On the touchy topic of ratings and reviews

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I had a beloved philosophy professor in college who was well-known for handing out Cs and Ds. In my first year, fall semester, I took a class called “Inner and Outer Freedom.” Professor Huntington Terrell had high standards. He cheerfully told our group that a C meant we had done a good job and that a D meant we were close. Once my good friend got an A on a paper and Hunt read it in class. Her paper became the gold standard.

Yesterday I read about a reader who posted a positive review and gave it 3 stars. The author sent her a message, said it sounded more like a 4-star review, and asked her to change the rating. The reviewer didn’t. In fact, she removed the review.

It’s easy to say you loved a book or you really liked it. Those are clearly 4- and 5-star books. It’s trickier with the 3-star ratings. But why should that be? Three-stars means I also liked the book. And anyway, I’m just Book Club Mom. My opinions are subjective. But I’ve always tried to be true to my opinions because I want people to know my tastes, to know me. That’s why I often talk about my favorite book of all-time, Youngblood Hawke. Not everyone liked that book, but it’s fun to be different and promote discussion. And shouldn’t books like All the Light We Cannot See, To Kill a Mockingbird and Life After Life be on my Book Club Mom pedestal? I think so. One person’s opinion.

Yet I find myself thinking and thinking about how best to give a book a 3-star rating. I worry that people will think I’m too negative, too picky. After all, I’m not writing the books, I’m just reading them. I am sensitive to the hard work that goes into writing a book and getting it published.

I’m particularly sensitive to self-published and indie authors who have to do it all themselves. I worry that even talking about this on my blog will offend these hard-working writers. I also know how hard it is to get people to read indie and self-published books and then post reviews.

And I’ve read many excellent books written by my self-published and indie author friends as well as by friends who have well-known publishers. I highly recommend them. Here are some and I have others in the queue:

Calmer Secrets and Calmer Girls by Jennifer Kelland Perry
Death in a Mudflat, Death in a Dacron Sail
and Death in a Red Canvas Chair by N. A. Granger

The Bone Curse, Eating Bull and The Seneca Scourge by Carrie Rubin
Leaving the Beach by Mary Rowen
Second Chance Romance by Jill Weatherholt
The Storyteller Speaks: Powerful Stories to Win Your Heart by Annika Perry

So my point of this post isn’t to raise hell. It’s more to address the tip-toed-around subject of book reviews, from every side. Because isn’t it normal to have different opinions? If someone says he or she doesn’t like a book, aren’t you interested in knowing why, not to start a fight, but to hear another point of view?

What do you think?

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

*For the record, I got a C+ in that class. Huntington Terrell passed away in 2002. You can read more about him here and here.

79 thoughts on “On the touchy topic of ratings and reviews

  1. First, thank you for this post and bringing up the discussion. I stopped using stars awhile ago because to me and this is just for me- it felt hindering and arbitrary. That could be 15 years in the education system and rubrics and the such talking. However, I’ve been much happier not using it and fretting over how to star books that shouldn’t be held against each other. What is three stars for one book in one genre and three stars for another might be completely different and for completely different reasons. To me, and again I am only speaking for myself, that started becoming disingenuous.

    However, I think there is a much bigger problem in this specific case. Authors need to quit this behavior. There is a growing problem with authors bullying, berating and stalking reviewers online. There is one author in particular who I’ve made an outright decision to quit reading due to her behavior towards those that give her negative reviews and the outright disregard for her core audience. How she has the rabid following she has is beyond me. She also has a rabid core group of naysayers so it must be a love her and ignore the crap or rail against her and call her out on it. I am not joining either group. I am just not supporting her any longer.

    These stories are growing more and more frequent and it is a disturbing trend. It needs to stop. I have had an author and publisher show up on my blog ONCE- and it was a delightful experience. I was thrilled to have them participate on my review, which had its pros and cons. However, THAT is not the norm. They were kind and the exchange was brilliant, THANK GOD.

    I am very careful about only tagging authors in outright glowing reviews. And in all the cases, in which I’ve done so, I have had nothing but positive reactions. And when I haven’t- I’ve yet to encounter these negative experiences- but I fear it is just a matter of time.

