Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Two notes on numbers: Goodreads reviews and book prices

You know, noticing how some reviewers leave four-star ratings on Goodreads with really quite positive reviews, I’ve realized how, for me, being limited to five stars compresses ratings at both the high and the low end.

For me, a five-star rating on Goodreads would correspond to an 8, 9 or 10 on a ten-point scale – excellent to flawless. A four-star rating is a 7 – very good, but flawed in some fairly important way. A three-star rating would be a 5 or 6 – adequate to fairly good — and I wouldn’t be likely to review that book. A two-star rating would be a 4 – a definite meh, or the book really offended me somehow. INTO THE WOODS by Tana French comes to mind, for example. And a one-star rating would correspond to a 1, 2 or 3.

Plainly some reviewers think of the stars differently, which of course is perfectly fine. But while for me a 10 means a book is practically perfect (like THE BOOK OF ATRIX WOLFE, for example), ‘practically perfect’ seems too much to load on the top number if the scale only goes up to five.

So, for example, SINNER for me would be four stars on Goodreads (if it was available to review, which right now it doesn’t seem to be). The point is, it’s very good. If I hadn’t felt a bit let down by the ending, it’d be a five. The quality of the writing and the great characterization are both definitely a five – really excellent. If you like superhero books at all, I strongly encourage you to give this one a try. And then if you want to argue with me about the ending, great!

But that’s why I leave mostly five-star and some four-star reviews — I like to comment on books I really enjoyed, and that comprises the whole top end of the scale.

Okay, the OTHER thing I’ve just noticed, because I just this minute bought RIDE WITH ME by Ruthie Knox , is that for me, there’s an important breakpoint in price when buying a book vs putting it on my wishlist.

That is the $3 mark. If a book is $3 or less, it might as well be free — I just click on Buy It Now and move on with my life. I mean, what the heck, three bucks? Why not? And somewhere an author is smiling, so it’s all good.

$4 or $5 make me pause for a second. If I read a great review by a blogger I trust — if the book is by a debut author and I’d like to give her a boost — if the book is by someone I know personally — if I’ve read great reviews but I’m not sure the reviewers’ taste matches mine — if the concept sounds exceptionally appealing — then I’ll probably click on Buy It Now. Unless I’ve just purchased other things and am feeling like maybe I should nod vaguely in the direction of restraint. Then maybe not.

For me, $6 and over means I have to be at least reasonably sure I’ll like the book. If it’s by an author I don’t know, then I’m likely to hit the Try A Sample button. And I do read samples fairly soon, usually, and several times I’ve bought the book after trying the sample.

$8 and up? Either I’m sure I’ll love the book, or I know the author personally, or both. Or else it just goes on my wishlist, and I’ll pick it up . . . sometime. Probably.

Interestingly, I’ll kick in more than this on a Kickstarter project even if I don’t know much about the book and am not sure I’ll like it. It turns out that wanting to see someone’s project succeed gives me a push toward committing more than I would if the book was already out there.

But all this makes me think that the low prices of so many Kindle books is in fact probably a net benefit to the writer. I can’t be the only person who’s pretty casual about dropping $3 bucks on a book, who would hesitate at $8.

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2 Comments Two notes on numbers: Goodreads reviews and book prices

  1. Matthew

    It sounds like your rating system with five stars is very similar to mine. Five means if there were any issues, they weren’t enough for me to hesitate about recommending the book, four there were issues that bothered me but it’s still recommended, and three means I was really unimpressed. Anything less than three I was either forced to read or it took a huge, irredeemable downturn at the end. However, many of my friends were scoffing at my scale one night, saying I was too generous — fives are supposed to be these rare jewels that are almost never found and definitely should be given our more sparingly than I do. I find that funny, since of the bunch of us, I’m the one to be more critical about my reading and the one to find the plot holes (though perhaps I’m also more willing to be delighted?)… Anyway, nice to see someone has a similar scale to me!

    I also agree about the three dollars — a Kindle book just has to sound interesting and have a well written first page at that point!

  2. Rachel

    Hah! Rare jewels are for tens, not for fives.

    I think you’re right, and it’s more than anything about a willingness to be delighted.

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