Wednesday Wing – What do those #Bookreview Star Ratings Mean? #wwwblogs

Wednesday Wing brings you tips and notes on a range of book related items.

Rosie's Notebook

Last week we brought you some simple easy to use book review templates to get the new reviewer under way

Today we’re going to look at the world of Book Review Star Ratings. I’d like to Thank Terry Tyler for her valuable input with this post.

The star rating of a book is so important, as it can make the difference between a ‘buy’ or a ‘pass’ for a potential reader. The star average is important for authors, too, if they are approaching book promotion sites.

But what does each star rating mean? Just to make it nice and confusing, on Amazon and Goodreads the stars actually mean slightly different things, and although most book bloggers have their own system (often stated on their blog), it’s as well to be aware of what the ratings mean on these sites.

Amazon Rating


Goodreads Rating


Many reviewers feel the bands between the stars are too wide and introduce their own breakdowns within these, awarding a 3.5 stars or a 4.5 stars etc. Then they might round up or down, depending on how they feel about the book. This is common practice these days and quite useful, if you feel a book is, for instance, better than a 3* but not quite up to a 4*. You can state the variation at the top of the review on Amazon and Goodreads.

If you have a blog and want to use your own system of star ratings, it’s best to display it clearly on your blog, so that readers know what you mean by those four stars for instance. Then, you can translate this to Amazon and Goodreads as you see fit. It’s important to be consistent, if you can, so that readers know what you mean by each rating.

Here’s a dilemma reviewers often face: what if a book is good, well written and researched, perfectly presented, with excellent characterisation, but just didn’t ‘float your boat’, maybe because it’s outside your favourite genre range, or was a much more gently paced book than you prefer? You have two options here, and it’s really up to you:

  • Award the stars according to your own reading experience only.
  • Bear in mind that readers who love this genre might adore it, and rate it according to its merit in that area of the market.

You can always qualify the rating with the wording in the review itself; for instance, ‘this book was a little slow for me and too romance orientated, but I think lovers of the genre will adore it.’

The most important thing is to be honest; you only have to browse Amazon to see reviews saying ‘I bought this book because of all its 5* reviews, but it’s full of grammatical errors and typos’. But don’t get in too much of a sweat over it; one man’s meat is another man’s poison. A book you consider a 5* unputdownable gem might be quite mediocre to someone else. Also, because the 5* system is so limiting, a 3* rating can mean anything from a fairly good book (‘I liked it’ on Goodreads) to something with much potential for improvement.

Ultimately, many reviewers award stars by ‘feel’. Does this book say 5* to you? It’s very important, too, not to feel pressured. If you’re a blogger who takes in review requests, your blog should make writers aware that you review honestly. It’s not unheard of for writers to hassle book bloggers to change their star rating, but please don’t succumb to this, if it happens to you. The way to make your book blog worth reading is to make it authentic.

Above all, it’s your choice, and don’t forget that every single reader will read a book differently!

One important point to make: don’t forget that on Amazon you are reviewing THE PRODUCT. Not the delivery time, or Amazon customer service, or indeed the writer. I’ve seen books given 1* simply because the customer had trouble downloading the book! This can reflect badly on the author.


Here are links to other useful Wednesday Wing Posts

Checking your WordPress is linked to your Twitter helps others share your posts

Writer’s Craft books by Rayne Hall full of REALLY useful tips

Hyperlinks, Short links and Linkys

Making your post titles easy to share on Twitter to maximise views.

Creating Twitter pics that fit

Creating a slideshow on WordPress

Getting the most out of Google+ posts

Automated Tweets, LOVE ‘EM or HATE ‘EM? make use of them

What’s Your Book Genre?

Should you write dreams into your work?

What can I read in the first 10% of your book?

Dialogue – he/she said

Creating Twitter Lists –

Making best use of your Twitter “Thank-You”

Should you write a book series?

Book Clubs Love ’em? Or Hate em?

