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June 13, 2013

Star Power

These days I don’t make any significant purchases without checking to reviews. If it is a non-book item, I try to find professional reviews and if these are not available I weed through user reviews, keeping in mind that most people don’t go back and write a review unless they really hate or really love a product.

Even more recently, I have started leaving reviews of my own, especially for books. Why? Because honest reviews help people make decisions about books and by extension help authors sell books. However, I recently came across a bit of a dilemma, and that is determining how many stars a book should receive.

The first time that one of my books received a three-star ranking I was crushed. This was from someone who liked but did not love the book. The second three-star rating was from someone who wrote “Carol Ottley-Mitchell’s “Adventure at Brimstone Hill” is an exciting
children’s story that educates with true events from history!” They went on to say that they would recommend it, so at first, I couldn’t figure out why they only gave it three stars. When I was able to consider the situation objectively, I realised that if you write a lot of reviews, you have to rate on a sliding scale and if you give a five star rating to my book that you love but consider to be flawed in one way or another, what do you give to a Pulitzer Prize winner, for example?

Since each reviewer clearly has a different view on what makes a five-star book, how much value is really in the rating levels? Would you immediately decide not to consider a book that had a below-average number of stars? Or do you take the time to read the narrative behind the reviews and between the lines?

This article first appeared in Novelspaces.

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