How Review Swaps are Hurting Your Book

I see this all the time. “Who wants to do a review swap?” on Facebook or Twitter or writing groups and it boils down to a waste of time for everyone.

Best scenario, you and someone else in the same genre with the same type of fans review each others books and each have 1 more review. That one review is biased based on the fact that you  can’t give them a bad review because they are giving you  a review and you wont want them to give you a bad review. If you do this 100 times you might be getting somewhere, but then what do your also reads look like? Probably decent. But that’s not how this is working.

More likely what happens is you and someone in another genre get together and swap books (hopefully at the same price or free) and then you both review each others work, only saying good things. Giving readers a false impression… because marketing. Then you both have messed up also reads on Amazon because you just got a review from someone who primarily reads a different genre.

You also are lying to you readers. You’re starting a relationship out with a lie. If your five star book is full of spelling and grammar errors but is being hailed as some great thing, you won’t get more sales. People read the book preview before buying quite often. It’s scary how often you see 1 star reviews that talk about how all the other reviews were lies.

What’s hurting the self publishing industry more than page read farmers and scammers is all these fake reviews that are making the public distrust authors. By doing review exchanges you are becoming those shady sales guys we all hate (I’ve worked in sales for years). When someone gets burned by a salesmen they don’t trust other salesmen. if someone gets burned by your indie book because of fake reviews you are not just hurting yourself. You are hurting every other indie author. You are creating a layer of fear around books.

Personally when I read an indie book I am usually shocked at how many have lies in the reviews. Respect your work, respect yourself. If you make a good product reviews will come. Be patient.


I love writing and reading. That’s what this whole blog is about (and a little bit of horror). If you’d like to see some of my writing I have some available here.


  1. The temptation to do review swaps to generate some buzz for a book can be strong, esp if you’re working in a genre that doesn’t really have a strong scaffolding of trusted journals and media to send review copies to (erotica is a big one). Honestly, getting readers to comment on and rate work can be like pulling teeth, and you can easily find yourself at the mercy of randos who may or may not have bothered to actually read the book. At the very least with other authors you know you’re getting people who will (hopefully) understand the effort involved and read the thing the whole way through.

    That said, I totally know the effect you’re describing, of seeing an indie book with walls of suspiciously similar five-star reviews that all look tellingly vague, and no, it isn’t helping. I do understand why people do swaps and I’ve done them on occasion myself, but I have not ever posted a dishonest review in so doing, nor would I. Some simple rules I’ve tried to follow:

    – If you must do review swaps, only do them with authors whose work you’re genuinely interested in and who you have reason to think could be genuinely interested in yours. It ups the chances of being able to provide a review that’s both positive (b/c yes, of course you’re hoping for marketing) and honest.

    – Don’t do dishonest reviews, obviously, and don’t ask for them. If you’re doing a “review swap” with somebody and find you can’t give someone’s book the positive recommendation they might be looking for (or not as positive), tell them and ask them if they still want you to proceed. Have done this with others and had other authors do it with me, it’s really the only way to go.

    – As an alternative to swaps, reach out for reviewers on any free story sites you publish or are active on. (And it’s useful to be active on such sites.) This way you can get engaged and useful reviewers who aren’t under the same marketing pressures and the reviews you do get will usually come from people who actually liked the book enough to go the effort of writing something thoughtful about it.

    I’m happy with the quality of the results so far. That said, I can’t recommend these rules for generating *volume.* They’ve garnered me a handful of reviews that I would call honest, thoughtful positives which I value highly… but at the end of the day, still only a handful.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for taking them time to discuss this point. It’s astounding how much time authors can waste trading reviews. I didn’t make this point, but I’ve noticed a minority of authors pricing their books at 4-5 dollars when they are doing trades. So they end up making more money.


  2. You make a great point a review swap were you praise each other’s work ultimately does nobody any good since as you pointed out is based on lies. As an author and someone who has recently started to do book reviews my approach is different.

