Friday, April 6, 2012

Picking the Good from the Average

Today I rant. 

My recently friended fellow author Bruce Blake blogged about reviews Tuesday. I'm with him, but the system concerns me. 

Though I've been writing for two decades, I made the decision to self publish last fall, and I'm editing like crazy to get my backlog of novels published. I'm not focusing on marketing yet. Takes a lot of time. I would rather have seventeen novels available when I make a new reader aware of my brand. 

That explained, I haven't received a single review on those I've published. That's a problem, so I jump on Bruce's wagon. I'll worry about it when I've got all of my novels published, though.

But…I have read (started to read) scores of Indie books rated highly. Either the storyline was less than it could have been, the technical structure was woefully lacking, or the editing was atrocious. (Most often the latter.) I learned quickly a 4.6 doesn't mean anything. I have far better enjoyed novels rated a 3.

We Indie authors have a lot to overcome. Those throwing poorly edited work out there is the worst. But not far behind is gratuitous reviews. I'm deeply concerned about the system.  

On Amazon's site, there are guidelines in composing a subjective review. What I would love to see is a little effort put behind the process of enumerating a piece's quality. One person's 3 star rating is another's piece of junk. It would require a little more thought, perhaps a few extra seconds to complete a review. It would still allow friends of the author to load-up. 

But it would lean the system in a more objective direction. 

First we need a definition of 1-5 stars. 

I propose a script that lists, say, ten basic literary elements that the non-writer could intuitively gleam their meaning. The reviewer would click through them, and the script would generate an average based on the elements answered. (There should be a minimum number of elements that must be responded to. A single 5 star response divided by 1 will always result in a 5 star rating. If the reviewer wants to cheat, then they have to spend five extra seconds…oh my).

What say you? 
-R. Mac Wheeler
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  1. It's a lovely thought, but it would never work. What's "good" or "outstanding" to one person is not the same as it is to another. One person thinks "outstanding" is a fast-paced plot with lots of action, another feels it's hot romance, another feels it's lack of cliche and good pacing, another feels it's well-timed backstory, etc.

    Perhaps some of those reviews you've read honestly believe the book in question is outstanding, but they have far different criteria than you do. (And others, of course, were paid off to write a good review.....)

  2. I have very few reviews out there for my novella - only ones I've asked for from blogger friends. Review sites are booked up and turning me down!

    I'd prefer to see a 10 star system - I've always thought the jump between good and fantastic is too big.

  3. The very best of luck with your self publishing and brand. It's something I don't think I could do. My several novels are good - and I don't live in a world of self-delusion, but more important than 'product' is the ability to market and promote - without jumping into the faces of your friends. Your star system is good, though the objections of another commentor here are equally valid.

  4. Hmmmmm, that's an interesting idea, a script that prompts for answers for a reader and then generates a rating. I am sure there will always be some that mis-use any sort of rating system, but I agree, there is still room for improvement.