At Balticon, Amy and I attended a presentation by a “marketing expert”. I wasn’t overly impressed with much of the same-old-same-old stuff, but she said one thing that made me wonder: “Don’t ever swap reviews with another writer — it doesn’t look good to readers.” Actually, that offended me. Did she think our integrity was only skin deep?

Having said that aloud, I am compelled to say that I now get what she meant. The truth is that it’s not easy to get review bloggers to write a review without strings attached. It’s not easy to get anyone to do anything without strings attached. So the temptation to swap reviews with other writers in the same boat is intense. Worse is when someone agrees to review your book because he maintains a review blog and you think it’s a win-win with no accrued debt — until a week later, in response to a thank-you note he says, “By the way, would you like to review my book?”

Duh! Of course, you say “Yes.” He’s a reviewer and a writer, so this shouldn’t be too bad, and then you’re encouraged when you see a bunch of 5-star reviews for his book popping up. Then, the book turns out to be somewhere between mediocre and abominable.

The situation is pretty clear. Apparently, it’s not that hard to co-opt people into writing a good review, but I’m determined not to be compromised. What an awful situation to find yourself in.  Word to the wise as our friend at Balticon advised us: think really hard before you agree to a review swap.

Alan Zendell

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