Book Ratings & Review Exchange Debate

13 Sep

Before I get into rating novels, I wanted to share a link for Minutes Before Sunset fans:

As you’re waiting for Seconds Before Sunrise, tell me what you think will happen and/or what you want to see in Book 2 of A Timely Death trilogy on this Goodreads discussion by clicking here.

I also wanted to give links to two major developments in the young-adult movie industry:

  • J.K. Rowling is penning a new film-series which takes place 70 years before Harry Potter. Read more here.
  • Filming of City of Ashes has been delayed. (I’m so sad, but read more here.)

But now…book ratings!

If you follow my Facebook Author Page, then you know I have been asking writers and readers alike how they feel about when someone asks you to only post a review if it is 4 or 5 stars? Is this deception or is this “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all?”

I asked this question, because I’ve seen a trend in the industry of authors regulating reviewers (telling them to only post the review if it’s of a higher rating.) To me, I found it very surprising how many writers and reviewers accept and even encourage this concept. Personally, I am on the side of deception. I don’t think there is anything wrong with 1, 2, or 3 star reviews. I find honesty to be more important, and, also, honesty from one person may lead another reader to realize they will still like the novel. For instance, someone can review a book, give it one star, and say it was due to the genre. A reader might see this and realize they still love that genre; therefore, the one star review is still very helpful. I also think there is a major difference between a “hate” and a “critique,” and a 1-star review isn’t necessarily a “hate.” But this is my opinion.

I wanted to hear others’ opinions, and here are some from my Facebook page:

Joe H. Hinojosa: “I felt that if I’m going to be constrained in my review, I would have a hard time being honest, and my belief is that my integrity is on the line. I don’t want to compromise that. As for your question, it made me believe that the author did not believe that his book merited a high rating, that it lacked something, either grammatically, or perhaps the plot itself was poorly constructed. To solicit a review, and putting conditions on posting the review, seems to say that he himself rates the book poorly.”

Patrick Dixon:  “If someone asks for my opinion “but only if it’s good” I say no for similar reasons to Joe’s above. Now, if they ask without restrictions, and I can’t give it at least 3 stars due to nagging issues that are fixable (and I think the book has goodness buried in it, just needs an edit or a fix or an explanation about something), I’ll message the author directly (if I can) with what I’d give it and why, and give them the option if they want me to post it or not. If the book is completely not my cup of tea, but may be of value to someone else, I’ll post it, with the caveat near the top that “This is not MY kind of book, but if you like <x, y, or z> then it might be for you,” and try to point out the good points for other readers. But that’s just how I do things.”

Amber Skye Forbes: “It is deception because it isn’t allowing room for opinions that could provide a fair, balanced review for a potential reader to buy your book. For example, three star views are not inherently bad. I have bought books based off three star reviews before because what the reviewer didn’t like, I liked.”

Mariah E. Wilson:  “I think that authors need to let readers see the bad reviews along with the good. And how an author handles a less than desirable review speaks volumes. If you’re so insecure about your work that you ban reviewers from posting anything below a 4 star review, it seems unfair. And besides, not all “bad reviews” are bad. A review is what? An opinion. Everyone is different and everyone is going to have a different experience with the same book. If two people read a book and both give it a 5 star review, they could both love different parts of the book. It’s just an opinion.”

So what is everyone else’s opinion? If you read the opinions above, you will see they are generally on the deception side (which I am in agreement with) but I am interested in hearing more from the other side as well. Please share your opinion either way as I think this is a growing trend, and it’s important to understand why such things become popular if we want the industry (especially the Indie industry) to continue growing.

Other news: Submit your novel to AEC Stellar Publishing now! 

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23 Responses to “Book Ratings & Review Exchange Debate”

  1. cnmill September 13, 2013 at 2:01 am #

    I was so sad about City of Ashes being delayed. I’m still at a loss as to why critics tore City of Bones apart. I thought it was really good, and my husband LOVED it. It was acted well, looked well, and was entertaining while being very true to the book.

    I know that wasn’t the point of your entry, but I just had to put my two cents in on it!

    • Shannon Thompson September 13, 2013 at 2:05 am #

      It was an important part of the entry! (Or I wouldn’t have added it.) I’m very sad about City of Ashes as well. I hope Cassandra Clare is being honest when she says it’s only being delayed due to the screenplay and not that it is discontinued indefinitely like many are saying. I thought it was also very good. But I think it mainly came down to sales, defining it as a “flop.” They lost 40 million. But I don’t think it’s the movie’s fault. I think, rather, most movies are “flopping” because going to the movies is too expensive and everyone downloads it at home.
      ~SAT

      • cnmill September 13, 2013 at 2:11 am #

        I hope so as well – that ‘postponed’ doesn’t mean ‘never gonna happen’.

