Thursday, February 21, 2013

Book Girls Don’t Cry: Guilt Over Negative Reviews

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Inspired by Book Buzzers, Book Girls Don’t Cry is a weekly feature where we each discuss/vent/advise on the chosen weekly bookish topic. Don’t miss Jenni on Mondays, and Amy on Saturdays:

Negative Reviews: You Know I Love You, But…



You know what’s great about blogging? Aside from the obvious love of books, the community is the best. Sure there’s some drama and bad apples like anywhere, but the friends you will make while blogging are all well worth it. Even more special in this particular field is how we can become so friendly with the creators of our passion–the authors. Without them, where would we be? Probably drunk, but that story’s for another day.

So you have made friends with an author! Isn’t it awesome, sometimes even a little fangirl-making, to be able to talk on Twitter (or other) to your favorite authors? Sometimes you develop a friendship before their upcoming book–which sounds amazeballs by the way–is even OUT! How cool is that? It’s definitely been a big highlight of my blogging journey, BUT, the downside of this is when you’re friends with an author, you read their book… and you realize you don’t like it. *Le overdramatic sigh* What now? Do you feel guilty writing a negative review? How do you deal with it? Do you rate higher because you like the author?
These are questions that come up quite a bit when you’re a blogger/reviewer. It’s never easy to write a negative review, it’s a million times harder when you know the author. Yes it happened to me, more than once, and I’ve had the above dilemma–what do I do? And when it comes to this, no matter how close I am to the author I’ve had to remind myself why I’m blogging, who I’m reviewing for, and if lying in the review would “really” be a favor to the author–it would not be, in case you were wondering.

So why DID you start reviewing and blogging? For me it was to share my love of books with other  readers. Sure friending an author is something that I will always cherish, but in the end, I am not doing this for them. This is the conclusion I have come to every time this sort of thing happened. If I lie in my review, if I rate it a 3 stars instead of 2, it annuls my reason to be. This sounds a bit “profound” sure, but that is honestly how I feel about my blog. We don’t review for authors, we don’t even review for  publishers, we review for other readers. Readers that read reviews to know what to expect. Most of our readers, I imagine, have similar taste or have come to know our own taste well enough to be able to judge how they will like a book when they read a review on our blog–hence why they keep coming back. If we go and lie out of guilt, will it really do anyone a favor–especially the author? To lead others who won’t like the book either to read it? Or even worse, it may lead those who would like it away from it. Because that is what reviews are for, right? To lead like minded people to or away from books they may or may not enjoy. A book has to reach its audience. A dishonest review is halting this potential. So when all is said and done, this is what we have to remind ourselves when we’re about to write a less than stellar review for a book where we’ve become friendly with the author, or any book for that matter. 
Nevertheless, it never ceases from being one of the hardest things we have to deal with when blogging and reviewing. It’s especially hard when the book is a review request and we have to email our review to the author themselves. I do it like a band-aid. Don’t hesitate, click send. You’ve done them a favor in the end. Negative reviews are NOT a bad thing. I believe them to be a very good thing, actually. I have read a book solely based on a negative review because the person hated what I love in books. I have also avoided books I’m sure I would have hated based on reviews from people I trust–saving it from another negative review. I have also skipped a book that had only positive reviews because, for one it lead me to believe some of the reviews were untrustworthy–maybe friends of the author or other–and for another, with such high expectations my chances of enjoying it actually plummets. With an online world and self publishing, there will be authors who can’t handle negative reviews, some may even lash out, but I very much doubt these authors will last long in this career; a career where you put your baby out there for others to tear apart and judge, to critique and point out its flaws. It’s for this reason that I could never be an author myself, it has to be hard if you can’t stop yourself from reading those reviews, but it comes with the territory, and you know what? It is what it is! They’re going to have to either grow a backbone, or find a very good shrink!
In the end, not one book is loved unanimously, no author should expect as much, and no author worth your friendship will block you, or whatever else, because you didn’t enjoy their book. You only have to remember who you’re reviewing for.

Have you ever felt guilty over a negative review?

How did YOU deal with that guilt?

Also, don’t forget to leave suggestions for future topics you’d like to see! 🙂
You know you love me!
Xoxo, Book Girl!

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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.
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72 Responses to “Book Girls Don’t Cry: Guilt Over Negative Reviews”

  1. Nick

    I used to feel very very guilty when I first started blogging and got review requests. I admit that I might have raised my rating by a star at times because I felt very bad for writing negative things about the book. But I realized how wrong that was and that I was in a way “deceiving” my readers. So, I no longer do that anymore. I love to interact with authors on Twitter and all, but if I don’t like their books I’m honest in my reviews now.
    There’s nothing wrong with bad reviews, but when the reviews attack the author/their lifestyle/their choices, then I don’t approve. Great topic of discussion! Makes you really think. And I loved your response. I like that you know that you’re writing reviews for you readers and not for authors and publishers. I know a bunch of reviewers who praise every single book they get in order to get ARCs and all from publishers. That, I think is very wrong.

    • Giselle

      Attacking the author is a totally different matter yes. When I think negative reviews I think one where the reviewer is honest but respectful. If they start talking about the author personally or insulting I wouldn’t use that review in my decision making process at all so I don’t think they’re useful in any way. I don’t really care wht kind of lifestyle the author has–I’m reading their book, not their memoir.

