Most people shoot from the hip when rating things. Being a computer scientist by day I see that as too random, arbitrary and error prone. So sometime back I thought out an easy way to provide consistent ratings when I rate a book. Before we go futher let me assure you this is NOT about you using my scales, instead this is all about discovering your personal measures for rating. This has nothing to do with anyone else but you. Once you are aware of your own measuring scale you can fairly rate other books against that measure and thus feel good about being consistent with your handing out of those most cherished golden stars.
First define a list of your all-time favorite classics for a given genre, you only need a handful to start, your list will expand with time. Next rate those books on your list of classics using this same system and scales (you can go back and adjust if you change your mind). Once you have this list, which you can add to or take away from at any point you want, you have a stable measuring scale.
The rating system scale is based on four things: plot and theme, characters, language/voice, and writing. Each element gets zero to five stars on the scale of zero being horrible, three stars is good, and five stars it is as good or better than anything else you have seen.
Plot and theme assessment is about how the story develops is there a world that exists beyond the book and does the book interact with that world in an interesting way? It is easy to spot random events tossed in to add action and excitement. You can define what is important to you here. For example I like to see that setbacks are believable, things develop and interactions twist the fates of the characters.
Character assessment is all about if the beings we are introduced to are unique within the constraints of the world. Each character no matter how trivial should be a distinct individual. Any characters the book follows should grow, learn, and change based on events, actions, and interpretations within that character’s own world view.
Language and voice assessment is basically can you tell who is speaking or thinking as you read the dialog. Are the voices so distinct that just reading what is said is enough to clearly define which character said it? This is a very difficult skill to develop and it takes a great deal of effort to keep all the characters from talking in the author’s own voice. I suggest being a little forgiving with this value.
Writing assessment is completely about grammar, word usage, and originality. Many authors (myself included) easily fall prey to standard colloquialisms and repetitive standard descriptions. Again this is a skill that requires constant care and maintenance. This is the easiest of all the elements to fix through good editing. Indie authors and publishing house authors have little excuse for not having at least two editorial passes.
Now there are four elements of the book rated between zero and five stars. The final rating isn’t really an average of those. Instead look carefully at the ratings. If anything is below three stars you might consider giving that author a private note with suggestions for improvements.
If none of the four elements is below three stars and two or more are five stars (superb performance) that earns five stars.
If none of the four elements is below two stars and two or more are four stars (better than ‘good’ performance) that earns four stars.
If none of the four elements is below two stars and two or more are three stars (‘good’ performance) that earns three stars.
If none of the four elements is below one star and two or more are two stars (average performance) that earns two stars.
If two or more elements are two stars (average performance) that earns two stars.
All others earn one star.
Now if I cannot give at least a four star rating I will not post my review to Amazon because Amazon’s rating system is horribly skewed and low ratings are book killers. I will post my review to Goodreads or other sites if it is at least three stars. If I am not pleased with the book I will try to send the author a private email with my ratings and constructive feedback.
Thanks for reading this! I hope it helps you. I’d love to hear your feedback on this system so email me or comment here!