3-star Reviews aren’t the end of the world. Hint: They actually help you.

When I published 180 Days I was really nervous that people would hate it and wouldn’t take me seriously in what I was trying to convey.  The message, you ask?

Everyone deserves to be accepted for who they are, and everyone deserves love.

I knew a lot of my readers would shy away from the book because it wasn’t their ‘cup of tea’, and I was completely okay with that.  It was a story that needed to come out. The voices were so loud, so demanding.  So I sucked in a deep breath, crossed my fingers and toes, and uploaded it for publication.

What I did not expect, however, were so many 5-star reviews! Seriously. Every time a new review came in, it was 5-stars.

And that began to worry me because no book can be taken seriously if it has all 5-star reviews.  Readers don’t trust a book that doesn’t have a variety when it comes to reviews because every book, even the most beloved books, have critics.

But then one day, it finally happened.

And then it happened again.  YAY ME!

Then a particular 3-star review came in and I jumped for joy.

A 3-star review made you happy?  Are you insane?

I am no stranger to mean reviews – I am no stranger to reviews that personally attack the author.

BUT THIS REVIEW? It’s probably the best review I’ve ever received in the history of ever.

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 4.19.36 PM

I sent a message to the blogger to see if she’d let me post the review to my author page and this is how our conversation went:

“I was wondering if you would be okay with me sharing your review for 180 Days on my author page sometime?”

“I don’t mind.  This is weird. Most author ask me not to share my review if I rate them a three.”

“Well to be honest I think it’s one of the best reviews I’ve ever received.”

“Wow.  I’m speechless.”

“I’m sorry if anyone made you feel you can’t share your reviews. There’s nothing wrong with having an opinion, and to be honest I think your review was filled with a rare class. It was perfect in my eyes.”

“To know that I can be honest in my reviews and authors will appreciate it regardless of the ratings is the best thing a reviewer can ever hope for.”

The blogger I had this conversation with is Shy Fabon from Vs. The Writer.

I gotta tell  ya, folks.  Knowing she was afraid to share her review because of how I would react?  That’s not right.  It infuriates me, honestly.

Why should such a polite reviewer have to worry about sharing the review she wrote? WHY?

Why would she be afraid of little ole me?

I am aware of the ugliness that takes place in our little indie world.  I know that sometimes less-than-favorable reviews are posted and sometimes authors release their hellhounds (aka street teams,etc) to take it down, and sometimes, even worse, bully the reviewer.  (Don’t say it doesn’t happen. I know it does.)

I know that reviewers get attacked for leaving their honest opinion on a book, and sadly, they were doing it in the most polite, professional way they could.

I know that this needs to stop.

As it’s been stated again and again, the reviews are for the READERS, not the AUTHORS. (Even though I read mine just because.)

If you don’t like a review, that’s too bad.  You have to let it go.

Somebody disliked your book? Oh, well. Maybe the next review to come in from a reader will talk about how much they FLOVED it. (FLOVED. That is apparently a thing now?)

Somebody attacked you personally and didn’t say diddlysquat about the actual book?  Yes, I’d have a problem with that, too.  Phooey on that.

What I’m trying to say here is if somebody took the time to read your book, feel special.  How they feel about it and what they think about it is their business.  It’s their right to feel and say what they want – as long as they do it in a respectful and polite way.

DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED ON THE BUSINESS OF AUTHORS ASKING PEOPLE TO TAKE DOWN 3-STAR REVIEWS.  DON’T EVEN.

Reviewers – Please always post your reviews wherever you want. As long as you’re not mean or attacking the author (especially this!), you’ve done no wrong.  You’re simply sharing your opinion and there’s no law saying you can’t.

As an author, I will respect your opinion and I will value what you have to say.  If it helps me improve on the next book, that’s even better!

3-stars really do help, I swear. 3-star reviews aren’t the end of the world and they actually make people want to buy your book because it’s more trustworthy.

Reviews, in my opinion, are just like the real world.

It takes lots of different kinds to make it go round, and the same can be said for a book. They thrive on the diversity of opinions.

Please don’t silence yours, reviewers.

We need you.

Authors & Reviewers – Do you have an awesome 3-star (or lower) review you want to share with us?  Post it in the comments!

Want to read more on the subject? Check out Michelle Irwin’s Reviews: You’re Doing it Wrong

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41 Comments

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  1. It’s so great you posted this! As a reviewer myself, it does make you nervous about posting a review that is less than 4 or 5 stars. I’ve had a few authors tell me either to take down my review, or since I have it such a low rating, I must not understand what the story was about.

