Apr 05 2019

Earn Stars #AtoZChallenge #Writing #BookReviews as an #Author

Writing Book Reviews As An Author

Inspiration To Make It Easier

By: J Lenni Dorner

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter E
is for Earn Stars

Some reviewers believe a book must “earn” stars. Others believe all books start off with five-stars, and they deduct as they find flaws.

0 star rating image on the blog of @JLenniDorner

For some reviewers, all books start with no stars. They earn the stars as the reviewer reads. One star for a strong protagonist. Another star for excellent editing. A star for keeping the reader glued to the page. Twist endings get another star. A theme the reader loves earns yet another.

1 star rating image on the blog of @JLenniDorner

In the movie “Dangerous Minds,” the teacher says everyone has an A. Keeping the A is the challenge. This intrigues one student who says he’s never had an A before. (I’m sure there’s a name for that method of teaching, but Google has been unkind in my search.)

Some reviewers use this same method when it comes to stars. Every book starts with five stars. Based on whatever criteria matters most to that reviewer, stars get deducted.

2 star rating image on the blog of @JLenniDorner

This is one reason readers have different star ratings for books. Two reviewers could both claim to like a book, but one reviewer gives it four stars and the other gives it five. “But they both said they liked it!” Yes, but they used a different method to determine how likable they think that book is. Liked it enough not to deduct versus liked it enough to let it earn more stars.

3 star rating image on the blog of @JLenniDorner

Another reason that a book might gain a star is the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game. The idea of the game is that everyone is an acquaintance of Kevin Bacon, within six degrees.

  1. I have a
  2. spouse who
  3. served a meal to an agent
  4. who represents an actor
  5. who was in a movie with another actor
  6. who was in a movie with Kevin Bacon

4 star rating image on the blog of @JLenniDorner

How is that related to book reviews? Because someone might read a book and decide it’s worth 3.5 stars. Then figure out they know the author, or know someone who knows the author. Because of this degree, they decide they like the author more, and thus decide that 3.5 should be a 4 instead of a 3. (Because the sites don’t allow half stars.)

The downside is that some sites remove reviews if they find the reviewer has a degree or two of separation from the author. On one hand, that might prevent biased reviews. On the other hand, it means the author has trouble getting reviews from the people most likely to leave them. Reviews lead to more sales. More sales means the place that sells the book makes more money. Vicious, isn’t it?

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary badge
Question: To which school-of-thought do you belong? Everyone starts with none has has to work to five, or every book starts with five and you deduct? Or do you flip between the two methods?

— J, Co-host and Team Captain #AtoZChallenge

 star rating image on the blog of @JLenniDorner

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  1. Great post! I never realized it, but I’m of the “everyone starts with five stars” school of thought. Books might lose stars for various things. Four stars for me mean that I enjoyed the book, because I reserve five stars to my all-time favorite, “fell in love” type reads…

    The Multicolored Diary
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  2. I guess the end result is the most important part and giving them the mindset of being on top in the beginning is the ideal educator’s environment. Being in early childhood, I could see the positive side of this 5 stars at the start. And actually we do this with the chart systems in some pre-k settings.
    Stephanie Finnell
    @randallbychance from
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  3. Interesting that you broke it down like this. It made me think. What I do, now that you’ve drawn my attention to it, is to start out with five stars and subtract them if the book fails me in one or more ways.
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    1. It’s fun to realize you’ve been doing something for a long time without ever noticing, isn’t it?
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  4. Hey J, really liked this post. I’ve never given much thought to how I review a book, but after reading your post I can see how reviewers could fall into one of the two categories. I still think my method is a tad bit different. I don’t think any book ever starts off with five ⭐️ stars, because I reserve 5 stars for those books that over the top, exceptional … amazing. They have a character I can’t get out of my head or a character Arc that really resonated with me. Or perhaps the plot was packed full of suspense and had me guessing “wrong” until the very end. The 5 star books pull off incredible twists that I never see coninging. They are the books I’m still thinking or taking about long after I’ve finished reading. Four star reviews are basically what most most people give out as five star reviews. So I think I start out with everyone on a three star — average—level — playing field. The better the book gets the more the stars increase. I suppose I then deduct from the three stars if the book is poorly written, not properly edited, is full of plot holes, one dimensional, flat characters, etc.

    I seldom, if ever give a one star review. If I believe a book is that bad I just don’t write a review at all. I might write a personal email to the author and ask some questions or explain why I had a bad experience with the book, but I wouldn’t do anything to hurt an author’s reputation by writing a one star review or writing harsh or cruel words.

