Friday, March 30, 2012

3 Star Rating Blog Hop Day Two

Welcome to the 3 Star Rating event
Day Two

(see Day One)

During this two day event, 21 Book review websites and blogs are taking an opportunity to delve into the murky area of book review ratings. We are tackling the often controversial 3 Star Rating, what we here at Bitten By Paranormal Romance call One Good Howl.

Yesterday book reviewers discussed in detail this much maligned rating. It was also an opportunity for our followers to tell us in their comments how they feel about reading, or the possibility of reading, a book we have given a 3 Star rating.

Today several authors talk about how they feel about the 3 star rating. What it means to them and how they feel when their work receives this rating.

I want to graciously thank each and everyone of these participating authors who took time out of their very busy schedules to talk with us about this. I need thank them as well for giving their open and honest opinions about a subject which is hotly debated. You may not agree with what they have to say or maybe you will, but they are allowed their opinions too, without fear of censure, ridicule, boycotts or childish tirades against them. So help me thank them by visiting their websites to see all the wonderful books they have written.

I also want to share what an author told me on this topic (I'm not going to say who it was because this was part of a few emails and not as part of this event). I think you'll find it enlightening:

Ratings have changed over the years. If you've been around a while, you have the old scale in your head.

Back when you only had feedback from fans and "professional" reviewers (even though they're paid in free books only, I still think of them as pros because they're operating within a review website with and editor, etc. and they seem to understand how much work it takes to produce a book) the scale made a whole lot more sense to me and the many teachers who also write books. 5 was an A, 4 a B, 3 a C, 2 a D and 1 an F. Now 5 is an A+, 4 is an A, 3 is a A- or B+ and then it skips to 2 is a "better luck next time" and 1 is a "don't quit your day job."

Yes, a 3 is a kick in the head. ... I give every books a 5 effort. I understand it's subjective and not everyone is going to be over the moon about it and give me a 5 rating. That's ludicrous. But to give it a 3 when every word in the review is positive and the reviewer obviously really enjoyed it is frustrating!

Ann Mayburn
Author of Daughter of Lust, Prides of the Moon series, Chosen by the Gods series and more

In my mind, as a reader, a 3 star rating indicates this is a book I probably wouldn't buy based on the review alone. This is based off of a lifetime impression of a 3 star rating=meh, you might like it but chances are it sucks. As an author I have to take a better look at the sites review system and what a 3 star rating means to them. Some sites 3 stars=hey it's a good book but not this reviewers cup of tea. Other sites 3 stars=the lowest rating they ever give a book and basically it's crap. As an author I get that, as a reader I don't.

When I get a 3 star rating I wait to make a judgement until I read the review. Sometimes the reviewer hated everything about the book and still gives it a 3, and sometimes the review is super awesome and glowing about how much they loved a book and they still give it a 3. Reviewing is an opinion and just like all opinions is totally subjective to that reviewers tastes. I guess I look at it like someone reviewing art, I may look at an impressionist piece and love it because I enjoy impressionist art, another person may look at the same painting and hate it because they love modern art and think everything else is bunk. You just need to remember that the reviewer, 99.9% of the time, isn't trying to be mean or hurt your feelings by giving you a 3, it's just what they felt and they are as entitled to their opinion as you are to yours. :)
Ann Mayburn

Felicity Heaton
Author of Vampires Realm series and Her Angel series and more

As an author who also enjoys rating and reviewing books she reads in her spare time, I think a three star book for me is one that I enjoyed and would recommend to others, but it had a few flaws that meant it wasn’t a stand out novel or perfect in my opinion. It’s very hard for a book to get a five out of me, and a lot of books that I read get threes or fours if they’re very good. I reserve my fives for awesome books that push all the right buttons in me and leave me breathless.

I think because I have my own rating system for books (don’t we all?) that I find it easier to accept a three star rating for one of my own stories, but that all depends on the tone of the review. A three star can be a fantastic review if it’s written in the right style and explains why that specific reviewer felt it was a three, not a four or a five for them. If the tone turns more towards the vicious end of the spectrum, and the wording gets harsh, then it can really crush an author’s spirit, no matter what rating the book receives at the end of the review or how many reviews they’ve lived through in the past. It can be especially hard on new authors who haven’t hardened their hearts yet. To be fair, I’ve had three star reviews that have read better than a four or five star. They’ve been clear, honest, and have explained in a positive light what the reviewer enjoyed about the book, but overall what it lacked for them. Tone and wording is everything. A harsh critical and often cruel review (let’s face it, it’s more fun to write in that way sometimes) can really give an author heartburn and crush them. I’ve learned over the years not to focus so much on the rating as the review itself, and to remember that a review is just one person’s opinion not the world’s so it’s very subjective.

Every review site and reviewer has a different rating scale and it always pays to see how they define their levels of rating. It can be hard for an author though as there’s a universal view that a three star means it’s a fairly middle-of-the-road book and not a fantastic read, and readers might feel they should avoid it completely and go for a better rated book. Much like a movie getting a 6/10 or 3/5 star rating makes you less inclined to see that movie on the big screen. I do think that a lot of readers are put off by three stars but I hope they read the reviews and see what they have to say and don’t just base their decision on that one rating but seek other reviews too so they get a more rounded opinion of the book.
Felicity Heaton

Desiree Holt
Author of Turn Up the Heat Series, Rawhide Series, Phoenix Agency Series and more
Website:      Blog:

As writers we labor at our craft, probably a lot more than most people think. There seems to be a misguided notion that authors live a life of luxury (or at least on the fringes of it), part frequently, do lunch often and when an idea hits them they sit down and dash it off between cocktails. If there are any authors out there who can do that, please, lease tell me your secret. Because nothing could be further from the truth. Giving birth to a story is like giving birth to a child, and requires all your best efforts.

So now the book, which you’ve poured blood and sweat into and many sleepless nights, is out there for everyone (you hope) to read. Next come the reviews.

Now, I am fully aware that reviews are a subjective thing. First and foremost is you like the book or not. Love it or not. Hate it or not. But I wonder what reviewers then base their ratings on? If I get one star instead of five does that mean they hated the book? And did they hate the subject matter or did they just think it was poorly written. If that’s the case, maybe they could include a few constructive remarks. But to just say the book is a piece of trash, that it’s not enjoyable reading, that it never should have seen the light of day does little to help the author.

As far as I can see it only makes the reviewer feel better. Does she know I labored over each character, weaving in their personal complexities and trying my damndest to make sure the conflict between characters made sense? Or that I read dialogue out loud to see if it sounded as good to me when I said it as when I wrote it?

Okay, the next reviewer gives me five stars. Yee haw. Someone thinks I’m wonderful. But why do they think I’m wonderful? Some reviewers are great about putting in specifics. I wish they’d all do this.

But then we get to the three star review which says to the whole world this book is MEDIOCRE! AVERAGE! Not bad, not good. As bad as bad reviews are, I can get it that the reviewer couldn’t find anything to like about it. The five stars are wonderful because it means they loved my book. But what does three stars say to me? Nothing. Totally nothing.

Were my characters too one dimensional? Did the plot drag? Was the dialogue too stilted? I think the worst thing you can tell an author is her book is average. It’s like saying all the work that went into it, all the research, all the nights lovingly constructing characters and dialogue, refining the plot…all that is just…AVERAGE. It’s enough to make an author throw up her hands. Or maybe just plain throw up.

Even having someone hate my book is better than AVERAGE. At least they had a visceral reaction to it.

So I’ve decided not to read any more three star reviews. They’re too discouraging. Love me or hate me but please, don’t tell me I’m AVERAGE.
Desiree Holt

C. D. Hussey
Author of the Human Vampire Series

The three star review. As an author, nothing fills me with such, such…indifference. Because that's what the three-star review means to me. Phrases like, "Not bad", "Pretty good", and "I liked it" come to mind. None of those are bad, per se, but the three-star review certainly evokes feelings of meh.

As a reader, I've read, and liked, plenty of books I would rate three stars. Usually it just means while I liked them well enough, for whatever reason, they didn't grab me. I didn't rest my kindle on my lap under my desk so I could sneak a paragraph here and there, or I didn't spend an extra twenty minutes on the elliptical just to finish the next chapter, or I didn't stay up until two a.m. because I had to finish the book, or…well, you get the idea.

As an author, I want readers to be as passionate about my creations as I am. Receiving a three-star review means to me that, for whatever reason, I failed to connect with, excite, inflame that particular reader. Individually, I take it with a grain — not everyone will be inflamed by the same thing. But if I started seeing too many three-stars, I might take a more critical look at the stories I'm creating. After all, I don't want you to feel meh, I want you to feel yowza!
C.D. Hussey

Claudy Conn
Author of the Legend Series and Shadow Series and more

3 Stars? As an author, I am never happy when I receive a 3 Star and always wonder, what did I do wrong—what could I have done better. However, as a reader, it does not deter me from buying the book if it is in the genre I enjoy.

I have been fortunate to date and professional review sites have not given me anything below a 4 star, but readers have. I find myself nearly devastated when this happens and it is always important to me. When a 3star is accompanied by helpful criticism then I copy and paste and study it and then decide with my editor if it is a valid point that I must consider when writing my next project. (I personally do that with 4 and 5 stars as well).

In my opinion 3 stars say go ahead--you might like it, but it could have been better. As a reader I judge for myself. :)
Claudy Conn

So dear readers, it's your turn. Do you consider buying and reading a book we have rated with One Good Howl or 3 stars? Do you tell a friend about a book we rate this way? What does a rating of One Good Howl or a 3 mean to you?

Visit the other sites to see what more followers and fans are saying about this topic.


  1. I read and review books. I'll give a book a 3 if I've liked it and I try to give my reasons why it rated a 3 and not higher. I've bought books that were rated as 3's and gone on to read the author's entire series or other books by this author. I don't think that a 3 star rating will sink a book - I think that with positive social networking and word of mouth a lot of books can be sold.

    I also find that a positive experience with an author - good blog site, interviews, etc. Will make me want to read a book despite ratings.

    I am also suspect of reviewers that only review 5 star books. If someone always gushes about every book they read, I tend to ignore their review and look at other more realistic reviews.

    Great discussion. Thanks for doing this.

  2. Whoa!!! Sounds like "3" is a no-no in the writing world for various reasons. The most obvious is because no one wants to be average. Let's face it. As I said before, most of us are average and we like ourselves just the way we are. But in today's world, we are constantly told/driven to be "the best you can be", etc., etc. Rubbish; be happy with who you are.

    I will always look at the rating first before I read a review. Some reviews are so long winded, good grief, I get bored, get on with it already. I just want to know the why's and werefore's. So, I lose interest in the review and the rating has stuck.

    One thing that I am very suspicious of is a book, reviewer, author or blog that consistently receives or gives ratings of 4 or 5. I will always discount those as constant kiss up.

    I myself will usually avoid reviewing the types of books I don't like to read - as Laurie will attest to that. Because going in I know I probably won't like the book because of the story line, but I do keep an open mind just because of that.

    If I have learned anything from these two days, it's to be a kinder, gentler reviewer. Well, maybe, or not. You can expect honesty if nothing else from me. Although, if I do happen to read one of Ms. Holt's books and not like it, yeah, she may get her visceral reaction. . .

  3. Sure, If I wrote a book I'd only want to get 5's! Yes, Artemis, I agree, everyone wants their book to stand out, specially now that we have so many new ebook publishers every day!

  4. I will read books with a 3 star rating, but I have to do a little research about the book such as who rated it what and what they thought about the book and as always what the book is about. I now, thanks to authors on the rampage, do research about an author. I find that if they make cruel statements about reviewers to the general public and not just to family and close family friends is uncalled for. To belittle people who took the time to read your book, that is just rude. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and Thank GOD we don't all want the same things. No Stepford Wives here!
    Now when I give a book a 3 it means I liked it enough to say, "Hey give this a try if you like this, this and this." If you went below a 3 "It was not my cup of tea." Heaven Help you if you hit the OMG-NO or Could not finish shelf. I don't have many but I would never recommend them for someone who enjoys the same books as me.

    Okay, I am done. I just wanted to say Thank you to those who put this Blog Hop together b/c Author's need to know a 3 typically does not mean we hate the book and esp. that we hate you. You earn being disliked by your reactions to reviews etc. not your books.

  5. I agree with Felicity, I think we grade books similar. It has been fun reading these opinions on how 3 star reviews are received. If I read a review that has three stars I see it as, this will be a good book you should check out if you like the genre/plot line. It in no way would make me think "skip".

  6. I still can't believe the gap between readers and authors on the 3 star rating. I understand the "not wanting to be average" At the same time, isn't average better than a "fail?" I would like for authors to remember that not every book is a perfect fit for every reader, and as long as the 3 star review doesn't personally attack the author, then take that review with a grain of salt. If a reviewer gives you 3 stars, it's really not such a bad thing. Book Savvy Babe


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