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…




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.