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Sunday, 11 November 2012

The perils and pitfalls of mutual peer reviews Part 2

Continuing with part 2 of yesterday’s post -

The first issue I had was ending up with a genre I didn’t like, but she knew what she was getting from me, having based her offer to help on my request which gave her all the details. This was only a minor issue.
However, the second issue was a vital stumbling block for me. I was stunned to find that I was reading a manuscript that that appeared not to have been edited at all. It was full of grammatical errors, typos, apostrophe abuse, spelling errors, etc. Sometimes there were more than five errors per page. But I was led to believe that I was reading a published version of her book. I had just taken ten months to edit my book, with two professional edits, and went through the manuscript seven more times after than in a quest to produce a clean manuscript. I don’t claim that Mine to Avenge is totally error free, but I can say I did my best and took my time to make it that way, and prepare a quality product that I would be happy for others to read and review.
A third issue was the difference in length between both books. Her book was a shorter 50,000-word novel whereas mine was approximately 165,000 words. In that instance I didn’t think it was fair to her.
Now that I had landed myself in this mess, I had to try to work out how to deal with it and get out of it diplomatically. I realized that if I wrote a bad review for her work, drawing attention to sloppy presentation, it would upset her, and maybe she might just respond with a ‘tit for tat review’. And yet if I wrote a good review, it would impact on my credibility, if someone bought the book based on what I had written.
How did I get out of this? Rather than assume that I was reading the final copy of this woman’s work, I gave her the benefit of the doubt, with her impressive list of writing credentials, so I emailed her, asking if the copy she had sent me was an earlier pre-edited version.
She replied saying that what I had was the final version that was out there for sale, but she guessed by the very nature of my question that I was having problems with it, so she emailed me suggesting we call the whole deal off. Fortunately this spared me from having to make the first move.
It was very interesting too, that she also suddenly decided she didn’t like the genre of my story anyway and didn’t wish to read anymore, whereas she was the one who initially responded to my request in which I had made the genre very clear.
As I mentioned a moment ago, even doing some preliminary research to find out who I was dealing with wasn’t failsafe. I had no way of knowing how accurate her writing credentials were without actually ringing all the places she listed on her website - presuming they were all genuine.
So when seeking reviews for your work, by all means, approach peers, bloggers, magazines, media and so on, but my advice is, don’t ever submit to the mutual swap for a review. You will most likely just be building a relationship that will sour before it really goes anywhere.


  1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who takes the time needed in producing a clean manuscript. Sometimes I get impatient because I see everyone around me publishing their work so much faster than me. I'm a slow writer to begin with, and I'm finding that I'm even slower at rewriting. When it comes to editing, I tend to do it obsessively.

    Excellent advice. I can imagine how tricky some of those arrangements could become. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks for your feedback Christina. Yes, I sometimes wonder why people are so hasty to get their book on the market. Aren't they aware of how offputting an ill-prepared manuscript can be? Surely they want good reviews. Anyway - my article was only meant to be in 2 parts so I won't start part three here!
    On another subject, I am actually sitting here doing may daily quota for NaNoWriMo. I thought you might like to know I'm writing about one of my major characters at the moment - her name is Christina!

  3. It does sound like you had a bad experience with this attempt at mutual reviewing. But isn't one bad experience a slim basis for saying that anyone doing this will "most likely" have the same problems?

  4. Could be so! My experience certainly doesn't guarantee that others will have that same experience. A writer might come across someone willing to do such a trade where all the elements to consider work out equal. However, having had my fingers burnt I think is a good reason to let others know that the experience was unpleasant, at least in this instance, and maybe encourage them to think things through carefully, before leaping in without considering potential consequences. I would LOVE to hear from someone who did this and had a positive experience.:)