Trading Opinions

I know I haven’t been around in a long while. I’ve been busy and well, tired. Really tired. But stuff has happened since the last time I took to my own personal forum here. To catch you up quickly, here’s a rundown.

BitterBonds_200New sequel to Broken Bonds released. Bitter Bonds was #1 on ARe and top ten gay romance on Amazon. Entangled was #1 free gay rom on Amazon, now still top ten. Got a contract for the revamped Insolent. It’s in edits now. Working on Out of the Pocket (sequel to Scrambling), Fire Storm (next Tales book), and Subs for Lunch (short story in the Souls in Bondage world.) Have five books now in production for audiobooks, Unbreak Me (narrated by Rebecca Roberts) and the first four Tales of the Darkworld (Shifting Winds and Hot Water by female narrator Jenny Urban, Fire Season narrated by Chip Wood, and Ride the Lightning narrated by Sarah Pamero.) In particular, Fire Season sounds soooo exciting! There’s news on the health front (perimenopause still kicking my ass) and the family front – my kid went to stay with her dad after he hadn’t spoken to her in about 5 years and my MIL has been in the hospital since the 4th of July. My hubs’ stepdad with Alzheimer’s has to go into a home now since my MIL can no longer care for him.

What can I say? Life is busy and ever changing.

EROTIC - Reviewed by LASRSo you’re probably wondering about the title of this post. Now that I’ve gotten past the what’s new with me crap, I’ll get to the subject of today’s rant. Well, maybe rant is too a strong word. Definitely, I have something to say and since I’m on my blog, I guess I think you all have the right to hear my opinion! LOL And that’s what I want to talk about…opinions.

Reviews have become a hot button these days. Giving away books in trade for an honest review. Paying for reviews. Not getting reviews unless you practically twist someone’s arm to give you one. Review places springing up everywhere. Review places only reviewing books from authors who pay for ads on their site. Review places only reviewing authors who are friends of theirs. Goodreads snark reviews. Amazon reviews of books not even read. Misinformation in reviews. Authors trading reviews.

Rated 5 cherryThe list of subjects related to reviews is a lot longer than my little list. Books I have with publishers are always sent out to the publisher’s list of sanctioned review sites. A lot of publishers carefully weed out review sites that have trashed their authors’ books and send only to those sites that seem to offer honest, positive reviews of their books. I rarely seek reviews from review sites for books I have with publishers. I don’t want to duplicate efforts. Instead, I focus my promo elsewhere.


Now, for my self-published books, I have actively sent them out for review and lately, I’ve joined some Facebook groups where people will accept a copy of your book in exchange for an honest review or where authors trade books for review. The trade for honest reviews has been slow, but that’s okay. I don’t want or need to be one of those authors blasting across Facebook that I have 150 five star reviews. (At one time, Rainbow Award Finalist and Jessewave Top Ten Book of 2009 Fire Season had over a dozen 4.5 and 5 star reviews, but 150? Not even counting Goodreads and Amazon did it hit 150.) Frankly, I don’t believe the veracity of those claims or at least, I don’t believe all of them. I have the evil sense that they went to Fiverr and paid $5 for a bunch of 5 star reviews from people who never read the book.

RR-cir-125Now, the authors exchanging reviews thing is a little different. As a published author, and as a person with very little time to read, I don’t waste my time on books that are not my specific reading genre. So if an author of a self-help book solicits a review from me in exchange for reviewing my book, I’m going to turn him down. I don’t read self help books much and I don’t feel it would be right of me to read something I don’t really want to read. And I’m sure I don’t want to force my gay rom on a straight arrow author. I can just imagine the fiasco that review would be!


But you know, I see all those requests for trading reviews (trading opinions really) from the self published authors on those review groups on Facebook. Once in awhile I’ll click on the link to the person’s book to see if it’s something I might want to read. Usually, it’s not. Today, however, there was one.

