Stars in your Reviews – The Goodreads Conundrum

Authors appreciate your honest reviews. They appreciate you talking about their book, recommending it to others, tweeting about it, blogging about it, sharing on Facebook, signing up to mailing lists and groups, including it in lists. In fact, if you love books the best thing you can do for your favourite authors is to talk about their books, online, in person, at events. Hell, chisel your words into blocks of stone and plant them by the roadside if all else fails.

So what I’m saying is that we, as authors, value your opinions, dear reader, and are happy when you share them.

And there are plenty of places to share them… but today I want to talk about Goodreads. I like Goodreads. I’ve thoroughly bought into it. I’ve entered a load of my books and every book I read I blog on my LiveJournal blog and transfer the resulting review to Goodreads. It’s a way for me to remember what I’ve read and to engage with others. I like talking about books.

But there’s a small snag on Goodreads – and it is only small – which I thought I should bring to your attention, to whit… star ratings

I just read a review of Charlie Stross’ first Laundry book on Goodreads and I noticed that though the review was positive the reviewer, an author, hadn’t given it a star rating. I discussed this with another author after my first book came out and she said she was happy to review books on Goodreads, but she didn’t feel it was fair for her – as an author – to give star ratings, however what she hadn’t realised was that not giving a star rating when you review effectively means you’ve given the book zero stars.

I don’t think Goodreads explains this, and I only realised when I added it up. As a very new author, back in November when my first book came out, I had so few starred reviews in the first few weeks that it was obvious the reviews that hadn’t been starred had pulled down my average rating as if they were zeroes (despite the reviews being positive).

(This is not a grumble – there are a lot more reviews on there now. I’m just saying how it came to my notice.)

My feeling is that Goodreads should be asked to display a warning that says: Please note any review without a star rating effectively counts as a zero stars review. This would actually be a bonus to some folks who begin reviews with: “I’d like to give this book no stars at all…” You can actually do that.

My point is, however, that it would be useful for people to know that declining to give stars at all is the same as awarding zero out of five to a book you may have quite liked.

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About Jacey Bedford

Jacey Bedford maintains this blog. She is a writer of science fiction and fantasy (www.jaceybedford.co.uk), the secretary of Milford SF Writers (www.milfordSF.co.uk), a singer (www.artisan-harmony.com) and a music agent booking UK tours and concerts for folk performers (www.jacey-bedford.com). She's also a Home Office / Border Agency licensed sponsor processing UK work permits (Certificate of Sponsorship).
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7 Responses to Stars in your Reviews – The Goodreads Conundrum

  1. Terry says:

    excellent observation.

  2. Jacey Bedford says:

    I know. I’d rather just log my books read.

  3. Irina says:

    Argh, and I forgot to check “notify me of new comments” so I’ll use this as notify marker.

  4. Irina says:

    Thank you for telling me! I hate to rate, so I won’t attempt to review.

    • Jacey Bedford says:

      It’s a pity they can’t work out a system for folks who don’t like to add star ratings. Not reviewing is an option, but it’s a pity to lose the views of authors (and largely it seems to be authors who don’t like ‘starring’). I’ve emailed Goodreads to see if they can come up with a solution. It may be something they haven’t thought about because they just assume everyone will starrify their reviews.

      • Irina says:

        I just don’t get that obsession with rating things. Never thought being a writer could be the cause! But apparently Goodreads thinks that people want to rate more than they want to review (because it’s perfectly possible to give stars and not write anything).

    • Jacey Bedford says:

      See the update. You should be OK to give unstarred reviews now.

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