Reviews: What Those Stars Mean to Authors (or When Should I Give 5 Stars)

What Those Stars Mean to Authors (Or when should I give 5 stars)

As an author, I occasionally read the reviews of my books on Amazon, and sometimes this is a torturous event. I’m going to share with you what those stars mean to authors. But first let me give you a little background.

Some readers (especially those who don’t review Blog-Review-tell-me-no-lies.often) tend to get hung up on tiny issues and judge those instead of the entire novel. Others write that they LOVED the book and CAN’T WAIT for the sequel, but only give three or four stars. You may think your four stars are helping, but if a book’s overall rating is above four stars before your comments, your rating will actually take their overall rating DOWN.

See the screen shots from my novel Tell Me No Lies. I have a lot of great 4-star reviews, but every 4-star review has brought my overall rating down. I had to get 100 more reviews, with enough of them 5-stars to bring it back up to 4.5 overall.

So while your review might be great for the author in words, your stars might not reflect your enjoyment. The author wReviews: What Those Stars Mean to Authors (or When Should I Give 5 Stars)ill have no idea why you took off a star or what she failed to do right.

One time a reviewer told me how much she’d enjoyed my book, and that she’d LOVE to review another one on her website, if I’d send her a copy. But she’d given me only 3 stars, which to me means a C book (boring, neutral, just okay—at least according to Amazon ratings). I’d have grounded my children for bringing home such a grade unless there was a very good reason for it. Part of her reasoning was that she’d expected the book to be a different genre, but that reasoning did nothing to help my book. I wasn’t interested in sending her another book. I’ll get enough three-star reviews without her help.

Reviews help sell or stall books

Many readers have no idea of the importance other readers give to reviews. But consider what you check for the next time you are looking for a book from an author you’ve never heard of before. I bet one of the things you do is to read the reviews to see if others liked the book or if there are any serious issues with it. So in a very real way, reviews help determine the wage the author earns. Reviews also decide whether or not certain companies will accept advertising for a book (some will not accept books rated below four stars), so your rating is important and it affects the author in serious ways.

Oh, and if you think an author will never see your review, think again. Authors are people, too, and I can’t tell you have many of my friends have been the recipient of really mean and ugly comments in thoughtless reviews.

What Those Stars Mean to Authors (and to Booksellers and Advertisers)

5 stars is an A, A-, or even a B+. Great for authors. This means you enjoyed the book. It fulfilled the measure of its creation. Meaning that a romance isn’t judged as a general fiction, a teen story as an adult novel, or genre fiction as a literary novel. The 5-star novel was enjoyable, didn’t have any major plot holes, and the writing was good enough that you’d recommend it as a nice read. These 5-star reviews help balance the 1 and 2 star reviews from people who picked up the wrong genre or wanted sex in a clean book (or vice-versa). Or the picky reviewer who found one typo and therefore decided the entire book was poorly edited (if that was the case, EVERY published book would be junk). Five stars doesn’t mean the book has to be the best you’ve ever read, or even better than the last one you reviewed. It just has to be a good novel. This rating could also be given to a novel you would have rated only 4 stars but one feature (world-building, a character, or plot element) was so cool that you reward the author’s effort by giving them that extra star (and you can say this in the review).

4 stars is a B, B-, or even a C+ novel. Okay for authors, but if they have an overall rating more than 4 stars, keep in mind that you are taking down their rating. The 4-star rating is for novels that you liked but had at least one issue with. A plot hole that disturbed your reading enough that you didn’t enjoy the overall story. Maybe a few too many typos. Too much repetition. But you still found the story compelling enough to read in a short time and you enjoyed it. The novel doesn’t have to be the best one you’ve read in the genre, it just has to hold your attention. Think of yourself as a teacher giving a grade. Again, if you had been going to give the novel 3 stars, but something cools really stood out, give the author the benefit of the doubt—and the extra star.

3 stars is a C or a C-. So only average or NEUTRAL. You neither liked it or disliked it. This really is the kiss of death rating. The “okay” novel. If you give a novel this rating, there should be SERIOUS issues because, remember, many advertisers won’t accept novels with this overall rating. So the 3-star novel should be one you didn’t feel compelled to finish, or one whose overall plot didn’t quite make sense (and you feel wouldn’t make sense to others). This is a novel that you wouldn’t recommend unless it was the only thing someone had to read and they were stuck in an airport for two hours.

