When I did the series about ratings last year, the issue of those readers who tend to give everything 4-5 stars was raised and the majority of commenters agreed they either take no notice of these reviews or take them with a pinch of salt.
At the time, I didn’t follow this up. Apparently going Teh Cray-Cray affected my ability to be snarky. Who knew such a thing was possible.
Recently, the topic came up again in off-line discussions with a friend and I found myself unable to resist. Oh, yes. I’m back. If somewhat part-timeish.
Anyways, the chat with my mate got me thinking about the high raters, beginning with the fangurls. Let’s face it, most of these people do the 5-star thing regardless of how sucky the work might be. You learn pretty quickly who they are and, just as fast, start to avoid them as much as possible.
You also get the authors and their buddy authors. You know who I mean? The authors who give their own books high ratings and their close friends who do the same and vice versa? Yeah. Just FYI; we readers tend to think those who do this look like total douches. Sorry *not really*, but it’s the truth.
Finally, there are the minions and the sock-puppets (ie the people who, with amazingly convenient spontaneity, magically appear to join goodreads, blogger, etc at just the ‘right’ time). They are the ones who go on the attack whenever another reader dares give their beloved anything less than 5 stars. Fuckwits. Seriously people get a life.
Besides, whether or not you have the public or private support of the author to cruise the internet like a mob of fruitcake lemmings with the obvious intention of wankfestery, the end result is that you actually make the person you’re trying to ‘protect’ come across as a dick. Well, you do. It turns other readers completely off. After all, who the hell wants to take the chance reading their work if they’re going to end up covered in flies like a pile of shit? The end.
So, what are your thoughts about this? Do you dis/agree? Are there any instances when you’ve felt obligated to give a higher rating to something? Speak. Or type. Whatever.
Those who dared:
ouaqquwcgk on my confession dkmhwgijnw on random awesomeness Kris on maybe it’s me, but… kaetrin on maybe it’s me, but… Kris on maybe it’s me, but…
Y'know, for as snarky as I sometimes get on my low-star reviews, I'm surprised no roving bands have attacked. *knocks on wood*
There's a case or two where I do tend to rate higher than I should, but it's a friendship thing, not fear of the mob thing.
If someone always rates a particular author highly, I don't have an issue with that, because sometimes you just mesh with an author's voice or style and no matter what drivel they write it triggers all your yum buttons and you just love it. It happens, I probably have a few that hit me that way. Sometimes it's also because I like the person personally. I'm not going to give a one star book I hated 5 stars because I like you, but I might give you 4 stars instead of 3.5. We keep saying an author's on-life behaviour affects our decisions so in some ways I want to reward that as well, within logical reason.
I expect people to have a certain number of books they loved and if they are all from the same 5 authors I'm okay with that. I'm not likely to noticed specifics anyway, I don't click on people's list of books and see how their ratings like up by author.
So I don't really mind that kind of thing, but when someone gives EVERYTHING they read 5 stars, then I question it. Same if they give everything 1 star. Umm. Get a new genre.
Oh and minions attacking? Or sock-puppets? Yeah. That's just weird and lame and to date I've never been attacked for a low review (which means I've just jinxed myself).
This is one of several reasons I totally avoid my book pages on GR (although the point is moot, I suppose, because I'm not part of a clique and don't have any fangirls).
Come to think of it, I've been in avoidance mode when it comes to the Internet in general. Seems all I've been able to manage are occasional tweets — or whatever the hell they're called. I've found most everything else kind of dispiriting. If I paid too close attention, I'd probably give up writing altogether.
I've been lucky enough not to have been attacked for one of my low reviews (even though I can get pretty snarky when it's a super low star review), so I guess I'm lucky in that aspect… But I can't stand it when someone has all high star reviews. I've seen a few statements where they say they won't review books that they don't really like. Why not? What's the point of reviewing books if you're not going to give your honest opinions about them? That means both positive AND negative reviews. So sorry if the author reads it and gets their feelings hurt, but reviews aren't for authors. Reviews are for readers.
*steps off soapbox* Sorry, I've bee holding that back for a while.
Lately, I have been reading (for personal time) nothing but books that were recommended to me by close friends so I do have a glut of high ratings lately. It's awesome to hit a glut of books I love. 🙂
I had a sibling offer to defend my writer-honor once upon a time.
I advised them if they did so, I would be required to disown them. No more free swag and such. Readers are entitled to their opinions, can wank poetic emo to their hearts' content. They are entitled to their opinion — and I'm entitled to ignore them, which is my philosophical best-practice. There's constructive criticism and discussion, and then there's that other vomit stuff that isn't worth the time and energy it took to type…
I hear you on the wankfestivities, or whatever. It can get weird.
