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  • Writer's pictureJoy Slaughter

The Case for the 5-Star Review

We like to share our opinions with others, and indeed, we value those opinions when we seek to buy. We search for products carefully, analyze pricing, and then turn to reviews. We look at star ratings and read paragraphs of others' use of the product. All of this is valuable.

Let's say you have read a novel. It was good. You liked it. Maybe there were even some exciting moments when you just HAD to keep reading. You want to give it a positive review.


It was not Les Mis. It was not Jane Eyre. It was not the Count of Monte Cristo or the Fault in Our Stars.

How many stars should you give it?

5 Stars.

"What?" you say. "But 5 stars are for the best of the best!"

Perhaps. But consider the following.


First, let's examine the scale we think should apply to novels (and other products).

Makes sense, right? A full spectrum of emotion. But step back for a minute. How many of those are actually POSITIVE? Two. Only two.

Now stop and think about how you actually buy a product.

Does this scale look more like this?

Who wants to buy something with only 3 stars? Even 4 makes you cautious and encourages you to examine price and other reviews.

The range of acceptable emotion when purchasing is decidedly smaller.

So when you review a novel, remember that you are communicating with buyers who are thinking in this pass/fail manner.

If you think that book is worth buying, then only a 5-star review will communicate that.


So the book you read was good, and you want to give it a fair review. Congratulations on being a good person! Unfortunately, there are many people out there who give spiteful reviews. Perhaps they didn't like the villain (isn't that the goal?) or the place setting or prefer brunette main characters over blonde. Perhaps they misunderstand a clearly explained point. Perhaps they don't give a reason at all, only leave a one-star review and walk away.

The only way to combat petty, inaccurate, and spiteful reviews is with positive ones. There is nothing the author can do but rely on others to give 5-star reviews.

If someone gives a 4-star review and another reader gives a spiteful 1-star review, this will create a balance of 2.5 stars (that is the average). Even TWO 5-star reviews will only bring the average up to 3.67--and that's still in the do-not-purchase range for the average buyer.

It takes THREE 5-star reviews to counteract ONE one-star review

and even then it will only be in the 4-star range again.

It takes NINETEEN 5-star ratings to return to 4.8 stars after ONE one-star rating.

FORTY to achieve 4.9.

Because there are unfair people in the world, consider a 5-star review for a book you liked.


In the publishing industry, there is a formula used to determine the number of books sold, even when that information has not been released.

The HIGH range is used Big Four Publishers and large imprints. The MEDIUM range for smaller imprints. The LOW range is for indie press and self publishing.

A rating for a book in the LOW category is THIRTY TIMES more valuable than a rating for a book published by a Big Four company.

But it's more than that. An indie-published or self-published author will take the time to read and think about EVERY review and rating given. I can attest to this. They will rejoice over some. They will cry over others. But I guarantee, it will have an impact, and it will not be lost in a slush pile of other reviews. Your rating encourages a writer to keep writing--or to stop. 5-stars feels so much better than 4. Why not give that to an author who has devoted thousands of hours, if not years of their life, to create something you devoured in a few hours/days?

And beyond that, potential agents and publishers also look at ratings. They use the above formula to determine if a book was a "success" or not. Though criteria vary by entity, most want to see at least 50 ratings. Additionally, they want them in the 4.5 star level or higher (remember what we've already discussed about balancing out those pesky one-stars). An "unsuccessful" debut novel can be the death knell of a writer's future publishing career.

If you would like to see an author published again, I strongly encourage you to give their book 5-stars. This is especially true if they were published originally by a small press or self-published. All other effects of the stars are more powerful for such authors.

When reviewing a novel, remember:

There are only TWO positive choices: 4 or 5

Others are watering down your vote--it takes THREE 5-star reviews to balance ONE one-star review

Your review is much more powerful for small press/indie/self-pub authors

Please rate with 5-stars books you think are worth buying.


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