Review-Swap

Over the years, I have written a number of blog posts on book reviews. One of the reasons for this is that I feel that I cannot stress enough how important reviews are.

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Readers want to know if a book is worth an investment of their time and money. One sure way for them to determine this is to read what other people think of a book.

There are a number of ways to go about acquiring reviews of a book. These include:

  • Submitting your book to book review sites and publications.
  • Paying a book review service to write a review of your book.(see “Paid Book Reviews: Should You Buy?“)
  • Asking friends, family members, and even strangers to read your book and write a review.
  • Using a book review service like BookCrash, a books for bloggers program.

Recently, a new book review service has come to my attention. EasyBookReviews offers a review-swap program. The way this review-swap program works is that you review a book on Amazon, and in return, someone reviews your book on Amazon.

EasyBookReviews facilitates that review-swap program for authors. An author pays the program $5. Then EasyBookReviews sends the author a link to purchase a book on Amazon (for less than $3). The author then must read and write a review of this book on Amazon. Once the author does these three things, the author will receive a review of his/her book on Amazon in return.

I think a review-swap program is a very interesting concept. Although, I do have a couple questions about the  program.

My first question is: Can an author choose what genre of book they want to review? Imagine having to review a book you have absolutely no interest in, just to get a review of your book. Then, what if the person reviewing your book has no interest in your subject matter—or is anti-Christian.

Another question: Is an author required to give a positive review? I also wonder: Does the program provide a guideline with some minimum requirements for a review?

These questions are not answered under the “FAQ” section of the EasyBookReviews website. Maybe these questions are answered when an author signs up for a review swap.

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FTC Review Disclosure: Positive or Negative?

Back in 2009, rules changed. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) became concerned that companies were using bloggers to promote their products. Basically, companies were giving bloggers free samples in exchange for a review of their product on the reviewer’s blog.

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The FTC wanted consumers to know that the blogger was receiving a “fee” for their review, even if this “fee” was just a sample of the product. In other words, the FTC wanted to make sure that “truth in advertising” was being upheld.

As a result, the FTC revised their guidelines to state that “material connections” (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers—connections that consumers would not expect—must be disclosed. These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other “word-of-mouth” marketers.

Now when an author or publisher gives a blogger or reviewer a free book in exchange for a review of that book, the reviewer must disclose that fact. Some authors and small publishers do not like this statement accompanying a review. A few members of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) have chosen to not use the BookCrash book review program because they feel that the statement that the reviewer received a free copy of the book from the author or publisher in exchange for a review cheapens the review.

I can see their point. If a review is mediocre, stating that the book was received free in exchange for a review does not help a reader decide whether to read a book or not. However, if a review is glowing and includes how the book enlightened, entertained, or helped the reviewer, then the fact that they received the book in exchange for a review usually will not lessen the impact of the review.

One excellent example of a positive review that incorporates the information that the reviewer received the book in exchange for the review was recently done by a reviewer of my newly released Third Edition of Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace. In the review, the reviewer states:

I was given this book by the publisher for an honest review. It now sits on my desk right next to my stylebooks and other professional references. I highly recommend it.

The bottom line for authors and publishers is whether the good of having multiple reviews out ways that negative of having a statement in the review that the book was given to the reviewer in exchange for a fair review.

What about you? Do you think that getting numerous reviews and the exposure that goes with those reviews outweighs the impact of the required FTC statement?

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Musings on BookCrash

BookCrash is a books-for-bloggers review program. Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) began the program in June 2011 with the intent of helping our member publishers receive wider exposure and more reviews for their books.

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The program operates on the premise that bloggers agree to give a fair review of a book on their blog and on one retail site (Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, etc.) in exchange for a free copy of a book. BookCrash allows bloggers to request books that they are interested in. The program does not require that a given blogger read any specific book; rather, bloggers are free to choose books that interest them. The idea behind this is that bloggers are more likely to enjoy and write positive reviews for books they want to read and are interested in.

