Friday 10 November 2023

Goodreads Droop

I imagine that this post will only be of interest to close observers of Goodreads - primarily authors. So, I'll put the tl:dr here:

The average rating for books on Goodreads reduces swiftly as they get more ratings.

When a book has ten or twenty ratings, many or all of them might come from friends and family, and the tendency is for these to rate highly. The first few hundred ratings will often come from highly motivated people - they may be fans of the author, or interested in new authors, and are generally predisposed to be generous. So that intitial high rating falls but not too much.

Next come the general readers who like the genre and specifics of the book but may have no general good feeling towards the author, and rate purely on what's in front of them. Over the first few thousand ratings the average will generally drop swiftly.

Note: if the book isn't fortunate enough to reach a large audience then it may stall out in the 10s, 100s, or low 1000s of ratings, keeping some of its "inflated" average. Here "inflated" means "inflated compared to the rating from a wide readership".

Next a book encounters people drawn in by the hype, people coerced to read it by friends, people worn down by constant mentions of it. All of these people are minded to judge it fairly harshly. A hyped book needs taking down a peg. A book your friends won't shut up about ... well, you've your own mind, don't you? etc...

The deline continues slowly towards 10,000 ratings, and then very slowly towards 50,000. Eventually an equilibrium will probably be reached.

I noticed this phenomenum years ago and dubbed it the Goodreads droop.

THE BOOK THAT WOULDN'T BURN has seen the same pattern:

The rating a book gets will depend on how much people like it (obviously) but is also genre dependent. YA books score better in general since young readers have generally read less widely and have had less time to become jaded. They are meeting many things for the first time and are suitably impressed.

Literary fiction readers are often highly critical and low scoring.

And so it goes.

For a fantasy book written for adults (I put it this way since "adult fantasy" can evoke very different mental images) it is very unusual to maintain an average above 4.5 past 1000 ratings, though many books can achieve this below 100 ratings.

Given the apparent ubiquity of the Goodreads droop I urge you to be extra impressed by books like A Game of Thrones which has kept a 4.44 average into the MILLIONS, and by several of Sanderson's books that have kept averages above 4.50 into the hundreds of thousands. These are astonishing achievements when you factor in the droop.

Anyway - that's it. I just wanted somewhere to store this graph. Hence the blog post! 

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  1. I'd like to give, The Book That Wouldn't Burn a (5.0). When will the next book become available?

    1. The Book That Broke The World is out in April.