The Importance of Negative Reviews

February 15, 2018 Discussion 30

This post is a bit late (when all the stuff that inspired it was happening, I was not in the right mood for blogging), but it’s a post that will fits any time really. Because the thing that inspired it is something that’s been repeated time and time again: A select few authors getting in a tizzy over negative reviews on Goodreads.

Now there are a few different types of negative reviews, some are better than others. I’m not talking about negative reviews that involve actual personal attacks on the author and things. I’m talking about the types of negative reviews 90% of bloggers and readers write, which objectively set out their thoughts and feelings on the book and explain why it wasn’t for them.

As much as negative reviews can be disheartening for authors to read (which is why a lot of authors just don’t read any reviews. Easiest and smartest way to be safe), they do have their place. 

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Everyone is entitled to their own opinion

You know that saying about opinions. We all have them. Our past experiences shape who we are, and in turn shape how what we think about everything in life, including the books we read. These different experience also make us different, which leads us to having different opinions that will never be shared by everyone on the planet. None of these opinions are inherently wrong and we’re allowed to share and talk about them. Freedom of speech is a right we all have, and the internet allows it to share it with like minded people

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I want to know what my friends think, good and bad

The bloggers I highly admire, who I talk to the most, often have the same thoughts on books as I do. If they enjoy a book, highlight particular themes and tropes we both love, then chances are high I’ll love it too. Same goes for the negatives. If they get frustrated by characters, plots, tropes and things, I know I’ll probably have the same issues and can skip it in favour of something better. Everyone has different tastes in books, not all books will suite everyone. How are we supposed to know what to avoid if it weren’t for negative reviews?

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If everything got glowing reviews, how would we know what was truly good?

If every book gets four stars or higher, how are we supposed to separate the cream of the crop? Four stars becomes the new standard, it no longer means anything anymore. A new rating system will likely pop up, and a new negative standard will come to mean the same thing as the old. And this same problem will be repeated again.

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What do you think about negative reviews on Goodreads?
Do you want them to change? How would you change them?

30 Responses to “The Importance of Negative Reviews”

  1. Tizzy Brown

    Negative reviews are absolutely essential in informing potential readers about whether the book is likely to appeal to them. While they are going to influence some readers to avoid that book, others will likely be interested enough to read it. The authors that have responded in an unprofessional way have acted very unwisely as they are only drawing attention to the negative reviews and making themselves look very silly. Unless a review is filled with personal attacks or bigotry, reviewers should be free to write their honest opinions.

    • Bec

      Oh it definitely generates interest! Some in the “is it really that bad?” sense, and others in the “I like that thing this reviewer didn’t so I’ll give it a chance” sense.

      Honest opinions are the whole reason we read reviews.

  2. Carmen

    Great post! I think negative reviews are so important, especially with all the hype some books get. I`m not saying that all hyped books are bad, but I have a few tropes that annoy me, and I`d like to know about them before I start a new book. But reading is a personal experience, after all, so every time I write a negative review I try to make people see that it`s based on my preferences. And I try to find some redeeming qualities (hoping that the book is not a complete fail).
    Carmen recently posted…TTT: My Top 10 OTPs

    • Bec

      Thanks!

      Oh man yes, hype. Hype can build high expectations for books, and it’s negative reviews that bring those expectations back down to a reasonable level for me.

      Almost every book has something decent about it, and I think as long as we remember that and be objective in our reviews they’re fine.

  3. ShootingStarsMag

    I’m with you – if the review isn’t personally attacking the author or anything like that, then they should be allowed to write and post whatever they want. We won’t all like the same things, and honestly, some negative reviews make me MORE curious to read a book because the things they didn’t like, I’m a fan of or don’t really mind. I think if I was ever a published author, I’d just avoid all reviews!

    -Lauren
    ShootingStarsMag recently posted…Keep It Together Link-Up: Wizard Life Planner Cover

    • Bec

      Exactly! Any publicity is good publicity, as they say. Negative reviews can really generate interest (I mean, look at the 50 shades trilogy! How many people read those because they wanted to see how bad/ ridiculous those books are for themselves).

