book and story

Book Bloggers, Amazon Reviews, and the Purpose of Book Blog Tours

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Before we begin, you should know that I started as a reader. I’ve been reading since before I turned five and love doing to this day. I am the kind of reader that tries all genres. I will never say “I only read this” or “I only publish reviews of X type of books.” I can’t really do horror anything, yet I keep trying once in a while, because I know some stories are just a must read. From my high school years, I’ve been in humanities classes (yes, you have to choose between science and humanities before you start high school in Romania). I’ve done book reports for Romanian, universal, English, and Latin literature. I’ve read professional critics’ books and literature history books and all that jazz.

I am also an author, and value all my reviews. Even the negative ones, or the ones that only summarize my book. Someone took the time to leave a review or a rating, and I love that. Last but not least, I am a book promoter. I organize tours, I interact with bloggers, I try to connect them to the right authors, and make their life easier by providing them with all the information they need.

Book Bloggers – Where Should Their Reviews Go?

This post was prompted by a recent article by Multitaskingmomma who’s an incredible book reviewer and an author. We’ve become friends over the years, and I hate having to not agree with her 100%. Still, I have to disagree on some issues.

Book bloggers, to me, are not the average readers. They run a blog dedicated to books, and they review books all the time. In my opinion, they are held to higher standards than the normal readers who sometimes review on Amazon or Goodreads. I have been blessed to work with some incredible bloggers who write amazing reviews, although not all book blogs have gotten the exact way they should review. They still sometimes do it like a normal reader would – they focus on whether they liked the book or not, and a quick summary, without going into a deeper analysis of a certain book.

I am assuming that’s why seeing book blog reviews among Amazon customer reviews doesn’t really seem unnatural. They aren’t always all that different. And here is where my opinion might upset some people: Book reviews published on blogs should be more professional and they should NOT be posted in the customer reviews section. The author or publisher should receive links to these reviews and post part of them (or the entirety of the reviews) in Amazon’s Editorial Reviews section!

Editorial reviews for Lionel Shriver's novel, Big Brother

Editorial reviews for Lionel Shriver’s novel, Big Brother

In order to have such reviews meet the standards of an editorial review, book bloggers should realize they have the same power as mainstream media. Their words can make or break a book. They have to think of their blogs as trusted, respected media channels that discuss books. Whether they make money from their blogs or not, they should be professional about their reviews. What does that mean? They have to take the time for a deeper analysis of books they review. They have to go beyond triggers, and likability. Sure, it’s great if you identify with or like a character. But if it’s a great character with a well-crafted arc and an amazing story line… who cares he’s an asshole? In the end, it’s a good book with well-developed characters!

They also should stop holding characters to impossible standards. There are broken, whiny, judgmental, mean, weak people out there, and authors have told amazing stories about them. We can’t only focus on straight arrows, can we? Not all teenage heroes would be all convinced of their role to play and courageous. Most of them would be reluctant, scared, or driven by less than noble reasons (a means to hide what’s broken inside). I do recommend the famous anime Neon Geneis Evangelion to anyone wanting to write teenage heroes, just to see the darker side of the spectrum.

Again, I don’t want to upset people I’ve worked with, a lot of them already to all of this. But not all. And this brings us to another issue:

How Many Reviews are Too Many?

Book bloggers have a hard time saying no. Or at least it seems like that sometimes. Sure, they can choose not to accept a book for review, not to join a tour, but the bigger, more successful blogs publish A LOT on a daily basis. Not all those posts are reviews, but a lot of them are. Sure, they have several reviewers participating, but it’s still a heck of a workload.

In their attempt to help everyone, they take on a lot. And sometimes reviewers have to deal with numbers of books to read, not all of them to their liking. So there are times when people who definitely don’t like a type of book end up reviewing exactly that. They make their opinions and preferences known, and their reviews reflect them more often than not. Is it doing a book justice? Debatable. I’ve had book reviewers take a chance on genres they didn’t feel drawn to and ended up loving them. And yet, there are those who keep trying despite their obvious dislike. The effort should be appreciated, but the benefits to both reviewer and author/publisher are minimal.