I've backed way off reviewing since I'm publishing my own fiction now and therefore don't look like an unbiased viewpoint.
But I still sometimes have the urge to promote books that I like. Goodreads' option of not leaving a rating is good so I can just mention what I liked and leave it at that.
The only reason I leave only five star reviews at GR is because I fear leaving something else would make it look like a fellow author with sour grapes. But..and this is a huge but (almost as big as mine) I only do it for books that I feel are true five star reads, so that is few and far between.
I had an author from my RWA group pimp her books on our Yahoo loop. I went to Amazon and found she had 12 five star reviews for a book that was ranked low in sales. Out of curiosity, I dug deeper and found all those reviews came from authors from the same publisher. I know it shouldn't have shocked me, but it did. Now that made it so I will never buy from that company. Although I wouldn't have anyway since in their submission guidelines they said the sex had to be tame with no “pink parts” and that they didn't take gay books.
Attempting that again…
Chris: You've just jinxed yourself.
“… but it's a friendship thing…”
I'm just not that nice.
Tam: “… which means I've just jinxed myself…”
I said exactly that to Chris before I read your comment. LOL
I get the meshing with an author thing, but I'm not so sure about giving an ok-ish rating still even if the work is shit and there is not one author who can produce a 5-star read every single time… unless there are a certain someone… apparently.
KZ: “I've found most everything else kind of dispiriting. If I paid too close attention, I'd probably give up writing altogether.”
I get what you mean. Sometimes there are such ridiculous wankfests which give you the shits with both sides and leave you with a foul taste in your mouth about the community as a whole. Been there and decided not to give the haters that kind of power over me. They're not worth it and, as a result, I tend to hang around my mates.
MK: Don't be sorry. I also get pissed off when there is yet another explosion from an author about a poor review. If you're upset bitch about it in a private, but, at the end of the day, reviews are for readers. Full stop. The end.
“I've seen a few statements where they say they won't review books that they don't really like. Why not?”
I call bullshit on those who do this. For me, the only exception to this would be if you were another author in the genre. I can see that would be a difficult position to be in, but still there are some who do it and quite successfully too.
Jase: That's fair enough, especially if they are close enough to you to know exactly what type of story and writing style that would appeal to you the most.
You're lucky. When someone makes a rec to me, I'll wonder what the fuck they were thinking more often that not. LOL
I must confess that I seem to give a fair few books four stars. I have been giving some three star ratings lately…I'm still working on the whole 'three stars isn't bad bit'. And I worry I'll offend the author or another reader. And this is why I don't review 🙂
Rhi: “I had a sibling offer to defend my writer-honor once upon a time. I advised them if they did so, I would be required to disown them.”
Totally justified, and thank god I hadn't had that mouthful of drink yet. 😀
“… then there's that other vomit stuff that isn't worth the time and energy it took to type…”
Or to read for that matter.
Question for you, Rhi… Do you think you would have the same approach to a reader's opinion if you weren't an author, but just another so-called normal reader? Does that make sense?
Val: “I've backed way off reviewing since I'm publishing my own fiction now and therefore don't look like an unbiased viewpoint.”
Do you mean that you think others would perceive you to have a biased POV? Or is that something you believe of yourself?
I have to say I can't imagine anyone ever thinking that of your reviews, Val. They've always been exceedingly balanced and thorough.
Stephani: “But..and this is a huge but (almost as big as mine) I only do it for books that I feel are true five star reads, so that is few and far between.”
I think that's a pretty good way of compromising if an author feels uncomfortable with the situation – as is Val's approach of not giving a rating but recommending work in the review section.
Finding out other authors from the same publisher rated a book highly doesn't surprise me at all. It's so obvious at times, particularly if an author is a newbie or it's a new release. It totally puts me off; both the author and the other authors involved.
Orannia: I think, as a reader, you're generally more willing to be convinced and suspend disbelief than others, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
I don't review either, but apparently someone was able to con me into doing a joint review with her. The meanie.
I'm so very adamant about this topic. Like, Tam says; I have a handful or so authors who really know how to push my buttons. They also write series which results in my being totally invested in the characters. But I give each book I read a rating that reflects my thoughts and feelings regarding that book and explain where I'm coming from in my review. I've given JR Ward shit in my review…and got lip from certain readers but her fans can be quite rabid o.0
Yeah, you soon learn who the fans of the author are. I discount those reviews and star ratings, but there must be readers out there who just don't know the fans and as such will buy a book based on a great rating.
I give out a lot of 3-4 stars. I'm easy to please on the whole and so a book would have to have hit some major dislike buttons for me to give it 2 stars.
