I’ve read several blogs lately that as a self-published author, you need to get ‘good karma’ by reading and reviewing other self-published works, you need to be active on forums, and you need to help spread the word about other indie authors. My biggest issue is this: if you are a writer of fiction, your time should be spent writing fiction. If you are someone who loves to read books and then write reviews of them, then you should be a book reviewer. I’m not saying you can’t do both (look at me try to write, make music, and create art) but they are two VERY separate ways of writing. And if you ARE a writer of fiction, you probably shouldn’t be taking the time to go out of your way to read some nebulous magic number of self-published books to review them. You should be reading works that will inspire you to better your own writing, which may include other self-published ones, and you should be writing the best stories that you can and honing your craft. Do actors in independent movies have an obligation to watch other independent films and then go on IMDB and review their fellow actors’ performances? No! It doesn’t mean they don’t support independent films at all.
Quite frankly, indie authors don’t need this additional stress or guilt added to them. As an indie author, it may build me some goodwill if I do reviews for other authors, but it may not. It’s more important in the long run to be courteous and caring and honest and genuinely interested in the people you interact with, whether they be readers or other writers or friends or coworkers or strangers you meet in the coffeehouse. Real interactions will both help your writing and build your fan base far more than writing reviews for other books.
That being said, if you read a book you love, regardless of whether it’s indie or not, you should write a fast review of it on Amazon (and Smashwords if applicable), if you’ve got the time. Send a tweet or retweet. And if you read a self-published book that you hate, maybe consider not leaving a review. But don’t feel pressure to do so. Don’t let people prey on your insecurities. Do the best work you can, constantly improve yourself, and be honest.