Saturday, 6 March 2010

Virtual Book Tours: Your Thoughts?

The other day I posted a piece of writing that vented my frustration with certain parts of the YA blogosphere. While I stand by what I wrote, I did want to take the opportunity to expand on my thoughts about Virtual Book Tours.

Only a couple of weeks ago I signed my name up for a couple of book tours. Not so bad in the scheme of things. The thing is, my thoughts on book tours have been pretty much consistent for the past few months.I don't like doing them and I don't like reading them. So, here I was signing up for book tours...or declaring my interest in being a part of them...when I didn't really believe in their effectiveness. I officially became a hypocrite.

Why did I sign up? I have moved countries, lost a supply of ARCS and most importantly, have no brick and mortar bookstores around me (that supply English YA). It drives a woman to desperate actions. But then I found Book Depository...purchased some new and older YA titles that interested me. I got more enjoyment out of those books than I did out of many of the review copies I received last year. While my name is still on those lists, I won't be accepting a role in the tours should I be invited. Though I seriously doubt that I will be.

In the beginning of my review blogging stint, I took part in a handful of tours but almost immediately felt like I was much better off doing my own thing. If I am not comfortable with the tour it reflects in the attention that I shine on the author's work. The last thing I wanted to do is do them a disservice.

I just don't think that book tours work all that well. They can and do. But in the various methods I have seen of late, it is clear that they aren't.

Why I find book blog tours restrictive as a participant...
  • The authors put a lot of time into the tours from querying bloggers, to scheduling, to mail outs to answers ridiculous amounts of questions. It is because of this that I feel pressure (whether it is there or not) to review more positively.
  • I hate posting a series of links or a schedule at the bottom of my post. Call me lazy (I am but that kind of stuff drives me mad). Some tours don't do this so it could be considered a moot point.
  • Less freedom - I hate being contingent on a date. Being scheduled to post on a certain day doesn't please me. I have enough (more loose) time frames swimming around in my brain for release dates as it is.
  • Lack of autonomy - It's too perscriptive and it makes me feel like I am doing a job rather than doing something I enjoy. I could be more creative but the author usually has a certain idea of how they'd like their tour to go and I don't like to upset the status quo or seem ungrateful.
  • Lack of spark - Bear with me...I love the thrill of the chase. I love writing emails to authors requesting interviews. I love nervously awaiting for their reply, then devising a series of questions. I like that thrill. It's all a bit more impersonal with tours as (usually) the author has to deal with 10 bloggers simultaneously. This isn't the same for all authors but I like the book butterflies.
Why I don't respond to tours as a reader.
  • Many books that tour already have sizeable marketing budgets and a lot of visibility. They really have no need for a book tour. I believe (and I could be wrong) that the biggest benefit of a tour is developing recognition and buzz for a book. I'd rather see books with smaller print runs, debut authors and smaller profile authors with tours.
  • Sometimes the pressure results in similarly bland, favourable reviews that don't really tell you much about the book other that it's 'cute', 'fun' or 'awesome'.
  • Swamping of the feeds.
  • Interviews that make me drowsy due to the sheer number of questions the author is asked. If the tour involves countless bloggers, the interviews get progressively a) repetitive or b) boring. Kudos to authors that really mix up their answers and ensure repetition doesn't occurs which involves considerable effort on their part.
  • To varying degrees it robs bloggers of their personality in those posts. This is debatable.
  • Too many participants (which relates to feed swamping). If the blogger pool is too big, no one in the blogosphere will have to buy it as they will all be stops on the tour! Blogger malaise...I might read the first two stops but will fail to read any others. This is extremely disadvantageous to bloggers with the later stops. Keep the tour reasonable in terms of stops and diverse content.
  • Interviews. I am one of those individuals that likes to read the author's perspective on the process and their characters/plot AFTER reading the book. The likelihood is, I won't have read the book yet if it is a launch tour so I won't read the interview. For some people, the interview tempts them into buying it or creates brand recognition. For me it just makes my reader's feeds slightly less daunting. I find guest posts much more effective.
  • It means that I am getting hit with blog posts, tweets, Facebook status updates/fanpages etc left, right and centre. Information on the tour, the blogger's stop, the author's link, the other bloggers' retweets and everything else under the sun. This doesn't even include their reminders about their actual physical tour, podcast appearances, tv/radio appearances, contests, guest posts on other author's sites and the more ridiculous aspects like character's freaking birthdays (seriously?) etc. It hurts my head.
  • Sometimes an author's content contributions can sound a little sale-heavy. Lacking in a personal touch that renders a reader cold. If it sounds like a spiel then my off switch flicks.
Reasons why book tours are a good idea -
  • Effective means for getting a title out there when there is no marketing budget.
  • Great for bloggers (and authors) that are geographically isolated and/or find it difficult to travel (I think Kate Forsyth did this well recently with The Puzzle Ring as she contacted several bloggers on multiple continents).
  • Everyone can get 'face time' with an author.
  • The experience is online forever. You can revisit it. It's not one moment in time.
  • You can wear your pyjamas while experiencing the tour.

