Hi friends and welcome to this month’s topic in my friend Camilla @ Reader in the Attic’s project!
The Bloggers in the Attic is a discussion chain. And what is a discussion chain? Well, it’s pretty simple and with few steps.
Me and other eleven bloggers united together to discuss a common topic, covering the whole arc of February, and sharing our unique perspective. I created the initiative with the wish to create a discussion space that could explore a normal topic for different part of the world.
The rules to participate are pretty simple. So, if you ever wish to take part in the future discussion, please just comment under Camilla’s introduction and first post. Every topic will be discussed bi-monthly, so the next round will be up in April. There’s plenty of time to join in, but the best option is always to enter early. Also, take a look to the group banner 💖
This month’s topic is about our thoughts on rating systems. You can follow along on the discussion by checking #DiscussionAttic and #DAApril for our monthly topic on Twitter.
This is a really timely discussion topic for me because the subjectivity of star ratings has been on my mind a lot over the past few months. My approach to reviewing has always been rooted in my experience as a scholar in the humanities: I have an Overly Verbose Brand and a lot of feelings. I am much more of a qualitative thinker and have such a hard time distilling that into a simple rating.
It also doesn’t help that there isn’t a guideline provided to standardize the rating system, so it is open for a lot of interpretation. Back when I first started my blog, I put together a Ratings scale so that my readers (and the publishers I work with) understood my own personal scale. But over time I came to realize that rather than adapting to my rating system, readers defaulted to their own.
Ratings are incredibly subjective
There is no rule of thumb for reviewers on what equals a 3-star rating or a 5-star rating. Heck, I am not even consistent when it comes to my own ratings! Some of the books that I loved and remember now as some of the best I read in 2018 were given 4 stars. Whereas a lot of the books that I didn’t necessarily enjoy (it’s not you, it’s me) were given 3-stars even though my enjoyment was more along the lines of 2-stars. This isn’t to say that I don’t write critical and negative reviews (because I do post negative reviews, and even the rare 1-star rating), I just approach all of my reviews from a constructive place.
As a review that feels the responsibility of her influence in the community, I will admit that the subjectivity of star ratings made me nervous that my reviews were misunderstood in the TL;DR skim.
I approached 3-star ratings as decent books, but not everyone agreed
One of the things that I found really odd when I put star ratings on my blog reviews was the number of comments on 3-starred books received along the lines of “sorry to hear you didn’t like the book” and “wow, I won’t read this one now” when the contents of my reviews were – as indicated in my review policy – positive and constructive. My rule of thumb was if I didn’t enjoy it but could see that others would (it’s not you, it’s me) was to give it 3-stars and explain who the book would be a good fit for.
But what my comments often told me was that some readers consider a 3-star rating as gospel that the book is bad and should be avoided. And that couldn’t have been further from the truth of my opinions!
The truth is, even though I considered 3-stars to be the mark of a decent book (you know, like a 70% grade on a test) many people did not feel the same way. Which is fine! But I started to feel a sense of responsibility and guilt because I was concerned people weren’t reading the review and making a judgement based on my rating. And as a reviewer who prides herself on being constructive and positive with every review, I decided that star ratings were not in line with my review style.
I actually stopped using star ratings on my book reviews earlier in 2019
I mentioned in my February in Review post that I had done away with star ratings on my blog, saying:
Star ratings are very subjective: for instance, I don’t think a 3 is bad but a lot of people do. I am careful to write my reviews in a way to highlight the aspects I like and don’t like, and if a book wasn’t for me I say who I think would enjoy it. I’ve decided to not list star ratings on my blog reviews anymore because I don’t feel it’s aligned with my approach to reviewing in general. I am instead listing who I would recommend read the book, and am leaving the stars for the necessary evil of Amazon/Goodreads/B&N reviews.
Since making the change, I have actually found that the number of “mixed message” comments on my reviews have drastically decreased and actually have been less critical in my reading. My habits over time developed into rarely giving 5-star ratings for some reason, resulting in books that I absolutely love and consider to be favorites getting 4-star ratings. (Why am I like this?) Now I am still a critical reader but my own ratings seem to reflect my own reading enjoyment and review content. My style hasn’t changed at all but find I am less stingy with the 5-stars on Goodreads.
What are your thoughts?
Thank you so much for reading my thoughts about rating systems and why I’ve decided to do away with star ratings on my blog reviews. I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below – do you find ratings useful or too subjective?
⬇️ Participants for the February Discussion Chain
April 1 – Camilla @ Reader Attic [announcement & intro]
April 3 – Clo @ Book Dragons
April 5 – The Unseen Librarian
April 8 – Lauren @ Northern Plunder
April 12 – Isabelle @ BookwyrmBites
April 15 – Ben @ Books With Ben
April 18 – Nora Eliana @ Papertea and Bookflowers
April 20 – Kerys @ The Everlasting Library
April 22 – Anthony @ Keep Reading Forward
April 25 – Kal @ Reader Voracious (that’s me & this post!)
April 27 – Dany @ Ambivert Words
April 29 – Rain @ Bookdragonism