Why I Don’t Rate Books

I am just going to come out and say it. I don’t like, nor do I, rating books. Now, people usually stare at me with a look of incredulity when I tell them that I enjoy every book I read. Now, what I will say will probably confuse people, and maybe it might rub you the wrong way, but hear me out. For me, it almost feels presumptuous to believe that your opinion matters to a work of art. I can hear the cacophony from here, and I know, I hear you. However, I loathe when people talk about what they think is wrong with my work as a writer. 

Many of you will disagree with me, but writing books/poetry is not a science. We write stories! Some make a living out of it, and others don’t. But, we make the material up from our heads. There are no concrete answers, no right or wrongs, just magic. How cool is that?! I vehemently refute the idea that there are objectively bad and good books. Everything is subjective in this industry, and we would all do well to remember that. Don’t fall into the trap of self-importance where you begin presenting your feelings as cold hard facts. 

In my experience, people promote critique groups with the shallow notion that you haven’t slaved over your work enough. Therefore, others can mould your piece into gold. Personally, I write the essay/story/poem and post it on my blog or send it to a Journal. I have given up trying to discuss this with others because they bite back with this insulting argument that my work isn’t good enough and needs improvement, which brings out conflicting emotions. Should I be hurt, angry, or humoured? 

It surprises me that people seem to fight against kindness and tact the most in this industry. You can pay editors to correct your grammar and punctuation, which is completely fine, but they have another option. That is to rip your work apart and tell you what they think. Why does their opinion matter? Why do they believe they are so talented or astute that they can stick their hand into my literary organs? It’s peculiar, and I don’t think I will ever understand that. 

I had many experiences with this kind of thing when I wrote on Medium last year. An editor returned the short story I had submitted to me with a conditional acceptance. They wanted me to make changes to the piece. Most of it seemed fine, but we got into a disagreement about one particular phrase. I triple checked it, and I was now sure that it was grammatically correct. But, this editor continued to fight me on it, insisting they were right and that their ‘experience’ proves that. The stench of ego began to seep through their messages, and I was now prepared for what approach I needed to take. 

After consulting many people, we all agreed that I was right. Their suggested changes would have made the sentence in question nonsense. Eventually, they claimed that we looked at it too long and should continue the discussion the following day. I firmly told them that I was withdrawing the piece. After that, I submitted it to another magazine that accepted it without any changes. I felt slightly smug at that moment, but I knew I was correct. So, the point in telling this story is that you must be on guard. The advice I give to newer writers is to hold your own and stand up for your work because they are the most susceptible to this behaviour. 

People seem to believe that good reviews are dishonest. That is entirely untrue. As I said earlier, I find value in every book I read. So, if I decide to review a book, it will be positive. There is a culture of writers telling people to separate themselves from their work, but that is impossible because I am my work. Nobody else wrote it. I did. I picked up the pen, had the thoughts necessary to create it, and I moved my hand in a way that would make the ink spill onto the page. The work is an extension of you. 

I will never rate books because I am not critical, and I feel it disrespectful to the authors. I will give five stars when I post my reviews as ratings help authors sell books. In my life, I always try to be kind to others, and I never want to hurt anybody. This approach factors into my values. Even if you disagree, all I ask is to consider my stance. You will most likely still disagree, but I want people to think about this from an unpopular perspective.

5 Comments

  1. I do agree with you on many points. I do rate books, sort of as a side job. The one thing I don’t do though is rate what the author is trying to convey. My ratings are more on whether there was complexity in the plot or not, or whether there seemed to be loose ends. I think it can help an author to get feedback on what works or doesn’t work, but I think you are right about judging too harshly. I have found that a few books I have read I have wanted to give bad ratings because I hated the endings! I don’t do that of course. I sit back and think of the things I liked. I also think that maybe hating the ending is part of loving the book, like it threw me for a loop. As a teacher I have always tried to find a way to help the writing process not the thought process.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The thing is, what doesn’t work for you, works for the author. And, who are we to decide what works? The book is out there, completed, and up for sale! So, I guess I believe in the intention of art and knowing that authors know their babies (as a writer myself).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, you are correct. Maybe its that the reviews are more for other readers than the author. I mean it is a published work. It’s not like they are going to say “Oh, someone didn’t like the ending, let me change it!” I would say it is all perspective. I think having a book published is a feat in itself. I write too and have a few children’s books published but I am my worst critic, I don’t need anyone else. I found all the mistakes or things I could make better if I were to republish!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The issue is that people put so much stock into reviews that they are often turned off a book because of its reviews. Weirdly, they lose their sense of self and take on the opinions of others. I write poetry, fiction, essays, and other stuff. A lot of it falls under the bracket of ‘transgressive’.

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