Walking the Fine Line: Review Trading

Let’s begin by murdering the elephant in the room with a buckshot, skinning her with a rusty knife, and harvesting her ivory for pristine piano keys–I’m against it.

Review trading is a blatant hush-hush among indie writers that some participate without much thought, some with the belief that it’s just part of the game, and some with guilt that’d make Catholics envious.

The title for this entry was a forewarning because this is a complicated matter and my position on it is a bit of a fine waltz (or an awkward crunk) that could be easily misconstrued (like an awkward crunk). I readily admit that I could be shining my own position and this problem with the wrong kind of bulb.

What it actually is is simple: Author A asks Author B that they should read each other’s books and give each other reviews.

The concern lies within the innuendos that may or may not be there… like back when you were 16 at a keg party and talking to Minji Kim the Asian cheerleader that you’ve had a crush on before she developed and became popular so you know that you were into her for her soul and personality and she’s slightly tipsy and you are too and you don’t get if she’s hitting on you or not but her boyfriend Derek is across the room sipping on his red plastic cup and glaring at you like a diseased hawk with quads that’d burst your cherries like balls if he decided to kick you in the grapes.

Theoretically, the two authors would take their times to photosynthesize each other’s books and emit onto one another honest reviews and breathe in whatever the other had to say.

Because as we all know, criticisms are often more beneficial than praises (remember this because I’m going to tell you later how I lied by simply omitting four words).

Here’s the not-so Shayamalan: reality is a dick.

You see, criticisms are often more beneficial than praises for honing your craft. Criticisms are not often more beneficial than praises for paying your bills.

Yes, yes. Perhaps by having honest criticisms people would improve and write better books that’d sell to more people.

Again, theoretically true, but not always true in reality.

Selling is about marketing. Whether something is good or not doesn’t really matter as long as the package is good.

For books that’s about reviews and it’s cred. Sadly, unlike movies, most books cannot sell on notoriety of being bad. Especially considering as time passes, more and more people are thinking of books as sort of an investment–time investment. Why should they spend the time and money they could be using watching 3 minute videos on YouTube and Facebook and etc. on a bad book?

Specifically, for indie authors, this means the number of stars and the number of reviews attached to the name of their novel. Book marketing, like anything else, is complex and expensive but the foundation of it (for indie authors at least) starts from there.

So let’s go back to Author A and B. There isn’t a writer out there who’s not aware of this. Everyone’s aware that bad reviews can tangibly harm someone’s writing career.

I think most of us can agree that there’s some immorality there if the two understood they’d give each other a positive review no matter what.

However, the gray seeps in when the pressure to give one another honest reviews is challenged by peculiar circumstances.

Lets say Author A wrote a fantastic book and received a glittery review from B. But B wrote a dull novel and A was planning on giving them a review that reflected exactly that.

After receiving a good review, understandably, A could feel the pressure to plant some flowers into his review for B.

A is simply a person not wanting to harm someone who’s done them a favor.

“Favor”, as it often does, becomes the gray word here.

To prevent this problem from ever happening, many writers suggest to simply not ask other writers to trade reviews.  Let them discover your novel like any other readers and give you a review as an audience. Or ask a writer to simply give you a review with an understanding that this is a clean favor you’re asking from them and not a transaction.

But many of us starting out writers do need help from our peers to make it past the first few steps of our careers.

A method I found that is mostly acceptable is to give one another private reviews and ask for permission if they’d be okay with the review being public. Of course, this being discussed beforehand that the review will be performed in such a manner.

There’s a problem with this too, however, in that you could give someone a poor review and if you’re involved in a poor circle of writers this may circulate a bad branding to your name and people might not support you as they are aware that you probably don’t present them with any benefits.

Business be business, people be people, and life be life.

I’m writing about this topic because I felt like I missed a better timing for it. A writer friend of mine, Jessica Wren, invited me into her co-op group for authors.

As far as I know so far, they seem to be good people looking to help one another’s careers with integrity. I’m happy to be part of the group. Jessica is a pretty awesome person that I am glad to have met.

We’re all in this together. We’re all trying to make self and indie publishing a legitimate source for novels and storytelling. There’s no sense in cannibalizing our own fragile credibility for a small chance at brief success.

The road for indie writers is still unpaved, littered with broken glass, and filled with robbers.

What they shouldn’t take away from us are our names. Let’s protect that together.

ARAMIRU OUT!


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