    I guess to add to your post, I’ve been a part of groups that have asked the members to go and either like all the 5 star reviews so that they show first, or dislike the lower rates ones so they show up on the first page. This isn’t right either. I feel that we should be liking or disliking reviews to our own discretion on whether or not it helped us decide to read the book. Not to hide the opinion of others.

  2. Ha, I knew it was Shy’s reveiw. 🙂

  3. Thank you. Exactly my opinion….. I’ve never asked someone to take down a review and I never will. I prefer honesty over having smoke blown up my ass. Keeps me honest too, and keeps me learning.

  4. Thank you, Tonya! Authors like you makes reviewing and blogging such a joy. 💗💗💗

  5. When you have multiple three star reviews you are no longer able to promote the ebook through curated promotional venues, such as Bookbub. It’s incredibly damaging for campaigns when you’re trying to raise visibility for your ebooks so you can continue to maintain your extremely delicate income. Amazon.com, as the largest ebook player, railroads authors into going exclusive with them and then decides arbitrarily to reduce their payments month by month. One way to combat this is to get in the other venues, but since these venues think small and are poorly managed you need curated promotional venues, which readers trust, to attract buyers there. These curated advertising platforms do not see the merits of 3 star reviews. They require a 4.5 star average to consider your works. We have an uphill battle trying to maintain our income. Encouraging readers to leave three star reviews, which destroy all our best promotional options, is not of benefit to authors doing everything they can to eke out a living.

    • I totally understand that and I’m not encouraging every review to be a 3-star review. I was simply saying that it’s not the end of the world IF you get a 3-star review and no reviewer should be intimidated into not leaving it if that’s what they feel the book deserves. I know how hard it is in this business, but I’d never criticize or make someone feel bad for leaving an honest review. That was the main point of this blog post. Thank you for your comment!

  6. Amazon uses this ranking system:

    1 Star: I hate it.
    2 Stars: I don’t like it.
    3 Stars: It’s okay.
    4 Stars: I like it.
    5 Stars: I love it.

    I’m not seeing the problem with rating books 4-5 stars. I like a lot of books. Why would I rate something 3 stars if I liked it, using this reasoning? If it’s okay, sure, I’ll use a 3. But I don’t necessarily think that there are too many 4 or 5 stars. I think people just focus so much on the numbers and less on what they mean. It’s personal preference. “I” hate it; “I” love it. You’re not necessarily saying. “This book sucks” or “This book is the best thing ever” through every venue.

    Just my $0.02.

    • And p.s. I agree with not asking people to take down reviews. If you hate it, you hate it. That’s your opinion; you’re entitled! I just really get bothered by people who go the step further and criticize people who do give a lot of 4 and 5 star ratings. :-\

      My favorite review is actually a 4*. I got a detailed 3* but the criticism wasn’t really helpful. Part of it was; it reminded me I have a pronoun problem. Because I do. But the other part of it… It referenced too many proofing errors. I had a professional go over it after receiving that review, and she found 9 proofing errors. (a few missing periods, a few missing words, a few extra periods) I feel like that was unfair and one person’s I had another person go through it who copy edits as part of her job, and she couldn’t find many, either.

      That being said, the 3* didn’t bother me. The commentary about the proofing errors did, because if I saw that in a review, I’d assume the book was just filled to the brim with errors. I tend to look at the reviews themselves rather than the numbers. One of my favorite books has several 1* reviews.

    • Hi, Raissa! Yes, I do agree that if I love a book it will not get lower than 4-stars in my book (pun intended!). I’ve always viewed anything below 3 stars as the person hating my book, but have recently learned that is not the case. I have been told several times by readers that they actually look for the 3 star reviews so they can see what others liked/disliked. Quite a few have told me they won’t read a book if all it has are 4 and 5 star reviews. Apparently this makes the reviews untrustworthy and I am trying to understand it from their point of view.

      As for me, I will always rate the books I enjoy at 5-stars. Some people don’t like to give 5-stars because that makes it the most amazing, incredible, spectacular book on earth. Some people think 3-stars is justifiable and average for the books they read, even if they loved them. 5-stars to me means I got lost in another world for a little while and I enjoyed myself. It’s amazing how different everyone’s definition of the starring system can be, huh?

