Hi hey hello, coffee beans! ☕🌿 I’ve been organizing book tours since 2017, and if I’m being perfectly honest, one of the hardest tasks is actually having to select a handful of participants out of a large pool of potential tour hosts.
As a long-time blogger myself, I have firsthand experiences of rejection and exclusion, especially in terms of book blogging opportunities. I’ve felt feelings of insecurity and inadequacy due to countless experiences of getting swept aside in favor of more privileged bookish influencers. That’s not the kind of environment I want to foster in Caffeine Book Tours. In fact, I do not believe in pitting hard-working individuals against each other nor do I believe in measuring an influencer’s worth based on the size of their following.
Many of my personal projects are geared towards inclusiveness and accessibility, and while I relentlessly strive to do the same with Caffeine Book Tours, the very nature of book tours makes the issue of inclusiveness far more complicated to deal with and much more difficult to resolve.
What do I mean by that? The first and foremost purpose of a book tour is to effectively promote and market an author’s featured work. By the end of the day, a book tour serves the author and benefits the publisher. Not the tour hosts. Not the readers. And certainly not me.
This is the blunt truth. While I cannot personally speak for all book tour organizers and companies, it is my personal opinion that any self-respecting book tour organizer will not mislead you into believing otherwise. While tours can (and should, honestly) benefit readers and reviewers, they’re deliberately designed to serve authors and publishers first.
A book tour is a tool for targeted marketing and strategic promotion. It is not any of the following:
- A randomly drawn giveaway of ARCs and books
- A shortcut to accessing early copies of unpublished or upcoming book releases
- A fallback after you’ve been rejected on NetGalley and/or Edelweiss
- An event or activity that you are entitled to
I want to make it extremely clear that, here in Caffeine Book Tours, ARCs and books are not randomly given away to people; ARCs and books are entrusted to bookish influencers whom I believe are capable of effectively promoting them. As much as I’d love to welcome and include everyone in my tours, all my decisions are — and need to be — guided by the question, “What would be best for the author’s book?”
It is no secret that Caffeine Book Tours has grown so much in a relatively short amount of time. The average number of applicants per book tour is around 100, and usually, I can only accommodate 15 tour hosts.
This means that I need to be both fair and strategic in selecting tour hosts. For me, fairness requires taking into consideration the relative privileges afforded by other bookish influencers (e.g. US-based influencers are more likely to receive ARCs and e-ARCs from authors and publishers), while strategic thinking involves calculating how the author can garner the most benefits from the tour.
Thus, while other tour organizers select their hosts based on platform/follower size or according to who signed up first, I came up with my own system and criteria for tour host selection.
Own-Voices Priority System
Most of the books featured in Caffeine Book Tours are diverse, which means that they offer written representation of marginalized groups (e.g. people of color, LGBTQIAP+ or queer people, people with disability or neurodiversity, people belonging to minor religions). As a rule of thumb, own-voices readers and reviewers are given priority specifically for these tours.
The own-voices priority system involves assessing applicants (i.e. individuals who filled out the book tour’s sign-up form) in sequential batches, and these batches are largely based on two things: (1) their own-voices status, and (2) their location. In simpler words, all applicants are categorized into the following groups:
- Batch 1: own-voices (OV) and international-based
- Batch 2: own-voices (OV) and US-based
- Batch 3: non-OV and international-based
- Batch 4: non-OV and US-based
As an example, for a Filipino-led fantasy novel, all applicants will be assigned to these batches:
- Batch 1: Filipino and international-based
- Batch 2: Filipino and US-based
- Batch 3: Asian (but not Filipino) and international-based
- Batch 4: Asian (but not Filipino) and US-based
- Batch 5: non-Asian and international-based
- Batch 6: non-Asian and US-based
Batch 1 applicants are assessed according to the major criteria for tour hosts, as well as the minor points of consideration. Afterwards, if there are still tour slots left, Batch 2 applicants are then assessed using the same standards. If there is still room in the tour, I proceed with the subsequent batches until all the slots are full. Thus, own-voices and international-based applicants are given the highest priority, while non-OV and US-based applicants receive the least priority.
Major Criteria for Tour Hosts
Aside from own-voices status and location, there are two major criteria that I actively look for in the tour hosts I select.
1. Quality of book reviews
Writing a good review is a nonnegotiable ability that a tour host should possess. You cannot effectively promote a book if you’re unable to properly express your opinion or your thoughts about it.
It is also worth noting that my book tours involve a Twitter thread where I share links to tour stops and feature excerpts taken from tour hosts’ reviews as the tours progress. Admittedly, a pet peeve of mine are reviews that are nearly impossible to quote in a tweet.
While the quality of a book review is arguably subjective, I believe that the following elements are indicative of a review’s substance and quality:
- Clear and concise writing with minimal grammatical errors
- Reader-friendly format and length
- Identifiable thesis statement (or thesis statements)
- Well-articulated reasoning and presentation of evidence to support main points
- Blunt recommendation (“for fans of…” or “recommended for readers who…” or “if you like…”)
I also appreciate efforts to mention relevant content or trigger warnings, as well as efforts to acknowledge the specific representation featured in the book.
