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.