Dear Book Community,

Dear Book Community,

Good Morning/Good Afternoon Book Community:

We have seen all the concerns and situations you have brought up about HOV and we hear you and apologize for the hurt we have caused and would also like to address what came of the situations mentioned, so you can have an insight into the steps that were taken after the mistakes we made that some of you have rightfully mentioned in your threads. While we have implemented changes to directly address concerns brought up throughout the community, and those that were sent to us directly, we have been made aware that our changes were not noticeable enough to prevent repeat actions. As such, we want to be transparent in the actions we took to address these issues, and will be more transparent with each change moving forward.

On not providing ARCS for the CB Tour– Our Cemetery Boys Tour was a collaborative effort between the Con Sabor Reading Challenge and the Cemetery Boys Street team to help celebrate the release of Aiden’s novel. We can understand how calling it a book tour would give a false impression that we were offering ARCs. However, our sign up sheet stated that no ARCs would be provided for this tour, because we had none to give. We have supported this book since before HOV existed and it was something we wanted to do to uplift this book and it’s author.

-Regarding the incident with the Dreamcast: This is stated in every confirmation email that we send out.

It is every individual host’s responsibilities to abide by this tour policy while participating in our tours. We have spoken to the creator involved and addressed this situation with the author directly.

We understand that we retweeted the content without completely going through the post. We recognize and agree that this is inexcusable. And will ensure going forward that we thoroughly go through all posts in their entirety before amplifying them and we will ask creators ourselves to take content down that doesn’t fit our tour policies before they can cause more harm.

-”The tour company members join their own tours even when they are not OV for the book”: All HOV tour hosts have advocated for novels that they are Ownvoices for and/or novels that they wanted other Ownvoices reviewers to have the opportunity to read. All hosts have been under the agreement that if they are not ownvoices reviewers for a book that they did not directly advocate for, they are not allowed to sign-up or be a part of said tour, unless it is opened to the general public.

General Misuse of the OV label This comment specifically addressed our tour for Dating Makes Perfect where we asked for Thai-American & Asian-American reviewers. We understand that Asian people are not a Monolith and that your experiences aren’t all the same and we apologize for hurting you in this way. This was one of our first tours ever organized when we were barely 2-3 weeks old as a company. Shortly after our sign-up we saw the discourse happening about this and discontinued the practice of using general terms when it came to big communities.

Saga Press and the Indigenous Navajo Rep– This was our mistake and we can own up to it honestly, and we did explain what happened to the people who reached out to us and asked. We incorrectly labeled the book as Navajo Rep and used the #Indigenous label generally, with the good intentions of putting the books into the hands of Indigenous reviewers who rarely ever get to review books written by Indigenous Authors. We did see the tweet by the author and immediately took down all marketing materials until we cleared up the situation with the publisher, as some of you noticed. However, we do understand that we made the same community we tried to uplift feel generalized and for that we are deeply sorry. Because of this mistake we changed our Internal policy and have required every publisher since then, to ask the author and Specify directly what #ownvoices they personally think their book should be categorized as. If the identity is #ownvoices it will have that tag next to it, and if it is not, it will only have a hashtag symbol next to it, because the author wants to get the book into the hands of those reviewers listed next to it as well.

We also later had a longer discussion with an Indigenous creator about how to appropriately label our banners depending on the community we were looking for which is reflected on our Upcoming Barren Grounds (MG) tour banner whose sign-up has been sent to Indigenous Creators but has not been shared on our twitter feed yet.

-Addressing concerns directly related to the Indigenous reviewers on our Black Sun tour:

Does it look timely that Indigenous creators received their ARCs right after they insisted to us about it? Yes. However, we can assure you that we had been following up ever since we sent the ARC list to Saga because we were also concerned about the timing and putting these creators on a tight deadline in order to review the book. There were even internal discussions within our team about asking Saga press to delay the book tour itself to allow creators time to read and make their content because of Saga’s untimely response. Below we will share the dates that we contacted Saga and what we contacted them about for full transparency in the timeline of how this all went down

6/17/2020– We reached out to Saga about possibly hosting a book tour for Black Sun.

