Saturday, May 16, 2020
More about 'The Reviews Rebellion'
2020 - The Reviews Rebellion comes of age
You might have heard of SEO - but you probably heard wrong.
You may have been told that SEO stands for ‘Search Engine Optimisation’, and it’s something that all website owners and bloggers have to do in order to get found. They plant ‘keywords’ in headings and in meta-data, and there’s plenty of people out there who will accept your money and show you how to do it right. If you don’t know what meta-data is, think of a parking-meta, and imagine putting coins in it, over and over and over again.
However, there’s another definition of SEO, and that’s ‘Somebody Else’s Opinion’, and it’s the most poisonous thing on the internet.
You see, the World Wide Web is a wonderful thing and brings knowledge, information and goods into everyone’s living room. Whatever you want, it’s available. Whether it’s facts, cars, soap, books or songs, you can find it with a few clicks and buy it with a few more. Whatever you want, it’s there for you.
Unfortunately, most people don’t seem to know what they want, and have to be told.
They might know they want something to read, and are thinking about an Adventure or a bit of Romance, but which book? This is where SEO comes into its own. You don’t need an opinion when you can always use somebody else’s. All you have to do is browse the web and find out what everyone else is buying, then buy that. Find out what everyone else is talking about, and there’s your topic of conversation. Find out what everyone else is looking like, and there’s your choice of clothes, haircut, suntan and tattoo sorted. Use SEO and you’ll never have to think again.
It might seem outrageous to intrude on your democratic right to make a decision, but SEO rules in the online world. Why? Because it suits the big online shop owners. They need to know how many books, or CD’s, or bottles of perfume they need to produce this month, and there’s no better way of predicting the market than getting the so-called ‘Influencers’ to talk up the products, and Bingo, sales follow the graph. Otherwise, life would be wildly unpredictable. You’d never know what the public was going to like next - which fashion, which tune, dance or smell they were going to start to go for tomorrow. The ‘market’ couldn’t stand for that. So, the easy answer, is to tell people what to buy. It’s pure psychology. Those poor shoppers, dazed and confused, overwhelmed by choice, they’re suckers for an Authority, an authoritative voice, somebody who seems to know what they’re talking about, saying, ‘This book’, ‘That soap’, ‘That holiday’, ‘THAT is the one you want’. Yes, you do. You know you do. Take the advice and stop floundering. It makes the world more safe and predictable. You know you like it.
It might not matter so much in the madcap world of clothes, pop music and careers, but in the small universe of books, it’s completely disastrous. Especially as that arena is still home to a plethora of small producers - the individual writers - and small distributors, the Mom and Pop stores that are the small publishers. Here, SEO is killing diversity, originality and opportunity for new authors. Every new book, every new writer, has to be turned inside out, and examined in all areas by a self-appointed clique of Judges. Their verdicts are delivered in the same way as they do on TV Talent Shows - they award points, (and Points Mean Prizes). In the case of books, it’s Stars that get given, and it’s a matter of economic Life or Death whether you get a Five or a Two. Five means big houses, exotic holidays and a Guest Spot at the Literary Convention. A bunch of Twos means life continues at the school, Library or whatever Coffee Shop or Burger Bar that is willing to give you employment while you work on your new story.
It certainly wouldn’t matter so much if online book-stores like Amazon didn’t determine everything - placement, promotion, publicity and support - by a sliding scale dictated by the number of stars. It’s a ‘Tyranny of the Stars’. Your rating and ranking as an author isn’t decided by the Academy or the Nobel Prize committee in Norway, it’s solely a product of adding up all the little pointy things, looking around, and seeing who’s got most.
Some authors have known for years that this wasn’t helping them. The first ‘Reviews Rebellion’ started in the 1990s, when the internet was still a baby, or, at least, a loud-mouthed teenager. Now, in 2020, the era of the Reviews Refusers has really come of age. More and more writers are quietly declining the offer of a ‘free’ review, (on the understanding that the donation of a free book will result in a written review online). The promise of reviews is now seen as a poison chalice, which comes with too many unpleasant strings attached. Far better for the author to by-pass this deadly system and try and make contact with readers direct. After all, that’s why most people write books - to talk to an audience, NOT to a Jury of judgement makers and opinion formers. “Don’t take ‘Other’ people’s opinions” is a call to arms, a challenge to the existing iniquitous system. It’s time to let go of SEO, stand up and make up your own mind - while you’ve still got one that’s functional.