To rate or not to rate – that is the question! (Is the pen mightier than the sword????)

Posted On 3 November 2014

Filed under Book Reviews
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Comments Dropped 45 responses

My blog consists mainly of book reviews with a spattering of shorter posts usually made up of lists which aim to highlight books that I really like and the occasional movie review or just plain rant about life in general or some such other random post like holiday summaries.

One of my big questions is the whole ‘rating’ issue.

Basically, I find it difficult to rate a book.  When I first started blogging I would rate a book using the system A through to E which is clearly the same as the 1-5 star rating.  Then, after some time I looked back at my reviews and realised there was no sound basis for the ratings I was giving a book!  More than anything the ratings were probably based on my emotions or feelings at the time.  I also admit that I would look at my ratings and think how could I have rated book ‘x’ over book ‘y’!  So, I basically disbanded the rating system on my blog because I obviously wasn’t terribly good at it!  I decided that the tone of my review should be enough.  I review a book – If I don’t like it I will probably say something along the lines of ‘this wasn’t for me’ if it’s a book I adore I will rave – A LOT!  Or, maybe, I’ll have quite a few criticisms.  However, the rub here is that I really enjoy reading a review that has a rating system!  I hope that doesn’t make me a hypocrite! – And, I admit, that a rating system is less time consuming – you can just cut to the chase after all – and that’s the other problem with not giving a rating.  So, for example, if I just give a fairly mediocre review of a book – in other words there are not words like ‘love’, ‘adore’, ‘you must read this’, ‘why are you still here?  Go and get this book’, etc, scattered profusely throughout, but just give a brief summary saying: ‘blah happens’, blah are the characters’, etc, – then I will get comments saying ‘I really want to read this’.  Now, should I then feel bad about this?  Am I not being obvious enough?  People may then go and read this book even though I personally only found it mediocre.  I outlined the book and give my criticisms but because I didn’t give a star rating people haven’t maybe read between the lines?  Should they even need to read between the lines?  This makes me feel unnecessarily guilty to be honest!  Although on the other side of the coin if I’m giving a summary of a book without saying that “i loved it’ and somebody still wants to read it – then surely that’s their choice?

The other problem for me with ratings is this.  If I see a rating for a book that is a ‘3’ or a ‘C’ or under – then I’ll probably not want to read it – particularly if it’s from a blogger that I trust the opinion of.  Now, I don’t mean that critically, and I certainly don’t want to put pressure on other people or intend to make them feel bad about how they rate a book!, But I read a lot of books and yetI still have big stacks of books that I want to read -all competing for time.  If I see a few mediocre readings then basically I don’t want to spend my time reading that book – it’s simple really, time is precious!  It kind of makes me feel like anything below a 4 is a ‘don’t read’!  Is that wrong – no, not really, we all go on Goodreads and Amazon, for example, and if a book is consistently getting low star reviews then we basically trust those ratings. That could be wrong.  I could miss a lot of good books that way.  Even with the bloggers that I’ve been following ‘forever’ and we usually strongly agree – we don’t always like the same books after all.  So, if I just discount 3* reviews I could be missing something really good for me.  To be fair, if it’s a book I’m determined to read – then I’m still going to read it!  But, a low star rating can be off putting nonetheless.

Perhaps I should try rating again?  Although I’m not sure that I’m totally confident with my ability to do so and so probably won’t – part of me thinks it would be easier with a 1-10 review system.  Let’s face it, how often do you find yourself wanting to give a half star or half point which with ten points you could do?

It’s tricky!

Plus, do you find yourself strangely intrigued by the negative reviews?  I almost like to read the negative reviews of a book I’ve enjoyed – just so that I can counter argue why I like them or feel outraged!!  But, I have noticed, although maybe wrongly, that the particularly snarky reviews and low scorers are very popular!  And, I can say from experience, that one of the few times that I gave a, for me, fairly low and sarcastic review of a book it seemed to attract more attention than otherwise!  Basically, it’s not really my style though.

