It Makes Total Sense that Blog Tour Organizers Only Allow Positive Reviews

It's totally fair that blog tour organizers only allow positive reviews

A lot of people complain that book tour organizers only allow 3+ or even 4+ star ratings on reviews as part of their tour. In fact, it seems like there have been a lot of posts about it recently. But here’s the thing, I totally get why this is enforced. I think it makes perfect sense!

A blog tour is a marketing campaign

A blog tour is basically a big, ongoing advertisement. It’s a marketing campaign to help genera hype, buzz, and sales. Ultimately, it’s an investment that the author makes in order to earn more money.

Just so we’re on the same page in understanding what this is, let’s look at some other examples of marketing campaigns:

  • TV commercials
  • Billboard advertisements
  • Newsletter articles
  • Online advertisements

And what do all these things have in common? To generate sales. More sales = more money. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just the way it is.

Think about the ads you’ve seen—they all include positive testimonials

Imagine a commercial for a weight loss program. What might you see?

  • A description of the program
  • Impressive before and after pictures
  • Testimonials from participants talking about how “it was so amazing” or “it changed my life” or “I lost 20 pounds!”

Now think about what you DON’T see.

  • You don’t see a customer appear on the advertisement to say, “It was only okay.”
  • You don’t see a customer appear to say, “I didn’t even lose any weight! It was kind of a waste of time.”

These advertisements aren’t about providing diverse opinions on the product. They’re about selling the product, and that means showing off the best “testimonials” they can find.

Think about the blurbs by authors/reviewers/publications in books

You open up a book and might see a bunch of quotes from other authors, famous reviewers (like Kirkus), or publications. These quotes all praise the book and talk about how amazing it is. You don’t open up a book to see a quote that says:

“This book really wasn’t for me. I hated the insta-love. But if insta-love is your thing then you might like it.”
“I can see what the author was trying to do with this book, but they just didn’t pull it off.”
“I don’t know… it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. It just didn’t totally click with me.”

Hell no!

When you flip open that book, you’re going to see the best of the best. You’re going to hear from people who loved the crap out of that book. You’re going to see things like:

“Absolutely gripping.”
“I can’t remember the last time I was this hooked on a book.”
“I ADORED it from start to finish!”

Honest, critical reviews are totally fine—but they don’t belong in a marketing campaign

There’s nothing wrong with posting an honest, critical review. Go ahead and write them and post them on your own time. That’s why tour organizers always say you can post your negative reviews after the tour. But given that a tour is a marketing campaign, it makes sense that they don’t want you posting negative reviews as part of that.

“But I hate promotional posts!”

If you end up not liking a book, the tour organizer usually gives you a promotional post to publish instead. And that can be a problem if you hate publishing promotional materials on your blog. I know I do. It makes me feel like I’m lying to my readers. I have to promote a book to them that I didn’t like. But the very fact that I’m promoting the book makes me feel like I’m endorsing it. And that feels like a lie.

However, from the tour organizer standpoint, it makes perfect sense. When they sell packages to authors, they usually make a guarantee like “20 blogs will participate”. They can’t have people dropping out and lowering that number, because then the author isn’t getting what they paid for. So instead of having you post a review, they just shift you over to a different kind of post.

If you don’t like promotional posts, then you have two options:

  1. Don’t participate in blog tours. Seriously, that’s an option.
  2. Read the book HELLA early. Like ASAP.

You do realize that you don’t HAVE to sign up for tours, right?

I rarely participate in blog tours for the above reason: I hate promotional posts. I don’t want to have to post them if I don’t like the book. I hate feeling like I’m lying to my readers. But I understand why these organizers insist on positive ratings, so I do my part and just stay away from them. You don’t HAVE to participate in them, you know.

I tend to only sign up for tours under these circumstances:

  • I’ve already read the book and LOVED it, but I haven’t published my review yet. This way there’s no risk.
  • I’m REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY excited about a book. More often than not, I like the sound of a book, but it’s not my #1 OMG MUST HAVE book. I can wait. It’s rare that a book is something I’m so massively looking forward to that I desperately want to take a “risk” on by signing up for the blog tour.

Or, read the book early for a better chance of bowing out.

If you wait until the last minute to read the book, there’s no chance for you to bow out of the tour. You’ve made a commitment and there won’t be enough time for the tour organizer to find a replacement.

But, if you read the book as soon as you get it then there might be a chance that you can bow out of the tour, and the organizer will still have time to find someone to take your place. I’ve done this once or twice now. I read the book as soon as I can, and if I don’t like the book then I email the organizer, explain that it wasn’t for me, and say that my first choice would be to bow out of the tour if possible.

Now it’s your turn! What do you think about blog tours?

Do you think it’s fair that tour organizers only allow reviews that have a 3+ or 4+ star rating?