        It was kind of like The Lone Ranger. I couldn’t understand why critics hated it.

        I just hope Divergent and (especially) Vampire Academy do alright when they’re released. I enjoy the book to movie adaptations (most of them, at least). And I’d been looking forward to Graceling being turned into a movie, which will never happen if they all keep ‘flopping’.

        But you’re right, going to the movies is ridiculously expensive. I was going to say that nobody gets out unless it’s THE AVENGERS (which was fantastic, and I’m just using it to make a point). Then you think about G.I. Joe and it kind of makes you wonder . . .
        lol

      • Shannon Thompson September 13, 2013 at 11:05 am #

        haha that is true. I guess there are movies that are still doing very well, especially the super hero movies, but I don’t want the YA movies to end 😀
        ~SAT

      • scentfragrance September 13, 2013 at 8:17 am #

        Yes! I am so sad that City of Ashes is being delayed! I watched the movie and thought that it was pretty good. I was looking forward to the second movie and now it’s been delayed! 😦
        I brought a non-reader friend to the movie and she thought that it was great! After watching the movie, she read the whole Mortal Instruments series!
        My mother watched the trailer and thought it was exciting!
        So this movie appeals to people of all ages. I don’t get why this movie did not do well.
        But I agree that I think that the movie might be because of the sales. Not that I can fault the production houses coz after all, they are in the business to make money. But well…
        You did point out an important point. Piracy… Sigh.

  2. Sarah September 13, 2013 at 6:56 am #

    I often get suspicious if I’m looking at a book on goodreads or whatever and it only has stellar ratings and reviews. If a story fits neatly into everyone’s preferences, there might not be too much content to really talk about! And sometimes when I read one of the single star reviews I actually find myself encouraged to read the book even more! A lot of the time people are complaining that the romantic tension was never acknowledged or something along those lines, and since I don’t love romantic books I take that complaint as a sign to read further. Same with complaints that books are “too fantasy-heavy” or “too dark.” As you say, negative *critiques* can be important, and its so easy to just ignore the hateful reviews because they have nothing interesting to say, anyway, so I don’t even bother to read them.

    • Shannon Thompson September 13, 2013 at 11:07 am #

      I agree! Well said. I don’t know anyone (actually) who reads the “hate” reviews and takes them seriously.
      ~SAT

  3. lowcountrybooklover September 13, 2013 at 7:02 am #

    If a book is given to me with the caveat that the review should only be posted if 4 or 5 stars, I would have to pass. When I see reviewers who only give positive reviews, I don’t rely on them for recommendations. I’m looking for honesty so I also gave that in my own reviews. I think these authors are missing the point. Like you, I can see a 1 or 2 star review that causes me to read a book that I wouldn’t have thought to pick up.

  4. scentfragrance September 13, 2013 at 8:24 am #

    I’ve experienced authors and publishers requesting for reviews lower than three star to be published a month after the publishing date of the book. I am able to accept such a practice because the review would still go out to the reader, albeit later. What is your opinion on this?

    As for the practice of preventing reviewers from posting reviews lower than 4 stars AT ALL, from my point of view as a reviewer, I think that it is deception. This is the author attempting to skew the ratings in their favour and I guess they hope that the higher ratings would lead to higher sales. I find this demeaning to readers, reviewers and authors.

    Does the author think that readers are not able to critically determine if a book is interest them? Readers have the right to have access to a wide range of opinions. One thing that interest one not interest the other.

    In addition, as long as a review is a constructive criticism, what reason is there for the review not to be published?

    Furthermore, as Mariah so rightly pointed out, are the authors so insecure about their writing that they attempt to manipulate their ratings?

    In short, I disagree with this practice.

    • Shannon Thompson September 13, 2013 at 11:10 am #

      On the opinion of people looking for reviews under 3 stars: As long as they are honest reviews (not forced 1 or 2 star due to necessity) I don’t see anything wrong with that. It’s like searching for 4 and 5 star reviews. Having a variety of opinions is important to encourage other readers to try a novel out.
      ~SAT

      • scentfragrance September 13, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

        That’s true, I wholeheartedly agree with you.

