Book blog tours and reviews–how helpful?

As I’ve probably mentioned here before, I recently started doing book reviews for a network of review sites (under a pseudonym). The experience has made me more aware of the many blogging platforms that exist today for readers (and reviewers) of books.

As we all know by now, the “big” media book review outlets are shrinking in number. Every other day, it seems, a newspaper that previously did book reviews cancels its section, folds, or gets absorbed into something else. (It’s worth mentioning that it was always a struggle for new authors or paperback originals to get reviewed in those media.)

What has flourished in the wake of the demise of traditional media outlets is a constellation of book-oriented blogs and other online venues. I’m still trying to get a grasp on the big picture of this new virtual world, including how it impacts authors (and readers). The New York Times ran an article a while back about book tours and reviews; it implied that there’s no hard data on how such publicity impacts actual book sales. That article was published in 2007, and three years can be a lifetime in the Internet world (consider the fact that Facebook was started in 2003). There are always anecdotal examples of an author here or there creating major buzz on the Internet by hitting the blog circuit, but what’s the overall picture? What really works, for an author who has a new book to promote?

My gut feeling is that book tours by authors are more effective than sites that do only book reviews, because the tours are usually hosted by noncommercial sites.  Nowadays, however, more sites are becoming “hybrids,” combining author interviews, book reviews, and related TV show discussions.


For my last few books, I used a publicist who would occasionally set up blog reviews for my novels. These reviews were (usually) positive and welcome, but I never had a sense of how these sites fit into the big picture.  Eventually I started exploring book review blogs on my own, and found it to be a bewildering world out there. Blogs are constantly being created and disappearing, and it’s hard to tell which sites are legitimate review sites, and which are strictly commercial venues. (Nowadays, bloggers are legally required to post a disclaimer about whether they get their review copies for free or whether they pay for them, but that information doesn’t help me know whether the reviews are “legitimate” or not). I revisited some of the review blogs on my list this morning, and discovered that many of them have stopped updating their content.

For readers, it may not matter whether a site does honest and “legitimate” reviews or not. They will gravitate toward sites that feature the types of books and authors they already like. Kind of like the way cable news shows attract the viewers that already agree with their opinionators.


I still don’t have a handle on how many book blog sites exist, overall. I would love to see a comprehensive list of book discussion and review blogs, one that would be updated regularly. Right now, booktour.com 
seems to be one of the major comprehensives site for authors who want to coordinate their blogging outreach efforts (and in-person appearances). Of course, you have to pay for some of these services.

It would be nice to find a comprehensive list of book blogging sites, with indications of the types of reviews they provide, and how to contact them. Currently I’m developing my own list, bookmarked for future reference. One thing I’ve noticed is that there seem to be many more sites that review romance books and “cozies”, fewer devoted to thrillers and hard boiled mysteries. I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps cozies and romance books have a hard time getting reviews in major publication, so bloggers have picked up the slack.

Here are a few book blogging sites that have landed on my radar over the past few years:

Omnimystery News

The Mystery Librarian

Mysteries and My Musings

Wendy’s Opinions on Books

Bookcrossing

Best Fantasy Books

The Romance Readers Connection

Best Romance Stories 
 

Connie’s Reviews


Mysterious Reviews

So I’m wondering–as a reader or author, which sites are your “go to” blogs for reviews and discussions about newly published books? If you’re an author, do you launch an organized blog tour when you publish a new book, and how do you go about doing that? Going forward, I’ll update this post with new sites worth checking out. Stay tuned!

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17 thoughts on “Book blog tours and reviews–how helpful?

  1. Except for an occasional glance at Amazon, I don’t read reviews. Granted, it has been a while since I read the old fashioned newspaper book review, but I trusted the review (as with movies, that doesn’t mean I agreed with their assessment, but I trusted their objectivity.)

    My biggest beef with review sites that I have come across is that I can’t trust them. No longer is it just an objective view of a book’s good and bad points, it’s simply a “scratch my back” polly anna promotion of the story.

    I don’t like the fact that reviewers think the book review is for the author first, instead of the potential reader. Maybe it never was like that and I just think so.

