Let’s Talk About Star Ratings
Star ratings on books can be controversial, so I asked Terry Tyler to give us her thoughts on the matter.
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.
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.
Want to read more advice posts? Find them here, on our Wednesday Wing Page.
Which star ratings do you trust or look for, when checking out a book?