    In the case above (that I brought up) and the one you are referring too, these authors are seeking these reviews out and contacting the reviewers. And even worse, in this case it wasn’t even a negative review- but yet apparently the author was brazen enough to point out it just wasn’t good enough. What in the mess is that about? It is not an author’s place to try and influence or talk a reviewer into doing anything but what they honestly believe to be the truth about their reviews. When publisher’s approve an ARC, it is explicitly understood it is for an honest review. If it isn’t an ARC then these reviews are for our purposes alone and not up for the author’s input unless requested, in which case it is fair play.

    It is never ok to personally attack someone in a review or for anything to go the way of hateful speech but none of that is the case in any of this. This is a very troubling trend that goes beyond the content and stars given to a review. This is on the onus of authors that need to redirect and own this behavior and *maybe* on the author community that to check those that see this behavior and let their peers know that this is SO NOT OK.

    Wow. This was much longer than I intended. I apologize for that and feel free to delete it if you like or not approve it. I suppose I could write my own post. I just know the situation and it truly upset me. The blogger is someone who has always been supportive of me and the entire community and is an amazing person, beyond her site.

    1. Susan – even before I read your comment I also added that I do not like the star system!
      Further – I saw this book in health/healing genre and the 40 or more over the top comments and 5 star reviews felt fudged!

      1. That I didn’t know. I wonder if IP addresses can be tracked. It is so hard to find honest reviews for anything. I’m very thankful for sites that track something that seems suspicious.

    2. Hi Susan – thank you for leaving such thoughtful comments. To be honest, before yesterday, I had never heard of an author requesting a reviewer to change a rating. That didn’t sit right with me, but my experience and interaction with writers has always been lovely. I would only tag an author if I really liked the book. Any other behavior would be unnecessarily aggressive. And if I give a book 3-stars, which means I liked it btw, I never push it as an average book or share it on social media with the message that it wasn’t very good. I started this blog to keep a record of everything I’ve read and to share an opinion. We live in a world where everything is ranked. It helps people make decisions, but of course there’s a downside. Just like in school, rankings are important, but when everyone gets an A, what does that mean? So the same should be for books. If everything is a 5-star book, then that means the greatest of great literature are in the same grouping as fun beach reads and entertaining thrillers (which I love, but you only read them once). And in the end, all we have is a big pile of books, with no distinction between them. So now I’m off on a rant, but it’s a subject worthy of discussion. I would never want to offend an author or a reviewer. Because as I’ve said, I’m just one person. As long as a review is respectful and the review isn’t a personal attack or unnecessarily critical, I think that’s okay. It’s unrealistic to think we’d all have the same opinions and tastes. Okay, I’m finished. Thanks for reading all this and thanks for the visit 🙂

      1. The great thing about any art (books, music, movies, paintings etc…) is that we all intake it so differently. I think that is what makes each of our sites so vital and important. If we all had the same views and opinions, or even the same ways of expressing similar views, then what would be the point of each of us having our own sites?

        As for the other issue at hand. Don’t get me wrong, it is a minority of writers that are acting out in this way. I have over the past few months had increased access to authors (directly or through publicists) for interviews etc and I take great pride in that privilege. It has always been positive, fun and I hope had an impact on their goals.

        I hope that being vocal about it now that we can stem the flow before it becomes to cancerous and does get out of control. When you let the few grow, you give a platform to the rest and you start to scare the voices of others in the bookish world.

        Thank you for giving me and others a place to voice our concerns and to allow this discussion to take place.

