9 Things That Cost Your Book 5 Stars – Guest Blog Post By An Amazon Top Reviewer

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your humble host

Meerkat agreed to do a follow up post about stuff we writer types can do to avoid getting a less than stellar review from a reviewer.

Here are some of the top pet peeves. (Emphasis added by me)


There are lots of reasons why I love a book and I usually see something great in all books even if they’re not my favourite genres, but there are definite reasons why I don’t like a book and if these crop up, it feels as if the book still needs editing – and it’s hard for me to give it 5 stars.


1 – Spelling errors, grammar errors, typos, etc.

I know these are perhaps the least important for some people to check and I don’t mind the very odd typo (I’m guilty of them myself) but if every page of a book has typos and all sorts of errors like that it just starts to annoy me and makes the book less fun to read. It actually appears lazy on the authors part. Although I try to avoid mentioning it, other reviewers are more than happy to point out publicly every error that exists so proofread to death!


2 – Too many “he said/she said” moments.

Not only is the word “said” a little boring if overused but to have an indication of who’s speaking with each sentence makes any conversation read very slowly. On the flip side of course I’ve come across books where there’s no indication of who’s speaking for half a page which just makes it confusing and annoying if I have to start again at the top to figure out who was saying what.


3 – Overuse of a name.

Some books will have a chapter focused on one character and will use a name with every action. A couple of great fantasy and science fiction books I read were let down with every sentence beginning with the same character’s name, no ‘he/she/it’ or a different way of writing it just ‘Alan went..Alan said…Alan walked…Alan did…etc.’


4 – Characters are all the same.

Some books don’t delve deeply into characters and that’s okay, especially if they are more action-based stories. However, some books throw in a bunch of identical characters and expect you to tell them apart. In one science fiction book I’ve read there were no differences in the characters apart from a brief description at the start noting their looks and former jobs. The rest of the story never referred to any physical features or mannerisms and the main characters could have been swapped around and I wouldn’t have noticed.


5 – Too many characters.

This can confuse a plot especially if they’re all introduced in the first chapter. One fantasy romance had so many family members of the main characters that it took a lot of time to remember everyone and several of them could have been edited out as they didn’t add anything to the main plot.

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6 -Main characters forgotten about.

This sounds a bit weird but I’ve come across more than one book where a lot of characters were introduced into the plot, we followed their lives, got to know them and then…Well I don’t know as the author decided to wrap up the story focusing on only two of them. Several of these characters in one science fiction book had reached a cliff hanger moment in previous chapters only to never have their stories resolved. Having a story resolved doesn’t mean a clean end to their story, but in this book they were never mentioned again as if they didn’t exist!


7 – Similar names.

Okay so similar names doesn’t happen often but I’ve come across books with names like Jake and Blake etc., completely different characters but with names that are so similar, it’s easy to confuse them.


8 – No challenge.

Some books have action scenes where everything feels like it comes too easily to the characters. In books, like in films, it’s exciting when things don’t always go right for characters and if they have to learn a new power or open a locked door, it’s fun if they have trouble doing so and somehow makes the plot more believable.

it’s exciting when things don’t always go right for characters


9 -Too many adverbs.

Okay so adverbs are important but using them with every single action just sounds slow to me. This is a bit of a tricky point though as many people may want to use lots of adverbs and it is a way that people used to write but these days if you’re writing a fast paced story, having your characters every move noted with an adverb sounds slow and not so exciting to me. He walked or he crept is sometimes enough, rather than he walked slowly, slealthily, silently, etc.


I’m very open to many different writing styles and I even enjoy reading classics as different as some of that writing is so it takes a lot for me to dislike a book. But it is usually obvious when you read a book that looks like it needs editing. A lot of reviewers including amazon’s top will list editing problems they find with a book, though I try not to.

So if you can avoid the obvious issues I’ve mentioned, you’ll make at least one reviewer much happier!


