Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Five Stars: Real or Not Real?
So the other day when I was at an LTUE panel about reviewing books, the conversation turned to rating books. As always, the discussion gets fairly lively for this topic, but I was shocked when one of the dudes on the panel said "five star ratings are fake!"
Perhaps he was referring to Amazon star ratting exclusively, because you know we've all heard of the stories of people getting paid to put positive reviews on there. Because, yes, we did talk a lot about the difference between reviews on Goodreads compared to those on Amazon. And Amazon is just not to be trusted. I guess.
But the way I took it to mean was that all five star ratings should be dismissed by the author and even the reading public with the idea that that reviewer is just way too bias to give a legitimate review. Or something. And that the only meaningful reviews are those that fall in the 3 and 4 star category. I mean, I sat there confused for the rest of the time wondering about it and getting even a little miffed. Of course, I didn't have the guts to ask a follow up question and make him clarify what he meant.
Instead, I sat there and wondered about what rating I should give to all those books I absolutely love! The books that stick with me, that I can't stop thinking about, whose characters I completely fall in love with! The books that I want to read over and over again, and tell everyone else to read NOW! The books that I want to hug and keep forever! Do not those books deserve a five star rating? And if I give it to them, is that FAKE? And to be dismissed as worthless? What?
Okay so I've been accused of liking too many books. A thought that I find funny, actually, given the fact that I've made the habit of reading and talking up books a huge part of my life! It seems you'd just assume that I like them for the most part, right? And in fact, there was a guy on the panel, a book reviewer, that seemed to talk a lot about all the books he hates. (Because the discussion of course tended to go the direction of what to do when you DON'T like a book.) And it made me think, I wonder if he likes ANY of the books he reads and reviews? But of course he does, he has list on his site!
Anyway, so yes, it appears that I like most of the books I read, and lately I've tried to be more stingy with the five stars so that they will mean a little more, and I understand that if I give everything five stars, then the meaning of the rating is essentially gone. But if I am consciously trying to only give five stars to books that fit the above criteria, then one thing they are not is FAKE.
They are so very very real, and it truly means that I love that book.
So I will keep giving out the five stars, even if I review on Amazon. Take it or leave it!
That being said, I did come away from this panel with a cool new way to look at reviews (and I think it was even the above mentioned guy who came up with this):
Amazon reviews are to get people to BUY the books
Goodreads reviews are to get people to READ the books
Blog post reviews are to ENTERTAIN people about the books.
Makes sense to me.
For those that are interested, other notes I took while at this panel:
* the difference between a book review and a critique (review: speaks to the audience about your feelings of the book, a critique speaks to the author about your suggestions and advice to fix the book.)
* think of your audience (share in your book love? want to buy the book? friends?)
* there are good reviews, there are bad reviews and there are UGLY reviews (don't be ugly)
* remember kindness and honesty
* is your greater responsibility to the author or the audience? (Audience! But... don't kill the author.)
So all my expert reviewer friends, what say you?