      The main point to this blog post was to let reviewers know they don’t have to be afraid to leave their honest feelings. They should never be afraid. I have heard too many horror stories about authors attacking reviewers or street teams seeking them out and bullying them. I am hoping my post may be able to help authors realize that if they should receive a 3-star review, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the end of the world and there will be many other 4 and 5-star reviews in their future.

      Thank you for your comment! Happy reading!

      • I suppose I’m a little irritable, because I’ve seen a lot of hate rain down lately about “too many” 5 star reviews. I think the bigger problem is “not enough helpful reviews.” I’m guilty of it. I write terrible reviews. I’m trying to get better about describing what I like without giving spoilers, but man, it’s difficult! The comments are more important to me than the star level.

        And I DO agree. I want reviewers to be honest. How will I know what to fix if I don’t know what’s broken? I had a conversation with an author I’m a total fangirl of last night, and she told me flat out a few problems she saw with one of my works. It was extremely helpful because she pinpointed where she thought I went wrong. A three star review (or less!) with her criticisms, I’d have been more than grateful for.

        I didn’t even realize authors attacked reviewers. :-\

        Thanks for the post! I learned something!

      • I definitely wasn’t saying anything bad about a lot of 4 or 5 star reviews! Gosh knows I leave mostly 4 or 5 stars myself because I tend to enjoy a lot of the books I read. I can count on one hand how many 3 stars or lowers I’ve left since I began reviewing a few years ago. Please don’t think I was criticizing that.

        I’ve just heard a lot of readers say they don’t trust a book that has nothing but 5-star reviews. A few 3-stars tossed into the mix seem to give it more credibility.

  7. I totally agree – 3-star reviews can be so helpful, at least when there’s actually substance to it and the reviewer explains what they liked and didn’t like. I got one once that was like “I liked this book. It was a fun, quick read but I did feel it was too predictable.” BOOM. 2 sentences and they gave potential readers a pretty good idea of what they were getting into. But then I got another one that was like “Even though I just finished this book, I don’t remember much.” And that was just about all it said. So that wasn’t really helpful. I even got a 2-star review once on Goodreads, and while it tended to lean a little further toward what the person didn’t like, they still mentioned a couple of things they liked. I try not to ever comment on reviews but I went ahead and commented on this one and just thanked the person for taking the time to leave an honest and thorough review, because one that actually explains their reasoning for the rating is SO much more helpful than just the rating itself. They commented back and were surprised that I was being so nice about it; like you said, it’s a shame that reviewers have to be afraid to post negative (or even neutral) reviews for fear of being attacked by the author.

    But yeah. Legitimate 3-star reviews that lay down both the pros and cons are perfect. Too many 5-star reviews might not be super helpful, regardless of how good the book actually is.

    • Thank you for commenting, EJ! Yes, I agree that as long as it’s a 3-star review that helps readers make a decision, I’m totally down for that!
      I have had 1-star reviews in the past where people didn’t even read the book, they simply said they ‘wouldn’t’ read it for whatever reason.
      Grr! How frustrating, right?
      But it’s my hope we can help bloggers not be afraid. It isn’t right that this fear has been put into them in the first place. :/

      • I read other people’s reviews when I’m looking for something to read or have been asked to read something for review. When the review is a one or two that doesn’t say anything except I couldn’t read it, I hated it, etc… without giving any reasons I mark that review as “not helpful” and go on to other reviews that are.

  8. One of my fav reviews and it’s a 2…it’s on a book that was outside of the genre I normally wrote and I was worried about it reception but even though this reader didn’t enjoy the book I enjoyed the review and it wasn’t mean but very informative and gave me a good outlook for future books of this nature…

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R16MISZ762QCNP/ref=cm_cr_pr_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00MQFVJDO

  9. Reblogged this on The Ramblings Of Me and commented:
    Very good read for all authors…

  10. I’m a reviewer with Sweet & Spicy Reads. I hate giving authors a 3 stars and yes your right we are encouraged to love everything and swoon over the next book. You ask for a 3 Star review well here’s mine… Earning a Ring (More Than a Game, #4) by Kristina Mathews
    https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1509687073

  11. I agree with this post completely. If a book is good, it will garner plenty of 4 and 5 star reviews, but the lower reviews lend credibility. They show the book is not everyone’s cup of tea, but there was something about it that encouraged others to buy it, be it the cover, blurb, bb ad, or whatever. As a reader, I assume a book with 400 5 star reviews and none lower has paid for the reviews. I only read reviews that are 1, 2, and 3 star. I usually end up buying it anyway, despite these reviews. But a well-rounded review square is something I look for when I’m choosing a book to read. As an author, some of these reviews are hurtful, but I would never ask someone to remove a review. I appreciate all my reviews–the good, the bad, and the ugly. 🙂

