ARC Tours: Do You Participate?

As a newbie blogger, I’m still very much trying to determine what works for me in terms of reading, reviewing, and other blogging practices. Recently, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about my participation in ARC tours and I’m hoping that by “thinking out loud,” so to speak, I might get some input from others here.

Once you enter the world of book blogging, it’s hard not to want to get your hands on all the pretty, shiny ARCs other bloggers seem to have. I didn’t get into blogging for that, but I would be lying if I said that I didn’t want to read them. After all, everybody else is building buzz, and it’s effective. I think there’s also this notion that in order to be successful as a blogger you need to be reading and reviewing ARCs; I’m still not sure how much that is true or whether it is a myth.

Of course, as a newbie, you’re not getting publishers and authors knocking on your door with ARCs in hand. There are, however, a lot of tour sites designed for sharing ARCs and recent releases. I love that these exist. I love that bloggers are so willing to share their books and let others enjoy them. My personal dilemma is that I am required to review all the tour books I receive. I do not begrudge the people involved for this; tours are meant to build publicity, so it only makes sense that reviews are required. My problem with this has to do with my identity as a writer and a blogger.

I have always thought of myself as a reader. I can read a book that I don’t like a lot and still love reading; not enjoying a single book or even dozens of books does not turn me off from reading. I’ve never really thought of myself as a writer. Sure, I write here and I write emails and I’ve written hundreds of papers for classes. For the most part, though, reading has felt like something I have done for pleasure, and writing has felt like something that was required of me. I’ve only just begun to enjoy doing some writing now that I am not in school and I can decide for myself whether or not I want to write. Except when I have to. Tour books are the only kind where I still feel that sense of requirement, that sense that no matter what I thought about the book, I must write something.

As a blogger, I’m much more interested in promoting reading than discouraging it. I love raving about books that I enjoyed. Nothing makes me happier than somebody wanting to read a book after finishing my review. I don’t enjoy writing about books that I disliked as much. I do often try to provide a balanced review all the same, discussing elements that I did like, along with the reasoning behind what I disliked. Sometimes it is just a matter of personal taste. I think that everything has an audience, and I always encourage people to pick up a book that I didn’t like, read it, and get back to me with their own opinions. When I have to review books that I just feel “meh” about, though, I worry that I am discouraging people from picking those up because my own lack of enthusiasm shows up in what is presumably a mediocre review.

I’m not sure where that leaves me. I love getting ARCs in the mail. (Actually, I really like getting mail in general, so that is also a perk.) I’m grateful for all the books I have had the opportunity to read through tours. In many ways, I can’t see myself not doing them. On the other hand, though, I’ve become more nervous about taking risks with tour books because I know that I will have to write about them whether I like them or not. I have also had some difficulty forcing myself to finish a few tour books that I would have abandoned early on were they my own. Additionally, I continue to question how necessary these tour books are for a new blog’s success.

I’m also still trying to determine what exactly “success” means for me as a blogger. I’m doing this for fun; it’s a hobby. I try to steer clear of the competitiveness and the drama. It’s difficult not to compare yourself to others, though, and it’s so natural to try to live up to some kind of standard in order to get more followers and more comments and more guest posts and all those things it seems like you should want. I don’t want to feel that pressure, but maybe that pressure is part of the problem here.

With all that said, I’m curious about your experiences with ARC tours. Do you participate in them? Why or why not? If so, have any of these things been issues for you? Have you found a way to resolve them? If not, is that because you get ARCs in some other way, or do you feel that ARCs are unnecessary?


15 Responses to "ARC Tours: Do You Participate?"

  • I’ve never done ARC tours but I’ve always been interested in them! I think I’m just too afraid to join. That sounds dumb but it’s true! lol

    1 Jamie said this (October 21, 2010 at 12:19 PM)

  • That doesn’t sound dumb at all. There are tons of other blogging things that scare me. I’m afraid to request books or guest posts/interviews directly, though somehow using an intermediary doesn’t make me as nervous.

    When I look at other peoples’ sites I can only assume that they have so much more author/pub interaction because they are more brazen than I am, and of course more experienced. For now, I’ll take what comes my way.

    2 Melanie said this (October 21, 2010 at 12:26 PM)

  • I’m very new to book blogging, so no, I haven’t signed up for any ARC tours. Actually, this probably sounds cheap, but one of the reasons I haven’t even looked into it is because I can’t really see paying a shipping cost to send the book on to the next person just so you can read a book earlier than other people. I like that people are willing to share ARCs, but I don’t really find it necessary right now. I have an eReader, so I’ve been fortunate enough to receive eARCs from NetGalley, and those are awesome. And I’d gladly accept ARCs of books I want to read if publishers will send them once I’m a more established blogger. But ARC tours? Personally, I don’t really find them necessary. I’m happy reviewing library books and books I win in contests, etc. If you want to do ARC tours I definitely think it’s worth your while, but I can definitely see your point about feeling obligated to review something… it’s kind of stressful, which is silly, when blogging is supposed to be fun.

    3 Ashley said this (October 21, 2010 at 12:40 PM)

  • I hate writing reviews on books that I didn’t like as much but yeah when you are on a tour you kind of have to. It especially sucks when the book was donated by the author so you know they will read those reviews. It seems rude to inadvertently discourage people from reading a book. It’s like “if you don’t have something nice to say then don’t say it at all.”

    At the same time, I love participating in ARC tours. When I find books I love I want to tell people about it and help build the hype. Also it is cheaper to ship a book for 5 bucks than it is to buy it and when I find an ARC I loved, I make a point to buy it. If I read a book I know I didn’t like, then I don’t feel like I wasted money by just paying shipping.

