“Rating the Ratings”

~ by Charles Ameringer

Jack Hummingwey was riding high; the reviews of his novel, “The Caymans Caper,” were averaging 4.4 stars on Goodreads; two 5-star and three 4-star reviews; reviews that were conscientious and thorough.  Then, Naomi Gusta brought him back to earth, posting a one-star rating; Jack’s average went into the dumpster.  He felt blindsided; it didn’t seem right that a rating had as much weight as a review, particularly when the rater wasn’t obliged to make any kind of comment, such as, “it wasn’t plausible,” or “it wasn’t my cup of tea.”  He was certain he would react the same way to a 5-star rating, thinking it should at least say, “superb!” or “it blew my mind.”  Even though Goodreads provided raters with a space for commentary, he was tempted to write the Goodreads Team to point out that bundling bare ratings with thoughtful reviews was a faulty methodology certain to produce misleading results, but realized that he ran the risk of being brushed off as thin-skinned.  A better idea might be to educate prospective readers on the distinction between the stars of reviewers and those of raters.

LMB stars

He recalled a discussion by the Goodreads Mystery, Crime, and Thriller Group on the topic, “How do you write your book reviews . . . ?”

NYKen posed the question, and Mary-Jo responded:

“. . . honesty is the best way.  First talk about how the book made you feel.  Then explain why (what you think are the strengths and/or the weaknesses of the work . . . .”

Paul followed:

“I write about what inspires/touches/annoys me about the book . . .”

Chris added:

“I simply detail the standout elements of the book, e.g., pace, plot, narration, characterization, imagery, etc. . . .”

June commented:

“I don’t write book reports. . . . If the book really impressed me, I want to write how it made me feel and why I loved it.  However, if I disliked the book, I want to give the reason for that also.”

Jack believed that the dialogue was right-on, demonstrating the earnest effort on the part of reviewers to be fair to a book and author and helpful to those looking for a good read.  Also, it enabled him to hone the advice that he would give to book-buyers, that is, it’s okay to look to the stars for guidance, but what really matters are the three “esses”: story, style, and substance.  And you find them only in reviews.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Charles Ameringer is the author of the spy/thriller, The Old Spook.  You can see the novel’s reviews and stars on Goodreads and at http://www.amazon.com/Old-Spook-Charles-Ameringer/product-reviews/1477654623/ref=la_B001HD1:

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