Star Ratings Matter

Dem Book BonesTM
The cover bone’s connected to the title bone
The title bone’s connected to the text bone
The text bone’s connected to the topic bone
The topic bone’s connected to the Reader bone
Oh, Reader, please give it 5 stars!
~ © 2017, LinDee Rochelle *  

Rating products and books on any site is fun with a smidgeon of power, in a world in which we often feel powerless. But like life, there are two sides to every coin—and every show of power.

My rating and ranking experience as an author is predominantly with Amazon; as a buyer, I’ve posted my fair share of reviews with several sites.

However, books or products, the semantics apply to any rating / review situation. As the person rating, you consider the item’s effect on you, and may or may not review with the knowledge of how much you’re affecting the relevance, ranking, and sales of the company or author.

For the sake of demonstration, let’s explore the ratings and rankings of a book on Amazon.

Book reviews are a tad more complex than product reviews; though they all share the same algorithm fate when it comes to those pesky stars, the logic behind the Reader rating is exponentially subjective.

Some folks are voluminous readers and enjoy sharing their reviews frequently. Along the way, they have likely discovered the enormous power they wield over an author’s Amazon ranking. Depending on the number of reviews on a given book, a Reviewer can literally boost or tank a book’s sales. The smaller the number, the more profound the effect.

Take my word for it; as an author, I know this to be true.

After decades of helping authors publish their books, I needed to focus on my own. Finally published my second book in a series—yay! But my reviews to this point, can be counted on both hands. Promotion is a whole different animal. That’s OK—I’m just thrilled anyone is reading my books!

However, let me recount a true scenario: I published a new book, and had four reviews in the first week—all glowing 5-star appraisals. That equated to a reasonable ranking with Amazon. (And pleased me to no end.)

The following week, a kind Reader obviously energized by the book’s memory-inducing trip back to the ‘60s, posted a review. There was nothing detrimental said, and the Reader looks forward to my next book set in the ‘70s. After reading the review, I looked with confusion at the 4-star rating.

No big deal, right? For the Reader, no. For me, it was negatively significant.

Amazon dropped the book’s ranking by 20 in one day. When Amazon’s algorithms see a less-than-5-star rating, the book drops from its new release prominence and goes to the bottom of the virtual stack. And there go the early sales.

I have to believe that the Reader doesn’t realize what dropping that one star off a 5-star rating, does to the author’s sales. Especially when there is no indication of displeasure by the Reader / Reviewer and no obvious reason for not awarding 5 stars. More curious than hurt or angry, like me, most authors just want to know why. We’re always seeking ways to improve.

An article published on my site’s Wordplay Wednesday blog about the effects of star ratings, further explains the ramifications. Included are a few tips for rating fairly and kindly. Here you go …

Anatomy of Book Reviews – It’s All in the Stars 
Article originally published on PfP April 12, 2017

Are you an avid Amazon book reviewer? Do you love reading a book, sharing your thoughts in a review—and bestowing it your 1 (rotten tomato) to 5 (GOLD*) stars?

Author to Reader—do you want to know how to write a review that makes you look good, informs prospective readers, and gives the author an honest critique?

Amazon author rankings are enigmatic at best and confidence-destroying at worst. Unfortunately, many readers who review and wield their star-power arbitrarily, know not what they do …

PUISSANT (pwisʹɘnt; pyooʹi sɘnt) adj. – powerful; strong; n. puissance  [WW #107]

In a book or product review, or even life, power without substance is false positive.

Today’s puissant word is prompted by a nice 4-star review received on Amazon, for my latest book. 4 and 5 stars are always appreciated. You hear a “but” coming, though, right?
But … it’s time to address those delightful readers who mean well, while not truly understanding what their reviews and star gradings actually do to or for, an author—much less for other readers, for whom they should be writing. (This article refers to real people/reviewers; see Forbes article about fake reviews.)

I appreciate each and every review; yes, even the antagonistic ones. All are puissant in their own way. I learn from the negative as much as I stroke my ego reading the glowing reviews. Not all reviews are created equal …

When reviewing, do you consider too, the book and author you’re writing about? To a puissant and voluminous author (you know, the Stephen Kings* of the world), one review does not carry as much weight and affect rankings like a book with, say, less than twenty-five reviews. (*King averages 2,000+.)  So …

A review with less than 5 stars, while perhaps admiring in content, creates a quandary for prospective readers and frustrates the book’s ranking.

Although the reader obviously liked my book, he didn’t actually review it. It’s wonderful he felt urged to take a fun trek down Memory Lane—the true objective of the Blast from Your Past! books.

His comments broke down to about 80% his DJ history/memories (and I’m OK with that), 15% making nice about my book (so glad he’s looking forward to the next one!), but only 5% worth for other readers. More importantly, he did not tell us why he gave the book only 4 STARS.

It’s all in the puissant stars … FYI, there is little negative difference in author rankings between 4 stars and 1. There is a HUGE drop in rankings, though, when we receive 4 stars rather 5. And Amazon’s algorithms pick up on the negatives …

And it’s compounded if there is no explanation from the reviewer as to why less than 5. Without a reason, the review is a disservice to prospective readers, and reduces the book’s visibility. If you have NOTHING negative to say about the book, then for heaven’s sake, award it 5 stars!
So dear readers, be truly puissant in your reviews, whether for Amazon or other public venue. Grade books and other products authoritatively.

Tips: Always state reasons for your opinion and comments. Does it warrant a negative? Then try “constructive criticism.” Bottom line—why did you hate it—or why did you LOVE it?
Just threw this in to see if you're still reading 😉>>

To other authors: remember, you can’t please all the readers all the time. Be confident in your writing and appreciate the negatives, while you cherish the puissant positives. 
*Note to Amazon: the stars should be in a rainbow of colors to reflect our true opinion: 1=red (hated it); 2=pink (some redeeming value); 3=blue (just OK); 4=purple (good, could be better); 5=Gold (excellent!).

Word Challenge: PUISSANT. Make your book and product reviews puissant! Guide others who peruse them, and offer commendable insight, as you fit puissant into your week of thoughtful writings.

Write first for yourself … only then can you write for others. (L.Rochelle)

*Adapted from iconic spiritual folk song; melody by James Weldon Johnson, first recorded in 1928 by Bascomb Lunsford. Children’s version for anatomy lesson.

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