recommendation on my part. I tend to think of it as supporting the author themselves, especially since it’s mostly indie authors. It might lead to someone loving the book that I didnt care for. I guess I’m just saying that there are some really good things that book tours do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, totally valid points. There’s definitely room for nuance that I didn’t address. We can still respectfully disagree about the use of excerpts as replacements for reviews and that’s fine.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m only willing to do a blog tour on behalf of an author when I know I’ll love their next book. There’s not many authors where I can say that, but for the few I can I’m always willing to go the extra mile. As someone who’s a part of a group blog, it helps knowing that the blogger who will be writing the final post will almost always be a huge fan of the book being promoted.

    The main thing for me is transparency. With trad pub blog tours, I know the publicists are being paid and the authors are not directly involved in the tour. There’s also a baseline of quality expected for a book being pushed out through a major publishing imprint (though subjective taste is a still a huge factor).

    Liked by 1 person

  13. To be honest, it sounds to me like you struggle with boundaries? If there are blog tours requiring in their policies that you post positive reviews despite what you really think, then those aren’t blog tours you should be a part of. However, if the blog tour allows you to back out or to forgo posting a review if you don’t like the book, and you struggle taking the out they offer you, then this seems like your problem? There are plenty of tours that are run by people who are tremendously dedicated and do what they do out of love for authors and books, and they do not require any of their participants to post dishonest reviews. Characterizing all blog tours as scams is, frankly, defamatory.

    Your post also has some major contradictions in it. On the one hand, you say, “I recognise that taste is subjective and a book I didn’t get along with might be someone else’s five star book of the year, so I have no problem talking about books that weren’t my cup of tea,” but on the other, you say that blog tours “leave the reader with a warped and frankly, inaccurate reception of the book,” and furthermore that blog tours, “[leave] the reader, who the review is supposedly intended for, in a very shitty, uninformed position.” But if there is no baseline for what constitutes a good book, and opinions are subjective, as you say, then there really isn’t such a thing as an accurate representation of the book (unless it’s factually wrong), and there is no such thing as an informed position for a reader. What you frame as ethical gripes seem to less about blog tours and more about your ability to assert yourself and practice your own reviewing ethics.

    It sounds to me like you just struggle saying “no” to people you make agreements with and are divesting yourself of responsibility for your discomfort. Kind of seems like you’re blaming others/calling them corrupt because you failed to set appropriate boundaries to protect your own moral compass, and honestly, that’s kind of on YOU buddy.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I agree completely. I’ve done quite a few blog tours over the past few months, and I’ve grown more and more uncomfortable with them. I have a few left that I’ve committed to, but will not be signing up for any more in the future. It just feels weird and wrong to promote books that I’m not excited about, especially when it has come to my attention just how problematic some blog tour organisers are. Ironically, I have a new blog tour post up today, and to be perfectly honest it is for a book that I could not stand. Maybe I shouldn’t say that, but if I’m being honest it was a one star book for me. I reached out to the organiser and said this, and she pressured me to post an excerpt instead, which I did. It feels a bit iffy to me to have someone else pressuring me to post something on my own blog that I do not necessarily agree with. Okay rant over 😂

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  15. My experience with blog tours is very, very limited so I’m amazed, to say the least, to hear that in some cases the blogger is almost compelled to write a positive review no matter what. I agree when you say that a review is aimed at readers and should mirror the reviewer’s honest point of view. With my very first blog tour I stumbled on a book that started well and then went south in a spectacular way, and I said as much in my review – in a respectful way, of course, but still I spoke my mind, because I could not praise a story that disappointed me in such a way. And on hindsight, maybe that’s the reason I’m not actively seeking blog tours…
    Interesting post, thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A lot of the (unexpected) conversation about this has focused on this issue of reviewers being forced to write positive reviews. I just want to make clear that I’ve never actually experienced tour organisers forcing me to write positive reviews and neither is it something I came across when looking at other blog tours for the post. I don’t think it negates any of the other points but I just wanted to make it clear 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  16. Really great post! My experience of blog tours is very limited (I did one for a book I’d already given a positive rating, but have never felt the compunction to do another, especially since I rarely accept ARCs anyway) and I only learned yesterday that publicists got paid for setting them up. I get why people do them and why they can be good for a book (increasing people’s exposure to a book even just in the periphery of their attention enough times can spark interest) and I can understand why people get paid for their work setting them up tbh. But they’re not for me either. The part I don’t like as a reviewer is people being compelled to write positive reviews (this much I suspected- so much so that if a book is given 4* by a reviewer who consistently gives out 5*s, I must assume it’s really, really bad 😉 )