2 stars is a D or a D-. This is a novel that has at least three major negative issues and you feel these issues will prevent others from enjoying it at all. There are sex scenes in a supposedly clean novel, the character thinks about their college literature classes entirely far too much, or the character isn’t consistent. Maybe there are typos on every other page, or repeated use of wrong words. A 2-star rating could also be a book that you felt you really wanted to give one star to, but because it had some redeeming feature (great world-building, a character you really enjoyed), you gave it an extra star to encourage the author.

1 star means F. The author completely and utterly failed. You hated it totally and absolutely. That means there was no plot, it was riddled with grammar errors, and everything about it was boring, boring, boring. The author should throw the book away. Never give an author a one-star review unless you feel they really should give up writing and get a job at the local grocery instead.

Are my rating descriptions correct? You may not feel so when rating a book, but I bet you feel that way when reading reviews! And I assure you that’s what book advertisers and sellers see—and it’s certainly what those stars mean to authors (or most of them).

DOs and DON’Ts of Reviewing

1. If you have a real issue, mention that, but rate the overall book not that one thing.

2. Don’t give the book a terrible review because it’s not a genre you like. Just don’t review it. For instant, if you hate romance, people who love romance won’t be helped at all by your review.

3. If a review contains explicit scenes (or violent, or religious, or whatever), don’t give them a bad review because you hated that part UNLESS it goes against what was in the book description. So if a book description talks about fighting, don’t be shocked if there’s violence. If it mentions faith, don’t be shocked if the characters see things through a religious point-of-view. If it says romance, don’t be surprised if there is a love story. In these cases, your review will only make you sound like an idiot for not reading the description. And it’s not fair to authors.

4. Unless you are a reviewer and received the book in exchange for a review, don’t point out that you “bought” the book for free or for a discounted price. Sometimes publishers will offer a book for free or at a discount as a way to advertise the book. But it is unlikely the book will be free for long. If you say you got the book for free, people will feel cheated when they have to pay, and that’s simply not fair to the author or the publisher. You are reviewing the book not the price. However, if you were GIVEN the book from the author or publisher for the purpose of reviewing, then by all means you need to state that, but not everyone is chosen as a reviewer so this is different than saying you downloaded the book at a discount. I can’t tell you have many time reviewers will say something cruel like “This was junk, but fortunately I downloaded it for free so all I wasted was my time.”

5. Be kind with your wording. Authors are real people with real feelings. I’ve known promising authors who never published the third in a series because of cruel reviews. I loved the books and am still waiting to read that third novel.

6. If you were having a bad day when you read the book, consider not reviewing it at all.

7. If there is a certain subject you hate, and it happens to come up in the book, consider not reviewing it at all, or at least mention your bias in the review. Again rate the entire book, not just that scene.

8. Don’t tell everyone what happens in the book unless you put SPOILER ALERT. Even then, I wouldn’t do it. Readers won’t buy the book if you tell what happens. The author was careful in the blurb not to give it away, and you shouldn’t either. Remember, this is the author’s JOB. They get paid on how many books they sell. Careless reviews make it hard for authors to keep writing.

9. Do say what in particular you liked about the book. Use specifics without giving away plot. Tell us WHY you are rating the book this way.

10. Do give a 5-star review if the book fulfills its purpose. It doesn’t need to be earth-shattering or the best book you’ve ever read. It just needs to be a good, compelling novel, comparable with a novel of that same genre. You can be very glowing in your review if you feel it deserves more than 5 stars, but don’t knock a good novel down to four just to say it’s not as good as that brilliant novel. If we all read only brilliant novels, there would be only a few dozen books to read. Some people feel they’re not being critical enough if they rate something with 5 stars. I say baloney. If you enjoyed it and would lend the book to someone, give it a good rating.

11. Do click to report reviews you feel are abusive. These would include reviews that attack the author as a person or that attack a group of people, a religion, etc. Or anything that is not a review. Example: “I’m giving this one star because I couldn’t download it and Amazon wouldn’t give me a refund for the Kindle I don’t know how to use.” Yes, this is real review on one of my books.

12. Do comment on other reviews if you disagree or feel they are being too harsh. But do so KINDLY. Better yet, write your own review and rate the book higher to even out their negativity. But don’t hassle other reviewers, even the rude ones. Everyone has a right to their opinion.

