Thursday, November 3, 2016

Reviews, Reviews and More Star Reviews

Not all reviews are this good.
I've really shifted how I give reviews since I became published.

I used to be pretty brutal on books that weren't excellent.  That was only how the story impacted me personally, rather than how the book achieved its goal of entertaining me over the course of the story.  When I entered into review groups, I saw how the star system was far more important.  Amazon used to consider a three-star review as favorable, but has since switched it to being marginally unfavorable.  This is made even worse because it’s (nearly) impossible to get a five-star aggregate.  The more reviews you have (good) the more under five stars you can achieve (bad).  So if a book was only moderately entertaining, a series of three-star reviews, one or two four or five stars and whatever mean-spirit allows two stars reviews will center the book around 3.5.  Amazon considers anything under four stars to be a mediocre-to-crap product.  That’s fine and dandy for toasters and food processors, but it’s a world of difference for books.   

Since then, I’ve changed my perspective on giving reviews and stars.  Three stars is my hard floor—I try to not go below that.  You’d have to actively work in a genre that I hate with characters that offer nothing and a story that lulls me to sleep to earn something less than three stars.

I boil it down to the following:

1 - Are the story and the characters solid and consistent?
2 - Did the story maintain my willing suspension of disbelief?
3 - Was I entertained?
4 - Were the typos/grammar issues minimal?

Fantastic book!  Great characters! Clever twist!  Two Stars!
The last I'm willing to cut more slack than most people.  Even the Big Five publishers release books with typos/grammar issues in them.  So, finding a dozen to twenty shouldn't bother anyone.  Also, I’m not writing the review for me.  I know what I think of the book.  I’m writing the review so that others can gain decent insight into whether or not this is a book they would enjoy.

Enjoyment is, after all, the goal of any decent author.

If a book hits all four, then at a minimum, I'm going to give it four stars and likely five.  A worthwhile story, one that was entertaining and reasonably consistent, should get four to five stars.  It is, as far as helping another author, the absolute least thing I can do.  It doesn't hurt me, or my reputation, to give someone a helping hand, and since reviews aggregate, this is the one thing that I can do to help any author.

Plus, I know first hand that other reviewers will be less kind, even if they don’t mean to.  I’ve received rave reviews that gushed about dialogue, characters, plot, etc. and couldn’t say enough good things.  I couldn’t pay people to write reviews like that.  Then—three stars.

This doesn't mean my review won't point out flaws or stumbles.  I don't need to white-wash or pull punches when discussing any failings (as I see it) with the book.  But if a story can manage at least the first three, then likely I'm going to give it four stars.