Let’s Talk: Negative Book Reviews

Let's-Talk-Negative-Book-Reviews

If life is perfect, all the books I read become new favourites–I’ll recommend it to everyone I know, I’ll reassure those who are thinking about reading it, I can’t stop bringing it up. Unfortunately, life isn’t perfect and more often that I’d like, books fail to meet my expectations and disappoint me. Here are some things I’ve learned about writing negative book reviews. 🙂

1) It can be hard to trust your own opinion.

Maybe I’m the only one here, but I often feel insecure about my reviews, especially when the overwhelming majority loves a book and I think it’s blah. This has happened in various scenarios, most notably Throne of Glass since my review of that book has not been sterling.

I’m not sure why I feel this way. When I read other people’s negative reviews on books I like, I never think, “They’re wrong! This book is the best!”; I actually usually end up thinking, “Oh hey, they’ve got a point, that part could have been better.”

Even with negative reviews I don’t agree with, I also never feel the need to prove that they’re wrong. But it can be hard to trust your own voice, and if anyone else struggles with this: hey, just know that you’re not the only one. 🙂

2) Negative reviews can be anxiety-inducing.

Once I posted a book look for a particular title and tweeted about it. The author saw my tweet, liked it, re-tweeted it, and then followed me. At this point, I’ve read the book in question and have decided that I actually don’t like it all that much, although I haven’t yet reviewed it.

Her following me just made me sweat in my pajamas. What if she saw my negative review and feel hurt? What if she got offended? Should I block her so she can’t see my tweets? And yes, I’m aware I sound ridiculous.

I decided against it because hey, my opinions are valid, and posted my review. When she ended up unfollowing me after that, I sighed in relief. It’s all over, and we both escaped unscathed! 😛

It’s ridiculous how much anxiety I feel when posting a negative review, especially when I have had contact with the author before or is in contact with them. But point is, I shouldn’t have worried over it. I feel more confident now, thankfully.

3) Don’t tag the author on social media.

This is more of a question of etiquette, but when you’re promoting your negative review, have the decency not to tag the author on social media.

Twitter might make it easier for you to communicate with authors, but there is honestly no real need to mention the author (@) and tell them how much you dislike their books–unless they specifically ask for it, which I’ve never seen happen before (although I’m sure it does).

I tag the author when my review is positive, but not when they’re negative. I don’t feel like there’s any need to tell the author hey, I think your book sucks. Think about how you’d feel if someone goes out of their way to mention you on social media and tell you: “Hey, I just wanted to let you know that your blog sucks and you should never write again.” Pretty terrible, I imagine.

You wouldn’t walk up to an author whose work you didn’t enjoy and tell them what sucks about their book, would you? Same with social media. Don’t tag the author, it’s just polite.

4) It’s about the book, not the author.

It’s easy to say that authors should build a thicker skin because negative reviews will happen, but that’s not our call to make. What we can control, however, is what we say and do.

When you’re reviewing a book–positively or negatively–remember that it’s the work you’re making a commentary on, not the person behind it.

If you hate a character, hate the character, but be aware that how the character thinks does not necessarily reflect how the author think. In some cases it could happen, sure, but then think of it this way: what do you gain by attacking or hating on an author? Not much, most likely.

5) Be honest, but be fair.

Positive reviews are easy to do because they’re, well, positive. You compliment the author, you fawn over the characters, you express how shocked you were at that plot twist, you gush over the book in general. But negative reviews can be tricky. What can you say that doesn’t offend, but still stays true to your personal thoughts and feelings?

One thing I try to do when writing a review is to analyse both the good and the bad. This means that when my review is positive, I try to think of how the book could be improved, and when my review is negative, I try to think of what the book has done well.

But what if you really, really can’t think of anything good about a particular book? Then that’s okay too. Just remember to, well, not be rude. 😛

6) Get your facts right.

Recently I read a review of a book that accuses the author of plagiarising the story from another more popular, big-name author, John Green. The books in question happen to have similar themes, and the reviewer is incensed that she’s wasted her time reading the lesser known book.

Understandable? Maybe. But does it make it right for the reviewer to accuse the author of plagiarism? I say not.

Other reviewers of the book–and people who know the author–have jumped in and asked the reviewer to remove the accusation, claiming that the author has actually thought of the story from way before John Green’s book is published.