I am sure there are many more points on both sides of the argument. Please remember these are only my feelings about this subject. Your thoughts might differ and that's okay. Discussion is a good thing.


Elie said...

HI Adele, I reread the post from yesterday and I was wondering if you think there is a difference between book blog tour and arc tours like Around the World Tours hosted by Princess Bookie. Do you dislike both of them?

I have only participated in one blog tour, it was TONS of work and total chaos. I do sign up for tons of arcs from Around the World Tours, Some of the books I get to review don't come out until Fall.

Just wondering what your thoughts are.

April (BooksandWine) said...

I actually like tours that are along the lines of 1-Arc Tours, there's no link requirements, also people get the book at different dates, so the reviews are more spread out. Plus, I don't feel much pressure to write a positive review.

As for other book tours, I'll read the posts if they are on books I'm interested in. I usually skip most interviews, as they tend to bore me. (I'm more of a guest post fan)

I'm not a huge participant in blog tours as half the time, the books don't interest me, and the rest of the time, I simply don't get asked. Also, I'd rather devote my blog and energy to books that interest me. I am not someone's PR chump. I review because I love books and love the feeling it gives me, not for free books. If I want a free book bad enough, I can go to the library and take advantage of my tax dollars.


Adele said...

Elie - I was talking more about the tours that are usually orchestrated by an author or their publicist. These tours usually involve a review or an interview or a guest post. It seems to be heavy on the sell.

The ARC tour concept is one that I am not as familiar with. I have of course seem them take place but as I have never been a participant I didn't want to comment on it.

Thanks for dropping by and making the effort to comment.

Totally agree, it's a lot of work and I am a very lazy person.

April - interest is a huge component, I completely agree. Don't take part in a tour where the genre isn't your thing or the premise doesn't interest you.

Shweta said...

What I hate about about blog tours is that being bombarded with the reviews of the same book for like a week. It gets so boring that I usually don't read many of those reviews. Sad thing is blogger works towards those reviews so if the effort goes unappreciated it hurts the blogger who participated in the tour.I am sure I am not the only one skipping reviews of same book by different bloggers.

It's a good publicity effort but slightly over done.If they would space the reviews or at least limit the reviews it would be so much more sensible. :)

On the positive points I think Adele ,you have got them all right :) Pyjama thing is good..

MySharonAnne said...

But but but...cute and awesome are two of my favorite words! *cries*

Lauren said...

This is a really interesting post. I only started blogging last year and since then I've participated in one regular book tour (Kate Forsyth's) and also two of the travelling-arc type (Joelle Anthony and Lauren Oliver). I actually think they all worked out equally well for me, although I do think that in a travelling arc situation, particularly when the book is sent out by the author, there's a great feeling of being part of something. I love reading the same copy of a book that other bloggers are going to read.

I'm quite intrigued by your 'thrill of the chase' comment. I'm way shyer on the internet than I am in person, so I've never requested an interview, arc or guest post. I now almost feel inspired to face my fear and suggest a guest post to an author whose work I adore. It may take time for me to psych myself up to this, but I'm sure I'll eventually do it.

Mari - Escape In A Book said...

I have to say that I really like the idea of blog tours the way Reggie(The undercover booklover) and her sister Sarah(The Bookologist) has set up their International book tour. It is an excellent way for me as an international blogger to actually get a change to get an ARC that I would love to read.

I can see that tours are both negative and positive. Like you I'm not to keen on blogging on schedule but if that is a way for me to get a change to read a book I really want to read so be it :)

~ Mari said...

late to the ballgame with this comment (and getting to your blog), but i want to say that this post was spot on for me. i've been trying for a long time to put into words what bothers me about blog tours, but you've already done it for me. thanks! :)