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Gathering Clouds...
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Publishing and Promoting > Is this marketing technique the answer?

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message 1: by James (new)

James Field | 14 comments I am a new indie author and have registered, with alarm, other indie author's cries of despair when nobody purchases their book. My ebook, 'Gathering Clouds…', was published six weeks ago and I have sold the grand total of six. In other words, my ebook has sunk and disappeared into the swamp of a hundred thousand other indie ebooks.
How can we indie authors sell our books and receive honest reviews? I have a suggestion. Why not start a simple, harmless, indie ebook chain?
This is how it might work. An indie author is invited to join an ebook chain. On that chain are four indie ebook titles which the invited author buys, reads, and writes honest reviews. The invited author removes the ebook title from the top of the list, places his own at the bottom of the list, and invites four new indie authors to join the ebook chain.
Let us assume the invited indie author is you. The life and progression of your title on the on the chain would work like this:
ebook A;
ebook B;
ebook C;
ebook D.
(Your investment. You buy/review all 4)

Link 1–
ebook A;
ebook B;
ebook C.
Your ebook;
(Remove ebook A, and place your title at the bottom. You invite 4 new indie authors. Your commitment to the chain is now finished.)

Link 2–
ebook B;
ebook C.
your ebook;
ebook D;

Link 3–
ebook C;
your ebook;
ebook D;
ebook E.

Link 4–
your ebook.
ebook D;
ebook E;
ebook F;

At the next link, Your title is pushed off the list, and the list lives on.

For an investment of purchasing, reading, and reviewing four (4) indie ebooks, your reward is 340 book sales, and, for sorrow or joy, 340 honest reviews.

After a while, you may wish to be invited onto another, or several, ebook chains. The market won’t be saturated until you, personally, have bought/read/reviewed every single indie ebook in the swamp.

Does this sound interesting? Any views?

message 2: by Nell (last edited Feb 15, 2012 01:39AM) (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) Hi James. Your idea is interesting, but I can see one huge stumbling block, and that is that there are some simply dire indie books out there. I've read books that were so riddled with typos, spelling mistakes and unintentional grammatical errors that I wouldn't consider reviewing them. So when you speak of honest reviews and sorrow or joy, I can foresee some of both but also a strong possibility of bad feeling and regret on both sides. Call me a pessimist if you like, but I think this aspect of your idea needs to be carefully considered.

Many authors here on Goodreads already arrange to exchange book reviews, the advantage being that choice enters the equation and it's possible to assess the book before reading and reviewing.

message 3: by James (last edited Feb 15, 2012 05:59AM) (new)

James Field | 14 comments Hi Nell and David,

Yes, I understand your reservations and concerns. Those who decide to join an ebook chain would be obliged to follow a code of conduct. Most ebooks allow sampling, and it should be easy enough to find four that meet an agreeable standard. Choose and invite four indie authors of ebooks you would 'consider' reading yourself. You could even invite authors of ebooks you have already read and enjoyed.
If you are invited to join an ebook chain, and find the list of four ebooks for purchase/reading/reviewing not worth wasting your time and money on, simply refrain from participating. A polite 'no thank you, not at present' reply is all that would be required.
Anyway, are negative reviews worse than no reviews? Even a courteous negative review can be constructive. If we are never told what is wrong with our writing, how can we ever improve? (Our mothers' always tell us our novels are fantastic–but they would, wouldn't they!)
Purchasing/reading/reviewing four indie ebooks is a small (and hopefully enjoyable) investment, considering the potential benefits.
Finally, I don’t like the sound of 'pyramid-systems' either. But there wouldn't be one sole person sitting at the top of these 'suggested' ebook chains growing fatter and fatter while the base grows wider and wider; after four links–you're off!

Regards, James

message 4: by Vicky (new)

Vicky Savage | 15 comments Hi James -
I empathize with your frustration over your lack of sales. There are a few easy and relatively inexpensive things you can do to jump-start your sales and get some reviews. 1)Send out an email to all friends and family and let them know your new book is now available (I sold my first 100 books this way); 2)Have a book giveaway. Put it on your blog and advertise it on Goodreads. This costs a little bit but I viewed it as "start-up" costs. (I gave away 300 ebooks and recieved numerous reviews over the holidays); 3) Solicit reviews from indie book reviewers and bloggers. They're all listed on the internet (I've had 2 agree to review my book and put it on their blogs. The reviews aren't up yet, and there is a risk they won't like the book, but it's free publicity); 4)If you want to spend a little more, Kirkus Reviews will review your book for under $500. If you aren't happy with the review, you can request that they not publish it. If it's a good review, it looks great on your website and Amazon. Anyway, just a few suggestions.
Best of luck,

message 5: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 16, 2012 07:50AM) (new)

James, the major problem I see with this idea is it is authors selling/bartering to other authors. The object is to get our books into the hands of readers not other authors.

