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Let's exchange reviews! No, thanks!

I wanted to voice my opposition to a trend I've noticed lately - authors offering to trade reviews with one another. I often see new writers in writing groups asking for others to review their books in exchange for reviewing someone else's. While I understand your desire to get more reviews, especially when you're just starting, I believe this practice is unethical and counterproductive.

Sites like Amazon prohibit compensated reviews, so these review swaps violate their terms of service. But more importantly, reviews exchanged this way are not likely to be objective or honest. Authors are sensitive about their creations, so if I give someone's book a less-than-stellar review, I can probably expect retaliation in the review they give my book - even if I were the next Dostoevskij!

The integrity of book reviews suffers if authors feel pressured to offer only positive feedback. Counterfeit, inflated praise does not help writers truly improve their craft. I would encourage authors to have their books reviewed by unbiased readers who feel no obligation to provide anything but their honest opinion. As authors, we should aim to do the same for others.

I understand the desire for more reviews but shortcuts like review swapping undermine the legitimacy and usefulness of the review system. I think authors should refrain from the practice and instead focus on writing the best book they can. Honest, constructive feedback is very valuable - it's very important to manipulate and dilute.

Let me tell you of some examples I have to prove what I am saying, without eliciting a review back, mind you. I just offered to read some books advertised on one of the many groups on Facebook.

Example 1: I wrote a review for an emerging author and this author offered to review one of mine in exchange. They did not like my review, which I sent privately to avoid publishing it. I gave them constructive feedback. The other author never read my Kindle book, let alone give me feedback.

Example 2: I gave a 3-star review of their book. Someone else who had given me a 4-star review, after reading it, deleted it after seeing mine. I removed the review confirming the 4 stars. Their book was good.

Example 3: I gave a 4-star review explaining that the missing star was due to some incongruences in the storyline. The time, names and events were a bit inconsistent, but the story was great and written in impeccable Italian. I informed the author highlighting a specific area for improvement. The other person gave me an unsolicited 4-star review, based on my Amazon blurb, without reading most of the book. I could tell they had not read it because my book was on Kindle Unlimited, which shows me how many pages the reader reads. This person has only read 25 out of 186 pages.

So, honest reviews have to be positive and cannot be negative or you get yourself a negative one in return. What a waste of time!

There are some alternatives to review exchanges worth considering. For instance, one of my best reviews came from a paid review site. They do not automatically give you five stars, so you must be open to critical feedback. I initially received a four-star review with notes about too many spelling mistakes. However, I realized the reviewer had received an outdated draft version of my book. When I sent the final published version, they changed the review to five stars.

Additionally, I have an author friend who provides free, constructive reviews to anyone upon request, including for my books. She has given four-star reviews for most of my books, while I've given her five stars for one book and four stars for another. This was not a simple review exchange - she did not ask me to review her books in return. I requested her feedback given her expertise in copywriting and passion for reading. Also, her books are in a genre I love reading about fairy tales.

The key is finding reviewers who will provide thoughtful, honest feedback to help you improve, not just blindly giving five stars.

There are other ways to gain popularity but they can be expensive. Do not trust these pseudo-marketing managers. they do everything for free and the only advantage is that they do it for you.

Remember, constructive criticism is valuable whether from paid review services or fellow authors in your genre.

Also, please stop asking me to follow you. I know you are the new Dostoevskij, but please let me find it out by myself.

If you want to be noticed, simply follow me and if I like what I see on your feed I will follow you back.

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