The Downside of Goodreads Ratings by Mae Clair

No, I’m not talking about one-star reviews. Thankfully, I’ve been spared that particular blemish, but I’m sure my day is coming. The greater audience you manage to reach, the more opinions in the fold. It goes with the territory.  As writers, I think most of us learned early on you have to have a thick skin.

But I recently discovered a side of Goodreads I didn’t know about.

Close up of woman reading bookAs a reader, I enjoy GR. It helps me track what I’ve read, and what I want to read. It sorts, categorizes, allows me to set challenges for myself, and hang out with like-minded bibliophiles. I’ve gotten great book recommendations through the GR newsletter and other members.  So far, GR is looking pretty golden, right?

Check.

As an author, I appreciate the platform it gives me. I know I don’t use it as effectively as I should, but I do use numerous features available to authors consistently. I’m thrilled by the exposure it allows. As for those features I’m still trying to determine how best to utilize, I need to squirrel away the time to study them in detail.

My bad, which means we’re still golden.

Now we come to ratings. And flexibility. Yeah, notice the last word.

As I reader, I look for those snazzy GR stars (along with reviews) to help me determine what to read next. As an author, I’m able to see how readers view my work. Whether we choose to admit it or not, stars count. So what do you do when a reader ranks a book they haven’t read—that hasn’t even been released?

Did you know about this?

Open book on spine with middle pages curved to form a heartApparently, some GR readers use the star rankings to determine how eager they are to read an upcoming release. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing if that particular ranking system was kept separate from standard review rankings, but Goodreads lumps them all together. Am I the only one who was clueless?

In the past, when I looked at ratings on GR, I assumed the person ranking one of my books had actually read the novel and rated it without giving it a review. Now I wonder if that was even the case.

Worse, I presently have a 3-star ranking on a book that hasn’t been released yet. ARCs aren’t even available. True, three-stars isn’t the end of the world but it can be when other GR members (like me) assume that person must have gotten an ARC and wasn’t all that impressed.

Would I be as bummed if the book had been given 4 or 5-stars?  Probably not.

But seriously–wouldn’t it be easier (not to mention less confusing) to have two rating systems for readers who want to use GR’s stars that way? Goodreads has already given us a “to read” shelf. Why not add a rating system within that shelf instead of muddying the review status?

What’s your opinion? Good or bad?

Do you use GR’s stars to determine what to read, or do you use them solely for review rankings?