ARE THEY ALL ‘REALLY’ 4 & 5-STAR REVIEWS? @RRBC_Org @RRBC_RWISA @Tweets4RWISA #RRBC

This was a post we ran in January of 20202 but I felt like it was a good time to dust it off and present it again.

We complain about Amazon a lot, don’t we?  Belonging to a community of writers and reviewers, the number one gripe that I hear most is, “Amazon has removed another one of my reviews!” Although Amazon has never been this nasty to me, I can fully understand someone else’s frustration with this issue.  I would be upset and frustrated, too, if it happened to me.  But, am I the only one noticing that some reviewers only read 4 and 5-star books?  I mean, how do they always get so lucky?

When I became a book reviewer, not even half of the books that I was asked to review came close to being worthy of 3 stars, let alone, 4 and 5.  And, although I had taken a break from reviewing the past couple of years because of my busy schedule (I’m reviewing again now), my review queue still never fell short of books for me to flip through.  Lastly, no matter how much I preached HONEST REVIEWS around my community, I continued to see that some weren’t grasping the sermon.

By now, the entire world knows how I feel about everyone being given the opportunity to publish any and everything.  Just as everyone wasn’t born to write or perform open-heart surgery, everyone can’t review books properly.  And, no matter how many times you hear otherwise, there is a right and a wrong way to do everything … even review a book.  Yes, I said that!

Some of you love to say, “But, what one views as trash, the next person might find to be treasure,” and although that might be true in some areas, it will never change the fact that if a book isn’t well-written (98% error-free) with realistic dialogue, believable characters, and a powerfully crafted storyline (an engaging story that won’t allow the reader to fall asleep while reading it), it doesn’t warrant a 4 or 5-star review.  Truth be told, if any of what I just mentioned is missing from a book, it doesn’t deserve even 3 stars from where I sit. So, why are more and more of these books being given such high marks?

The truth of the matter is … those who freely dole out these high marks aren’t any more special than you and me.  They are reading the very same books we are, but the only difference is, they haven’t quite learned how to review properly, OR, they are afraid of posting honest reviews.  Notice how I didn’t leave room for any grey area there – I didn’t, because there isn’t any.  This is a black and white issue – either you don’t know how to review properly, OR you’re afraid of telling the actual truth publicly about books you’ve read.  For some of you, I’m leaning towards the latter. It saddens me that there is terror behind being honest in a review.

When these so-called reviewers leave their 4 and 5-star reviews of every or almost every book they’ve read, it hurts all of us – and then we wonder why Amazon decides to pull or delay the posting of some of our reviews.  Maybe they’re seeing a pattern that doesn’t make much sense to them, either.

Maybe, like me, they question those reviews that are all 4 and 5 stars.  Maybe, like me, they know that there is no way on God’s green earth that every book we read can fall into this rating class, especially with any and everyone being allowed the honor of publishing a book today.

I may come across to some of you as being really harsh in regard to this topic, but, I make no apologies about the passion that I feel regarding this issue.  Why?  Because this affects all of us, not just some.  If you’ve been lucky enough to not have been a target of Amazon (yet), just keep breathing.  As long as there are those who continue to post reviews under the reasons that I have listed above, we’re all just sitting ducks waiting for the hammer to come down on our heads.

We all have negative feelings about Amazon, and especially about the power that they have and how they wield that power, but, I think they are catching on to the fact that a lot of these reviews are bogus as heck, and I for one, am excited about that.  Hooray!  Finally, I can point to something that Amazon is doing right!

When you review under the umbrella of non-truth or ignorance as I’ve laid out above, you’re also jeopardizing your reputation as a writer.  I can’t tell you how many authors who I once admired because of their remarkable acumen into the written word, have changed my opinion of them simply by a review that they have posted.  Now, because I admired these authors for their own written works, that led me to believe that they know what good/great writing looks like, but, it saddened me that they just couldn’t find it in themselves to be honest in certain reviews.  Out of fear? Fear of what?  Retaliation against their own work?  Fear that they would lose an internet-buddy?  Fear of an adult throwing a tantrum on social media over a review they received? Well, we’ve all seen it all. Whatever the situation, if you resemble the picture that I have painted throughout this piece, know that you’re causing irreparable harm to your reputation when you leave such reviews.

