A 5.0 book is, according to the RITA guidelines, a marginal book. It’s borderline unpublishable. Remember those one or two potentially interesting scenes we had to skim vast portions of our 6.0 book in order to find? Those fleeting sparks of potential don’t even exist in a 5.0 book.
Marginally-rated books are difficult to read, either because the plot is confusing, or the main characters are unsympathetic, or the author’s writing itself is substandard. Perhaps the author doesn’t even have a distinct voice or writing style, and you start feeling as if their book is no more interesting than reading a wearisome grocery list.
A 5.0 book comes across as a slapdash affair that suffers from a lack of editing and occasionally, even copy-editing. A few misspelled words crop up in a 5.0 book. The dialogue is painfully boring, or just plain silly. The main characters don’t feel like real people. Or maybe they do come across as real people, but they’re off-putting because they’re immature, obnoxious, and generally unlikeable. A 5.0 book has very little to recommend it. You might read a few paragraphs that vaguely stirs your interest, but such paragraphs are the exception, not the rule.
I haven’t come across too many 5.0 books, simply because something so substandard rarely sees the publishing light of day. In fact, I can’t remember if I’ve even come across a 5.0 book. If I have, I can guarantee I never finished reading the thing, and it probably quickly joined its 6.0 sibling in the recycling bin.
Next week, we’ll explore the flaws and virtues of a 4.0-4.9 book. Fun times!
What makes a 6.0 book? According to the RITA guidelines, this is a below average book. We’re getting into questionable territory here. If you actually power through reading a below average book from cover to cover, you’re bemused as to how it got published in the first place. It isn’t awful, but it isn’t interesting, either. It’s a bunch of words thrown on pages and that’s about all it has recommending it. These are the books that I don’t mind if my dog gets to and rips up before I’m finished, because she ends up getting more entertainment out of them than I did!
In all honesty, if I’m reading what I suspect to be a 6.0 book, I won’t finish reading it (at least if I’m doing so solely for my own entertainment, and not for the RITA judging). It probably initially reeled me in with a lovely front cover, or an intriguing synopsis just like an average 7.0 book, but unlike that average 7.0 book, I quickly realize I’ve wasted my money after reading only a couple of chapters.
The hero and heroine are little more than paper dolls without any depth. There’s pages upon pages of boring narration or lackluster dialogue. There’s no conflict. Or, if there is, it’s resolved far too easily. While reading a 6.0 book, you often wish the author would have invested in a thesaurus. Or, if nothing else, at least utilized the thesaurus in Word to avoid using the same adjectives over and over. There might be one or two scenes throughout the entire book that capture your interest, but that’s all. You’re tempted to skim vast portions of a 6.0 book just to find those potential scenes, but you’re not overly surprised when you don’t find more than one or two.
Overall, a 6.0 book bores you to tears, and you chuck the thing into the recycling bin without even wincing.
Next week, we tour marginal territory, or a 5.0-5.9 book.
What makes a 7.0 book? This is an average book, a “meh” book. The descriptive of average isn’t unfavorable in daily life, such as “I drive an average car” or “I earn an average income.” In those examples, average simply means typical or standard. In terms of a book, I think the label of average pretty much translates to “meh.”
You know the ones. The plot is repetitive, or the dialogue is mind-numbing with its lack of originality. You read “diamond of the first water” and “snowy cravat” one too many times. Sadly, you bought the thing in the first place because you were tricked by a gorgeous cover or an intriguing back cover synopsis; instead, those dangling carrots only steered you to run-of-the-mill vill and nowhere else.
Average in a romance novel equates to boring, at least in my opinion. It’s just an okay read. You might get halfway through it before you want to start skipping over chapters just to get to the end. The heroine and hero might have a few interesting qualities to them, but they’re not fleshed out very well, and you’re not particularly invested in their romance. Sometimes you suspect the author was just going through the motions with an average book, like maybe this was the last one remaining on her contract before she could switch publishing houses. Maybe it would have been more exciting after a few more rewrites, or some sharper dialogue, or a more involved plot than just boy meets girl at a dance and falls in love.
Average in a romance novel doesn’t inspire, and the title fades from your mind the instant you finish it, if indeed you even finish it at all. On a few occasions, I’ve chosen to watch reruns of "The Big Bang Theory" over finishing a boring book. Life is too short. Why waste our time on reading “meh?”
Next week I’ll explore a 6.0-6.9 book, which is below average, or zzzzzz…
What makes an 8.0 book? This is a solid B, a perfectly nice book to read while curled up on the couch on a cold weekend. In terms of romance novels, these are the impulse item books that I snap up while whisking through Walmart to buy groceries. The plot is intriguing and the characters a bit more unusual or three-dimensional. A solid 8.0 book is an enjoyable read, but it’s not a keeper. It won’t join those prestigious 9.0 and 10.0 books on my keeper bookshelf. When I’m finished with it, I’ll pass it along to my mom or a friend or drop it in a book donation bin, because as pleasant a read as it was, I know I’ll never feel the compulsion to read it again.
Solid 8.0 books are thoroughly entertaining books, but they’re not without their glitches. The hero and heroine have interesting banter and palpable chemistry, and the author spins a tale that the reader is invested in, but the characters don’t ever visit the reader’s mind after the last page has been read. There are some amusing parts, and maybe the dialogue has some witty zings here and there, but a solid B book never has you sitting on the edge of your seat. You don’t necessarily read it from cover to cover in one weekend. Perhaps it takes you a few extra days because the pacing tends to slow down two-thirds of the way through, or you get slightly frustrated with the heroine because she does something silly or out-of-character. The conflict, be it external or internal or both, might seem a bit too contrived.
A solid B book draws the reader’s attention from the first chapter, and is a perfectly respectable rating with worthy characters and plot. Somewhere along the way, the reader’s attention wanders, however, and what might have been a fascinating premise tends to peter out. By the time the reader finishes, there might even be a rushed feeling to simply finish the story for the sake of finishing the story, and not because the reader is truly invested in the characters any longer.
And so what books do I own that are a solid 8.0 rating? I don’t own any, actually. As I stated in the beginning, these are the books that get permanently loaned out or donated, and so I can’t remember any particular titles. Let’s just say they tend to be the mass market paperbacks available in grocery stores. You don’t feel bad about the initial $6 or $7 spent acquiring it, but you would’ve felt slightly cheated had you bought it at full price and in hardcover format.
Stay tuned next week as we explore an average 7.0 book, or the kiss of mediocrity.
The winners of the November ebook giveaway are Leah Breymeyer and Micha Ichmenn! Congratulations, Leah and Micha! This month’s contest is for a free ebook copy of Clingstone (provided as an Amazon gift). Two winners will be selected, each to receive 1 ebook copy. The contest runs throughout the entire month of December and is open to all participants. Simply submit the Giveaway form on this website. The winners will be announced in my blog post on January 1. Good luck!
Names and emails are for contest purposes only. All contact information will be deleted after the contest ends. The winners’ contact information will be deleted once Amazon confirms the ebook was claimed.