I know a few authors who wished I did give out more 5 stars or 'Excellent' grades on my blog!
I give a fair amount of 4 and 5 star reviews I think but, like many people, I only read things I think I will like.
I don't change the grade if I personally like an author but didn't like the book much, but I wonder if I'm a bit more gentle in my words then. No one's called me on it yet so I guess if I do it, it's not that obvious.
On the other hand, I'm only on my second book for the year because the first one was a loser for e and it took me forever to read it. I only finished it at all because it was a NetGalley review from a publisher that has only just started letting me have their books. (I'm not sure theyre going to give me anymore now though because I gave it a D+\C-!!
I think the grade has to go with the words -what worked and what didn't. A grade alone won't necessarily help my buying choice.
The other thing is, which Kris didn't mention specifically, and it squicks me out, is authors giving their own books 5 stars.. Worse when theirs is the only review too!
Kris: Do you think you would have the same approach to a reader's opinion if you weren't an author, but just another so-called normal reader? Does that make sense?
I believe I would, yes… I have in the past. I won't leave a one OR five star review without leaving a detailed, honest reason for why, one way or the other.
As a reader, I skim reviews when checking a book or author before a purchase. Ratings that are one extreme or the other without a substantive text review accompanying it have always held ZERO weight for me. I can usually tell which ones are authentic artistic assessments and which are … rectal gas or cranial steam or outright author “fluffering” (as in, keeping the ego inflated in between books).
As for the ones who play “high school popularity contests” with ratings… It's their ethics, they justify their actions with whatever they must to sleep at night I guess? As both a writer and a reader– I can't grasp it, and I highly doubt I ever will, despite my fascination with psychological theories.
I don't do GR. I do follow and get updates from some people but they are the ones whose opinion I trust. They don't give 5* to be popular.
I give 5* to books I like. I also sometimes give authors 4-5* if I like their voice. ZAM makes me go all fan girlish – I can't help it. I have yet to read anything from her that I don't like. That's not to say I've read all her stuff. Just the ones that catch my attention.
SK is another who nearly always get a high rating. A lot of people didn't like WOE but I loved it. I like that he had different couples in it.
Harper Fox is my new read as I like her voice. It's always gritty and has that extra bit of realism.
Saying that…. I don't read that much anymore. I tend to re-read the ones I have. I am finding a lot of authors are starting to sound the same. Sometimes I have to keep checking the authors name as some scenes(sex) sound the same. And the whole magic dick/tuw wuv thing gives me wind/heartburn.
Oh and if anyone follows rain the roof on twitter can you tell me where the clip she had on yesterday with the two blokes kissing in the shower came from. It's an MTV clip and looks like a tv show or film clip.
Ps. So happy kris is making a comeback….I've missed her snarkyness. It's heartwarming to see her again, if only for a little while *sobs with happiness*
Veri-word sherok…. Yes she does 🙂
I've learned to take those reviews from reviewers who don't review unless they have something nice to say with some skepticism. If it's always, “This is a great book!” I try to read between the lines of the review (so to speak).
I like reading Speak Its Name reviews because they'll say what's historically accurate and what isn't. If the author is wrong on dress, furniture or customs of the era, they're wrong. There's not that much of a gray area there.
I like most of the books that certain authors write, but I'm hesitant to rate books because I edit here and there.
I'll discuss books, but I figure that about five people read my LJ, (and probably three of them are authors) so I don't get much “outside world” attention there.
I'm a sap at heart and I feel bad giving low ratings so I tend to go the highest I can. Which results in a big heap of 3 stars and fair share of 4 stars and quite a few 5 stars and only a couple of 2 stared reviews.
I also admit a lot of the time I'm under the aww how cute or aww look at what the mean author did to that nice MC or, well you get the picture. This than influences how I rate the book. So a lot of the times I rate based on how much I enjoyed reading the book and not necessarily what the perceived quality of the book was.
As for all the rabid fans out there (in both the pro and con camps in review fights) I do wish they'd crawl back to wherever they came from.
Forgot to say that what matters to me when I'm browsing the reviews in search of good books is the review not the number of stars. So basically if the reviewer says what (s)he liked and/or disliked about the book and it helps me decide whether to get the book I'm happy.
But if all I get is a star rating without even a “It was a good book” or “This sucks on so many levels I can't begin to count them all” I get a bit miffed. Especially when it's a new book and the only reviews are just those bloody stars. What's that about?
@Stephani ~ PINK PARTS? Seriously? But. . .but. . .what about the purple parts? And the creamy white and shaded-with-brown parts?
That's just damned discriminatory.
