So, as much as I need critical reviews on my novel, today I was offered a review from another (new) author on Goodreads. Their comment offered to read/review my book, if I would do the same for theirs. Seemed like an innocent request. But as the day wore on, I realized.
It didn’t feel right.
First, let me preface this by saying that I *did* state I would be happy to consider reviewing their work if it was of interest to me.
But there’s some key phrasing there. If.
Quid Pro Quo
First, as an author, we love to see reviews from readers. And writers are, first and foremost, readers. On the surface, it sounds like a pretty good deal. However, having another author read our work (and reciprocating) could pose a potential risk. It smacks of Quid Pro Quo to me. Or skid pro row, if you will. You give me this, and I give you that. You give me five stars, I give you five stars. And posting that review under our author name may constitute an endorsement of the work–something we may or may not be inclined to give.
So, now I’m rethinking the decision to offer a reciprocal review.
What if I don’t want to give 5 stars?
I have no problem reading and reviewing books that I’m interested in. I’m a reader, after all! But I struggle with how to respond to a request for a reciprocal review, when the book is not a subject matter that I typically read (or even enjoy). And my own work is slightly controversial. It deals with some subjects that may offend readers (rape, sexuality). I know that it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of chai, but for me, I like my historical fiction gritty and a little provocative.
Another issue for me might be the perceived quality of the work. Some author voices just don’t appeal to me, no matter how acclaimed they may be. I can’t possibly give an honest review, if I don’t enjoy the subject matter or the style in which it was written. So, if I execute an honest critical review of what I liked or didn’t about a novel, what are we going to do? Count off and hit ‘post’ at the same time?
It just doesn’t feel right to me.
Reviews are an essential part of marketing our work. And I want to do my part to support other writers. So, when an option to review the work is accompanied by my perusing the first few pages which do not draw me in, what’s an appropriate response?
And then there’s posting on books on my TBR list–the ones I read for the sheer joy of reading. Do I post reviews under my own name? My author name?
Keeping in mind that requesting a review may be very different from asking an established author to give you a quote for your back cover blurb. Or is it? One of those authors graciously gave me a read before publication (actually, twice). She gave me a nice quote to use in my “back cover blurb” on Amazon. But she never asked me for a reciprocal review for when her latest novel hits the shelves, and I never offered.
So, you tell me. Am I being hypocritical? Paranoid? Because right now, I kinda feel like a squid.