Monday, July 19, 2010

To Negative Review Or Not. That is the question…

In previous posts we’ve discussed how important it is for readers to put up reviews for the books they like because people do buy based on word of mouth more than anything. But what about negative reviews?
Inevitably, when you read a lot of books you will read plenty of bad ones. Some books start well, but by the time I hit the end I feel like saying, “I read 300 pages for that?” Other books are so bad I can’t make it past the halfway point. That’s just the way the book universe is.
But I should I leave a negative review on those book? My answer more often than not is, no. I might have very definitive tastes on what is and is not good writing when I’m reading, but when it comes to criticizing that writing publicly I tend to look at the situation as a writer.

After all, I know firsthand (and from the mouths of several of my fellow writers) that we can get very emotionally attached to our work and negative reviews tend to hit hard. But even more than the emotional side, I have to think of in terms of their sales too. Why should I threaten another author’s sales by publicly saying I don’t like their books when there are plenty of people who would read that book and like it just fine? Some of the worse books I’ve ever read are bestseller. If people like their books, that’s fine with me. Just don’t ask me to agree. ;)

Now, I am NOT talking about books that I dislike because they are immoral. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with bringing up those issues. But in general, if it’s just a personal opinion I have about the type of writing or story I find it better to leave it alone. I might discuss what I don’t like about the book on this blog, but I try not to name the title or the author.
HONESTLY, the reviews that irk me the worst are the ones that boil down to, “Yeah, I liked it, but it wasn’t the best book I’ve ever read.” Sorry, but that’s just lame! It’s like talking for the sake of talking without thinking about what type of an impact it might have. I often want to ask those people, “If you were the author, would you appreciate that comment?”
So, I simply say, if you don’t have anything nice to say just leave it alone. ;)
What about you? Do you think we should leave negative reviews? If so, why?

13 comments:

Julia M. Reffner said...

Great question. I'm not a published author, but I hope to be. Having met many authors online, I do try to keep feelings into account. Also, I think opinions are so subjective, so I try to keep things on the positive. I may mention a difficulty I have with a book but I also try to mention a particular person who might enjoy the same book. I recently heard from an author who said someone called her books "scum." That in my mind is totally disrespectful and unacceptable.

Emily Ann Benedict said...

Julia: I agree, it's good to be balanced. Sometimes the fact that I don't like a book automatically means someone I know will like the book because I know our tastes are so different. LOL
And I do entirely agree that calling someone's book "scum" is completely unacceptable!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

I think there's a difference between negative and constructive. If I were a multi-published author, I would still hate to read a review that said my story stunk and they (a reader) never want to read a book of mine again. On the other hand, if they wrote something about how they didn't enjoy the book as much as others I'd written because the genre was a little different or I did something different with the writing style, then I'd want to know. It's about pleasing your readers, too, right? And their feedback is helpful.

I also believe that if you're going to write a review, say at least one nice thing that might help so other readers know something they may enjoy about the book. This because we all have different tastes. The only review that I ever gave that I got a little flack for was a review on a Christian book that had very few Christian themes. In fact, I felt that representing it as a Christian book was almost a misrepresentation and I said that in my review. I thought it was important for other readers to know that if they were buying this book because they thought it had Christian themes, then they weren't getting what they thought they were buying. Not everyone agreed with me, but I don't regret the review I wrote.

Brianna said...

I agree; I don't think it's necessary to post a negative review of a book in public unless its content is immoral, inappropriate, or scripturally incorrect. I think it would be okay to discuss your dislike of a particular book with friends, but not in public or online. One of the things I have always feared about being a published author one day is negative reviews, and I sincerely hope there won't be any! (It's kinda nice to know other writers are as sensitive about their work as I tend to be.)

Angie said...

I've been pondering this issue, and I think you're right. No need to bash somebody's work just because you didn't like it. I think just not reviewing the book would be the best way to go.

Karen said...

