Indie Book Reviews

If you are interested in having me review a copy of your self-published book, head over to the review submission page.

The current 5-star rating systems on most book websites is horribly flawed for rating books. In my mind, I must equate the stars to percentages, equally spaced, which total 100%. Yet, since you aren’t able to select zero stars, that means that 1-star must necessarily be 0%. 5-stars is obviously 100%, which leaves only three positions to divide up the remaining percentage points. So in that rating system, I must assume that 1-Star=0%, 2-Stars=25%, 3-Stars=50%, 4-Stars=75%, and 5-Stars=100%. Putting that in terms of school letter grades, you have the option to give a book an ‘A’, the option to give the book a middling ‘C’, or three options to give the book a big, fat ‘F’. That doesn’t seem fair to the author who has spent so much time working on the project, especially so for the indie author who may only ever get a handful of reviews/ratings in the first place.

While it may seem completely reasonable to give a 1-Star rating to a pair of tube socks you bought that came with no elastic and three sizes smaller than advertised, the same does not should not apply to books. With books, it is extremely difficult to be objective about the material you are rating, and that is particularly unfair to the author. A 1-Star rating of a book should extremely rare, but so should a 5-Star rating. Yet, again and again, you see books with a lot of 5’s, some 1’s and a couple fours, with nary a 2 or 3 between them. The rarity of a 2 or 3 should itself is the best evidence that the system simply doesn’t work.

Because my only option to rate books on the major websites is with the horribly flawed system, I have decided to instead review the books on my own website. While I will ultimately award a rating that fits with the 5-star rating system, I am not using the stars to rate the book itself, but to rate whether I would recommend the book. My rating of the book will be broken down into five categories which I will score from 0-10. I have specifically chosen categories which will apply to all books. There is no action category, for instance, because that would apply only to specific genres of books.

The categories I will rate are as follows (and will be described in brief a bit down the page):

While I don’t believe that I will be able to be completely objective about books in all genres, I certainly do believe that I can give them fair ratings in those specific categories. This is the best way I can think of to be fair to a book. If, for instance, I rate a romance novel, I have no basis for comparison, as I don’t read the genre. What I do have is the ability to rate those five categories as fairly as possible and hopefully give an overall recommendation based on whether you should read the book, instead of being based directly on those scores. While this may seem overly complicated, I want to be able to be both critical of the book (in my 0-10 star ratings of the categories) to try to maintain integrity as a reviewer, while still being fair to the author (in the one to five star recommendation).

The scores in each of these categories will be as accurate as I can make them, but will not reflect on the final ‘Star Rating’ of the book. The actual ‘star ratings’ that I reward will be my recommendation of whether or not you should buy and or read the book. Those ratings will be roughly:

★★★★★ Buy the book and put it at the top of your queue.
★★★★☆ Buy the book and read it when you have a chance.
★★★☆☆ Download it if you see it on a free promotion but don’t pay for it.
★★☆☆☆ Only if it’s free and you have nothing else to read.
★☆☆☆☆ Avoid at all costs, unless you are looking for something to read over the PA to demoralize the prisoners in your internment camp.

Because I am making this up as I go along, you should also know that the ratings in each category will not be averaged to make the final score. It is entirely possible that I could give a book a 4/10 in 4/5 categories and still give it a ‘★★★★★ Buy the book and put it at the top of your queue’ rating. This is because a book is not pair of socks. A book can have an average story and average characters but be original enough that it merits reading. Or not be original at all, but be engaging enough, or have unique enough characters, that it also deserves a spot on your list.

So the finalized categories I will be rating are these:

Story/Plot: Is just like it sounds. Is the story good? Is the plot good? Is it believable? Failing that, can you suspend your disbelief? Is the story overlong? Is it too short? Did the story need to be told at all?

Characterization: Are the characters believable? Do the characters have real human emotion? Do the characters behave consistently? Are the characters compelling?

Originality: This will be the most difficult one to be objective about. I may think that a story is original just because I haven’t read the story it was stolen from. I can only do my best here, since I am not familiar with many genres.

Readability: This will encompass many things, but mostly focus on things like spelling, grammar, punctuation and formatting. I am not a grammar Nazi, but if any of those things is too far off the mark, a book becomes unreadable. Swapping between character points of view without warning will also make it here, as that can be both confusing and annoying. Basically, anything that hinders your ability to read the book will show up in this rating.

Engagement: Is the book engaging? This one is also subjective. A thriller should obviously have high tension throughout, while other genres may simply require building enough interest in the characters that you want to see it thorough. If I make it all the way through a book, it will rate at least 7/10 in this category.[The previous statement did not hold true. I completely underestimated my perseverance when I had already paid for the book] I will always include why the book was engaging.

While this page will be for Indie Book Reviews, I am going to rate two Stephen King books and post their reviews to use as a placeholder and give an idea of how the system works. Note that I consider The Stand to be the best novel I have ever read, yet in my individual rankings, it rated lower than 11//22/63 (also one of my all-time favorite novels) in nearly every category (They are both very highly recommended reading, stop reading my reviews and go read them if you haven’t already done so). But it helps to illustrate the point that a simple 5-star rating can’t accurately reflect the score of a book, and sometimes the score of the book is much greater than the individual parts.

The Stand – Stephen King – ★★★★★
11/22/63 – Stephen King – ★★★★★