1. More Sales
Review swaps matter. Even if it's only by a few, they help boost your sales, which in turn boost your visibility to other would-be readers. Besides, if you go down the traditional route and send your e-book off to all the amateur reviewers online (which takes hours!) there is no guarantee that they will ever read it, let alone give it a favourable review. I sent my first novel, Jack Strong and the Red Giant off to hordes of reviewers and I was turned down by all but one of them. The vast majority of authors that I've approached for review swaps have so far turned out to be a lot more agreeable.
2. Great Reviews
Apart from increased sales, the best thing about review swaps are the great reviews that you receive. This gives you a) increased confidence and b) helps further spread the word about your book. It was amazing when a couple of people not only gave my book, Jack Strong and the Red Giant 5 stars, but that they also said they were looking forward to the next instalment. This meant that not only did they love it, but that they had also bought into the central characters and the universe they inhabited. And ultimately, isn't this what every novelist wants?
3. Bad Reviews
There may come a time when - like me - you get some reviews that aren't quite what you were expecting. Try not to be too downhearted about this - it quite literally comes with the territory. If for example, you were to have a look at the page for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone @ www.amazon.co.uk you will notice that despite its solid 4.7/5 average it has still managed to receive a staggering forty six 1 star reviews. These readers aren't in any way wrong or deluded it's just their opinion, and they didn't buy into it like you or I did. It's all part of being a successful author. It's great to get a few 5 star reviews but it isn't realistic to expect it to continue. So if you do get a poor review try not to take it too badly - I didn't - it just shows that you've become a proper author.
4. New Authors
Review swaps also help introduce you to new and upcoming authors who maybe connected with your work but whose books you might have overlooked before. As part of the review swap process I have read books on self-help, procrastination, a murder mystery in the Colorado mountains, a series of zombie short stories, as well as a whole host of Children's and Young Adult books. Ultimately, being exposed to such a wide variety of work will enrich you as a writer as well as make you more aware of your craft.
5. What Not To Review
You shouldn't review anything that you're not interested in. First of all, this is because you likely wouldn't enjoy it and second of all it's out of respect for the author whose book you're reviewing. It's not fair on them if you start your review with something along the lines of "I don't like books about space (or whatever their book is about) so I couldn't get into it and the characters so I'm giving it 2 stars." If you don't like books about space then why did you agree to a review swap in the first place? After all, you wouldn't go into a book store and deliberately buy something that you weren't interested in and it's the same with a review swap. If you respect their book they'll respect yours.
6. It Takes Time
After someone has downloaded your book don't expect them to review it straight away. Remember that they have lives too: families, work, writing commitments, and not to mention other review swaps. I can often take up to a month to review a book and sometimes even longer than that.
If you have agreed to take part in a review swap and they haven't gotten back to you with a review send them an e mail or message them on Google + or Facebook. Odds are they might have forgotten, but a friendly nudge is more than polite and they may even welcome the reminder.
7. Honesty is the best policy
I know the feeling - you want to give someone a bad review, not because you're mean or jealous in any way, but because for whatever reason the book just didn't click with you and you've seen a few faults. The only problem is that you're not sure you want to, partly out of fear you will offend them and also because you're worried that they'll slap yours down in return. In this situation I think it's always best to be honest - so long as you're constructive with your criticism - after all how else is the author to find out their book needs a re-edit or a new cover? The odds are that a) the author is already partly aware of some of their novel's shortcomings and b) it won't affect their opinion of yours one bit.
8. Don't take too much on
New sales and good, positive reviews will help push your book up the charts but ultimately you should still only take on what you are capable of reviewing. There's no point in agreeing to do a hundred review swaps if you are only able to read one or two books a week. When I first got into it, I was agreeing to review swaps left right and centre, the result being that I was soon inundated and overwhelmed and I still haven't completely caught up.
9. An Authors Community
For me, one positive outcome of participating in review swaps has been the online relationships that have sprung up as a result. As I write this I'm about to read the latest blog post of one lady's book I was so lucky to review a couple of months ago. At the end of the day, I believe that the more writers I'm in contact with then the better my writing will be as a result as ideas and inspirations and new books are shared and spread around.
With the independent book market being so tight and so competitive at the moment, if you're not willing to read someone else's book then you shouldn't necessarily expect them to read yours. Ultimately, if you participate in review swaps it will help boost sales, confidence, and lead to a greater awareness of both your own work and the work of others. Go on give it a try!
If you would like to participate in a review swap you can check out my book, Jack Strong and the Red Giant below: