Rotten Tomatoes for Indie Books?

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Many bloggers publish their own books these days. I wanted to help, wanted to support my fellow bloggers and bought many -too many- of the so called Indie books. I always left nice reviews, because that’s what we bloggers are supposed to do. We don’t want to lose a reader and a follower, with that in mind, we stretch the truth as far as possible. We praise, and leave polite comments, even if we don’t care for something. Blogging politics at it’s best. 

Indie writers and Indie books! I didn’t even know they existed before I entered the blogging world. The number of bloggers who promoted their own books overwhelmed me at first and took me by surprise. “Surely, they must be good, or they wouldn’t do that.”

But then if you think about it. If a book is good, surely a publishing house would be interested in it, or not?

When I just started blogging, I felt surprised, when the first AUTHOR followed my little blog. I felt star struck, couldn’t believe my luck. It was just logical for me to order her book; it felt like it was the right thing to do. After all, she was following my blog.

I love books, love to read and couldn’t wait to read some of the self-published books. I read the first, then another, and another after that. Different books, different stories…same result. I didn’t care for it. The books never even made it in the donation pile.

Indie books! Often it feels like watching a bad reality TV show where people come on stage promoting their talent. Some are really good, but often -too often- you find yourself sitting there, wondering if nobody ever told them the truth. “Sorry, Dude, you suck. Keep your day job!”

I started to wonder. Am I the only one who feels that way? Am I the only one who is critical when it comes to Indie authors and their books?

The answer is simple. Yes, here in the blogging world I am the only one -so it seems. Out there in the real world, there are many who think just like me.

To me, it seems disrespectful…that a ‘wannabe’ assumes it’s all so easy s/he can put out a ‘published novel’ without bothering to read, study, or do the research. … Self-publishing is a short cut and I don’t believe in short cuts when it comes to the arts. I compare self-publishing to a student managing to conquer Five Easy Pieces on the piano and then wondering if s/he’s ready to be booked into Carnegie Hall .

(Sue Grafton)

Harsh words! Easy for her to say, she is a successful author. Is she right?

The biggest problems are the reviews. Amazon and even Goodreads work like a social media platform and that doesn’t help the reader, who is searching for a good book. Most of the reviews there are left by family and (blogging) friends who have written a booklet or a book as well. “I scratch your back, you scratch  mine.” That’s how it seems to work.

I know there are good self-published books out there, but they are hard to find. I myself had to order one in Great Britain and I am enjoying the heck out of it.

The truth is, we are drowning in Indie books, and there is no end in sight. Perhaps, I should rephrase that. We are drowning in Indie books that are badly written and poorly edited.

How do we find the good self-published books? The ones that are actually worth reading, the books and authors who sooner or later will get public recognition? Where are the writers that will start out as Indie authors but quickly will have a contract with a real publishing house?

The e-book changes nothing from an author perspective – I’m a big consumer of e-books.  But the “noise” of self-publishing is so vast. I worry that writing is becoming steadily devalued. 

I am not willing to spend more money on Indie books until there is something like a “Rotten Tomato List” for the self-published book.  Perhaps even a rating system for all books; a site, where people have access to reviews from a variety of critics in the U.S.

An independent site, something like a bestseller list where the critic is left by real readers and professional book critics. Why don’t we have that?

Guess what! We do have that now. I found the Literary Hub and I was thrilled.

 Literary Hub, a site dedicated to book news, essays and excerpts, has launched Book Marks, which they call a “Rotten Tomatoes for books,” aggregating professional critics’ takes on new literary novels and assigning them a letter grade. 

A hub for books, no matter if self-published or published by a professional publishing house. I am in heaven, or somewhere close to it.

How It Works:

Every day, the Book Marks staff scours the most important and active outlets of literary journalism in the US—from established national broadsheets to regional weeklies and alternative litblogs—and logs their book reviews. When a book is reviewed by at least three outlets, each of those reviews is assigned an individual rating (Rave, Positive, Mixed or Pan). These ratings are then averaged into a result and the book becomes part of our Book Marks database.

Each book’s cumulative rating functions as both a general critical assessment, and, more significantly, as an introduction to the range of voices and opinions that make up the world of American literary criticism. These opinions are accompanied by pull quotes representative of the overall stance of each individual review, and readers can click through to the full review at its source.

Readers can express their own opinions alongside those of the critics in each book page’s What Did You Think Of… comments section. 

Book Marks exists to serve as a consolidated information resource for the reading public and a link between the worlds of literary creation, criticism and consumption. We hope it will bring more attention to great books and great criticism.

The writing community benefits from a multiplicity of voices.

(Source: Literary Hub)


I am tickled pink.I am making flip flops, feel like throwing a party. The Literary Hub is my dream come true.

The important role that publishers fill is to separate the wheat from the chaff.  If you’re a good writer and have a great book you should be able to get a publishing contract. (Brad Thor)


59 thoughts on “Rotten Tomatoes for Indie Books?

  1. Rejection is part of the growing process, it help us grow in our career field. Self publishing stops the growing process because writers think they are good -and fake reviews help them.

    This is one of my most read post, so I think I hit a nerve. No worries, I already unfollowed you. No more comments about Indie writers from me.


  2. You are a voice in the darkness. I often shake my fist at the sky at the poor quality of some self published books. Not all, there are some gems, and the quality is getting better. First up, I’ll say I am a writer and I am slowly easing my way into the self publishing industry. It’s taken me nearly 20 years to feel comfortable with the level of my writing skill to even think about selling it. So hopefully no rubbish from me. For the majority of this year I’ve been concentrating on learning about marketing strategies and the business. That’s the only way to make a decent go of it, to think of yourself as a business.

    If I have learned anything over the last year, it is to not trust Amazon or Goodreads reviews, especially the full star ones. Despite the rules that are supposed to stop biased reviews, it doesn’t work. I’ve been on groups where people have popped up and said, “My Amazon review rating has dropped, can someone write something nice and bump me up?” AND THEY DO! Sorry for the caps, but I was gobsmacked. I decided Amazon ratings were manipulated. To top it off, I bought the book in question to see what all the fuss was about and it was full of errors, terrible expression, stilted dialogue, you get the idea. It did deserve the poor review someone gave it. When I asked about it I was told boosting someone as a favour was common, at least in their group, and it would be paid back later when the people who helped out would get a nice review of their own. I left. Maybe I am an idealist, but it felt like lying about your work.

    I see nothing wrong with giving an honest opinion of someone’s work. If their work requires improvement and you can show them how, then you are not being mean and nasty, you are helping them. I would trade one honest review for 100 “yay love it!”s any day of the week. How else am I supposed to hone my craft if no-one tells me what’s wrong with it? How am I supposed to do right by myself if I am deluding myself about the quality of my work by listening to sycophants?

    I take comfort in the knowledge that the truly poor writers will eventually drop by the wayside and the quality core of the indie market will punch through. Just like any other business, if you are bad at your job, you won’t last long.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have read a lot lately and I fallen in love with reading again -after I gave up reading Indie books. I am shell shocked after my bad experiences and it will be a while before I will try another self published book. I know there are gems out there and I would love to read them, but how to find them with a rating system that is fake, just like our politics?


  3. Hi, popped by to thank you for liking my latest post. You will have noticed that I am a self-published author, although I try not to promote my books too heavily in the blog, the simple truth is that the main purpose of it is to showcase my writing. On Amazon they have this feature called ‘look inside’ which allows you to read up to 20% of the book – a kind of ‘try before you buy’. Doing that should help you to decide whether you are going to like the book or not before you commit your money.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Indie Books – Part II | The happy Quitter!

  5. I’m sure there are some excellent self-published authors out there, without a doubt, but the ‘…you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your’s…’ and the over complimentary culture that exists means that for me, I cannot identify what is real and what is not which leaves me doubting everything. But there are enough people out there happy with this setup and don’t want things to change, thank you very much. So they won’t. And that’s ok, each to their own.
    I shall be taking a look at the Literary Hub, thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Trying to read some – most – of the self published books I have attempted has left me with a bad taste in my head. Or whatever. I became bored with reading. A relative texted an excerpt from Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy that she enjoyed. I had never red that novel- not my usual type of novel to curl up with- but promptly went to the local library to check it out. What a difference a well written book can make. The thrill is back. Yesterday I went to our local Barnes and Noble and bought a brand new book for myself and my wife. Now, how many glowing comments on my blog re: my photography are simply people being nice? I don’t want to know.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m a book blogger and try really hard to review fairly, I only post 3* and above reviews on my blog, however if I read a book which I would rate lower, I always give the writer feedback and my reasons why.
    I do see examples of author review swaps, blog tour reviews where bloggers feel pressured to only write positive reviews and reviews for books which are so obviously form family and friends. It is a minefield, but can often been seen for what they are, with a little investigation.
    There are many reasons why writers self-publish. One of the worst reasons is because they believe self publishing is second rate, so there is no need to have their work edited or proofread.
    With the book market now saturated, anyone who is serious about writing, needs, in my opinion, to put the very best work out there possible. Self-published book standards have risen very fast and will continue to do so, a few even put books from publishing houses to shame.
    The issue of inflated book reviews definitely needs regular airing, I doubt there will ever be a perfect answer.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I notice you have, like me, an icon instead of a photo. I do it because I am not handsome (I’m not saying that applies to you!) This strikes me as similar to Bagism, Lennon and Ono’s idea of speaking from inside a bag so that the listener would not be prejudiced by your appearance. They were not completely daft, those two.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Good honest blog. I like it. But how about self-published anthologies of short stories that were bought by a real editor? I feel these should not bear the stigma attached to self-publishing (not always rightly). They do, unfortunately, carry the stigma attached to short stories which are not – god knows why – popular nowadays. I review for SFcrowsnest and have done a few self-published books that weren’t bad. I’ve also just had a book put out by a small press and self-published one of those anthologies mentioned above. I was tempted to call it ‘Stories some editor paid for’.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have to admit that I don’t read short stories, mainly because I don’t see their purpose. But that’s only my taste. I don’t know anything about it and don’t really have an opinion.

      I wish you luck and great success with your short stories and books.


  10. I’ve read dozens of self-published books, some bad, most very good. I’ve read hundreds of of “published novels”, some bad, most very good. I fail to see your point. You seem “old-school” when it comes to publishing. Good luck with your writing, hope you find the publisher you are looking for.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. You certainly have invited comments and yes there are certainly many reviews which are done by friends and family and are most likely biased and that don’t want to hurt their loved ones feelings. Personally I think that it is not just Indie books which are lacking but also some traditionally published ones. I have read some horrors and it is also down to individual taste and interpretation.
    A very subjective topic which you have been brave to air your own opinion. Me, I welcome constructive critism good or bad and I have had some very constructive critism in my early days of writing and from friends but which I welcomed once I broke it down and applied it. I hope I am a better writer for that. Personally if I really thought a book was bad …I would send a personal message if I felt it would be well recieved or as my mother used to say to us ” If you don’t have anything nice to say then say nothing” But to tar all Indie writers with the same brush is harsh 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I knew I would stir up something when I wrote this post -but it was long overdue.

      I did not mean to offend any wanna be authors or Indie writers, I just wrote a post about my own experience here on WP.

      You are certainly right; there are some bad published books out there. Think about “50 shades of gray” I mean it can’t get any worse than that, but -to my total surprise- the book was a hit, what just doesn’t make any sense.

      I do know there are good Indie books out there but finding them is not a 50:50 chance. It’s more 99 to 1 and that is my honest opinion. It’s like finding a needle in the haystack.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE (for context, I have not published a book in any format)
    You make a good point from the time-challenged reader’s perspective, Janice. No tar and feathers here, but I want to open the paradigm a bit. Is it really all that different in more traditional venues in terms of finding what WE will enjoy reading?

    Just as some of the theatre reviewers who murdered a show I thought was wonderful and deserved a chance to find its audience (long-time ex-theatre pro here), I can’t agree that negative book reviews are more “truthful” in perspective, or that a great many rave reviews mean that they are fluff from friends, blog-buddies and relatives.

    As an English minor in my undergrad years, I have read many of the “classics” – some I loved and some I truly disliked (style as well as content). “Reviews” are a function of taste.

    I recently read a past NYT Best Seller suggested by a few people whose reading taste I admire, traditionally published. I found it tedious. I considered it an over-long tome that desperately needed some slashing and burning of those precious – admittedly well penned – words. If I hadn’t felt compelled to finish it for my book club I would have tossed it before I was half-way through – at a point where it was already longer than many entire novels.

    I did not feel it necessary to take additional time to leave an “honest” negative review, however. Anywhere. I am more likely to add to the raves when I find a book I greatly enjoyed. Still, not every book is for every reader — and I am not inclined to take the time to “argue” with the reviews and ratings on Literary Hub.

