So, I have this podcast that I listen to to try to understand what the 'squishy right' thinks about things. The host of the podcast almost invariably says, in the introduction, "If you like what you hear here, give us a glowing five star review. If you don't like what you hear here, please forget I said anything." The proposed dishonesty and unhelpfulness of this repeated comment has led me to ruminate on the importance of honest reviews.
First of all let's take a look at what the various ratings mean. Not what Amazon or other say they mean, but what they actually mean:
5/5: I am the author's cousin, or I am merely giving pass/fail. Everyone who writes a book or has a podcast or whatever has a bunch of friends and relatives who immedidiatly go out and 'rate' their book or podcast. Their raiting has everything to do with how much they like the person, and nothing to do with how much they enjoyed the book.
Or, like in the podcast I mentioned, it is merely a way of checking a box or giving it a thumbs up. You like the podcast? Give it a five star review: making no difference between Jordan Peterson and the little girl down the street, no difference between Tolkien and a cute little book you downloaded from KU and spent a pleasant hour reading.
1/5: I disagree with the author's theology. Or the author has Muslims as the bad guys and that is 'Islamophobic'.
So let's be clear, the above ratings are not honest. Oh, I'm sure that Tolkien gets lots of five star ratings, and more power to him, but the overwhelming majority of five star reviews are not the best of the best, you just like them.
And the one star reviews are not bad in every possible way. They may be well edited, have excellent illustrations, and are on a topic of importance... you just disagree with them.
4: An honest review. I liked the book but had issues.
3: A really honest review. Includes both the good and the bad about this book.
2: Not as bad as it could have been. Bad. But could have been worse.
Those are hontest reviews. And, what's more, they are helpful. When I go to consider a book, I ignore the five star reviews. I go first for the three star reviews. I figure they will give me the good and the bad. Then I read the two star reviews for the ugly.
So here is what I am proposing:
- First of all, consider using a bell curve. Ten percent of your reviews are five star, twenty perecent four star, forty percent three star, twenty percent two star, and ten percent one star.
- Secondly (and this will help with the bell curve), judge the entirety of the work. If a work will still be being read in a hundred years, is well edited, the cover is great, the illustrations are wonderful, then, sure, five stars. And if the editor should be fired, the subject is horribly treated, the cover looks awful, then, sure, one star.
But for the rest... the wonderful book whose editor obviously wasn't paying great attention, the horrible book which, nevertheless, was well edited... use the other numbers. And prefer three star... list both the good and the bad.
- And most importantly, remember that your job is to help other people who might wish to buy or read or not read or not buy the book. Give them the best information you can, about the book. Not about the fact that you are the author's wife.