Leo: “But I give each book I read a rating that reflects my thoughts and feelings regarding that book and explain where I'm coming from in my review.”
As you say, that's particularly important when it comes to reviewing a series. I've also had flack for giving J R Ward's BDB books a couple of not-so-good ratings. In fact, I've not read the last couple of books. I'm just holding out for Qhuinn's and Blay's story at this point.
Jen: “I know a few authors who wished I did give out more 5 stars or 'Excellent' grades on my blog!”
I know some of them too. 😛
You're absolutely right about someone new to a genre not having a clue about the fans of certain authors. Maybe we should start a goodreads group called 'avoidingthefangurlsandsockpuppets'. I'm sure it would go down a real treat.
Kaetrin: “I don't change the grade if I personally like an author but didn't like the book much, but I wonder if I'm a bit more gentle in my words then.”
Jen wrote a great post about reviewers being friends with authors last year. Go here to give it a read: http://jenre-wellread.blogspot.com/2011/02/should-reviewers-be-friends-with.html
Also, you're going to hell for that bad review. 😛
Rhi: “… can usually tell which ones are authentic artistic assessments and which are … rectal gas or cranial steam or outright author “fluffering” (as in, keeping the ego inflated in between books).”
You have a wonderful turn of phrase, Rhi. 🙂
The book blogging community is definitely high-schoolish; complete with cliques, bullies, the 'outcasts', and the contests for class president and prom queen. It's just too bad that there's not a glee club. Or a marching band. That would be cool.
Thanks for responding. It's also reminded me that I've been meaning to ask you and Aleks another question. That nosy thing. 🙂
Tish: “I tend to re-read the ones I have. I am finding a lot of authors are starting to sound the same. Sometimes I have to keep checking the authors name as some scenes(sex) sound the same.”
I've found that too. Sometimes I wonder if some of the newbie authors have just appropriated a sex scene from someone else, changed the names and/or used 3 fingers instead of 2.
“Veri-word sherok…. Yes she does :-)”
Em: I'm not sure there's much to read between the lines of a 'This is a great book!' review. ;P
“I like reading Speak Its Name reviews because they'll say what's historically accurate and what isn't.”
Yes. I think it's great that there is a review site which does this. As I've said about a gazillion times, nothing shits me more than contextual inaccuracies and the use of modern and cultural idioms in historical romance. Grrrr.
Eva: “Especially when it's a new book and the only reviews are just those bloody stars. What's that about?”
My excuse is complete and utter laziness, but, hey, at least I'm consistent with that approach. Consistency is everything in rating and not reviewing. ;P
“So a lot of the times I rate based on how much I enjoyed reading the book and not necessarily what the perceived quality of the book was.”
This is a really interesting point, Eva. Made me think about the way I rate. Mind if I steal it and do a post about it?
KZ: Oh, c'mon. Everyone knows that there are only 'shell-pink parts'. It's part of the official romance genre charter.
“”So a lot of the times I rate based on how much I enjoyed reading the book and not necessarily what the perceived quality of the book was.”
This is a really interesting point, Eva. Made me think about the way I rate. Mind if I steal it and do a post about it?”
Steal away Kris 😀
@K.Z I know! Right? My son, doll that he is, said the only pink cocks he's ever seen were on red-heads, so I'll just have to write about guys with dark hair. I didn't even want to ask how he go this information.
I started reading a series a few months back, the first book was just okay and so I decided to check reviews of the second book before buying it. All the reviews I found were 5 stars with gushy reviews that told little to nothing about the actual story. The reviews turned me off from reading further into the series. So I do agree that fangirls can sometimes hurt books.
Kris said: The book blogging community is definitely high-schoolish; complete with cliques, bullies, the 'outcasts', and the contests for class president and prom queen. It's just too bad that there's not a glee club. Or a marching band. That would be cool.
Yeah, I didn't play that “game” decades ago, and I'm not about to start now. Not as a reader (which I still am) and not as a writer/author, either.
As for the whole “rating based on the reading experience” concept — there is absolutely nothing wrong with that at all, in fact I think that the “experience” should factor into the rating/review. A technically correct piece of fiction can still be a weak read or a forgettable experience. Another aspect of it has to do with what a reader is “in the mood” for. Which is why I am a strong supporter of non-scaled ratings. That use a construct such as “white chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, pure cocoa” or “latte, frappuccino, cappuccino, dark roast coffee, espresso” sort of thing. Looking for something light and fluffy? You can find it. Want something full-bodied, dark, or meaty instead? There you go. Because readers have different tastes, and different reading moods even, and one or the other doesn't necessarily preclude a book from being technically sound.
