As a reader I’ve used Goodreads (a site for readers) for many years. I like having a place where I can keep a list of the books I’ve read and what I thought of them. I also enjoy their reading challenge, where you can set yourself a personal challenge for the number of books you’ll read in the year. I’ve been using both Amazon and Goodreads before I became a writer, so my system for reviewing books has always been in place.
Yesterday, while checking on Goodreads, I wondered just how many people I knew use Goodreads as a reader, and posted their reviews there. As an author, I do have an author’s page on Goodreads like the one on Amazon. Unlike Amazon, the Goodreads site allows author’s to review their own books, which I find very strange. Well, you’re not going to give yourself a bad review, are you? What I have done in the past is to share a review which isn’t available on Amazon or Goodreads there.
Goodreads site is far more active at helping author’s get their books seen by readers without any cost to the author. If a reader reviews your book, this is then sent via an email to all readers on Goodreads. You can also see who has your book in their To-Read list. I’m afraid this can be depressing because, I can see there are sixty-six readers who have Stone Angels sitting in theirs. Goodreads allows you to share your blog post on their site, too. So every time you update your blog it is shared there.
The one piece of advise I would give all authors who read and review other people’s books, don’t just review all your friends and fellow authors in one go it’s best to mix them up with more establish authors you’re not friends with. Amazon now own the Goodreads site, so if they pick up a pattern in your reviewing, they might just block you from posting reviews on Amazon.
I’m wary about reviewing friends’ books, not because of Amazon tough stance on paid reviews but because of a nasty instant with a fellow writer. They told me they had given me an honest review of my book. We had chatted about it, and I had asked a few times, It was your honest opinion. We had shared writing advice over short stories, where they had given me their honest opinion which I took and rewrote parts of my work. So I was aware that they could give out honest advice in a positive way. What I wasn’t prepared for was the backlash, I received when I gave them a honest review on their book.
Let me explain that all reviews given are purely a personal opinion. One reader’s review of a book might not be another reader’s view. It’s all down to personal taste. Like Marmite, some people will love it, and some people will hate it, but that doesn’t stop Marmite from being a bestseller, which it is, and its been around for a long time. Personally, I love marmite, but I might not love it in a peanut and jelly sandwich. It’s all to do with taste. My favourite books might not be loved by all readers.
When reviewing my former friend’s book, I wanted to be honest for two reasons. Firstly, if I didn’t give an honest review, and others tore it apart, they would have been upset with me. Secondly, for a simply selfish reason, a dishonest review would’ve invalidated all my other reviews. Don’t get me wrong, I did take into account their feelings, and it tore me apart trying to decide what to do. Anyway, I went with honest being the best policy. After they expressed their disappointment strongly because I only gave them a four star review, I then changed it to what they wanted and they had expected to receive from me. So I no longer give out reviews to close friends. If I do read their books, I don’t let them know before hand, and once I’ve finished it, I tend to post a review and let them just find it, but only if their books are four or above for me.
Ratings are strange creatures. Goodreads is a reader’s site so their rating are listed as likes and dislikes:
- ⭐star means: Did not like the book. This could mean anything, if the reader doesn’t add a worded review we can only guess. Maybe they had tried a new genre, and found it wasn’t to their taste.
- ⭐⭐stars means: It was okay. This could mean anything. As the author of the book, you are desperate to know more. The words It was okay, rings in your ears as not being good enough. Once again, if the reader was to leave a written review, we could find out more.
- ⭐⭐⭐stars means: Liked it. Once again as an author, we want to know more, what did the reader like about the book, but Goodreads is geared towards readers and not the authors.
- ⭐⭐⭐⭐ stars means: Really liked it. Wow! you really liked it! Tell me more, tell me more! Okay, you get the picture. Us authors are never satisfied, we want to know every little detail of what they liked about it.
- ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ stars means: It was amazing! Okay, okay, author, please back off now. Give the reader some space. They really, really liked your book.
What’s so difficult about just accepting I liked your book, rather than I really liked your book. One extra word, or star. 🤷♀️ Does it make a huge difference to you as an author. I’m sure, as a reader, I’ve read plenty of books where I’ve thought on closing the covers for the final time, yes, that was okay. Maybe, on reading the reviews for the book, I would have found that others loved it.
As reader’s reviews are the only way other than talking to our readers we get to know what others think about our books. I know when my first book was published, it was the thing I feared the most. A bad review. Now I understand much better, that reviews are just one reader’s opinion, they don’t bother me so much. What all author’s need is a mixed bag of reviews. If there’s only five stars reviews, readers might think only family and friends have read your book.
This might seem like a strange confession to make, but I tend to read the two and three stars reviews when a book takes my interest. I find them to be the most honest. If reviewer has been brave enough to voice their opinion, I feel it’s worth reading. Of course, it does all depend on what they have to say. If they are just being plain nasty, I just dismiss their comments. There are such things as trolls.
