Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Wednesday Chatter: Ratings, Reviews, and Drama

Wednesday Chatter @ Ruby's Books

Wednesday Chatter is a weekly feature at Ruby's Books where we'll be talking about anything and everything related to books and reading. Click here if you want to see what we talked about in the previous weeks

WARNING: Some bad words might be used in the following post. Don't say I didn't warn you!

Hi everyone! I was browsing on Twitter a few days ago and I stumbled across a tweet from AudioShelf about ratings:
Now, conversations about how the desired reviews are 5 star ones are nothing new in the book blogging community, in fact I think it's been a recurring theme since book reviewing became a common thing to do among the general public, not just something literary critics did. So we've all heard about how 5 star reviews are good, everything less is bad.

At the same time with this conversation there was another one about an author and their bad reaction to seeing a reviewer gave their book a 1 star review. I'm not going to link to that conversation and to the entire situation, because I could never do it justice, but if you want to know more about this Paige from The YA Kitten talks about it in depth on her blog.

As if that wasn't enough, that same week yet another author took to Twitter to discredit any reviews with a lower rating than 5 stars because they have no value, and said that the readers who gave a lower rating are confused and they need to be handheld by the authors.

Source: Giphy

Before we get started I want to say that this is mostly about my own rating system and what is behind my rating, and also how I view ratings and reviews, and it is possible that my views don't match with how some other people view ratings. This is my personal experience, and you are more than welcome to share your opinions or disagree (respectfully) in the comments.

Ratings, Reviews, and Drama

You may have noticed that I don't write a lot of negative reviews. I talked about this a few years ago so I won't go back to that. Today though I wanted to talk about ratings in general with you guys.

Let me start by saying this: Any starred rating from me means that I didn't DNF the book. There are only two books I DNFed that I gave 2 stars I think on Goodreads, but that was because at the time I added them I was a newbie to this book blogging world and everyone was starring unfinished books so I thought I'd be in line with the trend. Which is not accurate for me. I only give out stars to books I actually finished reading, which means that something made me want to finish reading that book. The question really isn't if I finished or not the book, or if I liked that book or not. The real question anybody should be asking when they look at a rating first and not at the review itself is what is behind that number.

Ratings are a very personal thing. They are representative both of the book itself and of the reader that gave that rating. I'm excluding trolls from the conversation, that either rate every book negatively because they have fun doing it or they really love reading books they know they'll hate, or the ones that review any and all books with 5 stars thinking that it helps in some way. Spoiler alert: from a statistical point of view, it doesn't, because those are what we call false positives and false negatives. They may tip the scale one way or another, but they don't actually offer any real insight into how good or not good a book is. Vicky @ Vicky Who Reads has a fantastic post on the math behind ratings, so do check it out. The math junkie in me did a happy dance at reading that post.

Much like grades in school, ratings are never just about a story, because it's rare that a reader is completely objective in their reading and assessment of it. Things like culture, education, gender, age, reading mood, reading experience, life experiences, religion, mental health, ANYTHING can impact how you read and perceive a book. I personally have been influenced by the smallest of things, like the color of the paper used to print the books, the font, even the language in which I was reading the book and the quality of the translation if I was reading a translated version. It's never just me and the story when I read, it's all of these things and more.

Reading is a personal experience, and being told how to rate or how to review invalidates that experience. You're basically saying "you read that wrong, you are wrong, you understood nothing, your opinion has no value because you are wrong". Guess what though: I'm not wrong in my opinion of a book, because my opinion is mine and mine alone, and we each read books through a very personal lens that no one else shares. My interpretation of a story isn't wrong just because it doesn't match the expectations of an author or the ratings of every other reader that reviewed a book. If the focus becomes pleasing authors with our reviews, and not providing an honest opinion that we have of a book, we are essentially being asked to be dishonest in what we write, which goes against what book bloggers are doing, which is to review books honestly. Not only that, but doing so means that we are in violation of both the FTC and CMA rules and guidelines. But even if that wasn't an issue, let's say I'm reviewing a book I bought with my own money, I don't see why I should lie about what I liked or disliked about a book. How is that helpful to readers that want to pick up a book and that may trust my opinions, or have the same tastes in books as me?

Another thing I need to point out is this: reviews are not for authors, they are for fellow readers. I know this is difficult to accept, but it's true. There's a reason they say don't Google yourself or don't read reviews. The reviews are not for the creator. I'm not going to assume that authors don't read reviews, of course they do. I would definitely read them if I were a published author, but that review that you're seeing is not for you. When I started blogging about books I did so because I wanted to talk with other readers about the books I was reading, not to talk to authors about their books. That's what Q&A posts are for, not reviews. If I was offering my services as a beta reader, my review wouldn't be public, it would be a private conversation between me and the author, and it would be me being brutally honest to the author about what I liked and what I didn't like. The moment it becomes a published book that review is intended only for the readers.

A book review tells the story of how the reviewer felt when they were reading the book, what they thought about it, how it made them feel, but that's where it all ends. Authors can definitely read reviews, maybe take some ideas and use some of those inputs for either the next book or a marketing strategy for one of their upcoming books. But saying that my review, intended to be read by other readers, is not accurate because it doesn't say how wonderful and amazing and superb your book is... that is going way too far.

As readers and book reviewers, most of us read at least one book review per week, and I'm sure some of those are negative reviews. I have in fact been inspired by a negative review to read a book in the past. It's not just positive, 5-star reviews that make me want to read a book. Sometimes it's the 1 or 2 star reviews that get me to read a book, maybe because I'm into whatever trope that story has, or because I want to see for myself if what the reviewer said applies to my reading experience. Sometimes I have good results, sometimes I don't. Guess what though: my rating is not influenced by the rating of other people. I've liked books others have disliked, and hated books that others loved. That does not invalidate neither my opinion nor the opinion of the people not on the same boat as me. All opinions are valid when it comes to reviewing (remember, we're excluding trolls from this conversation).

Last but not least, not all ratings are the same. Just because I use a 5-point rating system and the majority of book bloggers use this system as well, that does not mean that my 5 stars will be the same as some other blogger's. At the same time, it doesn't mean that my 5 star rating for book A means the same thing as the 5 star rating I gave books B and C. Ratings are influenced by more than just the story, just like I said in the beginning of this post, but that doesn't invalidate my rating system. I may even end up giving a different rating to a book I'm rereading than I did the first time. It doesn't mean that my first rating is false, or wrong. It just means that my opinions and views and feelings are different.

What I'm trying to say with this post is that all opinions are valid, and there is no real reason behind the drama surrounding ratings and reviews. Just because one wishes their book to have a perfect 5 star rating, doesn't mean that it will happen. Every author's book will reach the perfect readers for it, and every story ever told has its critics.

Let's discuss: What is your take on ratings? How do you rate a book? What is behind your rating or review?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...