One of the woes of the little-known author is finding people to post reviews for her book. Writing, editing and formatting it was difficult enough, but now comes the seemingly impossible task of getting readers to take a minute to write a review.
It’s actually the number of reviews that is important, not the quality. A book with 100 reviews with a basic message saying “I liked it” is going to gain more interest than a book with 5 high-quality, well-written reviews. Therefore, it’s important to encourage people that they don’t have to write an essay about your book, just a simple rating and message is enough.
Even so, even with a lot of sales, reviews are hard to come by. Most people just don’t want to write reviews, even if they enjoyed the book they read. A lot of writers therefore decide to participate in review swaps. But are they really a good idea?
What Is a “Review Swap,” Exactly?
A review swap is when writers approach other writers and ask that they buy, read and review each other’s books. Some people will ask anyone they can find on Twitter or Facebook writing groups, whereas others prefer to stick with other books in the same genre.
It is understandable why authors—especially indie—will use this approach to gaining reviews. Most non-writers won’t write a review for a book they have read, even when asked to by Goodreads on their Kindle, or gently reminded by Amazon a few weeks after they’ve bought it. Most people just don’t like writing reviews and tend not to understand why they are so important.
But are review swaps really the best way to go about it? After all, you buy and read their book and you’re guaranteed to get your own review, too. Do this 50 times and you have 50 reviews.
Review swaps, in truth, are a bad idea. Here’s why, and here’s what you should do instead.
1. A Difference in Word Count
Here is a scenario. Two authors agree to purchase, read and review each other’s books. One writer has written a 3000-word flash fiction collection. The other writer’s book is a 150,000-word novel. Is it really “fair” for them to do a review swap?
2. The Time Constraint
One writer might finish the book in a couple of days, leaving the other writer a lot of pressure to hurry and finish. The book isn’t something they can relax and enjoy—it becomes a chore, even a job. How can you enjoy something that the author is breathing down your neck to finish?
People are busy. Unexpected interruptions crop up, and sometimes people don’t feel that reading is relaxing. Add that with the author’s pressure to finish, and you have a very reluctant reader.
3. One of the Books Might, Well… Suck
When two writers swap books, there is no telling what kind of writer they might be. Some are talented, seasoned writers who proudly send you their newest masterpiece. Other writers are just starting out, trying to get reviews for their debut novel which could be better.
What are you to do if someone awards your book four stars and you feel theirs only deserves two?
Many writers feel pressured to award others’ books a higher rating than they deserve when the writer has their book, too. And a review that is too nice defeats the purpose of reviews anyway.
4. Reading Isn’t Fun Anymore
If you are reading someone’s book for the sole purpose of them reading yours, chances are you aren’t reading for fun or because you’re really interested in their story, and vice versa. They will rush through your book, eager to finish and write a quick review because they were promised the same. Does your work really deserve that?
5. Review Swaps Spawn Fake Reviews
Taking reason number three into consideration, it isn’t ridiculous to consider that there may be hundreds of books out there with fake reviews spawned from review swaps. This isn’t (necessarily) the author’s fault; why would you doubt someone who gave you a glowing review? But I have come across terrible books more than once with 5-star reviews that suspiciously skip over details, and the same reviewers have never read the sequels.
I’m not saying all glowing reviews are fake, but review swaps are a big contributor to them.
Fake reviews are toxic, and unfair on legitimate customers.
6. It’s Forbidden
Amazon has really cracked down on fake reviewers and if they have reason to believe that you know the author, your review will be deleted (even if your review is genuine).
So do yourself, and your readers, a favour and don’t do review swaps. *NOTE that there is a difference between buying and reviewing a friend’s book, and then them doing the same for you, IF they are:
- A fan of your work
- Genuinely interested in your story
- Are going to give an honest review
There are many ways to get book reviews, and although review swaps may be (arguably) faster, it is by no means the best way. Customers can tell if reviews are biased, and that can damage your reputation, whether it be as a reviewer or a seller. Good luck.