Blog in a Slump? Give it some TLC

Let’s talk about Libraries

Getting The Most Out Of Twitter Share Days

Easy Templates To Help Readers Write A Book Review

28 thoughts on “Wednesday Wing – What do those #Bookreview Star Ratings Mean? #wwwblogs

    • Thanks, Barb – I think it’s got to the point, when so many people won’t post a review that’s less than 3*, that people think that 3* is a bad review, as it’s the bottom of the ‘acceptable’ scale. I keep reminding people that it actually means ‘I like it’ on Goodreads. Which is why I won’t give 3* on Goodreads if I think a book is at the lower end of this rating, even if I give it on my blog and Amazon.

      I am quite harsh with star ratings, and don’t just chuck a 5* to everything I liked ~ and I’ve got 3* on both Kings and Queens and Last Child, that are actually really terrific reviews. The reviewer obviously doesn’t throw her higher ratings around, either, and I totally respect that.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hard. I review, only what I read..and I don’t READ other reviews before I write mine. A lot of the writers I review: Tobias Hill, Andrew Miller, are very little reviewed as the Lit Fic lot don’t review for some reason. What I find hard are the little known authors with 500 5 star reviews…just looks suspicious and undermines the validity of the system


    • I imagine if a book has 500 5* reviews then they are quite well known as ebook writers… but I take your point. There is so much review swapping, buying fake reviews, getting all friends to review books glowingly, etc, but I’ve ranted away about that in so many articles before that I thought I’d give it a rest in this one.

      You’re right, there are certain genres that get more reviews than others, such as chick lit, but it does tend to tally with the amount of books sold, generally. They say 1% of the reading public review; I find it to be slightly more. If you sell, say, 50 books a day over a period of a couple of years, those reviews soon mount up, which makes 500 quite feasible.


  2. Great post, Rosie. Helpful tip about reading a book that doesn’t ‘float your boat’. I adore YA fantasy but have been asked to read YA contemporary romance before, it was very well written and edited but not my kind of thing. I’ve seen Terry add the line ‘it will appeal to xyz’ on her reviews – good advice. Thanks ladies 🙂


    • Yes, I’ve had to do that often with romance books, Shelley, which is why I added that in! I can never give a light romance more than 4* because I am thinking ‘yeah, okay, this is really nicely written, but where’s the rest of the plot’???!! ~ but I like to think that I can spot a book that’s good of its genre.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It is quite confusing with the difference in ratings on Amazon and GR. Like Carol, I don’t read other reviews purposely before I write mine and just go with how the book makes me feel according to my own ratings.


  4. Good article. For me personally i know what i want * ratings to mean –

    1 Star – Unreadable
    2 Star – I didn’t like the book
    3 Star – I liked the book but there were few things I didn’t like or would have changed
    4 Star – I loved the book and there was one or two things i didn’t like or would have changed
    5 Star – I loved the book and i wouldn’t change a thing about it

    But that’s just how i like to review.

    It’s definitely something to keep in mind when reviewing though. I always give the same ratings across the board.

    I agree about your comment about rating the books not Amazon. I seen recently during a promo a book got lots of one stars as people didn’t get the book for free as they should, either they didn’t apply the code or Amazon had some sort of issue.. but still.. it’s not the authors fault.

    I also seen a 3* rating recently – “Haven’t read it yet”.. really?? i had to ask myself why they bothered reviewing it then


  5. Great article. Yes, it’s important to be consistent, but it’s not a science and you’re right, not two people will read the book the same way. I sometimes read other people’s reviews before writing mine for some of the books, to see if there are any evident issues I might offer my two cents on that seem controversial or with very divided opinions… I think the content of the review is more important than the number of stars that are arbitrary. I know what Terry means about her reviews. I’ve read some reviews that have made me buy books that weren’t 5 stars or even 4…


  6. Great reminder about reviewing the product – I’ve seen many negative reviews about the book not downloading, only partially downloading, etc – and then giving it 1 or 2 stars. Not the writer’s fault.


  7. Thank you, Rosie, for weighing in on this “stellar topic.” A well-written, honest review is worth more than the number of stars a book receives. Most writers try hard to write a good story, but not every book touches every reader’s heart.


  8. Interesting. Goodreads seem to be more positive than Amazon. I do have my own scale on my website, which is a little different than either of those. 🙂
    @dino0726 from 
    FictionZeal – Impartial, Straightforward Fiction Book Reviews


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