When I released my first novel in 2012, I sent review requests to almost one hundred bloggers who reviewed in my genre. Of those requests, about twenty-five agreed to review Special Offers. By the time my third book came out this December, almost all of the previous reviewers were no longer accepting new books for review.
At first, I attributed this to the increase in self-published releases and tried to find other ways to get honest reviews. After a bit of searching, I discovered a number of review blog tours. You pay a fee, and the tour takes care of finding hosts who will review your book. After I booked a couple of these, I realized that many of the bloggers that had reviewed Special Offers and were no longer taking review requests were now hosting these tours. Pretty much exclusively.
I can't blame the bloggers. They get better exposure for their site and they still get a supply of free books to read and review. I can't blame the tour hosts either, they found a niche for making an buck. But for the authors, what used to be a free service - a book in exchange for commentary - now has a paid middle-man and, in my opinion, is a big reason it's getting harder and harder to find people willing to take a direct request from an author.
So, what's an author to do? Even when you pay for a tour, there's no guarantee you will get a review at each site. On my last two tours, three bloggers were flakers - no post at all, and no explanation to the tour host - and one posted information about my book, but no review. Maybe they didn't like it and felt bad about saying so. Maybe they forgot to read it. Either way, I feel like I didn't really get my money's worth. What's more, it feels wrong to pay, even through a tour, for reviews. That leaves few options for what is the single most important "marketing" strategy for independent authors, the posted review.
Have you experienced this as well? I'd love to hear from you to get your take.