  12. Here is fair and honest 3 star of my book, Slither. My books are not for everyone, and I am okay with that. I felt this review was balanced, and the reviewer put this up on her blog and even offered a giveaway of my book. I thanked her and shared it all over. That’s how adults ought to behave. http://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/RIFSFE40TZJTB/ref=cm_cr_pr_viewpnt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B010UCO0Z8#RIFSFE40TZJTB

  13. Thank you for posting this! One of my favorite reviews ever was a three star posted for my latest release. I appreciate honesty! If I wanted only 5 star reviews, I would only show my writing to my best friend. 🙂

  14. Thank you for this. I’m a reviewer on a pretty awesome FB page, and I recently posted a 3 star review. The author was absolutely crushed, and decided to not send me the third installment of the series. (I gave the first book 4 stars, and the second 3 stars). I’m only writing how I felt about the book. I also get very suspicious of books with 98% 5 star reviews. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve written a bunch 5 star reviews, but a book that EVERY. SINGLE. READER. likes? Impossible.

    • That’s what I’m trying to get people to understand. Books with a variety of reviews have more credibility.
      And I am so sorry someone did that to you. Even some of my biggest fans have left 3-stars on some of my books because the simply weren’t their cup of tea, but I’d never deprive them of the next book.
      I hope it won’t discourage you from reviewing in the future!

  15. One of my best earliest reviews was three stars, and I actually modified the story to put the backstory (prologue) later as the author suggested. http://www.amazon.com/review/R2NNDPRFVG6CMY

  16. This is a great post. I’m glad to hear of authors who get that a 3 start review is still a good review. I tend to rate books between 3.5 and 4 stars. I looked back last year and only gave out 6 five stars and I read a lot of really great books. I’ve never been called out by an author, and hope that it never happens. I have rated books 3 stars and had readers comment saying that they were sorry that I didn’t like the book better. Hell, I’ll recommend a book that I rate 3 stars. I’ll even re-read them sometimes. Once again, great post.

  17. The rating system also seems to mean different things to different people, for example the list above, in comments, uses the Amazon 1 – 5 stars, where 3 means it’s okay. On Goodreads a 2 means it’s okay. So, we have to appreciate different sites and different people will mean different things as they rate.
    A 2 or 3 star rating might hurt our feelings, that’s natural, but like you said these reviews are so important to show variety in readers and their likes and dislikes. No one will write a book with 100% appeal to everyone.
    Some lowers star ratings shouldn’t hurt your book or marketing so long as you are also receiving higher ratings on average. If you’re receiving 3 or lower on average maybe that’s saying something about the book that needs to be addressed?
    Great post!

  18. It’s authors like you that make reviewing worth while. I read a book for review not too long ago. It was one cliche after another throughout the entire book. Sadly I could not see myself rating it anything higher than 2 stars. However, it is my opinion that as reviewers and bloggers we should remember to not base our opinions on authors’ work on only one book. So I would have been happy to read a different book by this author, especially one from a different series by her. I even stated as much in my review. That I would give this author another shot before making a decision on her work. I still hesitated to post the review. I ran it by several people, even a couple of other authors who agreed that it was a polite, professional review and I should post it. So I did. What proceeded to happen was unbelievable. This author accused me of bullying her and demanded that the review be taken down. The AUTHOR herself! Not a street team member or a PA. The messages came directly from the author. Needless to say, I did NOT take the review down. If anything I felt justified in never reviewing any of her books again. During all this, I did go look at the book on Amazon and checked out other reviews, something I never do because I don’t want other’s opinions to impact my own of a book. This book had at least 20 1 and 2 star reviews. Which made me wonder if she was pitching a fit with those reviewers s well.

    Sadly, it did impact my reviews. I did not review any books by authors I had never tried before for a few months. I’ve since revised this decision to a degree, but it saddens me that an author would behave this way.

