Official Website for Contemporary Romance Author Alicia Renee Kline

Scratch My Back

As most self-pubbed authors will admit, it’s pretty tough to get reviews when you’re first starting out.  Family and friends will only get you so far – and in some cases, nowhere.  In this day and age, publishing a book might be a big accomplishment to you, but unless you’re raking in the cash the other people around you simply don’t care.  Some authors will actually tell you that they don’t want friends and family to review their book.  And I’m sure we’ve all heard examples of reviews being deleted on Amazon because they appear to come from someone closely involved with the author.

So what to do?  There are plenty of options that are legit that I’ve used with varying degrees of success.  Note that by legit, I mean not going online and paying X amount of dollars for 10 guaranteed 5 star reviews.  I’m against paid reviews of that sort, but I am currently booked with a tour company that facilitates reviews.  They shop your book out to bloggers, then distribute it to whoever is interested.  They don’t guarantee any rating; you get what you get and that’s how it should be.  I’ve also contacted bloggers directly, but as a whole the ones that would be most suitable for me are swamped.  I’m on their TBR list and waiting patiently.

One thing that I’ve noticed is the phenomenon of review swaps popping up amongst authors.  At first, I thought this was a good idea to solve everyone’s problem.  After all, who would better understand an author’s plight in this situation than another author in the same boat?

Then I thought about it.  The answer that I kept coming back to was that this is probably a big mistake, at least for me.  So I won’t do it.


First off, authors are people, too.  We have varying interests.  For example, even though I write romance, I dislike regencies and won’t read them.  I’m on the fence about erotica – it just depends.  There could very well be someone who writes one of those subcategories who was interested in reading my contemporary romance, while I was kind of “meh” about their book.  Do you think this would lead to me giving them a glowing review?  Probably not.  If you go into the process feeling like it’s a chore, are you really going to look at it the same way as you would if it was something you were dying to read?

Another thing to consider is the possibility that feelings may get hurt.  Let’s say your book earns a 5 star, while you give the other person’s book a 3 star.  Again, this isn’t a bad review (because you did  like it), but it’s not exactly on the same level.   Of course, this scenario could be easily reversed.  While honesty is always the best policy, it’s a little hard to explain that when someone feels slighted.  I don’t want to stomp on people’s egos, but I’m also not going to be shamed into giving a book a higher rating than I think it deserves.

I’ve had one of my books reviewed by an author.  I didn’t personally ask her to do it – her review was part of the blog tour I did.  I’ve not read one of her books yet, but she’s on my radar now.  I’ve thanked her for reading and reviewing and moved on.  If I do in the future buy and review a book written by her, it won’t be because I feel obligated to.

Obviously, my Goodreads profile identifies me as an author as well, but when I leave a rating/review, it’s because I want to.  Not because I promised I would.  True, I’ve interacted with a lot of the authors of books that I’ve reviewed via Twitter or blogs, but none of them have ever asked me to review their book.

I’m all about paying the review love forward and believing in karma never hurts, either.  But I would much rather have a honest review coming from someone who wanted to read my book than from someone who was forced to.  So I’ll keep reading and reviewing the books I want to and hope that everyone else does the same.

So for the authors out there:  have you participated in a review swap?  If so, did you feel like you had to leave a good review?  Would you have read and reviewed the other author’s book anyway?

For readers:  Does a review from another author seem to be more valid than from a regular, non-writing customer?  Or does it seem suspect, especially when it’s really good or really bad?

I’m interested in hearing any and all feedback on this one.





Books, Opinions
  1. 1/13/2014 | 12:52 pm Permalink

    I was lucky as far as reviews are concerned because with my first and second books I had a hugely successful free promotion (this is back in the days when they really worked – again, just luck with timing!), which created a very good after-sales high, so I got lots of reviews from that – so getting a respectable amount wasn’t an issue – BUT I’ve certainly given myself a lot of grief about the mutual author reviewing since!

