Posted in History

On Wearing Two Hats, or why I cleared my ratings on Goodreads

I love reading. I love thinking about why we tell stories and how the construction of narratives affects how we experience them. What works? What doesn’t work? Why do I like what I like?

I am also an author. I love telling stories and trying to apply what I’ve learned to make them better.

A while back, probably well over a year ago now (two years?), I rebranded this blog as The Writerly Reader. I wanted it to mostly be a book blog—a place to think  out-loud about the books I’ve read—but I also wanted room to talk about my writing and my career as an author. I wanted to have a place to wear both my hats. My “reviews” have a tendency to pick apart what I’ve read, so I’m often grumpy, even about books I like. Regardless, I try to be fair in my comments. I’m never snarky; I try to look for the good in every book.

As a reader: I’ve never had a star rating system on my blog. I feel that star ratings are inadequate and a bit of a fool’s game. Ratings are an effort to put a quantitative measurement on something subjective. Even when I try to be objective about storytelling and style, likes and dislikes always creep in.

As an author: I have become keenly aware of how ratings, especially on Goodreads and Amazon, affect authors and their books.

I’ve never rated or reviewed books on Amazon because, since it is a consumer site, I’ve never felt comfortable as a fellow author rating “competing products.” I didn’t want to engage in the possible (or even perceived) conflict of interest.

Goodreads has been a different story. I started using Goodreads as a way to catalog my library, even before I started book blogging. My star ratings were really for myself, I’ve never been a social user of Goodreads. I’ve also never posted reviews there because I want to discuss books in my own environment. But recently, I’ve become a Goodreads Author. Despite my personal philosophy about ratings, I am courting attention as someone who would like her product to be rated. And that’s the conflict of interest.

So, I cleared all my Goodreads ratings. All 600+ of them.

I kept all my shelves and added one called Favorites. The only other shelf that has any kind of “rating” implication is Did-Not-Finish.

The last big question: Is my blog itself, and the reviewing of books, a conflict of interest as an author? Yes, it probably is. It’s also one of the things I enjoy most about the process of reading and writing. Sharing these thought in this venue is part of that. The Writerly Reader isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.