February 10, 2009

Books, Blogging and Over Exposure

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While shopping for school supplies last summer, I noticed pallets upon pallets of Hannah Montana sandwich bags, not lunch bags, those little plastic baggies for sandwiches. I was shocked. Sandwich bags? Really? I felt Disney had gone too far in it's licensing. What next? All I could think was that they were going to squeeze every penny out of that kid while they could. This is not Miley Cyrus's fault either. I doubt she has much say in where her alter ego ends up.

When SassyMonkey(Karen) lamented that she was "tired of seeing the same books over and over again on blogs", I thought of Miley. Karen went on to post on her blog a clarification of what she meant. It's not the latest best sellers or the ones we all recommend to each other but the ones being hyped (or over hyped). I admit I'll read a couple of reviews of the same book but then skip them after that. No matter how brilliant the blogger you can only say so much about a book that hasn't already been said. Sometimes the same author post will show up on a number of blogs- not that you can blame them. How can anyone write 20-30 unique posts on the same topic? It would be exhausting.

Book blogging is new. Book blogging tours are very new. Publishers have discovered a great promotional resource. We're more than happy to get free books and they don't have to buy us lunch. We love talking to authors. I fully disclose that I have and will review books from publishers and blog tours.

Since like all new inventions, we should try them out for awhile then take them back into the workshop and tinkler with them a bit more, let's do the same here.

For bloggers who review ARCs and participate in book tours: What are the postives? What are the negatives? How do you feel when you see several bloggers reviewing the same book you have at the same time? Excited? Or frustrated?

Authors: Can a book be overexposed? Or is it all good?

Readers: How do you feel about all the multiple posts for one book? Do you read them all? Are you skeptical? Has it made you buy the book? Does it feel like an ad?

Publishers/book blog tour organizers: What are your thoughts?

43 comments :

  1. It can be frustrating when you're the last person to read the book. It can also be good, because not everyone is going to like the book and you can read different opinions.

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  2. What a great subject! I've started feeling the same way a couple of days ago. To me it's been starting to feel that we're all reading the same books. I keep finding reviews for the same books and I'm starting to wonder, what are the great books out that we are missing?

    I've received ARCs. Usually I don't read them until months later. But I did receive Gods Behaving Badly as an ARC from a fellow blogger and I'm finding so many reviews about it, good and bad.

    I think a book can be overexposed to the point that people don't want to read it or see or hear about it.

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  3. Well, I blathered on a good deal in my post (that you kindly linked to) but I have to say again that I love it when we're all reading the same book(s) because we're excited about it(them). Like how I'm sure there will be a bunch of us reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies come April. Or how everyone was reading HP when it came out. Or Twilight. Or a John Green book. You get the picture. I love great books.

    I do not love hype. Hype makes me skeptical. And sometimes cranky. ;-)

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  4. I am reviewing Matrimony next week with an author interview. I suppose I'm contributing to the hype on that one. Like I mentioned over at Sassymonkey's blog, I try to have review books on my blog that you won't find anywhere else. An extension of my unique reading style. I think I accomplish that. I hope I do. I do love to read the books that everybody is talking about too. Otherwise, I feel very left out.

    I do participate in a lot of blog tours, author interviews and ARC's. I think they're fun because I feel like I'm getting to know the author or the book better. If I'm the only one who's benefiting then that's okay. Everybody else can listen in. I like to rub shoulders with authors and publishers.

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  5. Onion- I still haven't read The Book Thief. I might be the last.

    Vasillis- That's true. The ones that are being heavily marketed will have their moment but the others released at the same time might be hidden gems.

    Karen- There are ones that really deserve the hype for sure, but I know some readers have said they won't read books that everybody else is.

    Natasha- In my opinion, a blogger has to have the right mix for them. I love reading about a book I've never heard of and then want to find it. I hope more people go digging in those obscure stacks for something juicy!

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  6. Without book bloggers there are a lot of books I wouldn't have picked up in the first place. But I understand what you mean. I always get excited when I see that I'm either the only one or one of two who have read and reviewed a book. Any more than four and I start thinking I'm not unique.

