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Self-Published "seal of approval"?


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#1 TBruce

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Posted 02 January 2012 - 08:25 PM

I was reading this article about book review sites' reluctance to review self-published books (http://emilysreading...-published.html) and was wondering: is there a service now (or in the works) that certifies a self-published book has met some kind of minimum quality standards (like a "good housekeeping seal of approval" or BBB rating)? I was thinking that such a service would be a huge benefit to the self-published community and would open up doors.

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#2 BlackRose

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Posted 02 January 2012 - 08:43 PM

That's an interesting question and one i have no answer to. I know. I'm a lot of help right? No? Sorry,lol. Anyway, it would be nice if they did have one for those that wanted to submit their work to be reviewed. It could be a pay service like you do for editing. I'd do it if I was self publishing.
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#3 RC Lewis

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 10:20 PM

I've heard this idea floated around before. The question, then, becomes ... aren't we just exchanging one gatekeeper for another? And the rebuttal is, maybe we need *some* kind of gatekeeping ... but can we make it more efficient/effective than the current system?
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#4 Darke

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 07:40 PM

I've been looking over book bloggers and surprised at how many won't review self-published. I'm wondering if it has something to do with being flooded with bad books. Bad as in, poor grammar, formatting, and all those other things that have scarred SP.

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#5 dgaughran

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 11:42 AM

Yep. It's called Amazon Reviews.
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#6 TBruce

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 12:22 PM

Yep. It's called Amazon Reviews.


Amazon reviews doesn't really function as a marketing/first notice tool (as far as I know, correct me if I'm wrong) - I don't go to Amazon to find out about new books in the way I would read the NYT reviews or read the book reviews in "The Week" or on my favorite book review blog sites or even read my friend's reviews on Goodreads, etc. An amazon review only helps once I've been alerted to a book I might like - Amazon reviews let me then decide if the book is worth my money. But they don't bring books to my notice that haven't already been put under my nose.

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#7 dgaughran

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Posted 24 February 2012 - 12:15 PM

It's not a discovery tool per se (although a string of good reviews will get you crucial visibility on Amazon's Top Rated lists, which can really drive sales). But they can certainly be used for marketing purposes ("Over FIFTY five-star reviews" etc.).

But if you are talking about sites which can help readers discover books, there are a whole plethora of them, and they are extremely popular: KND, Pixel of Ink, ENT, eReaderIQ, Kindle Fire Department, etc. Added to that are all the review sites: Big Al's, Red Adept, etc. Then the reader hangouts like LibraryThing, GoodReads, Shelfari, and forums like MobileRead etc. And then a billion genre sites.

If you're hoping for a future site that can combine the popularity of all of those, one central place to rate or slate, or attach a seal to, self-published work, I don't think it's going to happen. Recommendation ecosystems in music, television, and movies have been balkanized by the internet, and books are and will be no different, in the same way that newspapers have lost their power, and their readership has gone to a thousand blogs.

I expect that pattern to continue.
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#8 dgaughran

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Posted 24 February 2012 - 12:20 PM

I should also add that Amazon's algorithm based recommendation system is one giant discovery tool (Customers who bought this also bought...) and that drives HUGE numbers of sales.

The more you buy on Amazon, the smarter it gets. Although, if you are a writer/self-publisher, and you are clicking on lots of books that you wouldn't normally read because you're checking out their presentation, or rubbernecking on ranking or reviews or whatever, you will pollute the algorithm and their recommendations won't be as accurate.

For those who just look at stuff they might read, it can be eerily accurate. Amazon know what you view, whether you buy or not, whether you read what you buy, whether you finish it, and how quickly you do so. They also track what you buy directly afterwards (more of the same author?), and the cycle begins again. It learns by measuring how likely you (and customers like you) are to click on a certain kind of book when shown the cover, and continually tweaks everything accordingly. It takes this info, crunches it constantly, and then also uses it for things like deciding what book get put on which email lists to which kinds of customer. Whether you click on all or any of those books, and what you do afterwards is then... you get the idea.
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#9 TBruce

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Posted 24 February 2012 - 02:49 PM

Now you're making me scared to visit Amazon, LOL! Stalked by Amazon - sounds like a good book title.

Well, setting aside the issue of whether or not those review sites will review self-published books, I wasn't really thinking of reviews at all, because reviews are subjective measures of enjoyment/taste. I was thinking of an *objective* "seal of approval" that simply says "this book has passed a certain standard" in terms of proofreading/editing, consistency, etc. (like character names don't change part way through the book, there's less than X number of typos per page, etc.). Just a way for readers to know they aren't getting one of those "crap" self-published books that were just thrown out there. Now, whether or not someone enjoys the book and thinks it's a good story is an entirely different matter that reader reviews will all shake out. But if readers are skittish to take a chance on self-published books because they think 95% of them are made unreadable by basic grammatical problems, then we (writers) all suffer - we won't get a chance to be reviewed if no one takes a chance on us. In this last week I've seen three aspiring writers talk on their blogs about how they would never self-publish because all self-published books are crap and proof that the author COULDN'T get traditionally published because he/she writes dross. We all know that isn't true, that there are good quality self-published books out there, but as long as the WRITING community is perpetuating that stereotype, those producing quality products are going to get overlooked. Which makes me sad.

--Terri

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#10 dgaughran

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Posted 24 February 2012 - 04:29 PM

Hi TBruce,

A few things.

1) The sample button. A reader can usually tell within a page or two if the author can write, whether the book has been edited, whether the book has been proofed, whether it has been formatted properly, and whether it's the kind of story they are likely to enjoy.

2) I think any ill-feeling towards self-publishers *exclusively* resides in the publishing business. Readers don't care who published a book.

3) This is proven by the gradual takeover of the genre bestseller lists. Self-publishers regularly capture a third of the top-spots on Amazon. But if you drill down to the genres that went digital first - like Thrillers and Romance - it's often more than half of the top spots. That would seem to indicate to me (and this is backed up by plenty of surveys) that the more readers are exposed to self-published work, the more of it they read.

In short, I think you have a solution looking for a problem. I don't agree with the assumption that readers are avoiding self-published work, so I don't think there is a need for the kind of site you are suggesting (at least for the reason you are suggesting it).

Poor work sinks without trace. If it has a crap cover, few will click on it. If the blurb is unenticing, few will sample. If the sample is shoddy, no-one will buy, and it will slip all the way down to the bottom of the rankings, and essentially be invisible.

That's not to say that all work down there is poor. Some books take time to find their readers, but I digress.

All the sites I mentioned (only some are review sites) are just some of the many, many ways readers discover books. And all of them feature self-published work (many of them, in fact, exclusively feature self-published work). Some of them are HUGE. Pixel of Ink has 200,000 Facebook subscribers alone. And that's not even the biggest.

Honestly, I don't think it matters one jot what trade published writers and agents and editors and publishers and publicists think about self-publishers or their work. Readers are buying it in their droves. That's all I care about. And in fact, the longer they continue to underestimate/dismiss self-published work, the easier they are making it for us to make money.

Dave
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