Star Ratings and Book Reviews

Because of a response I received when I wrote a review on a book and gave a different “star rating” on Amazon than on Goodreads, I decided to do a little survey. Also, because a comment was made to me that “people only look at the stars”.

If you don’t know, the star ratings are different on Amazon than on Goodreads. Of course on both sites, a five-star rating means the reader thought the book was outstanding, fabulous, etc. However, on Amazon a 4-star rating means “I liked it”, whereas on Goodreads a 4-star rating means “I really liked it”. On Amazon a 3-star rating means “It’s okay”, whereas on Goodreads a 3-star rating means “I liked it”, and of course, on both Amazon and Goodreads 2 and 1-star ratings aren’t anything a writer really wants to see, nor will they encourage readers to read such a book.

My little survey consisted of three main questions, but based on the majority of the responses I received, I will be adding two more to this post. By the way, I posed my questions to three groups of readers and writers and received a total of 114 responses. However, if you add all of the responses listed below, you may or may not get a total of 114 because some responses didn’t really answer the questions or only answered one or two questions. Therefore, I am posting the responses that actually answered questions I posed.

Question: Do you only check the star ratings?

Yes — 10

No — 7

Several people said they check both the star ratings AND read reviews. I did not place these people’s answers in either of the specific questions.

Question: Do reviews mean more than stars when deciding to read or purchase a book?

Yes — 42

No — 1

Question: When writing a review, do you share your honest opinion?

Yes — 32

No one said they don’t share their honest opinion, but 13 people said if they can’t give at least a 3-star rating, they will not write a review.

However, 3 people said they would write an honest review even if they had to give less than a 3-star rating, but would be kind or would only share what the book is about.

There were 24 people who said they neither look at “star ratings” nor read reviews. They simply decide whether or not they want to read or purchase a book based on the back cover blurb.

I found this little survey a fun and interesting thing to do and I think it gave me a little insight into “star ratings” and reviews.

One person said, “Why wouldn’t someone write an honest review? The reviews are for the readers, not the writers.”

I found that comment extremely interesting, since so many writers place big importance upon reviews because good reviews can boost book sales. However, another thing quite a few people responded was that they only read books that have been recommended by friends or family members (ah yes, word of mouth — apparently still working today even with all of the technology).

Do you have an opinion? I’d love to hear your responses to these questions and this post. Feel free to leave a comment.


4 thoughts on “Star Ratings and Book Reviews

  1. Kelly, Where do i find what Amazon says their stars are supposed to mean? It’s not easy. I get directed to some outside sites that tell what THEY think they mean.
    Some book pages list the top favorable review (which is always 4 or 5 stars) and the top critical review (which is usually 3 and never more.)
    I miss the old days (is Amazon old enough to have old days?) when many reviewers actually had something interesting to say about the book Not just reciting the plot and saying I loved it. This often started an interesting book discussion.
    I think the explosion of self publishing has led to authors being overly worried about their stars.
    BTW did you ever look at the Amazon reviews for the Bible? KJV gets plenty of one star ones.


    • Honestly John, I don’t know what to tell you, because since I did this little survey for this post, I’ve gone back to Amazon to look at what they say their stars mean, and couldn’t find them. Before, all you had to do was hover your cursor over each star and a box would come up and tell you, but now that doesn’t happen. I also went back to recheck Goodreads and now when you hover your cursor over their stars all they say is: “rate 1 star”; “rate 2 stars”; “rate 3 stars”; “rate 4 stars”; and “rate 5 stars”. It makes me wonder if they became aware that a lot of people are suddenly talking about the star ratings and the fact that the two sites had their stars meaning different things.
      I agree with you about what current book reviews have become. I, too, do not find a book review helpful when it simply gives a synopsis of what the book is about and then says “I loved it”. I want to know what they loved about it and what they didn’t think was so great. Those are the helpful reviews, not just for other readers, but also for the writers.
      I also think the culture, with it’s so called “tolerance” and so many people not wanting to “offend” anyone, to be the cause that so many are unwilling to rate a book with only 1 or 2 stars. As a writer, I have been told from the very beginning, “you better grow a thick skin because you will receive harsh comments and reviews”, and in my opinion, if I ever publish a book that is badly written, I want to know about it, so that I don’t do it again. Now, if a reader simply doesn’t like my book because they didn’t like the genre, or they didn’t like my main character or something a character did, I don’t care. That’s a personal opinion, and everyone’s entitled to that, but it’s not going to upset me because I certainly don’t expect everyone who will read my book to like it on a personal opinion basis. I don’t think, giving a book 3 stars or more simply because you don’t want to hurt the author’s feelings is doing the author any favors. However will they improve their writing if they don’t know they could really use an editor? Nothing I write, will be published without having been examined by an editor and thoroughly edited. Of course, even these books sometimes have a couple of typos or or missing words or small mistakes, but those I can overlook. What I can’t overlook, is when the book is full of typos, missing words, grammatical errors, etc.
      I agree with you that because of so many self-published books, writers have become obsessed with the star ratings, and that’s because the stars are equated with book sales. However, I have been told by more than one writer that “word of mouth” is still the best way to get book sales, because readers LOVE to talk about the books they love or hate with other readers. I know I do.
      And, no, I didn’t know that about the Bible. I have never looked at the ratings for the Bible. I imagine most of those 1 star reviews for the KJV version is because most people in today’s world can’t understand the old English form it is written in.
      I imagine the only reason Shakespeare still gets 4 star reviews is because the scholars and honor students who study and understand Shakespeare still enjoy reading his work.
      I’m sorry I couldn’t answer your question about how to find what Amazon says it’s stars mean, but it looks like they and Goodreads have now decided to let that up to those who choose to rate them. I’m also sorry for such a long response. Thank you so much for commenting here.


  2. Although Amazon’s and Goodreads’ stars are supposed to mean different levels of appreciation, I’ve heard it said that many people equate star ratings with grades. In other words, five stars equals an A; four stars, a B; three stars a C … you catch my drift. Since reading that, I’ve thought about the implications and realized how true that had been to the way I looked at star ratings. Though I do read reviews and blurbs, I would be more likely to read those on books rating better stars before checking out those with lower ratings. Now that I’ve written books and received reviews, I realize how opinionated they can be, reflecting a reader’s own perspective. I am more likely now to check out books with lower star-ratings if I find the blurb interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Chris,

      Thanks for sharing. I had never heard of the stars being equated with grades like in school. I certainly never thought of it that way when reading or writing reviews.


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