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Book Bloggin 101 - Bad Reviews

Spawned from the Big Sis, Little Blog program, Book Blogging 101 was born. Do you have a question? Leave it in the comments section or email me parajunkee at gmail dot com

Q. What to do about Bad Reviews?

One of the things that got me started on this book blogging endeavor was a bad review. A really bad review. (curios?) When you purchase a book you feel you can say whatever you feel. I buy tickets for the latest blockbuster that absolutely blows...I rant. Same thing applies to a book. I run over to B&N pick up a book I've been coveting for a few weeks and by page 50 I'm so disappointed I could pull my hair out and shove this book down the garbage disposal. I then, quickly pen a snarky review that plainly states how much the book sucks and what I think about the authors ability to pen a coherent sentence.

But what if the author contacted you personally and requested a review? What if you've established a report with the author and she/he is really nice? 

Even if you haven't been in touch with the author, think of what a review is. It is a critique of someone's work of art. Someone's body and soul made paper. They have put their hard work into this novel, tried for years to get it published...and you the reviewer have just dragged it through mud and called it trash. But it is your opinion. 

If you have my same tendencies...they lead toward snarky.  But snarky can be cold and disrespectful. And when you break it down, you do not want to be disrespectful. It makes for bad reviewer karma. You as a writer...and that is what you are, you are writing your reviews, flexing your wordsmith muscles by writing about writing...should strive for constructive criticism (in my opinion) wrapped in niceties, instead of insulting sarcasm. Like when your BFF squeezes her size 12 frame into a size 6 faux leather spandex jumper - do you say, "Damn girl, your butt looks like over-heated cheese curd erupting from a tuperware bowl" or "Sweet cheeks, you might want to reevaluate that outfit, I don't think that is the look you want to go for."

State your opinion. State your feelings. But do so in a tone that is respectful and cites the reasons for your dislike. Don't just say "IT SUCKED." Give reasons, like the characters were unrelated, the plot was predictable, it was run-on sentence after run-on sentence. Same thing goes for if you really liked a book...we want to know what formed your opinion, not just...SO ROCKED. If you have trouble forming your thoughts, write and outline, or bullet points. Jot down pros and cons and then form them into paragraphs. 

The one thing to remember during this whole thing is to not be afraid to voice your opinion. The author might be the greatest twitter buddy you ever had...but if their book wasn't the greatest they might just want to know the reasons why.  If you are worried about what the review will do to for the author's book sales, give them a choice.  I've had a few authors state that they would rather a 1 star review than no review at all. No matter what it is getting the name of the book out.  Bad publicity is still publicity right?

What do you think about this? Do you write bad reviews? They do tend to be to provoke negative reactions.  Look at for example...all those 1 star reviews tend to have a lot of NOT HELPFUL votes. Would you rather just not write a bad review? Or have you rated a book higher than what you really wanted just because you didn't want to upset the author?


Jessica said...

Great post! I actually guest blogged a post about this a few weeks ago. I completely agree. As a reader you are completely entitled to your opinion, positive OR negative. After all, don't authors ask for HONEST reviews?

Still there is a constructive and helpful way to write a bad review, and then there's the way tends to hurt people. Okay so I didn't like a book. Now I have to sit back. What was it that I didn't like? Was it all horrible? Or was the plot just flat? Were the characters obnoxious? There is a reason I didn't like it! Once I figure that out, then I write a review.

Lynette said...

Great post. I tend to be honest about why I don't like a book. I am sometimes funny and relate it to things in my personal life but I don't think I'm disrespectful.

Karen said...

Nice post - we are tweeting about this right now!
I have written negative reviews (several) one I felt crossed the line. Even though I stand by it - it was too personal and as I meet more authors and think of them as friends it gets trickier as you said but still - I would rather be honest and you can't do just positive reviews.It's a tough line to walk and I'm figuring it out for myself.

Mar said...

