Saturday, May 05, 2012

A 5 star rant

Are readers lowering their expectations? I only ask because of the plethora of 5 star reviews that I see some indie books receive compared to books that have been professionally published, and the subsequent slant this has on the Amazon top rated charts.

I’ve read a number of these books now (and I count my own among the indie numbers), and while many of them are competently written, a lot lack that certain panache, characterisation, pace and plotting that makes them exceptional, which to me is what a 5 star rating denotes. Many of these books receive higher ratings than their professionally published counterparts, some of the authors of which have been in the game for a long time.

While I imagine much of this might be down to these professionally published tomes selling far more and so garnering more readers, which then has the potential to generate more reviews with a broader range of ratings, I also feel that discounting the ‘friends and family reviews’, it’s because readers now seem far more tolerant about punctuation, grammar and spelling errors, which probably has something to do with the dumbing down of the English language, as typified by the new ‘text speak’ and instant messaging where abbreviations abound and words are often spelt phonetically rather than correctly. But I also feel it’s because many readers, knowing it’s an indie book, give it a break and choose to ignore the books faults, because they know the book hasn’t been through the rigorous stages that a professionally published book goes through. So in this respect, it’s almost expected that there will be problems with indie books, but they are overlooked for this reason.

Many reviewers are also afraid to point out what they feel are faults for fear of vitriol. This is especially true when authors review other authors, as they are afraid said author will reciprocate with a harsh review regardless of whether it is warranted or not. Another reason for this is that I feel that while professionally published authors generally don’t respond to any negativity, indie authors are not as tolerant and so people are afraid to comment.

Ultimately this helps nobody though and I feel many, many indie authors release subpar work. Now that readers are the gate keepers, a role previously maintained by the professional publishers whose books were generally considered to at least be edited to a high standard, shouldn’t it be said readers job to now cast a more critical eye and not throw out 5 star reviews as liberally as confetti at a wedding?

False praise helps nobody as both the author and potential readers are being misled, and a few harsh truths, while sometimes hard to accept, will ultimately help both the authors and the work they release if they take heed. And this can only be a good thing for all involved.