Monday, 11 March 2013
Why I Don't Post Negative Reviews
This is a post I've been considering writing for absolutely ages, but kept holding off on for various reasons. Inspired by a post by Laura Lam (go buy her book Pantomime, by the way, it's AMAZING, then read the great interview she took part in here) and another one from Readers' Wonderland, I finally got round to doing it.
Over at Reader's Wonderland, the piece is about negative reviews and not being afraid to write them. I agree with the piece in general, but the particular bit I'm interested in isn't the piece itself (although it's well worth reading!) but one of the questions asked at the end.
"How do you feel about blogs that only post five star reviews? Do you doubt them?"
To some extent, that applies here. I don't give star ratings, but I only really post positive reviews. That's not to say I only write positive reviews - head over to the Bookbag and you can see me being scathing about various novels, including one book which I summed up with a quote along the lines of "Two men have a miserable time. Three, including this reader." That said, I choose not to post the negative ones here, because I'd much rather concentrate on giving out praise to the wonderful books out there - and there's a lot of them - than criticism to those which, for whatever reason, I didn't enjoy.
In addition to the Bookbag reviews I repost as part of my Sunday Spotlight, I also review others. However, they're rarely (almost never, at the moment) review copies. Most of the Thursday reviews I post here (when I get round to posting reviews, anyway!) are of books I get from the library, or buy. I've requested, and been accepted to view, only one book on NetGalley this year, and got a hard copy of a review book from a publisher - both of these are from authors I'm confident I'll enjoy. In both cases, if I don't enjoy them, I'll politely decline to review. When it comes to library books or books I've bought, if it's a good book, I want to share the love with everyone. If it's a bad one, I already feel I've wasted enough time reading it without spending another hour or so churning out a review! Does that mean some people will look at my blog, see only positive reviews, and decide that I'm not to be trusted? Quite possibly, but when it's a choice between doing that or wasting my time writing reviews of books I just want to forget, I'll go with that. I tweeted asking book bloggers what percentage of their total reading did they end up reviewing, and was stunned that nearly everyone who replied was over 80% - mine is barely at 50%.
I'd always assumed that authors wouldn't particularly want negative reviews posted, anyway, but I'm questioning that assumption after reading Laura Lam's excellent post on how to help authors.
She says in it "For a debut, there is no bad publicity (even if the bad reviews can hurt our sensitive little hearts if we stumble across it)".
What do you think, authors (particularly debut authors?) Would you rather people were talking about your book even if they didn't enjoy it, or would you prefer it to go unreviewed by people who didn't like it? (Assuming no-one's crass enough to go out of their way to direct you to a negative review - I think most of us will agree that tweeting or e-mailing an author and linking to a review criticising their book isn't a good thing to do.) Bloggers, do you post negative reviews? And what percentage, roughly, of books you read do you end up reviewing?
I'd love to get a good discussion going here, so please share your thoughts in the comments below!
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Great thoughts here, Jim. I post negative reviews - I believe there is an important place for them, because I often look to negative reviews for the books I've read (or am on the fence about reading). It can help me figure out whether I should bother to pick up a book in the first place, or makes me re-think some aspects of a book I've previously read. To me, those are good things and negative reviews are a part of that. They have their place.ReplyDelete
I'd say I probably review about 95% of the books I read (for fiction). I like to think that all of my reviews are critical (I don't mean that in a negative way, but from an analytical perspective). It's how I think and process ideas- that carries over into my reading and reviewing as well.
That being said, it's a personal choice. I'm indifferent whether someone would prefer to only review positive books (or only read books they'll like. I tend to like most of the books I read, because I have a good idea of what my taste is so I tend to pick up books I think I'll like.)
