Amazon Book Reviews: 3 Stars or 4?


I’ll admit it: I’m chintzy with my book review stars.  I save my 5-star recommendations for books that are perfect – the ones I stay up all night for, the ones I’d re-read immediately, the ones for which I’d grab a total stranger by the shoulders and yell, “You’ve GOT to read this book!”

Okay, I’ve never really done that last one, but I’ve felt like it.  And when I do, that’s the book that gets 5 stars from me.

Most other books get 3 or 4 stars.  Four if I really liked it: well-written, good characters, no plot problems, and it leaves me with a good feeling.  Not necessarily a happy ending, but the right one.  (I don’t bother reviewing just to give 1 or 2 stars unless a book really makes me angry.)

Three stars go to books that I liked, but weren’t quite as smooth.  Sometimes books I enjoy but aren’t unputdownable, but also books that have plot or character or formatting issues that make me shake my head, but I enjoy the story enough to say “who cares?”

No more.

In my recent web browsing (now that school has slacked off), I came across Amazon Book  Reviews: 10 Cardinal Rules of Using Reviewing Power from Patricia de Hemricourt at

In the article, she explains that Amazon considers a good review to be 4 or 5 stars, while 3 stars or less is a negative mark.  And too many 3 star reviews can kill a book.

Wow, who knew?

She suggests that if you want to support an author but you think it only rates 3 stars, that you instead give it 4 stars and an explanation of what didn’t click with you.

Interested?  She also talks about Likes and Tags and what constitutes a review in Amazon’s eyes – at least until the next time they change the algorithm.   So take a minute, go click on the link up there and read the whole thing.  C’mon, that means you, too.  Yes, you, still sitting here reading my words.

Hurry up, I’m waiting.

Now that you’re back, what did you think?  For me, I first apologize to any authors to whom I gave 3 star reviews.  I really didn’t mean to give you a negative ranking – I promise.  Second, in the future I’ll be much more generous with 4 star reviews, with full comments describing what I liked and what I thought fell short.  I may even hand out a few more 5s.  And third, when I have the chance, I’ll explain why I don’t give 3s so other readers can understand too.

One other thought:  now that Amazon has bought GoodReads, none of us know how the reviews there will affect book rankings on Amazon.  So to be safe, I’ll use the 3 star understanding over there, too.

What about you? Were you already savvy about the 3/4 star issue?  Does it affect how you rate books?  Leave a comment below and let’s get talking!

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12 Responses to Amazon Book Reviews: 3 Stars or 4?

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