    A review – from anyone – is simply one person’s opinion. Mine may be the same or VERY different, regardless of the publisher or how many others loved it or hated it. Who vets the reviewers? Where does it end? I’d hate to see the book world go the way of the film and theatre world, where reviews in a particular venue carry more weight than they really deserve.

    I haven’t read as many indies as you seem to have read. If I had I might feel more like you seem to: “a lot of dreck in the Indie-pub world.” Still, I found your views a bit black and white, especially in the suggestion that most books of quality would attract a traditional publisher – eventually.

    There are other reasons why an author might choose to go the Indie route and remain in that world. Many choose to move on to their next book with the time they would spend querying publishers and agents. Some are first time writers who still don’t understand the demands of marketing or querying. Still others are more concerned with economic ROI.

    I have a couple of good friends and colleagues who actually lost QUITE a bit of money (per book sold since) when they signed a contract with a traditional publisher, despite a hefty advance on conversion. Their professional editor changed the book, but I didn’t feel she improved it. I greatly preferred the original, self-published version. They did receive some marketing assistance, but they were already doing some of what was suggested, and the self-published book was already selling well, despite the fact that they were not doing some of the others. If my friends had not signed a 3-book contract, their next books would have been Indies.

    As far as grammar, punctuation and writing style are concerned, I have what I believe is a better suggestion than reading reviews: read a few posts on the author’s blog. If you like what you see there you will probably enjoy their longer format work. If the writing on the blog is NOT of a quality you enjoy, regardless of reason, you’d probably do well to pass on their books.

    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

    Liked by 3 people

  13. I do understand that you have been disappointed in your choices of books, and that it must seem that every Indie author is attempting to slip in under the radar of what is termed traditional publishing. In fact there are many modern day bestselling authors who began by self-publishing their first efforts, which was the traditional way of bringing a book to market, before the agents and publishing houses found that it was a lucrative business. Those authors went on to be picked up by publishers who recognised their potential from their first books and the reader feedback to them. Sometimes it took three or four books. In fact publishers are delighted to find authors who have already created a market for themselves, and have proven that they have marketability. You are right, there are books that are published that are not as polished that they should be. Certainly Amazon is not going to critique them and turn them away. They sell millions upon millions of titles each year, and at even at a dollar profit per book, they are laughing all the way to the bank. I hope that you will not give up on Indie authors completely, and instead of worrying about losing followers, perhaps leave an honest constructive review on Amazon, If the book is really awful then send the author a private note expressing what you feel might improve their book in your opinion as a reader. I have been an Indie author for 18 years and have never minded being given an honest review. I hope lead to me becoming a better writer. Thanks for sharing your views.. we all need to understand our audience. Sally

    Liked by 10 people

    • The blogging world doesn’t want honesty. For many it’s just a platform to fish for readers and followers and perhaps that’s even alright -as long as we are aware of it.

      I suppose every author and every writer thinks that their book is perfect, that’s the nature of the beast. I think about my projects the same way -until one dares to burst my bubble. 🙂

      I don’t want to hurt peoples feelings here at WP. I now leave comments like “Beautifully written” or (and that’s the worst I can do) I type “Nice.”

      I chuckle when Indie writers give writing advice but don’t say a word.

      I don’t expect Amazon to check out the books or the reviews. As you say, they just want to make money. I just don’t trust the reviews there anymore.

      I felt so happy when I found the Literary Hub; I love the idea behind it. Good books will make it, the bad ones….oh well. 🙂


  14. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Wednesday, September 13th 2017 – Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, Janice Spina and The Non Smoking Lady Bug | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  15. I have struggled with this very problem, wanting to support and to share, since I both read and write. I never know if my reaction is because I am reading out of my genre comfort zone, or whether a book is as dire as it feels. I often buy, but get no further than one chapter in. Your Literary Hub sounds like a great idea, though it will depend, even with a traditional publisher, on the author putting themselves out there. I have a friend who writes vivid, well-researched non-fiction. I was blown away by the quality of her first self-published book (we became friends after I had read this). Over the years she has worked so hard, sending review copies to the right magazines, giving talks, making connections, writing to well-known authors in her field etc. Slowly, with her third book published in New Zealand, public recognition for the quality of her writing began to arrive, and now she has publishers knocking on her door.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Look who is back. How was your summer? I am delighted to see you back online. 🙂

      I asked myself the same question. Am I not liking a book because I read out of my comfort zone or am I not liking it, because it’s just really bad writing.