    I don't accept ARCs anymore. I used to but after getting a scathing email from the publisher on one and two very rude comments on the other two, I just stopped. Plus, I don't like how a lot of publishers want to you read the book by a certain day and pester you until you do. It's like asking for a bad review.

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  7. I agree with Vasilly. I think over-exposure can be a bit off-putting. Part of the problem here is that we're all one another's readers. That's not a problem in itself, of course, but I wonder if authors doing extensive tours realize that mostly the same core group of people will be reading 10+ reviews/interviews, etc. I admit that after the first 2-3 I skip too, unless the book really interests me. I don't think there's anything wrong with book tours, author interviews and all that. And I understand why authors would want to maximize exposure. But if I start reading about a book everywhere, I can get tired of it before I even read it.

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  8. Like everything there are positives and negatives. I like reading different opinions about books, but I think some blog tours can get overwhelming. Perhaps 5 blog stops per month...and then another five in a second month. 20 stops are too many in my mind.

    Then again, we as bloggers are reading all the other book blogs when some readers who do not review only read their favorites. I hope that makes sense.

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  9. Funny, I just posted about this myself the other day! The main negative for me is feeling like I'm an advertisement.

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  10. Just back to follow up with the comments. Regarding what Nymeth mentioned about being each others readers. Yes, we are, but thank goodness we aren't each other's ONLY readers. 80% of my traffic comes from search engines. They are not bloggers, especially book bloggers. If book bloggers were our only audience, I would say yes, it can get tiresome to see the book everywhere. But those 80% haven't seen it.

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  11. When I first became an early review on LibraryThing I used to get ARC's fairly regularly. Now I don't get any. Oh well. However, I found that not too many bloggers I follow had received the same book, so it worked out well.

    I was approached about doing a blog tour and agreed. But I was one of the last reviewers on the tour and by then I think the book was about to come out. Not sure if it was that, or the author was wiped out from doing all the other blogs, but he completely forgot about my blog and the questions I'd sent.

    Of course with all the hype he got, he didn't need little ol' me anyway. Because of this experience though, I doubt I will ever agree to do another one. Not just because I was forgotten about, but because at that point, what could I say or write about that had not been said? What questions could I ask that had not been asked?

    Needless to say, I doubt I will ever be a blogger that is one of many - and I kind of like it that way.

    I will still try for ARC's from LT, Harper Collins, and other sources as I have come across some outstanding works (Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet for one)and am thrilled I got a sneak peek as it were.

    But my main goal for my blog will remain to share my feelings and opinons on reading, issues that affect this such as banned books and literacy, and satisfying personal challenges.

    But as for ARC's and Blog Tours? The former I will still work on as it has always been a good experience, but blog tours? No.

    It would take a lot to convince me to try it again. I'd rather spend my time and my resources doing something that I enjoy and that gives a special feeling in return.

    I got the sense from that failed tour attempt I was simply a means to an end and when it looked like I was no longer useful I was tossed aside.

    Probably overly dramatic, but that is how I was left feeling.

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  12. Most of the books I review are obscure older novels. I recently reviewed Susan Glaspell's 1929 novel Fugitive's Return, and the review was noticed by a publisher who reissues out-of-print women's fiction. I'm hoping my blog was a little nudge toward getting Glaspell's novel reissued.

    I also recently received from the publisher a copy of Canadian novelist Helen Humphrey's new novel Coventry, which I dutifully reviewed. I was happy to review a book that might not be a mega-hit, but which is quietly lovely and worth reading. Maybe the blog will bring it to the attention of someone who might not otherwise have noticed.

    But in the end, the reviews on my blog are mainly for me, to help me keep track of and remember what I've read, and to help get my own thoughts in order.

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  13. Natasha, you make a good point. I confess I tend to forget about everyone else who is out there reading. It makes sense that what's tiresome for us book bloggers who keep up with a lot of other blogs won't be tiresome for those who come from google or only read a book blog or two.

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  14. As a reader, I say YES, the ARCs and free copies start to feel like an add. I really personally dislike the "Book blog tours." I get sick of seeing the same book in Google Reader and I usually skip the posts.