  2. I’m really glad you wrote this post, Barb. As a writer who has self-published once and also published books with two indie/hybrid publishers, I hear what you’re saying about feeling bad about giving 3 stars (or fewer) to indie books. On the other hand, the stars should mean something, and if everyone gives every book they read 4 or 5 stars, then what exactly do those stars mean? That’s why I beg people who review my books to please be honest, and if a story feels like a 2 or a 3, then they should go with that. Because not everyone likes the same things. Donna Tartt’s brilliant The Goldfinch won the Pulitzer but its average rating on Amazon is 3.8 out of 5 stars. When you break that down, 45% of the ratings are 5 stars, but the rest are all over the place, and I doubt Donna Tartt cares. She wrote the book she wanted to write, and understands that not everyone loves it. Likewise, I think indie authors are wise when they don’t question their reviewers or ask them to reconsider unless the review writer made an obvious mistake (ex: saying in their review that the book is spectacular but accidentally giving it one star because they hit the wrong key).

    Thanks for listening, Barb, and for everything you do to help authors!

    1. Mary – enjoyed your comment and wanted to just add that books that get perfect 5 stars all the time see off – and while I don’t like to use stars anymore – I much prefer the books with a mix 2 – 3 – 4 and 5 –
      Or I look for what was complimented to see if it is what I like

    2. Hi Mary – thanks so much for this. It’s great to get a writer’s perspective and I like how you want honest reviews. I think honest reviews are good as long as they aren’t nasty or combative. I have read some really awful reviews like that. I haven’t read The Goldfinch although I intend to one day, but I knew that the reviews were all over the place, as you say. I’m not sure if the author who asked to have her rating upgraded was an indie author. I got the impression from the Twitter conversation I was following that she was a well-known established author. We are all in uncharted territory with so much online information. Whereas before, book discussions were mostly made between friends and family and the only reviews were in the papers and magazines. Now anyone can express an opinion (like me) so things will be skewed or diluted. Thanks again for talking about this “touchy topic.” 🙂

      1. Yes, I agree with every bit of this, Barb. Nasty reviews posted for the sake of nastiness are terrible, but thankfully, I don’t think too many people go out of their way to hurt authors or condemn their work for amusement. I do think, however, that if an author seeks out reviews for their work, they should expect to get some less than glowing ones. I personally don’t like reviewing books I don’t enjoy, so I often won’t review something if I don’t like it. But as several people here have already said, reviews are meant to help readers find books they *might* like to read (and help them avoid ones they probably won’t enjoy). And yes, a 3-star review means the reader likes the book. It doesn’t mean they love it, but it means it’s good. And good is good!

  3. Okay I’m not going to write as much as Susan did (i love you Susan!) but I personally think that 3s can go either way. It’s an average rating, and it’s perfectly in the middle. Doesn’t mean that i don’t like a book or anything. There are just parts that could have gone better for me, and I still enjoyed it. I keep my reviews neutral at a 3 if I didn’t overly love it or overly hate it. Idk I’m pretty simple. I’m surprised (well not really) than an author actually reached out to someone saying to change their rating because their review sounded better than their rating. I don’t think that’s fair, and I’m glad that the person who did the review ended up removing it completely.

    1. Hi Leelynn – Thanks so much for commenting here. I think you and I are in the same boat. I think it’s okay to give 3s for the same reason you do. I almost always enjoy reading books that have a 3 rating – even if sometimes there are parts that, as you say, didn’t work for me. I think it’s okay to express an opinion as long as it isn’t nasty or without substance. I pay most attention to the 3 ratings on Amazon and Goodreads because I think they’re the most objective. Thanks again for jumping in – I certainly don’t want to start a divide between readers and authors. To the writers I say, keep those books coming!

    2. No one ever writes as much as I do and that is a good thing. The last thing the world needs is two of me. I suspect it is why no one pays attention to half of what I say! 🙂 I love you too. And yes- I would take three stars as a meh… I liked it in parts and didn’t in others. Kinda a 50/50. That makes sense. Five isn’t an even number although I guess 2.5 is the halfway point but 2.5 definitely sounds negative (and always felt so when I was starring books) so I definitely would lean towards 3 being the ‘meh’ point.

      1. I’m not sure if anyone pays attention to the words behind the stars, but Goodreads says a 3-star rating means the reader liked the book. And a 2-star rating on Goodreads means it was okay.