Such a good post. Although I do not have my own blog, I visit (stalk) quite a few of them and I love to read peoples different opinions. I especially like when the reviews are honest, from the heart and not just the 'fluff'.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I do in fact write bad reviews....but I have never bashed or personally attacked the writer/author...and your right authors have worked hard to put pen to paper, but I also as a reviewer have gotten some very hurtful comments, one from an author and some from anonymous folks that made me very I guess it goes both ways.Ive read some blogs out there (most times its really young bloggers) who use the f word and just beat to death a book they dont like and still manage to grow and recieve free books...... For my blog, I feel if I’m going to be taken seriously I should be honest, when I first started my blog I was so raw I had no clue, there are a few I wrote in which I just didn't express myself right and seriously sounded like a big B- but now if I have less than positive comments to make, I always back them up with whys, what are the goods and if it would appeal to others......the more you get invloved in the business the more authors and publishers do in fact become friends. But if your dealing with true professionals they are not going to go crazy over a negative review.

J.A. Saare said...

This is an excellent topic and you nailed it. I review under an alias at a certain site and I always, no matter what, approach the reviews I do as honestly (and kindly) as possible. I've had a couple of books I really disliked but I always found positive things to say of the work and made sure that even if the rating was low I maintained a balance and gave readers (and the author) and idea of what did and didn't work for me.

I can say that one of the worst things as an author is when you get a low rating but a glowing review. It's baffling and leaves you questioning what the reviewer disliked so much that they didn't rate it as well as they 'fluffed' it (stealing from Mar for a second).

In any event, I always remember that opinions are subjective and tastes vary. I hope people enjoy what I put out there but I'm also aware that I've chosen books for myself and didn't have the experience I'd hoped for.

Lee said...

My book review policy has a little rule I use to filter out books that are either really bad or just aren't my kind of book. I'll only continue reading and proceed to review if the first 10% of the book both holds my interest and qualifies as good writing.

You've aptly described the art of a good critique though. As both a writer and a reader/book reviewer, I know there's a fine line to walk when constructively analyzing a book. Endorsement doesn't have to come wrapped in blanket statements and the most compelling reviews are those that illuminate the varying shades in an authors' work, both good and bad, cottage cheese thighs and all!

Mel said...

I love what you said here. I don't have that many negative reviews on my blog--usually because if I don't like a book, I don't finish it, and I won't review it if I didn't finish it. But I think that it is necessary to be honest in the reviews. Sometimes the book isn't for me, and I will say that in my review.

Personally, there have been times when I have read someone's negative review of a book, why they disliked it, and then thought...hmmm that sounds pretty good I may have to check the book out. Sounds nuts, I know. But a bad review can sometimes work both ways! :) Depending on why the book got the poor review.

My 5 Monkeys(Julie) said...

great post--and its read and review a book. being honest is the best policy and if you can state why it didn't work for you the reader..its your opinion but authors who want their books read need an honest critque.

Midnyte Reader said...

I am a new book blogger and I really appreciated this post. I am also in a writing group and we basically use the same attitude. We don't bash each other's work. We make suggestions and explain why a certain scene, sentence or character is not working. I would hope that done with respect and courtesy an author would get as much out of a negative review as a positive one.

ParaJunkee said...

I'm glad everyone liked the post!

@Jessica - you'll have to send me the link, I'd like to check out your post.

@Lynette - I like to cover things up with humor also. Relating to IRL is also a good thing.

@Karen - the review I cited was probably the most obnoxious review I've written. I was so offended by the book that I took my anger out in my review. Was it fair to the author? Probably not. I was just so angered that the author hadn't even proofed her work - spelling errors and grammatical errors that could have been picked up in WORD and I spent $10 on it. So, I don't regret the review, I might have handled it a bit differently.

@Mar - fluff, I try not to do this, but sometimes you know when you have a good book, not great, but good - not bad, just ok, it's hard to write something hugely stimulating when the book didn't invoke strong feelings. So, I do try but I might be guilty of a little fluff now and again ;)

@Tina - I don't know why they always pick on you hun. People tend to have strong reactions to things the believe in and love. Those protective instincts come up and an anonymous comment is an easy way to vent out some anger without having repercussions. It is a cowardly way of doing things. At least the reviewer is signing their name to their honest opinion right? Don't let comments from cowards get you down.

