The Weird World of Book Reviews

I’ve thought a lot about this post. As I shift away from being a reader and change into a reader-author, my love-hate relationship with book reviews has become challenging. This is not because I hate getting bad reviews. As much as a bad review stings, I believe they show balance. Not every book is for every reader. When I’m thinking as a reader, bad reviews help me anticipate problems in a book. I try to remember this as an author.

No, I have two main problems with reviews, and that’s what I want to discuss today. One is how people spoil books in their reviews. Two is how different people value the star-rating system.

Let’s start with the easy one; people who spoil the book’s ending in their review. Bless Goodreads for allowing reviewers to identify a spoiler and then force a reader to click again. Retailers do no such thing. A longer review might require an additional click to reveal the entire review, but that doesn’t necessarily hide a spoiler. Nothing is more frustrating, as an author, to see an in-depth review that not only re-writes the entire synopsis of your book but also tells others how it will end. I write romance and, yes, there will be a happy ending. I just don’t need you to spoil how we get there. For me, as a reader, reviews are about your thoughts on the story. Tell me why you liked what you liked, why you didn’t like things, and DON’T SPOIL THE ENDING!

Next, the subjective value of stars when ranking a book. What does it mean to you when you see one-star for a book? It means it sucks. That most people will agree on. What about three stars; four stars? What do five stars mean? It’s not the same for all of us. For most readers, as I’ve learned from being an author, five stars indicate they like the book. For me, five stars mean that I’m buying a print copy of this book so I can put it on my shelf and can read it over and over again. If I like the book and think others should read it, I give it four stars; it gets three if it’s okay but nothing special. For another person, five stars mean it’s a good book and they liked it; three stars means its not good. As an author, I wish there were fewer readers like me leaving reviews. I’ve realized that I’m in the minority, but a vocal minority. One three-star review from someone like me, no matter how glowing the review is, ruins so many five-star reviews.

Blend these two issues together, and it can be difficult to read reviews. You have to be careful about spoilers, you have to evaluate what their ranking system means, and these might be long, detailed reviews of a book. I understand seeing these long reviews on a book blog, but when I see them on GoodReads or Amazon, I just shut down. I decide if the blurb is interesting and if the cover is pretty! In the end, the risk of a spoiler and star-confusion makes the review useless!

I told you it’s weird!

As an author, I encourage simple reviews. Did you like it? just say that and maybe why. Did you not like it? The same! It doesn’t require you recap the story, possibly spoil the ending, and leave someone confused about how good the book is. Keep is simple.

It’s something I’ve adopted when I review books (since becoming an author). What about you? Do you spoil the ending? Is your ranking system complicated? Tell me in the comments!

Our own Sara Marks is a self-published author. She primarily writes chick lit and contemporary romance books but sometimes takes on horror. In 2017 she decided to focus her efforts on self-publishing over traditional publishing. This monthly series is about her experiences publishing and promoting her own books. You can learn more about her and her books on her webpage.

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