    After a while I found that other writers were reading and reviewing my books, too, and I thought, oh, does that mean they expect me to review theirs? I tried with two, and didn’t particularly enjoy them, which was around the time I realised that, generally, people read books because they want to; I was not obliged to ‘read theirs back’! But I still find myself thinking, oh God, she’s read 3 of mine, it’s about time I read one of hers. It’s so difficult, isn’t it, when someone has liked one of your books and given it 5 stars, but you don’t really like theirs. I then find myself not saying anything and feeling awful about it, or giving a rather non-commital review. On the whole, though, I manage to deal with it by thinking, look, I’m not a book reviewer, I’m a writer. I read about one ‘indie’ book a month, sometimes only a short story, and if I like it I review it.

    Don’t feel guilty if you don’t like their book as much as they like yours. They probably won’t mind. I’ve never done an actual review swap, but about a year ago a chap asked me if I would buy his (debut) novel if he bought one of mine and I said okay then – and a week later he reviewed mine. He gave it 4 stars, a good review. I thought, hmm, better read his, then – and I absolutely loved it, I’ve raved about it in loads of places (!!). The fact that he hasn’t done so about mine doesn’t bother me in the slightest – I’m just glad he liked it.

    What DOES annoy me is writers who give everyone 5 stars because they think it will guarantee 5 stars back. Usually, it does. You can always tell these ones – the book has 8 x 5* from writer friends, and 6 x 1-4* from ‘real’ readers!

    I think the best way to get around it if you are asked to do a swap is to warn them first that you review honestly, or to say, if I’m going to give it less than 4 stars, do you want me to tell you first? Best of all, though, is not to get involved in it. If you need more reviews, contact book bloggers or do a free promotion, or do another thing I used to do at first – when someone told me they’d enjoyed one of my books, I just asked them if they wouldn’t mind leaving a few words on Amazon to say so!

    Sorry – comment is getting as long as the blog post! I hope this helps, though!

  2. 1/13/2014 | 12:59 pm Permalink

    I know what you mean… I didn’t really do a review swap but an author I’ve gotten to know asked me to do a review and sent me her new book… well it was part of a series so I had to go back and read her other ones and the first one got a 2 and the 2nd one got a 3 while the one she actually sent me got a 5… but even though her last book got a high rating I had some people tell me maybe I could bump the stars on the 1st 2 up one… and I know they were trying to be nice and I was the one worried about how she might react to these reviews… I mean I enjoy talking to her and I don’t want her getting mad at me… I almost didn’t even post them… but I finally decided that as a reviewer it’s what I do… and I have to give my honest opinion or else it really isn’t worth much to anyone… even so I still made sure not to tweet it or share it on facebook just in hopes she wouldn’t notice… so it can be a bit dicey reviewing for people you know…

    • 1/13/2014 | 2:23 pm Permalink

      Hi Terry,

      Thanks for stopping by! We authors are wordy, aren’t we? 🙂

      You make a lot of good points here. I appreciate your advice, and I have done a blog tour for Book 1 and a review service for Book 2. I figure that the reviews will come when they are good and ready. This is the beauty of ebooks – they are available forever and don’t have a shelf life. I’d much rather wait for the right person to find and review them than force someone to read them.

      I have gotten more review love on Goodreads than Amazon, and to be honest with you I expect that since my books aren’t exclusive to Amazon.

      If you look at my ever expanding profile on Goodreads, you can pretty much tell who I’m a superfangirl of. I like these books as a reader, not an author per se. After all, I’m not a reviewer, either.

    • 1/13/2014 | 2:32 pm Permalink

      Thanks for stopping by!

      I agree things get a little dicey when authors start reviewing each other. No one wants to be seen as a bully. On the other hand, you don’t want to be a pushover, either.

      Most of the new authors that I have begun reading I’ve actually met through Twitter and/or blogging. Therefore, I’ve already got a good idea of their writing style and tone. I am pretty sure that I’ll at least mildly enjoy what they’ve written.

      That being said, I’ve only reviewed because I wanted to. And they haven’t been all 5 stars either.