Some Changes Around Here: A Change to My Rating System

Posted June 18, 2018 by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction in Let's Discuss, WIFYR / 66 Comments

Hey, everybody! I’m back from WIFYR, and it was an amazing experience. I can’t even begin to tell you how wonderful it was to be around other writers and soak in all that writing knowledge and experience. I’ll be writing a few posts down the line about what I learned, but first I just wanted to tell you all about some changes I’m making to the blog.

Don’t worry, you’re not going to notice any HUGE differences. But this conference solidified something I’ve been thinking for quite a while: as an aspiring author, I need to shift my reviewing style slightly, and I will no longer be including negative reviews on my blog.

I know some of my fellow bloggers will be instantly put off by this, and I get it. I do. Like I said, this is something I’ve been contemplating for quite some time, but I hadn’t pulled the trigger because I was conflicted about it. As reviewers, we value our integrity, and we don’t want to be seen as that reviewer who gushes about every book, completely ignoring a whole host of flaws. I still don’t want that. And I promise that I won’t be throwing my integrity out the window — if I don’t like a book, I won’t be making up good things to say about it, I simply won’t feature it here (or on my Goodreads account).

But, why?

I’m not a particularly negative reviewer anyway. If you look at my review list you’ll see almost 600 reviews at 4 stars or above. And even my negative or neutral reviews tend to have a “this book just wasn’t for me” vibe to them rather than a “this was horrible, why on earth was it written?” vibe. So, why change anything at all?


The facts:

Getting published is hard. There are a lot of roadblocks and there’s a ton of competition. And, let’s face it, every negative review I post could possibly be an additional roadblock I’ve constructed for myself. There’s a whole slew of people who might be hurt by the negative things I say (consciously or subconsciously):

  • The author (obviously): If I get published, I’ll hopefully be interacting with other authors. How awkward would it be if I reviewed their book poorly? Even if I gently pointed out my difficulties with their book, they couldn’t help but feel put off, right? It’s human nature!
  • Editors and agents: Every traditionally published book out there has a whole team of people who helped put it together. We think of a book as belonging to an author, but I know from experience (from the freelance editing I’ve done) that editors (and others) put a lot of their heart and soul into a book as well. An agent or editor who’s considering working with me might think twice if I’ve said negative things about a book they worked hard on.
  • Friends of the author: The writing community is close-knit. You never know who might be friends with who and how hurt they might be because you slighted a friend.

Now, of course, my book should stand on its own and be judged on its own merits, and most industry people probably try hard to put personal feelings aside (after all, they want to sell books, and if my book is good and they think it will sell …), but we’re all human. It’s impossible to completely ignore negative feelings that might come up when someone expresses that they dislike something you worked really hard on. In the blogging world, this is something that we just have to deal with … but in the publishing world, this could hurt my chances for publication.

It’s one thing to stand up for a cause that you truly believe in (for instance, when I tweet an article that highlights something about Trump that disturbs me). That could burn a few bridges, but it’s worth it because it highlights the kind of person I want to be. I don’t feel like negative reviews fall under that category (I suppose unless I found a book very problematic for some reason—but most of the time there are people who are much more qualified than I am to speak to that). So, I’m switching things up around here.

What will change?

Well, I still don’t have it all figured out completely, but here’s what I’m thinking:

  • No more negative reviews moving forward. This is pretty obvious, based on what I’ve said. If I don’t like a book, I simply won’t post a review. (I’m still figuring out how I handle this with publishers, authors, etc.)
  • Negative (and neutral-bordering-on-negative) reviews will be removed. 
    • Basically, if I can’t give a book four stars or more it will most likely come off the blog.
    • I’ve already started this process, but it will take me a little time to get it done completely (especially because it’s more complicated to remove books from my bite-sized review posts because of the graphics).
    • There might be a few exceptions of books that got 3.5 stars originally, but I feel like I would easily round up to four OR with books in a series where I enjoyed the series overall, but one book was slightly less enjoyable than the others. (I’m still feeling that out.)
  • Books on the blog are all books I’d recommend! This is, again, sort of obvious, but it deserves to be said. If you see a book featured on FYFA, you know I liked it and would recommend you read it!
  • Less focus on “What left me hungry for more”?
    • Here’s where it gets really tricky, and I haven’t decided how I’m handling it yet.
    • I will still probably do a quick mention of areas where I felt the book could be improved, but I won’t dwell on it as much.
    • I don’t want to be insincere on the blog and drive my readers away, but I also want to be sensitive to “The facts” as I’ve listed them above. This is a REALLY tricky balance, and I hope you’ll give me some grace while I figure it out.
  • Removal of star rating system? 
    • Again, I’m not 100% sure about this, but it’s something I’m contemplating.
    • I might use a “Worded” system (with fun food-related headings like “I Gobbled It Up”) instead of stars. This way, there’s still some delineation and people know how I feel about the books, but I’m not using a system as precise as star ratings. (I’ve actually thought about this for a long time anyway, since stars seem so rigid for such a subjective business as reading.)
    • If I do switch, I’ll include a key that explains the Worded rating system a little better.
  • More discussions/recommendations/writing process posts.
    • I won’t be writing quite as many reviews, so I’ll (hopefully) have more time for other things!
    • I plan to sprinkle in some posts about the writing and publishing process and things I’ve learned. Hopefully these will be broad enough that even those of you who don’t write will still find them interesting!

I hope you’ll stick with me on this journey!

But I’ll understand if I lose a few followers. I know that some people really don’t like bloggers who only stick to the positive, but I have to look at my blogging goals vs. my writing and life goals and make the choice that’s best for me. I think this is it.

One other point: I still invite open/honest discourse. If you disagree with me (here, in a discussion, or in a review), feel free to tell me so. I’m not trying to make this blog a “happy thoughts only” zone, and I value your opinions!

Have you ever considered adjusting the way you blog or review? Was it scary? (It is to me!) Do you have strong opinions about bloggers who do/don’t post negative reviews? I want to know!




66 responses to “Some Changes Around Here: A Change to My Rating System

  1. I got rid of negative reviews a long time ago. I don’t like writing them and authors don’t like getting them. If I don’t like a book, I just don’t review it. It simplifies things for me and then I get to keep my blog as a happy place where I can just talk about the books I love — which is why I started blogging in the first place!

    Good luck on your blog and reviewing updates! It takes a long time to go back through old posts and change them, but I think it’s worth the trouble.

  2. A long time ago we switched our blog from doing individual reviews and never looked back. We love our lists, and so we write about books when we’re writing about a particular theme. It’s mostly books we like, although we do have a few lists with books we didn’t love. You definitely have to find what works for you – especially as a professional in the space too … change is growth 🙂

  3. shooting

    I don’t really write a lot of negative reviews either. I tend to find positives where I can. Also, I try not to do star ratings that often – I do them a bit more on Goodreads but if it’s less than 3 stars or I just don’t know, I leave a star rating out. But basically, I think this sounds like a great plan for your blog and I totally get why you’d want to change the way you review! No problems with me; I like hearing positive things about books. 🙂 I know Cait from Paper Fury mentioned only sharing books she really liked now that’s a published author, so it’s not uncommon.

    Also, I’m so glad you had fun at your conference and I can’t wait to hear more about it!


  4. I think its a great idea. I don’t like doing negative reviews myself. I have some but I try to make them not so nasty. I think this will help you and I look forward to see all the books you recommend.

  5. Good luck with your changes! I’ve never put star ratings on my blog, and I’ve considered removing them from Goodreads. They’ve always seemed silly and super subjective to me. The only reason I haven’t deleted my ratings on Goodreads is because they make it easier to find which books I loved. I have a terrible memory.

  6. I have no problem with the changes you are considering. I don’t mind NOT reading negative reviews. I always kind of feel bad when I read them anyway. (And they are usually easy to find for ANY book, if you are looking for them.). My only comment is that I don’t really consider a “3” a negative review. It’s above average. (2.5 would be average on a scale of 5.) I’ve read plenty of reviews that were very helpful and positive that only gave a 3 or 3.5. Just my thoughts. Good luck!

    • I actually agree with you that 3 stars isn’t negative (which is why I added that neutral-bordering-on-negative caveat). Most of the time, for me, a 3-star review is a book that was fine but just didn’t shine. I debated about removing those, but decided to err on the side of only featuring books that I would really recommend, and when I looked back at my 3-star list most of them have pretty much faded from memory.

