Aside from landing a huge publishing contract that includes a ginormous advance and an all-star-cast movie deal, nothing makes a writer’s heart happier than to receive a five-star review. That’s not to say writers would complain about a three- or four-star review – after all, we’re just thrilled to have people reading our ramblings – but the five-star review is such a brag-worthy ego boost.

So why is there this sudden disdain for the five-star review?

Several forums I’ve visited recently have touted claims about five-star reviews that include…

  • Five-star reviews are fake (as in posted by the author himself).
  • Five-star reviews have been paid for.
  • Five-star reviews are from relatives of the author.
  • And the worst….All five-star reviews should be skipped over because they don’t represent valid opinions of the book.

Really? Who came up with this new rule? Is it some disgruntled writer who never earned a five-star review or is this truly the cynical mindset of readers out there in the online book world? If so, that is heartbreaking for both a writer who has garnered a handful of stars and for a reader who often leaves five-star reviews.

Why Yes, I Do Have An Opinion on This…

In response to the above ideas about where five-star reviews come from let me say, yes, I have given my books a few stars on Goodreads, but never five. I mean, I have to show a little humility, don’t I? And what is wrong with a writer reviewing her own book (as long as it is only done once, not with numerous fake accounts)? I like my books, I’ve worked hard on them, I have an opinion about them, so I rate them. I limit my vanity to a single rating only, no written reviews – have to draw the line somewhere.

And paid reviews? I have two comebacks for that complaint. First, Kirkus Reviews and Publisher’s Weekly are two very big names in the book review world. And both charge for reviews (PW only charges for self-pubbed books). Last time I checked, Kirkus was charging over $400 for a review. That money gets you a slot in the review schedule…it does not buy a five-star review.

Second, most writers have far better ways to use their very modest promotion dollars (if they have any) than to pay off reviewers. We may give away books in the hope that the receivers will review them, but this is no guarantee of a review, let alone one with five stars in front of it. I’m sure there are a handful of writers who can afford to pay random reviewers, but I’ve yet to meet any.

Family members? Sorry, excuse me, I can’t type because I’m clutching my gut from laughing so hard. I have asked my relatives (more than once) to review my books anywhere online. Have they done it? Um, no. My family members will praise my books to other people (thanks for that), but squeezing an online review out of them is like trying to juice a pound of sand.

Not valid? This is a crushing blow when I think of all the great books I’ve read and given five-star reviews to. Essentially, the five-star review disdain is saying my opinion doesn’t count. Trust me, I am opinionated, cynical and highly critical of what I read. If I give a book five stars, it has damn well earned five stars!

To hear five-star reviews shouldn’t be considered valid is also disheartening when I think of the numerous five-star ratings reviewers (who I don’t know from Adam and who I haven’t paid) have given to ARC copies of The Trials of Hercules. Apparently, unless I ask these reviewers to tone down their praise a notch, their opinions are worthless in the eyes of the Five-Star Hate Club. Sigh, and I thought those five stars meant the book was well written.

Review As You See Fit…Just Please REVIEW!

So does this mean if you love a book you should not leave a five-star review? Does it mean you should ignore five-star reviews? I think you can probably guess my answer is NO. Personally, I think readers should seek out the books with five-star reviews, not shun them.

When I leave a five-star review I’m telling the world that the book was great, that I can’t think of any way in which it could be improved, that I would rush out and buy the book without hesitation, and that I would recommend it to everyone I know who reads.

A five-star review in no way throws up my cynical signals of “Fake! Fake! Fake!” Instead, it tells me this is an author to watch and a book to savor. If I saw a book with oodles of five-star reviews and it was in a genre I enjoy reading, I would definitely add it to my very long To-Read shelf.

Regardless of how you feel about the five-star issue, whenever you read a book, leave a review – or a rating if you’re rushed for time. A good review is the best promotion you can give a writer and a great way to share your opinion with the world.

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6 thoughts on “In Defense of the 5-Star Review

  1. Very good comments and an eye opener to those who think you can just go out and buy reviews, seems it would be very costly to do so. I read reviews on products-books-many items just to get the feel for the item I am checking on, I rely on these reviews. Thank you for the informative article in regards to the 5 Star Reviews.


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