    It’s kind of a double edged sword.

    4 Looksie Lovitz said this (October 21, 2010 at 12:44 PM)

  • Good questions. I don’t participate in ARC tours and rarely take review copies as I want to read what I want and blog on my own schedule. Has taken me a few years to get to that point, but unless I would want to read the book anyway, I don’t accept a review copy of it.

    5 Ronnica said this (October 21, 2010 at 12:51 PM)

  • I like to sign up for the tours that my library probably won’t get. I am getting good at picking those out too.
    I think that the tours do have a pass on reviews if you really didn’t like the book but each site is different as to how many you get.
    I also think that you can review on goodreads but not your blog, but I am not 100% sure.

    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

    6 brandileigh2003 said this (October 21, 2010 at 12:59 PM)

  • I’ve never done ARC tours, and the reason why is the same problem you have with it: you NEED to review the book.

    On the blog I contribute to, we only do book recommendations, not reviews. So we only review books we love – and as a group of aspiring/published writers, we have no desire to bash or belittle books that we don’t enjoy. Call it selective reviewing if you will, but that’s our stance. And I totally agree – it should be about promoting reading.

    We started out reviewing books that we had bought and read ourselves. And working in the publishing industry, I’ve been able to get a lot of ARCs for review – without needing to first build much of a backlist of reviews (our blog, which focuses more on writing and the industry, started reviewing books in the summer).

    So for that reason, I’ve never signed up for a blog tour. I don’t want to feel obligated to review something (or obligated to finish reading something I’m not enjoying).

    I’m also not sure that book bloggers are only successful if they review ARCs. I love reading and reviewing books that have been out a while – even years. Sure, there’s more buzz when you get an ARC, but I enjoy reading reviews no matter how new or old the book is. And if a book is part of a series, reviewing the first book of that series is a great way to create buzz for the new title too.

    Anyways, I think I’ve babbled on for WAY too long.

    7 Vanessa Di Gregorio said this (October 21, 2010 at 1:23 PM)

  • Thanks to those who have commented so far! This is really interesting to me because I was under the impression, I think, that a lot more people were involves in these than is actually the case. I’d love to continue hearing more thoughts, but if I do decide to cut back and review more of my own books, I think this will help me feel better about it.

    8 Melanie said this (October 21, 2010 at 1:35 PM)

  • While I do like to read books that are hyped about right now, I like to know about older books too. For example; The Echoes series by Melinda Metz was older and I just read it and totally loved it. I don’t know if I would have read it if it weren’t re-released with a new cover more recently because I hadn’t seen any reviews for it.

    There are so many books out there that I’m sure are amazing that I have never heard of because every one is trying to build hype for the next big thing instead of showing what is already out.

    I do see the need for an author to build hype for an upcoming release but I like to see reviews on both new and old books. ARC tours aren’t necessary to be a successful book blogger. It’s more or less a tool for authors to get their names out there and I like being able to help them get the word out. And it isn’t about being a “successful” book blogger anyway. It’s about loving books and wanting to share that with people.

    Personally, I like ARC tours. I don’t have to spend 20 bucks on a book if I don’t like it but if I do like it, I know it’s worth the money to purchase it when it’s released. And I like telling people about books and authors to look out for. If a publisher wants to send me a book, great. I don’t generally go out requesting them. So I either purchase books or I basically borrow them for a minimal fee (shipping) through a tour. Posting not so great reviews is the only downside for me.

    9 Looksie Lovitz said this (October 21, 2010 at 2:01 PM)

    • “And it isn’t about being a “successful” book blogger anyway. It’s about loving books and wanting to share that with people.”

      Looksie, I completely agree with what you said here!

      10 Vanessa Di Gregorio said this (October 21, 2010 at 2:40 PM)

  • I completely agree that loving books and wanting to share them should be the goal. Arguably, to play devil’s advocate, one must have people to spread them to if you want to accomplish that goal. I can love books and share them with my family members doing a lot less work.

    I also agree that the low cost of tours is wonderful. I don’t mind trying a book out for $3. If I love it, I will usually buy it later. If not, eh, it was only $3. Paying for shipping is not the issue for me.

    There are definitely plenty of old books that I haven’t read, and I finding myself shoving those back a lot in order to keep up with the new ones. It’s hard to do both!

    11 Melanie said this (October 21, 2010 at 3:32 PM)

  • Here’s my whole philosophy on this blogging thing. We’re not going to make careers out of it. We’re doing it for fun. If it stops being fun, or if some aspect of it isn’t fun, don’t do it. Okay, so it’s probably not always going to be that simple, but keep it in mind. Fun!

    PS: Okay, despite everything I just said, getting ARCs does sound fun 😉

    12 Anna said this (October 21, 2010 at 4:39 PM)

  • Exactly! Part of it=super fun. Awesome books, ARC or not, for only the price of shipping=fun. When they are not so awesome and you have to read and review them anyway=not fun. There’s a trade off there, so just a matter ultimately of which side outweighs the other, I suppose.

    13 Melanie said this (October 21, 2010 at 5:23 PM)

  • I don’t do ARC tours, but that is because I get my own ARCs and because I have a billion book TBR, so I might as well tackle that before signing up for a tour.

    14 April (Books&Wine) said this (October 21, 2010 at 10:19 PM)

  • Yeah, I really should focus more on tackling my TBR instead of adding to it, but there are so many exciting new things….I need a readathon every day.

    15 Melanie said this (October 21, 2010 at 11:07 PM)