    I read books that have been around a while. I never buy a newly published book (although I may make an exception for Toni Morrison, for example).

    If its a new release and it keeps coming up in my google reader a lot, I may finally read a plot summary after about 6 impressions, but it takes a rare new release for me to actually want to read it. I just usually don't like them, so I steer clear of reviews. If I liked new releases, I may like the ARC reviews a lot more.

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  15. I've contributed to some of the hype, too...although I gave that up this year. I think I got to the point where I'd rather have the free lunch than the free book. ;-)

    There have been some books lately where I've been skimming the reviews... The Giant of Aberdeen County comes to mind. But I also have plenty of books I want to read (The Book Thief included) that I'm sure others are sick of seeing.

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  16. I think I have a hard time saying no to the plethora of good books offered to me, and what happens is that I miss savoring a book.

    I like to read reviews of books I've read, but if I plan to read a book and see a lot of reviews I usually skip the reviews.

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  17. I'm finding that with Andrew Davidson's The Gargoyle. I have mixed feelings. When I review more obscure and not-so-recent books, it's nice to know I'm one of the few people offering something to say on the net. I often notice those are the ones that Google picks up on and I get a lot of hits that way. However, I don't get as much conversation, since fewer people have read it and there's only so many times someone can say, "That sounds good. I'll add it to my tbr pile." When I review a book a lot of people have read, I get more comments because people have more to agree/disagree on. Having said all that, I try to strike a balance.

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  18. Jackets- Ew, that's not good. That's a good way of turning off a book blogger from reviewing. Sorry that happened.

    Serena- Yes, I think that's a good way to do a tour. Hopefully, a few people will buy it and blog about it many months later.

    Natasha & Nymeth- Yes, that's true. Funnily enough though, those visitors to my blog are often people looking at reviews I read months if not years ago.

    JC- How disappointing! I hope authors/publishers realize that we carve out time for those posts.

    Rob- You must have been flattered. I'll have to check out those books. I agree that this blog is mainly for myself and the books I like. If it helps someone, then that's gravy!

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  19. Rebecca- What is it about the new releases for you? Is it that they are just the flavour of the month?

    softdrink- I am guilty of it as well.

    Amy- I also will check out reviews of books I read more than reading reviews I haven't. I like the conversation.

    John- I did read and like The Gargoyle but yes, it's everywhere. There is something thrilling about a post of mine turning up on the first page of a Google search. That usually only happens with a book few people have reviewed. Balance is key.

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  20. Chris! Ha! That is a great way of putting it!

    Yes, new releases are like a "flavor of the month." I like to read books that stand the test of time. Once the rage is down (maybe even a year or two down the line *gasp*), if people are still reading it and liking it, I may consider looking it up.

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  21. Great topic. Sometimes it does seem that everyone is reading the same books (and The Gargoyle and Gods Behaving Badly are GREAT examples of it). I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing though. I just want to read GOOD books. If a book is all over the place, it has to have some merit! At least in my opinion!

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  22. Tara- I see that you feel that way at times. (Great post).

    Stephanie- That's the issue. Is it GOOD or is it hype?

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  23. This is such a great conversation to have, and I wish I'd commented yesterday when the discussion was going on.

    I have mixed feelings about it. When a book is really great, and we're all reading it at the same time and sharing our excitement about it (like what happened with The Gargoyle and Guernsey last summer), I think it's great. I love reading the different reviews and seeing what other bloggers got out of a book and focused on in their reviews.

    On the other hand, if a good that doesn't actually seem that great suddenly pops up everywhere, it feels more like advertising and overexposure to me, and I wonder if the bloggers would ever have considered reading the book if it had not been offered for free.

    And blog tours where all of the participants post on the same day drive me nuts. I skip those in the Reader.

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  24. Great post!

    Sassymonkey specifically referred to Matrimony, which I completely agree has oversaturated our community. But that's the author's fault, and while I like his enthusiasm, there's something to be said for not revealing everything...you want to leave readers wanting more, and after 10 reviews, I'm not that interested.

