Behind Keyword Research reviews are the most crucial part of Kindle Publishing. Without getting an adequate number of reviews for your books they will not sell well (if at all). To accomplish this goal you have two choices:
- Ask you followers to buy/download your book and leave a review (assuming you have a following).
- Take part in honest review swaps with other kindle authors.
What Are Review Swaps?
A Review Swap is when two authors/publishers that have books on Kindle agree to download each other’s books, read them and then leave an honest review for each other’s book. Review Swaps get a bad reputation but if you do them ethically they are fine in my opinion.
The Chicken And The Egg
Other publishers look down on Review Swaps saying they are a scam and you shouldn’t do them. They say that you should ‘use your following’ to get reviews or get them organically when people buy your book. There is, however, a fundamental flaw with this way of thinking. If you do not have any reviews, no one will buy your book. If you can not sell any books, you will not be able to build a following. It’s a simple as that.
All the most vocal people who say this are Internet Marketers and Publishers who have been at this for years and already have a big following. People such as Steve Scott, and I don’t want to single Steve out because he genuinely seems like a nice guy, who really wants to help others. But he was very vocal about his disdain for using Review Swaps when I used to listen to his Podcast about 12 months ago. But you see he already has a large email list that he has built up over the years in part by doing Review Swaps, go and look at the reviews for his first books (under his own name, not the SJ Scott books) if you don’t believe me. It’s easy for people like him to say things like this because he is sitting pretty. If he wanted to he could take all of his customers off Amazon and move them to Google Play (if he felt like it). I’m not knocking him for that, he has clearly worked hard to be where he is and more than deserves his success. But I think he has forgotten what its like to be a new publisher/author with no following.
They also say ‘you need to build a following away from Amazon‘. Great advice but how? They say start a podcast and start a blog. I see authors in Kindle Facebook Groups that are trying to write their first book while at the same time trying to start a podcast, a blog and build a following on social media, all the while working a full-time job. It takes years to build a large following.
They then say ‘promote your books using social media like Pinterest and Twitter’. Who the hell goes to Pinterest when they want to buy a book? No one does that’s who. They go to Amazon and type in keywords into the search or look through the categories.
Big Authors Solicit Reviews Just Like Everyone Else
I used to be on James Patterson‘s email list a few years ago (if you don’t know who he is where have you been?). He’s currently the highest paid author in the world earning over 95 million in 2015. Anyway, whenever he releases a new book he asks for people to receive an advanced copy his book for free in exchange for leaving a review on Amazon. How do you think James became the biggest author in the world?
But Amazon turns a blind eye to this because they are huge authors and make up a big chunk of Amazon’s revenue from books. Even though it is soliciting reviews which are blatantly against Amazon’s Terms Of Service.
Internet Marketer Pat Flynn is another one, again I don’t want to come down hard on Pat because I really like him. He is a really good guy, transparent, and someone who every online business owner should strive to be like. But even he does this. When his latest book Will It Fly launched earlier this year, I checked Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk the morning of the books launch. At 10AM UK time he already had amassed 10 reviews on Amazon.co.uk and 32 reviews on Amazon.com even though it would have been 5AM on the east coast of USA. So none of those people could have possibly received their book from Amazon, and been able to read it in time to leave an honest review. So they either left him a ‘fake’ review to help him out, which is possible, or they received a free copy in advance in exchange for a review (which will obviously almost certainly be positive due to the social rule of reciprocity) and is again soliciting reviews.
So why is it ok for them to do it but not us? It isn’t! That is why I suggest you do it yourself.
I know it seems like I’m being a dick calling these people out, but it annoys me when I see gurus say one thing to people who look up to them and then do the opposite themselves. It really makes me angry.
How To Do Review Swaps For Your Own Books
If you log into Facebook and do a search for “Kindle Swap Group” you will find a lot of facebook groups full of publishers and Virtual Assistants that want to get reviews for their book. Once you have been approved to join the group you can post in the group to try and find some Swap Mates (people who will swap reviews for you, you review their book and they review yours).
You will then post something like this:
Hi, I have a [free/99 cent] book and I’m looking for [5/10/15/etc] swap mates. PM me if interested.
Then other people in the group will reply saying they want to swap reviews with you. You will then PM them a link to your book and they will do the same with theirs.
Once you have done this it is time to set up another Amazon account for review swaps.
The first thing you need to do is purchase a paid Virtual Private Network. A VPN will trick Amazon into thinking you reside in the US so you can leave reviews on Amazon.com even if you are not based in North America. I use Private Internet Access (privateinternetaccess.com) but there are hundreds of VPNs so choose whichever you like the best. It will probably set you back $3-$5 per month.
Once you have done this you can connect to the VPN and browse to Amazon.com. You will then want to set up a new account. Use a USA address to make it look more genuine. I did this by Google searching for a fast food restaurant in a large city such as Subway, Burger King, or McDonald’s and then find the address of that restaurant. I then use an address 1-20 businesses away e.g. Subway 2811 S Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL 60623, USA. so my address could be 2801 S Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL 60623, USA. I’m sure you get the idea.
You can then add a virtual card to Amazon using a service such as Entropay (https://www.entropay.com/) and start swapping reviews.
How To Swap Reviews
Firstly you want to buy their book if it is 99 cents and/or download it. Once you have downloaded it wait 24 hours and then you can read it. Then once you have read it and understand what the book is about, wait another 24-48 hours and log back onto Amazon.com using your VPN and leave your review.
The idea is to make this process as organic as possible to make the reviews ‘stick’ (prevent it from getting flagged and deleted by Amazon). If you download the book, flip through it 5 minutes later and then leave a review 2 minutes later it will look fake to Amazon and the review will almost certainly get deleted. Be smart about the work you are doing!
The Importance Of Being Ethical With Your Reviews
I think this goes without saying but I will say it anyway. If the book you are reviewing is crap, say it is crap. Don’t give it a 5-star review. Have some pride in your work.
Hiring A Virtual Assistant To Do It For You
I’ve already written a long guide on how to hire your first virtual assistant so refer to that first before continuing.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Make sure that the VA knows that he/she has to leave an honest review and not some generic copy and pasted nonsense.
- Make sure they are aware that you will be checking up on them from time to time to see that they are doing good work.
- Make sure that he/she is using a paid VPN to do the reviews to prevent them from getting flagged by Amazon and removed.
If you keep that in mind you should have no issues in getting reviews for your books.
If you have any questions please leave them in the comments below. Thanks for reading!
6 thoughts on “Kindle Publishing: What Are Review Swaps?”
The fact is, a lot of the books and courses you’ll find about Kindle publishing are incomplete and based on nonsense.
Yes I agree 100%
So you think review swaps and VAs still work in 2017?
Aren’t you afraid of losing your account?
There’s no way around it unfortunately even with an email list. The fact is that the vast majority who read the book and enjoy it will not leave a review. Only those who do not like it will leave a review. About 1 year ago I put a new fiction book on free promo and it got 1500 downloads in 5 days. I got 0 organic reviews for that book even though there was a link to leave a review at the end of the book.
I think building an email list is a good idea and is currently what I am doing but I can’t imagine I’d be able to get more than 10 extra reviews from it per book.
So, what the heck are you supposed to do then to get your first set of reviews?
You need to do review swaps there’s no way around it.