Negative Reviews

I know a lot of reviewers won’t give a negative review of a book.  If they didn’t like it, they’d just leave it and review the books they like.  I can understand why they don’t give bad reviews.  They don’t want to hurt the author, they don’t want the author to get angry at them, or they just want a feeling of goodwill and happiness on their blog.  Well, I do reviews of books I don’t like.

In fact, I just wrote a review yesterday and gave it 2 stars.  While 2 stars doesn’t mean I hate it, it means it wasn’t something I enjoyed much.  But you see, I don’t write reviews that are totally negative and go on about how much I hate it.  I state what I thought didn’t work for me, but I also say what is good.  If you’ve read my review from yesterday, you’d see I was positive about some things. And even if I don’t like a book much, I still recommend it to people who might enjoy it.

Book reviews should also be about the book, never about the author.  I don’t talk about what kind of person an author is when I review the book.  They could be a terrible person, but have a great book.  I’ll say the book is great.  It could be a wonderful person, but a book full of problems.  I’ll point out the problems, but also say what went well in the book.  The author is not the book.  It annoys me when I see reviews for books like Ender’s Game that go on and on about Card’s beliefs and because of his stance on homosexuality, his book gets 1 star.  I don’t understand that.  That is flat out lying.  I’m an honest person.  Even though I don’t agree with Card, I still enjoyed Ender’s Game and Speaker for the DeadXenocide not so much.  My reviews show what I felt about the book.

If you are an author of a book I didn’t like, don’t take my review as an attack.  I like to give constructive reviews.  As I said before, I say what I thought worked well for me in the book.  I also say what I thought didn’t work well for me.  There could be improvement.  But I’m pretty sure many authors don’t read reviews.  However, Alastair Reynolds did read my review of Revelation Space. Probably the best-selling author that has read one of my reviews.  He told me so.

I will continue to do reviews of books I don’t like.  I don’t intentionally try to read books I don’t like, I’d prefer to spend my time reading ones that I enjoy.  However, I will continue to be honest about what I felt about the books.  But I will not resort to insults and ridiculing.  That’s not helpful.

What do you think?  If you are an author, do you read reviews of your books?  And if you are a reviewer, do you give negative reviews?  I’m interested in hearing what you have to say.

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18 thoughts on “Negative Reviews”

  1. As an author, I fully plan to read any reviews I get on my books, because I believe they can impart important information, but I’m also careful not to take such things too seriously because that’s how one opens his or herself up to disappointment and depression. When you’re offering yourself up for judgement you have to realize ahead of time that sometimes the judgements will not be good.

    As a reviewer I do give negative reviews if I feel it’s the truth, but I also don’t review books so I’m not sure what I’d do in that situation. I do know one thing for sure; I wouldn’t base the review on the author either. As a comparison, there are a lot of actors out there who I think are total asshats, but I don’t let that ruin my enjoyment of a well-done role. You’ve gotta take things as they come without letting emotions seep into everything, or else you’ll never enjoy anything.

    1. Exactly. Some people take things far too seriously. I especially love (sarcasm) how people were planning to boycott the Ender’s Game movie. I don’t know if this is correct, but Card was getting paid the same amount whether or not the movie was a success. It made no difference.

  2. As a reviewer, I used to write these really senselessly mean reviews because that’s how I felt about the book – if a book made me angry, I showed it. I think a little differently now that I’m a published author and my book could be subjected to the same inflammatory callousness.

    Now, I strive only for honesty and constructive reviews. I’ve been fortunate to receive some constructive reviews myself, and unfortunate enough to receive some not so. It’s made me consider both sides of the spectrum.

    I believe, if there’s nothing to be had from the review in a positive light (ie, constructive criticism or what wouldve been a good fix for a bad point of the novel), then it’s really not there for anyone’s benefit, in the end. Not the reviewer’s or the author’s.

    1. Ever feel like you want to respond to the really negative reviews? I’ve heard some people feel like they want to, but it’s not a good idea to dwell on those reviews. Responding will just drag an author into an argument. Nothing positive about that.

