A young man entering a movie theatre is faced with a choice. What movie should he watch? PG-13, NC-17, R. Thanks to the Motion Picture Association of America’s rating system and visible movie ratings, this moviegoer is assisted with his selection. But, did you know there is no similar system for rating books? That’s right. There’s nothing.

Rating Books Can Improve Book Searh

Books are published, placed on shelves, and categorized by genre or age group. Afterward, the bookstore sorts the titles alphabetically or by author name. To help readers find the kinds of books they want to read, books are labeled as a new release or a discounted book. But there is not much else done. There is no screening or mandatory disclaimer from authors regarding rating the book’s content.

Rating books isn’t a thing

A recent study on books and adolescents noted that films, video games, and music provide ratings for their materials, but when it comes to books, there is no book rating system in place. There are websites that attempt to provide unofficial book ratings, but with no formal, standardized system for rating books, the results are subjective to the reviewer.

How can a reader know what content is inside a book? Click To Tweet

Lately, it has become increasingly difficult for readers to know what is inside a book.

Book covers give the reader an enticing blurb, meant to sell the product, but there is nothing to warn the reader regarding the degree of profanity, violence, sex or substance abuse hidden within its pages. Clues are present for romance novels with images of a bare-chested male on the front, but cover art is moving toward abstract images with no direct relation to a scene within the novel.

With cover art and blurbs not being helpful to identify a book’s content, what else does a reader have to go on?

That’s a good question.

Readers need tools to help them sift through the multitude of books to find suitable content. Without a system for rating books, readers need to rely on word of mouth or on services such as the Clean Reads Authors Directory to bring them closer to identifying authors they can trust.

The role of rating books could be placed on the shoulders of the publisher, but the truth is, more and more authors are self-publishing, excluding the gatekeeper publisher. Book review sites offer critiques and may recommend a book based on their personal opinion and their own scale for rating books. There are limitations to these services as some sites, such as Common Sense Media, don’t accept submissions from self-published authors, which produce a large volume of books coming on the market.

For consumers who appreciate a Clean Read, they are trusting that the book will meet their needs. There is value in having a tool or a process for rating books that will improve book searches.

Authors can help

By being transparent, authors can help readers. Authors should communicate what can be found in the pages of their books. Some authors might be reluctant to rate their books out of fear that transparency might turn away readers. Still, they shouldn’t hide what they’ve written.

An author shouldn’t try to sell to a reader who wouldn’t be interested in the content. No one wants to be tricked into buying something they aren’t interested in. Someone who could be turned off by the author’s writing isn’t the right reader for that book. Selling is about targeting the correct audience.

How can publishers and authors help with rating books?

  1. Be clear about a book’s content.
  2. Include a statement of caution or declaration of clean material in the book’s storefront description.
  3. Advocate for a consistent and standardized scale for rating books.
  4. Don’t forget to write and publish books that appeal to a Clean Reads audience.
  5. If you are a Clean Reads Author, add your name to the Clean Reads Authors Directory.


Leave a comment and share your ideas on how publishers and authors could assist with rating books. Do  you feel this will help readers find the kind of books they want to read?



C. A. Edwards is the author of the Elta Series. She founded CleanReadsAuthors.com after seeing a need for increased visibility of clean reads books. You can find Cheryl on Twitter, Facebook, or her on Website.

Rating Books Can Improve Book Search

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