There is a new site up advertising blog tours for children's book authors. The pitch is that authors will pay a certain amount to have a number of bloggers all post about their book over a two-three day period. Here's what you get for your dollars:
There is another kind of blog tourâ€“the kind we do hereâ€“where we have fifty or more bloggers all linking to the same book for two or three days in a row. We use a special Amazon link that Technorati reads. This causes your cover photo and link to be listed on Technorati's "popular booksâ€� page.
This kind of saturation creates a different kind of buzz than the leisurely blog tour where you visit one blog a day. It's like the difference between several weeks of light rains in the morning and one day of hurricane rains. Which one do you notice? We need the constant light rain, and we'd notice if we didn't get it, but the hurricane often receives more attention on the evening news.
Blog tours have been around for several years so that part of this concept is nothing new. But being paid to do them - and having fifty or more blogs in a few days all reviewing the same book - is something I've never heard of before. My concern is that if authors actually end up paying for this service and if a bunch of bloggers are actually willing to conduct reviews in this sort of noncreative, literary machine-gun form of mass reviewing, that readers and authors might wrongly think all other tours operate in the same way. When it comes to the SBBT and WBBT this could not be further from the truth; here are just some of the the many reasons why:
1. The blogs who participate in the SBBT & WBBT choose the authors and books themselves. There is no direction from anyone - not from me, not from an author and not from a publisher - as to what authors we choose to interview. The goal of the SBBT & WBBT is to interview the widest group of authors possible - all genres, all ages, appealing both to straight and gay, male and female, multiple ethnicities and locales. We do not have any idea if Technorati scores are increased by our interviews and honestly - we don't care. The goal is to bring some attention to the work of authors and illustrators whom we personally and individually admire and that is all there is to it. (I can't stress enough how individual this process is - there are always several participants that I've never even heard of and it's pretty much that way for everyone else as well.)
2. No one gets paid. Let me repeat that, no one gets paid. It's not that I don't think reviewers should not be paid for reviewing (I quite happily cash my checks from the ALA every month), but it is hard enough for bloggers to gain any sort of respect from print reviewers so when you throw in even the hint that compensation might be involved with establishing a blog tour, it just makes us look like gullible amateurs who are so excited at the thought of earning a few bucks (or a free book) that we will review something we don't care about. You all remember the dreaded "we can't be bought for cupcakes incident" don't you? That's what I'm talking about.
3. It's about more than the blog hits. When we do the interviews for the SBBT and WBBT we put a lot of time into them - anyone who has seen and read those posts knows this. We link to each other so all of our readers can easily see what other interviews are being conducted that day. If we get brand new readers out of all this, well cool but that's not the point at all. Each one of us does this whole blogging thing for a different reason but at the end of the day, we work hard on the tours because we consider ourselves to be professionals and we want the respect we believe a certain level of professionalism is due. When you organize a tour for money and then pay dozens of bloggers in books with the expectation that they simply say something about the book on a specific day and the payoff is hits well, that's no different than everyone showing up in class wearing the same Coca-Cola t-shirt. You might have gotten a free shirt and now all your friends know you like Coke (if you in fact really do) but otherwise - I'm not seeing much. I'm seeing a massive example of group-think as directed by someone else. If you really wanted to exercise your opinion on something would you agree to do it the same day as fifty others just so you could show you're all on the same mailing list? Is a free book really worth that much?
We don't think so, and we never have. (And please - fifty people writing about the same book at the same time? Do you really think they are all going to have something original to say? Not bloody likely.)
I'll be honest here, this whole concept - of authors paying someone to organize a blog tour in which the ever grateful bloggers simply get a book and then write about it on an appointed day as assigned by the folks making money off the deal - really really bothers me. It makes bloggers look cheap ("will write for books" or "will review for hits") and as it is something that would not happen in print it seems to bring all of us in the lit blogosphere down a serious notch. For those of us who have worked our collective butts off to gain some respect for this medium, this seems like a blow to all we have accomplished. I certainly understand someone trying to make some cash off of authors willing to pay it but I don't like it. Sometimes just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.
We continue to be independent in every way, shape and form at the Summer and Winter Blog Blast Tours. I realize that might frustrate some authors who would like a quicker way to get exposure but that's just not the best way for us. I hope everyone can understand, and more importantly, respect our position.