Ratings ~ Sunday Spotlight by Brandilyn



Ratings… you know those little stars that can embolden you or crush you depending on their presence or absence? They are a necessary evil in this, and just about any consumer driven business. They tell people what to buy and what not to buy. They tell people how good your work is. They tell people your worth… oh wait, let’s not get carried away.

Ratings are a quantifiable way to define how a consumer feels about a particular product. Even for me, a voracious consumer of stories good and bad, the star rating can help guide
my choices.

What qualifies someone to rate a product? Simple… they have to be a consumer of said product. Do they have to be the “right” consumer? No. Do they have to have special qualifications? No. Do they have to be an avid consumer? Nope. Do they need to be a fellow producer of said product?  Not even remotely.  Do they have to have actually read/used the work in question? Well theoretically, yes… but in actuality no, they don’t.

As a reviewer, I deal with numbers every day. Luckily, higher math isn’t required… just the ability to count to 5 and to know simple comparisons.

Here is the basic outline of the rating system used here on Prism Book Alliance:
1 – Unreadable
2 – Okay, but has some fundamental flaws
3 – Liked it but nothing stood out
4 – Loved it
5 – Outstanding

Notice there is no “Perfect” rating. Even 5-star falls far short of perfect. For me personally, 5-star is a book so special that any flaws or errors I encounter just cease to matter. These are the books that leave me with a Book Hangover.

Everyone has their own rating scale. Some people give 5-star easily. For some 3-star is the best for which you can hope.

Books talk to me. They tell me what their rating should be. Often this happens in the first chapter or two. Then it is up to the work to prove me right or wrong. It has been done in both directions. I recently had a book that was heading into 2-star territory that snuck up on me and connected with me on a level I still can’t explain. It’s rating ended up higher. Others that have started out promising have fizzled and died before the end. I will tell you the books that don’t grab me from the beginning will get lower ratings. Problems, mistakes, plot holes, and the like will get more attention and notice as I read.

There was a time when I was much freer with 5-stars than I am now. Maybe it is because I have gotten jaded, but I prefer to think that I have gotten more discerning with my old age. I rarely, if ever, fangirl in my ratings. Those authors who get consistently high marks from me get those because I love something about their writing. Something connects with me.

I have also learned over the years that there are aspects in writing other people love, can’t get enough of, or can just plain overlook. Some of those aspects annoy me or are things I just can’t get past. I am a detail oriented person. Typos and grammar mistakes stick out to me… if the author isn’t able to make me not care.

If I can’t get into the story enough to ignore these mistakes, there is a problem with the story. If a reviewer starts “harping” on editing and proofreading, we aren’t being nit-picky. It should be taken as a sign of one of two things:
1) The story isn’t engaging the reader enough.
2) The editing or proofreading is so dreadful that the reviewer can’t see through the mistakes to get TO the story.

If I, as a reviewer, can’t get to your story, I am going to start pointing out technical issues. Those issues will then translate into a number. Then there are those stories that fall into both camps. Terrible technically, but engage me somehow. Those are the ones I have a hard time putting a number on.

I think in numbers. When I think about a book I think about the rating I gave it first. But I am an engineer by trade. I am a numbers person. Some people look at the words first. At the review itself. That is why we have both.

There is a debate in the publishing industry (and probably every other consumer driven industry out there) about the “Rating scale” and whether it is right or wrong to assign numbers and what numbers should be assigned. It comes down to this: some people are numbers people, some people are words people, and some people like both.

Is the 5-star rating system the best way? Maybe. Maybe not. Is it what is used widely in the consumer industry and therefore the standard? Yes. Am I looking to change that? Nope.

Here on Prism we allow for half and quarter stars. That effectively turns a 5 point rating system to a 10 or 20 point system. The quarter point ratings are rare, but sometimes you just can’t give that last little nudge up or down. We don’t give 4.75 because we just “had to find something wrong” with a particular work. We give 4.75 because it was awesome but just not quite spectacular enough to nudge it that last .25. We don’t give 4.25 because we want one author or work to be seen as superior over another, there is just something special enough about it that we can’t reconcile giving it a 4. Of course, when we cross post onto GR or Amazon, we have to round up or down. Hate it or love it, those are the parameters within which we operate.

I am often asked why I gave Rating A or Rating B to a particular book and what said author could have done to get a higher rating. First of all, that author probably hasn’t read my review because I usually make it pretty obvious in the review. However, sometimes the difference between a 4 and a 5 is just a feeling. It is intangible. If you want to know why a 4.75 instead of a 5? Forget it. I probably can’t explain it.

Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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6 thoughts on “Ratings ~ Sunday Spotlight by Brandilyn

  1. Interesting post. I tend to rate high, I know I do. But, I find it relatively easy to lose myself in a story. Mistakes have to be glaring before they pull me out. I’ve also got a fairly good idea of what I’ll like and don’t like and just don’t ask for or accept books with a blurb that puts them outside my comfort zone.

    I firmly agree with you on the five star rating though; it doesn’t mean a book is perfect, it just means it’s so good that whatever minor issues there might have been fade into the background in the wonder that is the whole of it.

  2. I used to rate everything I loved 5. Then I read some books that I felt were virtually life-changing (you really should read them someday – wink) and that became my new standard for a 5. If I’m sitting up in the middle of the night, sobbing, trying to contact the author to tell him/her how the book or a certain scene just touched me…it’ll get a 5. They are the books I will be upset if my friends don’t read them. *ahem*

  3. Oh…I got distracted from what I actually wanted to say – ha! You made an interesting point without intending to make it, I think. You said authors ask you why a book got rated A instead of B, but that brings up the often-asked-never-will-be-answered question: Is the review for the author or the reader? I tend to believe they are for the readers, however, you have to be one badass-disciplined author to not at least peek at a few reviews to see what people are saying. I actually wonder sometimes if authors are actually the main readers of reviews. Readers are, after all, you know… busy reading.

  4. It wasn’t until more recently that I started to try to write reviews for books that I read. It’s hard. I find myself giving 4 stars a lot, and I wonder if I’m rating things too high. But based on what you have here, maybe not. Since I’m reading books from authors that I’m interested in, I think that I’ve been lucky. That being said, I think you’re right, if you are totally engaged with the story and characters you don’t notice the grammar or editing issues as much (unless they are ridiculously obvious and numerous). I’ve read reviews (on Amazon and GR) where people complain about editing and grammar, and I think ok, but what about the story? I tend to dismiss those reviews on those specific sites. Blog reviewers on the other hand, I heed. So thank you, for reading and reviewing books for us.

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