Brenna from Esther's Ever After
Thanks, Brenna! And your comment raises something important which I don't think came across in my post - I definitely think there's a place for negative reviews, I just don't particularly like writing them. They're very useful to read - so much stuff out there that it's good to know what to avoid. And of course, a 'negative' review doesn't necessarily mean I WILL avoid a book - sometimes the things the reviewer didn't like are things that don't bother me, or even things I see as being good, so in that case I'm more likely to take a look at the book in question.Delete
I am another blogger who only posts "positive" reviews. I do use a star rating system and only publish reviews for books that are 3 stars are higher on my blog. But, I do also have a Goodreads account where I try to write at least a few sentences about every book I read: good, bad or whatever. Like you, when I read a bad book, I usually try to forget about it as quickly as I can so I avoid writing longer reviews. But, I think all of this is a personal preference so I'm good with whatever other bloggers want to do. Very interesting post!ReplyDelete
I'm barely ever on Goodreads, but that sounds like a good thing to do, Jennifer! Thanks for stopping by.Delete
I think it's more about how balanced a review is. Reading is very subjective and there are often many readers who will like something that I've disliked. I'm also assuming that other blog readers who continue to return do so for similar reasons to why I return to a particular site: because we share similar reading tastes, because we 'trust' their views for one reason or another, or because their writing is interesting. If you didn't enjoy or like something about a book and you can substantiate, I think that's fair. I'm quite selective about what I will read in the first instance because I tend not to finish books I don't enjoy. I obviously don't review those ones! :)ReplyDelete
Thanks for the comment, M - I agree with you on not reviewing stuff I don't finish, but I know some people have different views. Actually, I've read some really interesting reviews giving reasons WHY people didn't finish stuff...Delete
I did this instead of the Carnegie post I was talking about with you on Twitter, by the way - I was going to rave more about CNV and why it should win, but I can never work out how to do it without spoiling it!
Glad to hear my thoughts brought about this! I know a lot of people with your same mindset, they started their blog to showcase the amazing books they read. I personally post negative reviews because I like to tell people my opinion on a particular book that I didn't like, so they don't go out and waste time and money on something that they may not like. I guess it depends on what type of blogger you want to be.ReplyDelete
I review every book YA book I read, except the ones I could not finish. If I finished the whole thing and did not like some parts, I feel the need to share this with my readers. I am not completely negative, I like to point out the positives and use a method of telling facts, rather that opinion at most times. For example I would say: "There is a love triangle..." This alone might put off many people from the novel, and I didn't even voice my opinion about it yet.
As for the debut authors, I must say, "Any publicity is good publicity," which is basically what you said above. Negative reviews still get the author's book out there. I know some people who actually go after these books because they get negative reviews. I remember doing the same thing, I saw this book that almost everyone had given a negative review to, but I read it. And loved it.
I don't think people would ever doubt your reviews because you make your blogging goal clear, and you don't use star ratings. Both methods of blogging are equally influential, especially since some people loathe to read negative reviews.
Great post! Thanks for stopping by my blog!
Hi Alise, really good to hear from you since it was your piece that was the main trigger for me finally publishing this! Thanks for stopping by.Delete
An interesting topic here! I for one have not reviewed books before if my thoughts have been that negative about it as a whole. But I do like to pride myself with honest reviews, and it's very rare I'm actually negative towards a book - I generally enjoy most of the stuff I read - and I think it's important this this is shown. Not everyone is going to love everything and whilst I know if someone was negative about my work it might upset me a bit to start with, I personally would want people to be honest. I wouldn't want them to lie their way towards me telling me how great it is and how much they enjoyed it, when quite literally they couldn't wait for it to end or couldn't even finish it if they really didn't like it that much. Honesty is the best policy, apparently!ReplyDelete
Great post!!! :)
Yeah - I think being honest is definitely important! I'll choose not to review a book, but certainly wouldn't pretend I've enjoyed one that I haven't.Delete
Thanks for stopping by!
Some really interesting points here - I generally review everything I read (with the exception of those few books I don't finish).ReplyDelete
While I don't write full out negative reviews of books - if there are things that bug me or stopped me enjoying a book it would feel wrong to omit mentioning them.
But I tend to find that if I finish a book there's normally something about it that I liked, something that kept me reading. So even my reviews which lean towards negativity will be balanced against some positives.
I review almost all books I read, but I am very lucky, I mostly choose books that I enjoy quite a bit. I do post both negative and positive reviews on my blog, though, because even if I didn't really enjoy a book, I enjoy talking about it.ReplyDelete
What I never do though, is to make my reviews personal. They are always about the book, the characters, the writing, the pacing etc, and even for books I ended up not liking, I try to point out something that was positive. I would never try to get someone to not read a book.
I can see both sides and respect both opinions, but I'm an author and a former book reviewer. Looking back, I honestly wish I hadn't written the negative reviews I wrote; I should have saved the time and energy for books I liked. Yes, I tried to be "fair" and "honest" (and I think I was). But books, unless they're high profile, are different from movies and TV shows, which are ubiquitous, but also limited in number. Basically, with a limited pool of movies and TV shows, I wanted to know which I should watch. But with books, there are so many of them, I'm not even going know about the book unless someone recommends it. So a bad book review, at least on a blog and at least of lower profile or "niche" books, seems to serve no purpose greater except make the author feel bad.ReplyDelete
But like I said, I respect whichever choice a blogger makes. Writing books is hard, but reviewing books is hard too, and it's mostly a thankless job.