Recently, I was struck by how it seems that we as consumers have lost faith in the opinions of expert critics. Instead we, being the normal, everyday sort, want to know the thoughts and experiences of other “normal” people. Ultimately, we are crowd sourcing our entertainment and buying decisions. The logic is both simple and valid. If they like something, and they are similar to us, then it follows that we too will like the thing.
So, what does this mean for us as writers? Ultimately, I see it as an opportunity. I am no longer trying to appeal to the tastes and sensibilities of a few key critics with large voices. Instead, I write to my audience of one and work to spark a passion amongst the many. If you can gain enough of a positive and vocal following, you can out sell even the well-established bastions of old publishing. This has forced both New York and writers alike to refocus on the readers. In my opinion, it’s a good change.
However, no system is without flaws. The first major problem I see is that real user reviews and the algorithms that they support and feed can be gamed. Some people will do anything to be a “best seller,” even if it means buying 5,000 copies of their own books, posting bogus reviews from multiple accounts, or even out right purchasing reviews. Unfortunately, less-than-ethical individuals have done this and seen some success. However, the market and the system don’t seem to tolerate such deception for long and these individuals are always eventually uncovered.
Secondly, real user reviews give angry individuals or groups with vendettas the power to do serious damage to business people. Though there are documented cases of deliberate maliciousness, I believe that the people who are more dangerous are those who casually leave bad reviews without considering the consequences. I once saw a review with my own eyes that read, “It was a really great book, but I was in the mood for a zombie story and this wasn’t a zombie story. ONE STAR.” Was that fair? Of course not! This sort of review is why I made a rule for myself. I’ll never post a one or two star review. I believe that the world is better served by me supporting those things I like and leaving the rest to be supported by others. Or not, as the case may be. Either way, I don’t want my bad day or isolated experience to harm another.
As real world reviewers, we have several essential duties. The first is to be honest with ourselves and each other as consumers. Second, we must be thoughtful and vocal in supporting the things that we like. Finally, it is up to us to generate new and awesome material for others to appreciate and support.Tags: Sequence 07: Living the Writer's Life