There’s probably no realistic way to tell who’s right, but I’d say that even in reviewing, it’s good to be diplomatic. If you feel like a story is too similar to what’s been done before, say so–but get your facts right. Don’t accuse, don’t slander, don’t defame.

7) Give evidence.

This is definitely more of a personal preference and not a hard-and-fast rule, but I have more trust in reviews that are backed up with evidence, say in the form of quotes, negative or otherwise.

I don’t personally believe that all opinions need to be justified, but it sure doesn’t hurt to understand where your thoughts and feelings come from (in general). It shows that you’ve given it careful consideration and could rationalise it or explain yourself if you had to. It also ensures that you have an answer when someone asks you why you like or dislike something. 🙂

8) Your opinion, however different, is valid.

Directly related to the first point, maybe, but I think this deserves a little talking about as well: I feel a little guilty sometimes when someone decides they’re not going to pick up a book after reading my review. Basically, I feel guilty when people agree with me.

I know not all bloggers feel this way. Some seem to feel comfortable in saying, “That book sucks! Don’t pick it up, you’ll hate it!”, but I find it ridiculously hard. When everyone else likes a book I dislike, I have trouble believing that my opinion is valid. Sometimes I worry that there might be something I’m missing. Other times, I worry that my tastes are just kind of out of the blue.

(Spoiler: honestly, they’re really not, and I’m really quite mainstream. :P)

So what has helped? Two things, mostly: telling myself over and over that my opinion is just as valid as others’… and reading other negative reviews in Goodreads. There is strength in numbers, after all, and I do believe we all need an echo chamber occasionally.

Does any of this apply to you? Do you have any tips for reviewing a book you REALLY don’t like? Let me know in the comments, or link me to your favourite negative review. 🙂

Advertisements

41 thoughts on “Let’s Talk: Negative Book Reviews

  1. You are right when you say that we should look at the good too, because I can’t just be trashing a book because I want to even when I hate it, still I find something good even if it’s little !

    Like

  2. I definitely agree with a lot of the points you talked about. It’s very important to be respectful in your opinion but to also share that opinion with the world. No matter how alone you feel, there’s going to be someone who completely agrees with you. Number 4 is so important! A lot of people think it’s okay to talk crap about an author when writing a review but it’s so unnecessary and rude and so unprofessional. I hate when people do that and generally tend to stay away from those kinds of reviewers.

    Like

    • I’m glad you do! I think especially when you’re broadcasting your review (the way we do as bloggers), it’s even more important to be respectful because we are in essence trying to make our opinions heard.

      Yeah, I’m not a fan of when people do those things either. Unfortunately happens more often than you think, I feel. :/

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This post resonates with me on so many levels because lately, I haven’t been liking much of what I read. I felt in the minority when I read The Selection because it seems like everyone raves about that series and although I’ve read the first three books, it’s not my favorite. As a writer, I welcome negative reviews as long as they’re constructive and telling me what I can do better. That’s how it works. If everyone loved everything all the time, nothing would improve. Which I guess goes back to everyone’s opinions being valid. They definitely are. In fact, I feel like negative reviews are sometimes more honest that a rave review. At least for me, sometimes I need to take a step back and allow the haze to clear before I write a review. One day I may be gushing and love everything, the next I might have a few more critical things to say. I also find myself agreeing with points brought up in their review I hadn’t thought about before.

    And now this is super long. Sorry! Great post!

    Like

    • Thanks so much! And don’t worry about the long comments, I enjoy them. 😛

      I’m actually surprised that you think not liking The Selection is a unpopular opinion — everyone I’ve talked to (in real life) didn’t like it, haha. I DNF-ed it myself so I’m not 100% qualified to give my opinion.

      In all honesty, sometimes I wonder if I’m too critical of the books I read, especially since I’m an adult reviewing books meant for a younger audience, and while I don’t want to say that my tastes are definitely more mature, it is kind of different reading them as a teenager and reading them as an adult.