  4. I have much to say on a few things here – first – later on I plan to write about true professor who thinks he is a good tough by handing out c or D
    A good teacher shows the objectives – teaches – and engages students to meet them to what should be an attainable A
    And some students will skip assignments and miss and the grade will reflect- but this summer met a professor who bragged about how tough she was with her very few A’s – but I think that is missing the mark!
    Some classes are pass fail to get away from such ego ridden mindsets! I have more on that but will wait til I write about it!

    And that kind of ties in to The Whole five stars rating.
    If I did book reviews – and I don’t and won’t – but I love how you do them and recently a blogger, Colline from Toronto, has been doing lots of reviews and she always has what seems like an objective and easy way of assigning three stars! Or less!
    But because – as you say– there are diverse tastes and so much to consider with a book-
    I would not use the five stars
    I would list pros and cons and three reasons why I liked it.
    I like stars on amazon movies because usually if a movie had four stars –
    It is worth our time and we skip the one or two (not always)

    And with our book – lady by the river – a reviewer (who got a copy for free in exchange) well she took off a whole star (gave it 4 out of 5) because of the extras added.
    She would have preferred just a poetry book! Or just a dozen short stories – but I added in sections for counselors or for self growth
    And the funny thing is the thing that lost a star was the goal of the book!!
    The essence and what my heart was drawn to!
    I should have told her that ahead of time and well – I did not mind the 4 stars but learned a lot
    My 2nd book (or three) is called “conversate” and I learned to warn folks – I said that it had a lot of family examples and might be more for counselors or parents of older teens.
    ((And hey – I think I will email you dear book club mom to see if you want to feature one of my works))

    Anyhow – I know ratings are needed but because things vary so much –
    I would not use the stars –
    They can deflate (and I accidentally crushed a poet when I have him two stars – that was the last time I used them)
    So I just say what I liked and didn’t and three reasons why someone might like it especially if they like such and such
    – And then make sure to be honest about the things I don’t like – for example – if someone is all Wordy – I note it –

    This was a good post to read and shows how much you care for your work with book review!!

    1. Hello Prior and thanks so much for reading and commenting on what is obviously a hot topic. I think it’s good to get a discussion going. I would never want to alienate or offend writers and many of my blogging friends are established authors. I think if book bloggers can use a system of “What I Liked” and “What I Disliked” and be fair and consistent, then that would also work. You’re always going to get the person who wants to know, “Was it a 4 or a 5?” I’m in the middle with that because I like sorting things in general, so maybe I’m wired to pick out my favorites or what I consider to be the best books. You raise a great point with your example of the reviewer of your book who took a star off because of the additional information in it. That seems strange to me. But I’d think anyone reading that review would also see that her comment was unusual to say the least. I hope I haven’t hurt any writers’ feelings by giving a book 3 stars. I don’t think I have any reviews on my blog that have fewer than 3. I would not review a book that really didn’t work for me. As for grades, in college especially, I didn’t mind getting a C+ in that class. The professor was as enthusiastic about my opinions and reasoning as he was with the really top thinkers in the class. He had an intense desire to make everyone in his class think as hard as possible. I learned a lot in his class. Maybe my rating system began with that experience. But I would never put myself in the same category that he was. I deserved the C+ and my friend deserved the A. Thanks again for your comments to my post and to other commenters!

      1. Pryor- This is very interesting to read. Artist create art. And then when it is released into the world it must be very difficult to see all the different ways it is interpreted versus how you intended it.

        I think being really specific about why you do or don’t like a book (whether you use stars or not) is incredibly important- to everyone’s point. The reasons I do or don’t like a book- might be exactly the opposite for someone else. I was just reading a review where someone hated a book for being too dark and violent a fantasy novel, and my warped mind said- HEY — that’s my kind of high/epic fantasy novel! And sometimes I just outright say– it isn’t the book– it was me- so YMMV.

        It is funny with all the professor talk- when my mom was in nursing school she had one of these professors that came out in the beginning of the semester and said half of you will fail this course. Some of you will drop out at the end of class and the rest of you will get Cs. -_-

      2. No Hi – thanks for the feedback – good reads was where the reviewer noted the one star deduction – I missed her review at first and glad I did
        And regarding grades – ugh – that is just it – how do we define top thinkers – and even in philosophy there can be assignment Rubrics!