So, to rate, or, not to rate!  That is the question???

45 Responses to “To rate or not to rate – that is the question! (Is the pen mightier than the sword????)”

  1. Nathan

    I have been thinking about this myself lately. I have always done a star rating but lately I wonder why. I don’t do half stars and end up with a whole lot books that have the same rating but are no where near each other in how much I enjoyed them. Shouldn’t my review speak for itself if it is well written?

    On the other hand, I often look at star ratings and they are good conversation starters. AWWW. No idea.

    • lynnsbooks

      That is exactly why it was on my mind. I end up with LOTS of four star ratings and when I look back did I really like them all equally?? I think the review should speak for itself but then people don’t always want to read the full review and look for the rating first!
      Haha, we’ve not really reached any solid conclusions there at all.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Rabindranauth

    Its an interesting question. I use a five star rating system with half stars, and I post my rating right off the bat, to let folks have an idea what sort of review they’ll be reading. I find them helpful personally in that case, as it lets me know what I’m walking into. Certain books I would prefer not to read negative/positive reviews because they would ruin my fun of the book/make me think about giving it another try. So in cases like that a rating system is extremely helpful.

    As to not reading books with bad ratings; nothing wrong with that. It usually takes multiple 4 to 5 star rating from friends for me to CONSIDER reading a book. Like you said, time’s too short and there are too many good books out there. Does not reading something a friend gave a 3 star or lower make you bad? Nope. However, you need to consider what kind of reviewer the person is. I like to think I’m a hard rater, so what most folks would give 4, 4.5 I would give 3.5, 4, etc. If it’s someone you know rates hard and they gave it a 3 when everyone else gave it 4 and 5, I wouldn’t let that one rating bug me. Conversely, there are some guys that will gush no matter how bad a book is. A reviewer I know is on extremely good terms with tons of publishers because he never gives lower than 4 stars. But I still follow his reviews because he’s a great genre reader, so I’m always coming across interesting stuff on his blog. I also know he’s a book seller and that he’s promoting his wares, so I’m more than wary enough, I think 😀

    • lynnsbooks

      Thanks- some really great points here – particularly about the fact that we are all individual when it comes to rating so what you might see as a 4 I might see as a 5.
      It’s tough though. I found it was tough more in terms of my own consistency. But, again, I do really appreciate star ratings when I read a review!
      Lynn 😀

  3. stephswint

    I don’t rate on WordPress. I feel the review is enough, but I always rate on good reads. I don’t know if I can really explain why. What I’ve noticed is some of my reviews come of a lot more positive than my rating. It is a good question you have posed….

    • lynnsbooks

      I think you have to rate on Goodreads – or do you?? I always thought you did but maybe not – I’ll have to go and have a look at that. Similarly with Amazon and Netgalley you have to give a rating – which usually leaves me chewing my nails for a moment!!
      Lynn 😀

  4. ajoobacats

    I don’t use a rating system on my blog as I think stars etc are very arbitrary. I enter stars on Goodreads and Amazon because I have to. I like to write about the book and what I liked about it, likewise when I read about a book I want to know how it made the reader feel. Stars seem to be a commercial endorsement favoured more by mercenary writers, I find. Nothing puts me off faster than an author bragging about x hundred 5 star reviews.

    • lynnsbooks

      I also like to write about what I enjoyed and if I really loved a book then I practically gush! I wish Amazon and Goodreads would at least change their rating to a ten point system – you see loads of people writing in their review this is really 4.5 or 3.5 – it just seems to give a little more room for manoeuvre somehow!
      Lynn 😀

      • ajoobacats

        I gush too and try to balance it with something that may have been better but if I like a book it usually all works quite well. I think the 5 star system is about selling books and not appreciating them, but I could just be exceedingly cynical.