      Positive reviews for ARCs is something I’ve also noticed. At least with blogging we come to know who’s honest and who loves everything. When I never see a negative review from someone I come to not trust their reviews as much. I want a 4 or 5 star to mean something!

    • Girls in the STACKS

      I agree with most of this article, and like most bloggers, have been in this same situation. How do we deal with negative reviews of author friend books? We don’t review them if we don’t like them.

      Actually, we only review books that we like. So while it may seem we like everything that we read, there are is a BIG PILE of books that we HATED and choose not to review.

  2. Mary @ BookSwarm

    Yep. Felt that guilt. I totally fangirl over authors and hate to say negative things about their writing (never about them — it’s not personal when I don’t like a book, even if it might feel that way). I’m a people-pleaser at heart so writing meh reviews is really hard but it has to be done. Like you said, these are for other readers, not for the author (which, at times, is hard to remember!).

    • Giselle

      It’s very hard. One time I literally closed my eyes when I hit send for a negative review emailed to an author. Lol. I never heard back so maybe I hit detele? Who knows? haha.

  3. Millie

    Oh, definitely. There was guilt. I was so devastated when I had to write my first ever negative review on my blog. I delayed, made excuses, and did everything in between to try and not write it, but I couldn’t avoid it forever. Actually, I’m pretty good at writing negative reviews now. Like you, i’d feel like I’d be lying to myself and my followers if I wrote a false-positive review. I still feel sad that I didn’t enjoy the book, but my opinion is my own, I can’t enjoy every book out there, and nefative reviews come along with blogging and all of its other positive aspects.
    Great discussion!
    Cheers

    • Giselle

      I remember my very first negative review from a review request/arc, too! It was hard and I felt bad the whole time wrting it but even if I DID want to lie and write positive I don’t even think I could have. What would I have said? Oh this thing (which I hated) was SO GOOD. No. >.<

  4. Ashley

    I actually wrote a post about this too and I called it “The worst thing in the book blogging world,” because that’s literally how I feel about it. It seriously crushes my soul to befriend an author and then have to explain that I didn’t like their book. Or even if I don’t have to e-mail them, but I’m worried that they’ll see my Goodreads review and like.. won’t want to be my friend anymore. The whole thing is so awkward, and it literally makes me sick to my stomach sometimes.

    • Giselle

      Oh really? I’ll have to read your post I love the topic! And I agree it really is the worst thing –and the only “bad” thing about blogging as well. Well except maybe drama but that is easy to ignore usually. I have had 1 or 2 authors unfollow me on Twitter after I rated their book under 3 stars and it hurts but such is life. I’m not here to fake out anyone.

  5. Heather Coulter

    While I agree that negative reviews are often more difficult to write and I’ll procrastinate. I also know that it doesn’t change the fact that both the author and other reader deserve to hear my honest opinion. When I write a review {whether negative or positive} I always let it set for a day. Not based on my fear the recipients’ reaction – but because I want it to reflect my most comprehensive opinion. I am guilty of being very picking in accepting review requests – there are just too many remarkable books out there to read. I 100% agree that my followers expect me to read & review [not read & glorify].

    • Giselle

      Well said! An dishonest review does no one a favor. It also helps if you are picky about review requests because when I started blogging I accepted everything and half of the stuff was not something I liked and I should have known better.

  6. Aylee

    Oh wow, this is really well written! And yes, I completely agree with you and what you had to say. I’m not a big twitter user myself so I haven’t formed any super tight bonds with any authors, but I do still feel the guilt when I don’t like a book – it was their baby after all and they probably put all they had into writing the thing. But any guilt you feel over writing a review for a book you didn’t like – you can’t let it control you and change how you feel about a book. Honesty is always best – so long as it is respectful and not mean (though I do love me some snark now and then…). And ideally the authors will respect that and not lash out, like you say.

    • Giselle

      Thanks, Aylee! Get on twitter, girly! 😉 I am guilty of a few snarky reviews but I think I try to avoid too much snark when I’m friends with the author. SNarky makes such entertaining reviews! (And there is a difference between snarky and disrespectful). It also depends on how much I hated it exactly lol. I will also DNF a book if I know I will hate it much more now so I just don’t review in that case. I feel like this comment is all over the place lol. Anyways, I think most authors do know that not everyone will like their book and although it does happen, I am still good friends with authors that I rated under 3 so it’s not always the end of a friendship if it happens either.

  7. Kathy Ann Coleman

    I think that both positive and negative reviews have their purpose, and that without one the other loses its value. (You can’t have good without evil, light without dark, right without wrong… you get the idea.)

    I think that a huge part of the situation is how people state their opinions. There is a huge difference between talking about how a book is written, or what one did or didn’t like about it, vs. lashing out at the author and criticizing their intelligence, values, right to write, etc. Of course, for me what this kind of backlash does is takes credibility away from the reviewer, not the author. I don’t care how much a book was despised–if you want to be a masochist and not DNF something you see no good in that’s your call (and that’s a plural you, FWIW)… But there are too many books out there that I want to read for me to spend days crafting the most nasty, emotionally abusive and scathing review I can. Just strikes me as a waste of time.

