Most experienced fiction writers probably already know this. It took me a little while to figure it out. Once I did, I’m perfectly fine with it.
Do my published stories deserve 5 stars, 4 stars, 3 stars, 2 stars, or 1 star?
The correct answer is probably all of the above.
It’s up to the reader. The reader of fiction interprets a story based on his or her perspective. Each reader may mentally process a story differently. What some readers may relate to, others perhaps don’t. What may be humorous to some may be too irreverent for others. The message in a story may strike a nerve for one reader and be a complete miss for another reader.
But if given honestly, there is no such thing as an incorrect rating or review of a published work of fiction. The correct rating is whatever the reader believes it should be.
Spending most of my working life as an academic researcher, this was new to me when I began writing and publishing short fiction in retirement. Academic research involves peer reviews that critically examine all aspects of the submitted work: the problem investigated, the literature cited, the methodology employed, and the conclusions drawn. Academic researchers are not only allowed to respond to the reviewers, they are required to do so. And in some cases the publication decision rests on the ability of the author/researcher to convince the editor that the author is correct and the reviewers are not.
Fiction writing in the world of self-publication is much different (and better). Authors write what they want to write, the way they want to write it. Consumers read what they want to read and, if they are so inclined, provide honest feedback in the form of ratings and/or detailed reviews.
There is no way a reader can be wrong in this process.
Fiction writers may or may not adjust their style based on ratings and reviews of their work. This is a complicated point. It’s up to each author to decide.
If all ratings and reviews are negative and sales/downloads are tanking, clearly something is wrong and the author would be foolish not re-examine his/her approach. But a mix of low and high ratings for a given work may simply indicate readers with different perspectives receive the piece differently. This may indicate the author has identified and addressed an interesting or important topic about which readers care enough to read and comment. That is not a bad thing for the author or the readers.
Department store founder Marshall Field is among those credited with the famous saying: The customer is always right.
So are readers of fiction who rate or review what they have invested their time to read.
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