Come listen to – or watch – Episode 10 of my podcast, 12 Minutes (or less!) with the Author. Today my guest is author Danielle Paquette-Harvey, and I’m thrilled. We’re going to talk about star ratings of books on Amazon and what those 5-stars, 4-stars, 3-stars, etc. really mean. Transcript and link to the Spotify podcast episode below. The podcast is also on YouTube (video below).
Episode 10, on Spotify: https://spotifyanchor-web.app.link/e/UNdq9btCaBb
This podcast episode is available on YouTube as well. Find it here: https://youtu.be/nefNG01j53s
Here are important links for YOU!
Books on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/stores/author/B08W1H44Q2/allbooks
(NOTE from T.L. Brown: Readers of this transcript get a bonus. While the video was edited to stay within the 12 minutes or less timeframe – some of my comments were edited out – the transcript below contains the full conversation. Enjoy!)
Welcome to 12 Minutes (or less!) with the Author. I’m your host, T.L. Brown, but you can call me Tracy. Let’s get started.
T.L. Brown: Hey there, welcome to another episode of 12 Minutes (or less!) with the Author. I am thrilled because today we have author Danielle Paquette-Harvey on the show, and we are going to talk about star ratings on books and especially star ratings on Amazon.
Danielle is an award-winning Amazon International best-selling author of paranormal romance and steamy vampire romance fantasy. Her stories include werewolves and vampires, myths and dark prophecies, magic and witches, dragons and fairies, adventure and war, goddesses and demons.
Her books have been translated into French, and they are currently being translated into Italian. She is well known for her bestselling Longing Mates series, and you can start the series with book one, Age-Old Enemies. You can find it at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and other libraries. Danielle has also written The Goddess’s Wards, a standalone novel related to the series.
Danielle lives on the south shore of Montreal in Canada, with her husband, children, two cats, and an Australian Shepherd. You can learn more about Danielle at DaniellePHAuthor.com, and that link can be found in the podcast description along with her socials. Welcome, Danielle. Thank you for making time to talk to us this morning.
Danielle Paquette-Harvey: Thank you for having me.
T.L. Brown: I was thrilled to see your post on Instagram – and for our listeners, it went something like this: I was scrolling through my Instagram in the middle of May, and I saw your post on Amazon ratings and thought it was brilliant. That’s why I asked you to come on the show because my listeners – our listeners today – are also readers. I wanted you to share your thoughts. Tell us more about what the number of stars means and how those star ratings – especially on Amazon – impact a book’s success.
Danielle Paquette-Harvey: You need to keep in mind that Amazon sells PRODUCTS. For them, a book is a product amongst a big variety of products. When you leave a star rating on Amazon, they don’t want to know if you were crying because you were missing your “book boyfriend” at the end of the book or something like that. They want to know: is it a fantasy book, or is it a romance book? Is it really a fantasy book – does it have magic and dragons? That’s what they want. Think of it as if you buy a shirt from Amazon. Is it too cheap, and it’s going to tear apart? Or is it of good quality? That’s how you should rate books on Amazon.
To give you an example of a 5-star rating for a fantasy romance: Let’s say it’s [advertised as] an enemies-to-lovers trope, and it was actually enemies-to-lovers. There was fantasy, there was romance, and the book was what was expected to be. That’s all there is to Amazon.
If you want to go with a 4-star rating, then it means that the book has at least one major flaw, but it was still good. Think of a big plot hole, or maybe some things didn’t resolve at the end of the book, and it’s not a series; it’s not continued. You’re never going to know what’s happened.
When you get to 3-star ratings, it’s really a book that you didn’t like or did not finish. It’s something that is not good. It’s not of good quality. That tells Amazon that it should not recommend this book to other readers. The 3-star rating is really the lowest that you “can” give on Amazon.
When you give below 4 stars, you’re starting to hurt the author on Amazon – not on Goodreads and all those social media book websites. Amazon will not recommend the book if the average star rating is below four stars. So, if you like the book, at least a little bit – or maybe it wasn’t for you – but if someone likes fantasy and they would like it, then you should go and rate it a 4-star at least. Then go back to read the genre that you usually read if that book was not to your taste. Other readers that like the genre would like it. You rate it four stars.
If you go to two stars, then it means that it had major, serious issues all the way through the book. Maybe it was so bad that you couldn’t follow or read through the book. The sentences didn’t work. It looked like it was written by a 5-year-old kid. That’s two stars. A 1-star rating means this book should not be read by anyone. This author shouldn’t write anymore. That’s how bad the 1-star rating is to Amazon.