There are too many schemes where authors are circling the wagons in an effort to breakout. But how can that breakout be accomplished if we are scratching each other on the back? Helping to host blog tours, twitter or FB for a fellow author's launch is more effective in reaching readers.

As for Kirkus reviews, sorry, Vicky, but I tell people don't waste the money. Paying $500 for a review is ridiculous. For the average traditionally published author (of which I'm one - along with self-published) it would take selling 500 copies to recoup the cost in royalties for that 1 review. Not a good return. That money would be better spent getting the word out. In fact, I spend less to secure a booth at an event where I can sell up to 100 copies of both my traditional and indie books in 2 days!

message 6: by L. (new)

L. Hager (capo123) | 3 comments The doubters may be right, but I think James' idea is worth trying. The results can speak for themselves. Count me in.

If anyone is interested my book is summarized at http://www.thequeueand

message 7: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Marvello (drmarvello) | 48 comments The first thing I thought of when I saw your suggestion was "pyramid scheme," so I agree with the concerns in that regard. On the other hand, you could just try it and see what happens. The worst that happens is the idea never goes anywhere.

I recently started an experiment that received a fair amount of criticism myself. It is a web site that features a specific genre of books (magical fantasy). The authors register their books and network with one another through a blog post exchange. The idea was to create a "book sale" that would appeal to a specific target readership, and the authors would help get the word out by pooling their blog and social networking audiences. I don't know if it will work. I have 9 authors and 11 books signed up so far, so at least some writers are willing to give it a try.

I want to add that your comments bring up something that concerns me greatly about self-published books...

"Anyway, are negative reviews worse than no reviews? Even a courteous negative review can be constructive. If we are never told what is wrong with our writing, how can we ever improve?"

In my opinion, the public should never be the first non-family readers to see your book. Not everyone can afford a substantive edit (although every book needs one), but everyone should at least take their book through a beta read and/or critique partners. Many of the problems I've seen with grammar and story could have been prevented if that had been done.

message 8: by Michael (new)

Michael Boxall (michaelcboxall) | 6 comments Hello, everyone. I think James’s idea is worth serious consideration. I’ve been thinking along somewhat similar lines myself, and wrote on my blog about a possible indie authors’ cooperative, modeled after the Magnum photo agency. A review pool would be much easier to set up. I agree, there would be problems. But I think they would be outweighed by the benefits. I’m willing to give it a try.

Hock Tjoa (hockgtjoa) | 23 comments I am willing to give this a trial. How do we get started? Following to get a "chain" started:

My book is a play set in China during the civil war and WW2; all scenes take place in a Tea House. Working class neighborhood; some try to do the right thing and others willing to do anything to survive. Check it out at then send me an email if interested and I'll send you a "coupon" to download it for free.

message 10: by Michael (new)

Michael Boxall (michaelcboxall) | 6 comments It's gone eerily quiet on this thread. I'd like to try James's idea. Anybody else interested?

message 11: by Jim (new)

Jim Gilliam (seadoc) | 31 comments Hi Everyone,

Before we go and reinvent the wheel please check out you will see the following on their home page:

Reviews 4 Reviews

Welcome to the premier internet site for book reviews.

This is the site where Authors have a chance to review other Authors. Membership is free.

We accept all Authors and all genre of work.

This is how Reviews 4 Reviews works:

Scan our Book Titles and find a work you are interested in reviewing.

Contact the Author and ask if they are interested in a swap.

The Author has three options.

1. You can swap your book with theirs – no costs involved.
2. You can swap your book with theirs – both selling the Book Titles.
3. The Author does not want to review your work but is interested in
you reviewing his/her work - will send/sell you a copy of his/her book.

Authors and Reviewers may contact each other from their respective Profile pages. If you do not receive a response from the Author please let the Site Administrator know immediately.

An AUTHOR can register as many Book Titles as they would like. Book Title registration fee is $10.00 USD

A REVIEWER can register for this site as well if they would like their reviews posted to a wider audience. Registration for Reviewers is $20.00 USD

I think this is what James may be talking about, but as you can see it's already done. Anyone interested in reviewing my book Point Deception can go to my website and download a PDF copy or email me at with your snail mail address and I'll send you a signed print copy.