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54 comments

  1. Yes, I completely understand why blog tours only want positive reviews. Why would an author ever want to pay someone to bash their book? They want publicity from the tour, not negative reviews that will turn readers away! It’s one of the reasons I don’t participate in blog tours, especially for books I haven’t already read and know I like.

    Briana @ Pages Unbound recently posted: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
    1. Exactly! The tour is all about promoting the author and their work by people who love the book. There’s nothing wrong with that!

    1. Yep. Tour organizers and authors have no problem with people posting their negative reviews after the tour. But the tour is purely about promoting the author.

    1. That’s great Angel. 🙂 I always feel horrible when I have to email a tour organizer and say that, but it’s always such a huge relief when they’re super understanding about it.

  2. It does make sense that they would only want positive reviews. I’ve had to switch from a review to a promo post when I didn’t like the book. But lately I have been cutting back on signing up for tours. I don’t like having to deal with the pressure for the deadline and for having a positive review. I only sign up if it is a book I am really interested in.

    Kathy recently posted: Book Looks – Hello, Hollywood
  3. I am very picky about books I choose to do a tour with. In fact 9 times out of 10 I accept tour invites on books I have already picked up and am familiar with. Occasionally I have gotten a bad egg and back out gracefully. Most tours have multiple posts each day and prefer if given enough notice that you step down.

    Kimbacaffeinate recently posted: Taking Heart by T.J. Kline
    1. Same here. It’s very rare that I sign up for blog tours at all. On the occasion that I do, it’s almost always because I’ve already read the book but haven’t posted my review yet.

  4. YES! Yes to everything, Ashley, seriously, my exact thoughts. I have been seeing a lot of these posts lately as well and I am kind of on the opposite side of the argument in that I totally understand why the tour wants positive reviews. I used to participate in a lot of tours, and luckily I have not ONCE hated or disliked the book but I used to be a lot easier to please also so my thoughts might be a lot different now. Lately I only sign up for tours that I have already read the book or for one specific author that is an autobuy author. That way if for some reason I end up not liking one of her books, I still definitely want to promote her books because she is a great author, even if one wasn’t for me (although it hasn’t happened yet). I’m definitely getting away from tours though because I kinda feel like marching to the beat of my own drum 😛 Awesome post Ashley!!!!

    Lauren @ Lose Time Reading recently posted: Stacking the Shelves (98)
    1. It’s so great that you haven’t disliked a book for a tour! That must be great. 🙂

      I like your policy on only signing up for tours that you’ve already read the book for, or for an author that’s on your auto buy list. That makes total sense!

  5. Whoops, I’ve been leaving a lot of negative reviews lately, especially those that are part of the marketing campaign. This is a wake-up call. I guess I should have inform the person-in-charge! I’m trying to be more picky about the books I choose now. 🙂

    Priscilla and her Books recently posted: Once and Always: Review
    1. If they don’t have any rules against negative reviews, then you haven’t technically done anything wrong. But most tours that I’ve seen only allow 3+ or 4+ star reviews, so you might want to check the rules or ask the tour organizer about it. 🙂

  6. This question / concern has been going around? Wow, people do lack common sense, huh? Sorry to be rude, but of course promo has to be positive, it’s completely logical. And while I don’t like just posting promo, especially for something I didn’t enjoy at the end, I’m not grumpy about it when it’s part of the tour.

    I mean, I was excited enough for the book to want to take part in the tour, right? So I convey that with the promo post. And just because I didn’t like it, doesn’t mean others won’t. Only happened to to me twice so far, that it was so off the charts bad I couldn’t post a review. For me, it’s more likely that real life got in my way, and I couldn’t finish in time — which also happend two or three times so far, so I just posted some promo, and in good conscience, too!

    Caro @ The Book Rogue recently posted: [Tour Review] Louise Rozett : No More Confessions
    1. Yeah I’ve seen a lot of posts about it in general, but I’ve seen 2-3 posts in the last two weeks or so alone.

      I’m looking forward to seeing your blog tour post !:D What a coincidence!

  7. Though it doesn’t happen often, I 100% agree with you on this one. lol 🙂 I never complained about being on a blog tour and being able to only post a review when it is 3 or 4 stars and above. Authors are paying to promote a book, that should be all about positive feedback. It’s not like the tour host is stopping us from ever posting our lower star review. It just can’t be posted during the tour. No biggie to me. my true opinion still gets out.

    Jennifer Bielman @ Bad Bird Reads recently posted: Review: Daisy and the Front Man by Rebekah L. Purdy (Blog Tour & Giveaway)
    1. I love it when we agree! 😀

      The way some people react would make you think that tour organizes are disallowing negative reviews PERIOD. A few people just get so up in arms about this policy. But that’s not the case at all. People can still post negative reviews, just wait a few weeks. What’s the big deal?

