How To Give a Book an Honest Star Rating

In a world of likes, favourites and retweets, it can be difficult to know how someone actually feels about a product. Netflix now entirely operates on a thumbs-up or thumbs-down situation. You can either like or dislike a video on Youtube, no in-between. But what’s wrong with the star-system of ratings’ past? Why not allow consumers to express our likes and dislikes on a 1 to 5 scale? After all, even Facebook finally decided that we’re allowed to express at least six emotions (Like, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad, and Angry).

We’d like to make it publicly known that we are incredibly pro star rating. We value your thoughtful stars because they’re one of the best ways for us to understand your experience with our books. The words that accompany a starred review are essential, of course, but summing up your thoughts into a bundle of little stars is a concise way for us, and others, to glimpse into your experience with a title.

Star ratings are so much more than a flippant opinion. They can make or break another reader’s decision to buy a book. They can be the deciding factor in whether a retailer stocks a title. They have a direct impact sales. And, though the shield of the internet can often make us forget it, authors are in fact human, and they do look at their reviews. 

Having the opportunity to review an author’s work is a powerful position to be in, so we know your decisions don’t come without thought. In case it helps, next time you’re struggling with a score, here’s what we see, as a publisher, with each star rating you give us.

⭐ 1 Star ⭐

The tragic 1-star review. You severely disliked this book. This book offended you to your core. Or maybe it put you to sleep every time you picked it up. If you give a book one star, it wasn’t simply just ‘not your cup of tea’. You know what’s wrong. From undeniable plot holes to lack of plot entirely, or bad grammar to offensive material, this book was bad — and you want everyone to know it.

⭐⭐ 2 Stars ⭐⭐

Okay, you’re still not impressed. You wouldn’t recommend it to a friend. You’re probably going to donate it to the charity shop rather than  let it waste space on your bookshelf. But, it wasn’t all bad. Maybe there’s one character in there who really shone for you. Or maybe there was one passage that, actually, was really quite good. The 2-star review is for a book that you didn’t enjoy, but not in an ‘I want to rage about this to whoever will listen’ kind of way.

⭐⭐⭐ 3 Stars ⭐⭐⭐

The 3-star category often becomes the dumping ground for books about which you don’t know how to feel. Maybe you’re neutral on it. Maybe you feel nothing but ‘blah’ when you think about it. Maybe you chugged through it happily, but, truthfully, forgot everything about it as soon as you put it down. As a publisher, a 3-star review is not a win, but, confusingly, we often read glowing reviews — ‘I loved this book!’ or ‘I couldn’t put it down!’ — that end in a meek three stars. A 3-star book shouldn’t be one that you did enjoy, truly, but with which you still had an issue or two, it should be for neutral indifference. 

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Now we’re getting to the good stuff. A 4-star book is a good one. It’s not the first thing out of your mouth when you meet up with friends, but if someone asks you for a recommendation, it’s definitely on  the list. A 4-star book is a keeper, and you may even give it a re-read at some point.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

When you meet a 5-star book, you know it. That ‘couldn’t put it down’, ‘excited to pick it up’ type of read. You’re probably thinking about it at work or while doing chores because you’d rather be reading it. Perfection is not a requirement for this, as nothing is perfect; but, this is pretty darn close. There may be one thing that you didn’t adore about it, but, overall, this book is a stunner. It’ll be a point of conversation at your upcoming dinner parties and coffee dates, and you’ll not just be recommending it, but, more likely, demanding that others read it. A 5-star book is one that reminds you why you’re a reader in the first place, because it took you on a journey that, upon emergence into the real world, left you with an altered outlook on life.


As always, thank you for reading, and be sure to tweet us @AgoraBooksLDN with what makes a 5-star book for you!