To review or not to review...
One challenge for self-publishers is getting reviews. Right up there with getting them, is giving them. Reviews can be fun to do. However, if the author is a person who did a review for you, or they are a friend/fellow-group member, it can be difficult. How honest can you be? How objective? Even if the writer is unknown to you, how harsh do you wish to be?
As a reviewer, it’s important to be true to your objective-take on a book. If you always give 5-Star reviews, folks start to doubt the value of those reviews. On the other hand, no one wants to be hurtful or discouraging to fellow writers.
The 5-star rating limits choices. Sometimes a book is a 3.5, or the writing is warrants a 5, but the story evolution isn't as stellar. A book can be an enjoyable read without being a 5 Star book.
Additionally genres differ. A reviewer might not “like” a book simply because of the genre even thought it has a story and skilled writing. So what is that assessment worth in the overall scheme of ratings?
Most writers have considered the pitfalls of this review process and state that consistency in your reviews is important. Know why you like or don't like a book and translate that into an objective review each and every time.
More than one writer has defined a personal system. One way to help understand a reviewer's system, read other reviews they've written. Having a pre-determined system makes reviewing easier. I've read other defining commentaries on ratings and have devised a system I plan to use in the future.
- 5 Stars – Excellent story, well-written, worth every penny, drew me through the story fast enough to turn off my internal editor
- 4 Stars – Great book, satisfying read, skilled writing, well-crafted story/plot, would read more by this author and highly recommend it
- 3 stars – Good overall, generally well written, easy read, has at least one strong component (writing, plot or characters)
- 2 Stars – Mildly decent story premise, moderate writing skills, possibly predictable or boring, would not read another by this author.
- 1 Star – Difficult to read line-to-line writing, unlikeable or boring characters, hard to finish or not finished at all, would not recommend it
Based on this ranking tier, I consider a book with a 4-Star review and positive comments well worth buying--strongly recommended.
Personally, I avoid reviewing books I consider worth 1 or 2 Stars. However, a lack of review could also be an oversight, not an implied rating.
Do you do reviews? What do your ratings tell the reader?