    As a blog tour organizer, I don't think it benefits the author or our community to use all book blogs on a tour. There are SO MANY blogs out there, and plenty of bloggers love to read books but don't necessarily blog mostly about books. I think those tours are the best, because book bloggers tend to be rather incestuous (forgive the term). What I mean is that we read each others reviews! So do I need to see a book at 10 or 20 blogs to get my curiousity piqued? No, just one. :-)

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  25. I'm late to the party on this (working on a book deadline), so I'm reading everyone's comments here.

    As one of those authors who's done blog tours, here's my take:

    No exposure can be too much for a book as far as the author's concerned.

    That said, I understand why everyone who frequents the same blogs might get tired of hearing about the same book.

    When I do my blog tours, I try to mix up the blogs, do some book blogs, some crime fiction blogs, so I'm not too exposed to both worlds. I also write different posts for each blog. I do make an attempt to craft the blog post toward the particular blog, ie, I wrote about book covers for Iliana at bookgirl's nightstand because she makes those beautiful books.

    And yes, it is advertising for the book. We can't get away from that. Anytime you post about a book on a blog, it's advertising for that book. But that's not a bad thing. Especially if you've found a good book you want to share.

    Honestly? My publisher has told me that I sold 3,000 more copies of Shot Girl when it first came out as compared to my book the year before. I do credit the book blogs for helping me reach more readers.

    You guys are great. And don't think that we authors don't appreciate you! Especially since print review space is next to nothing now. You are picking up slack, letting people know about books, giving authors a way to get the word out about their books.

    It's all good.

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  26. Rebecca- All on the same day? I don't think I've seen that or I didn't pay attention.

    Trish & Karen- Incestuous! That's a good way to put it. I think it's a benefit to everyone if it's not all book blogs. And Karen, I'm not just kissing up, I do like how you do the book tours. You make the blogger feel like you are taking an interest in them as opposed to the same posts that get handed out to everybody and their dog. Not that everyone can do that if they have tours that involve 100s of blogs.

    It's great to hear that the tour helped sell Shot Girl. When it's a book that people love, then that's the kind of buzz people are happy about.

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  27. I go back and forth on this. On the one hand, when I see a ton of book bloggers raving about a book - I have an immediate and intense need to have that book and read it. That's good for the author and publisher, I would assume.

    However, I have read rave reviews of books that I found only mediocre, and then I wonder if the free book has clouded the blogger's judgment. I have posted negative reviews of books I was given free and it's always uncomfortable. In fact, I have a book tour coming up for a book that I'm having trouble reading, - though I've been told it picks up, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. How uncomfortable will that author interview be if I've posted a negative review?

    For that reason, I've decided to skip author interviews anymore unless it's an author whose previous work I have enjoyed. That way if I dislike the current book, I still have nice things to say.

    The book blogs I enjoy the most are the ones that have a good mix of reviews of new books and older fiction. I love to read reviews of classics I haven't found time for yet.

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  28. I don't read the author interviews very often, and I admit that I have no desire to read most of the blog tour books. I see them over and over and they are all glowing reviews and I just don't want to read them. I don't even care what they are about any more.

    That said, I did sign up for a Hachette book giveaway (my first), so it might feel different from the other side.

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  29. Great question! I have been thinking about that, with seeing how some savvy marketers saturate the book blogging world with review copies of a particular book. I wonder, though, how many people actually do go out and buy the book. I mean, if all of us bloggers can get the book as a review copy and most of our readers are other book bloggers, are we really helping?

    There have been a few books (I don't want to name names) that I got really sick of hearing about because every. single. blogger. had received a review copy. I actually am not taking any more review copies because I'm tired of feeling obligated to read a book I don't like. Yes, I do sometimes like them, but sometimes I don't! I don't like feeling like I have homework.

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  30. Late to the discussion, as usual!

    I tend to think it's great marketing! When I see a book over and over again in my reader, I am going to click through at some point. And Natasha makes a great point - probably 80% of my readers are not book bloggers so even though the it's the same people commenting over and over, you just never know who you are reaching.

