What Does a Three-star Book Review Actually Mean?

I don’t dread reading reviews of my book as much as I thought I might before I got published. But then maybe that’s because The Maid’s Room is a few weeks into paperback publication. I know there are readers out there who love it (thank you, lovely readers – I appreciate all of you) and this makes the inevitable fact that some people don’t and won’t like my book easier to bear.

But there’s a kind of review that leaves me flat – the oh-so-beige three-star review.

According to Goodreads, the three-star review means, ‘liked it.’ Not a horrendous verdict then. But log onto the WHSmith website, and you’ll find three stars mean ‘average.’ On Wordery, a three is a mere ‘acceptable.’ Oh.

To many of us – readers and authors alike – Goodreads stars equate with school grades:

5 stars = A.

4 stars = B.

3 stars = C.

2 stars =D.

And 1 star = someone who’s very cross indeed.

If you look more closely at three-star reviews, you’ll notice that they’re sometimes attached to opinions that are polar opposites.

Rick from Petersfield might say, ‘I can’t believe the publisher has charged £7 for this muck,’ and then award three stars. While Sal from Worcester ‘liked it a lot’, such a lot in fact that she mentions the number 3.95 in her review, then lights it up with three stars only. Oh go on, Sal, couldn’t you have rounded up and given a four?

For me, a three is a book that I liked in places, but there were a few things that weren’t quite right about it. Maybe I couldn’t quite lose myself in the narrative and was always aware of the book in my hands and the words on the page.

But if a Goodreads three means, ‘liked it,’ perhaps it’s higher than a grade C. A B- possibly? And though the pushiest of parents might disagree, a B- isn’t too shabby at all.

I think I might have just made peace with three stars. I felt a bit mean giving them out – but now I don’t feel quite so bad.

What does a three-star review mean to you, readers and writers?  I’d love to know.

Photo by Paul Bergmeir on Unsplash


4 thoughts on “What Does a Three-star Book Review Actually Mean?

  1. I agree a lot with your idea of what a 3 star means. Whenever I rate a book 3 stars it generally means that the book was good, but I had some issues with it that kept me from giving it a higher rating.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve seen reviews that make me shake my head. I saw a one star review on Amazon because the reader had trouble downloading the book to their Kindle and another because their book arrived damaged. You have to consider the source and the motivation of a review before you put value in its message.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have a couple of 3 stars. Made me sad at first, but then I inhaled the warmth of the 4 and 5 stars. You can’t please everyone. What really bothers me are the 2 star reviews that Amazon allowed people to post when they didn’t buy my book! It’s only available there, and they were not verified purchasers! The first book in the series is Political Fiction. Reaction to the story is based on who is president. One woman said she and her friends would do what they could to make sure no one bought my “trash.” Voila! 3 days later, several 1 and 2 stars! None verified purchasers. I love your post. Somehow, it made me feel better. Thank you! Writing truly requires thick skin.

    Liked by 1 person

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