Reviews – What About Those Stars?

This post, by Terry Odell, originally appeared on her blog on 1/7/13.

Authors want to see lots of reviews for their books. Why? Reviews and star rat­ings can move a book up or down the vis­i­bil­ity charts at the e-book stores. Some pro­mo­tion sites won’t con­sider a book unless it has over 15 reviews with a 4.5 star aver­age. But are they really reviews if they’re writ­ten by read­ers and not pro­fes­sional review­ers? Some folks just leave a num­ber of stars and that’s it. Oth­ers write “book reports” and tell the whole story, includ­ing giv­ing away crit­i­cal plot points. But no mat­ter what, the sites want you to assign a num­ber of stars to your review.

What do the stars mean?

At Ama­zon, this is what you see if you hover over each star.

1. I hate it
2. I don’t like it
3. It’s OK
4. I like it
5. I love it

At Barnes & Noble it’s this:

1. Poor
2. Below Aver­age
3. Good
4. Very Good
5. Exceptional

Goodreads uses the fol­low­ing guide­lines:

1. Didn’t like it
2. It was OK
3. Liked it
4. Really liked it
5. It was amazing.

Now, there’s a big dif­fer­ence, in my opin­ion, between “I hate it” and “Didn’t like it.” I’d also con­tend there’s a dif­fer­ence between “Excep­tional” and “Amaz­ing.” But one thing Goodreads and Ama­zon have in com­mon is that they’re ask­ing for opin­ions. Per­sonal reac­tions to the book, which often have noth­ing to do with the qual­ity of the writ­ing. Barnes & Noble’s guide­lines lean more toward content.

The reviews on these book sites are reader ‘reviews’ and many of those who post them have no idea what a ‘review’ means. Per­sonal exam­ple. I noticed a one star review for Rooted in Dan­ger. Since the book received a starred review from Pub­lish­ers Weekly (which are pro­fes­sional reviews, not reader reviews), I won­dered what this reader found so ter­ri­ble. The review said, “All the authors other books are avail­able in dig­i­tal for­mat, but this one is only hard cover.” Is that a book review? Hardly. Nei­ther is the “the book took two weeks to get to me” or “the cover was ripped.”

Read the rest of the post on Terry Odell’s blog.