Have you noticed a trend of high marks in reviews lately? And do you feel that dishonest reviews hurt authors?

24 thoughts on “ARE THEY ALL ‘REALLY’ 4 & 5-STAR REVIEWS? @RRBC_Org @RRBC_RWISA @Tweets4RWISA #RRBC”

  1. I have a strict review policy on the blog and I make it clear that I don’t except free books to review except if I have reviewed a book by that author previously and they offer me an advance copy. That might be three books a year and it is also on the understanding that I might not review. I have been buying my own books since I was 11, so well over 50 years and I have a pretty good idea of what I like and don’t like to read. I have neither the time nor the money to spend on books I don’t think I will enjoy and so do my research rather than rely on luck. Which is why there is a pretty good chance they will get a 4* or 5* review . On the odd occasion when I have read a book that has issues – I will drop a note to the author if I think they might be receptive to hearing my opinion. Particularly with digital copies, major issues can be resolved and the book uploaded again. I am honest as I can be based on my preferences and criteria for a good read. thanks for letting me share my opinion Nonnie and an interesting discussion…

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    1. Hi, Sally! I love your review policy and the fact that you have it clearly outlined on your site so that there are no expectations of anything but your truth.

      Thanks for dropping by and chiming in on the discussion!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. When I review a book, I try always to be honest. That allows me to highlight strengths of the work and even identify something missing. Whatever I see as shortcomings , I will communicate directly with the author, including best selling authors. I’ve found all have been grateful for my feedback including major authors.

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    1. Randy, it’s wonderful of you to take the time to correspond with authors about issues you find in their books. Unfortunately, many of us don’t have the luxury of that kind of time.

      Thanks for weighing in!

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  3. Hi Nonnie. I am glad to see you take on this topic. Witnessing excuses being given for a so-called low rating doesn’t sit well from my point of view. It highlights the reviewers’ insecurities, and it shows their lack of knowledge of what a review looks like. All of us could definitely use some lessons.

    I appreciate your thoughts on this volatile subject.

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    1. Hi, Shirley! I agree. If everyone would just be honest. It’s not that hard when you live your life that way on a normal basis. If books deserve 4 and 5 stars, by all mean, please give them that. But, when you notice a book that has been poorly written and edited and these issues are glaring and there is a long list of high marks, that is so disappointing. This in no way helps the author to grow, but, I suppose some people don’t mind being stuck and they don’t care to ever be introduced to growth.

      Thanks for weighing in. I know that you’re never afraid to and that’s what I admire most about you 🙂

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  4. If I read a book and I think it is 3 stars or less, I don’t leave a review. Three stars is 60% and as a teacher that’s a D or less than proficient. It just feels cruel to do that to someone who has put their heart into a piece. So perhaps you have a point. Maybe many of the reviews given are out of kindness.
    I know how critical I am of my own work and would be devastated if someone were to give me a 2 or a 1. As a teacher, we have a 1-4 grading system and I only give ones to essays that have few capitals, sentence fragments, and are obviously a lazy attempt. Although many who publish, in my opinion, do not put in the work to build craft, it still feels wrong to give them one star. That’s 20% , a horrible fail.
    I have a dear friend who gave me his book and I hated it. It was obviously a one-draft-and-done piece. But I would never give him a terrible review; I like him too much.
    I always put myself in someone else’s shoes when commenting and if I think something would hurt, don’t type.

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    1. Hi, Laurie, thanks for dropping by! So, I’m wondering … why is it easier for you to give a low mark to a CHILD whose work you have perceived as a lazy attempt, but, you find it difficult to grade an ADULT by that same standard? That seems a little off to me. I perceive books that are published to Amazon in this fashion as lazy attempts, as well, unless it’s a new author who doesn’t know any better and it’s their first time publishing. But, with all the information floating about now, on the steps that should be taken before your books are published, I’m a little less inclined to believe that anyone has missed a message on the importance of having their work professionally edited and proofed before publishing. If their is leniency to be given, believe me I’m giving it to a child first.