  8. I didn’t know this was a thing. Of course tours don’t want negative reviews as part of a marketing campaign! Maybe some people don’t realize that because they don’t charge the touring company even though it’s promo material? And that’s a whole other discussion because I firmly believe book bloggers should be charging to post content that is promotional (live every other blogging community ever).

    Tiffany (AboutToRead) recently posted: Go Ahead, Judge . . .
    1. I’m fine with the “book in exchange for a review” deal. I think that’s a fair trade. But what baffles me is when publishers send me emails like:

      “Here’s this promo thing that we’re doing. Share it on your blog and on Twitter!”
      “Here’s this pre-order special we’re offering. Post about it on your blog!”

      When it’s just pure promo like that, HELL NO, I’m not doing that for free. My blog is not a free advertising billboard.

      It definitely feels like I’m being used when people expect me to publish pure promotional material on my blog (or Twitter) without getting anything in return. The least they can do is offer me a copy of the book for my trouble…

    1. Yeah I don’t like it either, because I kind of detest promo posts. But as you said, it’s something that we commit ourselves to by signing up for a tour.

  9. I think that blog tours are an unfair practice. It does make sense that a marketing agent seeks for positive reviews through blog tours, but it doesn’t mean it’s right. Any marketing effort costs (a lof of) money. Take an ad on GoodReads: it’s bloody expensive. Blog tours? They’re not. You provide eARCs (virtually free) to bloggers who – since they signed up – are way more likely to be (and write for) your marketing target, and get the guarantee that this will be a reasonably positive review. This is just downright unfair and only exist because passionate readers accept those terms.
    I don’t participate in blog tours:
    1. I don’t know the traffic you gain from participating in a blog tour, but I suspect it’s very low. Even if you get a peak of traffic on that day, how many visitors come back?
    2. “Blog Tour” is becoming a “skewed review” red flag and less and less readers trust them.
    3. You can get eARCs very easily from NetGalley or directly from publishers/authors as soon as you have a decent blog (even small). Then, writing a positive review is not a requirement (up to you to write a negative review, no review at all, or contact the ARC provider and suggest something).

    1. Angelique, great points! I see Ashley’s reasoning but I also think that it is just another one of those blogger/author things that is taken as the law because everyone does it that way. It’s actually nice to see people not being sheep about this. I guess another point I have is yes, it’s a marketing campaign but other marketing campaigns are clearly known to be just that. We understand that book jacket endorsements are carefully chosen, we know that a commercial is paid for by the company. I’m not sure that all readers know how blog tours work and the stipulations that exist. Also, the PR companies and authors are trying to control comments on sites that don’t belong to them such as Amazon, GR, blog sites. Many readers go on those sites and see the reviews, not knowing that those reviews have been essentially pre-approved based on criteria. The ratings are temporarily skewed and that doesn’t seem right to me. At least with a radio ad, tv spot, etc. people understand how it works. As a reader, I know longer pre-order anything. I wait a few weeks in order to see what average readers think.

      Hildy@The Book Bosses recently posted: Let's Talk About Reviews
    2. Yes! I much prefer general book reviews. My biggest issue with blog tours is the organizer gets paid, but – as far as I’ve seen – the bloggers don’t. Even though they’re the ones providing advertising and labor for the author. I have a hard time even working with PR agencies just for a book because the amount of effort is not worth my time.

  10. I completely understand why there are only 3 star or higher reviews allowed on blog tours. After all it’s marketing, as you said it.
    I participate in blog tours if I have already read the book and loved it or if I really like that author or book theme/genre. I read review copies as soon as I get them and if I don’t like them I notify blog tour hosts right away.
    I don’t like to do promo posts so I usually drop out of blog tour. No one complained so far.

  11. I think it makes total sense. It’s a blog tour that an author has paid for. It’s a risk because it may help and it might not.

    I’ve participated in a few blog tours. One was excellent and the other a complete flop. On the book that was a flop, I ended up posting an excerpt and giveaway for my scheduled date and my review later. Because it made me feel like I was supporting something I myself didn’t enjo, I haven’t participated in a blog tour since.

    I’ve been blogging long enough that if I don’t like doing something I won’t do it. 🙂

    Stephanie @ Once Upon a Chapter recently posted: Compulsion by Allison Brennan *Stephanie’s Review*
    1. Yeah that’s exactly why I rarely participate in tours. I just hate having to promote stuff I don’t like. 🙁 My blog is all about my personal endorsements and it feel like I’m blatantly lying to my readers if I promote stuff I didn’t like.

  12. At first I went for all the tours for books I thought looked good. I had issues posting promotional posts for books I disliked. I am much more picky now, so I only review for tour companies that allow for neg reviews. I know negative reviews don’t do as much for advertising, but I still believe that in the book world a negative review can make someone want to read it as long as the review explains why.
    Example: I don’t like contemporary romance much, so when I see a blogger that reads primarily that genre post a neg review of a thriller (a genre I love) and they explain that they were hoping for more romance, I might just get that book. I might not have known about that book without that review.
    That’s my opinion, anyways.