13. Do comment on other reviews to thank the reviewer for good information they’ve included.

14. If your review is 3.5 stars, say that in your review, but always round up not down.

So now you know what those stars mean to authors. Please let me know if you think of any more Do’s and Don’ts and I’ll add them. Thanks for reading, and please feel free to share the link to this post on social media or with a friend.

Teyla Rachel Branton



Copyright 2017 Teyla Rachel Branton

Reuse notice: you are free to print for personal use or non-commercial use with friends, share this post link anywhere, quote a short excerpt with attribution and a link to this site, but you may not use this post in its entirety on your own page. Thank you for caring about copyright.

53 Responses to “Reviews: What Those Stars Mean to Authors (or When Should I Give 5 Stars)”

  1. How to write a useful & fantastic book review? | Browzly

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  2. Nadine Berger

    Very insightful, thank you for posting this. I do have a different rating system for my blog and goodreads than I do for retailers. If I rate a book three stars on my blog (and goodreads) for me it’s a good read, not great, but I will automatically turn it into four stars on retailers because I don’t think it rated the five stars but for books that I rate four stars there are times I keep the rating the same and others that I will turn it to five stars on retailers depending on how I felt about the book and why I rated it four stars. There are very few times I will post anything less than three stars on retailers because of the negative impact unless its something that needs to be addressed, for example paying $7.99 for a book that has sooooo many errors it was hard to read the book. If I am paying that much for a book it should be edited and the story should flow I shouldn’t have to figure out what the author is trying to get across to the readers.

    • Teyla Rachel Branton

      Thanks for the comment. It’s interesting to see your reasoning. I think you make a valid point about the cost of the book vs errors. My feeling is that all books should be edited by at least three editors before being published. Yeah, a $7.99 price AND errors would be a no-go for me!

  3. Nita

    I agree overall with this article. Some reviewers have said that they will give 5 stars only if the book changes their life, but how many books are there like that? I am in my sixties and been an avid reader throughout my life and yet only a handful of books have changed my life. Does this mean I should have marked the other hundreds of books (books that I loved) 4 stars or less? No way! If I love a book, whatever the reason, it gets 5 stars. If a book changes one’s life that can be mentioned in the review.
    In fact, the words “change my life” are not even really true, not if one looks back years later. A book can affect you, but the book alone cannot change you even if you feel that way for a short while.

    • Teyla Rachel Branton

      Thank you so much for your comments, and you make a good point. The few books that stand out in my mind fade and new ones take their place all the time. I change and so does my perception. I think the older we get, the more we understand that there is place for all kinds of literature, and that good books don’t have to mean life-changing.

  4. Maria

    I don’t agree with your rating system. I would be more on a par with Lyndzee as well but truthfully, the stars are too subjective to hold much meaning. If I am giving a half star, I already rounded up, otherwise it would have been the lower number. I would not give a 5 star review to a book that just fulfilled a purpose. I am sorry to hear that a 4 star review lowers the author’s standing but I feel it’s a solid number and a positive rating. Reviewers are people who all rate differently and this whole system is about as imperfect as can be. I agree with being kind but truthful and honest about what a reviewer did not like as well as not giving away too much of a fictional plot. I will also say that author’s/writers need to develop a thick skin because no longer writing due to bad reviews is not a reviewer issue at all. Some authors may do better with not reading their reviews and continuously reminding themselves of why they are writing and publishing in the first place. Putting your work out there means accepting that not everyone will like it or necessarily be nice about it.

    • Teyla Rachel Branton

      That’s okay, we can agree to disagree. Most authors I know do avoid reading their reviews. Sadly, too many of them attack the author these days. I personally read two romances recently that I’d only give one star, but I didn’t because I know I am not the author’s target reader. I guess I feel that I don’t want to be the person throwing rocks at people who are trying to climb the cliff, you know? Thanks for your comments!

    • Teyla Rachel Branton

      And this just to add that you are absolutely right that the system isn’t perfect. By attacking the author, I thought I should clarify. It’s not really the review but the blatant attacks on the author as a person. “This author shouldn’t write anymore. This author only does garbage. This author needs to die a painful death because they’re so stupid.” is a lot different than, “This book has too many errors. The characters didn’t grab me. Or I thought the plot was too simple and here’s why.” There is trolling and attacking and thoughtful reviews. A world of difference! By the way, Lindzee is also a writer now. I’d be interested to see if she still feels the same way from the other side of the fence! (Hint, if you’re following this, Lindzee.)