      Honestly, I think I tend to rate higher than a lot of other reviewers anyway, which is why I have almost 600 reviews at 4 stars or more.

  7. First–I’m so glad you enjoyed your writing workshop retreat! I totally knew what you meant about “time to yourself” even though you’re with a big group.

    Next–you run your blog however you want. You don’t owe us explanations, much less apologies. That being said, it makes perfect sense to think about the human piece behind reviewing. I tend to feel that unless a book super offends me (looking at you, Thirteen Reasons Why), there’s no need for me to talk about it. Professional reviewers need to share their opinions about all the books they read. We don’t. And as for star ratings, I’m like AJ in that I really only put them in for the sake of my own memory. I never even thought about how they might affect others until I started blogging many years after I started using Goodreads.

    • That’s how I felt about it too—It’s not like I’m a professional reviewer. I don’t have any “obligations” as a book blogger. I still struggled a little bit with the fear that people would think I was suddenly going to start being dishonest, but I got over it pretty fast.

  8. Welcome back from your writing retreat! Glad to hear you’ve enjoyed it. I would love to hear more about your publishing journey. You are not the first blogger-writer who said that no more negative reviews on blog and that’s perfectly fine by me. I always say “your blog your rules”, so yeah that.

    There’s a difference between overselling a book and not actually posting anything about it. Honestly, I am one of the people who side-eye book blogs which gives 5/5 the stars every single time or overly gushes in about every single book review. Unless like in your case, it is or it will actually be your policy to post positive reviews only. So thanks for letting us know about the upcoming changes in the blog and I will remain a loyal FYFA follower.

  9. I can’t wait to hear more about your writing conference! The struggle with reviews is real, and I think you need to do what is right for you! I always appreciate your balanced reviews, but going forward I will know that a book here is definite rec! I would also love to hear more about how you decide to handle this with review copies – it’s something I’m struggling with a bit myself!

  10. Do what you gotta do! It must have been a hard decision to make these changes. I think I would struggle with doing what you’re doing. BUT there’s nothing wrong with a positive-focused blog, right? Positivity is great! Good luck with everything!!

  11. When I first started my blog, I hadn’t planned on posting negative reviews. I’ve never understood why some people think that’s dishonest. There’s a huge difference between lying about your thoughts on a book vs simply not sharing your thoughts on a book. So I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not sharing negative reviews if you don’t want to, and I understand your reasons. And I’m definitely interested in learning more about your writing/publishing process! I actually know almost nothing about publishing, and even though I’d prefer to self-publish if I ever wrote a book, I’m always really curious about how traditional publishing works.

    • I agree, and I’m hoping that most people will see it that way. I do know there’s a bit of controversy about it, but I’ve never quite understood why either.

      Glad you’re interested in the writing and publishing posts too—I’m excited about those!

  12. Honestly, I don’t really even read books that I’m not liking anymore. I just don’t have time to waste on books I don’t like. If for some reason I finish a book but would leave a negative review, I rarely review it. So I get exactly what you’re saying. Unfortunately I almost lost a friend last year, still don’t have the same friendship anymore, because I gave her book 3 star reviews. Which to me, 3 stars isn’t bad. It just means it didn’t blow me away. I think your experience with writing also helps. I’m with you on this one!

    Lisa Mandina (Lisa Loves Literature) recently posted: Promo Post: On the Edge (The Edge Series #2) by CD Reiss
    • Yeah, a lot of people have said that about 3-star reviews. I do agree for the most part, but I know that a lot of authors and industry people can see 3 stars as negative, so I’m just drawing the line at 4 (with some wiggle room for 3.5, depending on my overall feelings).

  13. It seems like you have a lot going on right now! Good luck with your writing and figuring out the direction you want your blog to go in. It’s hard to change something you’ve been doing for years. I don’t review books that I didn’t like, but I still feature them on my blog when I do DNF&Y once a month. I just list the book and why it didn’t work for me. There’s no book or author-bashing, and I make it clear that what didn’t work for me might be what you love. You’ll just have to play around with it and discover what works for you now. <3

    L @ Do You Dog-ear?

