the Little Red Reviewer

On writing negative reviews

Posted on: June 22, 2016

Hey blogger buddies – do you write negative reviews? And what I mean by a negative review isn’t “this book sucks”, it’s “this book didn’t work for me and let me tell you why”. A well written negative review tells you just as much information about the book about a positive review. When I write critical / negative reviews, it’s mostly to talk about why I bounced off a book, or why I though the book was problematic. Oftentimes, it’s a book that the majority of readers really enjoyed, perhaps the book even won a ton of awards, but really, really didn’t work for me. Any of my friends will tell you I’m not the kind of person to sugar coat. If I think something didn’t work on some level, I’m going to say so. If I was offended by something, or thought it was boring, or thought the POV switches weren’t clear, I’m going to say so. If a book made me, personally, feel like the world of that book is not a world I would be welcome in, I’m going to say that too.

 

I do not write negative reviews to dig at an author, or to convince others not to read that author’s books. I need to make that clear: it is a negative review of a book, not of an author or of their career. In fact, I’ve had people respond to my negative reviews with “that sounds like a book I’d like!”

I’m interested to know if my peers write negative reviews, and how you think about those reviews, because I’m in the process of writing a negative review right now. Many people have praised this particular new-ish novel, but I’m finding it predictable, and with a plot that moves forward solely by the power of “because of course it is” combined with characters that do willfully dumb things. (which will be further explained in the review)

Ok, so sound off in the comments, because I wanna know:

Bloggers: Do you write negative reviews? It that a different reviewing process than when you write a glowing review?

Writers: how do you react when you become aware of a negative review of your work?

It’s extra fun being me, because not only do I write negative reviews, but I then run into those authors at SFF Conventions! Fun! And by fun I mean quite awkward.  Should “I’m going to meet this person!” affect how I review their books? Nope.

40 Responses to "On writing negative reviews"

I do write negative reviews – I think I’m probably still a bit ‘soft’ when I do so – but I’m not going to say I love a book if I didn’t. I don’t have that many negative reviews and people maybe think I’m a pushover in that respect but it’s simply that I no longer continue with the books I’m not enjoying and I don’t review a book if I don’t complete it – therefore less negative reviews. Every now and again I make myself finish a book I’m not loving – but frankly, that’s even worse because then I really do feel naffed off with ti if it didn’t redeem itself a little!
To be honest I always read negative reviews by others – it’s not going to sway the way I feel but it’s interesting to know. If I enjoyed a book I’m not going to change my mind because somebody else didn’t. We’re all different after all and it makes for more interesting discussion. That’s what I like about blogging – the discussions about books and seeing how people react differently to the same book.
I love your reviews – you don’t pull the punches but you always give your reasonings in an intelligent and well thought out way which is important I think. I don’t like some reviews that are just all about the sarcasm and that turn a bit nasty – there’s no need and in fact it’s a bit disrespectful (I think) after all, that’s somebody’s work there and just because you might not like it you don’t have to be mean. It must be awful for an author to read negative reviews but if they’re well constructed and enough people are making the same comments I like to think that those reviews are helpful.
Them’s my views.
Lynn😀

Liked by 1 person

Hey Redhead! Yes. I’m with you on this as a book blogger or blogger I write negative reviews when necessary but with sensitivity. I find that they are important because it helps to remind authors or other people that not everyone has the same opinion.

Cassandra @ Book & Movie Dimension a Blog

Like

I write negative reviews from time to time, and I try to be diplomatic about it. I try to pull out why it didn’t work for me, but find reasons why I think other readers might enjoy it. I don’t ever go out of my way to not recommend something. No two people read the same book and I think that’s okay.

Like

I haven’t been blogging for to long and have only wrote two negative reviews so far, one I’ve yet to post and the other I posted yesterday, it’s The Fireman by Joe Hill. I found writing a more negative review harder than a normal one where I liked the book as I don’t want to be a reviewer who when they have to write a negative review just writes ‘It’s crap’, instead of praising the book like in a positive review I tried to explain why I didn’t like the book and what I didn’t like about it along with writing what I thought was good about the book to. 😊

Like

I write negative reviews. I’d say many of my reviews are mixed – some positives, some negatives. I think if we call ourselves book reviewers (even if we’re not professionals) we have some responsibility to describe a book as we experienced it. And as you say, to explain why, not just to hate. There are books I strongly dislike because of writing, plot, etc. but others where I think maybe it’s just a personal reason that I didn’t like it. I will say that if an author personally asked me to review their book, I treat that a little differently than an author who’s really famous and has no idea who I am. I still present negatives but I try to be balanced and consider their reaction. Worth noting, if I really hate a book I’m unlikely to finish it, and then I don’t review it.

