Rating Systems for Book Reviews

Do we really need them and are they necessary, or not?

Chatting over on twitter with a couple of my twitter friends—author, Luke Tarzian and reviewer Traveling Cloak—Luke was discussing how for an author, the 5 star rating system can be something of a downer. Especially when someone rates one of your book a 3-star read, which, when you look at it, means the book was, in fact, an ABOVE AVERAGE read. Given how 2.5 stars is, technically, an average read.

And yet … As Luke pointed out, 3 star still instills a sense of dread in authors who feel like they failed. When, if truth be told, they really haven’t. 

This is one of the reasons why, over the years, I chose to go with a numbered review system one through 10, based on five categories: world building, plot/story, dialogue, characterisation and the over-all read.  

But, to be honest, while this worked, up to a point, I’ve asked myself recently if, even now, it’s too critical. Because, when it comes down to it, what we need to do is ask ourselves one simple question: was it a damn good read, or not? 

I mean, would it not be better to review a book as: Not for Me / Like It / Love It / Favourite! [Thanks to Traveling Cloak for this great suggestion!] And then, give a couple of pros and cons in your review of what worked and what didn’t. We are, after all, only offering up our own opinion, we’re not doing an all out critique, or scholarly analysis. 

We’re just happy readers, sharing a passion for genre fiction. While raving about the books and authors we’ve enjoyed, and love, with other like-minded people. 

So let’s make this fun again, and less a competition, and come up with some other fun ways to say how much we loved a book. 

14 comments on “Rating Systems for Book Reviews

  1. Avatar

    Great discussion! I personally don’t use ratings on the blog, as I feel my review will clarify the book without the need to classify it in such a small range as the star rating.

    I do use it on Goodreads out of necessity, but even then am left with the unavoidable “but this 4 star is different than this 4 star!” feeling. Hate that feeling :p

    • Alex

      Glad to hear we’re not all following in the dreaded review rut, but yeah, I know what you mean about Goodreads. It’s de jour there, and a little difficult to break out of the mould. Another reason I don’t post reviews there, or on Amazon. That’s the whole point of starting to book blog. 😀

  2. Avatar

    I agree and I decided from the start not to put ratings on my own blog. I choose them for NetGalley and Goodreads because I have to but I don’t include them anywhere else if I don’t have to. They’re too restrictive in my opinion and don’t always convey your true feelings.

    • Alex

      Exactly! When I had a book blog last year I did stars but it never worked. So when I set up the Book Blog I wanted to offer something different and, for the most part did a 1 to 10 system, but even then, it can be frustrating. So, here we go, no ratings and no stars. Just my humble opinion. 😛

    • Avatar

      Great post and discussion. On my blog I don’t give any rating and generally rate by my enjoyment overall. On Goodreads however the rating scale is so small…I try to give it an actual number on top of my review and round the stars up or down. Not a great system though.
      Interesting how an author thinks of these ratings. In a sense, a 10 point rating can feel even more nitpicky if on GR a book garners a 5star review and on a 10point scale only a 9.5. Would that perhaps feel like it was STILL not good enough? It’s so tricky…

      • Avatar

        That’s why I haven’t done a 10 star rating either. I feel like I personally would obsess over that way too much myself.

        • Alex

          Exactly! I found I was spending way to much time doing a review than was necessary, trying to break it down so that it was becoming more of an academic analysis rather than, oh, I loved this one!

      • Alex

        It seems that quite a few of us have given up on a rating system for our review posts, while still trying to work within the Goodreads and Amazon star rating. I don’t think either body will change that, any time soon. So anyone using those platforms will have little choice. But on our blogs? I don’t think we need to be so restricted.

  3. Avatar

    A great post and very thought provoking! I may have to think on this for a while and look at reviewing my rating system. It is after all still new as my blog is less than a month old.

    I do like the idea of the ‘Not for me/I liked it/I loved it/Favourite” but in a way it’s still a rating although I do like that it removes the dreaded 3 star. I have always hated that and always feel like I need to remind readers that it a good thing.

    I was playing around with the idea of having a ‘Book Vagabond Recommends” badge type thing but thought this could come across a little pompous.

    Again very interesting post and has me rethinking my ways. Thank you.

    • Alex

      Thanks, Dean. I know you already had a great post about this very topic, and how best to make them work. It’s difficult for book bloggers as those of us who post to both Goodreads and Amazon are forced to do a star rating for their algorithms. But, on our own blogs, do we really need to conform?

      Yeah, I really liked the simplicity of Traveling Cloak’s suggestions. But even then, what we’ve said in our review should be enough and conveyed whether we loved it, liked it, or will be making said book a favourite, or not.

      Again, a badge sounds fun, but as you say, it can also sound a little pompous. Like a book is only good enough if I give it the seal of approval. Again, who are we to say, beyond our own opinion. Since in raving about a book, haven’t we already given it a seal of approval?

      Anyway, I hope you figure out what you want to do your own blog with ratings. And, again, badges can be fun!

  4. Avatar

    Great blog! I always avoid giving star ratings on my blog just for that reason – I consider a 3 star review to still be good, but I know authors probably don’t see it that way. Or I just end up giving most books a 4 star review, which then seems to become a bit meaningless…

    • Alex

      Thank you! And yes, like so many, I think we’re seeing just how much pressure both author and reviewer is put under with a star rating system that, in the end, really doesn’t reflect how good a book is. Which, in the end, is the whole point of writing a review. This work or that didn’t and that’s it, that’s all we need to write. Star ratings, stifle good books and over-praise others!

  5. Avatar
    Rebecca | Velvet Opus

    It’s an interesting question to think about. I don’t use ratings on my blog because it’s about books that I loved. If I loved it, and am recommending it to you, the star-rating seems less relevant. Also, star ratings are so unreliable because everyone has different criteria i.e. some consider a 3-star review negative, when it really isn’t!

    Unfortunately the star rating system is on goodreads, and I do use it, but I try to review using something like the CAWPILE(R) scale. That’s more detailed than a simple gut feeling, particularly if there’s no review attached to the star rating. But of course, then you have the added issue of rounding up and that means that you have to include a note that it’s a 4.5 star read, but you rated it 5 stars.

    It’s all a bit of a pickle. I think the best we can do is be vocal about the books we love.

    • Alex

      Exactly my point, if we’re using different criteria to get to our star rating, it all becomes somewhat pointless. Unless there is a standard by which these ratings are given, then they’re in effect, meaningless. And we’re just doing a disservice to ourselves, as reviewers, and to authors as well.

      As you say, the best review is one that’s come from the heart, just honest and considered.

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