Friday, October 26, 2012

My Stars

I know I'll be castigated for this post, but isn't anyone else worried about review-star escalation?

Years ago when I was teaching at the university level, grading was a mess. I had a joint appointment between a state and a private university. Both huge. Both elite schools. At the state we were encouraged to give honest grades. If a student earned a C grade, s/he got it. Ditto an A grade. But at the private university we were arm-twisted to give almost nothing below a B-. Why? Because a student might wash out and the elite university would lose money. I only gave grades that were earned. I didn't wash out, but the faculty was not amused by my stubborn stance.

Now, it seems as if the "give the student a very high grade" has transmogrified into review ratings for books. Since we writers are always following our reviews, it makes sense to be elated with five-star reviews (maybe even a four-star review if we are honest with ourselves). But to be told that we should never, ever give anything less than a five-star review undermines our credibility as writers.

We are not objective, we writers as a whole. And we are thin-skinned, too. Maybe we are afraid that a fellow author will extract revenge, but to ask or tell people to inflate their reviews does as much of a disservice to the writer as elevated grades did to a student who couldn't pass a course.

I hate gushing reviews. I know, I'll probably change my mind when my book comes out next year, but I can't imagine 100% of those I hope will read it will gush. I hope they'll be honest. I've given three- and four-star reviews for self-published books as well as those published by the Big Six. I've given very few five-star reviews. That's reserved for books that knock my socks off.

I have never given a one- or two-star review. Why? If I didn't like a book enough to give it a bad rating, I wouldn't post it. Someone else will do my dirty work for me. Call me a chicken, and you'd be right, but it's also about manners. Remember our grandmothers telling us, "If you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything." Kinda like that. If I truly don't like a book, I'll never review it. Not here. Not on Amazon. Not on Goodreads. I don't hide behind Anonymous, so my name always appears on a review.

So, if you want a five-star review, write a five-star book. Simple as that. And if you don't agree with me, you'll have a chance at revenge come April 2013 when Mad Max: Unintended Consequences comes out from Koehler books.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a former English teacher, so I could relate to your analogy of inflating grades. I think sometimes we're "over gracious" in our ratings of books, and I, too, am amazed at the number of gushing reviews. They water down the quality of the reviews in general, I think.