Nor does “technically sound” automatically translate to “five stars” because otherwise we'd all be sitting around reading Doctoral theses and scientific journals.
And fan-squeeing on them.
Strong technical influence is crucial. But without good balance it can strip the magic and life from a story's prose.
Eva: Well, I was going to do that anyway, but it's still good to get permission. Sometimes.
Steph: That grinder account maybe?? 😛
Amanda: “The reviews turned me off from reading further into the series. So I do agree that fangirls can sometimes hurt books.”
Yes, and I imagine that an author wouldn't be happy with that kind of reaction, especially when it comes to sales associated with a series.
Rhi: “Yeah, I didn't play that “game” decades ago, and I'm not about to start now.”
Ditto; even though I was the stereotypical kid who couldn't be fucked trying to fit in. LOL
Rhi, do you mind if I quoted some of your response to the 'rating based on experience' topic, particularly the points about technically sound works?
Kris: Feel free to quote whatever you like, I don't mind. 🙂
And about those questions you said you kept meaning to ask… Those are welcome whenever you're ready.
I don't review either, but apparently someone was able to con me into doing a joint review with her. The meanie.
Really? I wonder who that was? *looks around wildly*
Rhi: Thanks. 🙂 And I finally remembered the questions again! It's only taken me how long?? LOL
Orannia: Perhaps the someone can forget it ever happened??
2 stars on GR is an ok book. Think most people don't realise that because it doesn't look like much.
And on most other review places 2 stars is meh on the border of bad. But even I tend to give ok but nothing special books 3 stars.
On GR I only look at what my friends thought of a certain book, not the ones below the line. I know that from them I get a more or less realistic review.
eeeh Kris, minions in theory are not bad people are they??
This post for example showcases your excellent writing skills, your uberly bright ideas and the originality shines throughout. Words cannot express the pleasure I feel when reading a new post from you.
Ingrid: The BB and I pissed ourselves laughing when we read your comment. We both decided that you win Minion of the Month and definitely will be in the running for the Year's prize. Total win.
“2 stars on GR is an ok book. Think most people don't realise that because it doesn't look like much. And on most other review places 2 stars is meh on the border of bad.”
Yes, and because of that perception that 2 stars is not a good review they view the GR ratings the same way. Apparently a lot of people can't read. Irony, yes.
I was already minion of the month!
Ingrid: Really?? Oh.
It's the meds, you know. They affect my memory.
My avg rating on GR is 4.08, so I'm obviously a high rater. But, in my defense, I only read books I think I'll like. And I do A LOT of research before I buy a book. I probably spend more time reading reviews and looking at ratings than I do actually reading, lol. And I always try to read an excerpt first to make sure I like the writing style. Maybe because I've never really been a reader at heart, something has to really grab me before I can be bothered to read it.
Also there is one author whose books I really do always like and thus have ranked highly. Something about his writing style and themes just clicks with me. Granted some I've liked a little better than others, but none yet that I'd rate below a four (although I have skipped that author's fantasyish books because that's not really my thing). And I've reread the books, some more than once, so I truly do like them. But maybe that makes me a fangurl. *shrugs*
Also I don't do reviews, mostly because I don't like to write. Even a short review feels like a big chore, and there are enough chores that I actually have to do that I don't need to add another. 😛 I do usually put a star rating, but that's mostly for me because I have such a bad memory for what I've read. I also don't mind when other people just put a star rating without a review as long as it's someone I'm familiar with. I'm on GR enough to know whose star ratings tend to correspond with mine, so that works for me.
Richelle: “Maybe because I've never really been a reader at heart, something has to really grab me before I can be bothered to read it.”
Really?? I think you should write a post about this for me. I'll nag you about it offline. You're welcome.
“Also I don't do reviews, mostly because I don't like to write. Even a short review feels like a big chore, and there are enough chores that I actually have to do that I don't need to add another. :P”
I'll remember this the next time you take the piss for my laziness. 😉
I have to say that I HATE seeing an author give their own book a 5 star. I mean, really? Like we don't know that you think it's a 5? Like anyone who give themselves a 3? Puhhhleeeze.
I only look at the ratings of my friends anyway as they usually have my pov on books. Although when I think a book isn't that good and my friends are giving it higher grades I think I missed something. lol
KZ – FYI – consider me a fan girl. 🙂
Tracy: “Although when I think a book isn't that good and my friends are giving it higher grades I think I missed something. lol”
Me, I just think that they got it totally wrong. 😛
lol Sometimes I think that too, I must admit. But when I see good ratings for a book I didn't care for particularly then I have to stop and wonder.
I don't. I shake my head and see what other stupid ratings they've given. 😛