Benchmark content in story writing and the Amazon review system

I used to be afraid of negative reviews. Not anymore. I used to think that good writing would avoid good quality negative reviews: maybe it will, maybe it wont, of course. We've all seen great novels with one star reviews, and decent ones with unfair one star reviews, and plenty of one star reviews that are quite incisive and contain good criticism that would be informative to the author. Anyway, most reviewers seem to be basically benevolent and provide decent star ratings, which helps to keep titles high in the charts this occurs even on pretty crappy titles apparently.

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What is benchmark content?

This led me to the idea of benchmark content: benchmark content gets and avaerage of at least3.5 stars, which means that it gets quite a few four and five star reviews as well as one and two star reviews, which evidently keep the average down. The point is that benchmark content provides the possibility of variable interpretations from one to five stars with a negatively skewed distribution that ends up with a fairly high average. Content that is substantially below the benchmark is evidently negatively skewed as the range of interpretations narrow and people approach one and two stars as the average. (Actually, I've seen a really crappy title with a three star rating high in the charts that's sustaining it's position there somehow, so perhaps 3.5 is too high for the benchmark!)

In actual fact, benchmark content is, for most educated and savvy readers, pretty crap or absolute crap. The star rating that results allows crap to rise up through the charts by way of the cheap sales mechanisms at the bookstores. It also indicates that if you know you can write, you don't have to worry about negative reviews: titles still sell despite negative one star reviews becoming prominent after loads of readers indicate that they find them helpful; they still sell because most people are on their Kindles and the Kindle is a more impoverished shopping mechanism than using your browser and doesn't display all the information related to the reviews.

Is the average really helpful?

Since most reviewers are benevolent and the standard of benchmark content is so low, then the average is essentially relative and just aboutno help whatsoever also new titles tend to get more positive reviews and a higher average not just because some are written by the author and their friends, but because the average reviewer is benevolent, so the majority star rating is likely to appear first the negative a bit later on I mean statistically. So, the average gets affected by it's rise in the charts and the slow shifting of the mean as it proliferates and attracts harsher readers. Again, not really useful; what's useful is whether any of the reviews appeal or resonate to you, which is relative.

I used to think that a book would fall in the charts due to the weight of negative reviews, but now I'm not so sure. I'm pretty sure that this relates back to benchmark content: if the book is below the benchmark, the initial independent reviews will reflect this, and if the book somehow still rises through the charts and gains some visibility, then it will quickly attract more negative reviews and the low average will start to take shape early on; the author and his/her friends perhaps won't be able to combat this with fake reviews indefinitely. Ideally, the weight of these negative reviews will cause a title to fall. But has this happened, and how many times? Probably not that many;I just hope that it does or will soon for a lot of titles that are currently available.

Ive noticed crappy titles high in the charts that we're released years ago, and the negative reviews haven't caused them to plummet. The title and the cover and all the other superficial mechanisms seem to work predictably: it seems that once a few chickens click on the feeder button, the rest of the chickens will also . What this means is that new titles, quality titles, are essentially competing with crap and have to outdo these titles in the terms of the cheap sales mechanisms more so than on the content.

When is content king?

Content becomes king for individual readers, reviewers and eventually posterity but content also gets lost in posterity as the name and snippets of themes and status get disseminated further than the actual content. Crap will sell but it won't get you into any 'hall of fame' but who cares as it's all about the sales and the charts, right? What I mean is that once you have the competition with the fierce sales mechanisms sorted out, and you know you have good content, you're in with a good chance of being recognized and gaining a following of readers over the long-term. Thats obviosuly the best you can hope for.

In scifi, it's particularly tough: scifi fans are harsh and those that disseminate content on the Internet remember the good and ignore or attempt to undermine the crap. These people are perhaps victims of marketing and dissemination like the rest of us, but it's likely that due to their knowledge of scifi history and quality standards and their understanding of content benchmarks etc, these netizens are in a good position to create order to reality; hopefully,Amazon and it's cohort will play their part as well somehow and the crappy scifi titles that are currently dominating the charts will sooner or later be lost forever.

The hope for the future as I see it is that as more people get cheated on their Kindles etc, they will progressively get off them and use the Internet as their gateway into reading, which will draw people to research and explore authors and their histories and contexts more than what they currently do: there certainly seems to be a trend towards this, but there's plenty of room for more as the current problem is related to the 'swarming effect at the bookstores via the ereader devices as long as there's an upward curve of the sales of Kindles and other ereaders, there'll be new users that are ready to become victims of the bookstores' sales mechanisms.

Anyway, despite what it may seem, I am optimistic the future will be more sensible and orderly than the present; we just have to work hard at it and hope that the bookstores do too. We'll see

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Posted in Business Post Date 03/26/2019


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