Pull down the stars

The title of this blog isn’t some dreamy, moody metaphor. It is a call to Amazon to take action, and eliminate its idiotic star system ranking for the eight-million-plus books it offers for sale. Sounds heretical, doesn’t it? I admit, the stars come in handy, when you’re ordering a vacuum cleaner or table salt or some other non-sentient product. But when it comes to products of creativity, they need to go: They have become, in this ever-changing literary culture, completely meaningless. In the literary marketplace, a whole black market economy has been created around the illicit creation and posting of those little heavenly symbols. I know, because I’ve received solicitations from “review firms”  (probably due to the extreme paucity of consumer reviews of Hard Cider Abbey) which promise a whole constellation of stars, allegedly from ‘actual’ readers, for just a small payment of several hundred to several thousands of dollars. Amazon, which is onto the star-inflation scam, is scrambling to stem the problem in a ham-footed sort of way, by making consumer reviews harder to post, and forcing reviewers to spend a minimum of $50 on their wares first. The whole situation is just ridiculous.

Take down the stars, but NOT the reviews. On books only. Save those stars for household appliances and beauty products. Make book buyers READ the reviews, wade through the text, to see if a book is worth their while. Just because a writer has a gazillion stars does not mean they’ve written a good book. Doing some market research, I studied a number of (mostly mystery) books and the consumer reviews they had produced. Some really top-notch writers, such as Tara French and Gillian Flynn, have gotten their share of completely  asinine and unfair one-star reviews, while badly-executed work (not naming names here, but unfortunately, most of them fellow self-publishers, which tars us all with the same brush), writing trite books with anemic storylines, milk-toast characters and plenty of grammatical and spelling errors—are crowned with hundreds of five-star reviews. How????!!!  No wonder so many readers don’t want to take a chance on a new writer! And how does an independent novelist become a better novelist, when he pays a few hundred people to tell him how wonderful he, or she, is?

So, dump the stars, Amazon. Luckily, with my latest, you won’t have too many to take away. Thankfully, a lack of stars has had no correlation with steady sales.  And thank goodness for those editorial reviews…