Writing An Exchange Book Review
As a minor author, trying to get readers interested in my books has been difficult. I am competing with new, seasoned, and dead authors. Standing out is quite challenging.
Getting more book reviews is one way to get in front of the pack. I started my quest by begging friends to read my book and post a review, but I quickly exhausted this resource. So, I contacted random authors to ask them to exchange reviews. This effort has been mostly successful, and with a lot of hard work, my first book now has 58 reviews. Yay!
I thought it would be fun to explain my process. It begins by selecting an author to approach. I first examined their content to see if I was interested in this. I also read the book descriptions, and Amazon usually allows potential readers to review the first chapter. Existing reviews are also an excellent resource.
My ultimate deciding factor is to ask myself, “If somebody gave me this book for free, would I read it?” The answer must be between “yes” and “I guess so.”
A key aspect to getting the other author to agree is to include a brief book description. The idea is to warn them off if my books are not their cup of tea. “This is a first-person drama about a vampire who forces an author to interview her. It contains mild gore.” Including this basic information has saved me tons of grief. Plus, I get better results.
I do not target big-time authors; instead, I go after new authors with two or fewer books. We are in the same boat, which is amateurs with potential. We figured out how to throw a .epub file on Amazon. Side note. 99.999% of the population has not achieved this worthy goal. Yes, we are truly better people.
However, there is a problem with this class of authors. Only a few people have read their book, and there will be grammar, spelling, formatting, plot, logic, character, and description issues. Run-on sentences that run on while they are running on? You bet!
There is another problem with this kind of exchange. Authors spend a lot of time writing. This means other books… Well… Suck. Why? They do not have our type of characters, story, writing style, or book category. As a result, authors in a review exchange need to accept that they only like a specific type of story and can spot writing flaws like a hawk.
Allow me to re-state the above paragraph. Just because a writing style is unique, that does not make it wrong. For example, I have never encountered two books that use the same dialog integration format.
There is a particular category of book that has a unique problem. If the book contains heavy fantasy, science fiction, alternate reality, or superhero, the author must immediately pull the reader into an alternate reality. That transition is ultra-difficult, and the pitfalls are immense. Want proof? Have you ever met a vampire? Will you? Of course not. Now, let me try to convince you (in my book) that vampires live next door. And we are on Mars…
The fantasy category has another problem. These authors have lived in their wacky, made-up world for years and have difficulty thinking like a reader. This book class needs far more beta reading, editing, and concept work than a standard book. Of course, amateur authors do not have this extensive network of support. Therefore, I take special care when considering this book category for an exchange. I guarantee these stories will be a bumpy ride.
I also do not do an in-depth plot investigation. People reading reviews want clear highlights. “Outstanding book, worth purchasing.” To explain this issue, I found this deep-dive movie review for Clear and Present Danger. It is too highbrow for the average reader and does not provide a quick path to “buy it now.”

There’s a little bit of Mr. Smith in Ford’s Jack Ryan, and there’s a little bit of Capra in the techno-thriller as written and rewritten by Donald Stewart, Steven Zaillian, and John Milius. Unfortunately, this calls for an overblown denouement in which an outraged Ryan gives hell to the chief. This exchange of “how dare yous” aside, the film is certainly more adult in terms of real issues than “True Lies.”

Four of my exchanges were awful, and I can trace the issue back to an exchange partner who did not go into the process with the right mindset.
Now that I have a book to review, I read it cover to cover. While doing so, I take notes, including the main character’s name, locations, plot, and other vital details. Plus, I informed the author about major type-os. If the issues are too numerous, I will say, “Hey, I spotted a few errors. I suggest you give it another self-edit.”
What if the book is below average? I am good at locating positive points and cheerfully describing them. So far, I have not encountered a book so bad that I had to call off the exchange.
I know how difficult it is to put something out for the world to tear down. There is so much competition. Plus, famous authors have already written easy-to-write concepts to death. It nearly impossible to come up with something new. Plus, books are 60-200 thousand words, meaning there are 60-200 thousand places to make mistakees! See, nobody is perfect.
How long does the entire review take? Typically, a week of reading, twenty minutes to write, and fifteen minutes to edit. Do I cheat by reading the existing reviews and making something up? No, I consider this to be dishonest.
I shoot for a 200-word review and take a three-paragraph approach. The first contains an introduction and what the book is about.
“A friend recommended The Title by Major Author, and the description sounded interesting. Major began his story in a dystopian future where America has suffered a horrific war. A nation formed from destruction, and the new government thrived. However, Tony and her misfit friends suspect something is not right.”
You will note the lack of gushing descriptions or endless compliments. Why? This is how genuine reviews read. “Hey, I got this book, and it was cool.”
My second paragraph describes the story and answers why it is a good read.
“Unlike other time travel stories, Major Author thoroughly analyzes the science necessary to make time travel possible. Major put much effort into explaining exactly how time travel technology worked. The unique plot revolved around a daughter attempting to prevent her mother’s death in the past while the Time Cops stop ‘him’ in the future.”
The last paragraph contains praise, but it should not be over-the-top.
“The Title contains great dialog and superb descriptions. I loved the Australian twang and friendly interaction. I recommend this book to three friends and look forward to Major Author’s next work.”
That’s it! It’s a three-paragraph review, but I intentionally let out some details. How about a good quote? Some review sites ban reviews with quotes, and they have burned me more than once. I avoid giving away the plot because that is what the book blurb is for.
I enjoy review exchanges and read many books I would have never picked up. The wonderful authors have provided great tips and pointed out ways to overcome my writing flaws. With some luck, I will reach my goal of 100 book reviews per book, bringing me one step closer to being recognized.

You’re the best -Bill
January 03, 2024
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