No, it’s not what Daddy calls, “middle-age spread” but the spread of starred ratings on sites such as Amazon.
When I see a book reviewed, believe it or not, I don’t like to see ten five-star reviews and then nothing else. An author might ask, “Why not? Doesn’t that mean everyone loved the book?”
Yes. All of your friends and family loved your book.
I’m not saying those five-star ratings aren’t sincere. I think they are.
But I’m also saying when a book receives ratings from across the board, it usually means that people who don’t know or care about the author are rating the book. It means the book is being read widely.
Low ratings can also mean that an author is being attacked unfairly. But people reading reviews are smart. I, for one, can tell the difference between, “Right-wing tripe,” and “Flawed research,” as the basis for a one-star review.
I also feel terrible for authors whose scores are dragged down by one-stars given by people saying only, “Book arrived damaged.” Ummm, that has nothing to do with the author’s writing.
My point in writing this post? Here’s what I don’t want you as an author to do:
- Beg your friends to go online and write a 5-star review. And only a 5-star review. Let these reviews happen naturally. If they don’t, they don’t. If they do, great. But if you start a campaign and end up with a bunch of 5-star reviews and nothing else, you’ll look like a popular author with a bunch of friends willing to write 5-star reviews. Believe me, I understand how cool this is. But it doesn’t add to the credibility of your book.
- Don’t stress over one-star reviews. Yes, they hurt. Yes, sometimes they are unfair. Read them and cry, throw a pillow at the couch, and then go back later and re-read the reviews. Try to learn from them, if the criticism is constructive. If not, pray for the jerks who have nothing better to do than vent their frustrations on you. And thank the Lord that your book is definitely being read by people who have no investment in you. This means that your publisher is doing his job and getting your book out far and wide. That is a good thing.
- Don’t stress out about 2-and-3-star reviews, which are painful in their own way. Try to learn from those as well. And remember that anyone willing to give you 2 stars is a stranger, too. Yay for your publisher once again!
- Failed to achieve perfection with a 4-star? Well, you almost made it. These reviews can be the most instructive. Or they may be from people who just don’t give five stars. Sort of like those teachers who never gave perfect scores. You know the ones.
Whatever your spread is, God is in control. Just keep writing, and keep publishing to His glory.
Do you review books online?
Have you ever given a book a one-star review?
Are you influenced by reviews?
Yes, I review books online. Yes, I’ve given one-star reviews, more often on Goodreads, where one star means “I didn’t like it”. Fewer on Amazon, where one star means “I hate it”.
Yes, I’m influenced by reviews, but only from reviewers I know, or those who give a spread of ratings. A reviewer who only ever awards five stars doesn’t help me (especially if I look at their reviews and they’ve five-starred books I didn’t like).
And I’m one of those “you know the ones” who often gives four stars. I read a lot of books, which means every outstanding five-star read simply raises the bar for the next book!
This is a great post Tamela. I’ve rated books four stars, but never rated any three or less. Mainly the one stars are books I’ve never finished reading. I’m glad you brought to light the importance of honest ratings. I often feel awkward rating a book low when a friend has solicited reviews. Now I see a five star may not always be in their best interest. Good for me to know as well, to better stomach less than ratings, should I receive them. Thank you!
Sue Faris Raatjes
How do you get people to leave reviews? I’ve asked repeatedly but I’m having trouble getting readers to go through the effort. Any suggestions would be great.
Tamela Hancock Murray
Sue, this is a lament I often hear. The people you’re asking are obviously uncomfortable leaving reviews and that probably will never change. I suggest trying others, perhaps offering a free book in exchange for an honest review. They’ll need to say that after their review, but I notice this has become a common practice. You also might try looking online for reviewers who often review books like yours and even interview authors on their blogs. Perhaps consider approaching them.
Hope this helps!
Sue Faris Raatjes
Thank you. I will try your suggestions for getting more reviews.
Once upon a time, I was the five-star-all-the-time kind of reviewer, but since I began teaching high school English I have become far more critical of the books I read. I also have far less time to read, so if I lose interest and/or an author fails to write exceptionally well, I often do not finish the book. I am the teacher who rarely gives five stars (100%) because there is almost always something to improve.
I find it very repugnant when I see the parent, spouse, teacher, boss, pastor, coach, military commander etc. that rarely if ever has a laudatory word or high praise for a GENUINE deed well done. I firmly do not believe in rewarding of false or “pretend” accomplishment.
Most of us have seen a childs creativity and joy of accomplishment crushed by blasé` comments from uncaring parents/adults. Spouses unfairly and chronically demeaned in public that leads them to questioning of their own self worth .All the way to the tragedy of someone who took their own life in lonely despair feeling very unloved who were judged they could “never do anything right” by people who were far from perfect themselves.
I always err to the side of generosity from a positive point of view (this applies to all areas of my life). I rate each book on its own standalone merits. If the last book I read merited 5 stars it does not mean the next book has to be “better”.
As I said in a recent post, bad writing will tell (on itself), good writing will sell.
Luke 6:42 [Full Chapter]
Or how can you tell your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck of chaff that is in your eye,’ when you yourself don’t see the beam that is in your own eye? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck of chaff that is in your brother’s eye.
Thanks for addressing so well the idea of a balanced spread, Tamela. If I see all 5-star reviews on a book, I immediately think “self-published.” Nothing wrong with self-publishing, but I don’t value the reviews in the same way I would if someone dared step out with a 3- or 4-star review. Books that make best-seller lists Always have a mixed bag.
I always read reviews. Often I read the 1 & 2 ratings first. It doesn’t take long to filter out whether the reader speaks truth or has an unrealistic bias i.e the damaged book. A 5 star review always reeks of family and friends, so I find the lower ratings most objective.
Thanks for the encouragement to learn from our mistakes and live above the heartbreak that comes from criticism.
I rate books on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t think I’ve ever given a 1 or 2 star review. If I don’t like a book, I keep my opinion to myself.
I was so excited when I got my one-star review because it meant I finally ruffled a feather! When I read the review, I had to laugh. The person obviously hadn’t read my book. The very thing that so many other reviewers remarked on for giving it higher star ratings was what the one-star person claimed didn’t happen in my book. It made me curious. I searched for that person’s other reviews. None were at all similar genres. I realized the person was also very undereducated in their use of the English language. That gave me a lot of compassion. Based on the comment, I believe the person wasn’t able to read and struggled with the level of English. The other books that person “read” were very early-grade level English. So it became pretty obvious the situation. Anyone else who clicked the same links I did to learn more about the reviewer would see the same thing. I never was offended. Like Tamela mentioned, it gave credibility to my higher starred reviews and my response to the review (yes, I wrote one) sold another book because someone thought I was gracious and bonded with me when I shared my book came from a real experience (which the reviewer claimed was not realistic). So the next reader bought my book because she’d also experienced those emotions. Very cool result from a lonely 1-star. I will say I wouldn’t comment on most negative reviews. This one was worth it.