      I agree I am simply not going to give a five star review to a book that I didn’t absolutely love. I will definitely take into consideration that anything less than 4 stars is harmful though. But there are so many books that while I totally enjoyed reading them, I don’t love them. They weren’t magnificent they were juat a pleasant to read and to me giving them a 5 star review tajes away from the books that are magnificent and mind bending and consciousness shattering and all that. That said I would never attack an author as a visual and performance artist I always to applaud anyones effort at putting their creativity out there. And try to always start reviews always with what I liked about a book and spend very little time on what I didn’t like. If I absolutely hate a book, I generally just don’t review it or likely even finish it. However it is rare that I find nothing to like about a book that I’ve spent the time reading all the way through.

      • Teyla Rachel Branton

        I think it’s good that you look for something constructive to say! That helps a lot. Much more encouraging for authors, who really do need support!

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  6. Nate

    Thank you for your insights on reviews. I reposted this blog on my Twitter account.

  7. Kelly

    How do you fell about reviewers taking away stars for using bad language? I’m polite but I always put out the irony of a book about murder , but the F-word upsets them. Also, should the Thor be punished for the readers own personal moral bias? I don’t think so. I’ve read some very silly reviews and am tempted to tell these readers that we are adults and it’s assumed adults are the intended audience. Grow up!
    Also, cruel reviews when I can tell the reviewer is in a bad mood… those should be reported or taken with a grain of salt. I know this article was written a few years ago, but I’m writing this in 2019 and the country is very divided along so many lines. I find it disturbing to politicize the arts and use ratings to “punish” or push ones own agenda. That’s just me, but I’m aware of things taking a very ugly turn. Let’s hope it gets better soon!
    So, when reading a review be sure and read between the lines. There are nuances that are as telling about the reviewer as the book. I do this with movies and books I’ve become pretty adept at knowing when a review is relevant and when to ignore it. Thanks for the article. I agree with the way you say the ratings should be. —K

    • Teyla Rachel Branton

      You make some good points. The swearing issue is exactly why I’ve jumped in wholeheartedly with Book Cave (, because they promote books by content rating as well, so readers aren’t shocked. I wish they had even more books rated there, and that Amazon would buy them out or something, lol. There has been a huge swing toward more profanity since the onslot of indie publishing. In my research, I found there are usually less than 30 swears to a book that is published traditionally, but indie published book (unless they are sweet or religious) usually have 100+ to 500 per book. But aside from that, keep in mind that there are a whole generations that consider the f-word to be a serious offense. They’ll overlook a d-word or an h-word, but not that. Especially not when it’s used four times a page. Basically, most people over 40 or so are not fans of this kind of thing. To the younger generation, the f-word isn’t worse than the d- or h-word, and they’ll overlook it regularly. Your best best is to include in the description that the book contains adult language. That way readers are prepared. There is also the argument that if an author is getting a lot of reviews that mention profanity, maybe it’s time to shake things up when expressing anger or upset. Because most people will overlook a few swear words used with feeling, but if there is one in every paragraph (or even four to a page), it becomes repetitive, just like other words authors try to avoid (then, really, definitely, look, etc.). In that case, it isn’t so much about age or the swear words as it is about being repetitive and therefore annoying. So instead of swearing, a person might punch a hole in the wall or scream or kick a chair. I have a friend who stopped reading a book because the character was constantly pinching her nose, so repetition is death, regardless of what the word is. Since authors want to appeal to as many readers as possible, they may want to consider searching for swears just like they do any other overly used words or actions. I never saw a review that said an author didn’t swear enough, have you? Maybe not gritty enough, but never one that says they missed the swearing.

      • Kelly

        Thanks for replying! You made me think one this a little more. I agree about something like the repetition and that any language used over and over can become redundant even if it’s not profane.
        So, in that case it would affect the quality of the writing. I would give that add an exception. As someone definitely over 40 but not easily shocked I’m actually more tolerant. I read a lot of Celtic Noir crime and they are dark, violent and there’s dirty language. I think it would sound silly any other way. But regardless, back to taking away stars in a review based on ones own moral bias, I just don’t think it’s fair.
        Religion has a history of stifling creativity and one has to be careful they aren’t attempting to silence an author .
        That’s why I’m not a fan of leaving a cruel review under the umbrella of anonymity and possibly ruin a career. I’ve seen great books get bad ratings because of technical issues, or they didn’t approve of the main characters life choices , too many naughty words etc.
        The internet is the wild West and the freedom of it is often exploited for political purposes, religious purposes and pushing an agenda. I can smell those kinds of reviews a mile away but not everyone can.
        Again ty for replying personally. I could write a book about the way I feel about this subject and segue right into 70’s punk rock then on to caring for Pomeranians. Lol. Maybe I will! Heads up… Nasty words will be included.

