Saturday, 29 May 2010

Goodreads: Authors Self Rating

Authors giving their own work a rating. It is something that has bothered me for awhile but I've let it slide until it bugged me more than the issue warrants. Does it bother anyone else when an author rates their own work 5 stars on Goodreads? Or am I in the minority?

I find it extremely misleading as they aren't really in the position to be judging their own work objectively. I would argue that book reviewing (at home, on a blog or in a newspaper) is subjective at best but an author has a vested interest.

I am glad they think their work is excellent. I am glad they feel confident enough to give themselves a perfect mark. But it bothers me on a few fronts
1 - they aren't objective
2 - it warps the rating
3 - they don't give reasons for its awesomeness
4 - it seems conceited
5 - it makes me feel icky.

What are your feelings? Am I being a nitpicking fool (it has been said before) or are there grounds for an author rating their own work? It is just being proud of their work or are more dastardly motives at play?

35 comments:

Amie McCracken said...

I didn't know they could do that on goodreads (been neglecting my account). But that is not ok. Reviews are not there for an author to make of themselves. Reviews are for other people to tell the author what they think. I might just continue neglecting my account because of this.

Megan said...

I agree with everything you've said. not objective at all! a great rating like that can really skewe the results and thats not fair.

Robbie (BoywithBooks) said...

I don't think authors should be allowed to rate their own books by the software.

However, if an author publishes a book, I sure hope they think it's a five! If not, couldn't they have done a better job on it before releasing it to us?

Also, I'm not sure it warps the rating all that much, especially for titles with a lot of ratings. It's not as bad as people giving a book a five/one before they've read it because they are looking forward to it/dreading it.

Splendibird said...

Honestly? It makes me cringe a little... It seems to me exactly the same as a blogger commenting on their own review and stating that it was beautifully written, or a movie star commenting on what a great performance they gave in such and such a movie. At the same time, we live in a real culture of false modesty and I don't like that either. ..yet I think that there are times and places to blow your own trumpet (quietly) and reviewing your own work glowingly isn't one of them.

Kailia Sage said...

I agree with everything you have to say! I don't think authors should judge their own books. They wrote it for others to read it. And if they were going to judge their books themselves, why publish them for others? I think Goodreads should be a place where we readers can tell the author what we think, not vise-versa. I do hope the author thinks their book is a 5 star,but leave the rating for us. (sorry for the rant!)

Nomes said...

I wonder if they feel a little bit sneaky and sheepish, clicking that 5 star button :)

It makes me feel icky, too.

And do they write a review, lol? Because how can you write a readers review of a book you wrote? "...I was gripped...stunning climax that brought me to tears...I related to all the characters...can't wait to see the sophomoric effort..." :)

simmone said...

I think it's great idea - if I five-star myself then it can offset the damage done by the misguided fool who one-starred me...
(I should perhaps add that I no longer have a goodreads account because I find the whole business of ratings sketchy. I would five-star something and then change my mind a week later ...I have no conviction. I'm wishy-washy like charlie brown)

Karen Mahoney said...

Great topic - as usual. :)

Okay, so as a writer with books up on Goodreads... no, I have never and would never rate my own books. (And if I did I wouldn't give them 5-stars because I have zero self-confidence. LOL!)

But no... I don't do that, but I guess I'm not going to get into what I think of other authors who do. I'm sure I've got friends who have, so I will take the Fifth. ;)

However, I WILL say... I love Goodreads because I love to talk about books, but I find the whole system flawed. e.g. It really irritates me when people rate books that haven't been published - people do that all the time!!

Someone has rated The Iron Witch 4 stars, and I'm still REVISING it. Um... I'd like to know how they hacked into my Word documents and read my in-progress manuscript so they could rate me at 4 stars. O.o

I think a lot of readers rate their favourite authors with 5 stars, because they are rating their EXCITEMENT over a book. But that's just... weird. I wish the Goodreads system - along with making it so authors can't rate their own books - would block ratings for books until the publication date has been reached. That might work...although it would mean that we can't rate ARCs we read. So maybe it wouldn't work. Hmm... (Just thinking aloud, here.)