    So I simply quit reading reviews at all. And I am definitely making a distinction here between sites who claim to “review” books vs. those that are blatantly promoting a particular book.

    So with the lack of objectivity, if I absolutely must read a review to decide on a book, I’ll just take my chances on the Amazon reviews and let it go at that.

    99% of the time however, I am content with reading the back cover blurb on the internet and making my decision.

  2. The author of a mystery/crime/thriller title should seek a review from Jen’s Book Thoughts. That blog is run by Jen Forbus, and she has many readers (including me) who trust her when she says ‘you gotta read this.’

    I blog at The Drowning Machine, also a book blog for mystery/crime/thrillers. But I’ll admit that my influence does not reach as far as Jen’s.

    You might check with the annual Book Blogger Appreciation Week site for a list of book bloggers. Most of the bloggers who make the short list for their various awards have been around for a while and intend to remain. That the awards are broken into so many categories can help you target those blogs most appropriate for your books.

  3. BK, I understand your frustration with the “review” sites that only run positive reviews. One is likely to get a bigger range of opinions–and perhaps more honesty–over at Amazon. Naomi, thanks for those blog suggestions. I’ll check them out!

  4. Thanks for the list, Kathryn. Nowadays, anyone with an opinion and a website can be a book reviewer. Unlike print where few if any authors/publishers advertised, lots of review sites rely on advertising to keep the ship afloat. A bad review means the lose of a potential advertiser. So it’s hard to know what to believe. The best reviews are word-of-mouth from one satisfied reader to another. And of course, the opposite is true, too.

  5. Many of the book bloggers simply do it for the love of it. Publishers and publicists include the book bloggers in their marketing programs now. It’s been highly successful in getting the word out about their author’s books. Here’s a list Nikki of Firefly’s Book Blog put together of all the book blogger reviewers out there. The list is up to over 1400 sites.

    http://fyreflybooks.wordpress.com/about/book-blogs-search/

    I’m in the midst of a tour for Christine Fonseca introducing her new book “emotional intensity in gifted children.” She’d be a good person to pick her brain to see how it’s working. Also check out TLC Book Tours – http://tlcbooktours.com/
    who sets up online book touring. Awesome site and they work with many of the publishers.

    Hope this helps.

  6. Authors always say they want honest reviews, but I’ve seen a number of them kick and scream over bad reviews of their own work, while being irked over fawning reviews of someone else’s book.

    There are reviewers who post only good reviews, but it doesn’t always follow that they are playing the “scratch my back” game that BK referred to. It can mean that those reviewers would rather promote only the books they enjoy, versus tearing down a book or author whose work will never again be permitted on their shelves.

    As with even professional critics, one should read enough of the same books as the blogger to know whether they will hold similar opinions.

    I used to watch At the Movies, and if Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert had split opinions on a film, I knew that my taste more closely matched Ebert’s, and I would follow his guidance.

  7. Thank you so much for the link, Robin! That’s an amazing list. Naomi, you’re right that some authors have a tough time with “bad-but-honest” reviews. I remember a 1-star diatribe against one of my books on Amazon a while back–I got upset about it until I realized that having an occasional negative review makes the list more believable. If all you have is 5-star reviews, people may figure that it’s your family and friends who are commenting.

  8. I don’t pay much attention to reviews. If I want to read a book, I consider the back cover blurb and maybe read the intro, but then I just order it and make up my own mind.

    One thing I wanted to point out is that not every online site carries the same weight in traffic. A good way to decide which review site or blog is worth the effort to promo your book is http://www.quantcast.com. Enter the link of the blog or review site at QUANTCAST and see if the traffic is significant to register. It will also give you some stats and demographics of the site. This is a very cool thing that can save you time when you’re trying to promo your work, maintain all your social network sites, and write that next book under a deadline.

    As always, Kathryn, thanks for the great thought provoking post.

  9. I did my own blog tour when my science fiction romance, Silver Serenade, launched in July. While I aimed for some higher profile review sites, the best responses from readers came from genre specific sites.

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