So should bloggers cut down on reviews? Maybe. Should they cut down on tours and promo posts? Not necessarily. If you get all you need from a promoter, then why not? More content for your blog! Maybe ask for something unique – do an interview, post a guest post, etc. But promoters have a responsibility too: make the work of a blogger easy! That means no embellishments on your HTML which only fit your own blog design; clear, not heavily formatted documents with text information to be used to build a post; photos attached to the email, not pasted in the document; and generally making things as straightforward as possible.

What Is the Purpose of a Book Blog Tour?

A blog tour for a book has one major purpose – get that book seen by as many readers as possible. Through promotional posts, reviews from book bloggers, guest posts, and interviews, the author and promoter strive to get the attention of all readers of said book blogs. That means that they want to tap into the larger community built around the blog – followers of the blog itself and social media audiences. That is why it’s important for book blogs to promote their posts on social media and for promoters to help with that.

This second part – promoters helping – is tricky. You want to spread the word, but you don’t want to spam. So I have come to play it by ear and promote less the posts from reviewers who already do heavy promo of what new things they publish on their blogs and do it more for those who only post their blog stop. It’s not always perfect, but it’s not too spammy either.

The reviews from book bloggers do serve as marketing material – but they don’t need to be posted as Amazon Customer reviews. Snippets or the entire review can be used in the book itself (start or end), in the Editorial Reviews section I mentioned, or on an author’s or publisher’s site. This is how I do it on my author site – Alina Popescu, Writer.

book and story

Which brings us to the next important issue:

Amazon and Its Algorithms

Amazon wants reader reviews. Not friends, not what it considers to be professional reviewers (which makes sense because of the aforementioned–repeatedly–Editorial Reviews section. Jo from Multitaskingmomma is right in the fact that they crawl the internet to figure out connections. But I doubt they are as Big Brothery as she makes them sound. Simply because they don’t have to. They own Goodreads. Authors and bloggers link their sites to their Goodreads account. They befriend readers and reviewers in an effort to network.

Is Amazon always right? Not really. Anything you can do about it? Stop double posting, maybe? I’ve had almost no reviews deleted since I stopped posting on Goodreads as often. I’d rather post on Amazon. Also, not copying and pasting the exact same review would help a lot. Or linking to the full review or prompting users where to read the full review. Sure, it would be a great way to build traffic to the blog, but at the same time, it would also make it easy for Amazon to find connections.

Still, the easiest way would be if the editorial reviews (which I consider book blog reviews to be) would just be published in the right Amazon box by authors and publishers. They wouldn’t ever remove those!

Speaking of algorithms, Amazon is not the only one authors and bloggers alike should worry about. Google is just as bad! Why I tried and failed to promote “no follow” links in blog posts. Why I stopped doing blogger roundups after tours (with links to everyone). And why I never included tour schedules in the doc and HTML kits I sent to bloggers. I keep HTML clean – no formatting other than titles, paragraphs, images, and links, and try to advise bloggers in how to comply with Google rules.

Linking in the traditional “do follow” way to buy links and author sites is frowned upon by Google. They might even increase your spam score for it. They also say it’s bad to have too many links on one page. So when you publish a tour post with about 20 links to other bloggers, 5 to sites to get the book for, a few more to author sites, social media, and maybe Goodreads, you have a lot! But those aren’t all links that appear on your page. Sidebar links count too. So I no-follow what I can in kits (most of the times, I became a bit lazy when I saw people didn’t really take to it), and limit the number of links in a post as much as I can. I also encourage bloggers to stick to their own styles and blog formats, to make sure Google does not ring the duplicate content alarm.

In Conclusion

Book bloggers are overwhelmed, authors want their reviews up and everywhere, and blog tours are an easy way for everyone to get to as many books as possible. But things do need to change. Bloggers have to hold themselves to higher standards. Authors and publishers need to post editorial reviews the right way and use them as effectively as they can for their marketing. And readers will always tip their hat to quality blogs that introduce them to new books.

Promotion, traffic building, and community building on all sides need to be done right, in a thoughtful and effective manner. And we all need to appreciate how hard everyone works. If you’re an author or promoter and don’t know how it feels, try to cover two-three books every day for a month. You’ll see 🙂

Whether you’re an author, book blogger, or reader, what’s your take on this?

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