    I get e-mails sometimes - from librarians, or old classmates, or random people I had no idea read my blog because they are lurkers who don't comment, they'll say - oh yeah - and I bought 5 books last year that I saw on your blog.

    And I'm not afraid to say I didn't like a book on a book tour. I've done it more often than not actually. Which is also why I'm now very careful about signing up for them!

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  31. Sorry to be late to the discussion - I have enjoyed reading everyone's comments...and I love to see those actual numbers of sales and comments from an author.

    I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I love getting ARCs (although I am having a hard time keeping up with them) and I like seeing other reviews of the book I am reading. BUT, I *do* think it can be overdone. I must admit, when I feel I am one of dozens of bloggers getting the same book, doing the same giveaway, etc...it annoys me a bit. For that reason, I have sometimes not requested a book, or turned down a book that has already been hyped (exception: I won Matrimony in a giveaway and will be doing a giveaway today of that book).

    I can understand from a publisher/author's POV how there can never be enough marketing...but for the average, everyday person, we can feel saturated after a while!

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  32. Coming back to read the rest of the comments. LOL. My third comment. So I went to my stats and did some number crunching for the entire last year. Those people who are coming over to my blog from Google Reader, Bloglines or directly represent only 7% of my total blog traffic. If I were to only write blog posts and book reviews for other book bloggers then I am ignoring 93% of my blog's traffic/readership, who I assume are not book bloggers. I doubt those other 93% read a lot of book blogs. So in the grand scheme of things, book bloggers may feel over-saturated with a particular book but our audiences are all different. Reading something on a particular blog may be the only time they see it. I'd like to think that we are raising literacy and sharing our love of books among the greater whole not just amongst ourselves.

    I saw a comment earlier about posting reviews on the same day for a blog tour. I participate in a blog tour that does this and its purpose is to raise the rank of the book on several different websites making it hit the front page. Again, non-book bloggers would be the target for this practice. There's a reason behind its madness. :)

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  33. Carrie- I also like a little variety in a book blog. What you say about mediocre books is interesting, but sometimes a book everyone seems to love just doesn't speak to me. Is it me?

    Lisa- If the author has something interesting to say, I will read it but sometimes I just skim.

    Kim- Hmm. Yeah, that's hard. Sometimes you just have to say, I didn't read all of it because of blah, blah. At least that's honest.

    Lenore- Better late than never! Book blogs are a tight group and I think we do tend to think we've seen it all on everyone else's blog. I do get a lot of visits from non-book bloggers so I'll try to keep that in mind.

    Wendy- I guess we would rather feel like we are helping authors and readers find each other and not feel like virtual billboards.

    Natasha- Ah! I see. I didn't see the point of a one day book tour but now I see what you mean.

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  34. I couldn't agree with you more about "over exposure". There are sooo many books "hidden" on the shelves of book stores.

    Finding the same review subjects over and over was part of the reason I started my review blog. To see wonderful books being passed by un-seen...people need to know what they're missing!

    Look on the shelves not just the displays! Don't let publishers and bookstores make your decision for you. Talk to store employees, other customers!

    I do review ARC's from time to time, but never from best-selling authors and I never solicit or accept them from authors or publishers.

    OK...all better now...I'm late to this discussion, but thanks for letting me vent!

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  35. I'm late to the discussion as well. I just read about the discussion at Bermudaonion's Weekly Link Round up. Great post!

    I have to admit that I have had similar feelings about overexposure of certain books on the book blogs. I don't care for it when there is an influx of reviews/giveaways on one day and I tend to ignore them as there are just too many. I've only done one blog tour and I doubt that I will do another. For me, it was just too much work and I would rather focus on reading the books that truly interest me. It's finding that balance that works so that I don't feel like my blog is a chore.

    I am finding that there are definitely more "popular" blogs that people tend to gravitate towards and then they are missing out on the smaller or less visited blogs. I think that we have to be careful of being too isolated of a community as book bloggers. I think that we need to stretch our wings and visit other bloggers who may not focus on the same books and interviews.

