You hate Amazon and the slushpile, but want to reward good new authors?

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.

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11 thoughts on “You hate Amazon and the slushpile, but want to reward good new authors?

  1. 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.

    Agreed! I want to find and support new indie authors. The trouble is I find I have to read nine sub-par books to get to one of similar quality as any new release by a well-known author.

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    • THAT is the problem. Who is going to take the hit for the team? There’s a substantial investment in time. Essentially, all this idea consists of is what a traditional publishing house used to do (and still does for a lucky persevering few). They do the QC, editing, revising, and vetting of texts out there, then present the thing to us and we have a filter in place to assure that the bare minimum standard has been reached. Indy publishing has NO CONSTRAINTS AT ALL. There are no guardrails or warning signs. Is it any wonder we all wander around with CAVEAT EMPTOR stamped on our foreheads? I have finite time and cash, so give me the 5 star novels that appeal to me.

      Maybe this could be a function of the reviewers:
      When you create your review, tell us if the book breaches the barely adequate standard of editing. Then tell us what the book is comparable to. Is it Gone with the Wind combined with Frankenstein? The Three Stooges and Star Wars? Dracula and Polyanna?

      Your post where you had the conversation with someone who overheard you talking to your family about your dedication to being an author and how they were able to get a handle on that by you comparing yourself to an established author–that may be offensive to some authors who think they are unique and there is no one like them. But I am assured that a million monkeys with typewriters typing all day every day for thousands of years will eventually turn out shakespeare, and most probably, your book, too. 😀

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      • Ugh and fake 5 star reviews really tick me off. I can’t decide if I am going to solicit reviews at all for BLOOD TOY because I don’t want fake reviews, even well meaning fake ones. I want people who actually read books like mine to read my book and like it. The last thing I want to be is totally unique. Cause wouldn’t that mean I’d have like one reader?

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  2. I suspect that in the not-too-distant future someone(s) will create a writing program(s) that will be able to churn out the greatest literary hits of all time in every genre imaginable in mere seconds. All perfectly plotted and grammatically correct. Think of the cost savings to publishers (and arguments avoided with authors)!

    Don’t laugh. Think of what Deep Junior and Rybka have done to human champions in the world of chess.

    Hopefully I’ve not put the idea into their heads!

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    • Yes, I imagine you could create something that would lay bones onto a story, but writing the story itself?

      Consider that chess is mathematical. There are finite number of moves, and what I recall of Sargon 3 back in the 90s was that it tended to brute force when it played chess. It was thinking 5 moves in to the future, and it took a long time to think on that old kaypro computer.

      I’m not worried about machines taking over story writing. But the joke about the 50,000 monkeys turning out shakespeare? It’s happening. There are 3 million e readers out there, and 9 million books. It’s not monkeys, it’s every manner of person who fancies themselves an author. Therein lies the immense difficulty: How to be heard amidst the vast herd of barely adequate manuscripts.

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  3. Continuing the “vision” here, imagine a literary world (or the whole world for that matter) free of that most annoying of human traits, nay, the very Hallmark of humanity, error. It’s enough to make even Agent Smith smile.

    Course then would follow calls for some sort of labeling so that people could tell what from what, soon followed by efforts to squelch that information (Monsanto anyone?)

    From this would come the deliberate in-programming of homophones and typos. OMG!

    Seriously though, I’m not defending poor writing, just having a bit of imaginative fun. 😉

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    • It’s a dystopian future where robots write all the books. “No, dear, we don’t read old works. They’re subversive. We only read the New Works. They teach us all we need to know.” (Stepford wife smile.) You might have the kernal of a good story idea, there.

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  4. Yes, I imagine you could create something that would lay bones onto a story, but writing the story itself?

    Artificial Intelligence my friend. We’ve come a looog way since the 90s.

    You might have the kernal of a good story idea, there.

    I thought so to, though it’s really not my kind of writing.

    I agree about the difficulty in rising above the masses. I know of no (ethical) formula. But perhaps it’s some natural law – there are always WAY more wannabes – think seeds for example – than successes. I just give it my all then leave it to fate. After that should it fail at least I know I did my best.

    FWIW, IMO you know how to write.

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    • The question is if artificial intelligence is up to the task of creating a story that makes sense, and then fleshing it out with the right language. Programmers have created excellent robots that can mimic human speech, but write a book? 100,000 words placed together correctly? That make sense?

      The mind boggles at such a scope.

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