Great stuff, Meerkat! And helpful for writers to know. Thanks for sharing!

Folks, these mistakes are easily avoidable if you let the MS rest after you write it, use beta readers, and start with interesting characters that are in a compelling story.

You can do that.

What are YOUR pet peeves when you are reading a book?

What causes you to put a book down?

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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the amazingly great sci fi action thriller “The Navigators.” Click HERE to get your copy of The Navigators – FREE on Kindle Unlimited!


63 thoughts on “9 Things That Cost Your Book 5 Stars – Guest Blog Post By An Amazon Top Reviewer

  1. I’ve always wondered about #3. I use titles and alternate identifiers, but I’ve read so many popular, successful books that have the names turn up every other sentence. Makes me unsure of how often you’re supposed to say it, especially in a descriptive or action scene.

    Liked by 2 people

    • For me it sometimes feels too much when you know who or what the action is about and the word ‘he/it’ etc can sometimes be used. It’s also possible to have names all the time if the action is switching between different characters constantly, but for me personally I prefer the books that will sometimes just use he or something other than a name. I’m just not used to it when I read a book and it feels weird when overused – but that’s just my experience and opinion :).

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’ve tried he and she at times, but I tend to have multiple characters in a seen or the genders are the same. It’s amazing how often he/she/it can’t really work without confusing people. At least from my experience and I have read books where I can’t tell which ‘he’ or ‘she’ is speaking. This is one of the reasons I have a list of alternate ‘names’ to switch between.

        Liked by 3 people

        • I can understand that then. I was thinking of scenes in books I’ve read where there’s only one or two characters, sometimes just one character is doing something and was constantly referred to by his name and never he. However if you have multiple characters then I can see the he/she/its getting confusing. I think in that case it’s far more important to make sure you know who is doing what. Nothing worse than reading into a scene and half way realising you didn’t know which character what doing what.

          Liked by 2 people

  2. #1 is a big annoyance for me. Always proofread to death! The other things can be problems, too, and character actions that leave you scratching your head can take me out of a story. I’ve only ever put down a few books, but the ones I couldn’t finish had characters I just couldn’t get interested in and/or they were way too slow moving.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Very good advice all around. The thing that bothers me the most is characters that are too perfect, and are always described as how beautiful sexy successful ect they are. I like characters who have flaws like me and are more real. I’m probably just jealous of the beautiful ones, although it is a fine line. If a character is too unreliable or irritating I tend to not finish the book. I like the advice about adverbs as well. Sparing is best.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Oh yes I don’t like perfect characters either. the same way I don’t like it when things come too easily for a character. There should be flaws, I think the flaws make the characters unique and easier to connect with as they become relatable (even if they are evil characters).

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Two reasons I’ll abandon a book:
    !) Characters who do odd things that normal people wouldn’t do or react in ways normal people wouldn’t just to make the plot work. For me, plots that control characters rather than the other way around DON’T work. (I did this myself, and boy, was it a disaster.)
    2) What we used to call “stock characters” appearing as main characters: characters I’ve seen in dozens of other books (usually the ones I don’t finish) enacting scenes I could have pasted in from dozens of other books. Please give me romantic scenes that go beyond “I want to be there for you.” Surprise me once in a while!

