The truth about reviews and ratings

This week, I brought my son to Chuck E Cheese’s, an indoor play place with mediocre pizza and plenty of germs.

Upon arrival, they have a few pretty inventive things, including blacklight stamps with matching numbers for the child and parent which must be shown upon departure. But one of the things I couldn’t believe was this…

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THE PERFECT 10

DID YOU KNOW THAT WHEN YOU FILL OUT OUR SURVEY, WE CONSIDER ANY SCORE BELOW A 9 TO ESSENTIALLY BE A 0?

My first reaction when I saw this was incredulity. I couldn’t believe it. I texted the picture to a friend and said, “Then what’s the point of the other nine numbers?” Then I realized it is exactly what we’ve been forced into in the publishing industry.

Padded and false reviews on Amazon and Goodreads has created a “five stars or its garbage” mentality. It used to be that three stars meant a good, average book. Four stars meant it was very good, and five stars were reserved for masterpieces like Lord of the Rings. Now, it’s not uncommon to find nearly unreadable books with twelve five star reviews, nor is it rare to find fantastic books with a 3.9 rating. Why? because there are still old readers who know how things are supposed to be.

When you review a book, you are doing several things at once: You’re telling the author what you think of their work. You’re telling potential readers what they should expect from the book. You’re telling Amazon and other publishers whether they should continue to promote/sign/publish the author in question.

I don’t know what the answer is here: There are a ton of reviewers out there who 5 star anything they like and 1 star anything they don’t. We need a rating revolution… we need a standard to be set once again.

1 Star - I hated it/Did Not Finish (and hopefully in the comments, here’s why)

The problem with rating something you didn’t finish is you didn’t finish it. What I mean is this: I’ve seen plenty of reviews on author’s work over the years that complain about a certain element of the book that “didn’t work” and it turns out it was on purpose as a set up with a great pay off later on. As a rule, if I don’t finish a book, I don’t rate it.

2 Star - Readable, but subpar.

3 Star - Average. Good read. Won’t change the world. Would read more from this author.

4 Star - Above average, but not a classic. I thoroughly enjoyed the read but won’t read it again. Would read more from this author.

5 Star - Among the best books I’ve read. Deserves to be read again and should have a massive audience. Will buy from this author without even reading the description.

I know I won’t be setting a new standard, but for the authors: Three stars should be considered a good thing. It means you entertained and gained a new reader.

For the reviewer: If you rate books, it is vital to explain why you’ve rated them poorly. If you don’t justify your rating, there’s a risk that the 3 star review you left will be considered a 0 by the author and many readers.

In the end, it is really helpful to everyone if you give as much information as possibly for why a certain piece of work was given any particular rating/review.

Aethon Books appreciates any and all reviews, so please, keep them coming.


Readers' Favorite: Web of Eyes

Web of Eyes, Bruno and Castle’s first book in the Buried Goddess Saga received a Five Star review from Readers’ Favorite….

Web of Eyes, Book One of the Buried Goddess Saga, by Rhett C Bruno and Jaime Castle, is an epic fantasy nuanced by Whitney’s humour, the darker elements of blood magic, and the creepy malevolence of the Webbed Woods and Bliss. Bruno and Castle’s rich world-building and an intriguing mythology centred on a feud between the gods add depth to this novel while plot momentum and engaging characters make the pages fly. 

To read the rest, Click here.

BEST READ OF 2018 (10/10)

As both an editor and a writer, I consider it part of my job to read, and I do it furiously. To date, I’ve read 136 books in 2018. I anticipate finishing the book I'm reading and then possibly adding one more before January hits. With that in mind, I know the one I'm reading won't make the list, so here are my top ten reads of 2018. Note: These aren't books written this year, just books I've read.

10. The Circuit Saga: Rhett C. Bruno
eBook/Print
audio

This list wouldn't be complete without Rhett being on here. I could have put Web of Eyes, or Winds of War by him and Jaime Castle, but if you’re on this website, you know how awesome those are.

The Circuit was haunting in the best kind of way.

9. Hell Divers: Nicholas Sansbury Smith
eBook/Print
audio

The covers alone will make you want to buy these books. They pulled me in and kept me there. They PERFECTLY represent the mood of the stories.

8. Patient Zero: Jonathan Maberry
eBook/Print
audio

This is how you write a zombie novel. If you've never read this series I highly suggest it.

7. Free the Darkness: Kel Kade
eBook/Print
audio

Want to read about an unstoppable, amazing character that makes you feel good about rooting for him? Here you go. Great characters and interactions. Really fun read. There's a reason it's sold a ton.

6. 14: Peter Clines
eBook/Print
audio

I could have done a whole list with Peter Clines books but the others I read were last year. This, Paradox Bound and The Fold were equally incredible.

5. Columbus Day (Expeditionary Force #1): Craig Alanson
eBook/Print
audio

This book could have been interchanged with any of the next four. They were all really close. I fell in love with the audio version of this with R.C. Bray as narrator. Its a unique and exciting story of colonization and first contact.

4. Hounded: Kevin Hearne
eBook/Print
audio

After finishing all the Dresden Files books, I had no choice but to find something new. When I found out Luke Daniels, my favorite narrator, did a first person urban fantasy, I had no choice but to jump aboard and I wasn't at all disappointed.

3. Scythe: Neal Shusterman
eBook/print
audio

As a book cover artist, I buy books by the cover. This was one of those. It is a stunning cover and the writing is just as good. It's a great story, dystopian and bleak, but finely crafted characters and a great premise.

You can also get both this and the sequel which was also fantastic here.

2. Fevre Dream: George R.R. Martin 
eBook/print
audio

Caught me by surprise! I was writing a book that included a vampire character and I really wanted to get a feel for a good writer who'd done this before. Most of us know Martin from Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire) but let me tell you, this book was amazing!

1. Make Me No Grave: Hayley Nicole Stone 
eBook/Print
Audio

This one was an absolute no brainer. I've read this book 3 times this year. First, when Aethon Books decided to sign it, then again when I edited it. Then I enjoyed every second of it on audio. It is poetic and gritty. It captures every ounce of the wild west and more.

You can also order a signed copy of Make Me No Grave here.