      I know what you mean about the haze! I think the moment I put down a book I usually think of it more positively than I would after I sit down and think about it. My emotions are amplified right then and there. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

      • I never thought about being an adult reading for a younger audience. I am right there with you. BUT I feel like more authors are writing to accommodate that, but that could be just me.
        I’m so happy to hear that I’m not alone in my dislike for the selection. I thought about dnf-ing, but something kept me going. Or maybe I’m a masochist,
        I don’t know. lol

        Like

        • Your feelings about The Selection greatly mirror my feelings about the Throne of Glass series — also a masochistic choice on my part. The main character irritated me to no end but something about the books just made me continue reading, even though I keep telling myself nothing is worth this annoyance, haha. What is it, I wonder? 😛

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Awesome post, Reg! I agree with everything that you said especially on not tagging the authors. I don’t get when people tag an author to a negative review. it’s pretty insulting. It’s interesting to write negative reviews. When I write one, as much as possible I point out the things that I didn’t like and also I’m careful with my words. Though I must admit, I curse at times, not by any means to insult anyone but more of expressing my frustrations about the book.

    At some point I tend to trust reviewers or bloggers who do negative reviews once in a while. As always, I love reading your discussions. 🙂

    Like

    • I also don’t get why — I definitely don’t think it’s always done out of malice… perhaps thoughtlessness? I know I have a rather long queue of reviews and sometimes forget that any of them might come across a bit harsh as it’s been a while since I wrote them. Oops. 😛

      Writing negative reviews is definitely a more delicate thing than writing positive reviews! I also try to be careful with my words, and I definitely do a bit more editing and censoring myself.

      Thanks so much! That means a lot. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is such a great post! I’m a pretty new book blogger, as in I’m two weeks in so far, so this is extremely helpful for when I eventually post a review about a book that didn’t click with me. I find that even when I draft up reviews that are positive, I get anxiety about whether or not people will agree with me. So I can’t imagine what it must be like disagreeing with the majority opinion. I’m assuming that the opinion anxiety will ease with time, and I’m definitely looking forward to it when it does. Thank you so much for your insights!

    Like

    • Thanks, Jorelene! Welcome to the community and hope you’re having a fabulous time. ❤

      I tend to be more careful with books where opinions mostly lean one way or another — most books probably have mixed opinions and writing 'contradictory' reviews for them isn't so anxiety-inducing. I guess the key is to trust your own opinions and know that they are completely valid. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Such a great post! 🙂 I feel the same way when I’m writing negative reviews: stressed and anxious, because I don’t want to make people mad at me or something, but I don’t want to lie and tell I adored the book, just to please people, either. it’s just so hard to balance between those two moods, haha, I feel like I’m kind of crazy, at times. Especially when it’s a popular book, I don’t want other people to just, don’t get it, and like, think, she’s stupid if she didn’t see this, so, unfollow, never talk to her again haha. This is a bit overdramatic, ahah, but well thoughts are crazy, sometimes ahah. I never tag the author either when I write a negative review, you’re right, it’s a question of respect. They work so hard, and even if they must know they can’t please everyone, it’s just so rude to put those bad reviews right in their faces.
    Great post !! 😀

    Like

    • Thanks Marie! That means a lot. 🙂

      Yeah, I know — it’s definitely a fine balance to toe, and you’ve described so perfectly my fears when I don’t like a popular book! Sometimes I actually worry there’s something I’m missing, but then I remind myself that tastes are subjective. And yeah, even if I don’t like the book, writing is REALLY hard and publishing a book people like is also really, really hard.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. “Her following me just made me sweat in my pajamas. What if she saw my negative review and feel hurt? What if she got offended? Should I block her so she can’t see my tweets? And yes, I’m aware I sound ridiculous.”

    NO YOU DON’T SOUND RIDICULOUS! I swear 90% of the time, authors just follow us book bloggers to pressure us into writing positive reviews -.-

    For me, I particularly enjoy writing negative reviews (mwahaha) because it’s much easier for me to write a lot more. The worst thing a book can be is “meh”. That’s when it’s hardest to review because there’s just literally nothing to review.