I clicked the link which took me to Smashwords, thinking maybe I could trade reviews with this author. I clicked the sample function to check out the book. Guess what I found? A prologue that was an info dump. A first chapter poorly written and punctuated with more info dump and a plethora of passive voice. I don’t believe it was edited. And if it was edited, the author wasted the money she paid for the edit. It was not a book I would have contracted back when I was an acquisitions editor. The author needs to hone her craft better because what she put out was entirely sub-standard.


So how can I justify doing a trade of reviews with her? Yes, her book is in the genre that I read. Yes, I could give her an honest review, but that review would be hard pressed to make two stars. And if I reviewed her book and honestly said I didn’t like it and noted all the stuff I said above about the lack of quality in the writing, editing and content, would that author then be angry enough to trash my book in review? It would be her honest opinion after all except that it would be biased based on her anger at my review of her book.

And that brings me back to the whole conundrum of whether or not to participate in these review swaps. I guess I need to read the samples first before I decide to do a swap and read the other author’s reviews of other people’s books too. After all, if I can clearly see in the sample that an author needs to go back to the classroom, that’s not a book I want to be involved with even in terms of a review. And if I can see from an author’s other reviews of books that he/she is snarky and/or mean or doesn’t write an honest review where you can see that they read the book, then I don’t want that person reviewing me. I’d rather do without, thank you very much.

fourjunkiesratingsA trade of opinions, er reviews, is only good if it benefits both people. If you’re going to trade reviews, make sure you’re willing to give the book and the author a fair shake. Only do reviews of books you would normally read. Check the book sample out first so you aren’t stuck reviewing something substandard or something you can’t say anything positive about. Check out the other author first and make sure your book is something they would probably enjoy reading.

Don’t set yourself up for failure! Asking someone who is straight and doesn’t read romance to review a gay rom is asking for trouble. It’s like subbing a sexually explicit BDSM book to a Christian inspirational publisher. You’re doomed to be disappointed.


Thus far, I haven’t engaged in any trading of reviews. The stuff I’ve been interested in is either written by someone who doesn’t read my genre or, like the book I mentioned above, has been so poorly written I know I couldn’t give it a positive review. And I won’t review something I can’t say something positive about.

So I guess my little rant about trading opinions is that you need to use caution doing this because the old saying really is true. Opinions (aka reviews) are like assholes. Everyone has one and occasionally it stinks…to someone.

Happy Saturday everyone!



PS: Yes, the graphics used in this post were all earned by my books. If you’re interested in seeing how my latest releases are doing at review sites, here’s some info:

For Bitter Bonds, 5 paddles from BDSM Book Reviews and 4.5 stars from Joyfully Jay!

4 Sweet Peas from Mrs. Condit Reads Books for Mixed Tape Vol 2 which has Save Your Love in it.

4 stars from Smile Somebody Loves You for Save Your Love and 2.5 stars from MM Good Book Reviews. (It was a positive review but the book was too sweet for the reviewer!)

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9 Responses to Trading Opinions

  1. martymankins says:

    Hey Winter/Lex.. sorry to have been out of touch. Congrats on all of the above accolades for your books. Having read a few, I can tell you that they are well written. The discussion of paid reviews… I wasn’t aware that this was a thing. I know some appearances are paid, but paying someone to review your books just seems wrong.

  2. Jan Irving says:

    I think that common sense is needed in wanting reviews. If you get too desperate for anything, that’s a bad thing, for you and your book. And the people whose opinion you would value the most may not care for some aspect of your book. For example, I have had two already sold books betaed for opinions since you can’t always rely on fb back from your editor and it’s months until it is reviewed. I got two reviews, both from m/m readers of het romances that were menagy. One found the menage aspect wasn’t her thing, the other found it smoking hot. In that case, I understood I was out of the interest pool for one reader. I respect and value them both. And they both gave me plenty of food for thought so bless them.

    Funny enough, I’d probably ask you to do a review swap at some point. Because A., you are a good reader whose opinion I’d respect even if I didn’t necessarily agree and B., I know you well enough that I’d feel like we’d approach the whole business carefully and with respect. (Sounds rather like sex.)