    Liked by 2 people

    • You make great points. The characters have to be solid and real individuals. I like the way you’ve explained the ‘stock characters’. I think a lot of people might end up writing in one of those without realising it. Some of the less good books I’ve read (I don’t like to say ‘bad’ books) seem to those. And with no defining personalities. I think through writing this and even commenting I’ve come to realise characters are super important to me. The plot has to be good but if you have boring characters they can ruin the best plot-at least that’s how I feel.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Great article, you list some of the things that are so easy to overlook while we are rushing to get our books out.
    I rarely abandon books, but it has happened a few times. Usually, I will never stop reading in the middle , no matter how much I dislike a book, but I do take extra care and rely on blurbs/reviews to not get into a situation where I bought a book I did not enjoy.
    What really puts me off is:
    1. I read most fantasy/sci-fi books. I really dislike when various creatures, be they ones we know or invented ones, are just replicas of humans and exhibit nothing but human behaviour. Why would a 3000y old vampire all of a sudden have a change of hearts and fall in love with a random teenager? this just does not make sense to me, and it drives me nuts to see it plotted a million books a day.
    2. Mandatory romance. I guess it’s character building, but i hate when I can predict which characters will end up romantically involved, or when romance feels forced and is there just for the shock effect. I really miss reading a book where nobody copulates with nobody, and that it is not business or school literature.
    3. A complete change in middle of the book. I recently got a book by a famous author, like, really really famous. The book started out as a weird mystery, in a folkish setting in the Balkans. Half way, mystery and mythology are gone, and we get 100 pages left of military tactics. I guess this one is similar to abandoned characters you mentioned in your article.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Don’t read Moby Dick! lol That classic is half story half encyclopaedia on whaling. I definitely agree on the points you’ve made. I’ve said it before but that fantasy book I read was pure romance for more than 200 pages before getting into fantasy. Once the fantasy took over it was really good and gripping but the first half of the book just felt like a different novel and it the fantasy should have been spilled in at regular intervals before.
      Like you I try not to abandon a book. Especially as I now review them and of course with my experience of many books they sometimes start off badly but end up really good. Just to quote the classic again I trudged through so many pages of Moby Dick but I’m glad I did, the ending’s one I really like.
      I think creatures vampires etc if they are main characters and we’re going to connect with them should always retain some form of humanity in their actions and emotions. Other wise it would be hard to connect with them. But at the same time there has to be enough of a difference that they aren’t human copies. I think it’s a hard line to get right and something I hope I don’t make a mistake on in the book I’m now trying to write – don’t want to upset a potential reader ;).
      I’m not sure what to think about the romance. Until Eva pointed it out to me nearly a year ago I didn’t realise a lot of people are opposed to romance in fantasy. I personally don’t mind the odd relationship brewing and in certain types of stories, Eva’s works great for example. How far is too far though. One book I read had a couple getting together as soon as they met. They barely kissed before they were in bed and THAT felt weird and too simple. I think I personally enjoy romance but so many books and even shows and films love to concentrate on the sex more than the love and not to sound all prudish but sometimes subtle is better, at least depending on the story.
      Thanks for commenting. I always value your input especially when it comes to your thoughts on fantasy :).

