The Ask and No Answer

Time to step up from star ratings and write that book review

You’ve read a book. Now you are being kind and leaving a star rating. That’s more than most people do. But is it actually helpful?

Image of question marks.
Photo by Olya Kobruseva on

Well, for the author, having lots of ratings will improve their book’s chances of doing well. But for readers, it’s a different story.

There are several reasons why leaving a star rating with no written book review is less helpful than you might think. Not least because big retailers like Amazon will basically ignore it.

Amazon doesn’t consider customer ratings without an Amazon Verified Purchase status in a product’s overall star rating. Unless the customer adds more details. What does that mean? If you got an ebook during a promotion, downloaded a title through Kindle Unlimited, or were given a book as a gift, your rating won’t count unless you provide a written review.

Another reason why star ratings are of limited use, is that they are ambiguous.

Let’s talk numbers

A four star rating could mean this book is good. There is nothing wrong with it, it’s just not one of my absolute favourites. 

Or it could mean this story is absolutely amazing but the style of writing made it difficult for me to read. This is something another reader would want to know.

A three star rating could mean there was nothing special about this book. But there was nothing wrong with it either. 

Or it could mean there was something amazing about this book. But the lack of research, or grammar and punctuation, spoiled it for me. These are also things another reader would want to know.

A two star rating could mean this is a poor concept for a story. Or it’s a good concept but the writing isn’t up to scratch.

It could also mean there are disturbing scenes in the book and no trigger warnings. Or it could simply mean the cover looks like a different genre and this isn’t the type of book I wanted. 

If you are giving a two star rating, a written review will tell the author where they went wrong. This could help them improve. There may even be a really simple fix, like adding trigger warnings to the book description. 

You see what I mean about ambiguous ratings?

So, how do you go about writing a helpful review?

Think about your audience

When you leave a book review, the author’s audience becomes your audience. And a characteristic of large audiences is diversity. The key thing to remember when leaving a book review is that the people reading your review are not like you. 

They may read to help improve their spelling. They may be neurodiverse and find very long sentences or chapters challenging. They may read out loud to someone who cannot read for themselves. Their first language may not be English. They may have a mental health problem that is exacerbated by reading about certain topics.

There are all sorts of readers and many of them will have questions about books they are considering. Remembering the diversity of the audience can help you identify points worth noting.

Including anything you loved about the book is always helpful! One last thing to bear in mind is…

It doesn’t matter how well written your book review is. Nobody will be grading it. What matters is the knowledge you have that could help someone else.

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7 thoughts on “The Ask and No Answer

  1. Very good points. It’s the very reason I’m never satisfied when I think that I want to just post a rating and leave a book at that. Even when I do, I promise myself to come back later when I’m ready with my notes.

    What you said about ratings being ambiguous is very correct and something that readers have to think about. They often think authors will read their minds; they don’t understand that reviews are for other readers and not necessarily for the authors. Authors may take up the pointers and “improve”, but then again, maybe their kind of narration is just might to be that way and the reader didn’t like it.

    Anyway, a very good post. 😀👍🏼✌🏼

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this so much. I don’t always write book reviews, but when I do, I try to take great care to include the reasons for why I rated it “X” number of stars. Also, I followed your blog since I didn’t realize I wasn’t already following. ❤ Sending you lots of love, my fellow voyager.

    Liked by 1 person

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