Anyway, sorry - diversion! You weren't talking about Goodreads in general. :)

Re. the author thing, there are also all the lists and ratings on those. Like, there's a list for YA books coming out in 2011 - my books is on there, and if I wanted to to I could vote for my own book to push it up the chart. I haven't done that, either. That would be a bit... strange. For me, anyway.

You know, I almost cancelled my Goodreads account the other day, because I think about this stuff a lot. Maybe I shouldn't be reading and rating books. But then again, I ADORE reading and I love to talk about the books that made my heart soar. I only ever give 3-5 star ratings (and mostly 4 or 5). Not because I'm being dishonest, but because if I didn't enjoy something as much... well, I'm not going to talk about that. I just take it off my list and don't mention it. I know how hard it is to write a novel, so even if something doesn't work for me as a reader I won't knock that author in public. I'd hate to see that happen to me - a fellow writer giving my book 1 star... *shudders*

Anyway, I have now written an essay and will go away. ;)

Kaz

p.s. Adele, what do you think about authors being active on Goodreads, in general? Maybe I should stick to writing books and keep my reading more private. Or just mention books I love on my blog - which I'll never stop doing!

prophecygirl said...

I've only noticed this once just recently, when I saw a debut author give her own book a 5 star rating. I don't like it, full stop. For all the reasons you mentioned.

Mundie Moms said...

Great topic and great comments! I like what you've mentioned. I haven't personally minded, I mean, I do think it's a little silly. I just take into account they wrote it and not to sound rude, I over look their own personal rating.

For me, if the system was a lot more accurate than I would be bothered. With readers who rate books when they note they haven't read it and can't wait to read it, and yet still give it a star rating, that alone irks me more than the author who rates their book.

I think for the most part, an author is just excited their book is out and in turn rate it, knowing it's not really going to effect their book's rating system any way. *I could be wrong on that thought process*

Alex (Tales of a Teenage Book Lover) said...

I don't really have a big problem with it. I think they just do it to make their book have a higher rating. Higher rating = more people who will want to read it = more money for author.

Pens said...

I usually assume that it is done in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way, otherwise I agree with everything you said. I don't think anyone should give themselves 5 stars unless they are John Steinbeck or someone like that ;)

Jami said...

It doesn't bother me at all. I think it should be obvious they feel it's 5 star anyway, because they wrote it. Besides, when I am curious about a book, I don't go by how many five stars the book has. I actually read some of the reviews. That's where the real opinions are. The stars can be misleading sometimes. I have seen some people click 3 stars, then say nothing but nice things about the book.

Carin said...

It is awkward. I can see it both ways. When I first joined Goodreads, I was worried about what to do re: the books I edited when I was in publishing. At first I didn't rank them (and I had a note on my profile about it) but it always made me uncomfortable that these books that I really had loved and had spent a great deal of time working on continued to not be ranked in my lists, even though I had starred almost everything else. Eventually, I did give them all 5-stars (I'm also uncomfortable admitting to favorites among them and admitting which ones I only like and don't love), and again I have a note about it, and I've identified them all in my tags. There's no ideal solution I don't think.

Jennifer (Crazy-for-Books) said...

I was thinking about this recently! I had just read an book, wrote my review, and went to Goodreads and saw that the author gave themselves a 5 star review! I would have given i 4 stars, but I was shocked that this author did that!! It made me a bit uncomfortable about reviewing the book! Does this seem to be happening a lot more??

Amanda said...

I have actually decided against reading a book simply because the author gave himself a 5 star rating. I don't think it's right...for all the reasons you already said.

Life After Jane said...

It's tacky. I realize it is usually done in jest but I think it's unnecessary.

I agree with you about it warping the ratings. The rating system on goodreads is sketchy at best- it doesn't need anything else warping it further.

Lauren said...

I've noticed this a few times, but I always just assumed they were doing it in a tongue-in-cheek way. Like, 'I'm obviously the writer of this book, and hell yeah I'm giving it five stars!' Plus, one author's rating is hardly likely to affect the overall average rating that much.

To be honest, if a writer is going to rate their own book, five stars bothers me less than four stars. If you're giving your own book five stars I'll assume you're kind of kidding, but if you give it four stars it's like you're taking it too seriously, or you think you're being objective.

If it were me, I wouldn't rate my own book at all. Because even if you are kidding, not everyone will get that. However, in some ways it's much more honest than just getting a bunch of family and friends to go on and give five stars - which probably happens. It's probably wisest to just not do it.

