The Awesome Indies is a group of individuals united by their commitment to fostering and recognizing excellence in independently published books. Our primary activity is reviewing books in order to evaluate them for their suitability for addition to our list of books that meet mainstream standards.
In an attempt to be fair and transparent, we evaluate as objectively as we can to a specific set of criteria. Our reviewers are trained for this role, and are equivalent to the editorial staff in a publishing company who evaluate books to ascertain their suitability for publication. Hence our reviews are editorial in nature; they focus on the craftsmanship and, in particular, how well a book meets our criteria. Our standards are high. We make no apologies for that. Forty to fifty percent of books submitted for review warrant 3 or fewer stars and, therefore, don’t make it onto the Awesome Indies list.
Our policy is to publish all reviews no matter what their star rating. We do this in service to readers and to the independent publishing industry that, at present, is blighted by a lack of true critical appraisal, and a lack of ethics and professionalism from some authors. Such authors bribe, forge and bully to get the reviews they want, and some of those most able to write true critical appraisals (i.e. authors) don’t publish reviews of books they consider poor quality for fear of reprisals against their own publications. All this makes it even more vital that somebody publishes low starred reviews for books that warrant it.
The truth about a book’s quality needs to be published if independent publishing is to compete seriously against mainstream publishing. At present, too many unwary buyers fall into the trap of buying books with glowing reviews only to discover that the book is in need of a good prune by an editor who knows what they’re doing. Many readers eventually swear off Indie books, and others accept the likelihood that a cheaper price means a cheaper product. Both decisions are bad for the future of independent publishing, and the only way to avoid this is to tell readers what they want to know: is the book any good?
Honest critical appraisal is, and always has been, a vital ingredient for a healthy publishing industry. Without it, the industry will sicken and die. Writers who need to improve won’t know there is anything wrong with their work; they will, quite unintentionally and innocently, continue to produce poor quality books and flood an already glutted market, making it even more likely that readers will get burned with a sub-standard product. More readers will steer clear of independently published books, to the detriment of those who do produce top-quality work, and the mainstream publishers will rub their hands with glee and say, ‘I told you so.’
Give the self-publishers enough rope and they will hang themselves. That’s what many said and there are plenty of authors out there right now tying the noose with no idea that that is what they are doing.
Authors who try to gag critical appraisal are short-sighted. They think only of themselves, and don’t realise how damaging their attitude is, not only to the business, but ultimately to themselves as well. No one is impressed by adults throwing tantrums as if they were two years old, and no one likes a bully, including prospective readers.
Professional authors understand that the possibility of negative reviews comes with the territory. Instead of trying to intimidate the reviewer into removing such a review, they learn from them. Their writing improves, and that benefits everyone. Well-written negative reviews can be extremely helpful. Many of the books on the Awesome Indies list only earned their place after the authors revised them in accordance with our reviewers suggestions. These authors didn’t try to shore up their tender egos by running down our reviewers, they used their initial rejection as a learning process, and their book ended up better for it.
Our reviewers no longer publish reviews under their own names. We created a second Awesome Indies review account at Amazon and Goodreads after one of our reviewers received a revenge review. This doesn’t stop disgruntled authors from abusing the administrator – little ol’ me – or leaving derogatory comments on the reviews, but Amazon quickly put a stop to one who tried that – all credit to Amazon there. One author even threatened legal action! But I’m pretty sure that the Western World supports free speech above bruised egos. Another made a terrible fuss over a three star review that said the book was worth a read!
Since the beginning of this year, authors filling in an Awesome Indies review request form must answer the following question: do you agree to accept the results of your review in a professional manner, i.e without argument or abuse? I doubt it will solve the problem, but it should lessen it.
Isn’t it a sad comment on the independent publishing industry that such a question is necessary?
In conclusion: I want to make it quite clear to any author who considers that they have the right to abuse us for sharing what we consider fair comment.
The Awesome Indies will not be bullied.
We will not reply to any communication that threatens, abuses or aims to intimidate, nor will we go into any discussion on the merits or otherwise of the review or the reviewer.