2. Ratio/Number of reviews for diverse books
I want to work with like-minded individuals who feel strongly about the same advocacy. I want to work with bookish influencers who are genuinely passionate about diverse books and who actively support authors of diverse books — and I believe that this passion is reflected in how often and how consistently you read and review them.
Unfortunately, in my many years in the community, I’ve encountered several people who view and treat diversity as a trend, fad, or lip service. And honestly, I don’t want those people in my tours. At all. So, I think a good, quantifiable indicator is an applicant’s number of reviews for diverse books, especially when compared to the number of non-diverse books they’ve reviewed.
Minor Points of Consideration
While the major criteria are iron-clad and nonnegotiable, there are other factors that may help sway the direction of my decision into your favor!
1. Blog/Site navigation
Personally, I’m very particular with a site’s or an online platform’s layout, cleanliness, and organization. However, I believe that the navigability of your platform is inarguably important, especially for a book tour.
First, if there are approximately 100 applicants who want to be on the same tour, I’d want to assess all of them efficiently. I’m not going to dedicate an hour of my time to exploring your platform and trying to figure out where everything is. (Plus, if I’m confused by your platform’s navigation, chances are that I’m not the only one struggling.) If I open up your homepage and I can’t find your book reviews within 15 seconds, I’m closing the tab and moving onto someone else. Is it mean? Maybe. But is it efficient? Definitely.
Second, the navigability of your platform affects the visibility of your content, including your book reviews. And it goes without saying that ideally, your book review for the tour should be the most visible post on your platform during your assigned date.
2. Audience reach and engagement
Testimonials from my tour hosts will tell you that extremely large followings aren’t a requirement for my tours. Nor do I dismiss “small” bookish influencers in favor of those with thousands of followers. However, I do prefer tour hosts to have a loyal following — that is, an audience that consistently engage with their content.
For obvious reasons, I can’t just give ARCs or books to someone with only 5 followers, and similarly, I also can’t give them to someone with 5,000 followers but with virtually nonexistent engagement (e.g. likes, comments, shares and retweets). Again, a book tour is a promotional tool meant to benefit the author and their book, which is why I cannot entirely dismiss audience reach and engagement in my decision-making.
In most of my book tours, selected tour hosts are given the option to add creative content and features to their assigned tour stop. In any of my sign-up form, the following options are enumerated: creative feature post, creative photos, cover-inspired aesthetics/moodboard, own art (e.g. custom bookmarks, wallpapers, fan art), own quote graphics, and own playlist.
But here’s a little-known secret: you are allowed to suggest creative content outside of these options. At the end of the sign-up form, there is an “Anything else I need to know?” item where you can pitch an out-of-the-box concept or an idea that you’d like to add to your tour stop. If I like your pitch, it increases your chance of getting selected.
In addition, when past tour hosts demonstrate exceptional creativity for a tour, make no mistake: I remember them forever. So, all of this is to say that Caffeine Book Tours encourages creative freedom, and you should never hesitate to make the most out of it.
4. Age (Occasionally)
This does not necessarily mean that adult applicants are barred from participating in tours for Young Adult books. Instead, a bookish influencer’s age plays a significant role in tour selection in cases wherein the book is either age-specific or inappropriate for certain ages.
For example, younger applicants may be excluded from tours for Adult or upper Young Adult novels with graphic content or explicit content warnings. In contrast, younger applicants may be prioritized in tours for Middle Grade books.
5. History with Caffeine Book Tours
As mentioned in this page, tour hosts with a consistent track record of adhering to guidelines and instructions are more likely to be selected in future book tours. Likewise, consistently poor performance as a tour host may result in a temporary ban from book tours.
6. Ability to correctly follow instructions
All sign-up forms come with this particular disclaimer:
As a research major, nothing boils my blood quite like respondents incorrectly filling out my survey form. In all my major subjects, we were expected to remove incorrectly answered survey forms from our sample — and I strictly apply this lesson when selecting tour hosts. Incorrect responses are indicative that the applicant did not read instructions carefully and thoroughly enough.
Here are some common mishaps and mistakes done during sign-ups:
- Incorrect URLs to platforms
- Invalid or misspelled email addresses
- Providing a Kindle email address instead of the email address linked to their NetGalley/Edelweiss accounts
- Answering “No, I don’t have a review copy” when asked to provide a NetGalley/Edelweiss email address (please just leave your email address)
- Providing a booktube/bookstagram link when asked for a book blog link
And that’s how tour hosts are selected for book tours! To recap, Caffeine Book Tours uses an own-voices priority system and evaluates applicants through a combination of major criteria and minor points of consideration.
I hope that writing this post and consequently arming you with this knowledge can help you — not only in increasing your chances to work with Caffeine Book Tours, but also (and perhaps more importantly) in improving your platform and content. I also hope that I was able to explain all the processes clearly and that you can understand the rationale behind everything. 💛