I’m so humbled and glad that so many bloggers took a chance on Between Starfalls, which I submitted for WriteHive’s first blog tour!
With every single reviewer, I waited for their thoughts with nervous anticipation. It’s never an easy thing to offer up something you’ve poured so much time, heart, and soul into for judgement. I’m adamant that reviews should be honest, whether they’re good or bad, which meant Kriti and my expectations for this blog tour lined up really well.
The questions the bloggers came up with for interviews were interesting and sometimes had me digging deep for how much I wanted to reveal! In appreciation of these amazing people, I really want to highlight the bloggers who gave my book a chance, along with a little of what you might find from them.
Annemieke from A Dance with Books – loved the family, religious, and cultural aspects, with hints of wider worldbuilding.
Olliespot Book Reviews – really enjoyed the epigraphs that led each chapter in Between Starfalls, and the distinctively non-western setting, getting to know the Rinaryn and Kamalti cultures through the course of the plot. He also had me on for an interview on conlang as well! Talking about how I constructed my fantasy language was really fun to talk about with him.
Krista from The Bookish HedgeMom – enjoyed the original setting as well, and chose to post an excerpt from Chapter 4, featuring the Angels.
El from inkandplasma – also posted the same excerpt (my Angels are popular!) and said “Between Starfalls is a beautiful book, with incredible world-building and fascinating fantasy elements.”
Alex from Spells and Spaceships – has mentioned me on his blog before, and still gave Between Starfalls an in-depth, thorough review, as well as had me over for an interview, which was really enjoyable.
Kriti from Armed with A Book – not only gave an incredibly thoughtful review, she also enjoyed the setting and cultures and characters immensely, and had me over for an interview! I adore talking to Kriti, and I’ll be honest, her review was probably the one I sweated over most simply because I know her well enough to value her opinion so highly.
Arina from The Paperback Voyager – loved the intricate worldbuilding and unusual setting, as well as the intimacy with which I addressed difficult, harsh topics. Fortunately for me, she didn’t hold my tugging at her emotions against me! She also gave me some amazing, interesting questions that really made me think about how best to answer them for our interview!
Fariha from Fariha’s Studio – didn’t quite have time to finish the book by the time her blog was scheduled, but she posted an amazing mood board and her initial thoughts. She loved the immersion into the culture and traditions. A full review will be coming, and she had me over for a guest blog on worldbuilding!
Beth from Beforewegoblog – wasn’t able to finish the book either, but loved the descriptions in the first few pages and described the storytelling as “lush and verdant”. She also had me over for a guest blog post, asking me to write a little about the balance between writing and personal life.
How it all started:
Kriti and I got to know each other through WriteHive and honestly, I’m super grateful. She’s one of those people who are constantly learning, and we’re always having interesting conversations. As she broadens her horizons and learns a little about everything, I get to come along for the ride!
She and I have had several conversations about authors and book bloggers, coming at the writing world from our various perspectives. At one point, we were talking about reviews, and I mentioned that I personally am against the idea of paying for reviews. I know other authors who do pay for reviews and this isn’t against them in any way, because I think it’s a personal decision, but for me, it’s something I’ve decided against.
I just feel really weird about the honesty of my reviews if I pay for them, even if they’re told to be honest (or tell me they’ll be honest). I worry about the potential for bias, and I feel personally that reviews from regular people who pick up the book are even more valuable to me, since they are free of outside pressure. Regular readers are who I want to reach anyway. Yes, I understand the mechanics of book reviewers having only so much time on their hands and paid reviews can help with prioritizing reading, but I just prefer the random chaotic naturalness, I suppose. It’s a complex topic, and so my opinions remain focused only on me- other authors should make this determination for themselves. But I don’t use any of those types of services. Could this be shooting myself in the foot marketing wise? Absolutely. But I’m ok with that, too.
Kriti asked me how I felt about blog tours, and because they’re generally paid, that means blog tours are a no-go for me too. (Though I have since also learned that the money does not go to the bloggers and stays with the organizer of the book tour instead).
Again, this is a personal thing. I don’t pass any judgement on blog tour organizers or people who buy their services, or pay for reviews, or any of that. I applaud their success! It’s just not for me.
Why in the world are you writing a blog tour wrap up post if you’re so against them, SK?
Keep your pants on, I’m coming to that!
So anyway, Kriti had been talking with WriteHive about doing blog tours for the authors there as a potential additional source of income for the nonprofit. She wanted to learn more, and she wanted to try it out and see if this was a thing WriteHive really wanted to offer. So she asked me a while later if my thoughts would be different if the blog tour was free. I said they would, because it’s really the money thing that I find (personally) troubling.
So it was that Between Starfalls became the trial run for WriteHive blog tours. Kriti knew how hard I’d been working on it, and she knew it’d been released at the end of March. I’d sent her a review copy already, but she hadn’t had a chance to read it yet. “I trust you, SK,” she said.
No pressure, lol!
Working with Kriti was amazing. I’d been on her Creator’s Roulette and done some interviews and guests posts with her, which have consistently been a ton of fun and super informative, so I was really looking forward to working with her again, especially in regards to the experimental aspect. Let’s work out all the trouble spots and issues on my book before asking anyone to pay for a tour.