If it's a book I didn't like, I will only say something negative that is minor, but won't uplift the book. I guess you could call it a flat review. I DO understand how hard writers work, and I'd rather encourage....

Jill Kemerer said...

If people want to read negative reviews about a book, all they have to do is check the Amazon comments for it! I don't review books on my site, but I wouldn't review one negatively. It's just not who I am.

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Emily, this is exactly why I don't think authors should review books at all. I know not everyone agrees with me, but I think we need honest reviews--constructive criticism--to help improve us. That's different from a mean-spirited attack. The problem is that most of us authors are not objective enough about books, and also, we have personal ties to other authors, which may influence our reviews. So I choose not to review fiction on my blog, to avoid what I see as a conflict of interest. I will review non-fiction, as I have fewer ties there, though I still don't do it often.

We don't see directors and producers in the film industry setting up shop as reviewers. They know they need objective opinions if people are going to trust reviewers when they're about to go see a movie.

Just my two cents!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Emily -

This is a hot-button issue in the Christian community.

Personally, I give book recommendations rather than book reviews. If I have concerns about a book, I'd be better off approaching the author with a kind, but fair critique. I've done this on occasion.

Companies that make products appreciate it when a consumer approaches them with a problem. It gives them an opportunity to correct it. Often, they'll send a free coupon and a thank you letter.
Perhaps we should take this approach with authors and books.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Emily Ann Benedict said...

Cindy: I agree, constructive comments can be very helpful to authors, though I question the desire to make those comments public. Especially if the opinion might be a matter of taste. :)
It sounds like the review you wrote, however, might have been addressing a more serious issue than just an opinion on writing style.

Brianna: Writers do have to learn the art of thick skin. ;) It's good to learn the difference between opinion and comments that can actually make your writing better. :)

Angie: Yes, some things are better left unsaid...is that a word? LOL

Karen: It is hard to know when to say something! I think we'd all prefer to be kind. :)

Jill: I know! Sometimes I think the people who write reviews on Amazon are just terrible. ;) But there are some there that can be helpful. I usually just brush over the "I hated it" because their reasons are often just personal. ;)

Rosslyn: Thanks for your two cents! :) I do agree, authors must be very careful. I prefer to keep the "reviews" I do in the vein of featuring authors I like because I want to help get the word about their book out there. :)

Susan: I think approaching the author, instead of making a public complaint, is a much more responsible approach. :)

Kara said...

For books, I'll stick to only good reviews. I think if I don't like something that is my opinion, someone else might love it. Now things like customer service, repair work etc., I have no problem letting people know if I was unhappy:)

Emily Ann Benedict said...

Kara: I will agree with you on customer service. After all, that often deals with whether or not someone is coming into your home. ;)

Cara said...

I mostly have used reviews for when I'm buying how-to and self-help type of books... I have found both positive and negative reviews to be very helpful, because the positive ones generally outline what the book is, and the negative ones what the book is not. Helps me get a much better picture of what the book is all about and if it's what I was looking for. Having said that, I certainly don't want any writer's to feel bad because of a negative review, and for their sakes could survive without them. :D Also, the kind of negative reviews that I am referring to are always more of a 'this-wasn't-really-what-I-was-looking-for-and-here's-why' type of review, rather than a 'I-don't-like-this-book' type of review. (I don't know if that is any easier on the writer or not.
As far as sales... I don't know, but I would think it would be a good thing (at least theoretically! lol) to have perhaps less customers overall, but with a higher percentage of them who are satisfied because they were able to make an educated decision when purchasing. Which (theoretically) would lead to the happy satisfied customers telling their friends about the book... which would eventually lead to more sales... theoretically. (Sorry, I know a lot of theoretics running around there.) :P ;)

As far as fiction goes... I'm with you, unless there are actual issues with the content of the book that people may like to be aware of, I don't know that negative reviews are really necessary.

This may just be a record-breaking comment length-wise!