    Now, coming at this as someone who is hoping to be an author, I think it’s vital to not just ‘wonder’ whether people will dislike your book, but rather to expect it. It’s when someone LIKES my work that I allow myself to feel surprised or to pay attention. I *know* people out there are going to dislike it: “The heroine’s too weak”, or “too many POVs” or even just “I hate paranormal!”… There’s always going to be something about your work that someone can find fault with–even when they like it as a whole–that it’s just something one has to accept.

    As for the friending authors thing… I actually warn my readers if I feel I am friends with an author in my review’s opening so they’ll know where I’m coming from with it. I’ve never had to give a negative review to someone I considered a close friend, but I did recently DNF a book by an author whose previous work I had loved and who left a lovely comment on my blog a while ago–and I do intend to speak briefly about why I didn’t finish by the end of March. (I plan to list my DNFs quarterly–I won’t rate them, but I figure people must wonder why books on my sidebar hop around.)

    The thing I always remind people in my reviews–negative or positive–is that this is only my opinion and that my goal is to help them figure out ‘whether’ a book is right for them. I’m not here to tell people “ZOMG don’t read that!”… just “That wasn’t for me and here’s why.” I took my objectives from reviewing from what helped (and still helps) me choose games, since that’s where my background with the value of reviews began.

    Anyway, this is getting lengthy. You made some very interesting points. 🙂

    • Giselle

      I agree completely, Kathy! I would never give any sort of credibility to a review that bashes the author or their intelligence–I’ve actually rarely come upon those but I tend to read reviews from only trusted reviewers too. I want to know what the book is about and if I should read it, not their opinion on the author’s lifestyle. But you’re right, I hope authors realize that those reviews aren’t being taken seriously by any other reader–except maybe other disrespectful reviewers.

      DNFing is also something I didn’t really do before blogging, now I realize I have way too many books to waste time on one I hate. BUT, sometimes I do like the book because I think I know where it’s going and by the time I’m 60% in I realize I don’t like it, in that case I may finish it if I already put a few hours into reading it at least to be able to review and voice my opinion on it. This depends how much I hate it though.

      You’re also right with a review being OUR opinion, although it does help author readers get a bit mire intel on the book itself, it shouldn’t make an author go into depression to see negative reviews. It will happen, I know some people who read things they KNOW they will hate just to write snark–which is fine if they want to waste their time with that but whatever it’s just to say if you think your book will and should not get negative reviews then you’re going to get a real wake up call. I’ve had to deal with an author recently who thought exactly that. She asked a blogger I know to not post her negative review because it would “hurt her novel’s prospects”–her words. And you know what I think? NOT posting is it what’s hurting the novel’s prospects. Hopefully she’ll learn this before it’s too late.

  8. Mel@Thedailyprophecy

    You know what, I actually don’t feel THAT guilty over a negative review. It’s not that I don’t like the author anymore, it’s just that the book didn’t work out for me. Negative review is still a review and it will make other people pick it up anyway. I have read many books because of negative reviews: I was interested to see if I would like it or they hated exactly the things I love in a book 🙂 The fact that I don’t like it doesn’t make it a bad book. Everybody is entitled tho his own opinion and if I don’t like a book, another blogger can totally love it. I do believe in writing a constructive, nice negative review. I like to read snarky reviews, but I’m not the right person to write such a thing.

    • Giselle

      That’s awesome! It was much worse at the beginning for me, I still feel–well I guess I feel bad for them more than guilty you’re right. I don’t feel guilt–I didn’t do anything wrong. But I do feel bad I guess. And I agree it does not make it a bad book if some people don’t like it.

  9. Tammy Sparks

    The more experience I get reviewing books, the more honest I am becoming. When I first started blogging and I was mostly reviewing indies, at least half of them were truly horrible, and read like first drafts. I definitely added a star to those reviews because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings. But I’ve developed a tougher shell, and even with traditionally published books that I just don’t like, I give the book the rating it deserves, but try and find something nice to say about every book I read. As long as your review comes across as “constructive criticism” I don’t think the author will be hurt by a bad review.

    • Giselle

      Blogging will do that, give us a backbone to be brutally honest sometimes lol. It’s good to also point out the good with the bad. If you actually finished a book there must be SOMETHING that got you to read it to the end.

  10. Kelly

    I don’t think I feel guilty, as much as I worry that when I email the author to let them know it didn’t go well, I’m going to get into an “author behaving badly” situation. I try to be fair in my negative reviews, even if I’m sometimes harsh, and I know that would be hard to read for the author.

    • Giselle

      Yes me too! I have luckily not had that happen yet but it seems to be more and more common. It’s also the reason why I don’t accept very many review requests anymore.

