Scrapping the 5-Star Reviewby Linda Louise Rigsbee on 04/04/14
I watched a video where a reader said she never gave 5 stars on a book. That's interesting. So she's down to a choice of 4 stars before she begins? On my free read website where readers have a choice of rating 1-5, one reader commented that she wished there was a 10. So, how reliable are reader reviews, and exactly what do they mean? I think that question is a little like asking "how long is a string?" The possibilities are endless.
My free read website originally had a question in the Guest Book that asked the reader to rate the book on a scale of 1-10. I wound up adding "with 10 being the best" because I had readers making comments that indicated they loved the book and then rating it 1. Obviously, to them, one was the best score. But it isn't simply confusion in the way things are worded. Sometimes readers expound on how much they enjoyed the book and then give it a rating of 7. They often write nothing in the comments to indicate what they did or didn't like.
I eventually changed my rating system so that I would have a running total instead of having to do the math myself. I used a web poll tool, altering it to include ratings for my books. 5 = Excellent, 4 = good, 3 = Okay, 2 = disappointing and 1 = Offensive. On my sweet romance story, "To Thine Own Self," 110 readers voted. 71 rated the book Excellent and 20 rated it Good. Two were disappointed and a whopping 10 found it offensive. There were no comments, so I assume they were actually simply giving it a 1. I can't imagine anything in that book that could be considered offensive. I corrected my poll to read 1 = Poor. If they find it offensive, they can leave a remark. In the years my free read site has been in existence, only one reader has ever left a comment indicating they were offended by a book. That reader wrote that since I obviously knew nothing about adoption, I shouldn't be writing about it. (We adopted our youngest son.) Like anyone else, sometimes readers can be wrong.
My estimate is that about 12 out of every 100 readers will take the time to comment. I have found on my website that the response rate is much higher if readers need only click on a box. Since the 5 star rating system tells me so little, and my own definitions of those ratings make the system restrictive, I plan to go back to my 10 point system. A possibility of 10 points gives the reader a broader base to average out a story using their own rules. My 10-point system won't mean anything to Amazon, but I think it will tell me a lot more than the 5 star system. Getting reader response is more valuable to me than a high score anyway. I will place the poll at the end of the story instead of on the first page so that readers are only prompted after they have actually read the book. A guest book will give them the opportunity to elaborate if they wish, and a review page will give prospective readers an opportunity to explore the opinions of others.
Now, to update all those web pages!