Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Are Blog Tour Coordinators Writer Advocates or Exploiters?

There seems to be a trend growing amongst the blogging community in the US - virtual blog tours. How nice it would be to get your book featured on 10, 12, 20 blogs within your genre, eh? Who wouldn't like that?




A few weeks ago I approached several historical fiction blogs with the offer to review my pen named book, Little Sacrifices. I was surprised when I received an unsolicited email back from one Teddy Rose, who said, "I saw your offer for review of Little Sacrifices at Historical Tapestry and was intrigued". I was surprised because Teddy Rose runs something called virtualauthorbooktours.com. I hadn't emailed virtualauthorbooktours.com. I'd emailed Historical Tapestry, which looks like a regular book blog. The text of her email (in which my name and title were inserted - different fonts were the giveaway) made me suspect that this Historical Tapestry is just a front for her blog tour business. It made me wonder how many others are. I've included her full email below.


I was equally surprised by her offer. For $299 she'd guarantee to get my book reviewed by 5 blogs. For $749 she'd guarantee my book would be featured on 25 blogs. 

Really, Ms Rose? I itched with indignation that someone is trying to get authors to pay them to host their books on blogs. It smacks of exploitation, particularly when many writers are new to the market and may think that's the only way to get their book noticed.

I know that the vast majority of book blogs don't get paid to review. That means that blog coordinators are charging writers for a free service that bloggers generously provide for the benefit of readers and writers. Yes, Teddy will have to approach the blogs but given that, according to her email signature, she is affiliated with two of them, that probably isn't very difficult. Her price list works out to $60 per blog - it takes me about an hour to research and email 5 blogs to offer my book for review, and usually around 1 in 5 have the time/interest to accept the book. So that's $60 an hour Teddy charges to approach blogs, which she has presumably already agreed with to host blog tours.

I did a little research and have found that "blog tours" are becoming more and more popular on book blogs. I also found that virtual blog tour coordinators are becoming ever-more plentiful. 

Here are my questions: 

For bloggers, do you host blog tours and if so, what's your experience of them? Are you getting more requests for them and will you be featuring more on-tour books, potentially limiting the number of books you review directly from writers and publishing houses? 

For writers, do you use blog tour coordinators, and what's your experience? Are they getting your book on to the right blogs (i.e. those dedicated to your genre/ with lots of traffic/exposure, etc?)? How do they handle bad reviews? Is there any promise, implied or overt, that a blogger will be favourably disposed toward your book?

Thanks, I'm looking forward to this discussion!

If you are interested, here is the full text of Teddy's email:

Hi Michele,

My name is Teddy Rose and I run Premier Virtual Author Book Tours.  I saw your offer for review of Little Sacrifices at Historical Tapestry and was intrigued. While I don't have time to read it myself right now, I immediately thought of book bloggers who would love to review and help promote it.  Premier Virtual Author Book Tours covers many genres of books including, historical fiction.  Our passion is to promote fine literary works and to match readers with books.  Because I have been a member of the book blogging community, myself for almost 5 years now, I know many different, reliable, and good traffic book bloggers across many genres. 

With media as we use to know it slowly fading, a new web based media is quickly taking its place.  Book bloggers are now one of the most important ways to get books noticed.  
I think Little Sacrifices would do very well on tour.  Here's a brief summary of how a virtual tour works.  You pick the Tour package.

Then I go to work hand picking book bloggers to be tour hosts.  Then I create a schedule for the tour and send you a list of tour hosts to send Little Sacrifices
to.   Each tour host will post their review on the scheduled day.  For the deluxe package, I will coordinate a agreed upon series of interviews and guest posts for you to participate in.  I have been asked how interviews work.  Basically the tour host will send a list of questions and then you send your answers.  For guest posts, you can write about a topic pertaining to Little Sacrifices or ask the tour host to suggest a topic.  I use social media for every single post on the tour to give you the most exposure possible.  I also encourage tour hosts and yourself to do this as well.  I also encourage tour host to post their reviews on other websites such as GoodReads and Amazon.

I have attached a price list for you.  We offer 40% off the listed prices on our price list and a free upgrade to the deluxe package to independent authors and small publishers and I can see that you qualify for this.  For example, instead of paying $399 for a 10 stop tour, you pay only $239.00 and nothing to upgrade it to the deluxe package.  I offer this to try to make tours affordable to everyone, including independent and small press authors.  The cost basically covers my time.

Books, are my passion.  I love assisting authors,  in promoting their books and therefor promote literature.  We had a 15 book tour in August with, Melissa Douthit.  It went extremely well and book two in the series was just on tour for the entire month of February.  Melissa has already asked me to handle book 3 as well.  She claims her sales and exposure increased dramatically due to the tour.  Though I can't always promise the same results, all the authors I have worked with have been very happy with the results.  This month K. Hollan VanZandt is on tour with her historical fiction novel, Written in the Ashes.  She just emailed me yesterday to tell me how happy she is with my service.

Please take a look at the Premier website and be sure to look at the Testimonials that some of the authors I have worked with, wrote.  References are also available upon request.  I help the authors I work with every step of the way through book tours.  Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.  I would love the opportunity to work with you and help you get Little Sacrifices noticed.

