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Well, after writing book reviews on my site for over four years now, the time has come to no longer show the star rating at the end of each review. It was a tough decision, one that I should have taken a long time ago.
So what caused the change of heart? Well, it is the discrepancy that often exists between the quality of traditionally published books and self-published books by indie authors, something that I’ve struggled for a while now but never knew how to approach in my reviews.
Recently I started to write book reviews on another site called Online Book Club. I’ve been writing there for several months and one thing I’ve noticed is that 99% of the books added there are by self-published authors (Createspace and similar).
There is a rating system in place (from 1 to 4 stars), and I often give 4 stars at OBC for books that I enjoyed reading. However, as the authors on OBC asking for reviews are usually new, struggling authors who don’t have a hoard of reviews on Amazon or Goodreads and are not endorsed by anyone with a serious clout, I do lower my standards for that site a bit when it comes to rating the books. I no longer look outside of the site for comparison, but I take instead other books I’ve rated there to weigh them against and rate them accordingly.
When all things are equal, the quality of many indie books is different than, say, that of the Jack Reacher novels or anything written by long-established authors, or even new debut authors like the author Jane Harper, whose debut novel incited a serious bidding war back in 2016 in Australia.
Indie books are normally self-published or published by small, unknown presses and not by well-known publishing company like Macmillan, Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, RandomHouse or Penguin, those we call the “big six.”
When a book is published by one of the main six publishing houses, you can bet your ass that they are vetted, checked from front cover to back cover, proofread, copyedited, line edited and looked at with the tiniest microscope before the manuscript actually becomes a book. The publishers basically give their OK, their thumbs up, saying this one is as good as it gets for an international acclaim.
Most indie novels do not have the budget for such critiques. If self-published, one such book is probably edited by the author, and maybe checked by a dozen of alpha or beta readers. If a small publishing house prints the book, they do not have the funds to do everything like the big six do. Yes, it is not very fair, but it is what it is.
Having said that, I have read and reviewed here on my blog several outstanding indie books. I have to grudgingly admit that some were actually better than a few books I’ve read over the years printed by one of the big six. However, this is usually the exception and not the norm for the obvious reasons.
Initially, I thought to no longer rate books by indie authors only, but I felt it’s not fair to those authors who put all their sweat, tears and money for getting their lifework, their books out there for us to read and enjoy, which is pretty much all indie authors. So, instead, I made the big decision to no longer star rate any book that will be reviewed on this site, regardless of where it is published, be it RandomHouse or Createspace.
My review itself will give enough pointers for the readers to understand whether I loved the book and can recommend it with all my heart, or I merely felt it was only oh, ok. Or even hated it.
Also, until now, I would have never reviewed books that I found to be worth of less than 3.5 stars because I got several complaints and ill-willed emails from authors whose books I looked at less than favorably back in the day. So, since then, I refused to actually review here anything that I felt I didn’t like. I could easily be without threats of bodily harm or virtual harm to my blog.
Now, without this constraint, I can review any book I come across and not feel guilty. It’s like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders.
There are many great books out there written by self-publishing authors or published by tiny, often unknown publishing houses. But, overall, when you look at the bulk of such books vs the bulk of trad. published books, there is a difference in quality. In fact, I even had a few people on my Facebook page complain that I dared give a 5-star rating to an indie book last year just because it was published on Createspace. One person even blocked me on Facebook for it.
So, I guess, there is pressure from both sides, and to ease the pressure and be as free and fair as I can be to everyone in my reviews, the star rating on Mystery Sequels is gone as of now for all books.