Kriti is far more organized than I am, and from my perspective, the tour went extremely smoothly. She came to me with a list of expectations that she had for me as an author. These were things like retweeting the bloggers, commenting on their blogs, and thanking them, which I whole-heartedly agreed to. I have always been somewhat uneasy with the spotlight, and it’s far easier for me to highlight someone else, so lifting up the bloggers themselves was something I looked forward to! I also hoped to get across to them my gratitude for taking part in this very first WriteHive blog tour, especially with an unknown author like myself.
We decided this would be an honest blog tour, with bloggers having the option to post an excerpt in the event they didn’t like or finish the book, although they could also leave a negative review. Obviously, this was the bulk of my fears- that people wouldn’t like it. However, I wouldn’t have it any other way but honest. While I was taking a risk giving my book to the bloggers for review, they were taking a risk reading it, too, even more so for a tour!
Expectations: My expectations going into this were very low. I hoped one or two bloggers might like my book and feared being inundated with 1 or 2 star reviews, considering I only had a couple reviews at the time! However, I thought this learning experience was valuable, and people who aren’t going to like my book aren’t going to like it, regardless. I had also decided that I was going to enter SPFBO (The Self-published Fantasy Blog Off) this year too, so it was going to get reviews anyway. (SPFBO is a free contest for self-published authors, and their books are judged by teams of book bloggers.) Once the book is published, it’s out of your hands. People will read it and either like it or not.
I did not expect all the amazing, thoughtful, in-depth positive reviews! My words struck people deeply, sometimes making them uncomfortable, but overall the response was positive. This is despite the fact that my book isn’t a traditional fantasy story with a traditional fantasy hero and touches on hard topics. This was amazing.
So has my perspective changed, and what have I learned?
As of the writing of this post, I am sitting at a 4.17 rating on Goodreads, with 10 reviews and 12 ratings. On Amazon, I have 4 reviews, sitting at a 4.5 rating. The number of reviews obviously helps to legitimize a book for potential readers, and I did have a small but significant uptick in sales and pages read during the blog tour. Being on this tour meant that each blogger’s audience both on their blog and on Twitter was possibly introduced to my book, maybe for the very first time, along with the thoughts of a blogger they presumably trust. This reach was compounded with WriteHive’s reach and my own little circle.
Kriti, as blog tour organizer, put so much work into this project, and I got a chance to also chat briefly with Justine and Timy from Storytellers on Tour about blog tours, as well, on the WriteHive Discord server. From all the learning I’ve done in the past weeks, in a world of paid reviews especially, I can absolutely understand why blog tours are paid and how valuable a resource they are. Not just the increase in reviews for my book and the exposure to a wider range of people than my own reach, but also the sustained chatter about it over the course of the 10 days. Working closely with Kriti, watching for the upcoming posts and sharing widely, I got to see behind the scenes, which was very interesting. With all the running around Kriti did to make sure things were prepared well in advance, making graphics, and ensuring things were going smoothly, compensation makes sense. Some authors, too, don’t do well with poor reviews. My heart hurts for the organizers just thinking about an author ranting about not getting good reviews. But honesty in reviewing is essential for readers, for reviewers, and for the author.
I also understand concerns of tying such a labor of love to any sort of money (even though the book bloggers themselves do not see any money from a book tour). Once you introduce money, though, things can get complicated. Even though the money isn’t going to the reviewers in the case of a blog tour, the fact that money is involved does give me pause for some reason.
Would I pay for another blog tour? I don’t know. I’m on the fence. This experience was extremely valuable, and I really can’t understate that. And yet, I still feel weird about paying money and getting reviews, even though the reviewers don’t get the money. I’m not sure what it is about it, precisely. I do think I’d feel better about it if it was donated to someone in the writing world who needs a boost, though, like WriteHive does. This includes book bloggers–and seriously, they did a ton of work during this tour, as did Kriti as blog tour organizer!
I would definitely encourage authors who are thinking about using any paid reviewing service to consider a blog tour or two (or three!) as an additional or alternate marketing strategy. Especially if they’re run by Kriti!
As I interact more with book bloggers, I make it a point to show my gratitude for their generosity. It might be a good time to go into etiquette now. Book bloggers do not work for authors. They take time out of their day to immerse themselves in the work of art authors have created and donated to them to hear their thoughts. I’m a firm believer that every author should approach a relationship with book bloggers professionally. Read their guidelines and follow them. Show them the respect they’re due- don’t drop into their DMs randomly or demand things from them or yell at them if you don’t get the response you like. We authors are not entitled to everyone loving our works. While we spend a ton of time and effort crafting amazing stories, and while yes, this is a business/career pursuit for many of us, there’s still an aspect of art here, and even the bestselling books in the world aren’t universally loved. If someone lets me know they’ve read and reviewed my book – regardless of how much or how little they enjoyed it – I make sure to thank them for their time and review. Why they liked it or didn’t like it is important to future readers trying to decide whether or not to read.
So in short, regardless of in what capacity you work with book bloggers, authors should always give them respect (and vice versa!).
I just want to end this wrap up by once more thanking the book bloggers who took part. Please check out their blogs, and follow them for further reviews! And thanks to WriteHive for organizing. If you haven’t gotten involved with this amazing writing organization, you should really check them out, on their website and on Discord!
And a huge thank you to Kriti for all her organizational prowess and her thoughtful design of this tour. If you don’t know her, get to know her! She’s a fantastic book blogger who designed the revolutionary visual review system that IndieStoryGeek uses, and she hosts various writers and thinkers and creators on her blog with her Creator’s Roulette! Don’t miss out!
Also! Don’t forget to check out Kriti’s wrap up thoughts!