Monday, October 18, 2010

Rumbles on Ratings

What power do ratings have?

I've heard some ratings make readers buy and authors do the happy dance. ( my favorite)
I've heard some ratings make readers have second thoughts about a book and make authors run to their secret stash of chocolate for comfort. (awww)
I've also heard some ratings are ignored by readers because they don't give all that much credence to reviews. (to each their own)
I've also heard that some authors blow their tops over a rating that is less than what they believe it should have gotten. (can we say unprofessional?)
I've been flabbergasted to find out that some publishers won't allow acknowledgement of ratings below a certain rating, nor will they permit their authors to even mention that same review nor admit to its existence.
(Gee, publisher diva syndrome?)

Seems a bit extreme to me, but what do I know?

Thing is, our society is obsessed with ratings. Movies have ratings. We have polls for our politicians and they have ratings. Everything is set up to a scale to give us an idea as to the value of an object.

That then is the dilemma. Review ratings are not scientific nor are they black and white. They are based upon subjective views and reflect a variety of opinions. One person's soap box rant is another's Best Book. Perhaps a reader was in a dark place and hated a romantic suspense because at that moment in time, they would have been better off with a romantic comedy - the result, their rating of the suspense book was low so it looked like it tanked.

Fair? No, I don't think so. Human? Absolutely.

That's why a review site's owners have omniscient oversight. They know they need to expect those kinds of situations and allow for a book to get a second chance with a different reviewer versus labeling the book a low rating the first time around.

Case in point, I simply do not like the style of writing that endears legions of fans to the author, Ms. Diana Gabaldon. My own cousin thrills to her books and has even met the lady and adores her.

I. can't. stand. them.

It's my personal opinion and were I to rate the first book, of which I've read twice, forgetting that I actually had read it once already, I would have rated it a 3 1/2. Both times.

Yet, my cousin would have written a glowing fan-girl review and given it a Best Book. No doubt about it.

My point. Ratings are tools but by no means are they the definitive answer. One site will have a reviewer singing a book's praises and giving it a high mark whereas another review site will have it rated much lower.
Are either of those ratings bogus?
The criteria for rating a book is a personal choice based upon what they like or don't like in a book. Both are valid.

I think an author should probably look at the law of averages - the overall tone of all the reviews put together to get the pulse of reader/reviewer opinion.

The only caveat are low ratings based on mentions of editing issues, plot holes, telling narrative instead of active dialogue ... you know, things that really matter. They aren't opinions then, they're commenting on the proficiency of the written form or lack thereof.

At that point I'd have to say that the ratings really matter and should be taken seriously.
At that point, ratings have power.

But for the most part and the majority, I think they are opinion based on the books themselves and how a book made a reader feel. Most do not go into reviewing with an idea of what head hopping is or point of view; they just like to read and escape the daily grind by immersing themselves in a romance book of their choice.

Yeah, there's sometimes reason to rumble about ratings but take them as they come. They aren't a personal reflection on an author or his/her work, just on a reviewer's feelings after reading it. The thing is, the book got read. (was read?) lol - I need an editor too. ;-)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Spoilers - A Fine Line

An author's bane is a review that tells the story for them. Not just a synopsis but a revealing of certain key points about the characters, plot or motivation that a reader should have to discover from reading the book itself, not a review.

A review can allude to key points without actually stating what they are with specifics. It can be avoided and should be at all costs.

Take a look at these two reviews. I think one skirts into "Spoiler Land" and the other hints and teases. From an author's perspective, are they both good or is one as close as I think it is to telling too much?

Option ONE The Fire Lord’s Lover (Elven Lords, Book 1) by Kathryne Kennedy

Option TWO
The Fire Lord’s Lover (Elven Lords, Book 1) by Kathryne Kennedy

There actually is a lot to like in the first review. I clearly get a feel that the reviewer read the book and did enjoy herself. But at any point did she go too far?
What do you think?
If not - I think you can see where it easily could have.
And if so, by seeing this comparison it might help to illustrate what I mean about spoilers because sometimes we all learn better through example.
Show not tell.

My question: Did the reviewer skirt the spoiler line or did she cross?

I Have a Question

I'm nonplussed.

I was doing some research for another post and I had a bit of a ... revelation? A shock?

I ended up on dear old Amazon looking for reviews to compare. And yes, I found one that I had done. But there was another review listed as well about this same book. The more the merrier, right? Well ... maybe.

You see, as you probably can tell from my posts, I'm a reviewer who loves to dive into a book and bring out my favorite parts to share with readers. That means I'm a bit verbose. I guess I'm not the norm but that's alright with me.

What stuck in my craw is this -- there was my very indepth review with eight short paragraphs covering the characters, the motivation, the writing and what I found great about it, and the other review was nine sentences long. NINE SENTENCES and yet three out of four visitors found THAT review the MOST helpful.

Mine only received one vote.

So here is my question: How long is too long?

Authors seem to love the attention to detail that I try to bring to my reviews.
Why don't readers? So now I'm wondering if the response on Amazon is an indication that visitors there are geared and programmed towards the 30 second sound bite or is this the attention capacity of readers now-a-days everywhere?

If a review had to be condensed in some way - what are the key factors that would grab a reader's attention. Is less better? Or is it a sign that people are being conditioned to lower their expectations and accept less as best?

Anyone have any insights for me?

You Tell Me

To paraphrase Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)
I instead say:

How do I NOT love thee? Let me count the ways.

I want you to see two reviews of a book that I not only enjoyed but did a review of.

Review of Seduced By The Wolf Option One


Review of Seduced By The Wolf Option Two

If you've read any of my previous posts, then you realize that I have a pet peeve about a synopsis posing as a review. Last month I posted a link to a review and talked about what it should have included to make it better.

This month I want to do a comparison between two reviews about the same book and let you decide which is a better review. Which gives you more information that would be beneficial to a potential reader? Which sounds more like conversation versus a documentary? Which one would more likely sell you on reading the book or at least checking it out further?

You tell me. What works, what doesn't. Yes, I'm putting myself out there but I'm all about improving what I do. Every reviewer should want to improve her/his skill and feedback, especially if you don't have access to a reviews editor, can be an important tool.

So go ahead. You tell me. I'm all ears.