        And remember the other day I mentioned Tim Ferriss’s book the Four hour work week – ? Not sure if you read it but Erika chimed in….
        Anyhow – he said if he got less than an A he would talk with his professor for a while and ask them questions – I loved his stance.
        Because a course grade should be based on what a Student brought and how he/she finished assignments –

    2. This is very interesting to read. Artist create art. And then when it is released into the world it must be very difficult to see all the different ways it is interpreted versus how you intended it.

  5. Every now and then I see things about authors doing rude things to/about reviewers.
    I’m a writer, but I’m a reader first.
    And I use those reviews. Even if a person gives a book one star and says why, it has value to me. the reason they don’t like it might be exactly why I want to read it. Or it might be enough to stop me wasting my money.
    I once bought a book with the genre listed as thriller, but it was a romance. I don’t read romance when I’m looking to read a thriller. Different emotional context. I was annoyed. I noticed a few weeks later that reviewers noted the genre was wrong, and it annoyed most of them.

    As a writer, I want to see how people react to the story – and I’m a strong advocate for this: once the story is out in the world, it belongs to the reader as they read it, and how they read it. It’s their mind/emotions on a journey with the story, and how they experience it is none of the writer’s business.
    However, if I’ve done something to annoy a reader, I really do want to know, and appreciate the time a person puts into making those words. It takes time and effort, and only about one reader in a hundred puts up a review. That makes them a rare gem.
    So if a reader says there’s a flaw, I’m happy, overjoyed, exhilarated, that someone took the time to mention it. And I’ll try to do better next time.

    1. Hello and thank you for leaving a comment about this touchy topic. I’m glad to hear from authors because I am truly interested in your point of view. I hope those of us who review books give authors valid reactions to their work. I’m glad that reviews have given you insight. Thanks again for stopping by.

  6. Most reviews are written by fellow writers or friends until you really gain traction so they’re not really reliable. I always read the look inside before I decide whether it’s a book I want to read. I once got three stars from a reader but he wrote a wonderful review and I knew he’d at least read the book.

    1. Thank you, JT for joining this conversation. I think if reviews are respectful and intelligent, giving good reasons for disliking parts of a book, then they represent valid opinions. Sometimes when I’m reading a book that I can tell isn’t going to be my favorite, I worry the rest of the time about what I’m going to say in the review. Some book bloggers don’t review books they didn’t like but I think if you spend the time reading a book you should review it. I would never want to hurt or anger an author, though.

  7. Even before I was published, I wasn’t a fan of the star system, in fact, I don’t pay much attention to that. I’m an author who will read reviews so I can see what the readers liked or didn’t like. Thanks for sharing my first book, Barbara! Gosh…it seems so long ago! Have a great weekend.

    1. Hi Jill! I’m so glad you are leaving a comment. I wasn’t sure about this post but I think it’s an important subject for book bloggers. Although I use a rating system, I try very hard not to be offensive or uppity about what I say but I worry that I could come across as a reading snob! I hope the weather has cooled down for you guys. Me? I’m under a blanket! 🍁🍂🍁🍂🍁

      1. I’ve never read a review you’ve written that sounds offensive or snobbish. Reviews should be honest, otherwise they benefit no one. We were 95 today! No blanket here! 🙂

  8. Ratings are so tricky! I’m thinking about doing a post soon on how ratings suck, especially for books that have good merit but aren’t my thing.

    For me, three stars is still a good book! If I rate a book three stars, it means that I enjoyed reading it, it just didn’t wow me in any way. I told a friend recently that I rated a book she got me 3.5 stars, and she said that was so low. But it’s only half a star worse than four stars? I find ratings so tricky, but also useful as a gauge for someone’s enjoyment

  9. This is such a wonderfully thoughtful post … and a lot of what you’ve explored is exactly why I don’t even bother with star ratings on here. It’s too rigid of a system for me. For sites like Goodreads, I do like to mark something just to keep everything tidy. But because I read broadly when it comes to genre, I only consider two things: did the author set out what they intended to do and did I enjoy it? It’s the only way I can square away giving things like picture books and political nonfiction ratings using the same scale. That noted, I have seen a few reviewers give children’s books ‘low’ ratings simply because they’re marketed toward children and that seems off to me…

    But the idea of an author contacting a reviewer about changing a star rating … yikes. Certainly, they don’t have to be happy about the rating, but that’s how it goes when you work creatively. Everyone’s a critic.