      • lynnsbooks

        I like to gush when I love a book – my reviews do tend to go on a bit though when I really liked it – there’s just so much more to say!
        Lynn 😀

    • brideofthebookgod

      Do you have to rate on Goodreads? I record my books on there but I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed so never entered stars. I may have to go and have a look now!

      • lynnsbooks

        To be honest – I’m not sure now I’m having these conversations. When you review on there it always comes up with the star rating – but I’ve never tried to save a review without entering a rating so maybe I should try!
        Lynn 😀

      • ajoobacats

        I found out I had to rate a book if I had it on my currently reading list and wanted to record it on my read shelf.

      • lynnsbooks

        Hah, thanks for letting me know. I wasn’t sure tbh.

      • ajoobacats

        I like to keep track of what I am reading, have read and when I read/finished it, but completing a book without rating it doesn’t seem to be allowed on goodreads. You can add books to your would like to read and currently reading shelf without rating it but not to your read shelf.

  5. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    My co-bloggers and I have debated this topic as well, and we ended up deciding to keep our ratings after talking to some of our readers (but only those who are non-bloggers) what they think, and the overwhelming response was please keep ratings. Some admitted that when they are short on time, they first skip to the end to see rating and then read the review in full afterward if they think it’s a book they find interesting. It’s also a quick way for them to see “if Mogsy liked it/hated it” or “if Wendy liked it/hated it” etc.

    The other option was to use icons that I see some bloggers using, but we’re just too lazy for that 😛

    I continue to rate in any case, just for my own records as well. My star ratings are definitely based on my personal feelings and can be subjective, but then that’s where my review comes in to explain 🙂

    • lynnsbooks

      That’s one reason that makes me think rating is useful – for your records and also you can use the ratings in your index which is also helpful to readers! I’m not really helping myself to answer the question – other than I struggle to reach a rating that I’m happy with!
      Lynn 😀

  6. anotherafterthought

    With this world of information overload, star-rating metrics are so much easier to read through as [I believe] it gives instant gratification and a quick response to what we want to know about.

    That being said, with sites that requires a quantitative rating (i.e. Goodreads/Amazon prior to posting a review–unless there’s some magical option that I don’t know about that isn’t 0 stars), I usually concede to using the superficial number. But I’ve strayed away from metrics on my personal blog as I think the substance of the review fills that void; despite it being a balance of positive/negative comments that wouldn’t always imply a low/high rating. I know this approach probably doesn’t make things easier for the reader (as my reviews are incredibly long–sometimes 3.5k words too long) but I think it’s just in the nature of your voice and how you want to be read.

    So this is a pretty tough question to answer! However, I do think that where snark can be added in a review is totally awesome in the end-game to read into. It’s basically what I’d call realness points…even if the opinion is completely absurd. I think the notoriety is pretty daunting though…to always need to find things to preach about. However, in the end, your reviews are what you make of it knowing that there isn’t a cookie-cutter template.

    tl;dr– I don’t have an answer for you that makes sense and you should just do you, whatever that means LOL.


    • lynnsbooks

      Thanks Joey, I admit that the length of my review is quite often based on how much I like or love the book. I do find that if I really enjoyed a book my review can tend to run on!
      Lynn 😀

  7. Tammy

    I have always used a rating system, but I sometimes think maybe people skip my reviews if they just see a star rating. I like to give myself some visual way to compare the books I read, and giving ratings is the way that works for me.

    • lynnsbooks

      That was actually my problem with rating – I found when I looked back I disagreed with myself – or more to the point thought that I’d placed too many books in the same bracket when in actual fact I liked some of them more than others. It is difficult and I admit that I really appreciate other bloggers using star reviews – I definitely agree that people skip your review a little and just check out the rating, but that being said, I think people still sometimes skip your review even without a rating being placed on the review – they cut to the chase to see how you close your review off.
      Lynn 😀

  8. brideofthebookgod

    I do rate but not publicly; I do it on the software I use to catalogue my book collection and it’s personal. That’s a conscious decision I took when I started my blog so I could focus on the experience of reading the book and not fret about what rating I would give. I’m conscious that my ratings are likely to change over time as I compare books with others by the same author or by different authors in the the same genre or on re-reading. I just decided it would get in the way and although it’s always lovely when other people pick up books because I’ve reviewed them that’s not what it’s about for me.