Like

What is the point of reviewing a book if you are not honest in whether it was able to draw you in as a reader? I blog to reflect on the my reader experiences, inspiring my non-SF readers to read SF. If I am disingenuous with a review my personal creative experience is tainted. Maybe it is easier as my blog doesn’t receive the traffic that of the blogs I read do. That being said, I did have one backlash to a negative review, the author banned me on twitter.

Like

Good advice for me. I thought about how to write a negative review and I realize its best not to say a thing. Sometimes I don’t have a respond for the good either. I try to be positive or I’ll sink myself throwing negativity at someone.🍓

Like

Negative reviews are important. They make me trust the reviewer’s reviews more when I know she will always be honest.

I find negative reviews hard to write. If I’m going to criticize, I need to justify all my points. So I comb through the book, pulling in very specific examples of what went wrong. When it’s a positive review, I can be a bit more vague and just gush.

Like

Let’s just say I’m trying to get better at writing negative reviews, lol. My mom raised me to always say something nice, so I carry that into my reviews. I do try to emphasize the positive, because there is usually something that works, but I also feel a responsibility to my readers to tell them the truth. Having a personal connection to the author makes it much harder to be negative, but I never feel like my negative comments are personal attacks. I’m about to write a negative review too! And I feel bad because the author himself asked me to read his book:-/

Like

I try to review everything I read so inevitably there will be some negative reviews. In fact, even if I liked to book on the whole, I might note things that didn’t work for me. It doesn’t make sense to me to run a review blog and only post glowing reviews. I tend to ignore those reviewers because I can’t really develop a sense of what they like and what they don’t like and how close that is to my own taste. It makes their opinion essentially worthless to me.

I don’t think negative reviews are harder to write than positive ones. I go about writing them pretty much the same way. If it is overwhelmingly negative I might let it sit a day and go over it again to see if I supported my opinion properly and not made it personal towards the author. It’s the books that were okay but didn’t really impress you one way or the other that are hardest to review. I call them the ‘meh’ reviews. I tend to have very little to say on them.

Like

I’m with Lynn on this one. Now, keep in mind that I don’t write as many full reviews as I used to; most of my “reviews” are just comments in my weekly Current Reading post, so I think of them as pocket reviews, just a few sentences of description and an opinion if I have one. I don’t have opinions I express until I’ve finished the book, however, other than something like “I’m enjoying it so far”.

The last thing I said that was negative, wasn’t much: After a brief non-spoilery description of the plot, I added “It reads like [name of author I usually like], but the whole affair is rather boring.” I’ve got a review written on another book, a full(er) review, in which I discuss the ending as being cobbled together by the author after she had, apparently, lost interest in the book. That’s my opinion, and I’ll stick to it.

I once was at a mystery convention, in the bar with friends, and an author came over to say hello. When introductions got around to me, he said, loudly, “You’re the son of a bitch who wrote that review in [print publication]” He then pulled back his arm to punch me! One of the other people grabbed him as I leaned aside to avoid the blow. They calmed him down and got him to leave, but I avoided him the rest of the weekend. His book didn’t sell, and he didn’t get another published, so I felt vindicated in my opinion, but it was, as they say, “a moment”.

Like

and I neglected to mention, I do not rate my reviews, with numbers, letters or anything. I believe too many review readers just go straight to that score and skip the rest.

Like

I think you do a very good job with your reviews. Overall, they have always seemed balanced, honest, and thoughtful. I sometimes debate whether I like reviews with or without rating scales. Personally, I use a rating scale, but I find it hard to put a “number” on a lot of books that I read. (Cp. any PKD novel).

That being said, I don’t find much “pushback” from authors (thankfully! because most of ’em are deceased), but I do find some grumpiness from other readers when I touch a chord in their nervous systems. A lot of times readers have a sentimental-attachment to books and cannot bear to have anyone not “respect” that book in the same way. I understand – I’m that way with a couple of books myself. I recognize it is difficult to separate a sentimental feeling from a detached impartial critique.

Back to the rating system, I think 3 stars is a very readable, solid novel. But many find this far too low of a rating. However, there is such a huge mass of science fiction/speculative fiction out there, I try to save 4 and 5 stars for the ABSOLUTE BEST of the BEST. So when I write my reviews, I do try to defend, as it were, my rating and I do appreciate when others are thoughtful enough to consider my reasoning on the matter.

And at the end of the day, I realize I am still just writing my personal opinion about a piece of entertainment………

Like

when I first started the blog, I used a rating system, and then I stopped. sometimes a book would have incredible characterization, but i was bored by the plot. or i loved the imagery, but something else didn’t work for me. i couldn’t boil my feeling down to a rating, so i stopped doing it.

