Only four stars?

Recently I came across an organization that distributes books to readers on behalf of new authors in return for a review.

I have not yet received any books for review, but today I read on the website that authors have been hurt because some of the reviewers gave them only four stars.

It is a delicate situation for the host of the site who does not want to offend the authors who are giving reviewers free books.

Having the occasional lower review may actually be a good thing. Andy Traub explains why in his article entitled,  Why five star reviews aren’t as powerful as four star reviews on Amazon.

Buyers will look at the overall balance of reviews. If there are only five star reviews then the book has no credibility. It needs 80% five star reviews and the remaining 20% will likely be spread out through one through four star reviews.

Readers want objective reviews. As authors we need to brace ourselves and accept that not everyone will like our books equally well.


18 thoughts on “Only four stars?

  1. i regularly get books free in exchange for a review. I give stars based on what I thought of the book, not whether I got it for free or not. I put time and effort into reading the book, and I spend time writing what I hope is a useful and decent review, based truthfully on what I thought about the book.

    Most books get 4 stars – very few get 5. Some even get 3 or below. This is not because I want to offend the writer or the publishers who gave me the book – I give an honest review, and often the lower number of stars means more effort put into writing the review to explain (justify?) why the book got that rating. I will then leave it up to the readers to judge whether the rating is justified to them too.

  2. “Authors have been hurt”? Do you mean as in, “You hurt my feelings!” as we used to whine on the playground? Honesty and tact are part of maturity. But even more mature is the ability to accept criticism, learn from it if it is valid, and shrug it off it it is not. I honestly would not be happy if I had written something that EVERYONE liked. A low review only means that someone who is not my audience read and reviewed my book.

    Another point: I wont agree to review books, sight-unseen. I review books that I have read and thoroughly enjoyed, and then try to write a review that will speak to readers like myself, to let them know why I think they will like it, too. So I give mostly 5 star reviews, for that reason. I have a policy of never being negative in print. There is so much to be positive about, I prefer not to waste my time on things I don’t endorse.

    • So if someone gets a review from you, they know they’re good. I like that. I agree with you in part about not being negative in print. We (I) often don’t realize how harsh our words sound to others, that’s why it’s important to be extra careful. I think my next fun project will be to look around for artful negative reviews that do not offend.

  3. How did I not manage to find your blog sooner? I love it. I did a post once about this topic, when I had an angry author come back on me for leaving them four stars. They now have no review from me. Great topic!

    • Really? So some authors would rather have no review than an honest review? Makes one think. Glad you found my site and enjoy it. I loved your article, Sparkle and Fade: The Lifelong Question of the Author.

  4. Pingback: Star Reviews | Writing about Books

    • I love that you have a site where you review the books you read. Now I know where to go for some reading ideas. Thanks for continuing the conversation on your site.

  5. I don’t mind a five star rating on a worthy book. I would give five stars to THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak, because it is worth that. I wouldn’t give it four stars out of fear of damaging the book’s credibility. I would give five stars to TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

    • I think you’ve got a point about not wanting to damage the book’s credibility. A four star review doesn’t do that for me, but I agree that five stars should be reserved for the exceptional read.

  6. We live in a “never enough” society, I would consider 4 stars to be great! Most of life’s arguments and offenses boil down to not taking things so personally.

    • Yes, we may need to distance ourselves a little from our work. Our critics, for the most part, are doing us a favor. They are offering a perspective that differs from our own.

    • I’ll take comments, warts and all too! I especially like reviews that go beyond a critique and suggest actual ideas for how to improve.

      It’s great to be intrinsically motivated, as you are, rather than waiting in suspense for “adulation.”

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