    • lynnsbooks

      I like that idea – just rating for yourself. I do think your review should speak for itself but I also appreciate ratings by other bloggers. I’m just a bit inconsistent but, like I said, I like the idea of keeping ratings for myself so that I can look back and compare. Nice idea. Thanks
      Lynn 😀

  9. Genki Jason

    I hope my reviews are good enough to inspire people to watch the film or at least explore things further. I have considered moving to a 1-10 rating system because sometimes 5 doesn’t allow for too much nuance. 3 is average, anything below that is avoid. I do try to avoid being overly negative when reviewing because I have seen filmmakers respond to harsh comments.

    Much like your good self, if I write a lot then I really love a film!

    • lynnsbooks

      Yeah, you need to be careful about being too negative!!! (If you’ve been keeping your eye on recent blogging/author stories!!).
      It’s a mixed bag because I don’t want somebody to think I love a book if I’ve only just liked it but equally I don’t want to be really harsh – I don’t think it’s necessary. I’ve only done a couple of, what I consider to be, harsh reviews and I always feel a bit guilty afterwards – they’re somebody’s little work of art aren’t they. If you don’t like it, fair enough, and definitely point out your reasoning why but you don’t have to rip the piece/author to shreds!
      And yes, the more I love the book the longer the review grows as I gush and gush!
      Lynn 😀

  10. tethyanbooks

    I do 1-5 with half-star ratings, though they have probably drifted over time. I think there is also an element of inability to discriminate with the ratings, because books can’t all be compared to one another. I mean, a 4-star YA fantasy is not the same as a 4-star space opera, and I bet they’d usually appeal to different people. It’s just apples and oranges, there’s no real comparison to be made. My hope is that the star-rating gives the general idea of how much I liked a book, and then the review gives the details. Snark is really not my style, either, so I try to avoid it (even though I agree that snarky reviews seem to be very popular).

    • lynnsbooks

      I think that’s how I always look at star ratings on other blogs. I might check out your review and think okay, you obviously liked this – then read on to find out why – or equally if it looks like a lower rating so you clearly didn’t like it!
      Snarky reviews do seem to be very popular – and, I admit, I’ve read some that are pretty funny. I don’t like the really nasty reviews though. I just think it’s unnecessary really.
      Lynn 😀

  11. jenclair

    I don’t give ratings on my blog, although I do for a Goodreads review. I do look at ratings, though, and I take them in to account. But what might be a 3 for me is often a 5 for many others (and the reverse is also true) — so the reviews are more important in deciding what to choose.

    • lynnsbooks

      That’s how I tend to feel. I like to read a person’s review to really gauge what they did enjoy about the book – because what one person loves is another person’s marmite!
      Lynn 😀

  12. Bookwraiths

    Keep the rating. I agree that it is difficult to fairly rate every book, but it definitely makes it easier for casual readers to see if this is a GREAT, Good, or okay novel. If they are already interested in the novel, they will read your review for further info.

    Just my two cents worth. Whatever you do will obviously be great. 🙂

    • lynnsbooks

      Thanks. I agree – simply because I really find ratings helpful on other blogs even if I do find it difficult to rate myself! Plus, I do have to give a rating on Goodreads and Netgalley so….
      Lynn 😀

  13. Tabitha (Not Yet Read)

    I totally have a hard time rating sometimes but you know I don’t think of a 3 as bad – its just OK. And what’s OK for someone else I might totally love. Heck if you look at most books on goodreads the average book rates that I look at for ones I want to read never have a average 4 star rating they usually hover instead around a 3.6 or 3.8 – and that doesn’t stop me from reading it. And as for the bloggers I trust – I know I still have very different tastes then them. I know we always tend to want to read the same books but their ratings and mine are usually all over the place.

