[One a completely separate note, I also have an interview up today over at the A to Z Challenge blog, stop by and check that out, too.]
To bring the impact of the “nice” review down to a more personal level, when the the independent market suffers the effects of undeserved good reviews, so do you.
Let me put this another way: The only way you can ever become successful as an independent author is if the larger audience of readers begins to buy your books. It's all well and good for your blogging friends and a few of their friends to buy your book, but, really, that's just a handful of sales. To make it, to really make it, you have to break through the “friend” barrier out into people that don't know you. That is a hard thing to do.
You want to know why it's a hard thing to do? Because the larger audience of readers doesn't trust the independent market. They don't even really trust the small publishers, so how do you expect them to trust you, some anonymous author with a sign saying, “Buy my book! It's really good!”
See, when we just do the “nice” thing and give good reviews to our peers, the independent market suffers, as I said, but, also, you, specifically you, as an independently published author, suffer. You are not immune to the overall perception that people will have of a market place full of good reviews that don't mean anything.
You want to know how I know this? Because I don't buy independently published books except from people I know or that have been strongly recommended to me by people whose opinions I trust. Why? Because I can't tell what's good and what's not. And, even then, half the stuff (and I'm being generous here) I've read from people I know or has been recommended to me shouldn't be out there available for purchase, anyway, so why would I expect that other stuff is any different. But, yet, I can browse through the "indie book shelf" (yes, I just made that up) and find plenty of books with a stack of good reviews (on Amazon or on blogs) that I know to be... dishonest, for lack of a better word. In some cases, I don't think the person giving the review even read the book, because the review is about the author not the work.
A review beginning with “this is a great guy” or “I went to high school with this guy and he wrote a book” or “this girl spends all of her time writing” does not inspire me to buy the book or give me any faith in the independent market. If you didn't read it, don't go click 5-stars on it! Just don't do it.
To make this as clear as I can, it doesn't matter if you genuinely have written a great book, the best book ever, even, if no one can find it. It's like being the one apple tree in the middle of a forest of crab apple trees. The only way to be seen in all of that other mess is if reviews, all reviews, are honest reviews and are clearly labeled “crab apple” instead of “apple.”
So far, we've been pretty self-centered and only talked about how all of this stuff affects ourselves, but let's look at how the “nice” review affects the author in question. Does the “nice” review actually help him/her? Again, I'm going to say “no.”
Sure, as I said in Part One, getting the “nice” review may gain the author a few sales, but, if the book is really not good or not ready or not whatever, it's going to hurt the author more in the long run.
First, people buying the book are going to find “oh, this book sucks” and decide to never buy another book from that author again. It doesn't matter if, later, the author does put out something good, why would a buyer (that doesn't know the author) come back and try again after getting burned once? Most people are just going to remember to not buy anything from him/her again (like I won't buy any more Goodkin or Hamilton, I don't care how good people say they are).
But what's the likelihood that the author is going to improve if everyone is just being nice? The author, at that point, believes that the work is fine and s/he can continue in the same manner. I've seen a lot of this out there, too. Authors that whip out some 40,000 word "epic" in a couple or few months, get some nice reviews and continue on doing the same. Over and over again. Their friends are all giving them good reviews and telling them how great they are, so they never bother to actually look at the work or how much (little) time they're spending on it. They don't edit beyond spell check or have anyone with any kind of skill read the manuscript before they hit the publish button.
These authors think everything is just fine. “Look at how all my friends love what I'm doing!” But no one is buying their books. Why? Because they're no good. But no one is brave enough to tell them that. No one wants to damage the friendship by saying, “Hey, you need to work on this some more.” Again, it's a short term gain, but it's kind of like allowing your friend to walk around with a huge booger on his/her face. Sure, s/he'd be embarrassed if you told him, but how mad at you is she going to be when she finds out that you didn't.
Doing the “nice” thing doesn't help anyone. It doesn't help the market, it doesn't help you, and it doesn't help the author in question. Not in the long run. Yeah, I know, it can be really difficult to see past the short run to the long run, but, if we want independent publishing to survive, we have to do that. Right now, the big publishers are out there banking on one thing, that this lack of quality among independently published books will drive people back to only buying from them. The sad thing is they may not be wrong. Until we, the independent authors, have the courage and fortitude to be honest about what we're flooding the market with, people will continue to orbit the big publishers as their main source of reading material.