Thursday, April 17, 2008

To Blour for Free or Not for Free

At 11:45PM last Sunday, Christian Fiction Blog Alliance (CFBA) members were sent a press release notifying us that CFBA would now begin charging publishers and publicists for tours. Fifteen minutes later, the publishers and publicists received that same release.

I felt cheated. I was a part of the original discussion group for the CFBA, and have been a member since the second tour, yet I only get a 15-minute heads up about this major change? Who discussed this? Who decided it? Where does the money go? Do I still want to remain a member? Yet how can I leave when there are still books I'm committed to touring?

I can understand that the director and others would want some return for their significant time investment. I work fulltime and would cry foul if my paycheck was optional. And I know there are costs to running the website and email newsletter - I've research costs for both myself - yet with tours at $500 each, one tour would pay for many months of these services.

Eight tours a month brings the gross income to $4000 monthly, $48,000 annually. With tax day not far behind us - how are the taxes paid for this income? Will the CFBA be set up as a small business, or will the cost of tours go directly to the owner? What accountability is there? Who chose the price? Why was it kept secret until the press release?

Why am I uneasy about this whole thing? Is it simply having all these questions, or is there something more?

The Christian Fiction Online Magazine sounds like a great idea, though. I'm looking forward to seeing the first issue.

FIRST (which I've been a member of from the start) has broken its affiliation with CFBA and promises to remain free for everyone. I recently joined its TeenFIRST monthly tour (since I love teen fiction and have 3 teenage sisters). And now FIRST has started a whole new type of tour - Wild Card Tours. I can't wait to see what happens with that. Click the card to find out more!


Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Katie, you gave this some serious thought--far more than I had. For one, I hadn't figured out the total income. Of course, it sounds like there is 40 hours worth of work, so it's kind of like the director is taking a salary.

I have mixed feelings. Partly because I have mixed feelings about the "mass mailing" feel CFBA generates. Not from everyone, but there are some who just cut and paste from the information available at the CFBA site.

The main thing I see is, if it is a paid service, then it seems less trustworthy, because certainly not every book is created with equal talent, yet every book blurb claims something great. And if tourers do little more than paste in those blurbs ... well, that becomes junk blogging, I suppose.

As I've mentioned elsewhere, junk mail must sell product or manufacturers would cease and desist, so I'm not saying CFBA is becoming useless.

But it is a major decision, and you've asked the right questions, ones I think the membership, if not the public, should have answered.


Anonymous said...

I'm with Becky that I'd have less faith in a tour that was paid for by publishers. How can a reviewer give an honest review if it's paid for. How can a reader searching for books trust a review that was paid for? How can a publisher take a chance of paying for a poor review.

I do understand the fees associated with the management of a internet based group such as CFBA - they can be large. But there are other ways to earn income - such as becoming a federal non profit (which is what the group I worked for did).

It was done poorly I think. Why would I want to blog about a book when someone else was getting paid for it? Frankly I'd want my 'cut' too.

Nearly a year ago I dropped out of the CFBA because I did not care for the direction it was headed in - the biggest example being all the info posted for reviewers to just cut and paste. I wouldn't want to buy a book just because 100 people posted a cut and paste.

*shrug* I don't know. Being as how CFBA is a Christian based group I would think it was prayed over carefully. If this is what God wants it will succeed. If not it won't work out.

Unknown said...

Great thoughts, Katie. I've been a bit uneasy about this change as well. I haven't dropped my CFBA membership but I've been mulling over the ethics of the whole thing, if you will. I'm just not quite settled in my mind about the whole issue - because like you, it bothered me that this change was just "announced" without any sort of group discussion or advance head's up.
As to the "cut and paste" nature of CFBA...I've been "guilty" of that if one wants to view it that way - however I can't really beat myself up for that. My reading time, much less my actual WRITING time, has shrunk drastically in the last year and a half...and this year alone there have been three deaths in the family, I've moved, and a multitude of other issues to deal with that have taken away from reading - and therefore reviewing - time. So I'm happy to help spread the word about a book even when it's not my in-depth opinion (happy at this time anyway...hopefully life will calm down, someday).
Anyway, thank you for an extremely well-thought out post.

C.J. Darlington said...

Great thoughts and questions, Katie. I don't have an opinion yet since I haven't really researched all that's going on, but it's good to hear what others think.

I do admit it came as a surprise and I did feel a little cheated as well.

Edgy Inspirational Author said...

Hey guys, Michelle here. I found this post and noticed the title caption was spelled Blours instead of Tours so I read it a bit more closely than usual. Just so you know, I had nothing to do with the decision to charge for tours. I had nothing to do with the original start up of the alliance either, but have been a member for a long time now. In regards to this issue I came along after the fact, but I do have my thoughts on this. If anyone cares to know, here goes...