      1. Oh, before I ever even published it, I resolved to never respond to a review, negative or positive. If I know the reviewer, like the fellow writer/bloggers I know here, I will like and share and thank them for the review, but if it is from anyone else, I don’t respond at all.

        The negative ones, I wanna justify my book to them sometimes, but nothing good would come of it. I know that. I just vent to my husband, write something better and eventually move on. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

        I’ve seen writers respond badly to reviews whether directly or indirectly, and it kinda just makes me embarrassed. It’s what gives authors, especially indie authors, a bad name.

        Just like you said, not a good idea to dwell.

        1. It is pretty embarrassing to see writers respond. I won’t respond to reviews of my books, either. I’m pretty sure I’ll be reading them all. I may learn something, like what works and what doesn’t.

  3. I don’t normally review books beyond giving them stars on GoodReads in order to get better recommendations, but I would definitely not hold back on account of not liking a book if I ever decided to start writing reviews. Though a writer can obviously glean constructive criticism from reviews, I feel that they should be more for the readers’ benefit than the author’s, and negative reviews can be just as informative when picking what you want to read next. In fact, I usually look more at the bad and the lukewarm reviews than I do at the good ones, because I feel that they are often more honest.

    Of course, there are good ways and bad ways to write reviews as well. If someone can’t find anything positive to say about a book, they should be allowed to say that, but there is a difference between an honest, but negative review and a mean review. Sometimes it feels like all criticism is automatically perceived as an attack though, and I guess that’s why a lot of people shy away from writing reviews with more criticism than praise.

    One thing I kinda-sorta disagree with you about though, is that an author’s personal opinions should never enter into a review about the work. No, I don’t believe that the author as a person should be the main focus of a review, but opinions have a tendency to find their way into the work, regardless of whether the writer is aiming for that or not. It can be veiled or it can be apparent, but I don’t believe that any writer can completely divorce him or herself from their point of view when writing. I haven’t read Ender’s Game and can’t say whether Card’s stance on homosexuality is evident in the book, but take for instance the Norwegian author and nazi supporter Knut Hamsun: His personal beliefs are very much present in the books that I have read by him, and though some of them are well crafted, the presence of those opinions makes the books problematic to say the least, at least for me.

    1. I see what you mean, and I agree with you about Knut Hamsun. As for Ender’s Game, it doesn’t show Card’s opinion on homosexuality. In fact, although he is Mormon, none of his Ender novels have anything to do with Mormonism. So it seems his beliefs don’t even factor into the stories.

      1. Well, “buggers” comes from the same root as “buggery”, so that was either deliberate, or an unfortunate coincidence that happens to line up with his prejudices.

  4. I read the reviews, sure. I think that honest reviews are great, positive or negative, and I have received some that have really encouraged me to keep writing. But I don’t condone the practice of one-star pelting books that are written by “disagreeable authors”. I feel like it undermines the actual review system, and all of those that review the works.

  5. Part of my work as an instructor and a writer of training materials and procedures was giving and receiving constructive criticism about oral and written material. I never said (as was said about me on occasion) that “the writer doesn’t know what they’re talking about”. For all I knew, they were experts and just couldn’t express themselves well. I once was part of a writer’s group at a conference where we critiqued each other’s sample. I found it very interesting that what offended some (interestingly, the paid professionals leading the group) was what attracted some others the most. Taste is objective. A review should be, too. All I like to say in reviews is that “This did not work for me. This, however, did.” I have read reviews of some books that said “I couldn’t stand it because of this” and what they didn’t like made me interested in looking at it. I have spent many years proofing and editing on my job, and sometimes that creeps into my book reviews.

    1. I agree. I’ve read books that don’t seem to be very popular, but I loved them. I love Terry Brooks’ books, even though he is often described as a Tolkien wannabe. I find his writing different, though. As for Tolkien, I absolutely loved The Silmarillion, though others don’t like it.

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