  11. Michelle Davidson Argyle

    I’ve read many, many reviews of my work that are negative. You know what’s interesting, though? I haven’t run across one reviewer you work with who says negative things in a negative way. There’s a way to review something you don’t like and not make it sound mean. That’s why I came here for you to do my tour, Giselle. You didn’t overly love The Breakaway, but your review was honest and nothing about it made me feel bad. I did a guest post the other day as part of the Pieces tour that addresses this very issue and an experience where I had to face a reader who HATED my work and told me so right to my face in a book club. You can find the post here: http://www.basiasbookshelf.com/guest-post-a-memorable-experience-by-michelle-davidson-argyle/

    Even though I try to have a good attitude about negative reviews, it’s still, very, very hard. Sometimes I wonder why I keep up in this author career when it’s so hard, but it’s the writing I can’t leave behind, so I keep going. 🙂

    • Giselle

      Love an author output and I wish more thought like you! I know a lot do but others lash out and they’re the ones we mostly hear about, sadly. I’m going to have to hear that post, I feel bad posting a negative review from miles away I can’t imagine saying it right to their faces. O_O

      I’m sure it is hard I can’t even imagine (I could never be an author!), but don’t ever quit because 1) you’re fabulous, and 2) every single author out there is getting just as many negative reviews. Look at 50 Shades of Grey! She gets 1 awful review for every 1 positive, and she’s loaded and famous! Haha.

    • Michelle Davidson Argyle

      I could never deal with that kind of celebrity/fame status as an author. I’d totally turn hermit and hide away from the world, lol. That would be easier to do with a lot of money, though, so maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. 🙂

    • Michelle Davidson Argyle

      LOL, Fiji! Also, I think I’m going to write a post about this over on my blog. I get a lot of authors over there and I think it’s important for them to see that professional, honest reviewers like yourself find it just as hard to write a negative review as it is for an author to read one. I think a lot of authors have some ingrained image in their head of reviewers laughing maliciously as they write something negative. Some might, but I don’t think it’s the norm.

  12. Amy

    Well said Giselle!! I don’t mind writing negative reviews. I don’t like to have to, but it happens. Luckily for me, I am really impatient, so if I’m not really liking a book, I won’t finish it leading to less negative reviews from me. Though, sometimes I have hope that it will get better and it just doesn’t. The only thing I can do is try to say what I don’t like respectfully and honestly, but I also try to point out the good things too. I think that authors expect it. Like you said, not everyone will like every book. Great post babe!

    • Giselle

      Bahaha I’m all for DNFing!! 😀 I love that you’re not afraid to rate it critically, I see 3 stars from you often and it’s why I always trust your opinion, know you’re not there to please anyone but to be honest and that’s what blogging is for. It’s also why we’re soulmates and all! 😀

    • Amy

      I always think that I have so many 3-5 stars and nothing much less, but that’s just because I don’t waste my time if I think it’s going to be suckish. Unless it’s a quick read or I think it might get better usually anything less that a 3 will get DNF’d lol!!

  13. Emily

    I feel really bad writing a negative review as well. One thing in your post caught my eye though and I have a question about it. It’s about how you email the author (or publisher) your negative review. I’ve been blogging for over a year now, but I only send in my positive reviews. If I get a book for review, should I send in the review regardless of my rating? I’m sorry to bother you, I’m just wondering. Thank you 🙂

    • Giselle

      If I get the book for review from either the pub or author I send them a link to my review once it’s posted regardless of the rating. I know some publishers keep track of the fact that we review what they sent or not, and I don’t want them to wonder why I never reviewed what they bothered to send me. I also know that publishers appreciate getting a book reviewed even if it’s negative–they’re a little more realistic when it comes to reviews, they know negative can be a good thing, too. (I’ve even had a publisher TWEET one of my 2 stars once!, not an RT either). With direct author requests there’s always the risk of getting backlash from a pissed off author which we’ve all heard about especially lately, but they will see your review regardless anyways, but I just always like to “pay my dues” and let them know I did read/review what they sent me. I think author requests it may be a bit less important, but I now some publishers do keep track and they might wonder why you never reviewed a certain book.

  14. Jenni @ Alluring Reads

    Perfect answer! I totally agree with you. The negative reviews are just as important as the positive one. And I like you you spinned negative reviews to be a positive thing for the authors, you cheeky little bugger! But it’s totally true, negative reviews let people know what they are getting themselves into and whether to turn away or not. And I know with my negative reviews I am able to go into much more detail than with positive reviews, I don’t know why that is. I guess it’s easier for me to articulate what I don’t like than what I do so in my negative reviews people probably get a more intricate look at the book.

    • Giselle

      Hah I didn’t sneak it in, it’s true! I remember you wanted to read a book because of a negative review! The person had said it was gross or weird or something and you were like YES!! So shut it!

      Negative reviews are actually fun to write because we’re more passionate about our opinions than a 3 stars. I have as much fun to write my positive reviews though it just all pours out like love! >.<

    • Kathy Ann Coleman

      I strongly agree with the fact that it can be much easier to explain precisely why I *didn’t* care for something then to explain how amazing something I totally loved was without sacrificing credibility and making the review end up useless. “So good! So good! So good!” really doesn’t help anyone. 😉 However, I make it a personal rule not to review something if I can’t say *something* good about it, much like I would not critique work for another writer without telling both the good and the bad.

  15. Midnyte Reader

    I feel guilty for every negative thing I say about a book…well except for a few books out there. But I wouldn’t change my opinion if I was talking to a friend about a book…so I don’t do it on my blog because that’s what my blog is for — to talk to people about books.

