Graham Writer

Musings of an author.

Book reviews mess with your mind

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Getting reviews for your book is a pain particularly when you are starting out. A while ago I made my novel The Iron Masters free for a day and advertised the fact on different Facebook group pages, asking interested people to download the book and post a review. Just over a thousand copies were downloaded and I jubilantly sat back and waited for the reviews to pour in. Six weeks later and the resulting flood of reviews has amounted to seven. Apathy rules. I won’t be doing that again and it’s back to the drawing board to design plan B for getting reviews.

Rayne Hall, the doyen of twitter book marketing, warns against swapping reviews with other authors but, having found a Facebook group called Review Swapping ( FREE BOOKS and $0.99 BOOKS), I decided to give it a go. I’m not a devious person but, not wanting to fall foul of Amazon’s rules, – swapping reviews is frowned on – I would let a friend do the reviewing on my behalf. Of course, my swap partners would need my friend’s name so they knew I had completed my half of the bargain. Testing the water, I offered The Iron Masters Volume I – For The Love Of Eira and The Welsh Folly Book  to the group and immediately had several offers to swap reviews. So far so good. The next step was to download the books, read them, review them, post a review and wait for the Quid Pro Quo. At this point I began to see a problem. Most of the books I was being asked to review were appalling rubbish. Some were only a few pages long. Others consisted of freely available stuff probably copied and pasted from the internet. Nearly all were badly formatted, with broken links and littered with mistakes. I had a dilemma. These people were reviewing my book and expecting reviews from me in return. If I was honest and told the truth I could expect no mercy. I’m sorry to say that I took the cowards way out and posted reviews that, shall we say, were economical with the truth. I described one tiny effort as concise and another as not being verbose. Others I had to be more inventive with.

When the swapped reviews came back most were four of five star but the quality of the comments was a disaster and would put any serious reader straight off. Here’s one example for The Welsh Folly Book  .


Worse was to come. Being a trusting soul, I was disappointed when several of the authors who had agreed to swap didn’t follow through. I’d read their books, written and posted the reviews and got no review back in return. I was annoyed and about to make a silly mistake. I deleted one of the reviews where I had got nothing in return. An hour later the author whose review I had deleted took their revenge and I got this review on The Iron Masters Volume I – For The Love Of Eira in reply.


Lesson learned. In future, I’m steering clear of review swap groups. A plague on all their houses I say. In future any reviews of my books will be unsolicited. On a brighter note, I received an Email this week from Helen Hollick of the Historical Novel Society saying that the society had reviewed my novel The Iron Masters which cheered me up no end. Thanks Helen and thank goodness for an honest opinion at last. If you’re interested here’s what the society’s reviewer said.

Historical Novel Society


Author: grahamwriter

Hi. I’m Graham Watkins and I have spent several years researching Welsh legends and myths. It has been a wonderful project and great fun as I explored rugged mountains, mysterious castles, enchanting waterfalls and golden beaches to discover the tales that have been handed down from generation to generation. Wales is a land of mystery and being a Celtic race the Welsh are fantastic story tellers. I've collected eighty of my favourite legends together in my book 'Welsh Legends and Myths.' That’s how I started writing. My first novel 'The Iron Masters' was an historical novel set in Merthyr during the Napoleonic Wars when Merthyr Tydfil was rearming the British Empire, fortunes were being made through other's sweat and anything was possible. Today, I am a multi genre novelist, hobby farmer and explorer. It’s all been great fun and the story isn’t over yet. I've recently published 'A White Man's War,' the story of a terrible siege during which the Scouting movement was born and 'The Sicilian Defence' a novel about a young American Woman lured to Sicily to a terrible fate. All my books are listed on the books page of my website. Right now I'm working on a modern day political thriller in which terrorists, computer programmers and a big brother state fight for their very survival. Oh! And don't forget to click here to join my mailing list for the latest news and stories and receive three free eBooks delivered straight to your inbox.

One thought on “Book reviews mess with your mind

  1. Ah, the headache of reviews. I’m still struggling with that one. I had a very similar experience with giving out free copies. I gave out thousands and got maybe one or two reviews back. I did a little better when I asked a few independent reviewers to take a look at my book. I got a handful more that way.

    I haven’t tried review swapping for exactly the reasons you’ve described. There are some people out there who are good writers, and there are a lot more out there who aren’t. It’s a terrible feeling when you get a huge, poorly-edited and terribly-written manuscript that you not only have to read, but try to say something positive about.

    Paid reviews? I know there are a lot of sites out there who will do that, but it definitely makes me a little squirmy in terms of ethics. Whether or not Amazon will de-list your book for it, there’s still the part of me that feels dirty even contemplating it.


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