If you’ve been hanging out on Twitter over the summer, then you probably came across one drama or another regarding blog tours. During the 2,5 years since I’m part of the community, I have not seen so much controversy against blog tours, but it might just be that I was not concerned with them and thus they flew over my head. Though, based on some of the conversations I’ve seen, these issues had been around for a long time. But we’ll talk about this in length later on.
I’ve been wanting to write a post in this topic for a while now, but the time was never quite right and I was too emotionally involved to be able to stay rational and objective (due to the aforementioned controversy and drama) – well, as much as I can be anyway. But it’s far enough now that I can distance myself and besides, Justine and I launched Storytellers On Tour 6 months ago, which is a good opportunity to take a look back. We definitely had some ups and downs during this time and I personally learned a lot about blog tours.
But let’s start at the beginning. If you are new to the world of blog tours or just want to read an awesome post, then Arina’s Beginner’s Guide to Blog Tours is the one you need. She pretty much says everything needs to be said, so I recommend starting there as I’d be going more into the technical side of things. Now, I need to stress, that I have no idea how other organizers run their business, so everything I say in this post is based on my own personal experiences with Storytellers On Tour.
Storytellers On Tour was launched in March 2020, but the idea came around in February, I think. One day Justine popped into our group chat saying she was thinking about starting a blog tour organizing service for indie authors. I said it was a good idea. She asked if I was on board with it. I said why the hell not and thus we started planning. Things moved forward fairly quickly. Soon we had a name, a logo, and a website. One of the early ideas for a name was Bards on Tour but we didn’t want to be confused with Bard of the Isles – even if they have a completely different purpose. I loved the “on Tour” part as it made me think of concert tours (yes, I’m that obsessed with music) and it sounded cool. Plus it fit the image. I loved it so much that we created our terminology around this. We have Roadies – bloggers who take part as hosts in our tours), we have a backstage (on our Discord server), etc.
Setting Storytellers On Tour up was the easy part of things – Justine and I are pretty much on the same page with almost everything, so that worked in our favor. When we started we knew there would be a demand, at least from indie SFF authors, but whether we could build up a solid blogger base was up to question. As bloggers ourselves, we knew many others are stretched thin as it is, then there is the fact that we were – well, still are – a new company while there are several others out there. Fortunately, in the past 6 months, we were able to gather a tight group of enthusiastic Roadies without whose support we couldn’t be here today.
Our vision for Storytellers On Tour was pretty clear from the start. We not only wanted to support indie SFF authors but we also wanted to build a community among our Roadies. We wanted to make sure that they would always feel welcome to reach out to us via any of our channels when they have an issue, but we also wanted to create a safe space for them to talk with each other. And also a place where we’ll be able to organize events for them (oh yes, we have many plans for the future, so keep your eyes open). I believe we succeeded there, though we still have a lot to do. We hope that our ideas will be fun and engaging and that more people will join us.
It’s Hard Work
When we first started out, we knew it would require a lot of work. Little did I know what was waiting for me. After the first month I kind of thought that once we work out the details and get into the rhythm of things, the load will ease up a bit. I wasn’t quite right. It was soon clear that we had to work out a system so we could work effectively – so we divided responsibilities and tasks. I honestly have the highest respect for anyone who organizes blog tours by themselves because I wouldn’t be able to keep up alone. There is:
- maintaining social media platforms (IG, Twitter, and Discord for us)
- maintaining the website
- making graphics
- keep the schedule up to date
- keep track of emails for both the bloggers and the authors
This might not sound much, but believe me, it’s at least a half-time job if not more. Plus, we also maintain our own blogs and social media platforms, not talking about our job. It definitely can add up. Not that I’m complaining. Sometimes it feels like a chore (especially when on Saturday I put together the encore post…) but it’s also a passion. Basically, we don’t have weekends, though I’m going to make an effort in the future to do the bare minimum I have to and leave my weekend as free as I can.
It also comes with a lot of stress – which was the most surprising to me. No idea why, I’m a walking, talking ball of anxiety on even my best days. We both are perfectionists and since we have a business we naturally want to offer the best we can. Which is not always easy. Sometimes tours don’t fill up as much as we want – or at all -, the universe is out to get us and more than one person misses their dates, we get last-minute queries we try to fit in because we can hardly say no, and, generally because we deal with people on a daily basis. And this is where the next point comes in.
Communication is Key
To ensure that our tours run as smoothly as possible, the key is communication. Be it with Roadies, authors, or in our case, between each other.
Dealing with people is never easy. Not for me, anyway. Online communication suits me because I can’t control my facial expressions and because it’s easier just to close the email client and walk away for a bit to cool down than to walk away from a person in real life. I’m also not the most patient person out there, so dealing with a newbie author who doesn’t have much experience in publishing yet, can be a bit trying. It’s by no means their fault, not entirely anyway, and it’s natural to have many questions at the beginning. So it’s important to maintain a professional outlook and treat everyone as respectfully as possible. But it has to work the other way around too. Thankfully we mostly have positive experiences, but sometimes it’s not easy to keep my cool. That’s when I’m most grateful for Justine’s presence as I can freely vent to her.
And then we also have to communicate with our bloggers. As I mentioned, we have several channels open to anyone who wants to reach out to us. But we also use these to communicate upcoming tours, reminders, and also reaching out ourselves when we think there is an issue – such as someone missing their date. Now, we know life happens, and honestly, who the hell could predict 2020 would turn out such a hellfire? But we are also running a business and we hate disappointing our authors, so we always try to mediate things in a peaceful manner. Again, we mostly have positive experiences, but there are always exceptions. We usually give everyone two chances before we exclude them from our tours. We simply can’t afford to work with people who are a liability – and worrying about whether x or y will post in time or at all is just something we absolutely can do without.
