Five Star System

Five Stars


Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be writing at least four posts discussing the results from the first round of my magazine quest.  They will reference the ratings from one to five that I gave individual stories.  So that you’ll have some perspective, I decided to describe what the different star ratings mean to me, on an emotional level:

5 After reading this story, I went online to see what else the author had written.  I want more of this.

4 This story had something unique, or something that interested me, about a character, the setting, or the plot.  It made me think a little.

3 — This story would be OK if I read it while stuck somewhere, like in a doctor’s waiting room, or on an airplane.  Usually, I’m not stuck in those places, so I feel like this story wasted time I could have spent on something better.

2 — I’m angry that I read this, because it was so stupid, or offensive, or boring, or whatever.  If I were stuck somewhere, I’d rather just stare at the ceiling than read this.  I’ll try to avoid this author and publisher in the future.

1 — I’ve gone beyond angry here, to being mystified.  I don’t understand why the author thought it was a good idea to write this down, and I don’t understand why the publisher thought this was something others would want to read.  I can’t believe there are actually two people in the world who shared the same delusion that this was worth reading.

What’s your process when you leave star ratings at a retailer or book-rating site?


  1. But… I thought you used a four star system.

    1. I do when I write a review on the blog, but they use five star at Amazon, Goodreads, etc.

      I had so many stories for the magazine quest that I decided to go with five star (really ten because I allowed myself half-stars). Sometimes it’s too much work to decide which way to throw a dead-center story under my four-star system.

  2. If it’s worse than 3 stars I don’t leave a review

    1. I rarely leave reviews now (outside of my blog, of course), because many of those sites got on a kick of deleting ALL reviews from people who were friends of authors. I don’t feel like doing the work of typing a review, just to have it erased one day for some arbitrary reason.

      Now I only leave reviews if an author specifically requests it, or if I’m just bored as heck.

      1. I can understand that. It’s a very foolish very as we are all connected via social media I never understand why they delete reviews.

  3. I think you should move on over to the 5star system for ALL your reviews…
    (not that I’m biased for a 5 star with half star system!) 😉

    1. For novels, I thought it was too easy to give a book 3 stars and not really think about it, so I thought I’d leave tons of 3 star reviews.

      Now that I think about it, I might be less inclined to write reviews of 3 star books, though, because they don’t make a strong negative or positive impression on me.

      1. That is why you write reviews for ALL the books you read 😉

        1. That was my original goal with the blog, but my reading speed has exceeded my writing speed to the point where that’s not feasible.

          I could start writing more mini/micro reviews, but I haven’t been motivated to do that so far.

  4. In the last few years, I think I’ve gotten better about recognizing when something just doesn’t appeal to my taste. Lots of things I read are well written (or at least competently written) but just don’t appeal to me. That’s made me a bit more lenient in how I rate things.

    1. I hope I’ll get better at selecting books, but I’m not sure … there are a lot of misleading marketing blurbs out there, and a lot of fake reviews.

      Of course, if I read something terrible by an author I know not to pick up more of his work, and the publisher analysis I did last year will help me be more cautious about picking up books from certain publishers.

      Do you have particular things you spot in new books that you could write a post about, or do you get a general feeling that’s hard to articulate?

      1. I guess it’s hard to articulate. I don’t know. I remember when I read The Hunger Games thinking that the writing and plot seemed pretty good but I just wasn’t interested in what was happening. I think in that example, I’d read so many other Y.A. dystopia novels that I had a case of dystopia fatigue.

  5. Your rating system more or less parallels mine – at least in the… emotional response to a book – although a 3-star rating for me might also indicate a story or a writer with potential for more: in some cases, I view 3 stars as more encouragement than anything else… 🙂

    1. That’s a more positive way to look at three stars. I used to think of 3 stars as average, which I guess I still do, but there are so many books out there that I’d like to read only from the above-average group.

      I noticed a while back Amazon started categorizing 3 star reviews as “negative reviews”.

  6. Something I’ve been meaning to for years now is put an explanation to my rating system on my blog. Personally, it seems like I’m more lenient to give a book a 3/5 but compared to others, almost never do I give a 4.5 and round it up to 5… and you probably could on less than two hands how many 5/5 stars I’ve given out. Guess it because I generally enjoy the act of reading (why leniency for 3/5) but I want a book to be up and above others to earn that infamous 5 stars?

    1. Five stars is probably where reviewers differ the most. Some reviewers hold onto them tightly, giving them out only for the best books they’ve ever read, others throw handfuls of them in every direction.

      I generally look at my post-book actions to decide between 4 and 5 stars. If I find myself on Amazon buying something else by the author, then the last book was probably 5 stars. If I liked the book, and have the idea that I wouldn’t mind reading something else by the author, but I don’t act on it right away, then it’s 4 stars.

      However, sometimes I give even my favorite authors, who I know I’ll continue reading, 4 stars if I feel a bit let down by the last book, usually due to an inconclusive ending.

  7. Anonymous · · Reply

    How many 1 star stories are you willing to read to get to a 5 star story?

    Do you have a method of determining that you are currently reading a 1 or 2 star story so you can stop?

    1. That would be an extremely small number, possibly zero.

      I’m not DNFing any of the stories on my quest, because the ending could theoretically shift them a star or half star. I’m reading every terrible word of them.

      If I were reading solely for enjoyment, and not planning to review, then there would probably be a number of flags that would tell me to stop.

  8. […] Under my interpretation of the five star system, about half these stories made me angry or gave me a headache, about a quarter were a waste of my time, and only a quarter were truly worth reading.  The overall average is 2.66 stars.  Clearly, I’m hoping for better results in rounds two and three. […]

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