Thanks, all the best.

Jim Gilliam

message 12: by Michael (new)

Michael Boxall (michaelcboxall) | 6 comments Jim, there’s a similarity, for sure. But I can see one significant difference. On Reviews 4 Reviews authors review each other’s books. But with James’s scheme only four of the reviews would come from authors whose books you have yourself reviewed. The other 336 would be from people with whom you have no connection. This arm’s-length factor should help keep the reviews honest. Also, reviews on Goodreads are not just read by authors; they are read by a large number of readers as well.

message 13: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Youngerman (byoungerman) | 2 comments Hello all,

As the creator of Reviews4Reviews - let me just say that the entire point of the site was for exactly the reasons stated above. Getting our works our there - as an author myself I found that finding a reviewer to read my book and then post a review that was actually legible was difficult at best. I figured who better to review a book but another author who understands what it takes to create a book in the first place. Not only do we now have a repository for books and their reviews, it is a great way to meet other authors.
We also have reviewers registered with the site and we allow your trailers to be place there as well. Obviously we all want to sell our books - but the truth is really that we want others to read what we've written and pass on a recommendation. R4R allows that forum in a non-competitive manner.

Feel free to hop on over and check out our authors and our reviews. I'm sure you'll like what you see!


message 14: by Peter (new)

Peter (74765525) | 49 comments The key principle that needs to be the bedrock of any system is one I've learned from hard experience: Reviews should never be traded.

I should never be asked to review an author who's also reviewing my book. This is inviting disaster.

message 15: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Marvello (drmarvello) | 48 comments I'm with you, Peter. Readers who discover you "exchanged reviews" with another author will discount them immediately, and rightfully so. If I exchanged reviews with another author and he/she gives me a great review, am I going to give him/her a bad one? Unlikely.

message 16: by Peter (new)

Peter (74765525) | 49 comments Daniel is right. That's why authors are never told by publications reviewing their books who the reviewer is. They find out when the review has been published and it's too late to (try to) convince the reviewer to change his/her mind.

message 17: by Jim (new)

Jim Gilliam (seadoc) | 31 comments Hi Peter and Daniel,

It boils down to personal integrity. I was only attempting to provide some insight for James' proposal. It is possible on reviews 4 reviews to review an authors book without the proviso that she review yours. All the authors there have their books registered and so that other authors and just plain reviewers can look your book up and ask you for a review copy. Understand that the review process doesn't guarantee, you a review much less a great review. I have at times informed the reviewing site that I just couldn't get past the first two chapters. and I always tell them why. So if I want to review someone I obtain a review copy. The author is under no obligation to review one of mine. If she does, well and good even if the review is bad. However, the majority of the books I review are ones that I lay out my hard earned cash for. If I didn't actually finish it, I don't review it. I'm such an avid reader that if I didn't read it through at least once, I didn't like it. You can pay to have your book reviewed on Kirkus Indie, they guarantee a review, not necessarily a good one, and they never let you know who your reviewer is. They give you the option to not have it posted if it is bad. I think you're both right, to say hey if you give me a five star review I'll do the same for you smells like three day old fish or a house guest who just won't depart. On an individual basis each one of us has to decide this vexing question for ourselves and live with the results.

message 18: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Youngerman (byoungerman) | 2 comments Although I agree with the theory that 'swapping' a review might look bad - Please be aware that NO author is under any obligation to write reviews. Furthermore, when you set up a blog tour for your book and 'solicit' reviews you certainly know who the reviewers are - that does not necessitate a good review and then only the readers of the blog know that the review is there. R4R provides another channel for reviews to be read.

message 19: by Michael (new)

Michael Boxall (michaelcboxall) | 6 comments James, I think the first step would be to round up 340 participants. Better to have them all signed on ahead of time. Then each new reviewer would either chose a title from the list, or--and this would be my preference, since it increases the random element and keeps things honest--be assigned the next in line. This would entail some organizational work, but it should be pretty minimal. (Yes, I’ve heard that before, too.) Does this jibe with your view of how it would work?

message 20: by Michael (new)

Michael Boxall (michaelcboxall) | 6 comments Whoops--it's not 340 participants. It's, er, ... More than I can count on the toes of both feet anyway.

message 21: by James (new)