Liked by 1 person

Yes, I’ve written my share of negative reviews. It’s hard and I don’t like doing it, especially knowing that a book that is the product of an author blood, sweat, and tears. At the same time I also have to be honest and I won’t pretend I liked a book when I didn’t. When I first started blogging, I used to be a lot softer and pulled my punches, until I realized I wasn’t doing myself, the authors, or the readers any favors when I did that. Now I just write the truth of how I feel, but I also believe the importance of being polite and civil so I try to keep my criticism as constructive and positive as possible. Sometimes I’m horrified when I’m on Goodreads and see just how downright nasty and mean some reviewers are. Also, it’s one thing to talk about why the book didn’t work, but I’ll never find ad hominem attacks towards the authors themselves acceptable.

Like

I struggle.. I find it difficult to write a bad review.. especially if I got the book for free. But, my time has value too.. and just the fact that I read a book.. and disliked it.. I will write a soft negative review. If it’s a book that a friend wrote.. I skip writing the negative review. Sometimes I will tell them it’s best not to ask me to review that particular book.. and yes.. I did read it… but, probably best I not review it.

Like

I write negative reviews, but like you I try to keep them constructive, explaining why things didn’t work for me. Everyone has different reading tastes, so it stands to reason that the aspect of a book that I hated might be the aspect someone else loves.

In the past my policy was that I would only review books I finished, so I got around posting too many negative reviews by simply not finishing books that I didn’t like. I recently started a ‘not a review’ column where I mention how far I got in a book and why I stopped reading it as I found it unfair to me (in terms of lost time) to not review books I spent time with, but also to my readers (who, if they have similar tastes) could then avoid some books. I still try to mention some good points as well as bad points in my negative reviews.

Ultimately, I consider a good review to be one that tells readers if the book will appeal to them.

I once had an author contact me regarding a negative review I wrote for one of her books, thanking me for explaining why I didn’t like it. Lots of people had complained about the book, saying they hated the ending, but mine was the only review that clarified what the problem with the ending was – so they were able to address the actual issue and reassure people that the next book dealt with what had happened.

Like

It’s a tough call. If the writer or publisher has solicited a review, I’ll contact them and tell them I can’t review the book with a rating higher than 2 stars, so I’d prefer not to review it at all. Balance is my goal in all but a very few cases at the top and bottom of the scale. My review of Gone Girl got me a lot of trouble on Goodreads. It’s not a nice one. It’s also my most popular review ever. Raves don’t attract eyes as well as pans, and that’s a sad statement about readers. We’re more like civilians than I’d hoped we were.

Like

I’ve gotten pretty good, with age, at choosing to read stuff that I’m going to like, but I definitely do write negative reviews, and nearly all book reviews I write include some critical element unless I’m just totally blown away by a novel.

My big rule, though, is to keep my criticism in some kind of perspective. So, the sub par self-pubbed piece of Arthuriana I reviewed earlier this year was treated more kindly than, say, last year’s The Dinosaur Lords, which earned a pretty scathing review from me. The first one, I was one of just a handful of reviewers on Goodreads, and I don’t have it in me to sabotage a fledgling author just because I didn’t care for their book, which was not great but also bland and largely inoffensive.However, The Dinosaur Lords was blurbed by George R.R. Martin, published by Tor, and sold as Game of Thrones meets Jurassic Park with a ton of promotion, hundreds of ratings on Goodreads, and fawning reviews in some high profile places. It was also a book that seethed with contempt for women and had an unnecessary and truly disgustingly written rape scene right near the end. I don’t feel even a tiny bit bad about savaging it.

Like

writing a scathing review of a book that was generally lauded is a weird experience, isn’t it? been there, done that. will probably do it again.

and thanks, I’ll be skipping The Dinosaur Lords!

Like

I do write negative reviews, and find it harder. Sometimes if a book really, really doesn’t work for me, it would be very easy to just write a complete rant that often would not be as useful or fair as I would like to post. So, usually I try to isolate the things I struggled with most and explain my reaction. Usually my complaints are traits that others might actually enjoy reading. Sometimes I will decide to not mention some aspects I didn’t like just because if I included everything I would feel like I might sound too harsh. And I also realize that when a book is not working for me, I can be way less forgiving all around, so my minor picks probably don’t need to be mentioned. Also, I think people will hear what you have to say more if you don’t go too over the top and sometimes the really just “mean” reviews don’t give people enough information for them to know if they might still like the book (I’ve seen some books I love torn to shreds by a review I felt just didn’t “get it” and then the comments on the review were so disheartening, thinking the book was trash when really, I kinda think it was the review that was the issue).

