The Need for Novel Ratings

It was a couple of weeks ago where I was on a private Facebook writers’ group and someone posted an experience they had. They received a negative review on Amazon because of profanity and crude language in their book. Just so we don’t get misunderstood here, that means cussing, swearing, using vulgar language, or anything where expletives, graphic sex and/or violence is used. As you can imagine, the feed went ballistic and began to vilify that reviewer for having such an archaic viewpoint. Just to give you an idea, here are a couple of the comments that were made of the 142 listed:

• Some people are just idiots. That’s my advice.

• If it suits the character or the story, I say use it. If people aren’t grown up enough to read a few swear words, then the book just isn’t for them .

• I thought about putting a warning in the front of my book but decided to [expletive phrase].

• The reviewer needs to grow up.

•  Let these yesteryear critics write their one star reviews. People reading them will laugh at the absurdity of it.

Of course, if you follow me at all, you know that I was one of the odd men out that came down on the other side. Doesn’t mean that I supported the reviewer because I don’t know what they reviewed and so I can’t speak to that. But as I have said before on my website, profanity in literature does nothing for it except degrade it. And I will repeat what I said on the thread, that the use of it is to employ a lazy tactic and a lack of intelligence in writing. Now, I know that is going to offend some people. It actually did offend some people on the thread but the fact of the matter is that is the case. I’m not saying they are lacking intelligence overall. Their writing is. If they are more intelligent but have decided to devolve the writing by the use of such story elements, what they’ve done is capitulated to conventional popular thought and drunk the Kool-Aid in terms of what literature should be. Again, that may seem harsh but that is my honest opinion about the matter. There are many reasons for that but I’m not going to use this post to elucidate on the subject in that direction.

It was on this thread that I made the point that almost every other form of media has a rating system but novels do not. A person would have to wade through pages of a book before coming to the conclusion that the content of the book is not something they want to invest their time in. The problem with that is that they’ve already invested their time doing all of that which would bother anyone. I know it would annoy me and I have gone through that experience where I had begun a book and it took me 20 pages int to realize that it was only going to get worse as far as content and language.

However, I’ve always been curious as to why novels have never had a rating system but every other form of media has one. Why must a person jump over hoops to enjoy a certain genre without elements they don’t want to fill their minds with or that they’re simply not comfortable with? Why is it that if the opinion is expressed that that isn’t something someone wants in their literature, they are immediately vilified as being behind the times or too old-fashioned or not mature? Is it mature to be as vulgar and profane as you possibly can in your literature and writing? Have we now redefined the idea of what maturity is? Is it the mature people that indulge in graphic sex and pornography now? That seems to be the message that proponents of this want to bamboozle you into thinking but I’m not buying it. At all.

It would be very simple to implement a rating system so that people in their browsing and shopping experience online can go and see if particular novels are going to be something that they want to indulge in at all. We should be caring about wasting people’s time because if we waste people’s time then we are wasting their life because time is life. People whose time you waste won’t dole out any money for what you’re selling.  People don’t like the waste time and they will do all kinds of things to make sure that their time is being used effectively and productively. That reviewer was probably miffed — and rightly so — that they had to waste their time to find this out instead of being warned ahead of time by the author. If there is one thing that we need to do as writers it’s that we need to care more for our readers no matter who they may be. You may not agree with everything that a potential reader as a writer believes but you certainly don’t want to ruffle feathers because this is a business (indie publishing) and that kind of reputation gets around.

I’m sure there are going to be detractors to this particular post. I don’t mind people disagreeing with me. What is annoying though is that people believe that if I don’t agree with them that there is automatically something wrong with me. I want my books clean and free from profanity, vulgarity, and the like and because of that, something’s wrong with me. Now, go back and reread that sentence and tell me if you don’t believe that there’s something screwed up with that statement.

The fact of the matter is that I don’t have to put any warnings in front of my books because my books don’t have any of those elements in it. I’m concerned more about the writing, the content, and the structure, and the theme of my writing and that those things are good so that my potential readers will have an experience that they can enjoy and that I can enjoy with them. There are plenty of people who disagree with that which is why we need a rating system. That way we won’t need to have threads like that and people won’t have bad reviews and we can just get to the business of what we do which is write.

3 thoughts on “The Need for Novel Ratings

  1. A thousand likes, good sir. And you’ve given me something to think of. I can’t believe it’s never crossed my mind that there is no rating system for books. That would definitely be welcomed. For example, I really wanted to read the Outlander series. Then my wife read the first book before I could get to it, and informed me that there was quite alot of borderline pornography in the book. Well, scratch that one off my list.

    (I really gotta stop reading your blog and get some work done!)

    1. Ha! Ha! 🙂

      Yes. I think a rating system would go a long way to help people make better decisions about what it is their minds consume. I know there are many non-Christians who don’t want the graphic sex, violence, profanity and other objectionable things. Now, we have to go out of our way to do due diligence on whether or not something is appropriate for us. A rating system would help. It wouldn’t be perfect but we at least would have a general idea of what we’re dealing with.

      Well. Time to do that thing where I tap away at the keyboard and lose myself in my mind. Brrr. Scary. 🙂

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