A lot of people think that writing a book is hard. That may be true, but often the hardest part of the writing process is what happens afterwards. It’s all well and good writing a book, but what good is it if nobody is reading it? A challenge that we all face is getting reviews for our stories. We love to hear what other people think, we crave it, and yet that feedback is often elusive. Since joining www.goodreads.com I’ve networked with some other writers, which has been helpful, and one thing that often comes up is the prospect of a review swap, so I thought I’d talk about them a little bit today.
There are a lot of mixed feelings about review swaps. Many people feel that it’s more a case of “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours,” rather than providing an honest review. I have to admit, sometimes I’ve waited to see how other people feel about my book before I tell them how I feel about theirs if I haven’t liked it. I’ve heard a lot of bad stories about people receiving negative ratings because they’ve given a negative review, thankfully I haven’t been on the receiving end of such pettiness. Most of my experiences have been good and I’ve read a few good stories. When I decided to do them I vowed to only review books that I think I’d be interested in, as I thought it would be pointless to review something that I didn’t have any enthusiasm for.
However, recently I reviewed a book that was…well I’m not going to use this blog to rant about it but it wasn’t very good. I decided to check on how the other author was doing with mine and they said they were enjoying it, but as soon as I mentioned their book didn’t grab me as I hoped it would they said they didn’t actually like mine. Now in my mind normally when you review a book it’s to give other readers an idea of whether they should spend their money on the book or whether they should avoid it. But, with author review swaps I think they’re mostly to benefit the author, so I think if it’s a good review go ahead and post it, but if you didn’t like it then share it privately as a critique. That gives the author the chance to see whether they want to take the feedback on board. Because reviews are so scarce a low-rating review can really be a deadly blow. Yet when I offered a mutual critique the author curtly declined, which I found a bit strange, else how can we improve?
I think review swaps can be useful as long as the authors have an understanding going into the process, but I don’t think we should automatically assume people are there purely to stroke our egos. So writers, how do you feel about review swaps? Have you had good or bad experiences or do you avoid them?
– Man of Yesterday