Monday, May 27, 2013

Star Power

Recently I don't make any significant purchases without checking to reviews. If it is a non-book item, I try to find professional reviews and if these are not available I weed through user reviews, keeping in mind that most people don't go back and write a review unless they really hate or really love a product.

Even more recently, I have started leaving reviews of my own, especially for books. Why? Because honest reviews help people make decisions about books and by extension help authors sell books. However, I recently came across a bit of a dilemma, and that is determining how many stars a book should receive.

The first time that one of my books received a three-star ranking I was crushed. This was from someone who liked but did not love the book. The second three-star rating was from someone who wrote "Carol Ottley-Mitchell's "Adventure at Brimstone Hill" is an exciting children's story that educates with true events from history!" They went on to say that they would recommend it, so at first, I couldn't figure out why they only gave it three stars. When I was able to consider the situation objectively, I realised that if you write a lot of reviews, you have to rate on a sliding scale and if you give a five star rating to my book that you love but consider to be flawed in one way or another, what do you give to a Pulitzer Prize winner, for example?

Since each reviewer clearly has a different view on what makes a five-star book, how much value is really in the rating levels? Would you immediately decide not to consider a book that had a below-average number of stars? Or do you take the time to read the narrative behind the reviews and between the lines?


Ty Johnston said...

Hmm, I rarely read book reviews any more. It just seems for every quality review, there are three lacking in quality. And then there's the discrepancy about stars you mentioned. For some reviewers, 3 stars means they liked the book, for others, 3 stars means they were not crazy about the book.

I tend to pick books based upon 2 factors: 1.) Word of mouth from friends, and/or 2.) Whether or not the blurb sounds of interest to me.

Julie Luek said...

I tend to read reviews after I read a book and write my own review, just to see how others felt. As you said, it's amazing how subjective our opinions are. There are so many factors that can influence how a book is received that have very little to do with how well it's actually written.

William Doonan said...

I read book reviews all the time before making decisions. By like Ty said, there's no general consensus as to how many stars means a good book. So I'll read through to see how the author feels. I write reviews too, but I normally won't write a review for any book that I'd give fewer than four stars.

Charles Gramlich said...

I do read reviews of my own stuff. I do reviews. I don't often make decisions to buy books based upon general reviews, but like Ty said, on word of mouth from people I know.

Liane Spicer said...

I've seen glowing reviews accompanied by 1 and 2 star ratings. I've seen scores of 5 star ratings for books that a quick scan of the sample revealed to be atrociously written, error-strewn and poorly formatted.

To Ty Johnson's criteria I'll add one more: read the sample. And I'm with William: I don't review books that I can't honestly give a 4 or 5 star rating.

Jewel Amethyst said...

I use reviews as my guide for buying books because it tells of the experience from a reader's standpoint. However I do read at least ten or more reviews in detail to see if the star rating correlates to the readers experience. I read the five star and the one star (if any) first and then the other star rankings.

As Ty mentioned about quality reviews, one person in reviewing my romance novel expressed her disappointment that the hero and heroine did not get together in the end. Well obviously she did not read the book as quite a few other reviewers pointed out, because they did get together.

However, if there are enough reviews, then the reviews are generally a good guideline for judging that book.