Authors always yearn for an abundance of stunning 5-star reviews.
Three-star reviews can make an author feel frustrated, misunderstood, or ready to throw in the towel.
But in actuality, 3-star reviews can provide tremendous benefit to authors.
Have you ever bought a book based on a bad review—especially a 3-star review?
For example, when I was trying to decide between an author’s earlier and later work, I came across a 3-star review of his later work:
Very interesting concepts and well-written, but basically an updated version of his previous book. It is also seems to be written for people who don’t have a firm background in science and physics.
Perfect! I wanted an updated version of his previous book (which I hadn’t read), yet my right-brained grasp of science in general and physics especially was pretty weak.
So I bought that book. And I loved it.
Another time, I wanted to learn about the pre-existing factors that influenced the German people toward Nazism.
I came across a book which featured the following 3-star review:
Great content and thoroughly researched, but shows no appreciation for the Nazi movement. In fact, the author even seems to disapprove of Hitler and Nazism.
Just what I was looking for.
Different Types of Helpful 3-Star Reviews
The following type of 3-star review is actually excellent praise in disguise:
I really hate science fiction, but I decided to give this book a try based on all the rave reviews.
It was okay. Better than any other science fiction I’ve read, I guess.
Other times, the 3-star reviewer complains that the book is “really directed at people who think there’s a God” or “an amazing book that everyone I know has found so helpful, but the author doesn’t have a Ph.d, so how can she be qualified to write this?” or “Book arrived in terrible condition!”
These are all non-criticisms. So if that’s are all critics have to say about the book, then it must be pretty darn good.
Furthermore, I noticed that people don’t take the 5-star and 4-star reviews so seriously. How many times have you gone straight to the “Top Critical Review” to know the truth about a book?
Many readers especially suspect the initial 5-star reviews because they often come from fans, friends, and family members—whether they say so or not.
(Although fans don't always rave. Some are open regarding their feelings toward their beloved author's disappointing new work.)
Others have clearly noted this dynamic, which is why I think you sometimes find what is actually a 5-star review written under a 3-star heading:
BEST book I’ve ever read! The plot was amazing, the characters were absorbing, and the theme made my heart soar!!!
Fortunately, these reviews usually garner comments from alert browsers, such as:
Why did you rate this book only 3 stars?
You seem wild about the book. What didn’t you like that made you take two stars off what was otherwise the “BEST book” you’ve ever read?
If you liked it so much, why did you give it only 3 stars?
Why? Probably because the author’s friends realized what we’ve all realized:
Three-star reviews are taken more seriously and are often read first—or second, depending.
(Except that the 5-star reviews masquerading as 3-star reviews are obviously fake. Or mistakes.)
So yes, a large number of positive reviews is important to the marketing of your book.
But the next time you get hit with a 3-star review, just remember:
Every author needs those perfect 3-star reviews.