  16. Jenea Whittington

    When I first start blogging/reviewing I was so afraid to do negative reviews for fear, maybe the author or publicist wouldn’t send me anymore books. But that wasn’t the case at all. I got an email from one thanking me even though I didn’t care for the book. I see reviews for books that I didn’t like and they got rave reviews from others, and then books that I loved, got low ratings. Not everyone has the same taste and things we look we look for in a story. As long as a review is honest, and respectful, there is nothing wrong with a negative review.

  17. Sirtsu

    I agree with you! If handled with respect and honesty, a negative review is not a bad thing. If the author is your friend and you actually don’t enjoy one’s book that much, you actually make one a favor, because if you are friends and the critique is honest, then he/she won’t mind and will actually take that into account. I think it’s a bigger problem for people who have so many followers like you, Jenni, Amy, Valerie etc, because so many people follow you and take your advice and thoughts into consideration and they may purchase or not purchase that book based on your review. Still, we all blog for ourselves and our readers, as you pointed out and most of us see more than one reviews out there for that same book so one can always go and look up some different opinions. Also, negative ones from the people I trust to give great recommendations and from people whom I have similar taste in books with save me money, lol. Oh, and Jenni is right, it’s easier to write a more negative review than a positive one. How many times can you say it’s perfect anyway? *eye roll* I really enjoyed your discussion and that gossip girl thing-y, suits for this meme perfectly!

  18. Molli

    I feel guilty most times when I write a negative review. But in the end, I always try hard to be honest. And you know… negative does NOT equal author bashing or book bashing. Negative is constructive criticism in my opinion. There’s a line.

    “I didn’t like this book and I had trouble finishing it” is fine. “I don’t think this book should have been published,” is a little mean. “I hope that something bad happens to the author,” is NOT acceptable. There are all forms of “negativity” and some of them have this terrible stigma of the person being negative being this TERRIBLE person. Not true. You can be negative and still be classy. And as long as we remember that, we shouldn’t feel guilty, or consider changing our reviews.

    Agreed though, it is the WORST when you get to know an author, then you read their book and find it lacking. That happened recently to me and I was crushed. Writing that review was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I did it.

    Fantastic post, Giselle!

  19. Christina (Christinareadsya)

    Do you feel guilty writing a negative review?

    Yes. It’s usually just a little bit, like a hint, but there’s this one review that makes me feel guilty just thinking about it. The author was someone who I’d invited to my college to speak to us about writing and plots and whatnot, and we didn’t have the greatest attendance rate, but she was so nice! And approachable! And everything. She didn’t cost a lot of money, she was easy to work with, etc. etc. It was an all around pleasant experience. Of course, some things could have been done differently, but nothing to be done about that now, right? Anyway, when I heard about her YA debut in March, I marked my calendar and jumped on an ARC tour. She talked a bit about her book, so she had gotten me excited, but maybe I had too high of expectations. I still don’t know. My friend, who helped me organize the event, also felt disappointed with the book. And I wrote the review as a conversation between the two of us, and now it’s up there in the Google searches for the book, which makes me feel even worse. I know that I write reviews for other readers, other bloggers, etc. But it’s still like meeting her has amplified that guilt, you know? Even if I’ve done nothing wrong by disliking her book and being honest about it.

    (Maybe this is also me saying that I don’t know how to deal with the guilt except to avoid it? lol. That’s life.)

  20. Christina

    Hahaha. Where would we be without friends? Drunk is a hilarious answer. Oddly enough, it might also be where we are with friends.

    Ugh, the friends with an author and then hating their book thing is the freaking worst. I try not to befriend any authors on twitter anymore, unless I’ve already read and liked one of their books.

    Oh god I hate sending those emails to the author. “BY THE WAY, I HATED IT. But thanks for the review copy. Best of luck writing better in the future!”

    You know, part of me really wants to be a writer, but, in blogging, I’ve really been able to get a sense of what the job is actually like, and I don’t think it’s something I want to do. The whole thing would just destroy my hard-built self-esteem. Now, if a story comes to me and I have to write it, I will, but I’m not going to push myself unduly. I don’t think I have the backbone to handle publishing. Though I certainly wouldn’t yell at reviewers on their blogs. I’d just get drunk and cry to my best friend.

  21. ilona

    I’m still a very new reviewer and haven’t many followers but, for their sake, I try and always give an honest review regardless of who I know. That way any guilt is negligible because I am being honest for those who want my opinion. Besides if the author is a true friend they will want an honest review as well.

  22. Jesse Burgoyne

    This is exactly what is in my brain whenever I write a negative review! Yes it sucks that you have to tell an author that you didn’t enjoy their book, but they asked you to review it (in cases of review requests). They should know what they were signing up for. It doesn’t help anyone to have a million 5 star reviews on goodreads and blogs or wherever. When I’m deciding whether to read a book (request or just for pleasure) I actually scan the reviews on goodreads first. I look how many positive reviews there are, but I usually only stop to read the negative ones. If their complaints sound like something that doesn’t really bother me I’ll read the book. If they sound like something that would drive me crazy, I skip it. So I sort of think by giving a book a negative review in helping someone like me decide to read it.