      Liked by 3 people

      • “so many books and even shows and films love to concentrate on the sex more than the love a” – this is the key to what I was talking about, it feels like that part is there just for the shock effect, I cannot connect the actions to the characters and I cannot feel a progression in emotional events. Basically, it feels like This is boy, this is girl – now sex! This is girl, this is girl – now sex! Yes, I see this problem also regarding LGBT characters, I think showing a relationship develop, whether it leads to action in the bed on pages or not, is essential for me to get to relate and like a character.
        I already read Moby Dick and it was not so bad, because I think I have the book I detest of classics. Robinson Crusoe. Not only does the whole book repeat, twice, first in retelling then via diary entries, but I also on top of that boredom could not stomach the depictions on killing baby dolphins. I think Crusoe could’ve managed by on algae or some other equivalent of food, instead of butchering the mentioned animal :/
        As for romance in fantasy, it is very weird. There is a lot of things about fantasy that are weird. The genre name itself tells you its fantasy and sometimes it is annoying to both see or not see some things. Here, I read countless of fantasy books, with amazing female protagonists, but not once have I heard a mention of a period. The women ALWAYS are able to ride horses etc, and in real life, for 2 days I can barely manage to get up non the less ride a horse! This gets discarded and it is a relatable and can also be an educational thing, yet every goddamn vampire just HAS to mingle with mortals and it is shown as relatable. I think that’s my problem with it, fantastical is made plain, while the plain and regular which should be a connector is often eradicated as a concept entirely.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I started reading Robinson Crusoe but lost the book during a move and haven’t bothered to continue yet although I will. I found it tough to read as there didn’t seem to be any chapters at all! To be honest I found Moby Dick’s descriptions on pulling apart the skin from the blubber and all that a little off putting, lol.
          I agree with you on the sex. I’m the same. I think most films and shows and many modern books just shove past the relationship building and straight into bed. It’s not all like that in real life and especially with books it’s important for us to get to know the characters. In a sense you want to feel that love between them emerging not just watch/read them getting into sex. I think that’s where books have more responsibility than film or tv. With books you get to feel the personal emotions of characters more than you’d ever see on a screen. And if you don’t feel a connection and don’t feel the relationship change between two characters it doesn’t feel believable.
          I hadn’t thought much about vampire stories. I remember watching Buffy as a teen and well that seems to be staple idea these days. Vamp falls for non vamp girl and lives in modern society blending in quite well lol.
          Thanks again for commenting. I’m not sure anyone will ever stick a woman’s period in a fantasy adventure book but it’s true, things are not always okay and I’m still annoyed at the references to women in some books as being moody because of their period, usually by male characters. I’m also not a fan of overstereotyped characters which seems to happen a lot. Maybe you should read Ari’s post from The Eternal Scribbler about male and female stereotypes if you didn’t already? 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  6. I bookmarked this to share with budding writers. I agree with you on the number of characters. Generally, I prefer the book over the movie, however IMHO, David Baldacci’s first book had too many characters, which confused the plot, so I prefer Absolute Power’s movie version.
    BTW, the typos in my novels are intentional – my Sea Purrtector series is from the POV of a cat. While I limit the number of words I ‘misspell’, I am consistent about ‘whispurr’, purrfect’, etc. 😉

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I agree that too many typos are not only annoying but an insult to the reader because they imply the author didn’t care enough or was too lazy to clean things up. On the other hand, I read an extremely unique book one time that was written in first person/present tense and it had a fairly liberal sprinkling of typos that “worked” because it fit the character, one who wasn’t too educated. I felt it added to the story’s authenticity. I mentioned it to the author that I thought it was clever and she was horrified because they weren’t intentional! She’s dyslexic and thus typos were very difficult for her to catch. In fact, she wants me to edit her next book. LOL. I thought she should have left them in because they added so much to the character. So there are always exceptions!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh I agree there can be exceptions but when it’s part of the main narration and not from a first person perspective but meant to be a clear voice it ends up looking lazy to me, especially given the stories I’ve read. It someone can’t proofread themselves then they have to make sure they get someone who’s good at their language to proofread for them. I say that because I was talking to a friend who faced a horrible editor who took their money but did nothing for their manuscript :(.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I actually had to bail on a book more than once because the author had absolutely no idea where punctuation was supposed to go. The book had decent ratings, too, so either I’m a punctuation snob or the author had a LOT of Facebook friends.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Reblogged this on Christopher Peter and commented:
    Useful advice here, a lot of which boils down to the usual importance of editing and proofreading (but no less worth repeating for that) along with some good points about characters and characterisation.

    The editor who critiqued my first novel, Falling Girl, urged me to drop a couple of the ‘spare’ characters, and although that seemed drastic at the time it was definitely the right thing to do. Now I always look critically at all my characters, asking questions like: what are they doing in this book? What’s interesting or distinctive about them, and how does that come out in different parts of the story? (Remembering to ‘show’ more and ‘tell’ less wherever possible.) And are they even needed? If I like them that much, I can try to find a home for them in another story …

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for reblogging. 🙂 I think it’s difficult to see our own stories objectively and it’s always great to have another set of eyes who can really see the book with a critical eye. I’ve read a few books where there were spare unnecessary characters and they could have been cut, but when you’re the one who’s written the story it’s often hard to see such ‘flaws’. I like the idea of finding the characters a new story 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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