Today it's not my mail, but some that my friend author Joel Goldman received from a self-published author of erotic novels. She offered to swap reviews with him. He decided to play dumb, though he had a pretty good idea where this was going. He asked her:
Are we talking about reading each other’s books before we review them or just posting reviews of them?
And she replied:
Whatever suits you.
I checked out your work and it looks fine and properly formatted. If you want me to read and review it i’ll do it with five stars.
Similarly if you want me to post or reword your review I’ll do that too. What I’m after is a five star review on Amazon with as little work and as quickly as possible. I’m not asking you to read [title of book], I guess you have better things to do.
My first chapter is up there (on line), so you can judge the writing, I can post you a review to submit or reword or a synopsis to save you time.
Joel politely declined. This exchange would be funny if this sort of "review swapping" wasn't so common, especially among newbie authors. Just check out forums like Kindleboards and you'll see for yourself.
What's really sad isn't how they are devaluing reviews, or how low their literary standards are ("it looks fine and is properly formatted") but that they don't see what's wrong with what they are doing, or how badly leaving rave reviews for books they haven't read (and are probably shit) reflects on their reputations, both as authors and as reviewers.
They simply don't care.
All that matters to them is garnering praise, even if its entirely fake and undeserved. They are so desperate for acclaim, success and respect that they have forgotten all those things have to be earned…and how good it feels when it is.
And that's a feeling you'll never get from reviews by people who've never actually read your book…or, in the case of John Locke, from people you pay to buy your book and rave about it.
You're not just fooling customers, you're fooling yourself, and that might be the most hurtful swindle of all.