    But my negative reviews never rip apart the book in any sense. I praise what I enjoyed but make it clear what I didn’t. I’m all about honestly discussing my feelings about books. And if I can’t do that without harshly criticizing the book or the author’s talents as a writer than I have to respectfully DNF. I came across a book (a review request) when I first strted blogging that was so poorly written (to the point if misusing words over and over again) that I just couldn’t review it. I could post online how terrible it was knowing that this author had put so much effort into their story and that I had absolutely nothing nice to say about it at all. That was the only time I can remember when I couldn’t post a negative review because I felt bad about it.

    Jesse @ Pretty In Fiction

  23. Kristen Williams

    Wonderful post…and very relevant. I’ve just started my journey as a blogger and I’ve not had to rate an author I’m ‘friends’ with a low score just yet…but I know that time will come. I am pretty well dreading how that will make me feel but like you say…we do this for the readers. And a book can’t be 5 stars for everyone.

  24. Brooke Banks

    OMG. Giselle, thank you. I was saying and actually writing something like this to post on my blog just yesterday. It’s so nice to see you and others agreeing and talking about it! There’s so many blogs where I don’t see any negative reviews and some explicitly don’t post negative reviews.

    I understand some reviewers are harsher in their negative reviews than others, which as long as there isn’t personal attacks or slurs, I have no problem with. For all the drama over negative reviews I haven’t seen a single one bash an author. I’ve seen things like “this is the worst book ever” but that’s just another subjective statement about what that person has read. Would it suck to read that as an author? Sure, but it’s not about being nice – it’s about being honest and some are just more dramatic in expressing themselves. *shrug* Authors and reviewers put themselves out there when writing and making it public, so you really have to be able to suck it up and understand nothing is universally loved.

    I worry far more than I feel guilty when writing a negative reviews now because I don’t want backlash. There’s a lot of that going around unfortunately, no matter how nicely the review is written. My most recent low star review actually turned out to be a positive experience. The author emailed me to ask for my specific spoiler issues, which I didn’t post in the review. We ended up having a wonderful conversation and she was extremely appreciative for the feedback. I was already planning on reading the next book in her series since the end of the first book made me actually want to continue the series.

    Now after the nice conversation we had, I’m not really worried about reviewing the next book. I feel assured because I know she isn’t going to hold it against me if I don’t like it. That’s the thing – if there weren’t badly behaving authors and backlash, there probably wouldn’t be such guilt and worry about posting negative reviews. Authors, and bloggers/reviewers, stepping out and not staying silent and/or condoning the backlash against critical reviews would be a step in the right direction.

  25. Maji Bookshelf

    I definetly agree with you.. I actually felt guilty when meeting an author I rated her/his book low. but I agree, the worst thing is when you know the author and become good friends with BEFORE their book is out. But like you said, we write reviews for potential readers.. not authors nor publishers. Great post, this is a much needed reminder for bloggers, especially ones who feel guilty about writing a bad review.

    I know some reviewers who barely write a bad review, some who even choose NOT to write a review of a book they hated because it is a “negative review”.

    great post,
    – Juhina @ Maji Bookshelf

  26. @HarleyBearBooks

    I agree. As long as your tasteful about your review and not bashing I think negative reviews can be positive. Like you said you read a book because you liked the things the other person didn’t happen to enjoy. And it goes the other way too. It’s saving the author from having other negative reviews being posted about their book. If you read a neg review and you know you’d def not enjoy it then you won’t read it and post a negative review yourself. great post!

  27. Megan R

    Great post Giselle! I remember having this problem with one of my first review books from Netgalley. I still feel bad, but authors need to learn not to take negative reviews personally. I don’t dislike them as a person but because I wasn’t crazy about their book.

  28. Michelle

    I kind of almost like it when I don’t like a book that I bought myself or got from the library because then I can write whatever I think about it without feeling bad. When I get a book from an author or as part of a blog tour I feel really guilty if I don’t like the book. I try to be honest but then I also feel like I have to try to find that little ray of sunshine to make it not sound so bad. Is that lying? I don’t know. I want to be honest, but I don’t want to hurt people’s feeling and make them not like me. I review for my readers, but it’s damn hard to keep it 100% real when I’m reviewing for request. The longer I blog, I’m sure the better I will get at it. Cool discussion topic!

  29. Candace

    This is a great subject to discuss because I think we have probably all had this happen. Because I tend to DNF fairly easy I don’t have a lot of bad reviews on my blog. It’s usually 3 stars or better because I just stop reading if I’m not liking it. Therefore I just have the problem of telling the author that I DNF’d it. It’s hard. But I do agree that constructive negative reviews are actually good. And telling the author what we have issues with helps them in the future. It’s usually hardest when it’s an author we don’t real well and are afraid of their reaction. I have had them say “Have you READ the reviews for this book?” and yeah, I have read the ten 5 star reviews on amazon but I would say that those ten reviews might just be from friends and family, they don’t mean much to me. I’m much more likely to pick up a book that only has a few reviews if there are some less positive ones out there. I like to know what people’s negatives are, because like you said, what they DIDN’T like might be something I DO like.

  30. speculatef

    Another great topic! I love that you girls have decided to be so candid about this, because it’s something every blogger goes through at some point.