James Field | 14 comments Hi Friends,
Interesting to hear your views.
It appears that many are sceptical. Is this because the system sounds too good to be true? Maybe it is?
I think my book-chain suggestion might be socially unacceptable. This I can fully understand; it might only work for the first few participants! Consider this: after the chain has grown to the length of ten links, there would be over one-million participating authors involved in the scheme. That's one-million authors, each looking for four new authors! Even if the book list on each link was reduced to two books, giving dividends of four reviews, there would already be over one-million participating authors after twenty links. Speaks for itself – can it possibly work? Or am I wrong?

message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

Again, other authors should not be a target audience. Swapping reviews and creating a 'chain' of authors has yet to be proven to gain sales. All it does is multiple costs to send out freebies. You have yet to address how this will generate sales not just gather reviews.

message 23: by Peter (new)

Peter (74765525) | 49 comments I won't be joining Reviews 4 Reviews until they remove the author swap component. In terms of the initial proposal, IMHO it will fail due to its weight. Too complex.

The problem with many of the web solutions thus far is that it's authors reviewing authors and the sales impact is not worth the effort.

What's the answer? Work hard to get impartial reviewers from publications that have a proven audience to review your books or forget about reviews as a primary sales generating tool.

message 24: by Michael (new)

Michael Boxall (michaelcboxall) | 6 comments I agree that authors reviewing authors to be read by other authors is not an effective way to generate wider interest. But one of the benefits of Goodreads is that it breaks this circle. Readers are in here, too, in huge numbers. It’s a much broader canvas. I also agree that eventually James’s system would probably collapse under its own weight or fizzle out. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying. As in any pyramid scheme, the benefits will go to the early adopters. Unlike other pyramid schemes, though, nobody is getting ripped off.

message 25: by Jim (new)

Jim Gilliam (seadoc) | 31 comments Right on Peter. Michael Palmer is a best selling physician author from the Boston area. His feeling on reviews is that he neither reads them or writes them. RE: reviews 4 reviews, I'm really there for the author networking. To get to know other authors in my genre and in the course of that do guest postings on their writer's blog if they have one. A virtual writer's blog tour if you will. If another member wants to review my book I'll send them a copy, all I ask for is an honest review, and that's all. I may not like the type of books he/she writes so I'm not about to include a note saying, "Here's my book, send me one of yours and I'll give you the same kind of review you gave mine." As the kids say nowadays, "That is so gross!"

Shawn brings up an excellent point about sales. Do reviews really generate sales? Peter's point about reviews from a proven audience is also well taken. Exposure is the name of the game. While I appreciate the reviews my book gets on Amazon, I feel that I get better exposure from my reviews on Kirkus, Top Book Reviewers, Feathered Quill, San Francisco Book Review, and The Midwest Book Review where my book has been reviewed twice by two different reviewers. Librarians, bookstore owners, publishers, and book distributors look at these sites all the time. Joanna Penn of has just finished a great webinar titled: 21 Ways to Promote Your Book Online. If you didn't participate in the webinar I recommend contacting Joanna at Her blog is first rate and the slides and audio tapes from the webinar is well worth the $21 dollar price. She also has a lot of freebies on marketing you can download. She is an excellent author and all around classy lady.

Since the advent of the home computer, it seems that everyone in the world has written a novel. Of the thousands of books published annually only 20 percent are fiction, while 90 percent of the thousands of queries that agents and editors receive concern novels. So my friends, competition is keen. Even more so in the Indie versus the Traditional publishing world. So write a great book, have it professionally edited, and take all necessary steps to expose your work to the world. Whether reviews represent a step, slip, or stumble in your quest for exposure, I haven't a clue. Best of luck to us all!

message 26: by James (new)

James Field | 14 comments I think reviews are an important sales factor. I always read the reviews when choosing a book. Perhaps I am a bit strange, but I always read the worst reviews first, simply to find out what is wrong with the book. Different people enjoy different aspects in a book, and good reviews don't necessarily agree with my tastes. But if I read that the characters are shallow, or the plot is weak and predictable, or descriptions go on and on, page after page, well, I know the book is not for me!
I also think that the best grounds for honest reviews are those written by readers who have bought the book for no other incentive than wanting a book to read.

message 27: by Peter (new)

Peter (74765525) | 49 comments James: Someplace in my publishing folder there's a clipping that states reviews no longer have the power to drive sales they once did.

We're living in the age of social media (and communicating on a website that has helped increase the influence of peer opinion over newspaper and magazine reviews).

So let's say that reviews "can be" instead of "are" an important sales factor IF you are traditionally published, writing in a trendy genre, expect to sell most of your books in bookstores, etc., etc.

For the rest of us self-publishing authors, reviews remain something we wouldn't turn down (in the right circumstances) but are not counting.

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