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  17. Most tours are stressful for me. After trying out a few organizers, I’ve decided to never do tours anymore, with the exception of one specific person who I kind of know personally, so I know I’d be fine dropping out. For most of the other organizers, I always get this vibe of “it’s your job and you should don’t it, and please ignore that we don’t pay you”. Those books are seriously not worth it. Most of the tours I’ve done, I just felt stressed to read it in a very particular time frame, then move about the post because for SOME reason they always make you rearrange the day or switch something out, and then… Ah, sometimes I just want to be a “Bad Blogger” and just not read the book. I don’t get paid for this. If I’m having a shite reading month, I want to know I can drop it. It’s fine if the publisher will not give me anymore books on NetGalley, I’m cool with that. This isn’t my job. And you’re right, with the tour, that’s either impossible, or really, REALLY awkward and uncomfortable to do.

    I’ve only ever found that one tour organizer works for me, and that’s because they actually being a lot of traffic to your site during the tour. Plus their books have always been good, so I pick one every three months or so. But this is a huge exception – no other tour has been this relaxed and cool to work with. That’s probably just because I know the person as well. As for other tours, I don’t think I’ll ever be doing them. Like, I mean, it’s such a hassle over mostly just no name books! It’s so rare that a tour offers anything special, really. Most of the time it’s not worth the hassle!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Aah, the loveless Blog Tour topic. Gotta admit- This blog post definitely amused me as it reminded me of the one I wrote many moons ago. It was my most viewed post ( and unfortunately still is ) and also the one that gave me more gray hairs than any other post I´ve written ( and still does ). A fellow book blogger / dear bookish friend of mine recommended this blog post to me as they knew I´m always on the look-out for blog posts that strike nerves. I have to say that I agree with you on some points, especially the “reviews are for readers” and “blog tours are for authors”. We, as book bloggers aren´t here to hold an author’s hand. Our reviews are for helping people with their next read. Blog tours- Well, a book blogger can very much benefit from a blog tour but you´re right- They´re more for an author and their book sales. This is a simple fact. I´m kind of confused as to how you were able to write off blog tours so quickly ( resigning after 2 tours kind of sounds like a knee-jerk reaction ). Maybe you could´ve given a few other book promotional sites a try before throwing the towel? Don´t get me wrong- Your reasons for not wanting to be a part of blog tours anymore are fine. You do you and all that… But I know not all Book Promotion sites/authors are shitheads. There are some really great ones out there who do their best to cater to everyone´s needs and accept lesser ratings in their tours. You know, just for the sake of being able to compare the good and bad of that niche?
    And then there´s that bid where you talk about paid reviews. Help a woman out here: Were you not aware of this? I don´t know for how long you´ve been book blogging but… This isn´t anything new and it´s definitely not reduced to book blog tours. Would you give your boss a shit rating if you had to review one of their products? Probably not. You´re being paid and want to continue to get paid. I think it´s understandable why they give stellar ratings. We might know they´re not all genuine but hey… That´s the beauty of book blogging. You don´t have to like everything ( I know I don´t ). You can be a hardcore bookish cheerleader who´ll hand out 5 stars like candy or not, you know? As long as you don´t support or encourage the corrupt system then all´s good.
    Personally, I´m not a fan of blog tours, either. I´d rather do my own stuff at my own pace with no restrictions ( yes, I´ve had a few bump-ins as well. But I´d definitely recommend book bloggers to try them out and see if book tours are something that would fit their blog format.

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  19. I came over from a link on IrresponsibleReaders blog.

    I completely concur with just about all that you wrote. But it took me zero blog tours to figure that out. All you have to do is read a couple of posts from such things to realize that you are giving up your own space to promote something with some really rigid guidelines.

    I won’t even do netgalley books anymore because of the requirements. But enough bookbloggers want to be part of something bigger instead of being able to stand on their own and so this kind of thing persists.

    I’m glad for your sake that you stopped. I just wish you hadn’t had to even start…

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  20. Great discussion post, JonBob. So much in the book blogging community is up for conjecture. There are lots of different types of book blogs out there. Some are purely promotional platforms while others, like mine, are personal reflections of the blogger themselves.

    I decided that Flora’s Musings would reflect my candid opinions on the books I read. This means that I’m very careful which books I agree to read as part of a blog tour. I’m building relationships with the publishers and tour organisers that don’t ask me to compromise my voice.

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