Having finally published my first book, beyond the excitement is the exhausting exercise of self-promotion. Knowing that a lot of readers rely on reviews when making their purchases of choice, I have been bothering a multitude of reviewers. Not having much luck, I was excited to be offered the chance at a review exchange.
I went in with a completely open mind, a bit of excitement and a purely positive outlook on the whole thing. By the end of it however, my experience is something that I would consider completely ineffable.
Reading through the book of my 'review partner', I was a bit disappointed. There most certainly were some good parts to it but there was also a lot I didn't like. And the amount of spelling errors and grammatical mistakes was somewhat appalling. As I read through, I became more and more concerned with the review I would have to give. The last thing I wanted was to hurt another author. So... I focused on the positive as much as I could, assigned the book a three star rating, and gave my explanation. Knowing how sensitive authors are about their work, I mean come on now, it's like another child to us, I was a little worried about the other reviewer giving me a low rating simply to get me back. Therefore, I waited until she had posted my review first.
I was astounded, disgusted, and disheartened to discover what came next. This lady sent me an email telling me that it is customary to simply give each other five stars and focus only on the positive. Well what's the point of that? What's the point of even reading the book then? Man was I bothered. If that's the case, then all those reviews that readers look to are worthless. And on top of all that, why would any author want to just be handed an undeserved five star rating? I certainly don't. It would just feel so empty. I want to earn those five stars.
Anyways, once this woman realized what I'd done, you know told the truth and all, she said she would 'adjust her review to a more honest one'. Oddly enough, a few minutes later I found myself with a three star review instead of the original five. I just had to laugh. Honestly, I really did laugh out loud. Okay it was more of an irritated snicker of disbelief over the lack of maturity from what I expected would be a mature lady.
The worst part was, the write up in her review was nothing but praise and simply didn't match the three star rating she gave me. Which led me to the obvious... she'd simply reciprocated out of hurt. The ol' tit for tat. The thing I had been fearful of from the very beginning had come to fruition. I guess there had been no point in me waiting to post my review then.
I am curious to hear what your thoughts on this matter are though. The whole thing just left me with such a sick feeling. It's just so dishonest. Would you gladly exchange five stars for a sub-par book to receive five stars yourself?
On a side note, at least being let in on this little secret of 'protocol' made things a lot clearer. Having read the book, I was quite shocked to find that it had received mostly four or five stars. But now, after being alerted to the falsity of it all, I see it's all empty anyways. I am open to the idea that this was strictly my opinion and perhaps others truly did see this writing as exceptional, but with such a thing as false reviews, how will I ever know?