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  36. This is a great discussion (my thanks too, to Bermudaonion for pointing me to it). Interesting that several folks say Josh Henkin is an author who overdoes the blog tours. Last year, I was on a Baltimore Book Festival panel about reviewing in print and in blogs; to prepare I asked him about the decline in newspaper book review sections. He said he missed the serendipity of newspaper reviews, which often highlight obscure books. Bloggers, he said, often seem to be reviewing the same dozen books.
    Still, I feel for him and other authors, who are trying to figure out how to market books in an era when reviewing has fractured into thousands of pieces.

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  37. Man--why am I always the last one to comment on such hot topics? Anyway, I've more or less stopped requesting books, reading reviews for ARCs, reading author interviews, on and on. I think that some of these books ARE overexposed, but when I talked about it with my husband, he assured me that these authors/publishers don't necessarily push out these books for US (US=book bloggers), but rather it makes them more searchable on the Internet. I'm guessing if someone googled Matrimony, a ton of hits would come up--but at this point are any of US still reading the reviews for it? Probably not. Sure we live in a little book blogging bubble, but if you look at your search parameters for your blog, you'll realize that it goes WAY beyond us.

    Rambling. So, long answer, short: I'm definitely burned out on ARCs and reading what others think of ARCs. I'd rather hear about the books I already have on my shelf--The Age of Innocence, 1984, The Handmaid's Tale. That's what I blog for...

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  38. This is something I was thinking about this week as I discovered so many other bloggers receiving the exact 3 nonfiction books in the mail from a publisher that I did. While I enjoy reading the varied takes on the same book, it also can get tiresome to see the same book being reviewed on the same week or even the same day on multiple blogs. Even as a newcomer to the book blogosphere, I can see the positives and negatives to it.

    I think that it is important to try to space out our ARCs and books we find we want to read from our friends' blogs with picks no one else is reviewing. For example, I am reading Stuffed by Hank Cardello, which is one of the books I saw others had received. But I am also reading The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins and Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche, not only because they interest me, but also so that a reader can tell the difference between my blog and the blog next door.

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  39. I'm late to this too although I commented on the subject on Tara's blog. While I appreciate an author and a publisher wanting to get the word out and as widely as possible, I was a little horrified to discover how many books being reviewed on blogs were ARC's. Like I said to Tara, it felt a bit like an old boyfriend showing up at my door and trying to sell me Amway products.

    OTOH, I have picked up some good books that I otherwise might not have noticed, as it's not as if reading is a chore for me.

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  40. I'm late to this too although I commented on the subject on Tara's blog. While I appreciate an author and a publisher wanting to get the word out and as widely as possible, I was a little horrified to discover how many books being reviewed on blogs were ARC's. Like I said to Tara, it felt a bit like an old boyfriend showing up at my door and trying to sell me Amway products.

    OTOH, I have picked up some good books that I otherwise might not have noticed, as it's not as if reading is a chore for me.

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  41. Good questions, Chris. Sure drew a lot of great conversation. I've enjoyed reading everybody's comments.
    Receiving and reviewing ARCs is definitely a mixed bag. I don't have anything new to add.

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  42. Wow a lot of good thoughts.

    My first thoughts (before reading comments) were that book tour are okay as long as they don't have too many participants. I don't want to mention publishers but I think we know the ones that allow anyone to participate. As much as I would hate to be turned down for a book I want to read, I think over 20 is way too many for one book.

    However Maw made a great remark, that although we all read each other's blogs, we also each have unique visitors that only read our blog or only a few other blogs or only come once and so many not be seeing the same thing on a bunch of blogs.

    Like I said, I think moderation is the key. Also if a blog ONLY posts about the books everyone else is posting about, I'm not going to read that blog. I try hard to read books and even find review books that others are reviewing on their sites so try to get people to come back to my blog again and again.

    PS. I haven't read The Book Thief either.

    PPS. I read Matrimony in 2007 as part of a blog tour and so was surprised to see him doing tours again. I mean I understand you constantly need to drum up sales for your book but I felt it basically erased the first tour.

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