    I actually hadn’t heard of this review swap thing. Too busy writing. I’m glad to see you posting here again. xx


    • Winter/Lex says:

      Jan, I’m always happy to swap with you. As I said earlier, if I’m not crazy about a book and can’t give it at least 3 Valentines, I let the author know. I won’t post negative reviews. My reviews are honest, but you won’t find any bad ones on my blog because I just don’t do reviews of books I can’t recommend or didn’t like. Even if it’s well written, if I don’t like the storyline for some reason, I won’t post a review. I don’t want to color someone else’s perception of the book with my dislike of a storyline. Everyone has their preferences, me included, and sometimes a story just doesn’t work for me no matter how much I like the author and the author’s other works.

  3. S.C. Dane says:

    Your blog allays my fears, Lex. I’m having a difficult time finding reviews that I don’t pay for, or have to swap, etc. Frankly, from what I’m learning, I’m better off without them. Instead, I’m plugging away at letting my books speak for themselves. I’m in this writing business for the long haul and have only two books out, with a third and fourth due in the next few months. I’ve just written the fifth, and preparing to sell it. I say this because with only two books out right now, I’m not going to panic and flutter around getting those dime-a-dozen reviews. Perhaps, I’ll regret the cautious approach I’m taking, but I’ve got to go with my gut on this, and aside from demanding chocolate gelato, it says to “keep pumping out those quality stories.” So, that’s what I’m going to do.
    Thanks for the chance to raise my hand and say a little something. Thank you for the words of warning.
    ~Sonya/S.C. Dane

    • Winter/Lex says:

      Sonya, with only two books out and few reviews what you can do is look at where your publishers send books for review and then do some research into other review sites that authors in your genre submit to. When you’re building your backlist reviews are helpful so finding all the appropriate places that your publisher doesn’t send to is worthwhile. Even just submitting to Manic Readers review bank is worthwhile because they have a big pool of reviewers who can request your book from Manic Readers’ list.

  4. Erica Pike says:

    I think it’s also the question of if authors should be in the business of reviewing at all. I can’t speak for others, because it’s entirely their choice, but I’ve gradually stopped reviewing books in the genre I write in. There’s always the chance of offending someone and it might set them or their fans off on a witch hunt that won’t end well. This is unlikely to happen, but it still could. There’s also the risk of coming off as being jealous to those who read the reviews, whether or not you actually were jealous. And, finally, there’s the risk of coming off as being overly complimentary of a book and someone who hated the book might start something about you being friends with the other author. What can I say, some people have nothing better to do.

    I’ve been asked to give an honest review on two books by the same author. It was an uncomfortable request, but it was a new author and I wanted to see if I could help her out. I gave her an advance warning that if I didn’t like the books, I’d say so. Fortunately, I liked the books and gave them high ratings. However, I’ve decided not to do this again. I would’ve hated to have to give out a negative review and possibly harm her newly-founded career. I’m a big believer in constructive reviews, but I’m like you in that I try not to post reviews that don’t have something positive in them.

    I sometimes give reviews if I’m very excited about a book, but they’re usually very short so they’re more like short opinions rather than constructive reviews. It’s nothing helpful to the author or other readers, but sometimes it’s just too good to not to leave a couple of lines.

    • Winter/Lex says:

      Erica, I tell people that I don’t ever post reviews that aren’t good ones. If I can’t give a positive review, I don’t post anything. That’s always the caveat to my “honest review” statement.

  5. I am not much into the MM reading but if you are ever looking for an honest reviewer for your other books, check me out!

    I ask for nothing more than a copy of the book and a little reading time. I am a top reviewer on both Amazon and Goodreads. If I really like something I do up a blog post to pimp it out to the masses!

    Just throwing it out there!

    • Winter/Lex says:

      I’ll keep you in mind, April. I’ll have a new version of Insolence coming from EC later this year. It’s MF with light BDSM.