Writing reviews: my philosophyPosted: February 23, 2016
Before I start, I feel I should point out that this post isn’t my review policy.
This is my review policy:
I’m not primarily a book blogger, and I don’t take review requests; I post reviews for books I happen to be reading and felt strongly enough about that I wanted to share my thoughts with others. Please don’t ask me to review your book — as my local grocery says, refusal may offend.
Although that makes me wonder exactly how they refuse! 😉
So. Having established that, let’s move on.
Before I joined Goodreads I wasn’t a book reviewer. A book addict, yes, but I didn’t leave reviews anywhere … unless you count enthusiastic word of mouth. I joined that site in 2012, but mostly used it to sort and track my reads. If I left reviews, they were a paragraph or less. I did leave star ratings, though.
That changed in mid-to-late 2013. By then I’d joined Twitter and started blogging with Aussie Owned and Read, and I’d really begun to understand how vital reviews are to authors, especially indie and mid-list authors who struggle to get the word out. That was when I started writing longer reviews and blogging about them, becoming a pseudo-book blogger.
I call myself a pseudo-book blogger, because I’m only on the fringes of the very enthusiastic and dedicated book blogging community. I don’t get free ARCs from publishing houses — thank goodness, as I don’t think I could handle the pressure — or chase ARCs in general. I buy my books, because I love to support authors. And I love to own books.
(I got heckled by the removalists as they were hauling box after box of books up to what is now my study. True story.)
Goodreads helpfully pointed out to me the other day that my average star rating for all the books I’ve reviewed since I joined Goodreads is 4.38 stars. They even provide a handy graph.
I remember having a discussion with another reviewer where I gave something four stars and then listed a few things that left me wanting more in the book. She told me that, if it were her, such a review would carry a three-star rating at best.
All of which got me to wondering whether I rate books too highly when I review them.
For those that aren’t familiar with the Goodreads star ratings, they are:
One star: Did not like it
Two stars: It was ok
Three stars: Liked it
Four stars: Really liked it
Five stars: It was amazing
After thinking about it, though, I’ve come to the conclusion that, by those descriptions, I’m rating just fine, in my own way. Here are a few reasons I think account for my high average ratings:
- If I give something a half-star rating, I round up rather than down. This means that, at a guess, my true average would actually be in the high 3-stars. The reason I round up is because writing is hard work, and I prefer to be nice to fellow authors where I can. If maths gives them a slight bonus, I’m okay with that.
- I’m not that risky a reader, all things considered. I know what I like, and that’s what I usually read. When I read outside my usual genres, it tends to be books by writers that I’ve met on social media or otherwise admire. This means I’ve been exposed to their writing before and generally have a sense for what I’m in for. (For example, I discovered Chuck Wendig’s and Delilah S. Dawson’s books by reading their blogs.)
- On the handful of occasions I’ve read books where I really was tempted to give a low rating, I’ve usually just not rated the book. There are, of course, exceptions: for example, Red Riding Hood filled me with rage. I didn’t feel bad about one-starring it, because the decision that got under my skin was one the publisher (presumably) made, not the author. And I think we can all agree that publishing without the last chapter in a whodunit is a low blow.
Does choosing not to rate a book rather than give it a one- or two-star rating mean that my reviews somehow have less integrity? That’s one of the things I’ve been wondering. I don’t think that it does, but I guess others may agree. It kind of brings me back to what I said originally: I’m not a book blogger or professional reviewer. I review for fun, to spread the word about awesome stories that I’ve enjoyed.
What do you think? If someone reviews books, are they obliged to rate and review every book they read in all its messy glory?