The Thin Muddy Line of Online Book Reviews: A Writer’s Thoughts

GangstersA few days ago I was given an offer, much like in The Godfather, that I supposedly couldn’t refuse.

At least that is how the offeror thought of it. See, there is a Facebook page I, from time to time, visit where writers will share links to their books and give updates on their writing. I do as well. Anyway, I had posted about my new book A JANE AUSTEN DAYDREAM, and underneath the book, the fair offer was given. It said, in so many words. “Hey, I’ll write a review on your book, if you write a review on my book.”

Of course, what the offeror was forgetting in that comment, but was definitely implied, was “positive review.”

If this was only a one-time occurrence of a back alley review deal, I would brush it off, move on, but the fact is I get about four to five offers like this a week. Sometimes they are through Facebook or Twitter, but many times they are over e-mail. Occasionally, the person offering the arrangement is playful in the asking, and some (like this guy in the comment) have no problem with anyone seeing the plan.

Usually, I try to be very kind when someone places such an offer to me, I bring up how busy I am with my own writing right then (which, honestly, is very true and I have had to say no to friends handing me things to read as well), but it always makes me feel very uncomfortable, because at the heart of such an exchange there seems to be a certain level of trickery.

Maybe trickery is too harsh a word, but you can’t escape the fact that reviews created in such an arrangement are put out there to convince a reader, someone who possibly doesn’t know better, to buy a book that might or might not deserve the rating it was just given. Leaving that future reader with the equivalent of a horse’s head in the bed when they wanted the full horse. Continue reading