      Most authors I follow make an effort to avoid negative reviews! I think it’s also important that we as bloggers don’t share those more negative reviews directly at the authors (it’s just awkward)

  4. czai

    I LOVE your final point! I don’t follow reviewers who only have glowing reviews. ugh. Because seriously speaking, we can’t love every book we get.
    I try to get through both good and bad reviews of books I’m interested in. I write bad reviews. I tell other people when a book didn’t work out for me but I tell them why and I think that’s the important part because as you said, “Everyone has different tastes in books, not all books will suite everyone.”
    czai recently posted…TimeHopAthon 2018!

    • Bec

      Sometimes I worry that I write too many positive reviews. A lot of my ratings are around 4 stars, but I also mood read and am inclined to pick books that I know I have a decent chance of enjoying.

      Justification is always important! Nothing is ever just bad, there are always reasons behind the feelings and it’s important to express those feelings to be fair to the book and author.

    • Bec

      It’s really disheartening to see authors you admire act like terrible people. Not everyone has opinions that align perfectly with one another’s.

      Thanks!

  5. Malia

    As an author, I obviously love positive reviews, but as a reader and reviewer, I highly value the ability to write honestly how I feel about a book in a respectful fashion. I do not think it’s ok to attack the author, but everyone is entitled to their opinion. I will continue to write reviews based on my true feelings. I prefer to give 4 or 5 stars, but Goodreads and Amazon should definitely not censor lower ratings either. I enjoyed your post!

    • Bec

      Positive reviews are always nicer to write and to read. Watching people gush about things they love is the best.

      Something else some bloggers could do better is not sharing negative reviews directly to the author. It’s not respectful on their part. Thankfully a lot of authors share your views and are lovely about it all!

      I’m glad you liked this discussion :D

  6. Michelle @ Pink Polka Dot Books

    I could not in good conscience be a book blogger if I didn’t review honestly. I stopped following a few bloggers because they were just like: LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. for every book. I understand some people will just not review books they don’t like, but I had a feeling these people were just author suck-ups. But that’s fine…. I just don’t follow them anymore. I definitely try to highlight at least one good thing about books I don’t like– but sometimes there are books that just piss me off & it’s hard!!!
    Michelle @ Pink Polka Dot Books recently posted…Blog Tour Review: Payback on Poplar Lane by Margaret Mincks

    • Bec

      Reviewing is all about honest opinions for me. If you’re only going to lie, why bother putting the effort in?

      I worry that sometimes many of my reviews are overwhelmingly positive. My average rating is 4 stars. And I think a lot of that is my mood reading and selecting books I know I’ll probably enjoy.

      It can be so hard to remember some of the positives for frustrating books! I try and focus taking notes more when reading annoying books just to be able to keep track of the good things which are more easily forgotten.

    • Bec

      Yeah being polite and objective with the way you present things is important. Or at least have reasons behind why you had issues with the book in your review, no matter how angry it made you.

  7. Charlotte Anne Brand

    I 100% agree with these points. I respect other blogger’s opinions and a good/bad review is the difference on whether I pick up a book or not! I try to limit any *bad* reviews to my Goodreads, rather than my actual blog. This is a good way to keep the balance, as I like my blog to be a happy positive place so I only talk about the books I really love. I just don’t find it worth it spending time writing a blog post for a book I didn’t enjoy? If this makes any sense. <3

    Charlotte | https://charlotteidek.com

    • Bec

      That’s an interesting approach! Using the two different sites in such a way is a good idea if you’re going for such an image on your blog. It makes sense!

  8. Emily @ Mixed Margins

    You’re totally right! Negative reviews are IMPORTANT. Partly because it helps us really set apart those ultra amazing life-changing books, but also because life is short! I don’t want to be tricked into buying and reading something that I’m clearly not going to like. I follow certain people on Goodreads that I often disagree with, but I know the ones that have the same opinions as me. And if a book contains something very problematic, like if it is offensive to its readers, its reviews need to reflect that.
    Emily @ Mixed Margins recently posted…dear Goodreads, please make these changes and we’ll all be happier.

