A lament I frequently read hereabouts is that people in general loathe the mighty Amazon for how their system permits anyone to publish a book and call themselves an author.
The system in place permits anyone to review a book, leaving between 1-5 stars to indicate their like/dislike of the book, and comments after.
Further, book is listed in categories selected by the author and then assigned a sales rank in that genre.
The problem lies in discovering good books that meet a minimum criteria for quality. As I posted yesterday, the readers judge your book on basic criteria such as grammar before they are willing to get on to the actual content of the book, that is, the plot, story, characterization, and so on.
I’m biased on this. I want a book that has the assurances of quality. So, for instance, if someone publishes something, there ought to be credits. Who were your proofreaders, your line editor, developmental editor, and so on? What’s their track record? If I look at your developmental editor, will I see a resume including dozens of books by other authors that are good quality?
Maybe requiring the same sort of care that goes with submitting a book to a traditional publishing company ought to be put in the author’s submissions to the public. Not just a paragraph, a freakin’ page on your plot, summarily executed so we can know exactly what we’re getting into.
And then there’s the reviewers. A review that does not discuss the book in question is not a useful review. Perhaps a separation of the review process into Pro/Con, or Good/bad/ugly. Separate the important things into categories so we can hit the salient points, such as structure, grammar, typos, characterization, story arc, and so on. We ought to be able to review the reviewers. What’s their reputation? Do they write good reviews or just leave lots of 5 stars and nonsense comments (“Fantastic Read! 5 Stars!”) that are worthy of an eBay feedback? I suppose the “5 of 6 people found this review useful” is the application of this, but it’s not done in a way that weights the reviews to influence where the book appears.
Further, there ought to be a statement under the penalty of perjury where the reviewer reveals any relation to the author: Friend, family member, know them through blogging, acquaintance, stranger. Just like the reviewers on blogs where they reveal any sort of relationship for the purposes of bias, I want to know what possibilities exist.
Finally, there ought to be a way to sort based on cascading criteria that you decide. Maybe popularity isn’t what you’re looking for. Certainly price point doesn’t indicate quality.
And then consider the idea that you could have something like the Netflix deal where you are asked if you liked or disliked certain movies. You rate ’em with a few stars, and after rating a few dozen books, the thing comes up with movies it thinks you will like. Can we do this with books? The difficulty lies in categorizing and assigning values to new books, but if someone writes as well and similar to a well-known author, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to discover them through a program that does this. I would limit the submissions for this to authors that can demonstrate they had a team of some kind that assisted them in publishing. I know I’m biased on that point, but the slushpile is created by loner self-publishers for the most part.
There’s a book plot for you: the Unpublishers, a book mafia group of bibliophiles who go around getting people to withdraw unworthy manuscripts from the market.