    1. Hi Christopher – you’ve made some great points. Anyone reading and reviewing a genre outside of their interests has to look at the book from the intended audience’s eyes. I’m not a big science fiction reader, and although I run a mystery book club at my library job, I don’t choose mysteries on my own, but I can still read these genres with that in mind and have, in fact, found some really great books. I’m not sure who the author was who requested a rating change, but my understanding was that the words in the review were favorable. I think anyone reading a favorable review would pay more attention to the words. You’re right, no one is going to be completely happy, but as long as a reviewer is fair, then that should be good enough. Thanks for stopping by!

  10. As an author, it’s easy to fall into the mentality of considering anything below 4 stars as a failure. Ridiculous, objectively, but subjectively it is so. And it has to be ‘gotten over’ in order to develop.

    Recently I engaged in an experiment – my free-verse combined with another authors prose.

    Imperfect, but interesting – certainly for the authors, but hopefully for readers as well.

    Will it/should it attract 4 or 5 stars? Hard to know, to be honest, but the driving consideration, I think, is that it should be interesting.

    Sorry for carrying on a bit, but this business of how to evaluate a work is something I’m finding pertinent, right now, and worth exploring for its own sake.

    Thank you, Carol, for providing the opportunity!


    1. Hi Frank, thanks so much for reading and commenting. I think as long as reviews are respectful and give valid reasons, then they are okay. Often it’s just a matter of taste and that shouldn’t cause bad feelings. I do think authors, in order to survive, have to develop a thick skin. I would be very sensitive so I can see how negative reviews would seem hurtful. It would be a shame if writers, poets, artists and musicians didn’t feel they could experiment with new styles. You seem to have the right attitude! Thanks for the visit!

      1. A pleasure to visit.

        Sometimes seeking and needing the review becomes an end in itself. A little bit backwards, but there is where it lies, at times, I think.


  11. I think stars are important because they’re usually the first thing seen on a review, especially on Goodreads. I don’t see anything wrong with 3 stars or any star rating for that matter, as long as the person read the book and gave it their honest opinions. I see some people don’t rate at all on GR and just review. Maybe this is why.

    Everyone rates books differently of course and ratings mean different things to different people. For me…

    ***3-Stars: It was just okay; I may have enjoyed it a little bit, but I probably won’t read it again. I might still recommend it to others.

    ****4-Stars: The book is an enjoyable read that kept my interest. There might have been a few minor things I didn’t like, but overall it was great.

    *****5-Stars: I loved it, and I’ll probably buy it for my collection. Highly recommend.

    That’s me, but someone else may feel different on why they give a book 3-stars. 3-stars means I still enjoyed it!

    Sometimes I rate a book 4-stars, but I still pull out everything negative about the book in my review, maybe a certain annoying character, etc. I still really enjoyed the book though.

    I’m rambling…😂 My final opinion is that everyone should be able to review a book and share their opinions without getting attacked; however, I can understand that naturally it’s going to upset authors sometimes.

    1. Hi Mischenko – I think I am like you, although I don’t buy a lot of books anymore, except for my Kindle because I can sneak them in. Goodreads says 3 stars means you liked the book. I’m sticking to that. I think it’s good for everyone to share varied opinions. I like how a reviewer’s personality comes through in a review. If it’s always, “I loved it,” then it’s hard to know what makes that person tick. Thanks so much for reading and leaving such a thoughtful comment. Hope you’re having a great weekend! 🙂

    1. Wow, well I guess she thought there was always room for improvement. In our schools, a 4.0 average means straight As, but kids consistently get higher than that because honors classes and Advanced Placement classes are weighted more. An A in an AP class is a 5.0. So people will say, “only 4.0?” I’m not sure how relatable that is, though 😉 Thanks for stopping by!

