What to do about the negative review…

confused faceI’ve been blogging about books for three years and I still don’t know what to do about the negative review.  When I post one, I have a weird feeling for days afterward.  I worry, have I offended the author?  Did I misunderstand the book?  Am I being too sensitive?  Too much of a know-it-all?  Should I stay away from genres I don’t like and only read the books I know I’m going to gush about?

I wonder, what’s the proper way to express dislike and should I even try?  If you’ve ever read some of the negative reviews on Amazon, you will know how people make a sport out of trashing books.  I try not to be like that, but I’m sure I have been.

I have a personality and I like to say what I think.  I try not be like the movie reviewer who gives a thumbs up to every single movie ever made.  But who am I to say that the characters were flat or the plot was unrealistic?  If you’ve read my Friday Fiction you will know that I fall way short in both areas!

These days I’m a little older and wiser so now I work hard to say something positive about what I’ve read, even if I don’t care for the whole book.  People work hard to get their books in print – I’m sensitive to that.

But if something is offensive or insulting, I feel a responsibility to speak up.  Isn’t that what readers of book reviews want to know?  I’m not always sure.  I think people should make up their own minds about what they read and how they feel about it.  I guess that’s what I’m doing.  What do you think?

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

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35 thoughts on “What to do about the negative review…

  1. I agree. I hate to publish anything negative about about a book, after someone has worked so hard to get it in print. That said, we are all entitled to our opinion, as long as it is delivered respectfully. Great post!

    1. I’m thinking about setting up a format for my reviews to include the positives and any downsides of whatever I’m reviewing. As others have said, it’s not fair to say you don’t like a book just because of its genre. In addition, if a criticism or comment is backed up with a valid reason, then I think that’s okay. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Great post! I have asked this question myself. I don’t believe in thrashing a book either, however, I’ve been guilty of writing reviews I felt were not very nice. My rule of thumb is if a book is really not my cup of tea (less than 2 stars), then I don’t even bother writing a review. As for staying within my genre, that also seems to present problems because I feel I miss out on great books by trying to stay in my safety zone. I think honest reviews are still the way to go and I agree with you that if a book is just not turning out to be as good as I first thought, then at least I’ll try to find something positive about that book.

    1. I reviewed a book this year that I really didn’t care for and because it’s a genre I don’t particularly like, I think I the review was partially biased because of that. Most people I’ve talked to loved the book. I wonder if I was being too sensitive, but when a book is offensive to me, I have to speak up. Thanks for commenting, Anna.

      1. I understand. One of my very first books I reviewed was an Oprah Club book and full of buzz. Unfortunately, for me, the book had an excessive amount of rape and sexual abuse against children and it was extremely disturbing for me. I felt I had a need to warn sensitive readers. I felt partially bad about it because her prose was beautiful but all the other excess really obscured that.

  3. You don’t owe the authors anything. If you don’t like a book, you owe it to your readers to say so—but you also own them the reasons why. Just be constructive; it’s better than a token “at least this one aspect wasn’t awful” consolation prize. “Overwritten” or “poorly edited” are helpful comments, painful as they may be to hear; unqualified opinions like “boring” are not. Other constructive feedback could include remarks such as “inconsequential, meandering plot,” and “superficial character development.” The only time I don’t think it’s fair to give a book a bad review is if it just isn’t your cup of tea. That’s not the author’s fault, and it’s nothing the author can fix.

    1. You’re right, these are great points. It it’s not a genre you like, then it’s not fair to give a bad review, unless there are other issues. But I think people read book blogs because they want to hear what people liked and didn’t like. Although not many people are earning money (directly) through their book blogs, I think every book blogger tries to build a brand and having an opinion (positive or negative – if stated fairly) makes the blog unique. Thanks for commenting!

  4. I don’t think there is anything wrong with a respectful negative review. My most popular review on Goodreads was a very, very well deserved poor review of an overly hyped, badly written not-at-all researched history book. The author sold the idea, a house bought it and supposedly an editor worked on it. I often think the “editor” is spell-check these days. Whether the author or the editor is responsible for a bad book isn’t for the reader to know. But speaking up is important. I don’t think mocking them or making sport out of it is usually deserved, but I have no problem saying what I didn’t like–even when it’s a favorite author. They may have been pressured to include some topic/ action/ character/ whatever that “ruined” the story for me, but met the house or editor’s agenda for the book. That mistake may not be made again. As a writer I want the truth. I want to be told nicely, but I want the truth.

    Just my two cents for today. Keep reading and reviewing–honestly.

    1. Well said – I think the book reviewer’s consensus so far is to be respectful, but don’t be afraid to speak your opinion. Otherwise its just a bunch of bland reviews. I have always liked reading strong opinions and can make up my own mind about whether I agree. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. I know what you mean. I try to present my negative comments or dislikes about a book in a democratic and respectful way. I always feel a little guilty for not liking something but not every book is for every person.

    1. That sounds like a good approach. It definitely bothers me when I post a negative review, even if my review doesn’t sound like it does. If I spend my time reading something, I feel like I should be able to express my opinion either way, however. I think the word here in this discussion is respect. Thanks for commenting Book Haunt!

  6. I think your reviews are always professionally done and very respectful. You point out what you liked and what you didn’t like, but you don’t paint it in a way that suggests everyone would feel the same. I wish more reviewers took your approach. So I’d saying you’re towing the perfect line.

    1. Thanks Carrie. I blogged about this because I’m really interested in how other book bloggers handle their negative thoughts. I’m a little bit of a Pollyanna, so when my negative thoughts pop up, I’m conflicted! I think the best thing to do is be honest, but fair.