        • Teyla Rachel Branton

          With all the books that are based on religion, make fun of religion, or create new religions (like in so many fantasies), one could argue that religion also initiates a slew of creativity, lol. But I hear what you are saying. Good luck in your writing!

    • Pia Mogollón

      Great points ehen reading reviews of books im curious about reading I often take them with a grain of salt and as you say have gotten good at discerning whether the reviewer is giving constructive criticism or justbbeong hateful. Ad far as the rating system I pretty much only give it a cursory glance but am as I said more interested in the content of the review. And yeah giving a negative review because you don’t like the genre is pretty base. If I didn’t like the genre I wouldn’t continue reading it. That said there’s another pet peeve people who give a negative review after saying they couldn’t even finish it. I believe if you didn’t finish it you’ve got no right to review it.

      • Teyla Rachel Branton

        I agree! If you can’t finish a book, you shouldn’t rate it. Who knows if there might have been something redeeming? Or maybe the reader wasn’t the target audience. My eyes glaze over on books my daughter adores. We like different things. But I guess it also depends on WHY a reader stopped reading. Were there too many errors? Were there plot holes. Even then, it’s a hard call. A private email might go a long way toward getting an author to spend more time on editing, lol.

  8. Nicole

    Thank you for this. I didn’t know what those stars meant and I’m glad to know now. This will better help me when I’m reviewing books on amazon.
    I always try to go into detail of why I’m rating what I rate.

    • Teyla Rachel Branton

      It’s always great to give details in review as to why. Thank you for your comment!

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  11. Rachel

    I think this can be a very subjective issue, which is part of the problem. As an author, I appreciate more now exactly what impact the rating of a book can have on your potential sales and ability to promote the book. However, that problem stems from a defunct rating system, that as a reviewer we have no control over.

    As a book reviewer, there is no set general guidelines on how to rate a book, and even the book giants Amazon and Goodreads, which are now both owned by the same company, do not agree – as the different numbers mean different things on their scales. That being said, ratings are very useful within the community, and are used for a specific purpose. Among the majority of book reviewers I interact with, there seems to be a reasonably standardised opinion regarding the numbers, which I’m sorry to say do not match with your own interpretation.

    A 5* read could never be considered a B+. This book is gold, you need to own it, you want to reread it, you want to delve into its pages and never come back out. It is a fantastic read that you regularly recommend to anyone who will listen to you.
    A 4* book is a very solid read, very enjoyable and engaging, but doesn’t reach the pinnacle of a 5* book. You would still recommend this book, and you may reread it, but it wasn’t without its problems.
    A 3* read is quite average. You read many books like it. It is enjoyable enough but there are more issues with it than plus point. You would likely only recommend it to someone who fits a particular niche who would enjoy it, it’s not for everyone, and it usually isn’t all that memorable. You are unlikely to reread it.
    A 2* read has lots of problems. A lot of people don’t even finish it. The plot is poorly executed, or the book is poorly written.
    A 1* read you actively dislike for a variety of reasons, or you couldn’t even finish due to the poor quality.

    I personally use the ratings system as a way of cataloguing my own library for my own reasons, so unfortunately I would be unable to change that to bolster the ratings of a book for the benefit of the author.

    • Teyla Rachel Branton

      I’ve noticed that reviewers on Goodreads tend to leave lower star reviews. I would LOVE it if everyone looked at a 4-star book and thought: “That’s still a great book.” But unfortunately, from my research, there seems to be something wrong with a 4-star book (maybe because it didn’t change a life?). I am not swayed from my stand, but I appreciate your post and the difference in opinions. I feel that a literary novel with life-changing substance (the only books I’d probably give 5 stars for on your scale) can’t be compared to a book that is simply a great romance or a great sci-fi book. Those books were great, but they just weren’t life-changing for me (and perhaps none of those in that genre will ever be but they’re sure entertaining and I love reading them). They were still better then 90 percent of books out there, and though I’m never going to reread them (let’s be honest, I’m never going to reread any book except maybe three in my lifetime), they fulfilled the measure of their potential and deserve 5 stars. So that’s where I was going with that. I would rather reward great effort on the part of an author whose book fills the potential within their genre. Again, thanks for the comment. Good luck with your writing!