    1. Hi Jules – that’s exactly how I think. But it’s good to clarify a 3-star review, not bash it but give good reasons. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

  12. Great article – you touched a tickly spot with readers and authors. Ratings are subjective and there is a reason why some writers advise authors not to look at their ratings or reviews. The readers POV is subjective, it’s about their opinion, not the authors. Any author arrogant enough to ask a reader to change a rating or criticize it deserves the pushback or removal of said rating. I give five stars to 98% of books I read. Rarely do I give a 3 rating. My point in doing so? I almost always review, not just rate, posting only those I liked. Brandon Sanderson is the reason why I chose to do so, his explanation for a all 5 star rating is on his Goodreads page – Brandon Sanderson’s Goodread policy, dated August 30, 2016. If I don’t like a book, I don’t finish it or rate it. I don’t talk about it or recommend it. I read what I think is worth reading, hence the 5 stars. A boost via a 5 star rating to a new or struggling author matters to them. As one matures as an author, getting a 3 star review vs 4 star is moot. Getting that new reader does matter. The graph that shows the percentage of 1-5 ratings is helpful. There will always be trolls and haters. Over time, one tends to get thick-skinned about the occasional lower rating. or bad review. As an author, I’m happy to get a rating and even happier to get a review, and thrilled when I have a new reader.

    1. Hi and thanks for joining the conversation! I know a lot of readers like you who only review the books they enjoyed reading, so they always give 5 stars. That’s a solid way to do it. A blog like that is more recommended reads only. I’ve always reviewed everything I read because I feel if I make the time commitment then it’s worthy of a review. But I think whatever approach a person takes, if he or she is consistent and fair, if it’s a review of a less than favorite book, then there should be no problem. It has to be done right, and respectfully to make the voice valid. Thanks so much for your input. Hope you’re having a great weekend!

  13. A very interesting and new to me topic. And, now I have to check out this “Susan” that everyone seems to like:) Reading is and has always been my Happy Place. I have never payed attention to stars. An eye opening article and I learned a lot from the responses. At first I did not feel I even belonged in this conversation since I am not an author of books or a reviewer. Yet, I am in the loop. I am The Reader. I do read reviews. I also take reviews with a grain of salt. It depends on whether I respect the reviewer and prior recommendations. I can also sense when a reviewer is being kind, and diplomatic, yet wants to give an honest review. Like you said, Barbara, “opinions are subjective.” I also agree about being “sensitive to the hard work.”

    1. Thank you, Erica. I think all readers have a say in this because we all read reviews. I discount many reviews if there aren’t valid reasons. You can’t just say “I didn’t like it.” All reviews are subjective. Because we are all different. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    2. You are the most important person in the conversation Erica/Erika because you are The Reader. Most of us are readers and our opinion, our rating, our impressions matter most. Reviews matter to authors (and bloggers) and are appreciated because they help The Readers find their books.
      A recent stat put the number of book on Amazon at 48.6 billion. That is a guestimate by a statistician, no one knows for sure. I can think of a few author acquaintances who need to keep that in perspective instead of fussing and complaining about a bad rating or review on a public forum.

      1. Wow, a huge number of books! And well said, Janice, reviews can help us find our books. Especially when I read similar reviews coming from many sources.

  14. We live in an overblown society. Today, your professor who gave a C for satisfactory work might not make it to tenure when disgruntled students give him C and D grades in return. Personally, when I read reviews, I read them. What the reviewer says has more importance than the stars. However, if a book has an average of 3 stars on Amazon, it won’t convince anyone to click no matter how good the written reviews are. Goodreads seems to have a system that describes 3 stars as a decent read. Paid reviews and a flood of reviews by reviewers particularly predisposed to give the 5 stars also throw a monkey wrench in the system. Then, of course, there are the haters who give the 1-star review for a personal kick. Reviews can be difficult to digest but necessary for the both the writer and the reader.