  5. Christina Kaylor September 13, 2013 at 9:14 am #

    Regarding your question, on our blog http://www.readersunbound.com, our goal is to write about books we love and want to share, so we don’t mention ones that we’d rate low. That’s not to say we don’t discuss areas of a book that we might find weak. As a former English teacher, I could really rip into a lot of novels, but these days, I don’t find it’s worth my time to finish something I don’t enjoy or can’t admire. I think, though, that reviewers, for example, in magazines or newspapers or blogs that take on a span of books, should state what they feel about the quality–as long as they provide a thorough discussion and provide support. And, of course, never review a book you have some vested interest in, ex. that of a friend.

    • Shannon Thompson September 13, 2013 at 11:14 am #

      Christina,
      I’m curious: if you’re reading in what your opinion is a one-star novel, do you stop reading and decide not to review it? Or do you still give it a high rating and critique it in the overall commentary?
      I also think your last comment is important as friends can help you get high-star ratings, but they aren’t necessarily readers.
      ~SAT

  6. Tina Williams September 13, 2013 at 10:43 am #

    In a similar vein to Christina’s comment above, when I am reviewing books for http://www.areadersreviewblog.com or posting reviews on Goodreads or Amazon I only tend to post reviews of books that I have enjoyed reading. I am very conscious that every person’s experience of reading a book is unique and I prefer to share reads that I have enjoyed.. At the moment we therefore do not give books a star rating on our review blog, instead we explain to readers through the review what we thought about the book. The reader can then decide if the book is for them. When I am posting the same review elsewhere that does ask for a star rating I do select one however as this is the format that the review site utilises. Often we are sent books for review and I have been very fortunate so far to have only been sent books for review that I have enjoyed immensely. I’m not an author but I cringe when I see reviewers putting very negative reviews up, as I think it takes a lot of courage to bare your soul to others through a creative work. That said I have sometimes purchased a book despite an apparent ‘bad’ review, due to the reasons cited by the author for their poor rating, e.g. too explicit/violent etc. It is a very emotive subject and there is no right answer. 🙂

    • Shannon Thompson September 13, 2013 at 11:16 am #

      Wouldn’t it be amazing if you had the option on rating sites to not put up a rating but rather review it without picking a number? I think that would change things a lot, including encouraging artists to get out there more and readers to try new things.
      ~SAT

  7. Miss Molly September 13, 2013 at 10:48 am #

    The Internet has created a world of “critics” or reviewers that is really nothing more than a bunch of gossips who put their every opinion up for the world to see (and they get some satisfaction from knowing other people will see it). Most of them have no idea whether a book is “good” or “bad” or even why that might be so. As someone who teaches creative writing, I can say that when anyone offers a comment in a workshop that “I really liked this” they are immediately asked to tell us why they liked it – specifically. “It made me feel good” is not enough. Most online reviews are meaningless. I would hate to be asked every time I bought something in a store to “rate it” or say anything at all about it. These popularity contests are insane and reduce our ability to judge anything for ourselves.

  8. MishaBurnett September 13, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    Personally, I don’t ever agree to review a book in advance, because I don’t ever agree to finish reading a book in advance. I’m a picky reader, and if a book doesn’t grab me, I won’t spend time on it. Since I also don’t review books that I don’t finish, pretty much all of my reviews are four and five stars. I write reviews to share with other people what I’ve enjoyed–I’m not a professional reviewer and don’t claim to be.

  9. debyfredericks September 13, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

    I can see WHY authors would request Positive Reviews Only, but I still think it’s unethical to make such a request. If you want spin, that’s what your author web site is for.

  10. amaryllisturman September 15, 2013 at 1:45 am #

    I read negative reviews and weigh them with the positive ones. I can see what other readers have to say about what irked them and the gives me a heads up if there is something that I can be prepared for too.

    I give all ratings on my reviews and make sure I give my reasons for the rating. If a publisher says the rating should be a certain level, that is a red flag to the quality of the book. If they want a honest rating, they have to accept what that is.

  11. mrsgillies September 15, 2013 at 7:19 am #

    If a book has only four and five star reviews then it makes me suspicious.

  12. kelli September 19, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

    I think it’s deception. A reviewer should be able to share their honest opinion and it is up to other readers whether they want to try it out or not. As a reader, I understand that I’m not going to agree with everyone else and that one book with a two-star rating might be a five-star in my opinion.

    On my own site I only review books with three stars or above. This is because these books I consider recommendations rather than reviews. As a writer, I also don’t think I have the right to put someone else down on their writing when my writing is no better. I think it’s a respect thing from one writer to another.

    • Shannon Thompson September 19, 2013 at 8:45 pm #

      I love how you differentiate between reviews and recommendations! That’s perfect.
      ~SAT

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Posting Book Ratings Below 4 & 5 Stars…Among Other News | - September 14, 2013

    […] This post was inspired by Shannon Thompson’s. […]

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