Why I Don’t Write Bad Reviews


bad reviews

Is that weird? That I don’t write bad reviews? If a book is bad, then why wouldn’t I spread the news?

There are lots of reasons to write a good review, in my opinion:

  • It spreads the word to readers anxious for another good book in their favorite genre
  • It often helps an author become more visible to the public, especially new and indie authors
  • A piece of good writing, like any piece of art should be shared
  • It will encourage the author to write more books that you’re likely to love in the future
  • It sends something positive into the world, and can’t we all use more positivity?

And you’d think that writing bad reviews would be helpful too. After all, shouldn’t we warn fellow readers not to waste their time? Maybe. But my observation is that bad reviews can be far more damaging than helpful.  And truthfully, it’s more about the manner in which most bad reviews are written than it is the bad review itself. In my experience bad reviews tend to be:

  • Snarky and filled with personal attacks of the author such as, name calling, insults to the writer’s intelligence, purely negative, with no redeeming qualities noted whatsoever
  • Written personally, as though the author wrote the book to personally enrage or insult the reviewer
  • Demeaning, bordering on bullying, as though the author has the life value of a bug and is undeserving of common courtesy
  • Seems to intend to bring the author down for reasons known only to the reviewer

I’ve seen (far too often) bad review campaigns in which sometimes hundreds will attempt to destroy a book or author by posting countless bad and sometimes untrue reviews. Usually for reasons that have nothing to do with the book or quality of writing, but more the author’s ideology, the topic of the book, or  motives other than to assess the merits (or lack thereof) of the book. In other words, I’ve seen bad reviews used as weapons.

Constructive Criticism vs Bad Reviews

Full disclosure: In case you didn’t know, I’m also an author and have a built-in sensitivity to reviews. Good or bad, a review has an effect. Authors put an enormous amount of energy and pieces of themselves into their books and to see all that torn down in five sentences can be discouraging – sometimes devastating. As noted above, bad review are often not helpful.

However, constructive criticism is another story and can be enormously helpful to the author and the reader. What is constructive criticism? In terms of a review, since you aren’t doing a critique, rather than saying it sucked you could say that it dragged because of ____ and perhaps the author could have _____. If you are going to criticize at least please be specific you’ll help the writer and future readers, because the author will pay attention to your comments and seek to improve, if you can mention something concrete that they can improve. Also, throw in a few things that did work, that you did like – your reviewer’s license won’t be revoked if you do and your review will probably be taken more seriously. I’ve read books that weren’t wonderful but I loved the characters, or the plot twists were so inventive and fresh that I forgave other sins. Maybe you didn’t like it overall, but did  you like something? Mention it. The reader behind you in line might want to read it because of that very thing. Everybody has different tastes and preferences, right?

So, why won’t I write bad reviews?

There are several reasons I won’t write bad reviews and the following are just a few:

  • There are already more than enough people willing to write them
  • I don’t like to discourage writers (yes, that’s a bias)
  • I’d rather spend my limited free time helping other writers, rather than hurting them
  • Criticism, like family secrets should be shared selectively and discreetly
  • It bums out readers and authors
  • The world already has plenty of negativity without my adding to it

More full disclosure: I have been asked to review books and to provide an honest review and I have done so. However, if I found myself in a situation where I knew I couldn’t offer a somewhat positive review, then I would contact the author and tell them that I’d prefer to withdraw from writing a review.

What about you? Do you write negative reviews? If so, how do you approach that? What’s your take on bad reviews? Necessary? Unnecessary?

Feel free to share, debate or disagree in the comments.

Writer Chick

copyright 2014

 

 

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10 responses

  1. Hi Annie: I submit that what you describe as a “bad review” is not really a review at all. After all, a “review” of something implies objectivity. Name-calling and other attacks provide no meaningful insight on the writing. As for your unwillingness not to provide a negative review, all I can think of are all those awful performers on American Idol that thought they could sing well. If only someone had given them an honest review at some point, they would not have embarrassed themselves on national television.

    1. Wow, we jumped from book reviews to A.I. so fast. LOL.

      Naturally, you’re right when you that those types of reviews aren’t really true to the concept – however, by and large it is the reality what happens. Know what I’m saying (said in my best ‘Sopranos’ impression).

      Annie

  2. Carole Besharah | Reply

    As a book blogger and reviewer, I strive to be honest. Always. When I receive an ARC, it’s my duty to supply a review reflection my own opinions. I don’t like every aspect of every book I read. By not sharing my true feelings and thoughts, I would be deceitful. I am fair and explain my points with examples. There is a way to be professional when highlighting weaknesses in a story.

    Here is an example of one of my ‘negative’ reviews of a book by an author I admire. The book was disappointing, but still had its moments:

    http://grandbarda.wordpress.com/2014/07/12/bringing-a-city-to-life-night-in-shanghai-by-nicole-mones/

    I don’t attack or belittle the author at any time. Also, when I want to learn about a book, I read several reviews to get more than one opinion. I feel that bloggers who only write glowing reviews are less credible. If every reviewer had an “I only write good reviews” policy, then we would never get a genuine feel for books being reviewed.

    Thanks for starting this discussion. Cheers.

    1. Hi Carole,
      Thanks for coming and for your thoughts. You’re obviously a professional and I agree with your definition of a review. But I guess I was really talking about the types of reviews you see on Amazon and similar sites where readers review the books. Many don’t take the kind of care you’re talking about.

      I’m not a reviewer, although if I really like book or movie I’ll do a review, that’s probably recommendation than a review. So I’m not sure I fall into the category of only glowing reviews – maybe I do. Could be.

      I read your review and I like your style – an honest assessment addressing both the bad and good. I wish all reviews were like that. I do agree that there is a place for good bad reviews (if that makes sense) and anyone who says they are a reviewer, couldn’t legitimately take my position and be taken seriously.

      I appreciate your point of view and respect it.

      Thanks for joining in on the discussion.

      Happy weekend to you.

      Writer Chick

      1. Carole Besharah

        We are on the same page, then, Writer Chick. I agree that hyper-negative, attack-the-author comments –on sites like Amazon and Goodreads– are ‘bad.’ Like JOS mentioned, I don’t consider those reviews, but rather mindless feedback. I don’t pay much attention to such trashy comments. I turn to like-minded bloggers and literary reviewers who take time crafting a book review with examples of stylistic devices to support their points.

        Kudos for those of us who do not participate in that kind of ‘critiquing!

        Happy Sunday to you too!
        Carole

      2. Hi again, Carole,
        You know I wish there were a better system on the whole review approach. Maybe reader feedback or rating would be a better name for what we see on Amazon and other similar sites.

        Also, it would be great if there were a directory of online reviewers, book bloggers, etc that readers could use to see professional and in depth reviews of books they’re interested in. (Unless there is one that I’m unaware of?) Perhaps that would lessen the impact of negative comments made on mega sites.

        Glad we’re on the same page. :)

        Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

        Annie

      3. Carole Besharah

        Hmmm… I most follow book bloggers on WordPress and Lit critics in ma favorite mags. Still, here’s a good website that lists book review bloggers by genre. You’ll find some good bloggers there. Cheers!

      4. Hey Carole,
        Did you mean to include a link in your comment? If so, I don’t see it????
        Annie

  3. Carole Besharah | Reply

    Oh, sorry! Here is the link: http://bookbloggerlist.com. Good night!

    1. Great, I’ll put it on the blogroll.
      Annie

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