    1. Hi Karen – I like what you’re saying. For the record, my professor was very popular and well respected and frankly, I was so clueless in that class I was glad to get a C+. I never pay attention to the 1 and 2 star reviews because they are often from, as you say, the haters who get a thrill from giving a negative review. The review system on the Internet is the Wild West – authors just have to trust that readers will navigate through it. Thanks for reading and commenting. Hope you are having a nice weekend!

  15. This is a welcome post. You’ve helped me see a three-star review in a much more favorable light. After all, 3 stars out of 5 is 60%.
    Thanks so much for sharing my books, Barbara, alongside some truly wonderful reads. A cool little surprise! 🙂

    1. Hi Jennifer – I’m glad you were okay with this post. I was not 100% confident about it. There’s no set agreement of how to rate books. I’m often uneasy with the 3s but I do my best. Thank you for reading and commenting.

      1. There are all types of readers too. There is no way everyone can be in agreement on every book. At our last book club meeting, I was surprised when two members didn’t like Cold Mountain. I gave it 5 stars.

      2. I liked that book very much! I read it a long time ago. I’ve always tried to reflect my own tastes in my reviews, but I’m not sure that comes across. It’s hard to differentiate taste from criticism. Btw I don’t think anyone in my book club liked Youngblood Hawke, my favorite book!

  16. It can be tricky giving honest feedback, especially when you’re dealing with authors directly—which is why I rarely do anymore. I think you’re right to not heap praise just because. It actually drives me a little crazy when reviewers give nothing but four and five stars…

    1. Hi Lorillin – I’ve never been one to jump on a bandwagon. And I often delay reading books that have received a lot of hype. I do get frustrated when I read a book that seems just okay to me and then see there are only 4- and 5-star reviews. I don’t know if there’s an answer, but it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot a about. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  17. Thank you for broaching this tricky topic. Back in the day, we used to read and enjoy, or not enjoy, books more or less privately, with no thought of interacting with the author — any more than we would get in touch with a painter or sculptor to let them know what we thought of their work. Maybe we discussed a given book with our book club, but that was that. Now there is a weird combo of pressure and empowerment for readers to not just read, but share their responses. And it’s become pretty loaded, since authors’ fortunes depend so much on reader reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. I agree that the author who objected to a reader’s 3 star review and tried to persuade said reader to change it crossed a line. But it’s gotten so that I don’t post a review at all unless I can honestly post a 4 or 5 star one. And that’s without even bringing up the arbitrariness of the “star system” — for me, a literary work should be judged differently from a highly commercial or strictly genre work. But nobody is policing that . . .and I’m sure not volunteering!

    1. Neither am I! I’ve been thinking hard about this. It’s hard to put all books in the same rating structure. I honestly don’t know what to do about it. It’s so subjective, but I do like to express my opinion. I also You make great points, Jan. Thanks for stopping by.

  18. I wrote on this subject myself a while back. Like you, I don’t see 3-stars as a negative rating, I described this as my category for books I’ve liked and found well-written, so this is where most of what I read gets rated – 4 & 5 stars are for the very good or excellent. As you say, if all books fell into the 4 & 5 star category, that would make it a total nonsense.

    That said, I’ve just finished the second book by an Indie author whose works I both like and admire. Most of what he’s written has been online and short story, but his first full length novel was very good, and so I gave it 4 stars. The follow-up is still a good book and I plan to give it 3-stars but … as it’s new, I find myself holding back on publishing my rating in case it has an adverse impact. The silly thing is I’d be delighted to receive a 3 star rating when I publish, so maybe I’m being over-sensitive on his behalf.

    You’re so right, sadly this *is* a terribly tricky & touchy subject.

    1. Hi Deb, thank you for your comment here. I have debated getting rid of my ratings, but I actually enjoy seeing how other people rate books and hearing what they think. So I’m going to assume others come to my blog to hear my opinion. I do understand the writer’s perspective and many of my blogging friends are also published authors. It’s tricky, but I just try to be honest and fair. And I’m only one person, so my opinion is small in the book review arena. I appreciate you checking in on this, truly a touchy topic!

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