    For starters I do not swap with the reader. I will basically offer review your book honestly, post in my blog and also post it on Amazon. Now I do offer to only posts reviews that I rate as 3 or higher (out of a five point rating scale). The point is as an indie author I am not interested in trashing another author and damaging their reputation because we all are very aware how difficult this career is.

    Now what do I do with books that I think need work and are below three stars… What I do is that I refrain from posting a review, but instead will e-mail the author explaining the reasons why the book failed to measure up. This way I will not hurt their reputation and I will provide constructive criticism (Because one star reviews are typically just destructive), and this will allow the author to fix their mistakes or learn from my analysis of their book.

    Thank you for this article though I think that reviews are vital but they do have to be done honestly or eventually it will catch up to you.

    Alberto Pupo


  3. HI Richard,
    I especially like your advice. I have been reading all this advice about getting and even paying for reviews. They tell me it is a numbers game with Amazon and if you don’t play it, your book will not sell. However, is that why we write books; just to sell them? Maybe I’m missing the boat, but what I want is genuine sales, not artificially obtained ones.
    I have written two books, the first took several months before sales became regular. My second book appears to follow the same track as the first. I am placing sponsored ads on Amazon and it is helping with visibility.
    Thank you for your advice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, the “numbers game” theory certainly seems rather wanting for evidence. I personally have seen virtually no correlation between my most-reviewed titles and my bestselling ones.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Totally agree – I don’t think many self-published folk realize just how fake their reviews often look, especially 5 star reviews that give a brief plot summary or trite one-liner. I think authors need to get more comfortable with negative reviews because they bring authenticity, I have genuinely picked up books because of their negative ratings that made me more curious


  5. I never used the review swap method because I figured it would backfire, or have repercussions with Amazon. My first book sold 10k copies and I’ve got 48 reviews on it. I know the first 12 are important to populate the “also bought” list, but past that I just don’t look. I will leave reviews on books I liked, but most of them are a few lines and an “I liked it” summary. However, on my blog I review books in my genre. These are done independently, and only twice were the books given to be by the author. Luckily, I loved the books, because I’m honest in my reviews and use the 3 Star Policy. If I can’t give it 3 Stars, I don’t post a review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 10k in your first book thats awesome. I try to review at least 1/3rd if the books I read on my blog. I never have asked for a free copy. I’ve started trying to contact authors when I finish their books to discuss them. About half seems to respond.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I review what I read, on a personal level, for Amazon. These aren’t seen by my readers and span across too many genres to count. The book reviews, however, are posted on my blog and GoodReads. I try to remember to put them on my business Amazon account as well.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. You make very good points, Richard. I have written an article entitled ‘authors reviewing authors’, about those ‘non-official’ review swaps – you know, when one author reads another’s book and doesn’t think it’s much good, but gives it 5* because they always RT each other, so the other author thinks, ‘well, I don’t rate her book much, but I’d better give it 5* because she did for me’… you get the picture…!

    My article needs a bit more tweaking, but watch out for it on Rosie Amber’s blog over the next month or so 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Excellent points and noted a few of the problems I had with review swap. His was a 700+ page sci-fi fantasy. WAY outside my normal genre, much less the pages, which took me 2 weeks to read (partly because I couldn’t keep my head in it). I want to reblog your post; assuming I can schedule for Thursday and thanks for a very topical article.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Reblogged this on Rosepoint Publishing and commented:
    Richard Klu, a fellow author/blogger and book reviewer, wrote this piece I found to hit very close to home. I tried the review swap–it didn’t work for me. This is short, sweet, and to the point. From Richard’s About page: “My name is Richard Klu and I am from western Michigan. Always an artist at heart I write to explore. I grew up in Grand Rapids Michigan and still reside there with my 3 dogs, 3 cats, 23 fish, and 1 wife…I have been a Store Manager, a Cook, and various kinds of Salesmen as well as having owned my own business for a little over a year. All the while I’d neglected one of the few constants in my life, writing….On my blog I am sharing stories and what I’ve learned to better help other writer[s] and to keep myself motivated…I believe in giving back to the indie community. If there’s anything I can do to help you please let me know.”

    Liked by 1 person

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