Why I still like using ratings (even if they’re imperfect)

Obviously, not everyone is a fan of ratings. And that’s a-okay! I’m not writing this post to give anyone the idea that they *have to* use ratings. You don’t have to like them or even find them useful- but I personally find them a great tool for a reviewer.

Of course, a rating is not going to give you any level of detail. Of course, they are entirely subjective. BUT a rating can still be helpful as a snapshot of what someone thinks. While there is *a lot* of leeway between even a single star (or in my case banana) you can still gauge a reasonable amount from a quick glance at a rating.

Plus, for me, they can help with statistics (because as you all know I’m a stats nerd 😉). Looking at Goodreads, for example, I can quickly find out if a book is making waves or if it’s sinking. Which can satisfy a morbid curiosity (or create excellent fodder for discussion pieces 😉).

I’m not going to say that ratings are the be-all and end-all of a review. And I definitely don’t think they should be taken too seriously. However, they can provide an overall impression. Which is really no substitute for reading the review… so I guess you should do that too 😉

What do you think? Do you use ratings in your reviews? Do you love them or loathe them? Let me know in the comments! And take a banana or two for the road 😉

22 thoughts on “Why I still like using ratings (even if they’re imperfect)

  1. I really think ratings are important because as you noted, they are an overall impression. I have enjoyed many a 3star book but only written about the crap parts of it in the review, so the review itself makes it sound like a 1star. The rating helps me to balance overall with specifics.

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  2. I think ratings are good for a quick sense of whether people liked a work or not. After that, though, I think it’s important to delve into the reviews to get the details of why the rating was chosen. For instance, I get really annoyed when people one-star a product and the review is all about how the box was bent upon arrival. That’s…not great, I guess. But I want to know if the product actually worked, not if the carrier was careful with the box!

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  3. From my own experience, I believe ratings can be misleading because in a 5 star/banana/butterfly rating there just isn’t enough room to really convey nuance. Some authors are dependably good but sometimes have an average book, which would make it 3 stars…but that 3 star can also be a book that’s verging on not being all that great–but then it’s the 3 stars for both? I don’t know about you but I rarely hand out 1 stars. I think it takes a lot to write a book and that should be worth a star right there. Really, that’s why written reviews are so important. I also can see that a person giving a book a 2 star (or less) because of something that affects them politically, morally, or religiously may not be giving a fair shake to the book’s overall content or writing and probably don’t care that they aren’t. And, then, of course, is a 3 star review for a literary novel, the same 3 stars as genre? I think I’ve given myself a headache. 😀

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    1. Yes, I totally agree! Ratings don’t leave a lot of room for nuance, and sometimes I might want to rate a book higher emotionally because I enjoyed it in the moment. But, upon reflection, maybe I realize it’s not well-written. Do I rate it high because it’s fun? Or low because the structure or characters or plot are lacking?

      And sometimes I struggle with genre fiction, too. For instance, romance isn’t really my genre. For me, it’s a fun and “fluffy” read, but I don’t think most of the romances I read are aspiring to greatness. (Which, fair. Just getting published is a triumph. Not everyone is aiming to be or wants to be the next Shakespeare or something.) So I struggle to rate romance because I’ll be thinking, “Um, it’s a light read, not too deep. Predictable, I guess, because obviously the main characters end up together at the end.” But a lot of these “criticisms” are sort of the point of romance. If they were missing, the book arguably isn’t really a romance!

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  4. I rate a book when I post my review on goodreads, but it’s always been something I made on the spot so I take ratings as the general response to a book. The number of ratings and the spread of ratings tell me two things: 1) how many people bought the book (assuming that most people don’t review the book, more ratings = more readers and 2) how well the book was marketed (if it’s a high rating, it may just have found its audience. A lower rating may mean a mismatch between blurb and content, attracting the wrong reader but it doesn’t mean a book is bad.

    Ratings, for me, should only be one part of evaluating whether to pick up a book – a book that has an average of 5 stars but only 4 ratings (without reviews) and a poorly drawn cover/badly written blurb, for instance, will not catch my attention. On the other hand, a book that’s perhaps between 3 to 4 stars but which has hundreds of reviews that reflect a range of ratings but with an intriguing blurb/cover will have me looking more closely at the review for tropes I like/hate or may just get me to try the first chapter.