      I think I have a favorite genre but I read other books as well, especially if someone recommended it to me.

      I had a very busy summer but started to read one of you books. Good news…I am over chapter 1. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Well hallelujah and pass the tambourine that woman! I agree with every word. From the depression at the deplorable standard of so many self–published works (and the ritual patting self on back for the effort) to the horrible culture of you scratch and I’ll scratch yours. The standard of most of the work I have read is pretty diabolical. It is a horrible by-product of social media that all of a sudden everyone is a writer or an artist. Actually I find it rather rude to those whose worthy work is published or exhibited. So I am delighted you have found this place and I have checked it out and bookmarked it. Thank you for being brave enough to say this. Thank you. PS: I am published (traditionally published. In France) and I have had my screenplays turned into TV films in Britain. I choose not to vaunt myself on my blog because I actually don’t think that those works would be of much interest to my readership now.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You first line made me laugh. I am actually surprised by the amount of “likes” this post got. Perhaps my opinion about (most) Indie books is not so off after all.

      I worked 25 years as a translator and interpreter. I have translated good books and I think I know a thing or tow about good writing.

      I agree with every word you said. I too find Indie books are an offense -mostly.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well done for being brave enough to make the post … isn’t it gratifying when we discover we are not the lone voice in the wilderness we thought we were. I am fascinated by your background as a translator and interpreter. Skills to be extraordinarily proud of. Chapeau

        Liked by 1 person

  17. Great post. I self-published a book back in May (about a post divorce woman – funny – or I like to think so) and found out that 2 random readers gave a 3 and 4 stars respectively on Goodreads…I was so happy! But you are right – there is a lot of delusion in the selfpub world and I sure hope I’m not in that group 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  18. hmmm, well, I think my book’s pretty good lol and I’m almost positive that people haven’t blown smoke up my arse. On the other hand, I do understand what you’re saying. I’ve read my fair share of indie books and many times there are plot holes or spelling/grammatical errors. I try very hard to be honest about my opinion. 5 stars are sparse. Anywho, I appreciate this honest post.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. There is one author that I follow on here, whose books I’d like to own because I simply LOVE his writing style. I have not bought any others. And ironically I’m a ‘self published author’ of one book of poetry. I have no idea how to contact a real agent and therefore a publisher to find out if I really can write, or if, as you point out in this post, it’s just people being kind and I suck at it. One big obstacle that I’m honest about – I’m lazy and I probably don’t have the sand to write a whole novel, I have bunches and bunches of short stories though…and I think most of them are pretty damned good. But every ‘mother’ loves her children (on some level anyway) don’t they?

    Liked by 2 people

      • I hope that someday there will be a vetting system for books that aren’t already selling well, which seems to be how books on Literary Hub are selected (I checked it out). For now we have to rely on reviews, which don’t always give a good picture until they add up. I do notice that Goodreads reviewers are tougher than Amazon. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

        • The vetting system there is fair, every book can make it to “The Literary Hub” if they are good enough and have been mentioned by news outlets three times (Interviews don’t count). The Literary Hub is for us, the reader. It’s not a promotional platform for authors and bloggers. The reviews there come from reliable sources.

          Liked by 1 person

  20. I really don’t think that the majority of bloggers will take exception to this post. You are being honest, not being nasty in any way, saying what most would have liked to say. Most of us do not make negative comments. We just make no comment at all along the lines of “If you can’t say anything good about it, say nothing at all.” If I ever encounter nastiness, (and there are some really nasty people about, even in blogoland), I just stop following that site. I’m pleased to say that happens very infrequently. Most people are nice, just like you and me!

    Liked by 3 people

  21. I am happy for those who self publish but just because I follow their blog does not mean I want to read the book they have written. I am all about not leaving negative comments on someone’s blog, better not to comment at all if I disagree- and leave it at that. Sad to say I did stop following a blog because of their political stance and very vocal approach that I just could not stand to see pop up in my reader, again I realize my views may differ which I have no problem with, but I am not interested in being preached to via blog about 45 and how great he really is!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t believe in negative comments either. I try not to hurt peoples feelings. However, I believe in healthy criticism, especially when it comes to book reviews on a differnt website.

      Some of the books are really bad, or just imply boring -still the reviews show 4-5 stars.

      As for a blog promoting 45, there is just no excuse for that. 🙂


  22. Pingback: Rotten Tomatoes for Indie Books? – The Militant Negro™

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