    • Bec

      We really don’t have enough time for read! And we all read for enjoyment, so why read something we’re not going to enjoy.

  9. Aimee (Aimee, Always)

    As a writer of a bajillion negative reviews (heh), they DEFINITELY have their place in the community–I would hate to censor myself for an author who, frankly, didn’t know what they were getting themselves into when they published their book.

    And, as a reader, sometimes negative reviews make me want to read a book more! Even bad publicity is still publicity, is what they all say!
    Aimee (Aimee, Always) recently posted…Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum: Stereotypical, But Rocked in the Relationships Department

    • Bec

      I honestly don’t know what some of these authors expect when they react such ways to even the mildest of negative reviews.

      Any publicity is good publicity!

  10. Faith @ Cozy Sweater Reads

    I definitely understand why author’s get upset over negative reviews (it has to be hard seeing all of your love and hard work get trashed). However, I definitely think negative reviews are essential. Negative reviews are actually some of my favorite reviews to write and read just because I like seeing who else disliked the book.
    I would not, however, tag authors in negative reviews because that’s mean and unnecessary.
    Great post! <3
    Faith @ Cozy Sweater Reads recently posted…THE BOOK ADDICTION IS TOO REAL // January: A Month In Review

    • Bec

      It’s not great when you read about the flaws people find in your novels.

      Oh I would never tag/ directly share a negative review with an author. It’s quite unprofessional to do that.

  11. scar

    I agree that negative reviews are important, but I find them really hard to write because I also write books. Only one of them has so far been published, and I haven’t read any reviews of it yet, but I don’t know if I’d have the strength of mind to make myself not read a negative review. And if I did read it, I’m sure it would play on my mind more than any positive ones I read, because that’s how the human mind often works.

    Having said that, I do sometimes write negative reviews of books, especially if there’s something specific I want to say. My most recent negative review spoke about The Truth And Lies Of Ella Black by Emily Barr, because I felt the reasons why I’d disliked it were important. Also, like Faith already commented, I wouldn’t tag an author in a negative review, but I always try to tag them in positive ones. When I write a negative review, I’m not writing it for the author, but for other readers. However when I write a positive review, I’m writing it partly for other readers and partly because I want to let the author know they’ve moved me in some way.

    Finally, there is one book blogger (and I can’t remember who it is, but they’re on my Feedly) who writes really good reviews – well thought-out and interesting points of view – but whose taste is almost exactly the opposite of mine. So I read their reviews, and if they’ve given a book a negative review I’m more likely to read it, because I know we like opposite things. Which is perhaps not what they’re going for, but it seems to work anyway. ;)
    scar recently posted…The Truth And Lies Of Ella Black By Emily Barr

    • Bec

      They can be both harder and easier to write for me. Harder because I feel bad about not liking the book, easier because I often have more reasons that are easy to express about why I disliked it.

      Negative things we hear always stick harder than the positives. It’s hard to see the whole picture objectively when it comes to our own talents and work.

      It can be so useful finding someone with the polar opposite taste to you!

  12. Daniela Ark

    I agree 10000% I make my decision almost as much on bad reviews as on good. And they don’t necessarily deter me from reading a book! Some of them got me very m=curious so I can’t wait to read the book like all the controversy around problematic books like Carve the Mark and Black Witch. I would have never added those books if it wasn’t for the bad reviews :) Great post!
    Daniela Ark recently posted…What’s scheming? Books makers!

    • Bec

      Oh my interest has been piqued by many a negative review! I think it’s the same part of us that likes knowing more about drama (as much as we hate being part of it) that seeks them out haha

  13. Alyce @ The Bumbling Blogger

    Negative reviews often make me want to read a book, because bloggers get so passionate when they talk about books they didn’t like! I always try to find at least one good thing to mention about every release: writing a negative review is a skill, and it’s one that all book bloggers should be appreciated for having.
    Alyce @ The Bumbling Blogger recently posted…February wrap-up

    • Bec

      They really do get quite passionate! It does trigger the curiosity to discover for yourself what made them feel that way.

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