We’ve all seen it. A book we’ve loved that may have excellent reviews, but the reviewer hasn’t awarded many stars, which to the writer is confusing. Perhaps this is a question of personal semantics. I have my marking system for books. Five stars are for an outstanding read. It’s one of those I wish I had written myself. Four stars are for a book I’ve found exceptional. It could have been something about a character or the plot, but something in the book has made me remember it. I usually say it’s haunting. Then, where most people would think three stars are for a mediocre title, I apply it to all the other good books I’ve read; sometimes the books I’ve truly loved and that will stay in my house, and I think worth anybody’s time of day. A three star review can feel like a letdown, but truly it’s a decent rating. Two stars are for something I may keep but probably never read again. It’s one of those ‘if you’ve nothing better to do’ categories. One star I seldom apply because, if a book is that unsatisfying, I’ll likely never mention it.
Some sites, like Goodreads, have a recommended meaning for their ratings (there three stars are a perfectly decent score), and that can help, but I believe we all mark books based on personal expectations. This means the ‘score’ may not accurately reflect content.
I seldom give terrible reviews for two reasons. I know how I would feel if it were me and I know what I dislike someone else may well love. It’s all opinion. As a writer, I think sometimes it’s best to be careful what I say, but we all know there are some deplorable books out. Many on bestseller lists. I’m sorry to say publishing (especially in digital form) has opened doors for many good writers who may not otherwise have a chance, but many unscrupulous individuals have also seized the opportunity to set up as publishers and will take any standard of work to market.
This isn’t always the fault of the inexperienced author. Whether a person can write without the right guidance, they may never realise the difference between genuine talent and a gift that needs nurturing, though the truth is all writers need cultivating. An unscrupulous publisher will heap praise on the unsuspecting where it’s not warranted, and how is the writer to know? Please, as a reader or writer, one awful experience must not discourage, deter, or dishearten. There are reputable publishers out there, and there are excellent authors. Many of these books are as good as anything in print, maybe better. The format doesn’t change the quality of the work. Only the publisher does. When I give a review, I seldom only award stars unless it’s where I must. I say what I think of a book and why.