Best,

Teddy Rose
Historical Tapestry

And here's her full price list:

We offer the following tour packages:

Mini 5-blog tour: $299.00
This package guarantees that your book will be reviewed on at least 5 carefully selected, quality
book blogs during the tour month selected by the author.

Basic 10- blog tour: $399.00
This package guarantees that your book will be reviewed on at least 10 carefully selected, quality
book blogs during the tour month selected by the author.

Basic 15-blog tour: $549.00
This package guarantees that your book will be reviewed on at least 15 carefully selected, quality
book blogs during the tour month selected by the author.

Basic 20-blog tour: $649.00
This package guarantees that your book will be reviewed on at least 20 carefully selected, quality
book blogs during the tour month selected by the author.

Basic 25-blog tour: $749.00
This package guarantees that your book will be reviewed on at least 25 carefully selected, quality
book blogs during the tour month selected by the author.

Deluxe Mini 5 blog tour: $325.00
This package includes the basic tour plus the guarantee that at least 3 blogs will also host the
author for a guest post or interview and/or book giveaway to further spotlight your book.

Deluxe 10-15 blog tour: Basic Tour plus $49.00
This package includes the basic tour plus the guarantee that at least 5 blogs will also host the
author for a guest post or interview and/or book giveaway to further spotlight your book.

Deluxe 20-25 blog tour: Basic Tour plus $99.00
This package includes the basic tour plus the guarantee that at least 10 blogs will also host the
author for a guest post or interview and/or book giveaway to further spotlight your book.

All tour packages also include a feature of the author and book on Premier Virtual Author Book
Tours for the duration of the tour. They also include the use of social media such as Twitter and
Facebook, promoting each tour and each blog stop.

Please note, Tours need to be booked at least 8 weeks in advance. The author/publisher agrees to ship

copies of their book (and/or send eBooks) to the bloggers hosting tour stops, to arrive at least 4 weeks
prior to their tour dates. All Prices are in Canadian dollars.

13 comments:

  1. My concerns centre around two things: possible exploitation of writer inexperience, and paying for quantity over quality.

    The fact is, as a writer you can approach blogs yourself for free and offer your book. To find the right blogs, google 'blog' and your genre. To find more blogs, have a look at the 'favourite blog' links on some of the bloggers' websites. To see if a blogger gets a lot of web traffic, go to www.alexa.com and put in their website - that gives you their global website ranking. Also look at how many followers they have on the site, and look for any stats that they might provide, which is usually in their review policy.

    Bloggers accept books that they think they will like. Presumably that's also the case when a blog coordinator approaches. So as a writer you are in a good position to offer your book directly. All you have to do is a little research. And the benefit of doing it yourself is that you get to build a relationship with the bloggers (and they are lovely!)

    I'm also concerned about what the tour coordinator actually does for the fee you are paying. If she's not a specialist in a specific genre, will she get your book on to the right blogs? There's a big difference between promising to feature on 20 blogs and promising to feature on 20 blogs that are going to increase your book's exposure. There are thousands and thousands of book blogs, all of which are run by generous book lovers, but many of which are only read by that blogger's friends and family. The tour coordinator's price list promises quantity, not quality of exposure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello, this caught my interest as I work in marketing for a publisher.

      Essentially when you ask a blogger to look at your book you are asking them to promote it by featuring on their blog. All promotion has costs attached in some way.

      This just looks like someone trying to make money for a service, the same way you are trying to make money for yourself by writing a book and then promoting it.

      If the service they offer is no good people will soon wise up and stop using it, the onus is on them to prove the value of their service. But otherwise they are offering something that some may find useful, and the cost may be lower than the value of the time they would have to spend finding and approaching bloggers.

      Delete
    2. Thanks Dan, agreed that their fee is for a service provided, and hopefully it will be a good one.

      However my concern isn't for writers who don't want to do the legwork themselves, it's for new writers who see these services and think they Can't do the work themselves. The more of these operations there are out there, the more likely an inexperienced writer is to assume they are the norm. And many new writers don't know experienced writers that that they can ask.

      Also, the email from Teddy Rose purports that their "passion is to promote fine literary works" yet in her first paragraph she said she didn't have time to read the book. If she hasn't read it how does she know it's a fine literary work? It smacks of the hollow flattery that unscrupulous vanity presses of old used to throw around, making their money off gullible writers who bought their promises.

      You're also right in that if a writer has a bad experience she won't use the promoter again. But the promoter will still have got the fee, and there are thousands (hundreds of thousands) of new writers coming on the scene.