    Lindsi recently posted: Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris
    • I think handling negative reviews is really a personal thing, and I don’t fault anyone for how they decide to handle it (with the exception of author-bashing, of course). I’m still figuring out the details for me, but I think this is a good direction.

  14. I have been feeling these same things. I keep my reviews positive, and do not write DNF reviews, because I respect that someone created something (which I cannot do), appreciate that their blood, sweat, and tears went into, but you know, everyone can’t love everything. I will never stop giving stars though. The stars and the words paint the full picture. I need them both to fully express how I felt about a book.

  15. I fall in the camp of bloggers who is fine both writing and reading negative reviews, although I won’t write a review at all if I didn’t finish a book. Like a couple others have said, I’m suspicious of blogs that only post glowing five-star reviews, but so long as a blogger has a clear policy about why they are only sharing their thoughts on books that reached a certain rating/enjoyment level that doesn’t damage their trustworthiness at all for me 🙂

    I’m so glad to hear that the writing workshop was a success! Good luck with the next steps in your writing and publishing journey and I can’t wait to hear more updates!

    JJ @ This Dark Material recently posted: my favorite bookish b*tches
  16. I’m pretty comfortable reading and writing negative reviews, though I know many bloggers who only write positive reviews. I have gotten annoyed more with BookTubers who only give positive reviews, but I think that falls more under that I was already getting bored with their content and found another thing to dislike. I understand the choice to write only positive reivews, but I’m not in a place to do it myself. I have changed review styles a couple of times, but it so far hasn’t been me committing to writing only about books I liked. I actually find it harder to write about books I loved.

    It’s an interesting point about hurting potential friends with negative reviews. I still think reviews are not intended for the author anyway, but I see how it would be taken as a slight. I also know that’s why I’ve seen a lot of advice to not review a friend’s book, especially if it turned out that you didn’t like it. I want to think about it some more for a while, and I look forward to seeing what you write.

    • I agree that reviews definitely aren’t intended for the author, but there’s no avoiding the fact that they (and editors and agents) could read them and form an impression of me—even subconsciously. So, for me, I think this is the best thing—but I agree that the best policy is one of honesty, and I definitely don’t want to just start gushing about books I didn’t even like.

  17. I totally get the negative review thing – actually, I avoid putting reviews lower than 2 stars on my blog for purely practical reasons – there’s enough content already, and I only want it to be good and content I’m excited about (posting takes up my energy and my time, so I want to spend that time wisely on something I was passionate about instead of lukewarm about). It might come across as if I only have good opinions of books – but I read more than I review on my blog. So why should I give publicity to books I disliked? Over the ones I liked? Doesn’t make sense. However, I still post it to Goodreads cause of NetGalley and stats. It just doesn’t get a lot of attention there, I guess xD and that’s okay.

    I sometimes do give bad reviews on the blog to the books that really angered me though. Like the Strain series. Which had pretty much no women, and I just had to talk about it. But that’s a whole ‘nother story 😀

    But yeah, your reasons for not publishing negative reviews are very good – that’s true, especially if it’s indie, posting a negative one might do more damage, and if it’s simply a preference thing, then why post it at all.

    You could use a similar rating system to the one in Litsy? Liked, didn’t like, bailed or DNF? That’s simple and very effective 🙂

    And I’m definitely sticking around 😀

    Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks recently posted: Quick Q&A With C.G. Drews, AKA Cait @ Paperfury!
  18. Whoa, that is definitely some changes. But it is actually really refreshing to see. I wish you all the luck on your author/publishing journey! I will be looking forward to reading your book when it’s done (seriously). And no worries! What you are doing is completely understandable, and I myself actually might make the same sacrifices if I’m in your shoes.

    • It’s such a delicate balance. When I started out with reviewing, I had pretty much put my dreams of writing aside. I felt like it was too late for me. But now that I’ve re-evaluated that, I’m realizing that reviewing AND writing presents some challenges!

  19. I had to write a negative review yesterday (it won’t be published on my blog for a little while). If it was a book that I had bought or got at the library, I probably wouldn’t have reviewed it, but I agreed to review it, so I didn’t really have a choice.

