Sunday, March 26, 2017

I'm Giving the Star System a Thumbs Down

Netflix has adopted a new review system, or rather an old-school, Siskel & Ebert inspired system, where they ditched the "one to five stars" option in favor of “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.”

Why? Netflix said that over time, they realized the average number of stars that something received didn't correlate to people's viewing habits. For example, documentaries get a lot of five star ratings and silly comedies usually receive three stars, but the comedies are way more popular in terms of what people actually watch. So really, a simple "thumbs up" or thumbs down" is a more effective way for viewers to express if something is worth their time to watch.

I wish Amazon would switch to "thumbs up" or "thumbs down," because personal taste, by its very nature, is subjective. Most people rate things on whether or not it appeals to them, rather than objectively assessing its quality. For that reason, I hate the five star rating system.

I can get bad reviews because my book was too short, or there wasn't enough romance, or someone didn't like the main character. Maybe these are all legitimate reasons not to like one of my books, but a bad review can cause serious repercussions. If your book has an average review rating that's below four stars, you can’t advertise on any of the premium sites and readers will automatically dismiss it. It’s so hard to get reviews in the first place, let alone lots of five stars reviews, but that’s the thing that can make or break the success of a novel. A simple "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" would make life a lot easier.

I don’t think the reviewers (who aren’t authors themselves) realize their power. Why would they? And of course I appreciate anyone who has given my books a chance, and has taken the time to review it. But can I now just say my biggest pet peeve? It’s when a reviewer says in their review “3.5 Stars” but because they can only use whole numbers of stars, they round down. Ugh!

But on the other hand, I can understand their indecision.

I have been going to physical therapy lately, because I broke my elbow and now I have weeks and weeks and weeks of seemingly endless recovery where I have to try and bend my arm when it wants to stay frozen. And at every appointment, my therapist asks, “What’s your pain level?”

It’s so hard to answer. Do I try to sound brave? I don’t want to downplay it. But a four for me might be a six, or a two, for somebody else. I always think too hard, and usually wind up answering, “3.5.”

It’s so ridiculous. I should just commit to a three, or a four, or give in to being a wimp and say it’s a five. Or even better, I should just be able to give my elbow a thumbs up or a thumbs down. This feeling must be pretty common. Netflix said they got 200% more reviews once they took the pressure off viewers to pick a star value and let people do "thumbs up" or "thumbs down."

Trust me, it's the way go.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

A Nasty Woman Who Can't Seal the Deal

Has it really come down to a bully in a Make America Great Again baseball cap? Click here to find out.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sex, Lies, and Shackles

Is Monty cheating on Lucy? And how could things have sunk so low? Click Here to read Sex, Lies, and Shackles to find out!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Anyone's Game

Win or lose, stay away from bullies. Read Anyone's Game on November Surprises Blog. Click Here

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Breaking News

Will Monty go back to Evelyn? Will CNN ever call Trump on all his staged antics? Find out on the latest November Surprises Blog post. Click here to read "Breaking News."

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Thought on Audio Books and YOU WILL KNOW ME

I've always felt that the best way to learn to write fiction is to read fiction. And while I will always be an avid reader, in the last couple of years I have grown more and more fond of listening to audio books as well. Maybe it's because I am forced to focus on every word, rather than skimming as I unintentionally do sometimes while reading. Maybe it's because I am always uninterrupted while listening to an audio book, even if it's just for a few minutes at a time. Having a book read to me is so informative and it really gets me thinking about plot structure, characterization, and prose. Usually I will listen on my drive to and from work, but  in the last few weeks I have also listened to an audio book while going for my morning runs.

At the end of the summer I began You Will Know Me, by Meg Abbot. Every morning as I jogged through the blocks of my neighborhood, I listened to this pseudo-thriller about an Olympic-hopeful gymnast and her mother. It was usually pretty warm outside as I ran, it was always humid, and more often than not my knees hurt because I've been in the habit of running for nearly twenty years, and well, that takes a toll. But the story was good enough to keep me going. Abbot's use of description is jaw-droppingly good and had me thinking, "Wow, I don't use description well AT ALL." The more I read, the more I write, and the more I study writing, the more I am convinced that effectively conveying the big picture is done by focusing on the details, and Meg Abbot is nearly poetic in how she uses detail to create a picture and establish emotion. I was truly inspired.

The book got great reviews from places like the New York Times and other major publications, and slightly higher than mediocre reviews from readers on Amazon. Some say the story moves to slow.  It's about Devon, a fourteen year old girl who wants to become an elite gymnast. Right as her last chance to do so comes up, a young man connected to the gym where she trains is murdered, and that has major implications for everyone involved. The plot centers around Devon's mother, Katie, and we are privy to her thoughts and actions throughout. While I wouldn't call the book slow, I did get frustrated at times that Katie was slow, not putting two and two together when anyone else would. I also saw the end coming, but that's okay. It was more about the getting there, and the getting there was done pretty well.

One tiny little rant though - I've noticed lately in several books that when a protagonist is a woman with a teenage daughter, the woman still can't be older than her mid-thirties. What's that about? In You Will Know Me, Katie and her husband Eric supposedly got married and had Devon by the time Katie was nineteen? Okay, but the rest of their back-story doesn't make sense: how they managed to buy a house, establish a career without ever going to school, remember past relationships, etc. It was just unnecessary. Why is it so horrible to have a female protagonist over forty?

And one other thing: SPOILER ALERT!  Don't read this part if you don't want the ending ruined.
Once we finally found out that Devon was in a relationship with hot-guy Ryan, we still never really know what he saw in her. He was twenty-three and in a relationship with a very attractive woman his own age. Devon was fifteen and hadn't even hit puberty, due to her gymnastics career.  Meg Abbot really needed to give more information on how that worked, because I JUST DIDN'T BUY IT.