I hate when blogs have teaser titles and then the blogger doesn’t get to the point until the end of the article, so in a nutshell, I rated my book 4 stars because I recognize that there are better books in the world and want to leave room for growth as a writer. Keep reading for the whole backstory.
The Whole Backstory
That’s maybe an overstatement, but I’ll share what I planned on sharing. I read a lot when I was in my teens, but it kind of stopped when I started college because I was spending so much time reading textbooks and doing homework, and it took me a while to pick it back up when I was done. When I published my own book in November, though, I was exposed to a ton of other books through the writing communities online and all of the different amazon lists my book made it to that I was watching. I’ve been giving and receiving reviews for several months now, and I’ve made some interesting observations.
#1: Ratings are Not Standardized
I realized this very early on when I received my first 3 star review on Amazon and it was crushing. The author of the review didn’t have terrible things to say about the book, however, and over time, after getting a couple of others, I came to realize that my 3 star review is not the same as someone else’s 3 star review. I noticed that, on goodreads specifically, the stars are labeled “I did not like it,” “it was okay,” “I liked it,” “I really liked it,” and “it was amazing.”
I think my own labels would read more like “I hated it,” “I didn’t like it,” “it was okay,” “I liked it,” and “I really liked it,” with three stars, the middle, being the more neutral feeling with satisfaction and dissatisfaction to either side.
I’ve noticed that there are people, too, who push the satisfaction bar even farther to the right, and everything is 5 stars unless the book or product let them down in some way.
I don’t think any of these approaches are wrong, I just think it makes for conveying information to one another difficult. Someone may hit 3 stars to tell me they liked my book, but what I hear on the other end is “it was okay” because of my own interpretation. I appreciate goodreads’ attempt to standardize the stars more with the labels, but I think that’s only going to do so much when people are used to rating everything everywhere and have their own decision-making processes in place. Even with me consciously trying to adjust my own habits to fit their system better while on their site, it’s been tough.
#2: Developing My Own Process
I think that the wider range of writing skill that you read, the more broad each “star” category is going to be, as well. If I were to only read New York Times Best Sellers, I’d be stretching those books across 1-5 stars, whereas if I was reading anything from that down to barely-edited, sloppy debut novels (which is what I’m doing now), my impression of some of the books in the middle is going to be a little different. That’s been another important discovery for me as I’ve been receiving reviews: I don’t know what the reader has to compare it to. Not everyone has dived as deep into the world of free kindle fantasy as I have. (I have found some gems there, don’t get me wrong, but there have also been books that read like a first draft that nobody thought to edit that I didn’t bother finishing. One’s sense of bad writing changes a little bit in those moments.)
Anyway, I’ve finally gotten a “feel” for how I personally rate books. I try to rate only on objective qualities and share my subjective opinions in the text of the review without letting them effect the rating. That just seems the most fair to me. Here is how I decide how many stars a book gets these days:
- * The book was a total wreck, and I probably didn’t finish it, so I’m probably not reviewing it anyway. I’m never going to give someone 1 star based on solely skill. If it seems like the author was really trying, they get points for effort at least. 1 star would look like complete lack of effort in conveying cohesive scenes, formatting, proofreading, etc.
- ** There’s still something seriously wrong, but there is a shred of hope for the book underneath. Maybe the concept was interesting but poorly executed and not polished, or there is a neat writing style but I was totally lost for half of the scenes and there were only two characters in the entire book and they weren’t developed well. Probably not finishing this book either, honestly, but I will hope the best for the author’s future endeavors.
- *** Generally things are okay, but I still have some significant issues with it. I can generally follow the story, relate to the characters, and find it interesting, but either the writing style was juvenile, there are several noticeable continuity issues, characters or scenes were underdeveloped, a few too many errors in text or formatting made it distracting, or something like that. I’ll finish this book, but I’ll have to push myself a little bit.
- **** I enjoyed reading this book. It stayed interesting, and I cared enough about the plot and the characters to really want to keep reading and will probably read more if it’s a part of a series. Minor errors held this book back from 5 stars: pretty much the issues I listed for 3 stars but fewer or to a lesser degree. Something made me just feel like the book wasn’t 100% polished.
- ***** I’m not only reading this book, but I’m talking about it, thinking about it, dreaming about it (okay, maybe not really), but I was impressed. The narrative was smooth, there were no more than, like, 3 spelling or grammatical errors, there was a compelling story that was well executed, etc.
And again, I try to keep my personal preferences out of the rating as much as humanly possible. I address both my objective and subjective opinions in the written review which I try to keep positive and constructive.
#3 By My Standards, Eilinland: Through the Wall is 4 Stars
I love my book, I love my characters, and I really enjoy rereading it, but I recognize that it’s not 100% polished. The narrative doesn’t quite flow like I want it to, some scenes feel choppy or poor word choices stick out, my 17-year-old author self shows through at times (that’s how old I was when I started writing it), and I know that I can do better. When I figured out that goodreads allows authors to rate their own books, I was excited to rate it 4 stars. I want to one day write a book that I really think deserves 5, and I want it to be significant when I do.
Thanks so much for reading to the end even though I gave you the spoiler at the beginning! You have proven that humans don’t need to duped into being interested in something and that there is hope for humanity. I hope you’ll read more of my random observations in the future!