On Giving Higher Ratings to Diverse, Indie, or Self-Published Novels

not always abouttrying to fix somethingthat's broken.When you read a book to review, how much of the book outside of the actual text do you take in? You won’t give a different rating of a book based on it’s cover, right?

What about where it comes from? Consider; how do individual ratings affect a self-published (Self-Pub) or Indie novel different than if it were published through the Big 5? Or, if there was diverse, and non-harmful, content?

I originally saw this post topic on Jen’s blog The BookAvid, which is no longer up and running, but I still wanted to credit.

When I think of rating a book based on where it came from, I get a little uncomfortable. Because, in my personal opinion, books should be rated on what they’re about, not where they came from. But, say I really disliked this one self-pubbed novel. Think, disliked to the one-star amount rating. Is it still right to give that self-pubbed novel one star? In some ways, it is. In other ways, no.

Giving a one-star review and rant can effect a big-5 book’s selling, but do you know what it could do to a self-pubbed book? If enough of a book gets out, I’ve seen books crash and burn over a single to a few reviews. Doesn’t matter if it’s big-5 or self-p. The difference is that a big-5 seller can easily recover. They’ve got a standing, they’ve got a platform, especially if they got to publish a book through the big-5. A self-pubbed, on the other hand, doesn’t have a standing, and probably won’t have a platform unless they’re well known on social media.

Reviews can literally make or break books, even more so with smaller or self-pubbed books. Because that’s just how it works: less reviews mean that the present reviews have more sway, because that’s all that people will see on sites like Goodreads or Amazon. A lot of people look at the first few reviews or the average rating when deciding to read something, and when they see that the few people who have read it rated it low, they’ll assume that it’s not worth it–even if it’s a fairly decent novel, but not up to the standards people are used to from the big-5. Which, also isn’t fair because most indie or self-pubbed people don’t have legions of editors and publicists and what-not to help them get their book out there. Comparing these books to big-5 would be completely unfair.

The only time I would rate an indie or self-pubbed book below 3 stars is if I found it problematic or harmful. I’ve also rarely rated an indie or self-pub book below three stars for it’s quality alone. For some reason, indie and self-p books often better in quality than big-5, but that’s just my own opinion.

Where does diversity tie into this?

If a book features rep that isn’t seen as much, like asexual or pansexual, rating it low has the same affects as above. It shows low ratings for no reason other than the reader’s personal opinions, with no thought as to how the rep could help someone. Rating a book below three stars with no regard to how other people might react shows an ignorance on your part of whats going around you.

I also agree with the side that says you should just rate books what they deserved. It’s not honest, and it’s conflating the rating on what could actually be a horrible book.

Reviewers! How do you treat books like this? Do you rate as you feel, or are you aware as to how your reviews can affect people and their reading habits?

6 thoughts on “On Giving Higher Ratings to Diverse, Indie, or Self-Published Novels

  1. the rating system is inherently flawed, misleading & unfair. We all have such skewed sense of value in the 5 star rating system, even including quarter or half points only helps minimally. A 3 star review means a solid, acceptable work but I think many authors & readers view a ‘C’ as a ‘D.’ When I encounter a 1 or 2 star quality work, it strikes me as the best course to not review or say anything. Just leave the rating, but to do so when there are no other ratings is a harsh blow so I refrain from anything in that case. Fortunately, I’ve yet to have any truly terrible commissioned reviews but, at the same time, I’ve refused to inflate a rating/review

    • I’m in the same boat so far, but I also understand why some people feel the need to inflate ratings. I feel the need to be honest, because that’s what I’m approached to do, but at the same time, I still want my review and rating to be fair.

  2. I wouldn’t rate a book based on its cover, but I wouldn’t rate it at an inflates level either simply because it’s self-published or indie. I rate based on the content. I make a note about editing, maybe, if it’s a problem, but it’s the quality of a book as far as story and clarity that I look to when deciding how to review it.

    • That’s how I partially feel too. 🙂 I’ve just been considering recently the weight of reviews as the rating of the publisher goes up and down, as well as how the topics affect the ratings. I’ve seen some people rate books low just because they have queer characters.

  3. The rating system is already flawed because there is no solid metric, does someone rate it 5 stars because they enjoyed it or because it has literary merit even if they didn’t enjoy it? The rating system can’t really be relied on for books and I’ve found a lot of books under 3.5 stars on Goodreads that I enjoyed, and conversely some 4.0+ ones that I absolutely hated.

    While I agree that a low rating could seriously hurt an indie author I believe more than anything that reviewers should just be honest (as long as they aren’t attacking anyone of course). If they didn’t like a book or think that a book had issues or needed more polish their review and rating should reflect that. While indie authors naturally will have a harder time with a lack of resources for editing and advertising I’ve read some self published books that were near flawless in terms of editing errors and had strong stories. It just takes time to develop several drafts which is something that I feel more folks need to keep in mind when they choose to self publish. I agree that I’ve read some indie books that were way better than some books being pushed by publishers, but there are some truly amazing books that are from a big publisher as well with excellent rep (take The Hate U Give for instance).

    As for representation, I’m sorry but not every diverse book has good representation. There are some (I have a big one in mind right now) that maybe have good LGBT representation (yay!) but on the other hand has extremely poor racial rep and encouraged a white savior / colonial narrative (extremely harmful for POC). It’s a difficult line to balance for sure, but if you don’t like a book then just say that you don’t like a book. You can still recommend it to folks who it might help even if you personally didn’t identify or like the book.

    Books are very rarely going to be perfect and I find it disingenuous to both inflate a book’s rating for it’s rep alone and nothing else (especially if it’s actually not a good book or the rep isn’t actually all that good, it just makes that reviewer less reliable tbh) and extremely unhelpful and pretty rude to call folks ignorant for rating a book honestly, good or bad.