Newsletter swaps will kill romance.
It's already begun.
Five years ago, when self-publishing romance was just becoming something profitable and feasible, prominent authors would use their mailing lists to connect with their fans. The lists were organic--meaning they would be 1) unincentivized and 2) readers would sign up because they liked the author and wanted to be notified when they had new releases.
This isn't the way anymore.
With websites like DD and the corresponding slack and ryver channels, mailing lists have become the ultimate race to the bottom, doing everything they can to squeeze out half a dozen sales while absolutely ruining the effectiveness of all mailing lists.
Here's how it's done. The lists are grown in a variety of ways.
Author A wants a larger list. So Author A will do a giveaway encouraging people to sign up to their mailing list in exchange for an entry to win anything from a small gift certificate to a designer purse. This is effective. Many people sign up. So Author A decides to join forces with Author B, C, D and so on. Now they do a group giveaway. Lots of prizes and chances to win, but every entry is then shared, pooled between the authors and added to their corresponding mailing list. The result? Hundreds or thousands of signups all shared with a variety of authors.
Well, authors can continue to grow their lists. Giveaways, free books, extended epilogues. Whatever they can do to gobble up more and more email addresses for their lists. Soon their lists are massive. Five thousand grows to ten. Ten to fifteen. Fifteen to thirty thousand. Thirty to...whatever.
And what do they do with these newfound lists?
They swap them, of course.
And it makes sense. Who wouldn't want their novel pushed out to thirty thousand people on launch day? And why limit it to just your own list when your acquaintance also has a large list? So they'll "swap." You promote my book, I'll promote yours. Or they'll sell spots. "I'll give you a couple hundred if you feature me solo." Sounds great, right?
But what happens to Reader A when they receive an email from Author A promoting Author B? They didn't sign up to Author B's mailing list. They don't even know who Author B is. But fine, maybe they'll take the recommendation.
...Or maybe they'll keep scrolling their inbox because they've just found another email from another author. Huh, how weird. Author C is also recommending Author B's book. See, Author B was smart and organized an entire blitz campaign to have a bunch of authors all send his or her book. Which means poor Reader A might be getting a LOT more emails from authors all pimping a book she has no interest in reading for an author she never would have wanted to read in the first place.
Reader A might be annoyed. Might not open the emails. Or might start to get pissed off.
Because maybe they didn't read the fine print when they signed up for a giveaway. Maybe they didn't realize what would happen when they entered to win The Super Mega 100 Author Massive Multi-Thousand Dollar Giveaway. Now it's more than a handful of authors doing giveaways together. It's 15. 20. 30. 100 Authors in this single group, all spamming Facebook and running ads for their giveaway to collect more and more emails.
Suddenly Reader A is getting dozens of author related emails a day from people they don't even know or remember signing up for their list, all recommending books for other authors they don't know because those authors are part of a swap.
See the problem?
They started signing up with fake emails.
They stopped opening their emails from authors.
They reported legit authors as spam to Mailchimp/Mailer Lite because they're overwhelmed by emails.
Within the past year, mailing lists went from some of the most powerful ways an author could connect to their audience to absolute trash.
And yes, some big authors have a decent mailing list that they've maintained/bribed into opening their emails and can get people sales from swaps. But five years ago? A single author's mailing list would have enough firepower to get them listed on the New York Times or USA Today with a single push.
Now? The biggest KU authors might get 500-1000 sales from their lists--no matter how large. Out of twenty thousand people, only a few hundred are buying a $.99 book.
It's happening every day, and the more authors who participate, the worst mailing lists will become. Readers will not use their real email address which means they will not see your book when you actually want you fans to buy. They will stop signing up for "Extended Epilogues." The most cost efficient way an author can promote themselves is now ruined.
Does this mean don't use swaps?
Of course not. If you find an author who writes in a similar genre to you, ask for a swap. But if you see a huge, ridiculously large author group all advertising slots in a swap, realize that the signups you get are 1) probably fake and 2) from people who only wanted free stuff in the first place and will not actually buy your stuff.
And for the love of God, don't use those websites that give out free chapters or entire novels for signups. The readers/emails there will never translate into sales for you. They're only making the problem worse.