T.L. Brown: I could not agree more with what you’re saying. And I think people don’t realize that – especially if they put up a 1-star rating or a low-star rating and they don’t even bother to include a review.
Personally, if I’m going to give a 3-star or lower rating, I don’t finish the book because there are so many great books out there. I’m not going to rate the book if I don’t finish it. That’s my practice.
But for those who push on and read through to the end of a book they don’t like, and then just give two stars or one star and offer no reason in a corresponding review, I question that. I wish Amazon had a rule that if you give three stars or lower, you must write at least a couple-sentence review. You must at least justify why you’re giving such a low rating. What do you think about that?
Danielle Paquette-Harvey: I agree, and it doesn’t even have to be a lot of words. When you leave a rating without any words, you’re not explaining to the writer or to other potential readers why you thought that. It really matters to the authors because, as authors, we want to know why you liked or didn’t like a book. But it’s important to readers, as well, because when I go to buy a book, I will look at the reviews. I will check. Generally, what do people say? And, of course, you can’t please everyone. You’re bound to have “less good” reviews. It’s normal. But I will get a general idea of what the book is about, and then I’ll decide if I want to choose to read it or not.
For the algorithm in Amazon, it’s super important to stay above four stars [in overall ratings] because then Amazon will start proposing the book to other readers that have read the same genre. When you see this little section on the page that says “also read” – those are the books that other people have read in the same genre. It’s a suggestion. It’s free marketing for the book. It really helps the author.
T.L. Brown: Especially independent authors who do not have a traditional publishing house behind us that has the budget to market a book through whatever channel that may be. Independent authors really do rely on readers’ reviews that are positive. We want honest reviews. Like you said, if a book is very poorly written and looks like a 5-year-old wrote it, obviously, you shouldn’t give it a 5-star rating just to be nice. Honest positive reviews are good. But we, as independent authors, do need to rely on our reviews as part of our marketing. Amazon, seeing many good star ratings or reviews, will market that book for us.
Danielle Paquette-Harvey: Yes, exactly. Places like Goodreads or Book Bub – all those book websites are really the place to be more critical with your review. Sometimes even those websites have their own star review rating that they list, and you can use it. That’s the place where you can go: Oh, a 3-star rating is still good, and a 2-star one is still a little bit good. Some people have a very, very detailed judging grid for books. That’s the place to go to and do that. But when you go to Amazon, you need to have a different rating system in mind because the website doesn’t work the same way. They sell all kinds of products, and Goodreads is only for books. That’s the distinction.
T.L. Brown: I do want to point out to listeners if they don’t know this: Amazon does own Goodreads. So, even on Goodreads, as Danielle has shared about the star ratings, things don’t line up the same way as it does on Amazon. I wonder if that will change in the future. But, definitely, when you hover over the stars, especially on Goodreads, it kind of coaches you. For example, “I really liked it” or “I liked it” or “this book was awesome.”
Danielle Paquette-Harvey: Yes, totally. And I’ve seen some other book websites, especially some of them in France, and they have a page where the star ratings are written. They go with gold, silver, and bronze ratings instead of stars. But they have a big description telling you where to put books, depending on what was liked or not. It’s very detailed so that all the users of the website will put the books in the same way [into gold, silver, and bronze categories]. I think this is something that we’re a little bit missing, maybe in English [focused review sites] like Amazon, Goodreads, and Book Bub – that ratings mean different things for different people. It’s hard to have one rule that applies to all.
T.L. Brown: Exactly. I know we’re nearing the end of our time, and I just want to finish with this: As you read a book and you really love it, obviously, it’s an easy call. You give it a great rating, but if it is a book that is not resonating with you, ask yourself those questions. Is the book fine, and it’s just me, or is it the book problematic? Is it filled with errors?
Let’s do some critical thinking when we’re reading a book because a rating is not a critical review.
Danielle, it has been an absolute pleasure having you on today, and I do want to have you back in the future. I know that there were other subjects we talked about around ratings and also how authors rate each other. I hope you will be available in the future to talk about that.
Danielle Paquette-Harvey: Yes, of course. I’d love to.
T.L. Brown: Awesome. Well listeners – please, please, please check out Danielle Paquette-Harvey. Please look for Age-Old Enemies at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and other libraries. That is part of the Longing Mates series. Also, check out The Goddess’s Wards. Below you will find links to everything and her socials. Give her a follow. Give her a cheer. Buy her books.
Thank you all for listening, and I can’t wait to connect with you the next time.
This has been 12 Minutes (or less!) with the Author. Thanks for listening to today’s episode. Hope you can join me for the next one. Until then, this is Tracy, AKA author T.L. Brown signing off.