Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Don’t judge a book by its star rating

Like other authors, I have been enraged by the scandal of the fake reviews appearing on Amazon, something that we all suspected was happening, but perhaps not to the extent and viciousness it was revealed in recent news.

It is really disheartening for honest authors – which I still like to think are the most part! – to know that their deservedly earned 5* reviews may be considered fake by the public, and for a reader that has spent some time to write a review of a book they liked that her efforts may be judged pointless.

All this got me thinking.

Have reviews become the criteria upon which the public chooses a book? Are we really sold by 5* ratings and put off by negative reviews?

I can’t say reviews and ratings play a great part in my choices of books.
In the good old days before Amazon and the internet, when I used to browse bookshops, I saw the cover, I read the blurb, scanned the first few pages and then decided whether the book was interesting enough to purchase and read, without knowing what other readers thought of it.
Knowing and liking an author’s previous work was also a pull.
Friends’ recommendations might play a part when it comes to making my mind up, depending on their own taste and reading habits.
Today I buy most of my books online and I might take a look at the reviews, but ultimately I follow the same procedure before buying and reading a book.
All that considered, are we authors placing too much emphasis on readers’ reviews, to the point that some feel the need of assuming fake identities to rave about their own book – or worse to belittle books of other authors?
Reviews can be helpful to spread the word among readers that a book is worth reading, but on the whole, it seems that they are not the first port of call when it comes to choosing a book. Books with plenty of 5* reviews don’t always sell any better than those without.
Perhaps we shouldn’t lose sight of what ultimately makes a book a success story: an interesting voice, a page-turning plot and great characters.
And a well written blurb.


  1. I agree! Although I do take account of the star ratings and the reviews, the blurb has to draw me in, and then of course I can download a Kindle sample to see if the book is a good fit for me. I do consider recommendations but of course those depend on similar shared reading tastes.

    I'd hate to think all the good reviews I've earned might be seen as worthless or fake - hoping that this issue sorts itself out in such a way that good books make it to the right readers.

    1. This business of the fake or paid for reviews is discrediting the whole reviews/ratings system. Hopefully it will be stamped out!

  2. If it's an ebook purchase/investigation and not a print one. I get print copies of must have reads where possible such as Lisa Jewell or Poppy Z Brite.
    1. Friend/family tip off or intriguing writer/spiel in social media/review
    2. Sample chapter
    3. Yay or nay

    Not seen a star rating that's concerned me enough on anything I've plumped for, I love reviews but get frustrated at really short ones that don't delve into the nuts and bolts of the books but do enjoy reading them, but love it most of all if I can mooch a sample or look inside the book. I love that modern facility

  3. Fab post, Michela.

    For me, it's a combination of authors I've read for years (paperbacks, mostly), those I know somehow (through same publishers/blogs/sites/personally) whose novels are of interest – i.e. historical, crime, romance -, genres of interest and only then, reviews and cover. An enticing blurb in the right genre gets me to click the 'buy' button...

    What this whole fuss brought to light, though, is that it's not (just) indie authors as many claim, but traditional writers with longstanding careers and great sales. I just don't get their motivation.

    There are bad apples in both trees, but like you, I'm sure most writers have the integrity to stay on the honest path.

  4. I look at reviews, but the blurb and knowledge of an author is what moves me to buy. In my opinion, giving and receiving honest reviews is a matter of personal integrity. Authors who buy good reviews are the same types of people who cheat on their taxes and look to see who's watching before deciding how much to leave in the church collection plate. I take solace in the fact that real success for an author is built, not on how many copies you sell of one book, but on building a following. This you cannot buy.

  5. I agree! Dive in and find out for myself...that's my motto:)