    I’ve read too many reviews that make me wonder why people even buy or read certain books. They must know the book is a horror or whatever genre so it’s going to be scary and gruesome. Often the blurb or jacket will even detail how a child is kidnapped or found dead and then some asswipe has the audacity to write a review that says, “Oh my … this book was awful. I can’t beleive the author actually killed off the child.” Well duh it says so on the cover. So don’t punish the author because you don’t like crime or horror or sex but you downloaded a free kindle book that’s in one of those genres.
    Oh and I’ve never heard of the Six degrees of Kevin 🥓 Bacon.
    Very informative post.
    Melissa @
    Sugar Crime Scene
    Melissa Sugar has this post to share A to Z Challenge — Letter D: Your “Do Not” ListMy Profile
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    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I knew a bunch of people who were obsessed with the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon when I was younger.

      I think some reviewers perhaps are paid to read a certain number of books and don’t bother to find out what the book is like. But, here’s the thing, if you do like horror or crime, and you see someone dislikes a book because they don’t like these things and you do, does it make you want to read the book more or less? The big complaint is that it has everything you like (but that person doesn’t).

      There will be more about low-star reviews on Z day. Hope you’ll come back!
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  5. Every book I read begins with a 5-star rating. If the plot doesn’t hold together or the editing is minimal, the rating drops. But I only write 4 and 5 star reviews, mainly because I am not easily displeased.
    Gail M Baugniet has this post to share Elderly Fare at Cork Market #AtoZChallengeMy Profile
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    1. Goodreads says my average is 4 stars. It takes quite a bit to displease me. But I’ve rated a few lower. Thanks for stopping in.
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  6. i think i belong to the camp who believe a book starts with an A and as different issues arise so stars are deducted. I’m also one who feels terrible giving a “bad/poor” review but i don’t want to deceive anyone who might read my review either.

    Joy at The Joyous Living
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    1. Yes. That’s why it’s so important to be clear about what you don’t like. More on this topic on Z day. Thanks for stopping in.
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  7. My reviews start at five – but five means exceptional/memorable – and go down, losing stars for things like poor editing. If I reach three or lower, I feel I have to justify my mistake in choosing to read the wrong book = no review.
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  8. I used to teach middle school art and used a sort of hybrid method: doing the basics of everything I asked is a good solid respectable, say, 3 stars. Not doing everything required knocks stars off, while doing particularly well adds stars on. (Not that I used stars, but to translate into book review language.)
    It’s a good point about the reviews from people who know me. Most readers never do leave reviews, so as a small-time writer I have to ask people to remember to leave a review, and the only people I can ask are the people I’ve met!
    Black and White: E is for Emela-ntouka
    Anne Nydam has this post to share L is for LeviathanMy Profile

    1. It is hard to get reviews. Hopefully, this book will encourage more authors to write them. Thanks for stopping in.
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  9. I’m hybrid. I start in the middle and then either work up or down.
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  10. Thanks for drawing my attention to these star reviews. I haven’t had much to do with them and assume they’re on Amazon, which I don’t buy from due to freight charges. I have written a review or two on my blog but that’s about it as I find most book reviews boring and that there’s a flood of them in the blogging world and I’d much rather read something else. That will probably change soon now that I’m finally working on my own bok and it will be like it was when I first started blogging waiting for those reviews to add up (along with sales). I would probably only read a book which I thought was going to be a 4 or 5 in the first place. While my house is packed full of books, I am not as proficient a reader.
    My theme for the A-Z Challenge takes the book writing process back a few steps focusing on getting through the book writing process. I have done the challenge for the last 4-5 years and was almost going to bail out this year to focus on my book. However, I thought these motivational quotes would help me as well and would be quicker to write than they are. I wiuld like to read more blogs this year as well. Not enough hours in the day…or in April!
    Best wishes,

    1. Good luck with your book. My favorite writing tool is Grammarly. (Free extension in the Google Chrome browser, and in Google Docs.) It can’t replace a real editor, but it certainly helps a lot.

      The five-star system is used by Amazon. But it’s also used on Goodreads, BookBub, 50BookPledge, and several other such sites.

      Thanks for stopping by.
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  11. Everyone starts with 5 stars… But if I didn’t finish it, it automatically becomes 1 star (and I state all the reasons why). If I liked it, but the editing is shoddy, it becomes 3 stars (with shoddy editing there are usually other issues, too). If I liked it, even loved it, but there’s something off, it only gets 4 stars (something off might be a reference book that excludes me for some reason or another). 2 stars are reserved for books I finished but found disappointing. 5 stars are for books I truly loved. See: there is method to the madness 🙂

    Ronel visiting from the A-Z Challenge with Music and Writing: The E
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    1. Yeah, sounds about right. For me, if I don’t finish a book, poor editing is generally the reason. I can put up with almost anything, but thare oonly sew mutch op his I cand take. (Go ahead and wince. Grammarly is over here lit up like a Christmas tree.)
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