      Kindness is great, but dishonesty in any fashion, is just wrong. I really would prefer that those who find it hard to be honest in their reviews, not post reviews at all. They don’t help the author to grow in any way (and I’m all about growth) and they are misleading for others who might come behind and read their reviews. This culture of “we’ll just keep lying to each other about our work” is why there are so many sad books on the market now. This culture also helps to create these monsters with “big heads” who find it hard to accept an honest review when it finally comes down, because all of the dishonest reviews had them believing their work was amazing, when it clearly wasn’t. I could write a book here, but, I’ll stop.

      I’ve learned SO MUCH since my early publishing days and accepting the critiques of others who point out small issues to me, is what helps me to continue to grow. I’ve pulled a couple of my books down and haven’t had the opportunity to put them back up yet because I haven’t given them a thorough re-edit yet. I’ll do that for a couple more soon, as well. Everyone should consider doing the same if they value their reputations as writers. My early books are not indicative of my writing skill now and I want all of my books to be the best that they can be so that I’m giving my readers the best I have to offer.

      Laurie, thanks again for weighing in!

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  5. Hi, Nonnie, I have read your January 2020 posts along with comments above and value the discussion here.

    I agree, the most important criterion for judging a piece of writing is its quality. But “quantity” matters too. For instance, I have trouble evaluating a 17-page short story as equating to a 300-page biography or work of fiction when I submit a review to Amazon. True, the short story may be a stellar one, but it hardly equates to the time and effort that goes into crafting the longer work. In my view, a collection of stories may be comparable to a memoir or novel, but not one short story as a stand-alone.

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    1. Hi, Bette! Good for you. Although I feel if you don’t post for every book you read, how will the authors know if there are issues with their books? How will they be helped? How can they grow without truthful eyes helping them along? But, I get it. Some just don’t want to face the wrath of those grownup tantrums because they are ugly.

      Thanks for dropping in, Bette!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. You are absolutely right. As for ‘honest’ reviews, I think it is the fear to ‘hurt’ an internet writer buddy in most cases. I read and wrote a review of an internet friend’s book; I gave it ‘only’ 4 stars because I felt it wasn’t quite right to match everybody else with their 5 stars for this “Amazon Bestseller.” I felt the need to explain and apologize… I have seen ‘tantrums’ because someone got a one-star review, so you are right again. All of us are very sensitive when it comes to our book-baby. I don’t remember who it was who said in a tutorial, “kill your darlings…” This sentence stuck with me. When I re-read what I write, it dances in front of my eyes. But I can not ‘kill’ another writer’s darlings. Unless they have asked me to read their manuscript (before publishing) and gave them my “honest” opinion.

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    1. Hi, gmroeder! A 4 star review is a good review (at least the wording should reflect as good if you’re handing down this mark) so why would you feel the need to apologize for it? If you’re being honest about a review you’ve handed down, there is no need for apologies, whether it’s a 1-star review or a 4-star review.

      As far as killing someone’s darlings, it would be the total opposite. You would be HELPING THEM to create more beautiful darlings the next time they published.

      Thanks for weighing in!

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  7. You bring up some good points, Nonnie, but each reviewer has his/her own system. Reviews are very subjective. A reader brings his/her own set of interests and biases with him/her to the story, so what one person would find as a phenomenal story, another one would think it is bland. Some focus on plot and character arcs. Some focus on whether they connect with the subject. Some focus on writing styles and errors. Some focus on all of the above. Lol!

    Personally, I tend to only read books from my favorite authors, books that were recommended to me, or books with good reviews. So, I rarely, if ever, come across a bad book anymore. That being said, I have become more critical as the years go by. I give out fewer five stars now, not out of meanness but out of a higher level of respect for those stories that truly impact me in some way. I’m also more comfortable giving out three stars now, understanding that three stars is still a good rating; it just didn’t impact me the way it may have impacted others.