    I know many of mine might also be based on emotional impact etc but hey…I’m reading it and how it effects me and whether it can effect my mood is important to me. I prefer book reviews with ratings because even if you have criticisms you could still really have loved it overall which might not come across if it didn’t have that rating tacked on. Some folks just key in on the negatives about a review or skim read for keywords etc.

    • lynnsbooks

      Yeah, good point. I suppose the whole review is emotional really – especially for me as I usually write them immediately I finish when you’re either still really happy – or not! I guess the rating is another way of reinforcing your feelings – especially as people do tend to skim read reviews.
      Lynn 😀

  14. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    I rate, and the first thing I often look at with a review is the rating. That said, sometimes I fear my rating are entirely too subject to both my mood and whatever I may have read immediately prior to it. And sometimes, I want to go change a rating because I’m not sure I agree with it any more. Too much thinking, need more time for reading 🙂

    • lynnsbooks

      I do the same – I always look for the rating! Which is why I feel sort of bad for not including ratings. But, like you I would look back and then want to amend what I’d put already! Definitely need to think less and read more. 😀

  15. Lynn E. O'Connacht

    You’ve had some wonderful responses on whether to rate or not, and I don’t really have much to add there beyond my own experience. I do rate on LT and should restart rating on GR at some point, but never on my own blog. I tend to ignore them beyond giving me a very general overview of what a person thought.

    What I wanted to do, though, was offer a suggestion for you to think about: if you’re worried about people thinking you love a book when you only liked it, why not include a very brief sentence with your rating? Kind of like how GoodReads and Amazon explain their ratings. It’d be a bit more work, but it might take care of some of the concerns you have, so I wanted to throw it out there. ^_^

    I hope it offers you something useful to think about! ^_^

    • lynnsbooks

      Nice idea – definitely something useful to think about.

      Thanks Lynn 😀

  16. jessicabookworm

    I don’t rate simply because I find it hard to sum my feelings on a book up in a star or number. However I do see the benefits of a rating system as it would make it much easier to sort out favourite reads for myself and my readers.

    • lynnsbooks

      It would make it easier, I agree, although when I looked back at those books I’d rated I disagreed with my own ratings! The other problem is, if I read a book that wasn’t brilliant but the ending was good I’d probably give it a really good rating because my emotion at the end of the story would be happy and good.
      Lynn 😀

  17. Grace

    I don’t rate on my blog, but I do on Amazon/Netgalley. Stars are just so arbitrary. I’ve considered trying an experiment with ratings to see if they help, but I don’t know.

    • lynnsbooks

      Yeah, I’ve seen some reviewers use a system of 1/10 for different elements such as plot/characterisation/world building/writing, etc, and then add up the overall score – again though – I’d always be trying to judge against what I’ve given other books – it’s difficult for sure!
      Lynn 😀

  18. mshannahw

    I rate, but it doesn’t always feel fair – I tend to go by how much I enjoyed the experience of reading a book compared to others, but sometimes I can quite enjoy the reading experience as the author/protagonist has a compelling voice/easy style yet be annoyed/let down by the book’s plotting, attitude to women etc..

    Re: other people’s ratings, if I want to read something it doesn’t usually put me off if I log onto goodreads and see my friend’s ratings for it aren’t very high, but it might make me a bit wary. I do tend though to be more likely to skip past book blog reviews in my blog reader if they are 3 stars, and to be very intrigued if they are 1 or 5 stars!

    • lynnsbooks

      Yeah, it’s funny – I do tend to always read the really positive or really negative reviews! How odd! I still read a book if it’s one I’ve really wanted to pick up though.
      Lynn 😀

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