Saturday, January 12, 2013

Want to help out a writer friend? Give 'em four stars!

One thing that astounds me about Goodreads is the number of five-star reviews that so many books have. I don't know about you but I can count on my fingers (and maybe my toes) the books I would give five stars to. A book has to have a profound effect on me to give it five stars. I would give Arthur Golden five stars for truly making me believe he was a 15-year-old Japanese peasant-turned-geisha. Or JK Rowling for getting people (not just kids) reading again. CS Lewis, for creating a world that I wanted to find. Jane Austen, for her pioneering and playful view of women and their roles in society.

So when I see a new YA or MG book that has tons of five-star reviews, the first thing that pops into my head is how many friends that author must have. Maybe that isn't fair, but I find it hard to believe that the book could be so very perfect that everybody would give it five stars. As writers, we know how hard it is to craft a good book, let alone a perfect one. Five-star reviews seem too good to be true.

As I scroll through the five-star reviews and then come to a two-star review, which do you think I read? That's right. The two-star. Because I think it might be more honest. When I'm looking for a book, I don't want to read "It's perfect" twenty times. I want an honest opinion of its strengths and weaknesses.

I think it is wonderful that we rally around the newly-published and support them by giving reviews. But just as a "It's great" beta report isn't all that helpful, an "It's perfect!" review isn't helpful either.

So if you have a friend, a critique partner, or a favorite author who has a book coming out, think hard about your review and how it is perceived by those looking at the reviews. Your honest four-star review could go much further in selling that book than the shiny five-star one.