Like

When I was running a book club, I would blog about the book after we met. I definitely included what we discussed, and that could’ve been positive or negative items.

Like

my book club has a lot of really varied opinions, which is something i really like about our group. usually half of us love the book, and half of us were “meh” for it.

Liked by 1 person

Hi there! Sorry for the off topic, but the post for which I was collecting quotes is now up. Thought you might like to check it out: http://wp.me/p6su4e-ic

Thank you again for being a part of it, it means a lot to me.

Have a great evening,
Aya

Like

I used to only review things I could recommend, but have included a few negative ones lately. Unfortunately, one of them was from a favorite author.

Like

Yep, I write negative reviews if that’s my experience with the book. I don’t feel like there’s a lot of value in a person’s reviews if they only ever give high marks. I don’t think I’m harsh (I am in fact a total nicey-nice softie), but I try to be honest. OK, except for this one time when a scholar wrote a popular history of his field and shoved in every unsubstantiated rumor he’d ever heard. I was kind of a little harsh then.

A sensible author knows that the beloved baby book will not suit everyone. It’s hard to take those stings of negative reviews, but it comes with the territory.

Like

I also write negative reviews but I usually find they are longer than my positive reviews – probably because I am being diplomatic. I’ve been blogging since 2010 and have only had 2 or 3 authors and 1 audiobook narrator challenge my review of their works. But in each case and civil dialogue ended amicably.

Like

my negative reviews are usually longer too.

my positive reviews: omg, this book was so good I loved everything about it you should read it was amazing! the end.

my negative reviews: this book didn’t work for me and let me go into a million details as to why. oh, here is a million more details. I could talk forever about how much this book annoyed me.

Liked by 1 person

I feel it is important to write negative reviews if a blogger wants legitimacy. How can I trust the opinion if it is glowing review after glowing review; especially with the well known quest for arcs newer bloggers have it can start feeling like a quid pro quo otherwise.

There were times I wondered if I was going to burn a bridge but it never really is a problem, readers are going to expect honesty. Granted I had a couple authors respond to the reviews in a negative way but that is a rare beast and not something to really worry about.

Like

I think the trick to writing negatively is to separate what I wanted the book to be from what it actually is. It’s not fair to judge a book for not being what I want it to be, if that was never the author’s intention. The only extended “fight” I ever had on Two Dudes was after I thought I carefully separated my expectation from the actual book, but apparently didn’t enough to the satisfaction of some random dude. He called me a stuffy academic, which remains a highlight of my blogging experience.

Negative reviews are fun when I can totally go off on a book and giggle about how absurd something is, but I generally reserve those for times when the author is dead. As an artist myself, I am sensitive to the fact that everyone loves their own creations regardless of their flaws.

Also, because I only read what I want, not a steady stream of new release ARCs, I rarely read things I dislike. (All bets are off when I dig into vintage stuff though – I’m often looking for idiocy then.)

Like

it is very different writing a negative review of some vintage pulp novel that aged terribly and the author has been dead for 50 years, and writing a negative review of a book that came out last year.

Like

The idea of a ‘negative review’ intrigues me. I’ve never seen it that way – I’ve never set out to write ‘negative’ or ‘positive’ reviews. Instead, I try to convey how good I thought the book was, and why. Naturally, this means that some reviews are more positive or negative than others, but I couldn’t sort them into “negative” and “positive” sets (for one thing: several books I’ve graded very poorly were ones I personally felt some affection for). Unfortunately, many other people seem only to be able to read them as either ‘negative’ or ‘positive’, which has resulted in some angry responses by those who feel I’ve given a ‘negative review’ to a book they like.

Generally the tone of all my reviews is negative, I guess: I find it much easier to go into detail explaining which elements I didn’t think quite worked, whereas the good bits generally boil down to “yeah, that worked”. Plus I’ve always sort of been raised with the principle that if you can’t say anything critical, don’t say anything at all.
That sounds negative, but really it’s based on optimism: I assume that, by default, books are wonderful and powerful and effective, and when they aren’t I sort of set out to try to work out for myself what went wrong…

I will say, though, that my one experience of actual contact with an author was very uncomfortable for me. It’s not so much a matter of not wanting to criticise them… it’s more that a lot of what I might think can’t really be argued against the author themselves. Like if I think that an author is just writing it for a paycheck, or is repeating themselves, or seems to have some weird obsession that keeps getting in the way of the story, or if I think that some good element is accidental, or some bad element is accidental, or I don’t like the political implications of something, etc etc… or even if I’m being positive and just, say, speculating about the intended themes, or foreshadowing, and so on… in all these cases, the author can say “no that’s not true”, and then I don’t really have a comeback, and feel like a cad for having intruded and made unfair assumptions. So if I were regularly reviewing things where the author might actually find my review, I would have to go about things differently, in a much more matter-of-fact, objective fashion.

