Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Joe Konrath vs. Reviewers

Joe Konrath, whose blog is nothing if not interesting, has a post today that I think starts off well and ends poorly. The premise at the start is that writers should write deliberately. I've preached this to students for almost two decades now. I start the semester off explaining that for 14 years in a row I had at least one student each semester who misspelled their own name. Not much I can do to help that student at the college level... Except tell them to be deliberate about what they write (and if you're misspelling your own name, we can be pretty sure you weren't being deliberate).

So far, so good.

Then he goes on to discuss things that might make you an idiot, and he includes "If you've ever given anything a one-star review..."

Here is my response posted in the comments to his post:

Sorry to say it, but I think that you're contradicting yourself.

By saying (to paraphrase) nothing deserves a one-star rating, you seem to be saying that nothing that has been written and published is crap. The mantra "Don't write crap" doesn't make sense if it is impossible to write crap.

Plenty of stuff has been written without deliberation. From what I can understand here, you're saying if I find one of those books and give it a one-star rating, I'm probably an idiot. And if what you're saying is that one-star reviewers really can't judge the author's level of deliberation, that might be true, but no reviewer can judge that unless the they happen to actually BE the author.

In fact, if one-star reviews are going to be discouraged, we should discourage all reviews - by definition the star rating system is about subjective responses.

I really think Joe has stepped in it with this post. Not that he has to love one-star reviews or the reviewers, but he has preached quite a bit over the years about how the public can judge the quality of books for themselves without a need for gatekeepers like the traditional publishing industry. Good books will rise, bad books will sink especially when it comes to sales. Now it seems like he doesn't want readers (the new gatekeepers) to share their opinions... if the opinion is that the book is bad. Presumably, he's still okay with five star reviews.

True, it is just an opinion and some are not nearly as well informed as others, but if we're going to call readers idiots for saying they didn't like a book, then the whole idea of "New Gatekeepers" goes out the window and all we have in the marketplace is the shrill cry of "Buy MY Stuff, You Jerk!"

Anyway, read the article, read the comments, judge for yourself. And if you feel the need to give me poor marks, feel free. I won't be calling you any names.


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