As with all such programs, there are pros and cons to the system.

Some of the cons include:

  1. CSPA cannot force bloggers to review a book they have requested, since the agreement is based on goodwill. The only leverage BookCrash has is that the bloggers cannot receive another book until they have reviewed a requested book. Over time, we have had some bloggers who have received a book that never wrote a review.
  2. Since bloggers are allowed to pick a book they are interested in, not all books in the BookCrash program receive the same interest. Some books are highly requested, while others receive only a handful of requests.
  3. BookCrash does not require that bloggers give a positive review, just a fair review. BookCrash bloggers tend either to love or hate a book. Therefore, opinionated negative reviews are sometimes given.

Overall, I believe the pros outweigh the cons. Some of the pros include:

  1. Increased exposure for a book. Each blogger has a regular reading audience. These range from 10 readers to over 20,000, with an average of 1,250 readers. When a blogger writes about a book, the readers of the blog are exposed to the book.
  2. Positive reviews can bring sales. Blog readers tend to trust the opinions of the bloggers they follow. Therefore, a positive review can result in the blog’s audience purchasing and reading the book.
  3. Increased reviews on retail sites. Having customer reviews on Amazon and other retail sites is important for shoppers (see my previous blog post “Are Reviews Really Important?”). Reviews on retail sites increase consumers’ confidence in the product, resulting in more sales.
  4. The cost to list a book as available for review on BookCrash is affordable. CSPA does not charge a large fee because we want our services to be accessible to all small publishers, but also because the BookCrash program does not guarantee that bloggers will want to read any given book or give it a positive review.

The important thing to remember is that a review is an opinion. After all, J.R.R. Tolkien said of his trilogy Lord of the Rings, “Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible, and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing that they evidently prefer.”

Opinions vary from person to person. BookCrash has had bloggers who have loved the illustrations in a children’s book and others who have thought those same illustrations were amateurish and uninspiring. When it comes to Christian books and theology, there are many different views. Hence, any book with an opinion on Christianity or a Biblical passage is going to be met with people who agree and those who disagree.

The bottom line is that Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) will continue to offer our BookCrash program as long as we feel that the benefits of the service outweigh the negatives. Any author or publisher who places a book on BookCrash does run the risk of receiving negative reviews.

If you are only looking for neat, tidy reviews, then BookCrash is not the program for you. You would be better off paying $300 or more for a professional review by a review service such as Kirkus or ForeWord’s Clarion Review. Of course, you only receive one review for your money, the review is not a consumer review, and you do not receive the same exposure as a blog review.

The choice is yours.

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Free Books for Bloggers

Do You Blog?

Do You Review Christian Books on Your Blog?

Then Sign Up for BookCrash!

BookCrash is a new review program for bloggers offering free copies of new books from Christian publishers.

Why the name BookCrash? Because we believe that, once in awhile, a good book crashes into your life and changes your world.

Are you ready for your world to be changed? Then sign up to be a book reviewer for BookCrash books.

Books offered on BookCrash come from the over 100 member publishers of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA). These are all quality books with the potential to change lives!

Any blogger with a regular following of readers can sign up to be a review blogger for the books featured on BookCrash. In exchange for a free review copy of a book, bloggers are asked to write a fair review of the book and post it on their blog and one other consumer book.

Here is how it works:

  1. You sign up at BookCrash to become a reviewer.
  2.  We approve you as a review blogger.
  3. You browse the books available for review on BookCrash and request a copy of the book you are interested in reviewing.
  4. You receive the book for free.
  5. You read the book.
  6. You write a 200-word fair review of the book and post it on your blog and one other consumer book site (such as Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com).
  7. You send BookCrash links to your review.
  8. Repeat steps 3 through 7 as often as you like.

To learn more, to browse the books currently available for review, or to sign up to be a review blogger, visit http://www.BookCrash.com.

If you know of a blogger who would be interested in reviewing books, please help spread the word.

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