Mar 21, 2013

Blogger Tips: The Case of the Negative Review

Blogger Tips: The Case of the Negative Review

I noticed recently a ton of negative reviews on different blogs I follow as well as Goodreads. That being said, I’ve also noticed a lot of people lamenting having to write these negative reviews on twitter, facebook, forums, and a whole bunch of other places. That being said, here’s my stance on negative review and why they’re important:

1. It’s Not A Bad Review
Let’s clear one thing up first: A negative review is not a bad review. A bad review is someone who misspells every other word, has more grammatical errors than not, and/or flames an author or their work for the sake of being snarky (read: bitchy) or mean (read: asshole-y).

A negative review simply means you didn’t like the book. It’s not a criticism against the author as a person, against a genre, or anything else. But if you’re going to write a negative review you have an obligation to the author and your readers to back up why the book didn’t work for you.

2. DNF Is A Three-Letter Word
The dreaded “did not finish” stamp. It took me a long time to accept that this wasn’t me quitting or something bad. For years I operated under the belief that even if I skimmed every page, I had to finish a book. I’ve realized now that there are too many books out there to get caught up in the one that didn’t work for me.

Books are like shoes. Some fit, some don’t. Some make you feel like going out to a club and partying while other rub you the wrong way and give you blisters. We all have different likes and dislikes.

Some people think if you didn’t finish a book you have no right to review it fairly. Other say review it as is. I say do both.

If there is a reason why I didn’t finish a book that I feel is valid (bad plot, unbelievable characters, etc.) then I will review it if I think there are people out there that will glean something from my review. If I stop reading a book because we just didn’t click? Then I say let it go, no harm no foul.

3. Stand Your Ground … As Long As It Isn’t Quicksand
Don’t let other people make you feel bad about writing a negative review. But also don’t put yourself in a position where you look like an jerk for writing negative review.

It’s fine to not like something, but you have to back up why you didn’t like it. Don’t just say, “I didn’t like it. The character was stupid.” Give examples and be as specific as possible. You don’t need to lay out a one-hundred point essay on why it didn’t work, but touch on the main reasons to show you put some thought into this.

4. Objective vs. Opinion
I know the rule of thumb is that all reviews are supposed to be objective. I get this. Problem is, there’s no such thing as objective in this world. We are all tainted by our personal experiences, life events, and memories. Those forces are what drives us to either connect or not with a book. I’m not saying this is bad or wrong, but it simply is.

I grew up in a very Christian environment and I hold a lot of those beliefs to be very true. I can’t say I wouldn’t be offended if I picked up a book with a protagonist who burned crosses and set churches on fire. But that’s not to say someone else wouldn’t enjoy this book.

You have to make a choice: You review can be as unbiased as you can possibly make it, but then isn’t that more of a book report? Or you can stay true to yourself and state you opinion, but make it clear that this is your opinion and respect that others may have a different view than yours.

5. Against the Grain
Sometimes the hardest reviews to write are the ones for a book we didn’t like when everyone else is raving about it. I felt that way about several books. I was so excited to read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer because everyone RAVED about this book for months. I was so excited when I got my copy and then I felt like an idiot because it fell kinda flat for me.

I still wrote my review and I was surprised to find a lot of people coming out of the woodwork in support of my review. I promise you won’t be the only person who feels this way about a book.

6. Save the Catfights for the Club
A review is no place to air out your dirty laundry. If you have a problem with an author, or even a publisher, being a snarky wench in you review might earn a few giggles but it won’t earn you an ounce of respect. A blog is no place to show how easily you can cut someone with words. It’s petty and childish and just don’t. OK? Don't be an ass for the sake of trying to look cool. No on buys it and you look like a bigger ass.
7. Blogger Compromised
Raise your hand if you’re on twitter.
Raise your hand in you follow an author on twitter.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever chatted with a really sweet author on twitter .
Raise your hand if you read a book by a really sweet author on twitter and strongly disliked that book.

I’m pretty sure we all have our hands up right now, myself included.

One of the coolest things about social media is how accessible it has made authors. I love that I can tweet an author and they freaking respond back!!! But that only makes it all the more difficult when I read their book and I don’t like it.

There is no easy answer here. I wish I could tell you what to do, but I can only tell you what works for me. I will admit that I have simply not reviewed the book I didn’t like. I have also review that book as honestly as I was able and then buried it between a bunch of other posts, praying no one saw it. Mostly now I review the book honestly, and I’ll post extra links after my review to reviews that raved about the book to prove it’s just my opinion and there are plenty of other who did enjoy the book, even if I didn’t.

Ultimately my goal is to see authors succeed. I don’t want any author to fail. As a blogger it’s a duty and privilege to promote books and encourage people to read. I don’t ever want something I wrote in a review to discourage someone from picking up a book.


  1. What a great post, Hannah! I totally agree with everything you've said. These are the toughest reviews to write for sure.

  2. This post is made of awesome Hannah and I couldn't agree more with each of your points. It took me the LONGEST time (like right up to last week) to not feel like I had to read a review book all the way through to the very last page. I felt like I had an obligation, a duty to the book to finish it and write my thoughts. It literally was just last week that I decided it was okay if the book didn't work for me, and it was okay to let the publisher know that was the case and that I wouldn't be reviewing it. I don't plan to make a habit of that, but it was a huge weight off my shoulders to admit the book and I were not meant to be.

    I'm a proponent of posting negative reviews, as long as those reviews are exactly what you said - well thought out with examples of what didn't work. I always try and say a couple positive things about a book even if I didn't care for it, and then I go into more detail about what didn't work for me. I think those types of reviews are necessary, otherwise my blog would simply be gushing review after gushing review. There's nothing wrong with only posting positive reviews, but I want my readers to know what sets a 5 star book apart from a 4 or 3 star book:)

  3. Love this post! I have finally come to terms with posting negative reviews, but instead of just focusing on what I didn't like I try to focus on what I did enjoy because even if I don't like a book their was usually something that kept me reading and of course everyone's book tastes are different.

    Kristin @ Young Adult Book Haven

  4. Hannah, this is SUCH a good post!! I think we can all relate to these points, and you've laid them out SO WELL, in such an intelligent way.

    I'm especially relating to #7 right now, as I DNF'd a couple of books from authors that are so sweet. Thankfully I bought them myself so I don't feel duty bound to review them, but it still makes me feel bad. It's a weird balance.

  5. Great, great post!

    Recently making the switch from the blogger side, to the author side has made me especially aware of this. I have so many blogger friends that I really, really value and if any of them don't happen to like my books, I don't want them to feel awkward about talking to me after they post a negative review.

    Not everyone likes every book, I know I don't... so if someone doesn't like my book but doesn't hold that against me as a person, I'm more than happy (aka relieved) not to hold their opinion against them.

  6. This post makes me feel better about writing negative reviews. Thanks for writing this :)

  7. I love this post! I don't feel apologetic for writing when I didn't like a book, because I think readers should be able to get both sides of the coin in order to make a decision for themselves about whether it's something they want to read. What I hate, though, is when it feels like everyone loves the book except me. Even then, though, I think I'm adding something valuable to the conversation by throwing in my own perspective. Awesome post :-D


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