There’s nothing wrong with promoting things on blogs. Many authors do blog tours, request reviews, and exchange content. It’s a way to get the word out, and it’s usually free. That’s always a bonus for self-published authors who don’t have a lot of marketing experience, or a budget to put into it. It’s great to be able to help out other authors, but sometimes you run a risk with this type of promotion.
How? Let me enlighten you. Internet users are typically in-tune with what is promotional and what is not. It’s obvious when someone is promoting themselves, or promoting another. This is especially obvious if you are exchanging content. Say one person requests a review, and in return, they write a guest post for you. The chances of you being completely honest are taken down a few notches when you are receiving something in return.
If you hated the book, but are receiving content for your time, are you going to be blatantly honest, or are you going to at least try to give a good review, even if you’ve buttered it up a little? It’s an awkward situation—you can’t really feel good about yourself if you aren’t honest with your readers, but you also don’t want to hurt the author’s feelings. Of course, tact is always necessary, but the truth is worth much more.
If you’re like me, you’ll be stuck between a rock and a hard place, and it’ll hurt to get out of whatever you choose. I’m Canadian, we feel sorry about everything.
One way to navigate this kind of situation is to ensure that you tell your readers if you received something in exchange for your review or post. Transparency will at least give your fans a bit of understanding. A lot of the reviews I see are positive, but unless you only review books that you know you will like, chances are there will be a few that you didn’t like.
The second way is to just say no, in the best way possible. Unless you are going to be honest, saying no is the simplest way to keep your content free of promotion for others, honest, and based on what you want to write about. It’s not a bad thing to promote others, it’s just something that you need to be careful about. You have created a relationship with your readers, and it wouldn’t be sensible to jeopardize that.
The third way is to only agree to do a review after you’ve read the piece. Tell the author upfront, that unless you can give a positive review, you won’t publish it. They’ll likely be thankful for that, as well as understanding. Chances, are they aren’t looking for a bad review anyway.
There are other ways to do this, you just need to pick one that works for your blog and for your readers. If it fits with your content, and it’s something that you’re comfortable with, then go ahead. If it’s not, or you aren’t comfortable with the genre or subject, just say no. Be polite, be considerate, and be honest, but don’t do it just to be a nice person.
What do you do when asked for reviews? Have you ever said no before? Where do you draw the line with promotional posts?