Friday, October 26, 2012
Years ago when I was teaching at the university level, grading was a mess. I had a joint appointment between a state and a private university. Both huge. Both elite schools. At the state we were encouraged to give honest grades. If a student earned a C grade, s/he got it. Ditto an A grade. But at the private university we were arm-twisted to give almost nothing below a B-. Why? Because a student might wash out and the elite university would lose money. I only gave grades that were earned. I didn't wash out, but the faculty was not amused by my stubborn stance.
Now, it seems as if the "give the student a very high grade" has transmogrified into review ratings for books. Since we writers are always following our reviews, it makes sense to be elated with five-star reviews (maybe even a four-star review if we are honest with ourselves). But to be told that we should never, ever give anything less than a five-star review undermines our credibility as writers.
We are not objective, we writers as a whole. And we are thin-skinned, too. Maybe we are afraid that a fellow author will extract revenge, but to ask or tell people to inflate their reviews does as much of a disservice to the writer as elevated grades did to a student who couldn't pass a course.
I hate gushing reviews. I know, I'll probably change my mind when my book comes out next year, but I can't imagine 100% of those I hope will read it will gush. I hope they'll be honest. I've given three- and four-star reviews for self-published books as well as those published by the Big Six. I've given very few five-star reviews. That's reserved for books that knock my socks off.
So, if you want a five-star review, write a five-star book. Simple as that. And if you don't agree with me, you'll have a chance at revenge come April 2013 when Mad Max: Unintended Consequences comes out from Koehler books.