    I can see about not writing a negative review if you don’t agree to review it ahead of time. I didn’t really like reviewing it, because someone out there worked really hard on it. I tried to focus on the positive (it did have the potential to be a good story, at least), but I had to say the things I didn’t like. On my blog I don’t use stars. I guess that’s a good policy to keep. It’s hard to assign a number to a book anyway.

    • Yeah, that’s one of the things I’m trying to navigate right now. When I accept a book for review now I’m telling them upfront that I won’t post a review unless it’s four stars. But I have older books that I’ve received for review and I have to decide how to handle those. And then there’s NetGalley and Edelweiss—I might just post my reviews THERE without posting them in other places and see if that satisfies publishers.

  20. I rarely write negative reviews because, as you mentioned, there are so many people behind each and every book, every story—so I can completely understand your thoughts and changes here. Good luck with your new changes and your future writing too!!

    • Yes, we all realize that the author has a lot at stake with their book, but we kind of forget how many other people have worked hard on it too. I think negative reviews can be valuable, and I don’t begrudge anyone who posts them (unless they get nasty or hateful). But this is definitely the best thing for me at this point.

  21. Good for you! I think I rarely right a really negative review. I mean I mostly give 3 stars and above which I consider enough to check out the book if someone was interested. And I always try to point out the positives. But I totally get your point and where you are coming from. Good luck with the changes!

  22. I think there’s a difference between negative and constructive reviews. Reviews are more for the customer than for the producer(s), but understanding them also requires what Melissa Cassera adequately describes as the “note beyond the note”.

    On my own blog, I prefer not to post anything that I rate below 3 stars, which…ugh. I’m not big on star ratings for everything, but they work well for me things like books and movies.

    I actually like how you won’t be posting so many book reviews! I have a hard time keeping up with book blogs for that reason, especially since most review YA books and also frequently discuss romance, which is also usually between a man and a woman, and I am a lesbian…ha. I do wish you good luck on your journey and look forward to more discussion posts! I really love reading them and joining discussions, because it’s the whole reason I decided to immerse myself in this community!

    Since I’m not a book blogger (lifestyle!), I was initially trying to post book reviews on Mondays, but then getting sick really set me back awhile, so now I’m suuuper behind. Then the review programs I was part of made a lot of changes, but it’s okay because I wasn’t really supposed to be part of the majority in the first place…because I’m a lesbian, and that apparently equates me to not being “family-friendly” as per their standards. So my changes involve me blogging more about the topics that I couldn’t blog about while a member of these programs and spending more time reading what I like/want/etc. (I’m a mood reader), even if it means I only post book reviews twice a month instead of every Monday. I’m excited about it! 🙂

  23. Good luck with all of your changes. I know what you mean about the negative reviews. I try to keep my reviews as honest as possible but also try to keep any criticisms that I do have constructive rather than huge rants. Even then though, I don’t typically write reviews for books that I’m not willing to give at least 3 stars to. If I have nothing nice to say, I prefer to just say nothing and move on.

  24. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic. It’s interesting to read how an aspiring author may have a different perspective on writing negative reviews – what you’ve explained makes sense to me. I don’t mind if someone doesn’t want to share negative reviews. What bugs me, though, is when someone sugarcoats their reviews. I follow one blog that seems to only post 100% positive reviews and I can’t help but think “Really?” Those reviews don’t do much for helping me to decide whether I want to read a book.

    As an aspiring children’s librarian, I have shifted the tone of some of my reviews away from personal opinion towards more of a ‘professional’ opinion (ie consider how a kid would like a book rather than just how I like a book). But for me, blogging has always been a fun personal hobby and I don’t really want to spend too much time blogging as ‘librarian’ rather than as ‘myself’.

    Regarding star ratings – that’s another thing I’ve also considered changing because I don’t think they’re that helpful for people who read my reviews, BUT they’re helpful for me…maybe I’ll start keeping a private log of ratings for my own reference.

    (This is the longest comment I’ve written in awhile – I think I should write an actual post in response :P)

  25. Jen

    Oh I completely understand your thoughts and I think that that’s actually a wonderful plan to have in place. Good for you for doing what’s right for you *hugs*. And I’m so excited for this new path you will be traveling down!