@J.A. - Funny you should comment on it my dear, cause you were the first author I really struck up a friendliness with before I read your book. I was so glad I really liked your book. I think I put that in the review too. LOL. About rating, those things drive me crazy. Especially when you start comparing it to books that you've rated the same scale. It's very very hard.

@Lee - I've had an author of a DNF ask me to please just rate the book. Most of the time I don't even acknowledge these books, I just push them to the side.

Natalie (Mindful Musings) said...

You've definitely have a point here. I think one of the most difficult parts of blogging is when you have to write those negative reviews. But I also think you gave us the best piece of advice as well: honesty and vehement brutality are not the same thing. It's possible to state why you disliked a book without ripping it into little tiny pieces. Great post! :)

Blodeuedd said...

Great points, I do must try those. I do fear I tend to be snarky

Mariah said...

I do write bad reviews. Not very many because I usually only pick books that I think I will love to read. But I think as long as you give the author some credit for taking the time to write the novel. And give constructive criticism, then writing a "mean" review is perfectly fine. Just as long as you dont completely bash the author, or the author's person.

Dawn Hullender said...

Great topic as this is something I've struggled with myself. I read/reviewed a book a while back that was just riddled with typos/errors. Those minor things totally distracted me from the story and I couldn't concentrate.

I don't know if it's the editor in me, or the hard working writer who perfects everything to within an inch of insanity.

I focused on the positive points and only mentioned the bad editing once. (I was proud). However, the review request came directly from the author and she's since severed all contact with me.

Anna said...

Great post topic! I have seen quite a few bloggers that do write negative reviews and they just take it too far. It just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

In my reviews I'm honest and if there are things I didn't like, I point them out. But I don't write negative reviews. If I didn't like the book, It doesn't get a review. My TBR and review list is too big to waste my time on negative reviews.

I've learned over the last year that I don't have to accept every book request. I think some bloggers believe they gotta accept all requests. If you know your not gonna care for the book or you don't like the genre, don't accept the request.

AtenRa said...

A very good and a very delicate topic.In my opinion, reviewers should always,always,explain why they liked or disliked a book.If it's an explanation that clearly states your opinion,then I don't think a bad review can be a problem.But in general,I feel that bad reviews have an inexcusably bad rep.Writing over the top,praising reviews so as to please the publisher or the writer that gave you the book,could have an even more negative effect than a bad review.
Personally,I would not take Amazon votes into consideration.There are so many people visiting Amazon that you see all crazy things.They might not like a book and because you liked it,they think that your review was not helpful and vice versa.Most of the times they don't even read it,they just see the rating and push the YES or NO button accordingly. It has happened to me.
IMO,helpful votes shouldn't exist,simply because you must take account so many factors, you cannot possibly "mark" a review as being helpful or not by relying on the other person's bad or good mood,animosity or lack thereof at that moment.

Anonymous said...

I think a bad review should be tastefully done. Saying 'it sucked' or 'what a bunch of crap' isn't just rude but it's not really helpful to those who actually read reviews and make their book decisions off what they find. Plus it is just rude to the author. A reviewer should be able to speak their mind and be allowed to get their point across but there is no need to use extremely harsh comments or just flat out be inconsiderate.

Stephanie G

Melissa said...

I have written a bad review before, but I do try to be constructive rather than destructive. I think your post is right on target.

Btw, you think my butt looks big in these shorts? ;)

Emily said...

I think it's important, in a review, to be authentic and thorough. I'm really turned off by ambiguous reviews- if someone loves a book and doesn't say why, their opinion doesn't stick with me. If someone says they didn't like a book and doesn't say why, I wonder what was so bad about it that nothing stood out as memorable.

I also think that there's a big difference between actively seeking out a book to bash and picking up a book with the expectation of enjoying it and then having that book not measure up. If I feel reasonably sure that I won't like a book, I won't accept it for review or probably pick it up from any other source.

If I do read a book and dislike it intensely, the statement "I won't be reading anything else in this series/by this author" or something similar is pretty powerful.

