Discussion – Review Ratings


Thoughts about the 5 Star Rating scale


I’ve talked about ratings and stars in the past. Years later, it’s still a major topic that is on my mind. It seems like the 5 star rating system is so perfect, yet so obviously flawed.

What is a 3 star rating? Good? Bad? Somewhere in between? Do people buy 3 star books?

I’m not an author, publisher, or anyone who studies the correlation between star ratings and sales. I’m just a reader who uses the system to help me review books and I still don’t really know what to rate books sometimes.

When I review a book, sometimes I go with my gut and throw out a 4 or 5 star review for a book that I totally loved, but might not actually be that great of a book. It’s all based on moods, anyway. If I read the right book at the right time, it can be a 5 star book for me. If I read the same book when I’m not feeling it, it could easily be a 3 star book. I try to be as fair as possible, but it’s difficult because it’s not an accurate system. Sometimes I wonder how unbalanced it would look if I grouped all of my books read together by star rating.

I wonder sometimes if I should make the star system for traditionally published books and self published books differ. I don’t feel bad for throwing out a 3 star rating on a book I liked, but maybe I had some issues with or felt meh about at some point if I paid for the book or borrowed it from a library. But when I’m doing a blog tour or reading a self published book for review, I can’t hold the book to the same standards because it could negatively impact the sales of a book just because I’m being impartial. With self published books, people see a 3 star review as a bad review and no argument of mine is going to change anyone’s mind if they already feel that way. Instead of backing my rating up, it’s almost easier in my head to raise it to 4 just to avoid making a big deal about it and writing the same review I’d always planned to write. And often, that 4 star review still sticks out because everyone seems to always throw out 5 star reviews on Goodreads for self published books.

If I’m rating books for readers, I have to think about how other readers perceive the rating I chose.

My reviews are always honest, but I struggle constantly with star ratings because I know how other people view averages and 3 star reviews. As far as star ratings are concerned, some people view 3 as bad, 4 as okay, and 5 as great. Which makes it a 3 star system instead of 5 really and that really limits how I rate books. It means that if I liked a book, enjoyed it, but it wasn’t amazing, I have to go with 4 instead of 3 always and then books I loved, but weren’t the best best best and I would normally rate 4 stars, I might have to do 5. But it’s not a 5 star book to me. Which is why all of my books are probably crazy if you look at them by rating. Each book suffered through this second guessing rating problem and I end up driving myself mad sometimes.

I am skeptical of a ton of 5 star reviews when I don’t see a lot of various ratings.

Books that are amazing don’t even have 5 star averages because there’s always someone who doesn’t like it and there is always someone who rates conservatively. But with a lot of self published books, I don’t see a mix of ratings. I just see 5 stars or silence and that scares me. What if the book had a blog tour and it was the kind of tour that demanded no negative reviews? I like negative reviews and middle of the road reviews. Those are the ones that I read the most of. I want to see what people didn’t like so I can get an overall idea of what to expect. The quickest way to disappoint me is to pump me up for THE BEST BOOK EVER with all these 5 star reviews and positive feedback. My expectations will be way too high!

Often, I avoid books without negative or middle of the road reviews altogether because there’s no way for me to decide about it and I don’t trust that the reviews I’m reading are from people who paid for or would pay for the book. Which sounds crazy since I’m a blogger and I often review books for nothing other than an honest review. You judge books differently when you think about if you had to pay for them. If you only have a certain budget for all of the books you’ll ever read, would you REALLY rate a book 5 stars if you had to pay $5 for it?

And if the negative reviews just aren’t there.. I think about statistics. If you hand out a book to bloggers to read early, at least one of them will not like it or not think it’s the best book ever 5 star amazing. I mean, it would be crazy to assume that every reader will love your book. But if the reviews are telling me that EVERYONE who reviewed it loved it, I’m just super skeptical. However, I also understand that if you give a book to bloggers to review and one of them reviews it under 4 stars and only 15 people have rated it, it brings down the average. But then.. who am I rating books for? Readers or authors?

The struggle is real.


How do you feel about ratings? Do you think 3 stars is negative? Do you think 5 stars is too good to be true? Do you struggle with star ratings?



This is part of the 2016 Book Blog Discussion Challenge hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight


7 thoughts on “Discussion – Review Ratings

  1. Oh my goodness, I could watch that puppy gif all day long, lol! As for ratings-I don’t rate books at all anymore 🙂 The star system was driving me bonkers and after trying to find a different way to rate books I had a moment of ‘why am I even rating books? what’s the point?’ After that I stopped rating and haven’t looked back 🙂


  2. I struggle with star ratings so much that I don’t put them on my blog. I just post an honest review and let people decide for themselves. The stars mean different things to different readers, so I don’t rely on them when I’m buying books. They don’t mean much to me. Interesting discussion.


  3. Ugh yes, I have struggled so much with how other readers will perceive the ratings I choose. My biggest issue is 3.5 stars. See, when I rate books for my personal record keeping, I use a ten point scale. And a 7/10 is good, right? I mean, it’s basically universally known as not the most amazing but still good. But then when I make that into a 3.5… it somehow seems bad :-/ And that’s not the what I’m trying to convey about the book because 3.5s are books I’ve enjoyed, usually enough to continue a series even. But my ratings are never based on any criteria anyway. Like, a book will just *feel* like a certain rating once I finish it. (Well, except for 5s because those have to be pretty much perfect.) That’s it. And 3 stars? Sometimes, just for my own self, it will mean completely different things lol. So the whole rating this is so subjective, and everyone uses it differently. That’s why I try to ignore ratings and only pay attention to actual reviews so that I can see what someone actually liked and disliked about a book.

    (But I also get suspicious when a book has ALL good ratings. And I read more middle/negative reviews than positive for the same reason, to get a better idea of what to expect and because those are often more balanced, explaining the good and bad.)


    • I think a lot of people round 3.5 to 4 but there’s a huge difference between 7/10 and 8/10 (like a 70% is a C but 80% is a B and that’s big) so then you just have these 4 star ratings on goodreads that consist of good and great! It’s so stressful.

      I’m the same with middle reviews. I read 2&3 stars just to see what people didn’t like. But small authors obviously don’t appreciate those reviews for publicity purposes.


  4. You bring up some great points here about why rating is so difficult. Since I’m a relatively optimistic person, it’s hard for me to rate books much lower than three stars. My thoughts are usually, “I liked the book, but…” and that leads me to a three star rating. I have to be really opposed to something about the book or practically near DNFing to give less. BUT if I don’t REALLY enjoy a book, I give it three stars, whether it’s self-pubbed or not. I don’t boost my ratings for self-pubbed books (but I admit that sometimes it’s harder to give those three star ratings when you know the author is more invested in their ratings and their reviews). Still, I have to be fair, right?


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