    As you said, some people ONLY give 4- and 5-star reviews. Either they are great at picking only amazing books, or they are overly generous in their star giving. That is why I tend to look at the stars given to a book as a whole. If the majority of people rated the book well, then it’s probably a good read. If only a few rated it well, I’d probably pass on it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Yvette! Unfortunately, I’m not one who is buying into the theory that everyone brings their own biases to a story. I’m aware that what one person likes, another may not like. That’s not what this focus is on. This focus is on clearly not sharing the most honest truth about a book, and if we’re going to be honest right now, I truly believe that most of us are pretty aware of how reviews are being handed out.

      I’ve just posted the following in another area of the site in regards to this very issue:
      When you read a book and you share how the book moved you and how you were touched and how you were pulled right into the story (which is what some of you love to say), and you fail to mention all the obvious typos and the missing words that slow you down in the read, and the broken, short sentences, and the onslaught of the author telling you and not showing you (which is something some of you love to point out in other books, but you somehow miss that issue in the books of your internet buddies), let’s face it, you’re just not being honest. When you point out all of the good and you fail to mention the issues, you’re not being honest.

      And the fact that a book has many 4 or 5 star reviews, does in no way mean that the book is deserving of those stars. It’s more like the one 2 or 3 star review that’s most believable, based on the culture we’re living in now, where people are too afraid of ugliness being thrown in their direction if they dare share their honest opinions. The only reason I’m looking at reviews is if I’ve given a book an honest mark and all the other marks are way off. By now, I think everyone is clear that I’m not afraid to be honest in my reviews. I’m not that friendly with anyone to risk my reputation and my integrity so that they can revel in a lie. But, that’s just me and I do realize that there aren’t many at all like me.

      Thanks for chiming in, Yvette!

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      1. I hear and understand you, Nonnie. As an author, I, too, give an honest review for every book I read. I don’t concern myself with how others felt about the book because my review is all about MY reaction and findings. 🙂

        As a reader, I don’t read other people’s reviews because they tend to have spoilers, and I hate spoilers. Lol! I may look at the overall stars, but I tend to read books from authors that have been recommended or from my favorite authors.

        Honesty is always the best policy. I believe everyone should always speak their truth. As you have posted, there is always a way of speaking your truth with kindness (pointing out the positive) and still getting the truth out. If we truly respect one another as authors, we should WANT to share areas that can be improved upon. 🙂

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        1. Yvette, watch your email for a surprise coming from me soon! This line… “If we truly respect one another as authors, we should WANT to share areas that can be improved upon,” is beautiful! And yes, we should respect each other enough to just be honest. Why someone would allow someone else to compromise their integrity, blows my mind.

          So, you’re going to be made a liar just to keep from hurting someone’s feelings? That’s the question readers/reviewers have to ask themselves if they are even contemplating inflating a review out of “friendship” or kindness. Again, it boggles my mind that some would allow their truths to be stifled for any reason.

          Not I said the cat. NOT FOR ANYONE. IF you don’t want an honest review, you better hope I never read your book because if it deserves 5 stars, that’s what I’m giving it, and if it deserves 1 star, I’ll be posting it boldly with no apologies. It’s time to stop the nonsense and stop allowing us to be placed into this group of amateurs who are just writing and publishing as a hobby. Writers ruin their own reputations when they are dishonest in their reviews. Some need to remember that.

          Thanks, Yvette, for weighing in!

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  8. Hi Nonnie, I have noticed that Amazon is vetting reviews and does checks for cross reviews between authors within a certain timeframe. I don’t think that many readers write reviews, it is mainly the writing and blogging community, in my experience, that go to the trouble of writing and posting a review. From a personal perspective I always think of the words of poet, John Lydgate, when I consider my reviews ““You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”. Have a lovely weekend.

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    1. Hi, Robbie! I do love that quote, but I like mine even better: “You can’t please everyone all the time so I’ve learned to just focus on me!”

      Robbie, I loved what you said in your BOTS interview yesterday that RRBC gives its members the courage to be brave. Yes, we do, if everyone would only take hold of that and ride that wave … what a braver world we’d live in!

      Thanks for chiming in, Robbie!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My pleasure, Nonnie, I like your quote very much too. Bravery is very important to me. If people are not brave and don’t speak out when there is injustice and things are wrong in this world, nothing will ever get better.

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