Friday 24 April 2020

Discussion: Do Star Ratings Affect Your Book Buying?

Ah, star ratings... Those wonderful marks out of five. 
We're asked to leave them as a form of quick glance reviews for everything nowadays, aren't we?

You do grocery shopping online? Rate your fresh carrots! (True story.)
Buying clothes? Rate them! 
Day out at a theme park or museum? Rate them!
Watching a movie? Employing a plumber? Eating at a restaurant? Staying at a hotel?
Rate it!!!

Books are no exception to the star rating mania and that's what I'm talking about today. 
Do star ratings affect my book buying? For they will - and do - affect other areas of my life.
The very very short answer to this question is no. 
However, it's not quite as simple as that... Nothing ever is!

You see, if I want to hire someone to come and repair my boiler, or repair my roof, I'm going to be checking feedback from previous jobs, professional credentials and lots of other things before I hire them for the job because I want those things done properly with little room for error and the feedback is likely to be to the point and less subjective than for other things - for example: turned up on time, did job and did it well, tidied up after themselves, were polite/considerate etc. 

For a book?
There are no set criteria for marking. Everything is subjective.
What annoys me, may not annoy you, what I like you may hate, and vice versa. 
The number of stars a person gives it is a quick indication of what that person thought of the book but it is not an indication of how I'm going to feel about a book. 
I care more about what a person says about the book than the rating.
If someone lists all the things they think was so wonderful and I read those things and want to kill it with fire then I'm not going to read the book. 
If someone's hate-filled rant has me giggling because I would probably like all they disliked then I'm 1-clicking that sucker.

People like different things. 
There is no one size fits all when it comes to a book, nor when it comes to anything really...
Plus, people are really freaking strange.
I've seen reviews where people have 1-starred a book because they didn't like something the author did/said online but "it hurt them to do so because they loved the book." 
WTF now? That's a star rating for the author's humanity then, isn't it? Not the book. Controversial opinion, maybe, but how about you keep your personal opinion of the author out of it? 

I've also seen books 1-starred as soon as they're announced. I've seen books 5-starred as soon as they're announced. None of those people will have read the book yet but it doesn't stop them from giving an opinion on it and it has the potential to really skew opinion.

People deduct "stars" for poor editing when the book breathed passion and fire into their soul.
People give boring pieces of literary might all the stars because it was superbly written even though it was a thing of misery... People are weird but each to their own!
As I said, we like different things and that keeps life interesting but we need to account for that when taking things like star ratings into consideration.
No one died because they took a chance on a book with a low star rating. A high star rating is no guarantee you'll like it.
You need more information and you need to keep an open mind when hunting out your selections always remembering that star ratings are a highly subjective quick glance indicator of mood... Not a statement of fact.

When I give star ratings, I rate mostly on how a book made me feel.
It could be an absolute trash fire but if it made me feel all warm and fuzzy who is anyone to judge me and my five-star read?
Me... I'd totally judge me, especially if I re-read it years later and it had me questioning my life choices but that's not the point! 😜
The point is that ratings are too subjective to be trusted!
To me, they're snapshots of what I felt about something at that time. They're not necessarily enduring and that's why I don't let star ratings affect whether I'll buy a book.
What can/does affect my book buying is the opinion of people who I trust on the subject, book covers, blurb, price and past experience of the writer.
They're much more important, imo.

So I ask, what do you think? Are star ratings useful? Do they influence you?


  1. You definitely mentioned some of my pet peeves, when it comes to rating books. The rating without reading it/revenge rating and deducting because of editing are two I cannot deal with. If I am on the fence about a book, I will check reviews. It's not the stars alone, that I use, but a combination of feedback and stars. I need both. I need to know what made them rate the book that high or that low, and then I decide if those are dealbreakers for me.

  2. Oh, I totally agree about all of this when it comes to star ratings for books. I can't JUST go off of how many stars someone put for a book, because if I read the review, I might realize the book sounds like something I'd love (and they hated) or vice versa. I do get most of my book recommendations from bloggers, but that's because I pay attention to what they're saying overall.


  3. The only time I look at star ratings or reviews is if I am on the fence about the synopsis of a book. Then I will check to see if any of my trusted book blogging friends, with whom I usually agree about books, has read the book and what they thought. If none of my friends have read it, I'll look at the general ratings and skim a few reviews to see if they highlight anything I can use to help me decide. But generally, my choice is made by author and synopsis alone {okay, and occasionally by cover}.

  4. I mostly find star ratings useless, which is why I don’t put them on my blog, and I only look at them if I’m on the fence about reading a book. If I’m on the fence, and the book has less than a 3.5 rating, I won’t read it. If lots of people feel “meh” about it, I probably will too.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  5. Great post Nicci! Star ratings of 1 and 2 stars attract me to read the reviews to see what the reader disliked about it. If it was too fast paced and gory for them, it makes me want to read it more. If it is very slow to get into or features tropes and bad characters I'm less likely to read it. But that info comes from the actual review rather than the rating itself. I wouldn't avoid a book purely on star ratings y'know?

    I don't mark down because I dislike the author's personality or due to editing. I mark based on my own level of enjoyment of the book. I love trashy creature features and don't care that they aren't literary masterpieces! If the book is fun and entertaining, I mark it high. I certainly wouldn't mark a book I hadn't read as 5 star. Even if it's a favoured author or series, I'll mark it lower if I liked it less.

  6. Fab post! When I need help making a decision I skim 4 star and 2 star reviews, but I care about the content of the review not the rating. Plus there is no across the board consensus on what stars mean eg 3 stars = Good to me, but to others it = OK, so I don’t feel you can assume anything solely by the rating.

  7. I hate seeing ratings on books people have not read yet. That's one of my pet peeves. I am with you--ratings are completely subjective, and I really try not to take them at face value, and prefer to read the actual reviews that go along with them. For a couple of years I did a little experiment to see if my ratings changed of the books I read between the moment I finished them to a week to a month later. Not so much, really, but sometimes. They usually went down if they changed at all. My use of ratings is really only for me.

    But in terms of using ratings (and the reviews) to determine whether I will buy a book, well, they can come into play if I am on the fence about a book or if I am buying a book I haven't read for someone else as a gift. I like it when there are many many reviews as opposed to small few because I feel like more reviews offers a sort of more honest overall impression of a book.

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this topic, Nicci, and the comments!

    Have a good weekend and stay safe and well.

  8. Bingo. Book ratings are 100% subjective. Everyone uses a different scale and different criteria so I really don’t pay much heed. Then you have the clowns who feel led to rate without reading... don’t even get me started. Gah! Like you mentioned, I trust the ratings and reviews of blogger friends that I’ve come to trust. But the overall ratings at Goodreads or Amazon... nope, not so much.

  9. This is an interesting post and I agree with a lot of your points! Like some of the others have said, I need a combo of star ratings and checking the actual feedback. I feel that just rating something isn't substancial enough as there are many factors that go into it (and it depends on the person reviewing and the person reading the review) - from editing (minor ones I'm not too fussed about, but it's the major ones that distract from reading the story that bug me) to giving a bad rating for the wrong color (big whoop, but that's just me; I don't mind the color as long as it works well).

    I'm a lot more trustworthy of blogger friends and real life friends as well, especially when I'm recommended the book or product multiple times.

  10. I think the stars matter a lot less than the actual review (which is bad, since I haven't not been a good reviewer for quite a while). I agree with you, ratings are incredibly subjective - what one person loves another could hate and so on. Great post! Got me thinking about my review process.

  11. Good point re how books are very subjective compared to some other things. I do like how star ratings give a general feel of how much someone liked a book, but I also think the actual review is more helpful than the rating. And indeed some people hate things that other people love and the other way around too.

  12. I always read reviews and look at star ratings, but unless the ratings are overwhelmingly low, it usually doesn't deter me from reading a book I'm interested in.

  13. Thanks for answering my question so fully, Nicci. I love your response and agree with the points you were making about ratings being subjective. :-)
    When I see star ratings I'm also looking for substantiating thoughts and comments from the reviewer to help me understand their reasoning which lets me decide if their loves and peeves are similar to my own. As you said, people are strange and we're all different. 💜😊
    I hope you enjoy the rest of your week, Nicci, stay safe and healthy.
    Flora x

  14. Thank you so much for sharing! I couldn't agree more - No 2 people will have exactly the same views on something so why would I let it effect my decision to buy / read a book.

    Be Safe!

  15. "For a book?
    There are no set criteria for marking. Everything is subjective.
    What annoys me, may not annoy you, what I like you may hate, and vice versa."

    I found one of my favourite series that way LOL. People were complaining about it being too hard to read, to ambitious, too confusing. It was just a series in need of the right reader. Not for everyone, I'll admit, but I love complex storylines, so I was sold when I read those reviews!

    Like Chuckles above, when I go through GR reviews, I start with the lower ratings, because I want to know what didn't work for those readers, and if it was something that I might like instead. And lo and behold, it sometimes happens! That's why stars rarely, if ever, influence my decision of buying a book. Then again, I can't seem to avoid rating books, and I even use half stars in order to be more accurate...😂

  16. I do use star ratings as a bit of a guide when deciding whether or not to read/buy a book, but I definitely don't use them in isolation. Like you say, the review itself is much more important than the star rating.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  17. I prefer to read the review to see what the reviewer felt worked or didn't work. That's personally more insightful for me than a star rating.

  18. I definitely agree that I won't buy or not buy based solely on a rating. But it will have SOME impact probably? Especially if it is a book I have been on the fence about. And you're definitely right that what some people hate others might love, and vice versa! I do think that there is some merit to at least talking about why you don't support an author (I agree maybe the rating isn't the best way) because I am not trying to support someone who has done something particularly crappy. That said, I also don't want a book rated lowly just because someone has a personal beef with an author, so I think that's a slippery slope. I think the best way to handle all these non-rating opinions is to leave the book unrated, and rant to your heart's content in the review field. That way it doesn't skew the rating, but you can say what you need to say. Great post!

  19. Everything is subjective! There are some really Negative Nancy's out there, and I feel like they want to be overly critical of a book for really minor things. I tend to ask people I know who've read the book what they thought, or only read their reviews. If no one I know and trust has read it, I tend to search out three-star reviews, since they list a lot of pros and cons, and I'm able to make a decision based on that.

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear?😷 💬


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