  7. This is a very interesting and relevant issue. As far as your own reviews are concerned I find them fair, informative and interesting. Any negative points are dealt with even handedly and I have found like you that if there are things I really don’t like about a book I can mention them briefly and any readers will immediately understand what I’m saying. One matter I cannot help but mention in reviews is if there is consistent poor editing – something particularly vexing and grating whilst reading.

    1. Thanks Annika. I think reviewers can make their point obvious by what they don’t say. I do get frustrated with poor editing – I know what you mean because it affects the whole reading experience. Thanks for commenting!

  8. I know that dilemma as well, although it’s interesting that I find it is easier to write a negative review than a positive one. I guess that’s because there’s often an obvious reason for me not to like that book. Publishing said review, however, is another matter altogether.

  9. I don’t have a problem writing negative reviews. My readers understand (I hope) that reviews are subjective experiences of books and we can’t love every book we read. If I only wrote glowing reviews I don’t think that would be helpful to others trying to decide which books to read or not read. That said, I believe that reviews should always be respectful and not just a chance to trash someone’s hard work.

    I will say that when the review is for a small indie press or if it’s a new author, I will be much more hesitant to write a very bad review. In those cases, I may just write a description (plot summary) of the book with little to no personal commentary or I’ll withhold posting the review but will send a note to the publisher.

    1. That sounds like a good policy. I have a lot of respect for indie authors because they are working harder that anyone to get their books out there. I do think people read specific book blogs because they know/like that person’s opinions. I like to have some personality in what I post and I like to read other blogs for the same reason. Thanks for commenting!

  10. I think writing negative reviews is completely valid. It’s your blog, and people who read it expect to hear your opinion! I have a problem with the type of negative reviews some people post on Goodreads, where they’re trying so hard to be cute or get attention that they’re just mean. But that’s a different story. Overall, I think sharing your reading experience is what book blogging is all about.

    1. Some great points, Lisa. I don’t read a lot of Goodreads reviews but the ones on Amazon seem to fit that same description. I usually skip reading the 1 and 2 star reviews and only read reviews after I’ve read the book and formed an opinion. I like to see if I’m the only one thinking a certain way or if others have expressed the same. But you are right, it’s all about sharing the book experience. We can all form our own opinions after we read a review too! Thanks for stopping by!

    1. I agree you have to be honest. As long as it’s an intelligent review with a good reason, then that’s okay. Your “slamming” review had many good reasons and you showed an understanding of Kerouac’s other books, so I think it was fair. Thanks for stopping by, Jeff!

  11. I think as long as your are respectful, and make it clear that you are only expressing your opinion (because we all have different tastes), it is absolutely okay to print a negative review. You have to be honest, and authors know that their books will sometimes get negative reviews, its just part of the publishing world. Just my two cents…

  12. Thanks for commenting Ann! I have read that authors like any review they can get, positive and negative. I have seen authors post their worst reviews as a way of laughing it off. You have to have a thick skin, as an author and as a blogger. I like to think that people who have similar reading tastes to mine will consider reading a book I loved. Some people love memoirs – they are not my favorite, but I still read them because I’m looking for the good ones. I have found some too!

  13. I’m afraid I review everything I read will make statements like ‘the characters were flat’ etc although I do try to be as constructive as possible to explain why something didn’t work for me. The reason why – which you may think is harsh, is that my blog reviews are for readers and not for the author or publisher. I don’t personally believe I would be serving ‘my readers’ if I only reviewed books I liked and when it comes to genres – I think it is honest to say this didn’t work for me because I don’t like the genre – after all other readers may like exactly what I didn’t.

    1. Great points – I agree the book review blogs are for readers but for me there’s a bit of a crossover since I’ve gotten to know a bunch of talented writers who also read a lot. And they blog about what they’ve read! I’m sensitive to their efforts and don’t we all want to get our writing published? I certainly do! It puts me in a weird spot, but I think the best thing to do is be honest and respectful and hope people stop by to read what I think. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

      1. I understand – even without being an aspiring writer over the years I have been reviewing some of these authors have become my ‘friends’ and of course I don’t want to be hurtful but no book is going to have every single person love it – that’s simply unrealistic and isn’t just down to writing ability.

  14. Reviews are for readers. By the time a writer has held her book’s hand all the way to publication, her job is done. The creative process and its product are out there. The fact that she puts it up for sale opens up the door for comments, criticism, and yes sometimes nasty people. It’s part of the deal.

    Reviewers should think of other readers and provide the best information to help them make their decision. If a book is awful, you should say that. If a book is not your taste, but others might like it, explain that too. I guess what I’m saying is the dialog is between you and other readers. If the author chooses to enter that room, eavesdrop on that conversation, that’s her decision.

    The worst reviews are the bland, boring “it was perfect” or “it sucked”. I choose my books based on “why” and “what”. I’ve enjoyed books that were consistently rated 2-3 stars and refused to finish some five-star-rated books. It’s opinion, the best you can do is clearly share yours.

    Which you do brilliantly, by the way. 🙂

    As a reviewer, I’m the worst. A chicken that simply clicks the stars. I don’t take the time and I don’t want to share my thoughts. What you do is a talent, it’s a gift to other readers, whatever format you choose.

    As a writer, what reviewers think of my work is none of my business. 🙂

    Great post, Barb.

    1. Thanks Tracy and thanks for giving the writer’s point of view. I was thinking about that bad review you posted and laughed about. You have the best attitude! And I agree with you – I pay the most attention to the 2s and 3s because they’re the ones that actually explain themselves and I often like the books they mention. I never read the 5s! Thank you too for your nice comments. :).

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