    I personally like Star Ratings because it helps me better understand how a person rates that book compared to other books they’ve read in that genre. But that’s just my weird personal thing and probably no one else even follows the same way I rate my books by genre. So yeah. LOL. ♥

    I try my hardest to be super picky and not read books I won’t like. I did try some new authors coming to RT and I thought my feelings for their books would be iffy and I should have trusted my gut. So in the last 12 months I ended up with three books that had 2 Star Ratings and zero books with 1 Star Reviews. If I would have trusted my gut I only would have had one 2 Star Review book, bummer! I personally try to write my low rating reviews in a way that explains what didn’t work for me or if there was a trigger that ruined the book for me. But I don’t ever like reviews where they bash the author or the story. What if that was your mom’s book and they were reading that review?!?!?! ACK!!! I can’t even.

    • I barely ever rate books less than three stars either. Honestly, I can usually find plenty of things to enjoy about most books. And I’m still slightly on the fence about the star rating thing. But I’m trying this for now, and we’ll see how it goes.

  26. Good for you for figuring out what you need to do and making a plan to go for it. 🙂 I don’t really like to post negative reviews on my blog either, and there are enough book reviews and other types of post that anything below 3 stars rarely makes it on there, haha. I do appreciate negative reviews that spell out why the reader didn’t care for the book because they help me cull my (totally out of hand!) TBR some, but I can understand why you don’t want to post negative reviews. I hope you don’t lose too many followers, and if you do that they’re replaced with people who are interested in some of the other, non-review types of posts you’ll be posting more! 🙂 Last (but not least) GOOD LUCK with your writing (and getting published 😉 ) endeavors!

  27. How do I keep missing stuff!? And then randomly finding it weeks later!? Erm. Anyway. So I think that you basically HAVE to do whatever you feel most comfortable with- especially in the case of you trying to actually be published. And if this makes you comfortable, I feel pretty secure in saying that 99% of your followers (present company included) will be right there with you!

    It IS an interesting question though, and I am quite surprised at how many people also don’t publish negative reviews. I think there IS a shift lately- fewer snarky reviews, more positivity. And that’s certainly a nice thing! I feel like for me, personally, I need a balance on my own blog. I don’t know what that would mean if I were ever in your situation (you know, doing awesome, trying to publish ha), because I have suuuper mixed feelings about it all. Like- I get it 100%, especially since you might actually be these people’s peers. I honestly just think if I were published, I’d stop reviewing altogether because I’d be too afraid? But I also think I would leave everything right where it is, and keep doing it until it DID matter because that’s just how I roll. Like- if someone is going to only be friends with me if I only had ALL positive stuff to say about a book they wrote 5 years ago… maybe I don’t need that person in my life hahah. (In truth, I say this NOW, but who knows if it happened? Maybe I’d feel differently!)

    Anyway. I just think it’s great that you are doing what is best for you. I think that is, at the end of the day, the ONLY thing that matters, who even cares if someone is mad? Though honestly I don’t think they will be mad. I won’t be as long as you still promise to tell me privately if something sucks since we are book twinsies 😉

    • Yeah, I actually really struggled with it because I’ve always felt that being honest (but kind) is the way to go. When I went to this conference, that’s what drove it home for me, though. Kelsy Thompson at Jolly Fish Press did a presentation on social media, and she stressed how agents and editors will check you out first thing. She had read my query and first two pages and really liked them and asked me to submit to her—since they’re a small press, I started wondering if I’d reviewed any of their books. I had reviewed two Flux books (the YA branch of the same publisher) and they were both decent reviews, but it started to make me think—if I had reviewed those books badly, it would be sure to put a bad taste in her mouth. Even if she wasn’t intentionally holding it against me, it would have to be at the back of her mind, right? It would form some sort of subconscious impression at the very least.

      Then a guy in my workshop mentioned that he had given the person who runs the conference a three-star review for one of her books and she was a little bit hurt, even though he didn’t think it was a bad review. He felt like they never quite got completely past it (not that she was outwardly mean to him or anything—it was just an awkwardness that he wishes wasn’t there). Again, it made me think. I had to evaluate whether those reviews are more important to me than the bridges I might be burning, and I decided I’d rather have better chances for a successful career. After all, I’m starting out a lot later than most people!

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