As much as communication is important toward authors and bloggers, it’s just as important that we can talk between each other. Not just to vent – though that’s a significant part – but to deal with the upcoming issues together. We continuously monitor our processes, the feedback we get to make our services better. Sometimes we have ideas that seem so trivial and wonder why we didn’t think about that before. Sometimes when we see something’s not working the way we want, we look at it and try to solve the problem. Having a partner with the same standards and a similar way of thinking is just a blessing in itself.
As I mentioned in my intro, this past summer brought much drama and controversy regarding blog tours. Which came to me as a big surprise. As a blogger, I didn’t have much to do with blog tours. Not because I was against them, but I was constantly running behind my own schedule – I had a mile-long list of requests and I got involved with SPFBO just a few months after I launched my blog. Taking part in blog tours or taking a closer look at them was not really high on my priority list. When I did take part it was usually when Dave bullied me into them at The WriteReads (before you get offended, it’s an insider joke between us, there was no real bullying), but then those were usually books I either read or really wanted to anyway. The same goes for blog tours organized by publishers.
I looked at blog tours as a cool way for bloggers to take part in spreading a word for books. As with everything else, some people like taking part in such things, some not so much and that’s cool. As I said, I personally didn’t pay too much attention to them until I found myself on the other side which gave me a better insight and understanding. This also left me even more baffled when I learned about some of the arguments against blog tours.
“Blog tour organizers are paid for reviews”
Well, that’s not true. First off, we are paid for our time and for the graphic elements of the tour. And also for the fact that we already have a list of bloggers we can draw upon. The time aspects I discussed above. As for graphic designs, Justine spends an unhealthy number of hours with them. And she is awesome. We never hid the fact that we are working for money – our prices and list of services are available on our website. While I respect anyone who decides to commit themselves to run blog tours for free, we decided we won’t take that route. If it was a casual thing, like one tour a month or every second month then maybe, but I’d rather not show you how our schedule looks like at the moment… it makes even me cry and I’m the one who maintains it.
Besides, we also actively take part in our own tours – not because anyone require us to do so, but because we willingly go to extra lenghts to have the maximum impact. We do this because we are passionate not because we are paid. Just think about it – it’s not like we don’t have enough things to do, but we take the time to create our own welcoming and encore posts. Take that as you will.
“Blog tours are dishonest because they only have positive reviews”
Now, this is an argument that seems to have the most controversy. Blog tours are a promotional marketing tool, whose goal is to give exposure to the book and its author. It doesn’t mean they are dishonest. The different tour organizers differ, but we at Storytellers On Tour are perfectly fine with 3-star reviews on our tours. We understand that not every book is for everyone. We only ask that if you didn’t like a book then post your review after the tour and still support the author by posting an alternative post be it interview, guest post, etc. And that you let us know so we could work out something with you rather than just disappear on us. So far we didn’t bite off anyone’s head and rolling heads is my specialty. Again, this is where our policy regarding open communication with our Roadies comes into play. Besides, by signing up for our tour you accepted our rules which are stated on our website.
And while the goal would be to have as many positive reviews as we can have, I think somewhere along the line people forgot that blog tours are about exposure. Not reviews. Sure, reviews are the most useful form, but any kind of exposure is useful. Not only bloggers, but authors as well seem to have this expectation which inadvertently puts extra pressure on everyone involved. This leads to all kinds of arguments. Besides, a tour where there is more type of posts is much more interesting and fun.
“I don’t take part in blog tours because I feel pressured to write a positive review”
When this comes up in a conversation, I always have mixed feelings. On one hand, I know there are bloggers who feel pressured to write positive reviews when getting a review request or when it comes to signing up for a blog tour. And somewhere I understand that. Again, each to their own, and I respect their choices of not accepting review requests for instance. I also know that there are bloggers who only post positive reviews on their blogs, which is also their right. Personally, I don’t agree with that policy, but that’s just my opinion. In the beginning, I also felt a bit compelled to be nicer in my reviews, not least because I don’t like confrontations and I have this urge to not to disappoint others. Then I let that go. My reviews aren’t for the authors but for the readers.
Again, I don’t know about others, but we absolutely don’t pressure anyone to write positive reviews. Not least because it would be quite hypocritical from us, seeing that we are also bloggers ourselves. I wouldn’t let anyone pressure me into doing that. Another thing I always wondered about is that how requesting books on Netgalley is any different than signing up for a book tour? We give you the same amount of info about a book which you can’t know whether you’ll like or not (unless it’s an author or series you know), we give you a month time to read (this is also a detail than can differ from organizer to organizer, and we seem to be a more generous one), and you have the option of “not to give feedback”. But unlike Netgalley, that won’t lessen your ratio with us.
As you might see, there is much more to blog tours than meets the eye. I know there are blog tour organizers out there who don’t have the same standards or policies than us. Our goal at Storytellers On Tour has always been to create a safe place for any blogger who wishes to join our team and consequently to offer a quality of services we can be proud of. We aim to learn from the mistakes of others and to listen to the voices of others. Blog tours are fun, you not only can help an indie author but you can also connect with others. And isn’t this why we are all in this beautiful, colorful, vibrant community in the first place?