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  5. I’ve only lately rated a book on Goodreads, but if someone asked me I would =D I have no problem with ratings. It can create conversation, especially when something is rated highly but your thoughts are that you don’t like it, at all, lol.

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  6. I find ratings for those so-so books are really tricky. 5 stars for books I love and 4 for books that I really enjoyed but there was just something that didn’t make them 5 stars are easy. 2 stars for books that I didn’t like but someone else might but that just leaves 3 stars for everything else. I’ve just been looking back at this year’s reads and I’ve got loads of 3 star reads but some of them I liked a lot more than others. I think that maybe I ought to give out more 2 stars but I don’t like being mean 😃

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  7. I like using ratings but I loathe that their meanings are not uniform. A three star rating on NetGalley means that I would MAYBE recommend it. On Goodreads 3 stars means “I liked it”, while a 3 star rating on Amazon means you neither liked nor disliked it. Strange because Goodreads is owned by Amazon. I see no sense in having the difference. My thoughts on this topic: https://fictionophile.com/2019/11/08/its-all-in-the-stars-ratings-on-different-sites/

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  8. I also think the same. Rating might not give more details but we can easily say the book worked for the reader or not and also tempt to read details why it was good or bad. Yes, those statistics in spreadsheets or Goodreads help in sorting books by rating.

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  9. I didn’t used to rate books at all but I have done since joining Goodreads. Also since becoming an author myself I have learnt that every little helps! Except if people give low ratings and I genuinely want to know why…

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  10. I’ve continued using ratings in my personal stats tracking and on bookish sites like LibraryThing and The StoryGraph. However, I’ve stopped using them in reviews that I post on the blog, because I can get more nuanced in those reviews and I’m more likely to go into detail if I don’t have the crutch of the rating to fall back on. But I do still show total ratings in my wrap-up posts, even if they’re not in the individual review posts.

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  11. I used to do ratings on my blog but now I don’t give rating anymore. The reason is that I keep getting comments of people saying they won’t read a book because I give it three stars. It seen like people focus more on the rating then what is said in the review.

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  12. I didn’t use ratings at all for the first several years I was blogging, but I added a 1 – 5 star rating system about 2 years ago, and I actually like it a lot. I do agree that book reactions are more varied than a rating scale can really reflect, but as a quick way to signal overall reactions, I think they’re helpful.

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  13. I don’t give rating unless forced to (like on Amazon or Goodreads), but I find that being forced to, helps me clarify my general assessment of the book. Sometimes I feel I have to explain why I gave the rating I did, which I think helps me write a more useful review.

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  14. I do give ratings, although I’m aware that even just to myself I fluctuate wildly. And I have a bad habit of over-rating on the blog, but feeling guilty for giving things 3- or 4-stars on places like Goodreads, knowing that only 5! Stars! Counts!! Bleh.

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  15. I do use ratings, but I always try and include comments. I find a review with say, 1 star and no comment, is pointless. Maybe the reader was reading the wrong genre, maybe they didn’t finish it, maybe the story had themes they hated. I think ratings and comments are important for reviews. Especially for low reviews.
    Though I would prefer if on places like Amazon and Goodreads, if we could have 1/2 star ratings too.

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  16. I like ratings; they’re pretty helpful when I decide whether to read a book or not. I have trouble rating books sometimes. If I have a few big complaints but it contains parts I like, I go with 3 stars. 1-2 stars usually indicate that the book was a total waste of time. 4-5 mean it is a really good or great book with few complaints.

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  17. I need both stars and words to get the full picture. I am super needy. I have read reviews without readings where I couldn’t really tell if they liked the book or not, and though a high star rating indicates enjoyment, I want to know what the reader liked. I did a post a while back (where have all the stars gone?) because I noticed this trend of not assigning stars.

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  18. I don’t use them on the blog because they don’t really give a good indication of what it was I enjoyed or didnt enjoy. A book could be brilliant in terms of characterisation but not great on setting so how could I do justice to that?

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