Don't get stung!
It can seem so innocent—I'll review your book if you review mine. The problem is that the reviews are very rarely honest, more a 'pump up the numbers' and indie authors are getting caught in their own webs—whether or not they meant to weave them.
As some of you may be aware, it's not easy being an Indie author. Sure there are the extreme success stories—Amanda Hocking, and John Locke, for example. But most of the time an indie author is a person who loves the story they've written and wants to share it with the world. Unfortunately due to the hype and publicity of the extreme success stories, places like Amazon and Smashwords (which filters on to Barnes & Noble, Sony, Apple etc) are being inundated with badly written—pop a book out a month—authors who are writing for profit alone, quality/story be damned. This 'wham, bam - thank you ma'am' style of writing is leaving MANY disgruntled readers in its wake. And that, in turn, reflects on those innocent writers who are genuinely producing works of love. That's not to suggest all indie writers are good, but one person's trash is another's treasure.
Normally, honest reviews are a fantastic way of finding out if a book you're considering purchasing is any good. But more and more of these types of sites are popping up. Site's where—for a minor fee—an author can 'purchase' fake five star reviews or even have links to their book placed in reviews of books doing well in the book rankings. I've actually experienced that one first hand!
On my erotic short, A wet & wild night, some cheeky buggar has added a link to another erotic short in his 'review' of my book. How do I know this review is fake? Because it's changed three times since it was first posted. The first time it was posted as a 5 star, then it dropped to three stars and then they essentially copied another review my story received and gave it 1 star.
It hasn't affected my sales in the least; but it does annoy me. I did complain to Amazon and while they agreed that it looked like a 'shill' review (the term for fake reviews) because there was nothing to prove it, they couldn't do anything about it. I've decided to be flattered by it *lol*
But the big problem with these paid-for-reviews is it does fool those speed buyers who don't take the time to read the sample. This is turn results in those disgruntled readers I've mentioned. Those readers are then making a damn good effort to bring such authors to their knees. Which I understand and even applaud; we really don't need indie's like that giving the rest of us a bad name. However a number of those annoyed readers are making a very big effort to bring down anything they consider a shill review. This includes those reviews by friends/family/fellow bloggers etc etc.
I'm going to be honest and say I don't fully agree with that. If my parents want to buy my book and review it—they're entitled. That said, my mother can't stand my book *lol* and I suspect my other relatives will only read it if it comes out in hardcopy and I buy a copy for them (and then tie them down and forcibly make them read it… it really ain't worth the effort!!)
What I'm trying to get at (in this incredibly long-winded post ;p) is that if you are going to offer a 'I'll read/review yours if you read/review mine' make SURE that it is for an HONEST review. A five star review in this situation will do you no favours; only rile the vigilante readers against you and your works.
My personal suggestion is put your book up free for a time. You will likely get a stackload of downloads—many from people who would never, ever have read your book otherwise—and this pretty much guarantees at least a few honest reviews. But be warned, this method can result in some scathing reviews from those who, if they'd taken the time to read the sample, would never have bought and thus reviewed your work.
It's a double-edged blade either way, but the only method I've found for genuine reviews in a short space of time. Otherwise patience is a virtue and good, enjoyable books at reasonable prices will sell. And please don't let anyone you know pay for 5 star reviews!! It could easily ruin their name.
Take care all!
(the bright yellow buttons on left!)