Go out there are try to hire a publicist to tour your book for you and pay them the going rate of over $1,000 bucks just to tour the book and CFBA's deal is a smoking deal.

I know this because I looked into it for my book. It's not free. Now it was free for the hosting of the tour on CFBA when it was small potatoes, but that makes sense. If it were my full-time job, I'd hope that something would happen to reimburse my expenses and time. Doesn't the Bible say a worker is worthy of his wages? How many cry out in protest when their pastor gets paid? It's ministry just the same. It's less than half the cost to tour directly with CFBA. If you had the publicists manage what CFBA does it is NOT cheap.

The point of a blog tour is to create a buzz. Do people really care about the individual opinion of every post? Nah. If they did they could go to Amazon for that. The idea is to get Christian fiction out there so the world knows that it exists and slowly but surely we are getting there thanks for organizations like CFBA that started the idea. It's simply large enough now that it is no longer affordable to do at no cost. My husband is self-employed and I could tell you that if you cut the top off that amount and then cut expenses, there is not as much left as you'd think.

Just something to chew on. Is this an outrage? Not to me. It makes good business sense, and honestly, it is going to improve the quality of the tours because you get what you pay for. :P

Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

Hi Katie,

Since you asked for my comments in your email, I’ll chime in here.

To start with I’m really sorry that you felt cheated, but this ceased being a discussion group when it reached 30 people. If you remember correctly there was no “discussion” about who would succeed Tony. He “announced” that I was taking over.

As for your other questions: “Who discussed this? Who decided it?”

All the people that spend 40+ hours a week working on this discussed it. All the people that pay for the website, email services, and sending extra books to people who missed one discussed it. And all the people that take time out of their real work-day self-employed jobs to discuss tour slots with publicists and publishers, to find missing tour books, to prod publishers for blurb and contact information also discussed it. All the people that spend numerous hours logging in literally six to eight hundreds book requests a month got a say.

And do you want to know who all those people are? Me…and me alone! I’m trying not to be “unchristian in my responses but I work hard at this, and I try to get the best books for this group because it really makes a lot of people happy to not have to spend literally hundreds of dollars in today’s economy, to read the kind of fiction that they love.

Your next question: Where does the money go? The money will go for expenses. The money will go for salaries for those employed by this media company. That’s right…this is going to be one of only a few Christian media companies with both publicity and advertising. Our new Online magazine will have at least 30 of the best and brightest names in Christian fiction as columnists and feature writers. And yes, there will be paid ad space in the magazine as well.

Your next question: Do I still want to remain a member? I would like to hope that you do, but your decision is ultimately between you and God, and I wouldn’t pretend to know what God has for you to do.

Your next question: Yet how can I leave when there are still books I'm committed to touring? You took those books in good faith from the publisher who gave them to you under the assumption that you would post about them. That decision is also between you and God.

Your next paragraph about the amount being charged. I guess you haven’t visited any Christian public relations firms websites to see what they charge for a blog tour. Our charge is truly small peanuts. And that is also another reason for the change. Again, I don’t mean to be “unchristian” but they book tours with CFBA, I do all the work, and they get paid the BIG buck…well let me tell you…I’m crying “FOUL!” and LOL…after expense, taxes, salaries and the like, I am still not going to get rich at this 

Oh and to answer one of your commentors about the cut and paste:

Sometimes books don’t reach their intended reader, sometimes someone will dislike a book, but not want to be perceived as “unchristian” in their post, sometimes people are unavoidably detained from reading, like the recent death of one of our reviewers husband, or one of our reviewers brother, or the several people who were in the hospital, or the numerous people who were flooded out of their homes in the recent midwest floods….There are many reasons why people use the “introductory post”, but at the end of the day…they fulfilled their obligation for receiving a free book.

And as for the “cut and paste” post being a cheat of some sort…The “introductory post” does not claim anything about the book. It tells you about the author, it tells you the premise of the book, it tells you about some of the authors other books, and sometimes there are author blurbs on the back cover that we include. Nothing more!

As for the honesty of the reviewers because the tour is paid for. These reviewers are Christians. I wouldn’t expect them to lie about books they are posting about. In fact that would sorely dismay me.

And lastly…the ethics of this are this. This is a business. Many, many Christian ministries are business. And so far we have booked 18 new tours, so apparently the publishers think so to!

Listen, I love our members. I love their excitement at new reading lists. I love helping them when their books don’t show up, and I ship them mine. I just plain love this group. But I have to eat too. I have bills to pay, and a tithe owed to God, which has been suffering because in my real job I am self-employed…no work…no pay….no tithe!

Your decision to stay in our group or leave is up to you, but we will miss you if you leave.

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