I also want to address the sentiment that "this is the author's pride and joy and we need to respct that." There's no need to be unnecessarily cruel (again, seeking out a book just to bash it is a jerk thing to do) but I'm not helping anyone if I hide my feelings behind the guise of not wanting to hurt someone else's feelings. I'm not helping anyone become a better writer by not pointing out things that didn't work for me in a story, and ultimately, that's the point of critique, isn't it? To improve the story?

Also bear in mind, the book you read may have been terrible but the author is not the book. Critiquing the book is not the same as being mean to the author. There are a lot of authors who seem to think that having a book published means they should be immune to criticism and that's not fair either.

Anyway, my point is this- you don't have be a jerk in your reviews, but I do believe that you owe your readers honesty. If you didn't like a book, say why. If you loved a book, say why. If you're totally ambivalent, say why. And above all, stand behind what you say.

Wow that was long.

~Jennifer~ said...

I've had a bunch of comments on negative reviews from people who are going to read the book because of my review. What didn't work for me is exactly what interests them. Everyone's tastes are different and a bad book for me may be a great book for you.

As long as the review explains why the blogger felt the way they did, it's a helpful review. Ranting endlessly about how much you hated a book without detailing what was wrong with it doesn't help anyone make an informed decision.

And never attack the author. It's totally uncalled for. Even if you vehemently hated the book, the person behind the book didn't put a gun to your head and force you to read it.

Twimom227 said...

Thanks for the great post. My goal: No matter what I think of a book, I always write at least one positive thing I found - even if it is the title or the number of pages! Being respectful is not just a way to right reviews, it's the way I try to live my life.

Jenny said...

I do write bad reviews but try to be respectful. I wrote a bad review for a book recently that I did not like and apparently the author freaked out. I actually wrote the review for another collaborative blog other than my own blog, and the giveaway after that review had like 70 something entries anyway! So I agree that sometimes bad publicity is better than none at all!

Tara SG (25 Hour Books) said...

Great post! Definitely going in my favorite for the month spreadsheet :)

I hate writing bad reviews. Luckily I don't read a ton of books I don't like... What really worries me is when someone doesn't read a book based on my review. I'm always honest and do my best to include some good in with the bad, but I'm worried that I just personally didn't care for it while someone else will love it. But that's the great thing about negative reviews, you don't just find out what books you HAVE to buy, you also find out which ones just aren't for you.

Mrs. Vanquish said...

Absolute great post. When I bought a book myself and I didn't like it, I write a honest review that hopefully is still nice enough. I appreciate the time an author puts into this book and just because it's not my cup of tea doesn't mean I have to be truly mean about this book.

I also link to a review from a fellow blogger who liked the book, so that the reader can get a second opinion.

However, it gets more complicated if you've been asked to review the book and this is a situation I truly don't like. Although most authors say the want an honest review I cannot bring myself to really write a bad review. It's a fine line you have to draw to picture your honest opinion without being to mean about it....

Gwen said...

I don't have a problem with posting negative reviews. Like you, I look at this as a business and not everything in the reviewing business is sweetness and bunny rabbits.

Knowing the author can make it tougher, but I do my best to be constructive and point out an audience that the book may be better suited to.

One review that I did this week gave me a really hard time writing. I liked the book a lot, but knew deep down that it was not for most of my readers. That was actually one of the toughest reviews I have written in a long time, how to get across to people that it was good, but it was so long, involved and sort of odd, that I didn't want to say run out and get this book right now. I didn't want to steer someone wrong, you know?

Dazzling Mage said...

Great post. =)

Audrey; (AyC) said...

yeah, I don't mind reading or writing bad reviews. and I particularly like reading snarky but hilarious negative reviews :P great post!

Jenn said...

I signed up for a review group from a small publisher, got my first book and it took me 2 days to force myself through all 54 pages of it. I read 500 page novels in about 4 to 6 hours tops, if they're really good I've done it in under 2 hours. I wrote the review, I think it was constructive, I obsessed about it for days, and quit the review group because I felt guilty. I'm not doing so well with the professional part of this.

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