    Great post! 😀

    Like

    • I didn’t even think of that! Haha, do you really think so? 😛

      I actually enjoy reading negative reviews quite a bit, especially when they’re backed up with quotes and they point out specific things. It’s true though that when a book is just “meh”, there’s not much for me to talk about and they’re harder to review…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I approach negative reviews very similarly. I definitely don’t tag the author, I always debate whether I should even post it, but usually there’s at least SOMETHING in the book I like, so I try to play that up while saying how the rest just didn’t work for me. I find I also tend to go a bit easier on books that an author or publisher sends me, as opposed to a book I pick up on my own. Whether that’s intentional or not I’m not sure. This was a great post though, thanks for sharing. – ashley

    Like

    • I actually really, really enjoy reading negative reviews, especially those that are well-written, so I hope you post all your negative reviews! 😛

      I can understand why you tend to go easier on books you’re ‘meant’ to review — I definitely feel the same way sometimes and I think that’s because some part of me feels like I ‘owe’ the author/publisher something. :/

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I like writing negative reviews, but reading them is super fun. I always think about the readers and the writer of the book when I’m writing negative reviews, though, because even though I didn’t like it, doesn’t mean that other people have the same opinion as me.

    Like

  10. #6– yikes! That blogger waded into some treacherous waters by adamantly claiming an author plagiarized another. Haven’t they heard of libel?

    I’m lucky that in my years of blogging, I’ve only really read two books that prompted a negative review. That’s not to say I’ve read only two lackluster books in five years– I’ve read plenty of those. But, my feelings toward those books were not passionate enough to warrant any kind of review. Part of me feels bad that those two reviews were ever posted because I would rather promote positive feelings in our book blogging community. But gosh darn it, writing them was cathartic. And maybe this is bad, but I’m less concerned about the feelings of the author and more concerned about the feelings of the people who adore the book I wasn’t too keen on. Because I’ve been there before. I can’t read negative reviews about the Harry Potter series because it hurts my heart!

    Like

    • Yeah, it could have gotten pretty bad… I don’t think she cared, though. 😛

      Oh wow, two is a good one! I haven’t been blogging for a year but I think I’ve already got a couple of bad reviews under my belt — or maybe I just have strong feelings about books I dislike (and like) in general, haha.

      That’s an interesting thing to do, actually, to focus on just good reviews. I’ve seen at least one blog out there that only posts positive reviews and makes that a rule.

      I actually love reading negative reviews, even on books I love! I find that well-written ones tend to point out flaws or loopholes I might have missed. 🙂

      Like

  11. I always get super anxious when it comes to posting negative reviews, I’m okay writing them though. I just get a bit panicky and worried that someone will shout at me….

    I also agree with your social network point. I will only tag an author in a post if I’ve rated their book at least 4 stars. I think it would be a bit cruel to share a negative review with them. If they find it on their own it just tough luck, though.

    Like

    • I know! Thankfully everyone has been pretty well-behaved so far.

      4 stars is actually really generous — I think I tag authors when I give them 3 stars and more, because in my mind, 3 stars is pretty good already. On the other hand, it’s actually really easy to look for negative reviews for any book if an author wants to! It’s their call. 😛

      Like

  12. I’m like you when it comes to writing a negative review. I always try to find positive things to talk about. It happened with my review of Viral, and it was not even that negative). A lot of people loved it but I felt underwhelmed.

    Like

  13. Negative reviews can be easier to write, with positive reviews I sometimes feel like I’m repeating something I already said about so many other books (“It’s so good, omg, everyone read it!!!”).
    I don’t feel bad when I write a negative review for a really famous book that has lots of positive reviews, but it’s a different feeling for books that are not that well known. I’m still gonna be honest, though.

    Like

    • I agree completely! I think I’m the same way – writing a negative review for a ‘big’ book doesn’t make me feel bad because I feel like there’s almost no chance the author will see it, and there are so many other reviews that could encourage potential readers to read it.

      With lesser-known books, though, I’m always kind of afraid that the author will read my review. I mean, I try to be respectful but it can’t be GREAT knowing someone else didn’t enjoy what you ostensibly put your heart and soul into… I also worry that others won’t read it because of me though they might actually enjoy the book otherwise.

      Like

  14. I totally agree! It’s hard to find the balance with rating books you didn’t like badly and then taking it too far. I try and always keep my reviews light and funny and add a personal touch of my own opinion (the point of a review, surely?) but I agree that you can get carried away and possibly rank a book too harshly.

    Like

    • Absolutely! I don’t think I try to inject humour to my negative reviews, but often they become funny in their own way… perhaps because my frustration shows, haha.

      Yeah, it’s quite easy to get carried away, I think. Online especially you don’t come face-to-face with anyone so it’s very easy to write a couple of sentences that you wouldn’t have thought polite to say in person.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s