    I remember the first negative review I gave for an ARC – the publicist got back to me saying most of the reviewers had had similar views. And once I criticised a book on not explaining the world’s history and cultural background well enough, and it prompted the author to write a blog post including a bunch of world-building from early drafts that she had excluded later.

    Like you, I agree that negative reviews can help readers decide what they want to read, and help authors write better books in the long run. I have also read a book because someone I read a negative review but thought I’d love it for the same reasons that person disliked it.

    Much love,
    Shaheen @ Speculating on SpecFic.

  31. Ellen C.

    Enjoyed your post! As an author, I wouldn’t mind negative reviews as long as they were helpful and/or constructive, not just mean or snarky. So far I haven’t had any bad ones, but one gal didn’t like first-person novels and thought my NA mystery novel (FLAPPERS, FLASKS AND FOUL PLAY) had too much profanity and gave me only three stars. But it was the best three-star review I’ve ever read so I was pleased!
    I used to review novels for a big-city paper and I understand the temptation to write only positive reviews. In fact, my only really negative review was never printed. But I always tried to include the things I liked along with the parts I didn’t.
    Thanks and keep up the good work, bloggers!

  32. Maji Bookshelf

    oh boy, YES i feel super guilty!! Especially if I keep fangirling over the book on twitter like a gazillion times, and then it turns out to be a disappointment. For me, I dont rate it higher, but I do mention the things that would have made this book a more enjoyable one for me. At least that might be helpful information for the author while writing her next book? Maybe, maybe not. But yes, it totally sucks!
    – Farah @ MajiBookshelf

  33. Kaede

    It is very hard to review negatively, especially if your on good terms with the author. There was one time where I was talking to an author on twitter and I mentioned that I really liked the beginning of her book and she asked me to send her a link to my review. I was all for it…until I realized I wasn’t liking the rest of the book. Oh how I debated if I should’ve clicked send on that link. But in the end I did. I made a promise, and I knew that honesty was better than anything else I could’ve offered her as an author. It was really hard writing that review and I asked myself more than once if it was worth it. But when readers started to thank me for being truthful and even the author gave me her gratitude for my honesty, and saying that mu review inspired her to improve, I knew it was worth it.

    This post is wonderful, darling. I wish more people have the same kind of mindset as you do. It’s not about compromising when it comes down to it as a reviewer. It’s about acknowledging that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and feelings, and that you should be proud you have something to say, whether positive or negative.

    And I mean, DNFs FOR THE WIN. I don’t know where I’d be if I have the resolution and resolve to finish every book I start, especially those I don’t like. I also admire those who can. But DNFing, while some people say I don’t give books a fair chance, spares me from writing a negative review. Although negative reviews do prove creditability, I don’t take pleasure in reading bashful reviews, especially about the author. I love snarky reviews, but I think there’s always that line you shouldn’t cross. I’m a firm believer in trying to make your review at least respectful.

    But in the end I’m going back to saying that really, this was a fantastic post. xoxo

  34. Ashley S

    I’ve only been blogging since August and I feel bad when I rate a two and have to talk about WHY I gave it that ratiing, or what I didn’t like. Mainly because no one likes to hear negative things about something they worked so hard on. So I tend to choose my words carefully, read and reread my review before I post to make sure i dont seem mean or like im picking on anyone, and try to make it constructive. But I’m always honest in my opinion of why gave that rating and while writing my review.

  35. Bellas Bookshelf

    I once signed on to review a book “sold” to me as YA Para-Romance. I was about 1 month old in blogging. I was a little put off by this book. I was honestly surprised ppl liked this book. It was quite offensive. I had to “man up” and be honest. She wasn’t happy, but I was miserable trying to force a good review out of myself when it was a lie. I said I will never put myself in that spot again. It made me scared to write neg reviews so I avoid them now. My experience made it so I’d rather avoid any uncomfortable situations.
    On the flip side if I say I like it, I honestly like it. I can’t let all 4 of my loyal daily visitors down ( 3 of which are my 2 dogs and cat) lolz.

    Seriously though, I enjoyed this article a lot and enjoyed reading everyone’s personal experiences and thought son the matter.

    Have a wonderful Friday 🙂

    • Bellas Bookshelf

      Fear and a bad experience shaped me when it came to writing negative reviews. I am scared of angering someone, not saying it correctly and being misunderstood, etc. etc. The list is endless. Honestly, it is insecurity. I am slowly getting over it. I will add something “negative” in each review to make myself comfortable with the whole constructive criticism, sharing my feelings about what I didn’t like thing. It’s not as bad I once thought. Angry authors haven’t stormed my home with torches and pitchforks either. Yet. lolz. As I write more reviews I will get in my groove and nail down my technique. For now I am getting my feet wet and learning from my mistakes by reading and asking questions and making those mistakes too.

  36. Kristilyn (Reading In Winter)

    I think it depends on my relationship to the author on whether or not I feel really guilty about a negative review. Luckily, I haven’t had too many scenarios like this, but I’m glad that the authors have always been understanding.

    Really, I don’t mind sharing low reviews because it’s MY OPINION. I hope that I can give my own reasons for disliking a book — while not bashing the author — and I hope that when people read that review, they can still have an open mind about the book.

    I think that negative reviews can be really helpful … I mean, if someone gives a book a negative because of a love triangle and they don’t LIKE love triangles, someone who DOES like them can benefit from that! You never know!

