Why I Do Review Swaps – And Why You Should Too
by Patrick Hodges
Most published authors who toil in obscurity will tell you that there’s nothing more important than reviews. But why, exactly? Well, with thousands of books released online every single month, it’s incredibly challenging to get your book to stand out. And one of the best way to do this is to get reviews. Lots of them. As many as you can.
The reason for this simple: the more reviews you have on websites like Amazon, the more you will get noticed. I don’t have data to back it up, but I would imagine that only a very small percentage of published books available on Amazon make it past the 20-review mark.
Obviously, as an author, you want nothing but good reviews, but even the occasional bad or mediocre review does serve a purpose, believe it or not. Let me explain:
If you are an average book lover scanning Amazon in search of your latest reading endeavor and you see two similar-looking books in your favorite genre that take your fancy, which is your eye going to first: the one with 50 reviews, or the one with 10? Well, the one with 50, of course. The math is simple: if 50 people have reviewed a book, it means that (at least) 50 have READ the darn thing. And then the person’s subconscious will click in. “Hmmm… if 50 people have read this book, and most of them have liked it, maybe I will too!”
But getting reviews is not always easy. Sure, you can beg your family members, friends, co-workers or the guy fixing the leak under your kitchen sink to read and review your book, and maybe they will. I’ve even seen places where you can buy positive reviews for little or no money. And hey, if that’s the way you want to go, then more power to you.
Maybe my standards are a little more high-falutin’ than most authors – so while I appreciate and love the support I’ve received from my family and friends regarding my first novel, I did not ask a single one of them to write a review. Why? To put it simply, I like to know that every opinion written about my book is honest and unbiased.
This is where review swaps come in. What is a review swap? Well, it’s where you make an agreement with another author that you will read and post a review of one of their published works, and they will do the same for you. You can either send them a free copy, arrange for them to obtain a free copy, or you can do a “verified purchase” swap where you both agree to pay whatever paltry sum it costs to download the books you are swapping.
Two things you should know right off the bat: most authors love to read, and they also love to help out other authors. By reading someone else’s work, you are not only helping out someone just like yourself, a struggling author who just wants to get the fruits of their labors out into the world – and giving yourself a warm and fuzzy feeling in the process – but you are also expanding your horizons, embracing the writing style of someone that, more than likely, neither you nor anyone you know has ever read before.
At the time I’m writing this, I have done review swaps with more than 20 authors, most of which came about on Goodreads.com, a website that I highly recommend. I have read books in just about every fictional genre, from children’s picture books to erotica, and the experience has been amazing. I have established relationships with many of them, and they are absolutely fantastic people, with the same goals, desires, and love for the written word that I have.
Obviously, you’re not going to like every book you read, and not everyone is going to like yours either, but that’s okay. As I said, authors love to help other authors, and most will agree not to give your work a bad review if you do the same. And you will encounter the occasional author who agrees to a swap and then disappears into the ether. But of the 20-plus book reviews I have swapped with other authors, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed (or at least moderately enjoyed) about 75 percent of them, and subsequently written positive reviews for them. And those authors have done the same for me.
As a result, I now have 40 reviews for my book on Amazon, and every single one has come from either an author, a prolific reviewer, a blogger, or a friend of one of the above. And all it cost me to get most of those reviews was a few hours of reading time (and the occasional $1.99). And I have no intention of stopping any time soon. I have read books by authors you’ve never heard of, that are, in my opinion, just as good, if not better, than some of the authors currently on bookstands selling millions of copies. Yeah, I said it!
If you are a writer who needs reviews, and you also love to read, this type of arrangement is a win-win. You can pick and choose whom you swap with (and this is where the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon comes in handy – it will help you determine which authors took the time to properly edit their books before publishing), help out a fellow author, and feel really good about yourself in the process.
And another reason you should do this? Most authors know how to write. Ergo, they make the best reviewers. While the average bibliophile may be content to just write “This books is awesome!” and leave it at that, authors will give you three to five paragraphs explaining just WHY your book is awesome. And these usually are the first ones to get read by online shoppers.
Need I say more?
Patrick Hodges lives in Arizona with his wife of fourteen years, Vaneza. After doing weekly columns for entertainment-related websites, he has turned his attention to writing fiction. He is passionate about sending positive messages to young people. Joshua’s Island is his first novel. A sequel is in the works. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or “like” him on Facebook.
I don’t have a problem with review swaps as long as the reviewer is truthful. Unfortunately, Amazon isn’t a fan. Obvious swaps can set off Amazon’s algorithms and their pesky autobots may swoop down and start pulling reviews. Particularly, if there are a lot of five star reviews. Four stars doesn’t seem to trigger the same reaction. Once you put a review on Amazon, you’ve lost the rights to it and they can do what they want. I lost 3 reviews, though Amazon did put one back. Goodreads doesn’t seem to have the same problem, but they may list them as ‘friend reviews.’ Overall, the chances that you’ll escape scrutiny are probably better than not, but if you plan to do a lot of reviewing swapping, be forewarned.
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Good counterpoints, Diana. Thanks for sharing.
Great column, Patrick! Wanna read my book? I’ll swap ya!
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