  12. Tina

    Thank you for explaining the rating system. It is very different from the rating and evaluation systems I am used to using. A 5 star rating would not be allowed and 3 stars would mean it was exactly as is was meant to be – perfect in other words. The 4 and 5 stars would mean that it was over and above perfection, something extraordinary, and rare. I will remember what these star ratings mean to the authors now – thank you.

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  14. Fox Emerson

    wow! Great post Rachel. Wish I’d read this before I started crying over my 3 star review from a fellow author off Goodreads. I might have felt a bit better after reading the review she gave me for my book Monique.

    I have to agree with your rating system, but it is interesting reading the comments just here on your blog how many people have a different opinion on ratings. It’s led me to believe that you can’t really take the stars too seriously. Someone giving it a 3 star thinks the book is great but it didn’t blow their mind. Another reader who feels the same will give it 4 stars because their interpretation of 3 stars is different.

    When I review a book, I follow a simple guideline that is very similar to your blog.

    Thanks, enjoyable read and also made me feel a little less alone getting a 3 star. Let’s hope that’s the lowest I get…

    • Teyla Rachel Branton

      Yeah, sometime I wonder if readers want “teach the author” a lesson, or something, but I think a little kindness goes a long way. I’ve added two epilogues to books because readers have kindly mentioned they wanted one. If they’d been hateful or punishing, I wouldn’t have wanted to please them.

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  17. Susan Allred

    I am a product tester and BOY do I wish someone had given this article as reading material before I began testing products–especially books! It’s insightful and it lets us, as reviewers, understand more fully how our opinions affect you as authors.

    The only thing I might hedge on would be #4 – talking about how we got a product for free. I agree if you happen to download the book for free, don’t mention it. But for people like me who are given free books specifically for the purpose of review, I’m required by Amazon to mention that I got it for free in exchange for an honest and unbiased opinion. I have to check mark a box 3 separate times that I will state that disclaimer in my reviews.

  18. Stephanie

    Star belly sneetches here we come! We were just having a similar discussion at work the other day. All of us agreed that 5 means it blew your world. 4 means it was good. 3 means it’s okay but you couldn’t finish it. 2 means it was stupid and awful. 1 means the world is a worse place because it was written. The conversation happened because we were reading some reviews on Amazon–some said they loved the book, but then they put down a three. Others said, there was nothing wrong with the book, but it just wasn’t their genre and so they gave it a three. We laughed because it was completely misleading. Anyway, the star system is messed up because it means so many things to so many people (like a kiss, heh heh, but that’s a different topic altogether). As a reader, I TRY to read the reviews, but when there are so many, I generally read a few reviews only. So if the top ones are negative, that’s all I’ll see. And yeah, I do look at reviews because there are so many books out there in the same genre, so I want to find the best one. As an author, the star ratings are important because if you don’t have a certain amount of stars, only certain companies will take your book and feature it on their site (for reviews, giveaways, etc). So you’re right when you say that stars equate author’s pay. It would be nice if it worked another way, but it doesn’t. a more advanced system than stars would be preferable where we could judge different aspects of the books: professional, fun, cleverness, dialogue, classic material that will live on, etc. BUT THEN no one would take the time to write a review because it would be so hard, so yeah. Crazy stuff. OH, and before I leave this rather lengthy reply, yes, authors do have feelings. I have seen some reviews that made me cringe and they weren’t even written for me. Comments with titles like Ugh, yuck, don’t waste your time, etc. Sometimes I had read some of these books and didn’t agree at all. This to me denotes a certain road rage. Of course, If you’re a perpetual road-rager, you might not see anything wrong with this. If your motivation is to reach other readers to warn them about the things you didn’t like and you honestly believe that everyone will have this reaction (and who doesn’t? We always assume people have our same opinions), then leave a thoughtful reply that will benefit both the reader and the author. That’s my take on stars.

    • Teyla Rachel Branton

      You know, that’s exactly what I don’t get—the meanness in some of the reviews. As though the author did them a MORTAL WRONG by writing the book, and it’s their job to take them DOWN!

