Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A better way to rate books?

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)

I'd like to have more options on Amazon or Goodreads to rate books, more than the "choose the number of stars" option.

Years ago I used to submit my work to the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, and they gave you the option to assign stars to five different categories: character development, plot credibility, dialogue, setting and professionalism of writing. (This was in addition to the written part of the review).

I thought that would be a nice option for reviewing published books, too. Because I've read a lot of books that were beautifully written, exquisitely plotted, but I just never connected with the characters. Or vice versa, I  loved the character development, but the plot left me going "huh?"

But I'm a writer, and I'm not sure if non-writers would like this more complicated system. What about just two categories for rating? Something like 1-5 stars for Quality of Story and 1-5 for Personal Appeal. Because my most common issue with rating books is when you come across a book that is clearly well-written and well received by many others, but it just doesn't jive with your beliefs or feelings or preferences.

A Game of Thrones was such a book for me. Many people rank this series on the same level as Lord of the Rings, and when I read it I could see why. It was riveting, well-written, had excellent world-building, and a whole cast of characters that yanked on your heart strings one way or another.

But I did not like the book because many of its events felt like they happened just for shock value (hey, this seems like a good spot, let's kill a main character!), which kept me from enjoying the book.

Though I fully admit this was a personal thing and I wouldn't expect others to feel the same way.

But I wouldn't give it a one-star because my personal reasons for dislike. I would rank it high in every other category except "personal appeal". In the end I didn't end up ranking it at all, but I think it would tell readers a lot more about a book if the rating system offered more choices.

It might also allow people to identify books that have controversial elements in them... which is a whole other controversial can of worms... Right now if you have a 3 star book, it might mean that it's just a weak book, or it might be a really strong book, like the science fiction book Feed, by M.T. Anderson, that has a lot of really controversial elements in it.

This all might be academic anyway because all these factors can be addressed if you take the time to write or read reviews, rather than just pay attention to the 1-5 star rating.

If you review books, what do you think? Give more options for rating, or stick with the current system?

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