Abby said...

I think you're right, that it's somewhat squicky for authors to rate their own books, but I can see why they do it. I'm much more likely to click through and learn more about a book if it has a 5 star rating than if it has no rating. But I don't think the Goodreads system should be more restrictive to prevent it. To me, that strays too close to censorship. I think it's up to us as critical readers to pay attention to who's rating what and why.

On a somewhat related topic, I find it annoying when authors I've friended on Goodreads send me a book recommendation... for their own book. That's a quick way for me to defriend someone.

simmone said...

People are so MEAN if they think authors rate themselves! where is the love?? :) most writers I know are total humblebums
also - in a lot of cases, writers aren't getting publicity love from their publishers - I think a bit of proactive-ity can't hurt
most authors don't get a squillion free copies to give away - if they're lucky they can have a handful of arcs sent to the bloggers of their choice but it's a big sea out there.

Jacqueline C. said...

I agree with you Adele. While I can understand that they may want to promote their book as much as possible, affecting the reader ratings isn't an appropriate way to go about that. I often check out what people say on Goodreads because I expect to get unbiased opinions but that won't remain true if an author uses the forum to give themselves a high rating. I've notice that sometimes they also get their friends to do the same.

If an author wants to promote their work on sites like Goodreads, they should use the proper channels. That's partially what the groups on the site are for. I don't mind getting a group invite from an author to discuss their work.

Like Abby, I also hate when an author friends me for purely promotional reasons. I try to head those friend requests off by ignoring them, however, that's not always possible.

Great topic! This issue has irked me from time-to-time and I'm glad to see that other people have noticed and called authors on it.

Audrey; (AyC) said...

The first time I saw an author do that I didn't really like it,but in the end theres going to be hundreds of readers and hundreds of ratings that the 5/5 won't really matter. It is kinda in my pet-peevish pile, but I won't pay too much attention to it :) interesting post!

Sommer Leigh said...

I honestly don't think it is that big of a deal. I would expect an author would rate their own book five stars anyway, so why pretend otherwise? I can also see the excitement of a debut author just wanting to see their own book ranked on their own list. Who wouldn't if they had their own book? I do not expect authors are huddled over their GoodReads account, rubbing their hands together and laughing maniacally because they totally just pwned the system and got their book bumped up one slot higher.

Also, the reason I like GoodReads is because you've got this great pool of people from all walks of life, all opinions, all experiences rating books on completely different systems of scoring. Because everyone involved is so deeply subjective over different aspects of the book (the writing, the cover, the plot, the pacing, the characters...) you actually end up with a much more objective overall score.

And because the author's mom, brother, best friend, husband/wife all get to rate the book at 5 stars probably isn't any different than the author themselves doing it, it all goes into the same pot. I mean, does it make you feel better knowing that an author probably thinks their book is five stars but to be PC they abstain from claiming their book on their GoodReads account so no one thinks they love their book TOO much?

I don't know. I just don't think it matters all that much. Good for them for having a book out there in the first place!

ham1299 said...

I have seen it before, and it's never bothered me. I figure they're just proud of their work.

Adele said...

Thanks for all the responses.

This is not an issue I dwell over but when I see it on Goodreads I am put off. Even if it is meant as funny how am I supposed to know? Tone really isn't conveyed well on the internet.

As for promotion etc I do understand and it will probably work. Authors should be proud of their work. But as an Aussie, I have an issue with tall poppies. I think it is better to not rate at all. In my case, seeing an author give themselves a high mark does make me wary of the author. That being said, it's Goodreads so it doesn't matter all that much. The recommending one's own work is in bad taste though.

This whole issue is a pet peeve but it is worsened when I know the author is still in edit phase and they've given themselves 5. Like what? So I have to immediately assume that a) it is a joke that isn't funny or b) someone who is really excited to be published or c) someone who will find the edit stage a trifle hard...if anything it points out the many issues with Goodreads.

kate.o.d said...

what is this goodreads? why is it so popular? i've just had a bit of a squiz and seems to me like it is basically one big advertisement for amazon. me no likey. GO INDEPENDENT BOOKSHOPS!

Carla said...