    Karen Blue recently posted: Read This Round Up #40
  13. Great post! I tend to avoid blog tours except for books I already know I will like (either because it’s one of my favorite authors or I’ve read the book) or books about which I am super excited (which is rare unless it’s an author I’m familiar with) — this way I don’t feel like I have to compromise by publishing a promotional post. I would never want to tell anyone how to blog but people may want to be more pickky about promo posts — I tend to read a blo;gless when it is just one long string of promo posts (2-3 every day!?!)

    Eva @ All Books Considered recently posted: Waiting on Wednesday: Drowning Is Inevitable by Shalanda Stanley
  14. Although I see where you’re coming from, I have to disagree. I think it’s possible for a good tour company to make sure they have good book bloggers, bloggers they can trust to explain why something didn’t work for them and not just tear a book apart. This way, even a negative review can be good publicity. I do think this is probably a risk it’s easier for bigger publishers to take. If I were an indie author paying for a tour, I’d be pretty upset if some of my paid publicity ended up being negative, especially if I didn’t have much publicity to start. Fortunately, as you point out, we don’t have to participate in tours for companies with this policy. I’ve chosen to instead focus most of my energy on TLC Book Tours, because they let you post whatever review you like.

    Katie @ Doing Dewey recently posted: Review and Giveaway: Everything I Never Told You
  15. I kinda disagree with you, but with a caveat. Any real time promotional event has a chance to go wrong i.e. a free sample that doesn’t get the intended results. Running 20 days of posts there should be an expectation that a good return on that is 17 positive reviews; bloggers are not paid by the marketing team and their blog should be priority #1.

    BUT if the rules are laid out at the beginning and a blogger accepts them… go with what you signed up for.

    Are blog tours different across the genres? I basically get to pick a d choose which tours I join, and none have placed these restrictions on me.

    Nathan (@reviewbarn) recently posted: Tough Travels – Independence Battles
  16. I completely understand why they request this, but like others, I don’t like it so I don’t participate in tours any more at all. I think the biggest reason why is that most readers don’t know that this is how it works. I’ve told many of my friends and they were shocked, because they are not bloggers. They saw only positive reviews for a new release and assumed it must be great. Your reasons make perfect sense, I just choose not to participate.

    This may seem really stupid of me, but I didn’t even know that this was a requirement for tours until a year ago when I joined a blogger group. For the first year, I signed up for tours, usually because I saw the links on author’s pages or people emailed me. Not once did I see a stipulation for a minimum rating, or that I’d be agreeing to a promo post. Once, I found out, I went searching and did see this stated on some PR sites but I just had never looked. I hadn’t thought too much about how it worked on their end. I thought ARC=Review. Done. I wasn’t one to follow a lot of blogs or talk with other bloggers up until that point. I simply just started the blog to talk about books and not for promotion. So, once I realized it, I stopped accepting ARCs, and doing any tours or cover reveals, etc. It works much better for me this way. 🙂

    The Book Bosses recently posted: We're TWO! Another Year Older, Another Year Wiser
    1. Are you talking about ARCs separately from blog tours or ARCs that are included in blog tours? Because in my opinion, an ARC doesn’t have the expectation of a high rating tied to it unless it’s for a blog tour.

  17. Um, If the premise is that the tour is a Marketing Campaign/ Advertisement and these are NOT reviews but endorsements, then by Amazon’s terms of service then these “reviews” should all be going up in the Editorial Reviews section NOT the customer reviews section.
    All the tour companies want us to post in the customer section. From Amazon’s page… “What’s not allowed
    …reserve the right to remove reviews that include any of the following:
    Promotional content …
    • Reviews written for any form of compensation other than a free copy of the product. This INCLUDES reviews that are a part of a paid publicity package.

    1. I’ve never been part of a blog tour that told me to post on Amazon. If they tell you to do that, you can certainly refuse.

      Blog tours are about posting on blogs.

  18. I’m going to be on 3 upcoming blog tours soon and I’ve never participated in one before, so I’m very nervous about liking the books.

    I have done reviews for authors, publishers and companies, but although I felt pressure to review in a positive light, there was no expectation or obligation to give high reviews.

    I don’t think I can live with myself if I speak highly of something that I hated.

    1. I think you might misunderstand.

      No one is asking you to lie about your feelings.
      No one is expecting you to love the book.
      You are not obligated to give it a high rating.

      If you want to give the book less than 4 stars then you simply inform the tour organizer and they tell you how to proceed. It usually means:

      * You don’t post your review during the tour. You wait until after it’s finished.
      * They either excuse you from the tour completely or give you an alternative kind of post to publish (guest post, giveaway, interview, etc.).

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