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.