      Delete
  2. We do take guest posts from tours for our Connect blog at http://connect.chicklitclub.com/wp/ and can't complain about any of our dealings with the authors or tour coordinators.
    Even though it doesn't mean the title will be reviewed, it does often help promote authors who otherwise may not get much of a go on our main Chicklit Club site.
    For those looking to promote a book, I would say start emailing your targeted blogs about four months before publication date so they can preview your book and cover (we all like to be first!)
    Then arrange for a review copy – now so much easier as a digital file which can go to a reviewer anywhere in the world at the click of a button without paying postage and having to wait for it to arrive. That's really handy for our site as we have reviewers all over the world. Get it out to the reviewer as soon as you can because they probably have a big TBR pile.
    Remind any bloggers who have release dates/or out this month sections to include your book.
    Hope for the best with the review and offer yourself up for interview/guest post/giveaway. You don't need to have an actual review for it to count as good publicity.
    At Chicklit Club, books can be mentioned in Release Dates, as Book News, as Out This Month, as New Release review, as an Interview and on our Competitions page. Plus they can be in our Author and Titles A-Zs. And another mention if they also do a Connect post. Cost: priceless!
    A couple of things authors should remember though - not every reviewer will be keen to read self-published. I'm personally reluctant because as an editor I like to know it's been through the process first. Luckily many of our other reviewers are more than happy to read them. Understand you do have a harder road ahead of you - but don't they say getting your book noticed is even harder than writing it in the first place!
    Self-published authors also have to get their heads around the need to pay for an editor, a cover designer and possibly a publicist/blog tour coordinator. Personally I would pay for the first two and do the third myself. I'm sure publishing house authors have always been paying for all the above - through the cut the publisher takes.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks Steph, really useful advice for writers wanting to have their book reviewed, thanks so much!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'd say it's down to the writer to make themselves as familiar with the options open to them as they can when they decide to embark on this. Thanks to online networks and communities (like you lovely blog) they can find advice and guidance more easily now.

    As you say there are hundreds of thousands of new writers, so it's a very competitive market where most won't be able to make a living, and they have to look for any advantage they can get.

    I can't say whether Mr Rose is being opportunistic or not (I haven't read most of the books I work on, or necessarily used all the other products or services either).

    Hopefully someone will comment who has experience of such a service. Or perhaps you could ask Mr Rose for more info? Or even an interview to justify his service?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very true, Dan, as the market gets more crowded it will be more difficult to stand out, and writers are responsible for their own marketing. This is true, incidentally, with traditionally published books as well as self-pubbed. When I worked with Penguin on my debut, my publicist had some contacts with bloggers but together we identified dozens more to target.

      Your point is a good one - a self-pubbed writer needs to surround herself with professionals who help produce the book (cover designer and editor are most important), so paying someone to be your publicist can make sense.

      I note that the writer that Teddy Rose highlighted as the one who'd just emailed to say how happy she was with the service (K. Hollan VanZandt) has an Amazon ranking of #196,000. June's 3 promotional books have rankings of #16,000, #174,000 and #343,000 ... those are indications of how well the blog tours go, then we probably don't need to hear directly from those writers.

      To put the Amazon ranking into perspective, one of my books, Little Sacrifices, which has had no marketing at all yet, hovers around #30000-60000, which translates into about 30 books a month. Rankings in the 100,000 mean a few books (2, 3, 5?) sold in a month. If I'd paid for a blog tour at $299, I wouldn't be very happy with those results.

      Delete
    2. Excellent! I love it when stats enter the arena - nothing like cold, hard data to prove points.

      That's the sort of info Mr Rose should be leading with if he wants to prove the value of his service. I'd say his biggest mistake was not thinking about the people he was trying to get to use his service enough.

      I think that's the takeaway really - if someone can't produce hard stats and external evidence to back up the value of their service then steer clear.

      Delete
    3. Good advice Mr Bond, good advice!

      Delete
  5. nice posting.. thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm enjoying your blog, and posts like this are important.
    I've taken part in a few blog tours like the one you mention - I was sent a list of books on offer, and I could choose which ones to review, interview etc. I didn't, however, realise just how much money some of the promoters were making.

    If you have the time, I think it can all be done by an author - the promoter simply acts as a go between, linking up the author with some blogs. I would imagine the quality varies considerably.

    My advice is to get on twitter, visit some blogs yourself, and start making some connections. It's a lot cheaper, and I would imagine more satisfying! :)

    Michelle
    @bookclubforum

    ReplyDelete
  7. This was a very interesting post. As a book blogger who participates in tours, I can say that a writer might get a little more from a book tour than from contacting individual bloggers themselves. If my regular contact from a book tour contacts me about books, I'm likely to respond that day, schedule the post in advance and make sure I make the deadline. If an individual writer contacts me, I read and respond to all of them at the same time (once a week). I schedule a month out but might move a book if it isn't just right for that moment. I'm currently not taking any book requests but will make an exception for writers I've already worked with and my book tour contacts. Basically, I'm thinking that book tours and coordinators have value.

    I think it is up to the writer to decide their priorities and if that particular value is what they need and if it is worth it. I don't want to name names or anything but there are certain blog tour coordinators that know no more than the writer does or may not get the same respect as other blog tour sites. I'm not sure how writers are supposed to know that ahead of time though. Maybe the rule of thumb should be something like... if the prices sound ridiculous...

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks Alexis, for providing a blogger's point of view! You're absolutely right, the value of a blog tour lies in the blogger's experience and ability to do more than the writer can do herself. If a writer's book can get exposure on several well-regarded site then that is certainly valuable!

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.