Do Indie Authors Expect Their Books to be Judged Differently Than Traditionally Published Books?
I could also word the question this way: Do Indie authors want their books to be judged differently? Ever asked that question before? Ever wondered what the answer might be?
You should know that I'm not trying to fling any accusations out there that I don't think will come back and land on me. I know this one will land on me. That's why I'm throwing it out there.
This question goes back to one of the first critical reviews I ever got. It was three stars and the reviewer pointed out how she didn't like one of the characters and how the pace lagged at times. Another three star review for the same book stated that the backstory is revealed too slowly and that the reviewer wished more information had been given out right at the beginning because it would have made the book easier to follow in the first few chapters. I could list others, but they would all be in the same vein.
Here's the thing. I was upset that reviewers were giving my book three stars for things that had nothing to do with the quality of the book and everything to do with personal opinion. Didn't they know my book was self-published? Didn't they know it was also self-edited? Didn't they know there was a stigma attached to such things and they, as reviewers, held in their hands the power to erase that stigma by telling the world about this well-edited, grammatically correct book they had just read? How dare they dock stars for such a frivolous thing as personal opinion!?!
More Than Just My Story
This has not happened to me yet, but a common reason for a book getting a low rating from a reviewer is that the book is not the reviewer's preferred genre. So they may complain that a horror book is too scary. An erotic book has too much sex. A Christian book is too preachy. And if the authors of these books are indie authors, you will often find them complaining to their trusted colleagues that the reviewer shouldn't have picked up the book in the first place if it wasn't for them. Or at the very least their review should have made allowances for those things that make the genre what it is.
A Double Standard?
Fifty Shades of Grey was the first erotic book I ever read. Wanna know what my least favorite part of it was? The sex. Why? Because I wanted more story. I wanted to find out all about Christian's traumatic past and became increasingly frustrated every time he and Ana were in a serious conversation, and juicy details were on the cusp of coming out into the open, and then suddenly I was inundated by other types of juicy details, and other things (namely boobs and penises) came out into the open instead. And then I had to read about them having sex for the next four pages. Seriously, all I wanted was to know what happened to poor Christian when he was a kid. Couldn't the author just cut about two thirds of the sex scenes, then do a fade to black on the ones she left intact? The answer? Of course she couldn't, because her genre was erotic fiction and to write erotica you have to include a good deal of sex.
So...had I written a review for that book, should I have glossed over the fact that I was annoyed by all the sex? Would it have been an honest review if I had written it that way?
Of course, Fifty Shades is a bestseller that is now a popular movie series, so a few bad reviews will hardly kill the author's career. But what about a struggling indie author? When you've only got twenty or so reviews so far for your book, a handful of critical ones can look really bad. Should readers take that into account when reviewing them, and give star ratings based on objective things like grammar and writing style, as opposed to expressing their subjective, though honest, opinions of the story itself?
I'd love to hear some other opinions on this, so feel free to drop your two cents into the comment section.