6/23/2020– Saga asked for follow up information in order to confirm a tour with us.

6/24/2020– We emailed them the follow up information requested.

6/29/2020– We accidentally emailed them the follow up information again because we thought it had not been received since we had not heard back.

7/8/2020– We sent a new email, following up on our request to host Black Sun because we still had not heard back, and wanted to make sure that if they were interested, we would have enough time for the reviewers to sign-up and review the book in a timely manner.

7/9/2020– Black Sun team apologizes for the late response since a book tour wasn’t in their original budget, they confirm the tour with us.

7/9/2020-We sent a same day response confirming we would like to work with them, with all the necessary documents we would need to move forward.

7/10/2020- We opened the Sign-ups for Black Sun. A couple of hours later see the author’s tweet and immediately take down all marketing materials while we sort out our mistake and speak with the publisher. Emailed the Black Sun team about which # they would be comfortable continuing with since the author was not comfortable calling her book #ownvoices at all regarding any of their identities. (We were not aware of this fact)

7/13/2020-The Black Sun Team emails back and it is decided that we continue our outreach towards Indigenous Reviewers, so we modify our marketing materials and put them back up.

7/13/2020 A creator on IG asked why we took our original banners down and we answered them truthfully.

7/22/2020 The Black Sun Book Tour Sign-up closed, we had all the creators needed.

7/23-7/24/2020 We publish the Black Sun Tour Schedule and send the ARC List to the publisher for ARC, distribution.

8/5/2020- Usually publishers need to get their stuff in order to ship out because of the current pandemic situation, but we hadn’t heard back from the Black Sun team yet so we emailed them to confirm that they received our distribution list and ask if they had an estimated time for when ARCs would be shipped.

8/10/2020– We receive an email that seems like its going to look into it from the Black Sun team, but it leaves us a bit confused as it really had no information on it.

8/11/2020 -We follow up again on the ARCs, we mention that we know that the tour is not taking place until October, but that our tour hosts would really like to know when they could expect to receive the ARCs. We Inquire about the Author’s availability for interviews.

8/14/2020– upon receiving an email from more Indigenous creators we follow up again, and mention in our email to Saga, that we haven’t heard from the Black Sun team in a while, so we hope everything is good on their end but that we would like to request Digital Copies for the creators on the Black Sun Tour that were supposed to read physicals since they would still need time to read the book before the tour begins and create their content. We send the distribution list again in case it has been misplaced. We ask for Author availability again.

8/14/2020– The Black Sun Team emails back and apologizes for the delay again and lets us know that they are working on this today, and that they will get everyone their physical and digital copies. They offer to send the Digital ARCs to the creators that were initially intended to receive Physical ARCs while they receive their actual copies. So we send an email to our hosts and apologize for the extreme delay and send forward the Black Sun Netgalley widget that was shared with us to accommodate the hosts.

We hope this timeline provides a clearer picture of our intentions and commitment to the reviewers that were taking part in this tour.

”Passive Aggressive email mention and not tagging authors”

Our guidelines state this: “If you don’t like the book, please make us aware so we can see where you are at. As for the rating, if you didn’t like the book, you are welcome to write your honest thoughts. We just ask that you address your concerns with the book and its content instead of disparaging the author in your review. As an #ownvoices company, we don’t intend to silence our reviewers, but offer valid criticism if the situation calls for it.

For full transparency: The tours in question that were affected by this were our tours for Star Daughter and More Than Just A Pretty Face.

There have been many occasions in the past were #ownvoices reviewers have been silenced even when they were offering criticism about problematic content in a book, and we didn’t want to be that type of company which is why our policy sounds a bit open ended. However, it does state that if you did not like the book which was the case for several creators, that they should let us know. The creators who posted those reviews during these tours did not inform us that this is how they felt about the books before posting and also proceeded to address the author directly in a disrespectful manner. (Trust me we were just as surprised as you were) and we did not amplify their posts on our tour schedule or by sharing the content ourselves. There is no excuse for why this happened, because other content creators on these same tours did inform us about their negative reviews, for which we provided what every other tour company does. We gave them the option of other promotional content and asked them to please hold their review till the end of the tour, or if they just didn’t feel comfortable promoting the book at all they could choose to be removed from the tour.

