Discussion: Deciding on a Star Rating–What Does a 3 Star Rating Mean To You?

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like it’s harder than ever to rate a book sometimes and feel like I’m getting my overall opinion across. It’s as if the general perception of star ratings has shifted and it causes me all sorts of grief when I decide on a rating. I’m left feeling like my star choice isn’t right, or if it is, I feel guilty that other people will see a negative rating when I meant it to be positive.

I try to use the Goodreads scale:


However, this scale doesn’t seem to work as well in practice as it does in theory.

Take the 2 star rating, for example. 2 stars should mean the book was okay, not bad. But when people see a 2 star rating, they see a bad review. 3 stars should mean the book was good, but I think people see 3 stars as an okay review. And this perception makes trouble for the next 2 ratings.

If I thought a book was good, I’m forced to rate it 4 stars because 3 is seen as just okay. So what about the books that I really liked, but aren’t my absolute favorite OMG books? It doesn’t feel right to rate every book I really liked 5 stars because not all books are 5 star books. That rating should be special, right? This leaves me with a ton of books I rate with 4 stars, even though there’s a distinct difference in some of them to me.

I try sometimes to use the Goodreads scale, but when I am reviewing a book, I feel like I should rate them for myself and for others. If others won’t understand that I mean I liked a book when I rate it 3 stars, then I feel horrible when I do it. I feel like I’ve lowered the entire average for the book because I’m trying to use a scale that no one else really uses. But it feels wrong to rate a book I liked with 4 stars if I don’t think it’s quite a 4 star book.

I typically handle this conflict by picking a star rating and going into detail in my review so that readers know exactly how I felt. However, every rating goes into the overall average. Some people organize reviews by rating or skim over reviews, paying more attention to the star rating than the actual text. The stars represent my overall opinion as condensed as possible and it’s the first thing people see when they look at reviews.

Does anyone else seem to have this problem?

What does a 3 star rating mean to you?

Is it fair to rate a book 3 stars if you liked it or does it mean it was just okay?

How do authors interpret a 3 star review?

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