Like

[…] FRANK OR VITRIOLIC? the Little Red Reviewer asks a question to begin “On writing negative reviews” […]

Like

I don’t enjoy writing negative reviews. Pissing on author’s work, even if (in my opinion deserved) is not something I really enjoy. I think there is definitely a place for them. Not every book works, not every series is for everyone.

Like

As an author, I like negative reviews in a twisted way, at least when they come from an essential place of love (for the attempt, if not the result), and from wanting it to be better, or at least trying to understand why it didn’t work for the reviewer. Negative reviews (that aren’t angry screeds) are nice, because they clearly tell people who might also not enjoy the book to not waste their time, which prevents me from cheesing them off and ruining their day—and tells others who like the things the reviewer doesn’t like to dive in, like you said.

As a blogger (anime, but still), I don’t much like to write negative reviews, though I’ll certainly do it when a show goes off the deep end. I’m liable to hold out hope longer than others will though, or drop it when I start feeling compelled to be negative all the time. I do it for the love of the art, ya know? It’s not fun pissing all over someone’s noble attempt, even before I started releasing works for other people to piss all over.

Angry screeds, though? Those people can bite a block of wood, with the nails still in. All this is too scary to put up with haters. Fortunately book bloggers tend to be book lovers, and trolls don’t usually put in this kind of time.

Like

I write negative reviews. It’s not something I particularly enjoy but I don’t hate it because I think that it is impirtant to review critically. I think that my readers are going to be interesting in what I have to say about books, the good but also the bad. However, I try to stay very polite because my aim isn’t to bash an author or a specific book. If I think that can’t stay polite with a book (like A Court of Mist and Fury) I don’t review it or I wait until I can speak calmly about it😛

Like

I always try to write my reviews as critical. What those critiques are dictates wether it come out as a positive or negative. I don’t enjoy writing those negative critiques though. Who wouldn’t much rather read a book they loved and then gush over everything and tell everyone why they loved it so much? But sometimes is happens. When I do hit those books though, I never say “this sucks” or anything hateful/disrespectful like that. Instead, I try my best to say why I didn’t like, explain what I think the author was getting, why others may like it, and what I would have preferred/my opinion on how to improve things.

Plus, no one wants to read a hateful review. I know I don’t enjoy that.

Every time I have written a negative critical review, at least one person has comment saying something along the lines of thanking me for explaining why the novel didn’t work me and that it was a good review. Even had cases where commenters said they see why it didn’t work for me, but it would be something that they would enjoy.

Sometime I think my negative reviews are better to read, because I am actually explain more details about how I felt about the story, and do give readers of my review a better sense of what they are getting into.

Like

I try to always be honest in my reviews and point out things that didn’t work, even if overall I loved whatever I’m talking about. I think that’s most prevalent in my music reviews; I won’t hesitate to say that don’t like a song or that something about it doesn’t work for me or whatever. I’ve written a lot of reviews over the past 5+ years, though, so if I’ve written any strictly negative reviews, I legitimately can’t recall what they were on. But I know I wouldn’t write something hateful or vitriolic. I value honesty and thoughtful critique. If I don’t like something, I’m going to have a reason, and if I can’t pin down a specific reason, I’ll make that clear too. I’m generally quite hesitant to flat out insult anything and say it has no value. Obviously at least one person thought it had value or it wouldn’t exist.

I will agree with other people, though, I’m generally not a fan of writing a negative review, and I’m far more inclined to write about something I’m interested in and care about sharing with everyone than I am to write about something I didn’t enjoy. That said I do think I should keep it in mind; writing negative reviews may be unpleasant but I think they can be important both as an exercise in writing and as a way of providing more information from different points of view. More than one opinion makes it easier to decide if something sounds interesting to you, and also opens a forum for discussion.

Like

I try to recommend good books, music CDs, and DVDs on my blog. Time is short so why waste time bashing inferior books. But, that being said, occasionally I’ll post a negative review simply as a warning. I also rate the books, music CDs, and movies I review with A, B, C, D, and F grades (I’m a college professor so that comes naturally for me).

Like

join the conversation

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

Follow me on Twitter!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,623 other followers

Follow the Little Red Reviewer on WordPress.com

Categories

FTC Stuff

some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
%d bloggers like this: