I’ve been doling out a lot of ratings lately for books that I’ve read, especially ones that I’ve edited, and it’s gotten me thinking. What do ratings mean to people? Surely they can’t be interpreted the same way from person to person. What exactly does a 5-star review mean? Is it a book without any flaws? Is a book you enjoyed immensely? Is it a favor you decided to do for an author you happen to be friends with?
There’s a lot of gray areas with ratings. I don’t even have a specific guideline for what I decide to leave as a review. I just sort of go with my gut. But what about other people? What do the ratings they give mean to them?
When I see a:
4 or 5 star review, I consider the book to be “good.” These are lumped together because a 4 star to me might mean a 5 star to someone else. Or vice versa. Either way, the book is above average and worth reading.
A 3 star average is just that – average. It tells me that people either loved it or hated it, or they just thought it was okay. It’s not a bad thing, but I actually tend to stay away from books with an average rating this low (unless I think it sounds amazing or have a friend who highly recommends it). It tells me that I probably wouldn’t want to spend the time reading 500 pages if it was just going to be a standard, run-of-the-mill, cookie-cutter type book.
I tend to ignore 1 or 2 star reviews (unless the average rating is this low – then I run for the hills). I figure some people are just cranky or the book wasn’t what they were expecting. Some people just like giving low scores for the heck of it. Nothing impresses them. These ratings are usually void in my mind. I like seeing why people give them a rating like this, but it usually won’t deter me from trying to give the book a shot.
I tend to give out a lot of 4 or 5 star ratings myself. I give a book 4 stars if I enjoyed it, but probably wouldn’t read it again. A 5 star review means I loved the book and would love to read it a second time. 3 stars is about as low as I’ll go, and that usually means I didn’t like the book all that much. I don’t think I’ve ever given anything a 1 or 2 star review.
What do these various ratings mean to you? Are you put off by a 1 or 2 star review? Are you put off by a lot of 5 star reviews for indie authors, thinking that perhaps they were just given by family and friends? Are you a tough or easy rater?