Amazon ratings is a bit different from Goodreads. Remember, Goodreads is a site for readers, you can’t buy anything other than books, via an Amazon link, on Goodreads. Amazon ratings aren’t just for books but everything they sell on their site. A rating with no comment explains nothing, so just let it go. The reader might have just tapped the screen on their kindle when they finished reading it. It does say Rate this book, and then there’s five little stars.
Lets keep that in mind when you read reviews on Amazon.
1 ⭐ star Amazon rating: the product wasn’t what I was expecting. The packet had been thrown over my neighbour’s fence. I never ordered this size. This wasn’t the book, I wanted. It was rubbish. I didn’t like the cover.
2 ⭐⭐ star Amazon rating: My order never arrived on time. I ordered the hardcover, and got a paperback. The audiobook didn’t open on my kindle. It wasn’t what I ordered and I returned the packet, which meant another trip to the post office. A child could have written this book better.
3 ⭐⭐⭐star Amazon rating: my order arrived a bit late but it was damaged. It was okay. The characters were likeable. Plot was slow in places. I’m not sure I was reading the same book as everyone else. It wasn’t a five star read to me.
4 ⭐⭐⭐⭐ star Amazon rating: Yes, it was okay, I found a few typos. It needs more editing. I really loved this book. I love the author, but this isn’t one of their better books. I found the main character annoying, but the story was great.
5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ star Amazon rating: Great service. Arrived on time. Just what I ordered. I enjoyed the book. Can’t wait to read another book by this author.
Basically, when you think about book reviews within the full range of Amazon’s other products their ratings don’t mean much. Yes, as a published author I look forward to reading the reviews I receive, their validate me as an author. Just knowing someone I don’t know has bought my book, read it, and enjoyed it so much they left a review.
The only problem now is Amazon’s rating system is broken. Too many people are using the rating system as a means of making money by writing reviews to order. This invalidate the honest reviews left by people who read the books, and wanted to leave a review.
My system for reviewing books is quite simple.
- Three stars: average I enjoyed the book, it kept me turning the pages. I might have had to re-read a few pages, because I didn’t quite understand what was going on.
- Four stars: Brilliant book. What wasn’t there to like about it? The characters were engaging, it kept me turning the pages, the flow of the story worked, loved the characters. There might have been a couple of moments, I didn’t enjoy in the plot. but overall it was a winner.
- Five stars: Outstanding. I wish I had written the book! The story line was amazing, I was lost in the book, the characters, setting, the writing was fantastic, I was swept along so easily I was lost from the real world.
Anyway, these are just my thoughts and opinions on Goodreads and Amazon.
- Do you enjoy leaving reviews?
- Which do you prefer Goodreads or Amazon?
- Do you have your own rating system when reviewing a book.
I hope you found the article helpful.
Paula R. C.
It’s hard to fathom a writer getting upset at a four-star review. I think your former writing pal has unrealistic expectations.
I use both Amazon and Goodreads, but tend to put only horror and horror-adjacent reviews on Goodreads. Someone might see a review and wonder why I have so much to say about a vampire book. “Oh, it’s because she’s a horror author herself.” Amazon is a bit more anonymous, so I review all my reading genres on there.
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It was a case of they had given me fives and expect the same in return. Where I wanted to give an honest review. I didn’t put this into my review and had spoken to them in person. The book had some grey areas, where they could have gone back to the publisher and editor and sorted it. In the same way you had helped me, Priscilla.
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Excellent article Paula. I don’t give book reviews on Amazon as I consider it too fake although it is supposed to indicate if readers have been paid. I have purchased your books, don’t give reviews because they’re a genre I don’t enjoy BUT I do give them to friends as gifts and suggest they post reviews on Goodreads.
With my own books I find giving free copies to friends is soul destroying. Most of them don’t post and when I have asked why they didn’t enjoy it (because there is no post) the majority do enjoy them and say they just haven’t got around to posting reviews… but will. I hate pushing for reviews so don’t follow through. I guess a lot of people find their to-do list never ending and don’t realise how we writers need feedback… and not just to boost sales and egos!
Keep writing and posting. I enjoy following your creative journey.
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I can’t see how anyone would complain about a 4 star review. They shouldn’t. A four star is still good. And often if a your ratings are 5 it can look fake. The odd 4 star gives authenticity. Actually I don’t like the rating system and would much rather write my thoughts rather than rate.
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Great post. I had a similar experience when reviewing a friend’s book. Now, I’m extra careful about what I post. I do write a number of reviews based on ARCs I get from NetGalley, but I no longer review books of friends. Thanks again for the honest post.
Thank you for dropping by and reading my post.