I wasn't going to chime in on this discussion but then I thought why the heck not. To be honest, it doesn't bother me what they do on goodreads, if they want to post star ratings on their own books then it's their perogative. However, as much as it didn't bother me before this post, this has got me to thinking about it a bit more.

I think to rate your own book is equal parts presumptious and misleading and a bit manipulating in a way, but not in a bad "I am going to bend your mind" kind of way. I think that it's hard to take a star rating of a book done by an author too seriously, because it just makes me feel a bit icky.

I know a lot of love and care goes into writing a book, I can only imagine how much of their hearts they pour into those words on pages. I get it, I really do, but to star rate your own work kind of just undermines it all a little in the long run. For one, like you said, reviewing is extremely subjective, and its for that reason its so popular and blogs are stilling popping up.

It kind of sets the tone for how your going to be perceived, and I can imagine that some people may feel bad for rating it lower than that which the author has rated it. This would never stop me, but you know, it could do. It could affect someones rating, just by accident. Saying that, some authors I know have done it in a mocking way, as part of a joke. But ultimately, this could be perceived as something utterly different by other people. Heck, some people might just think "oh your such a bighead" and not buy the book because they think the author has been blowing their own trumpet way too loud. It could be a hindrance for them.

Authors have to much invested in their own books, it's a piece of them, to rate their work fairly and justly. Being humble can go a long way.

alybee said...

Interesting post and the comments have been fascinating to read. I'll throw my thoughts in with all the others. First, I would expect an author to want to give their book 5 stars. It would be weird in some ways to see anything else. So I think I have basically ignored "their rating". It doesn't change how I see the book or what I will rate it.

What I do think is weird is for readers to rate a book that isn't even in ARC form yet. There are books that I was excited about that completely disappointed me. So that part is silly.

I realize that many authors rate books primarily 4 & 5 but they usually have a disclaimer somewhere that says that they only add their favorites. I get that - you don't want to be trashing the work of other authors.

Personally, the rating system on GoodReads is off. I want to be able to give a 3.5 sometimes but there isn't a way to do that. Sometimes even if I didn't really like a book I recognize that others will like it (well written or will appeal to a specific reader) and I will rank it higher than if it was just for me. And some books I don't rank at all because frankly, I don't know what to do with them. If I have taken time to finish the book, I will likely give it at least a 3. Books that I won't finish I will not rank or review. Maybe just remove them.

Finally, I have learned which blogger/friends are generous with their ratings and which tend to be harsher. So when I see a generous rater mark something really low...then it means something. And when I see a tougher rater mark something at 5 stars then it usually tells me a lot.

Thanks for doing the post. Great discussion.

Allison said...

I have mixed feelings about this. If it is an author that just rates all their books 5 stars with no comments in the review section...THAT bugs me.

If an author rates their book 5 stars, and then goes on to either make fun of themselves for doing so, or saying something really witty that makes me laugh...I let those slide :) there are a few that do that.

Patti O said...

I think it's silly, but to be honest, I don't pay that much attention. Most of the authors I'm friends with on Goodreads don't seem to do that, and most of the authors I know that do it, I usually think they're doing it tongue-in-cheek.

I'm on Goodreads to connect with other readers, and to find about more good books for my endless TBR pile. I enjoy Goodreads thoroughly.

Pam said...

I really think it would be in Goodreads interest to stop allowing that in general. I have emailed an author back after a pitch telling them I would not review their book because of their own self rating. It's annoying and no self respecting author would do that surely.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

I don't mind. After all, it's only one vote :)

lili said...

I have a (lapsed) LibraryThing account, and I always add my own books (I have, after all, read them), but I never rate them. It is totally squicky.

But I don't think it should be BANNED. Because where do you draw the line? Can my parents rate my book? My editor? Publicist? Agent?

Penni said...

I wouldn't do that. Because it would be embarrassing and cringeworthy and sad. And because I don't think it's in any way useful to a potential reader to say 'hey I wrote this and it rules'.

Though I have been known to anonymously tick a good review as 'useful' on a bookselling site.

Joanne Horniman said...

I wouldn't rate my own books on Goodreads as it does seem strange (I don't rate anything there anyway as I don't belong).

But writers can be objective about their own work, over time. I would definitely rate some of my books as better than others.