It is true, we do not have a specific policy on not tagging authors, because we did not anticipate this being a problem, and we were naive to think it wouldn’t happen. We have been working on our policy for the last two weeks to ensure that these kind of things don’t continue occurring as we want our tours to be a safe space for both the authors and the readers participating. For both of these situations we were in contact with the publishers and authors during the course of the tour to monitor the situation and heed any other concerns if they arose.

We also apologize for the email that we sent sounding passive-aggressive. Obviously, there is no excuse, and we were wrong in our behavior.

-”Our sign-up form and what we have listed on there”- We have been seeing on your threads very valid concerns about the identities that are labeled and how they are labeled in our tour host sign up form and we are listening. We constantly change that form to reflect the feedback that we continue receiving, we just want to ensure that the tours that are meant for you make it to your inbox. Please feel free to provide feedback to us at anytime. We saw a creator mention that we had Muslim under Race/Ethnicities which is incorrect and we apologize for that. We are still learning and are clearly making mistakes along the way, but are willing to continue working on improving the services we provide and how.

-”Including Non-US readers and calling it #ownvoices”- This goes along with what is mentioned above but this will no longer be the case, if it is not #ownvoices it will no longer have that tag next to it it will only have a #. We do pride ourselves in being able to host International readers for our tours and will continue to make sure that they are included while still labeling our tours properly. As ownvoices reviewers are all over the world, it would be wrong to only consider US based readers ownvoices depending on the book in question.

Now that all that has been said we want to apologize again, we did wrong, we understand that. Our intentions don’t matter if other people were harmed in the process which is why we felt we needed and wanted to address all the concerns you all took your time to speak up about. Somebody said it on a thread and they were correct, it is scary to bring up issues within our own community for fear that it will look like we are tearing each other down, so we appreciate you coming forward and saying it anyway.

Here is what we are going to do moving forward and what we ask you to do for us so we can continue to grow and continue supporting the community we care about together:

  • We will work on our tour policy so it is more concise than it is now and it has stricter guidelines, it is clear that the way it is currently written gives too much leeway. We want to protect everyone that is working with us. When we are finished it will be available on our website for anyone to read and reference. We will try our best to close all the gaps that allowed these instances to happen. If you see something missing when you read it, please feel free to DM and let us now, feedback is always welcome.
  • We will continue to make sure that we label our banners accordingly with the proper #ownvoices tag and/or intended readers for the books that we host.
  • A creator mentioned that our posts weren’t vetted before they come out, most of the team who has participated in book tours in the past have never been asked to send our reviews ahead of time for them to be checked. Is this something tour companies are doing? (We are genuinely asking) because if this is something we should be implementing we are more than happy to do so. Any feedback on how to go about solving this particular problem would be appreciated. As it currently stands we only see reviews once they have been posted.
  • We normally post intro interviews at the beginning of our tours to let readers get to know the author and the book better, this one interview is usually held by the host who advocated for the book. However, moving forward if our HOV host is not OV for the tour they have advocated for, we will open up that intro interview spot on our channel to an OV reviewer instead and they would be featured.
  • We will return our tour host form to its original layout which allowed for #ownvoices reviewers to tag themselves instead of checking boxes. We don’t want anyone to feel excluded or misrepresented, since our main purpose is to uplift the creators that work with us.
  • Last but not least, we promise to continue to listen to your feedback and concerns. Since we started this company two months ago , which is our pride and joy, many creators have reached out privately about many different topics or ideas and we have done our best to implement immediate changes to continue to be a safe and inclusive space for everyone, especially the marginalized reviewers and authors that we seek to uplift and promote. We are not perfect and will never try to pretend we are, we hope that we can continue to work together and learn together throughout this process.

    It has been our absolute honor to work with all the authors that have given us a chance and trusted us with their work, and we would like to continue doing so.

Finally we want to thank you for listening to what we had to say, and apologize again for the hurt caused, We hope that you are satisfied with our future transparency and the changes that we implement moving forward. And we look forward to hopefully continue working with you in the future, as always our DMs are always open.

Sincerely,

The Hear Our Voices Team

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