Today’s post is a quick barfing of my thoughts on Amazon’s five star rating system, specifically when it applies to books.
I’ve finished a handful of books recently, and each time I go to review one of them on Amazon or Goodreads, I feel so limited by the five-star system. How can 1-5 stars accurately represent my reaction to something as complex as a novel, a novella, or even a short story?
I don’t think it can. I would much rather work with a 1-10 star system. I know Amazon will probably never do that, because, on a base level, their review system works. It’s just frustrating sometimes.
Here’s the criteria I follow when deciding how many stars to give a book I’ve recently read:
One star reviews are harsh. I’ve never actually given a book a one star review before. To me, one star books are those that lack any sense of objective creative dignity. In other words, if I feel the author put any sort of effort into their product, I’ll be very reluctant to give it a one star rating.
I assign two star ratings to 99% of the books I simply don’t enjoy (I try to be objective. If I don’t enjoy a book for purely subjective reasons, I probably won’t bother reviewing it). My motives for giving a book two stars include consistently poor editing, subpar plot or character development, or if it’s just a boring story.
Three star ratings are where I have the most issues, because I feel there should be a much bigger gap between two stars and three stars. To me, three stars mean I liked the book. I finished it and I was entertained. Maybe there were a few mistakes, and maybe it wasn’t my favorite book ever, but there were no glaring faults to make me quit.
I think writers generally get discouraged by three star ratings because they’re perceived negatively. But for a bit of perspective, on a ten star rating system, these books would earn 6-7 stars from me. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it?
For the aforementioned reasons, I generally skip straight to four star ratings if I like a book (a ten star system would give me a lot more flexibility, though).
Four star books are properly constructed and edited, and they rise above the base entertainment factor. Maybe there’s a character I really like, or a plot twist that caught me by surprise, or a subplot I was genuinely engaged in. They may not be perfect: a few typos here and there, or the occasional weak character or plot point. Those are all relatively minor issues that I can overlook as long as the main plot and the protagonist keep me turning pages.
I give books five stars quite rarely. For a book to get five stars, it has to meet all the qualifications of a four star book (see above), but it also has to impact me. That’s the determining factor for me. Impact. Whether it’s emotionally, intellectually, or personally, a story has to really hit me hard for me to give it a full five stars.
I know rating books is an incredibly subjective process. I’m definitely not saying my criteria should be the rule.
How do you decide how many stars to give a book? Is your thought process similar to mine? Totally different? Let me know in the comments!
In the meantime, have a great Monday.