As God is My Witness, I Will Never Read a 5-Star E-Book Again!

by Barr Bielinski

You're a writer. You’ve published a book, or you’re working on one that you will publish. You’ll need readers. And what better way to get them than racking up some stellar reviews?

So you ask your friends. Your acquaintances. You ask around your social media circles. Your only unsolicited review comes from your mother. This book will win world-wide acclaim for its mega-talented author. You cringe. But she gives you five stars. Everyone does.

You are lauded on Twitter for your 5-star authordom and attract numerous followers, all of whom urge you to visit their blogs, share their posts, retweet their tweets, and, yes, review their 5-star books. They’re auth-whores! They’re prose-titutes! But they’re getting the word out.

Your listing on Amazon says, Only 2 left in stock. It says that for a couple of weeks. Then a month. Come on people. Five stars!

You check the Amazon ratings for this year’s Pulitzer finalists: Swamplandia! 3 stars; The Pale King 4 stars; Train Dreams 4.4 stars. Should you offer your Twitter account to next year’s committee? Plenty of worthier books there—-all 5-star. And yours would stand out why?

Maybe it’s the number of 5-star reviews. You google buy book review and slog through the first pages of 502 million results.

And all the while I’m here.

Nightly, I read on in whatever literary-establishment-approved book happens to top my nightstand pile. I’m satisfied to be the twenty-thousandth reader, the hundred-thousandth, the last person I know to finish the one I’m yawning over right now. I read until ten and I turn out the light.

I could be settling in with an outlier—-maybe yours—find the first chapter unexpectedly inviting, hold my breath through the second, let ten o’clock slip by unnoticed, midnight, read with my mouth open, like a kid halfway in a book that makes him forget who he is, and at the same time like myself, savvy to your deftness. Only one problem.

I will never find you.

Your book’s 5-star rating gives you the appearance of playing an amateurish game. Unfair. Yes. All it really means is your book has yet to reach an audience beyond your circle of influence. It’s not your fault. You are caught up in a system that doesn’t work. And so am I.

As writers, we Grubbies are somewhere on the writing-publishing-promoting continuum. Our fellow writers ask us to be reviewers. And, as readers, every one of us would thrill to be among the early readers of a yet-undiscovered gem.

How can we navigate a marketplace so full of noise and hyperbole? Keep our integrity intact? Promote and read good work? Can you lend some insight?

Barr Bielinski's novel is still in the works. She'll be the guest editor at SmokeLong Quarterly next week. Submit and she may choose your flash piece for the next issue.

About the Author

GrubWrites is a space for the writing and reading community to share ideas and seek advice, a place where writers at the very beginning of their careers publish alongside established authors. Book lovers, we bring you reviews, recommendations, and conversations with exciting new authors to keep you up to speed on all things lit. Writers, this is your one stop shop for expert craft talk, opinions on how we learn and teach writing, and essential advice about the publishing industry.

Plus, we want to hear from you! Our ongoing call for submissions is open to literary community members of all types and persuasions. We want to hear from students, teachers, authors, readers, editors, agents, publicists, and any devotee of the written word. If you have something to say about writing, reading, the publishing industry, or anything related to the literary world, this is the place to voice it. We’re particularly committed to advocating for a diverse range of voices in the literary marketplace and raising the visibility of writers from under-represented communities.

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