  19. Teyla Rachel Branton

    Thanks for all your comments! Oh, about the grade thing. The only time I’d actually ground a child for grades is if they were purposely not trying, and then it would be from video games and such until they got back on track. I strongly believe parents need to support their children this way. However, I agree that it’s not necessarily the grade that is all-important. Fortunately, my children seem to enjoy school and learning so this is rarely an issue. They love to read and that helps a lot. So no worries about child abuse here! We love our kids!

  20. Gina

    If you receive a book for free in exchange for review, you are required BY LAW to state that in your review. So not admonish reviewers to do otherwise.

    A five star review means I loved it and would highly recommend it to everyone. Period. It is not a B+, not in anybody’s opinion. Yes, every book should measured against its peers (nobody should compare Twilight to the Great Gatsby or either of those to Shakespeare). But a book that’s “pretty good” should not be marked with five stars.

    And a one star review means I cannot recommend it, based on my opinions. If we reserved one-star ratings for books riddled with errors, then nobody (outside the self-published world) would ever get one star reviews.

    • Teyla Rachel Branton

      Gina, about the FREE book, I meant that you downloaded it at a temporary discount, not that you got it from the author. Certainly, you should disclose that. But saying in a review that you “bought” the book for free isn’t fair because that book isn’t always going to be free. We should be reviewing the book and not the price. I’ll clarify. Thanks!

  21. Tony Laplume

    Also, it disturbs me that you would punish your kids for getting low grades. My brother averaged A’s throughout school, and was personally devastated in a very real way, because of the pressure he put on himself, when he got something else the one time. Grades aren’t everything. If you’re not really learning, the grade doesn’t mean anything. It’s the education that counts for something.

    • Stephanie

      Do I let this slide or not? I’ve already commented more times than I ever do on any blog and I’m pretty sure my reply to this will be moderated out, heh heh. But Tony (and Gina), how could you take the author’s breezy comment about grounding her kids for a “C” to mean she abuses her kids? It’s like you’re trying to be antagonistic. I think it was pretty obvious that the analogy here is that you don’t get into prestigious colleges with a “C” average, and neither will an author be able to survive on a “C” average. It doesn’t matter if you personally believe an author is a “C” average or not–it’s what the vocal and paying masses think that matters most where a paycheck is concerned.

      • Teyla Rachel Branton

        Exactly right, Stephanie! My three oldest received scholarships to great colleges, and with his grades and ACT scores, my fourth will as well. They did the work on their own, though we were always there to help and encourage them. Yes, we had curfews and family standards. Expectations. If we hadn’t been involved in their education, I don’t know where they would be today. Two are close to graduating, and it’s nice to see them being responsible and understanding that if they work hard, they can succeed at ANYTHING. They tell me stories all the time about roommates who don’t, whose parents pay for everything while they party. Not sure what will happen when they have to face the real world. My second child has taken more time, that’s okay. As long as she’s happy and a contributing member to society, that’s what’s important.

  22. Tony Laplume

    I’d say that any truly discerning reader will be able to sift through reviews rather than look only at the surface. If the reader can’t do that with reviews, then chances are they won’t be reading the book itself very critically. And then, does it really matter? Some of my very favorite stuff doesn’t get the best reviews on Amazon. The popular stuff always averages above everything else. Popularity doesn’t always equal quality.

    • Teyla Rachel Branton

      What are some poorly reviewed books that you enjoyed? Can you tell us? I agree that readers SHOULD be able to discern. Hopefully . . .

      • Tony Laplume

        Peter Ackroyd’s The Plato Papers instantly became one of my favorite books ever. It has an average of 3 and a half stars. Pretty outrageous. Javier Marias’s Your Face Tomorrow trilogy, all brilliant, only the third getting the full five. But each of them have very few reviews. To my thinking, everyone should be reading those. And those are just the ones from the last time I bothered to read Amazon reviews, because for the most part they’re pretty worthless. Hence my entire point. For some people they’re helpful, but I guess I come from the perspective that they aren’t, so I’m not as concerned as you are about them.

        • Teyla Rachel Branton

          I’ll take a look at these (first reading a sample chapter). My concern comes mostly because low reviews do mean a lower paycheck overall because so many readers do judge by reviews. But I think if an author keeps writing and continues to hone his/her craft, things will always improve. Thanks for the conversation!

