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Saturday, 10 November 2012

The perils and pitfalls of mutual peer reviews Part 1

This post ended up longer than planned, so I have split it into two parts - second part to be posted tomorrow.

Part 1

I was asked at the launch of Mine to Avenge last weekend if there was anything in particular that I had learned on the journey to get the story published. There were quite a few lessons I learned along the way, but one jumped to mind immediately, probably because I got my fingers badly burnt. I probably put myself through it needlessly because I had enough misgivings before embarking on the venture, to make me realize that it most likely wouldn’t work out well.
Why then did I embark on it, you might ask? Quite frankly, that has been the question that has puzzled me ever since and will probably remain one of the great unanswered questions of history - at least for me personally, but I don’t think anyone else will lose sleep over it, and sunrise and sunset will keep on happening regardless.
What is this awful thing I did? How did I get my fingers burnt when the flames were clearly visible and I knew that it might hurt if I put my hand in the fire? I agreed to a mutual peer review, as the post title says - a ‘you read my story, and I’ll read yours’ trade, and we'll each say nice things about the other one's work. After the experience, my recommendation is, in a simple phrase - DON’T do it.
I realize that the prior misgivings I had were probably not unique, and that more experienced writers might have been better aware of the potential disaster that can result from this kind of swap. But maybe other first time authors like myself might ignore these misgivings, as I did, in their eagerness to get their work out there. It’s easy to be tempted to throw all caution to the wind with some things and take a risk, if we think it will get our new ‘baby’ launched as soon as possible. If I can save someone else from going along this path, then I think my post will be well worth it.
This experience began with all good intent. A writing peer responded to my online request seeking peers to review Mine to Avenge. She approached me with not only the offer to review but asked if I could review a book of hers as a fair trade.
Warning bells rang immediately, and they were saying, what if both your stories and styles are markedly different? What if you don’t like reading the other writer’s genre? I had advertised my genre in the quest to seek reviews, but in a swap, what would I get? Could I guarantee it would be something I liked, or would be willing to read?
I thought I would prepare as best as I could before accepting her offer, so I did some research into her background online and found that she wrote for a living and had been doing so for a number of years with a long list of credentials. On the basis of that, I decided to take the risk and accept her kind offer. Big mistake!
Read part two tomorrow with the issues I had and how I got out of an awkward situation.

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