It’s all in the stars… Ratings on different sites

Yes, I’m bringing it up again. Although I may be beating a dead horse here I think that we as book bloggers need to be more cognizant of the star ratings we use.

Personally, I have my own take on star ratings which is my own personal view that I have shared here.

But, we bookbloggers hand out star ratings on various sites as is required as part of being a bookblogger. Reading is a personal and subjective experience, and what appeals to one may not please another.

I’ve recently encountered a circumstance where I rated a book with 3 stars.  On Goodreads, 3 stars means “I liked it”. On NetGalley 3 stars means you would ‘maybe recommend’.  HOWEVER… on Amazon 3 stars is viewed as a negative review!

As responsible book bloggers we need to adjust our ratings to accurately reflect how we felt about the book.  Sometimes I give the SAME book different ratings on different sites. For instance I can give 3 stars on Goodreads (I liked it), 4 stars on NetGalley (Yes, I recommend) and 4 stars on Amazon (you liked it but had at least one issue with it)

Amazon is a bit scary to me. They use algorithms. A newer review will be given more ‘weight’ than an older review. A review of a verified purchase is given more ‘weight’ than one which is not. There has also been talk of 5 star ratings being bought, which is corrupt and puts a whole new spin on the matter.

I just don’t understand why stars can’t mean the same thing across the sites. This is especially ironic as Goodreads is owned by Amazon!

Here is one explanation of Amazon star ratings.

From this website, I garnered the following explanations of Amazon’s reviews:

5 stars is an A, A-, or even a B+. This means you enjoyed the book. It fulfilled the measure of its creation. The 5-star novel was enjoyable, didn’t have any major plot holes, and the writing was good enough that you’d recommend it as a nice read. Five stars doesn’t mean the book has to be the best you’ve ever read, or even better than the last one you reviewed. It just has to be a good novel.

4 stars is a B, B-, or even a C+ novel. The 4-star rating is for novels that you liked but had at least one issue with. A plot hole that disturbed your reading enough that you didn’t enjoy the overall story. Maybe a few too many typos. Too much repetition. But you still found the story compelling enough to read in a short time and you enjoyed it. The novel doesn’t have to be the best one you’ve read in the genre, it just has to hold your attention.

3 stars is a C or a C-. So only average or NEUTRAL. You neither liked it or disliked it. This really is the kiss of death rating. The “okay” novel. If you give a novel this rating, there should be SERIOUS issues because, remember, many advertisers won’t accept novels with this overall rating. So the 3-star novel should be one you didn’t feel compelled to finish, or one whose overall plot didn’t quite make sense (and you feel wouldn’t make sense to others). This is a novel that you wouldn’t recommend unless it was the only thing someone had to read and they were stuck in an airport for two hours.

2 stars is a D or a D-. This is a novel that has at least three major negative issues and you feel these issues will prevent others from enjoying it at all.

1 star means F. The author completely and utterly failed. You hated it totally and absolutely. That means there was no plot, it was riddled with grammar errors, and everything about it was boring, boring, boring. The author should throw the book away. Never give an author a one-star review unless you feel they really should give up writing and get a job at the local grocery instead.


So, what I take from this is that if you love the book and give it a 5 star rating, it is easy peasey. Give it 5 stars everywhere.  BUT… if you are giving it anything less than 5 stars, you need to be cognizant of what your rating MEANS on the site where you are putting it. We don’t want to be unfair to authors or potential readers by giving a book a rating which can be in any way misleading, however unintentional.

I’ve learned through interaction with other bloggers that some tend to stick to the easy way out. If they give a book 3 stars, then they give 3 stars across all sites. Once they realize that this is actually detrimental to the book and its author on Amazon would they continue to do this?

I’m sure you all have an opinion on this matter and I’d love to hear your thoughts.


About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
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54 Responses to It’s all in the stars… Ratings on different sites

  1. Several years back, as I saw “grade inflation” rampant in book ratings, I pulled back. A 5 is guaranteed to be a LIFE LONG FAVORITE. Nothing less.

    Liked by 1 person

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  3. Carol says:

    Oh I gotcha! I guess in theory Amazon could do that. Any timr Gr makes a change something breaks. Buggiest website ever – worse than Airbnb


  4. Lorilin says:

    I think Amazon’s rating system is pretty ridiculous. Honestly I think they are trying to participate in their own review manipulation. Saying you should give five stars for a B+ book makes zero sense—other than it helps them sell more garbage novels…

    Liked by 1 person

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  6. This drives me absolutely bonkers, and I don’t even know what to do about it. xD For me, three stars is an average book. I enjoyed it enough to finish it, but I didn’t love it. I’d recommend it, but likely not sing its praises. For me, it’s still a *good* rating. It just maybe wasn’t quite for me.

    I know that Amazon sees three stars as a bad rating, but if I give a book three stars, I consider it a three-star book. It feels wrong to then give it four stars on Amazon. I have, at times, intentionally foregone giving a review on Amazon if I know it’s going to negatively impact a book on there, which isn’t a good solution, because that still hurts the author, who could use that review there.


  7. This is a really interesting discussion to have! I don’t use the amazon rating system at all (for various reasons) and it seems pretty complicated. I do have a guide for how I rate books, but it’s basically the same as the goodreads system (although I tend to use 2* for books I didn’t like, but that others might). I think it can be really tough because everyone is different! So a lot of the time, it’s just about getting to know a particular reviewer to get a real vibe.


    • So true. Knowing the reviewer is the key. Some reviewers I follow NEVER give 5 stars even when they LOVE the book. Others give 5 stars routinely. Myself I tend to score highly mostly because I am the one choosing the titles. It stands to reason therefore that I will enjoy most of them. The few times I’ve scored really low (and yes it has happened) was more often than not times when someone else chose the book for me. (my bookclub choice for example). Thanks so much for your input in this discussion.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ah I can completely understand that! I’m getting better at picking my own books and do find that if I go to a book club/get a more random recommendation, it’s more of a risk, so the rating could easily be lower. No problem! It was a great discussion!!


  8. Sheree @ Keeping Up With The Penguins says:

    I’m terrible at star ratings, I hate the obligation to give them and I don’t do so on my own blog – for this very reason! 😂😅 I don’t use NetGalley, and I don’t leave reviews on Amazon myself, so for me it’s only Goodreads to contend with. My “average” star rating, according to them, is 3.64 stars, which seems about right – I like most books I read, and a few loves and a few stinkers will pull things up/down. Personally, I put very little stock in star ratings, and prefer to read what people actually say/think about a book than see an aggregated reductive score.


  9. Interesting post. I initially used the 5* rating on my blog but stopped quite quickly as using any rating seemed to need extra explanation and I felt that reading what I thought would give a better feel for what the book was like. Of course, this would still be my opinion and others may disagree.

    However, when on GoodRead, AmazonSmileUK or NetGalley as you say, a star rating is required and so I would generally use the same although often with an additional rating within the notes. I am, I think, pretty generous when rating – although I’m not sure others would agree!

    I think your excellent explanation, thanks for that, of the variation in meanings on the star ratings for the different sites, whilst I hadn’t realised had such a difference (!), has made me feel that not rating on my blog is right. I will also be a little more careful when I do have to rate on sites although I think my added rating within the notes will continue and perhaps give the nuance that is needed.


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  11. carhicks says:

    You know that I have issues with stars. I do rate books differently based on the site. Amazon and Netgalley get higher ratings because of what the stars mean. I agree with what Nicki said about the difference with Amazon and Goodreads. Barnes & Noble are different again. It is tough. Then there are individual ratings on blogs, but I won’t go there. Great post to get people thinking.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Brilliant post Lynne! I didn’t realise that there was such a difference between star ratings on Amazon and Goodreads! This is really helpful, thank you.


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  14. Carol says:

    This is an interesting discussion Lynne! When I rate a book 3 stars, it was just ok and I probably liked certain elements. …… I doubt if I could be convinced to give it a higher rating anywhere! I will admit that I don’t change my rating based on the site. But you’ve challenged me to think about this!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve succeeded if I’ve caused you or anyone else to at least think about it. If you know what a site expects for a star value, and you are rating the book on your own star value, the result is not genuine for that site.
      That being said, in a perfect world, all sites would deem the stars to mean the same thing – yet the world is far from perfect.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Interesting topic. I tend to just take star ratings as they are meant to be–subjective to the person, the site, etc. Each star rating means something else and it can be complicated to keep track with the varying points behind it but!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. This is a great post. Glad I surfed through today.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Yes, have wrestled and written regarding the star ratings myself and totally agree with your paragraph 5. Amazon seems more interested in “verified” purchases. I’ve been cautioned on the correct method of explaining receipt of the book for free for review and tried to be careful with my wording. Also, their algorithms appear to change from time to time. I seldom rate a book 5 on Goodreads, but carefully examine my star rating on NG as it appears to “disqualify” me for a further request if the current rating was a 3. What a minefield!

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Zoe says:

    Always a great discussion, Lynne!
    I actually don’t even love the five stars and as you’ve already mentioned 5 stars means something different on different sites. You’ve probably noticed that I actually decided when I started my blog at the beginning of 2016 to rate books out of 10 as it gives me a little more flexibility than just loving a book or thinking a book’s okay. Have a lovely weekend! xx

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Christine says:

    I am totally guilty of using the same star ratings on each of those 3 sites. I guess I should reassess that practice. People seem very individual on what their personal star ratings mean, and I think it would be a herculean task to get everyone to standardize. My own means of trying to interpret whether a book would interest me is to forget the stars and simply go by the written reviews. I find that works much better for me. Unless I know the individual reviewer well and their criteria for assigning stars, the star ratings just aren’t terribly helpful. Now for those “reviewers” who write glowing reviews for their author friends or who are paid to write good (or bad) reviews, I have no solution for that problem.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It is a problem in my opinion Christine. I’ve recently had the experience of having my review rejected by a publisher because I only gave the book 3.5 stars. Apparently they only publish 4 stars and up.
      I would not change my rating for that particular title as I believe 3.5 stars equals 70% – which to me is an acceptable score.
      I do believe that it is the reviewer’s responsibility to decipher a site’s rating criteria before submitting a review to that site. Otherwise the star rating is useless.


      • Christine says:

        I have to agree with you, Lynne, but unfortunately I just don’t see it happening on a universal basis. It’s a real problem.


  20. I give the book what I think it deserves. Too many reviewers go with they won’t give it less than 3, 4, or 5 stars even when they acknowledge in the review that it wasn’t worth that many stars. The review title might say 60%, but they give the book 5-stars. That’s nowhere near 60% by any stretch of the imagination. Other authors often go the 5-star route to avoid payback by the fans of the other writers.

    There are plenty of pay to play reviewers out there. I saw a blog post where a well-known writer basically did the pay to play to get high reviews on his books and it’s how he became a recognized name in the book world. One review company, probably more, pays based on number of stars you give a book. At 5 stars, you get max payout. With 4, you get less, and often with 3 or less stars, you get no payout.

    On a slightly different take, I will use a well-known alternate history writer that is published by a major trad publisher. His books are so full of spelling errors, grammar mistakes, etc. A close friend is a diehard fanboy of this author. When I pointed out the massive number of errors in his books, my friend says the author isn’t rich. Plenty of his diehard fanboys/girls pre-buy his next book in hardback. The trad publisher doesn’t even bother to proofread his work because they knew he has a ton of people who will ignore and defend the various problems in each book. The author takes no pride in his work or he would pay a proofreader to clean up the errors. I am not a fan of spell checkers, but about half, or more, of the errors would be caught by using a spell checker.

    I give this writer 1-star on any book of his I read. As my friend was loaning me the books, I don’t show up as a verified buyer. It’s even worse because he keeps re-using the same things and sayings in every series he has. If that’s not bad enough, he doesn’t even finish the series before he moves onto the next series. By that, I mean he leaves the series hanging in the middle of a war without finishing the war.

    Now, if this was a new author who was self-published, I would give them some slack. However, at some point, once they have enough books under their belt, I would stop cutting them slack.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do not get compensated financially for my reviews and truthfully, I hold reviewers that do as suspect – for that very reason.
      If you are going to submit your review on a certain site, I feel that it is your responsibility to decipher that site’s rating system before using it.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. stargazer says:

    Super interesting discussion! I never thought about this and luckily I don’t rate on different media, so I don’t have this problem. It does bother me though, that 3 doesn’t mean the same everywhere. There are 5 numbers. Equal distance between each of them. Shouldn’t be that hard to figure out. Speaking as a mathematician… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Kerena Swan says:

    A fascinating blog, thank you. As a writer who reads all her reviews I was very interested to hear how you work out the ratings. Nothing beats getting a positive review, especially if the reader ‘gets’ the message I’m trying to convey. Poor reviews can be hurtful, after all they are telling me my baby is ugly, but everyone is entitled to their opinion. It would be helpful if reasons were given though and an indication that they have actually read the book. My worst review said ‘Utter rubbish. Don’t give up the day job,’ but there was no reference to the content so did they even read it? I’ve grown a thick skin since becoming a writer and the good reviews more than outweigh the bad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes Kerena, I expect you do have to develop a thick skin. Reviews are so subjective and dependent on the reader’s taste, mood, etc.
      As my Mum used to say “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure “.
      If you maintain your positive attitude you’ll do well. 😉 Thanks for your comment.


  23. I liked the discussion, Lynne. Very useful when moving between sites.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. James McEwan says:

    PS – ‘Girl On The Train’ 58356 reviews. 5% 1 Star = 2917 readers didn’t like it.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. James McEwan says:

    An interesting take on the star rating from various sites. If like an examination board every reader rated the books using the stated star system, then a comprehension judgement could be made.
    Leaving ARC and bought (free books) reviews aside – I think there is a balance to be obtained from a high number of reviews and range of star rating that gives a wider picture for potential readers to judge if they would buy the book.
    A one star – the author has failed surely only applies to the opinion of that reader. I have seen many 1 Stars where the comment is simply – ‘I should not have listened to the five star reviews.’
    The truth is; the books pushed by the big publisher can muster more reviews and in theory should get a more of a balanced opinion. I must admit that when the number of reviews goes above 1000, is there a need for any more? Seemingly there is. “The Girl On The Train’ has 15818 reviews with 4% 1 Stars. (Amazon UK), which means 632 people thought the author had failed.
    I think that word of mouth sells most books and that means readers trust certain reviewers more than others – hence Vine Reviews on Amazon. Some readers follow their favourite Blog in their genre of choice.

    So do reviews really matter once the book is on the market?
    Yes, in life opinion matters but can you trust them – every reader knows what they like, some just follow the hype.

    Yes, I enjoyed your explanation of the star ratings – i wonder if everyone who writes the reviews follows them?

    What would happen if every person had to buy the book – before being allowed to give a review?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly James. I also wonder if people who use these sites actually think about what the stars mean on the site that they are using. I fear many just rate the book then use the same rating on all sites. Not an accurate reflection – making the star ratings less valuable than they could be potentially.

      Liked by 1 person

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