    Great post, Giselle!

  37. TerriBruce

    As an author this is one of my greatest fears – that someone I’ve become friendly with doesn’t like one of my books and starts hiding from me rather than telling me the truth. I would hate for someone to be so uncomfortable telling me the truth that they broke off the friendship – to me, the friendship/person is more important than that we agree on everything (including the fact that I am perfect in every way and never, ever make mistakes, miss the mark, or jump the shark 🙂 ). Yes, it smarts when someone doesn’t like your book, even more when it’s someone whose opinion you respect and who you want to impress, but I would never want someone to feel like they couldn’t tell me the truth. Knowing I had made someone feel bad or uncomfortable about their honest opinion would make me feel worse than the disappointment of a bad review/not living up to their expectations.

  38. Nereyda @Mostly YA Book Obsessed

    The only time I have to read is my 1 hour lunch and 1 hour at night after the girls have gone to sleep and I finish everything I have to do. My TBR list is scary big with so many books I want to read that I refuse to read a book I am not going to love. I start a lot of boos and don’t make it past 50 pages. I sometimes go back and try them again and some of them I end up liking the second time around. Vampire Academy, Some Girls, and Succubus Blues I had to stop reading and come back to them and they ended up my all time favorite series.
    Negative (I don’t mean bashing) reviews don’t bother me though and some make me want to read the book even more. All the reviews I read of people calling Beautiful Disaster the worst book ever is what made me want to read it. The one star reviews also made me want to read Captive in the Dark by CJ Roberts.
    Great post! I also like your DNF posts a while ago, hope to see more of those 🙂

  39. Sarah Elizabeth

    I feel guilty, but I also can’t bring myself to recommend a book that I don’t like. I try to include positive points as well as negative points even in the books I don’t like, but I won’t outright lie.
    What annoys me is when as author gets nasty or starts arguing with you over a review – I’ve been told ‘don’t publish your review, it contains spoilers’ – if something happens before 8% of the way in, I think I should be able to mention it! and also ‘but it has 20 5* reviews!’ that’s great, I’m glad other people liked it, but I didn’t. I’m in the minority I know, but not everyone will like your book!
    Does anyone else get these arguments?

    • Giselle

      Oh yeah I’ve seen some pretty ridiculous arguments! The most recent was an author asking a blogger not to post her negative review because it would hurt her novel’s prospects. She honestly believed only positive reviews should ever be posted and when the blogger didn’t remove it she called them unprofessional!

  40. Jennifer

    THIS. It happened to me recently. It is so hard. And I do struggle with writing a negative review when I have befriended the author, because I write and constructing and writing a book is so hard. However, in the end of the day, I always try to remain honest. You have to, like you said, us bloggers do reviews for other readers who trust our opinions and are looking to find books that they will like.

    I think the most important thing is to remain critical of the book while writing the review and not the author. Author’s should never get mad at a negative review. We all have different reading tastes as people and not everyone is gonna like your work. Even classics that are beloved by many, are critiqued and hated by others.

    And there is a way to critique a book where it doesn’t come across as mean. If you are honest about the things you don’t like about a book, you should be fine.

    Interesting post, Giselle. Thanks for sharing!

    Jennifer @ Dream Reads

  41. Lyn Kaye

    Giselle, I am fighting this battle right now. A very sweet author reached out to me and asked me to read her book. I downloaded it, very excited and anxious to read it.
    I don’t like it. It isn’t terrible, but I don’t see myself giving it above a 2 star rating.

    I stopped reading it, because I struggle with this issue. I feel terrible, and I also feel like a fake because I’m ignoring it over posting my thoughts.

    The guilt it just terrible.

  42. Sarah Johnson

    Great post, Giselle. I think every blogger faces this at one time or another when it comes to giving an honest review for an author friend. I’ll feel terrible, but I don’t want to lie about it. I feel like being honest about books is what makes us reviewers.

  43. Micheline D

    Brilliant, insightful & well-written post – I am applauding at my laptop because this is just so perfect. You really said it all here: we are here to share our thoughts on books to OTHER readers. I haven’t had to deal with this too much so far, because I still tend to just read what I really want to read, but it is never fun to write a negative review. Even worse if you have any kind of a relationship with the author. But no one can write a book EVERYONE will love, it’s just NOT going to happen so in the end we should all just try to write our own honest thoughts and remember why we review. Thanks for this awesome post Giselle ♥

  44. Alexa Y.

    Writing negative reviews is definitely a tough thing to do, but I believe it’s possible and necessary. Being honest about how you feel about a book is always the best way to go, and I strive to do that with each of my review posts. I think that’s something book bloggers in general ought to remember – that writing negative reviews is OKAY and not necessarily an awful, mean, spiteful thing. It’s merely honest.

  45. Lizzy

    I don’t typically feel bad over a negative review…unless I LOVE the author. If I’m a fangirl and I hate the book, I just feel like crying. I’m so disappointed and then I’m also embarrassed because I’ve been hyping up a book that’s crap. The last time I did this was with Christopher Pike. It was so hard to 2 star his book, I mean…I’m even part of his Facebook fan club. I felt so bad, but I had to be honest.