    • I am so very sorry that happened to you, Iris. I’ve had a few 1 and 2 star reviews and one of them even said something hurtful to me, but I never reached out to that person or threw a fit about it. And it was REALLY mean.
      It seems to me that this author may not have understood the proper etiquette when it comes to lower rated reviews. The first lesson I ever learned is this: Do not engage.
      Thankfully I have mentors and they never let me make a fool of myself, haha.
      You didn’t bully her. You didn’t call her names or degrade her, so I don’t understand why she tried to accuse you of that. I believe some people do not understand the term bully these days. They think anyone who may disagree with them or have a different opinion is ‘bullying’ them. At least that’s what I’ve discovered over the last year or so.
      Thank you for sharing your story and please do continue leaving reviews. Honesty is so rare, and how are authors like me supposed to grow without it? xx

  19. There definitely is a fear of writing reviews that have a lower rating or a ‘bad’ review. After a few authors who have acted very badly (stalking reviewers etc), I actually shut down my old book review blog and deleted all my reviews in all the places I had them. And that really sucked. But, when you read of authors who reacted so badly to a poor review that they showed up at the reviewer’s house to confront them, it does make you freak out (especially when you have young kids at home). Now obviously those authors are super rare and most are nice, normal people. But, you just never know. I did recently come back to the book blogging world, because the community is so amazing, but I’ve made the decision to not write reviews anymore. That’s put me in an odd place in the book blogging community, but I’m just going with it and seeing how it works out 🙂

    • I remember that story and it gave me chills. I can’t imagine any author being that unstable, but I know it must happen.
      I actually have a blogger friend who voiced her concern the other day after an author attacked her over a 3-star review. She said, “She’s got my address. That’s not okay.” And it is a shame that anyone has to be afraid over something like that.
      It’s my hope that this blog post will help diminish the stigma of lower rated reviews. No one should be scared to share their opinion.
      Thank you for commenting and I do hope you can get back into the groove of leaving reviews someday. As you said, the majority of us are very nice…and sane. 😉

  20. I love your attitude and you made a very compelling argument. As a reader, I don’t trust a book that only has 5-stars. It’s almost as if the author fished for it and asked the rest not to post their reviews if it’s below that. Thanks for sharing this and I wish you more success for 180 Days!

    • Thank you so much! And I agree. I have heard many readers say they don’t trust a book that only has 4 and 5 stars. I’m hoping authors who read this post will understand a few 3-stars will benefit them in the long run, rather than destroy their career. Thanks for commenting! xx

  21. This is a fantastic post and topic, I love it almost as much as I do 3 star reviews. And while this might not be the best example of a three star review (sheesh how did I let so many errors get by?), it is an example of a super classy author who was incredibly kind to me when she read it and positive about the whole thing.

    https://burnsthroughherbookshelf.wordpress.com/2015/09/28/review-harvest-moon-by-lisa-kessler/

  22. Great post 🙂
    I do love when an author gets it, yes 3s are not bad. And a 3 means something different on different sites, and for different readers. That is why I do not show ratings on my blog, people always go so I am sorry you hated it..eh, did you even read the review? A 3 for me is a good book that I would read more of, buy more of. Recommend. But yes, it was not awesome, but I’d still read more. The next one might be awesome.

    And I would never ever buy a book with only 4 and 5s. HA. Like every person in the world liked the book, as if. I guess we should hand you that Nobel prize then, oh wait, not even those have books that everyone loves. That is why when I read reviews on GR I focus on 3s. The tell me the good, the bad, the stuff I want. The I can look at a few 4s, and a few 2s.
    ,
    And I have had a 3 star drama. SIGH. It was not funny, but I am glad my fellow book bloggers stood behind me and supported me. As for that book, I liked, I would have read more by that author. Now, never and I certainly told others the same after that

  23. I once left a 4-star review for an author that I loved. She’s a NYT Bestselling author. She got her other NYT Bestselling author friends to gang up on me and call me all kinds of horrible names, even after I took down the review. She threatened me, too, which is why I must post this anonymously.

    I will never forget it. Whenever I see any of those authors, anywhere, I feel a horrible pain in my heart. It took me years to stop crying over it. And no one they’ve ever done these things to has been brave enough to come forward. Everywhere, people post about how amazing and sweet and wonderful these authors are, but I know the truth.

    It makes me so angry that authors like you, who are so nice and grateful, are not NYT Bestselling authors and horrible women like them are. Especially considering the fact that your books actually say something important and talk about topics that need to be discussed in our society today and their books are just old-fashioned formula novels.

    • Hey, Anonymous. I thought I had replied to you a while back but apparently not. I’m so sorry!
      I just wanted to say thank you for your post and I am so sorry that happened to you. It was not deserved and never okay.

      I appreciate your kind words. I hope they did not veer you from reviewing in the future. We need more reviewers! We need you!

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