        • Stephanie

          I see what you’re saying Tony as a reader. But as an author, some companies won’t take your book on their site (to feature, for giveaways, promotion), etc, unless you have a certain amount of stars. These companies simply don’t have enough time to read every book submitted to them to find out for themselves whether this book was good or not. Their criteria is that the book must have 4-5 stars and have at least 4-6 reviewers on Amazon. Also, bad reviews on Amazon equates sloping sales (at least for a few weeks until a good review shoots the sales back up). Sure, it’s helpful if there are different opinions out there; in other words if your average rating is three stars, but you have a die-hard fan who is VERY vocal about it and they promote you every chance they can, and their review is favorited by other reviewers so that it stays at the top for everyone to see–but that very rarely happens. How many times do you promote your favorite books? If you do it a lot, you’re a rare commodity. Though kudos to you if you do. Your favorite authors will cherish you.

  23. Teyla Rachel Branton

    Yeah, I think that because so many people use Goodreads, they don’t realize that on Amazon the stars don’t exactly mean the same thing!

  24. Lindzee

    Wow, Rachel! I didn’t realize that’s what amazon’s star rating system means. I’ve been going off goodreads: 1 star-did not like it, 2 stars-it was okay, 3 stars-liked it, 4 stars-really liked it, 5 stars-it was amazing. So even from website to website the description of ratings differs. No wonder there’s a discrepancy!

  25. Teyla Rachel Branton

    I have to agree that the star-rating does seem to be broken. Looking at Lindzee’s comments, ratings mean a MUCH different thing to her than it does from where I’m standing. For an author trying to pay for a promo on a 3-star book, the 3-star rating is terrible. So I guess if a book changed my life, I’d probably give it the same 5-star review as I did another book I enjoyed, but in the review I’d rave about HOW much I liked it and how it changed my life. Too bad there aren’t more ratings, or they aren’t explained better or are more universal. Because right now the ratings, particularly on Amazon, indicate that 5 is for loved it, 4 for liked it, 3 for it was just okay, 2 for I didn’t like it and 1 for I hated it. I have so little time to waste that it would be hard for me to pick up a 3-star book unless someone I trusted recommended it. Sad, but true. Yet going by what Lindzee said, she’d still read and recommend 3-star books. Thanks for your comments, Lindzee and Mike!

  26. Mike

    I personally think the star rating system is broken and doesn’t make much if any sense. Everyone has their own interperetations of what each star means. Some people think they are being generous if they give 3 stars, others think 4 stars is being way too harsh. It’s a broken system.

    I can understand an author wanting to explain a star rating system in this way to up their own ratings, lowering the bar to a more reasonable level in regular readers’ minds. But the truth is, the system is broken and doesn’t work.

    Personally, I like Youtube’s rating system. If you liked it, there’s a thumbs up. If you didn’t like it, a thumbs down. That way, the people who neither liked nor disliked aren’t artificially lowering or raising someone’s rating status. I’ve found that Youtube’s rating system gives a rating that is much more consistent with the quality of the content.

  27. Lindzee

    I rate a bit differently than you. If I give a book 5 stars, it means it changed my life. I could not get through it fast enough. I could not stop thinking about it. The characters feel like life-long friends. The writing was superb. There were next to no grammar errors, etc. 5 star books for me are pretty rare. I’ve read 21 books since the beginning of the year, and only given 4 of them 5 star ratings on goodreads. Most books I rate 3 or 4 stars. 3 stars is average, 4 is fantastic. If I rate a book 4 stars, I will reread, and I’ll eventually want to buy it if I haven’t already. 3 stars means I enjoyed the book, but it didn’t stay with me and if you ask me about it now I’ll have a hard time remembering the basic plot. 2 stars is bad, and if a book gets 1 star I didn’t even get through it. I know a lot of my friends rate on pretty much the same scale as me.

    When reading reviews for buying a book, I tend to discard a lot of the 5 star and 1 star reviews, especially if there are only a few reviews there. If all I see are 5 star reviews, I assume the author got all their friends and family to go rate the book, and the review is biased. I tend to read the 3 and 4 star reviews when deciding whether or not to purchase a book.

    I guess if I were to assign grades to my star system, 5 stars would be an A++, 4 stars is a solid A or B, 3 stars is like a B- or C+, 2 stars is a D, and 1 is an F.

    It’s interesting to read about another perspective on the rating system! Great post.

    • Elizabeth H. Cottrell

      This is exactly the way I approach my own ratings, Lindzee. If you don’t save the five stars for books that were transformative, how can you ever reward those authors for their work? Thank you for this perspective. But I agree with many of Teyla’s other points — it’s not fair to give a negative review if you just don’t like the genre.

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