One of the more popular tools in the industry right now for reviewing, discussing, and learning about new books is Goodreads. If you’re not familiar with the website, it allows users to rate and review books that they’ve read. Beyond that, there are book giveaways, opportunities to ask authors questions, and full-fledged communities forming around certain books or reviewers.
Debut authors are often advised not to spend too much time there. It’s a place where readers come to be open and honest about books. Sometimes that means glorious praise, and other times that can mean strong criticism.
I wanted to pause at the 100 review mark for Nyxia and provide some thoughts on the numbers and trends of just one book by one author. Let’s break down the categories and numbers!
Nyxia sits at 4.48 right now.
First, that’s a strong number. I’d honestly expect that to drop down closer to 4.20 as the book gathers more and more readers. I researched the ratings of some pretty standard genre books. Here are their ratings (all tested by massive readerships):
- Red Rising – 4.26
- A Game of Thrones – 4.44
- Hunger Games – 4.34
- Ender’s Game – 4.29
- Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone- 4.44
- The Giver – 4.12
- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 4.19
For even more context, the most highly rated debut book from this year (with over 1,000 reviews or more) is Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give. It comes in at a stunning 4.66, and that really shouldn’t surprise anyone considering that it’s been rightfully heralded as one of the most important books of the next decade. So 4.48 is a brilliant start, but I’m keeping enough perspective that I know that number might swing gently back toward 4.20.
RATING BREAKDOWN BY THE NUMBERS
- 5 Stars – 67 ratings
- 4 Stars – 20 ratings
- 3 Stars – 9 ratings
- 2 Stars – 2 ratings
- 1 Star – 2 ratings
Ratings are tricky, because people use different systems. A five-star in my mind is simply a book that I could enjoy with no huge hang-ups. For some people, it has to enter a rarely occupied tier of flawless books they’ll read over and over again. It just depends on personal preferences.
The simplest way to break this down? 67% of people loved the book. 87% of people fully supported the book and would recommend it. Three stars often qualifies as middle ground, and those kind enough to leave reviews made it very clear that they absolutely loved certain aspects of the book, but felt totally meh about others. So at the end of the day, just 4% of readers really didn’t care for the book (but more on that below!).
RATING BREAKDOWN BY GROUPS
My 5-Stars ranged from “I really loved this” to “If you buy just one YA book this year, make it this one.” I’m really pleased to have 67% land in this category. That’s a strong showing of people who really fell for the book.
Most of the 4-Star readers really liked the book, but had one slight detail that didn’t quite click, across a number of different categories. Some wanted more action, others wanted less. Maybe it evoked too much of another book or didn’t have enough description. Again, 4-Star reviews would definitely be considered statements of positive support, but most of these readers just a small change or adjustment.
3-Stars are, perhaps, the most confusing bunch. I have nine of them. The main theme that runs through this group is not that the book got something “a little wrong” as with the 4-stars, but rather that something they usually desire in a book was missing.
Some had thoughts on how trilogies should work, others couldn’t quite put their finger on what it was they were looking for and didn’t find. My favorite by far, though, said she really wasn’t all that into the book… until she finished it and couldn’t stop thinking about it. Having a book stick with the reader in that way is always fun for an author.
Furthermore, it’s interesting to note that several of these reviews are distinctly positive in spite of the rating. One reads simply,
“Ahhh…I needed a good piece of science fiction, and this did the trick. Obvious comparisons will be drawn to Ender’s Game, which is a much deeper–and better–story, but I thoroughly enjoyed Nyxia.”
So if these are included as “liking” the book, we could bump that approval rating up to 91 or 92%. Not too shabby.
I have two 2-star ratings. One came back in August, and is from someone who hasn’t read the book. I’d be more upset about that, but I know I have a few 5-stars that are from people who haven’t read the book either. Likely, this balances out. The second comes without review, so we have no insight into the rating or the reader’s thoughts.
The 1-star ratings are, perhaps, the most misleading. One does come from an actual reviewer, but the other one landed on my page in the early going and is from a reader who has most assuredly not read the book. So that means of my first 100 ratings, only one person read it and just straight up disliked it. Again, this is great news for an author.
Glad you asked. It is kind of a so what moment. Great books that sell very well can have low ratings. Phenomenally rated books can sell poorly. So what are we taking out of all this? I think, to some degree, I was hoping to see how the book transitioned from known readership into the unknown. My first 35 ratings are so come from known entities. Writers that I’ve met, friends who read the book, etc.
What followed after that, however, comes from NetGalley and book giveaways. It’s truly entering the territory where people who have no ties to me, and no obligation other than human decency, have started throwing their opinions around. To my great delight, those have been almost resoundingly positive.
It’s also made me think quite a bit about how I lower my empathetic thresholds as a reviewer, but raise them as an artist. I think people have every right to their opinions, and the whole point of Goodreads is to offer a public place to give those opinions and discuss or defend them with other fans. But I found myself weighing how I thought when I first saw that 1-star review… It was tough. Not a fun thing at all. But literally twenty minutes later, I was breaking down a recent RedBox rental with complete disregard for empathy with the creators. A switch certainly gets flipped when we transition to thinking about art to which we aren’t personally connected.
I’d close with some advice from authors. I posted this on Twitter, and just wanted to bring the list here for anyone who could use some advice on how to think about and respond to their own critiques on websites like Goodreads:
- Do celebrate good reviews. It’s fun to see people connect with something you created. You’re allowed to celebrate.
- Expect differences of opinion. That’s half the fun. The more widely read you are, the more variety you’ll see.
- Keep perspective: 64,000 people gave The Hunger Games a one-star review. I’m pretty sure they’ve all moved to a small town in Maine together to get away from Katniss.
- When you get a bad review, go give a book you love a positive review. It will make things like 120% better, I promise.
- Remember who you wrote the book for in the first place.
- Similar to critique processes: leave behind what isn’t helpful.
- Pick one review to hold tightly in your heart. Maybe from someone that’s in your target readership. Wear it like a talisman on the bad days.
- Don’t respond to negative reviews.
- Eat chocolate when necessary
Cheers! And a huge thanks to any and everyone who’s taken the time to read and review Nyxia. I’m honored and thrilled that the book found its way into your hands.