Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What About Negative Reviews?

Yesterday's post, Is Asking For Books Offensive?, got a good turnout in responses. I suggest reviewers (and authors) go check it out -- there are some great perspectives from both sides over there!

Anyway, on yesterday's thread, Melissa Walker posted this:

The one thing I wonder is: If I send the book to a reviewer, do they feel like they HAVE to give it a positive review?

(read full comment here)

Which got me thinking about making another post for reviewers and authors to discuss.

: Does receiving a book from an author (or publicist) make you feel an obligation to review it favorably? What's your experience been like?

Authors: If you (or your publicist) send a reviewer your book, do you expect to receive a positive review? What's your experience been like?

Again, feel free to post anonymously if you would like to conceal your identity.


Steph said...

My own experience:

50% of all my reviews are A-grades, but that's only because most of them were written for books I already owned and reviewed before I began receiving offers. My site is rigged with warnings about how I do post negative reviews (and they can be quite snarky, especially D and F territory ones). Most authors who've offered me books in recent history have some way or another mentioned, jokingly, how they're afraid of what I might say but how they're expecting honest. I really could not have picked a better selection of people hoping for me to review their book. So in some ways, I think authors who offer ME don't expect fluffy, nicey-nice. Not most of them, anyway.

That said, I do feel bad when I post a negative review of a book I received. (Less so when it's from a publicist and I just requested it -- the publicists I deal with are quite awesome and aren't offended by negative reviews whatsoever.) Because in some ways, I do feel like I cheated an author--they provide me with a copy all nice and neat and I turn around and say I didn't really like it? Not my idea of fun.

But then... I want my reviews to always be sincere. So I want the authors who have received positive ratings from me to not for a second doubt that I was just making it up to please them. How do I ensure that's always the case? I go with honesty.


Amee said...

I already answered this in the comments after Melissa asked so I'll just copy and paste it again here:

In answer to Melissa's question, I feel so horrible giving bad reviews but feel that it would be wrong to lie about a book. I have given a couple negative reviews and said some negative things in my mostly positive reviews and hated it each time. I don't want to hurt the author's feelings but it is truly nothing personal. Although I've decided not to post any negative reviews for books I didn't receive for the purpose of reviewing. If I bought it myself, I just won't review it. I can only hurt so many people's feelings. It's like having to tell someone their puppy died. It's horrible.

Anonymous said...

Well, what I really want is the reviewer to be honest. Many times, so it goes, a bad review will sell more books than a good one, because of the nature of human beings and their morbid curiosity. I love good reviews, who doesn't?

I've sent my books to lots of reviewers, and most have been favorable. One, out of all of them, was completely wretched. But I could see her point of view. I don't expect five-stars all the time, just happy for an honest opinion.

And I don't think it's rude for reviewers to ask for an author's book. It shows there was something there that interested the reviewer.

Anonymous said...

...said the girl who can't spell her own name...

(at least I got the url right!)

Anonymous said...

Like Ambeen, I answered Melissa's question in the previous entry. So I'll copy and paste here and add on a little bit:

In answer to Melissa's question, I never feel obligated to give a book a good review just because I got it from the author or the publisher. I never let personal feelings get in the way of my reviewing. I'm a very easy person to please, so it's not a huge shock that I'll love everything that I come across. If something does bug me, I'll point it out but I have yet to read a book for my reviewing that I absolutely hate, or cannot finish. And if I do come across a book like that, then I will let my blog readers know about it.

My experience has been good although, as I mentioned in my Class of 2k8 interview, Alexa Young kept trying to get me to say something bad about her novel after I gave it a glowing review, lol. But other than that, with the negative aspects I sometimes talk about in my review, the authors are receptive to them. None have ever gotten mad at all.

Can't wait to read other peoples' comments- these are some interesting discussions you've got going on, Steph. Keep 'em coming!

Anonymous said...

I did once get a review that made me wish I hadn't gone out of my way to send my book to the reviewer at my own expense. I couldn't help thinking it - negative reviews feel like someone trampling all over your heart and soul. This doesn't mean that reviewers shouldn't write them.

the story siren said...

I don't feel obligated to give a good review. I would prefer to give a good review, but it doesn't always happen. People have different prefrences, that's obvious. So when i do write a negative review, i at least try to say something positive and remind anyone who might read the review, that it is only my opinion. I mean seriously what do i know!!

Alea said...

I started reading these comments but haven't finished! I really like these discussions you are having!

I've nominated you for a blog award :)

The Compulsive Reader said...

I am generally a very positive person, and don't like to dwell on such negativities as bad reviews. However, if I have a book I am obligated to review and didn't like it, I will diplomatically point out what turned me off, and at the same time extole the book's virtues (pacing, characters, dialogue, whatever is postive).

However, bash a book and lose my respect. There's nothing more crass, impolite, and just downright rude than saying, "This book sucks. Don't read it," without being the least bit constructive.

Also, like Book Chic said, I'm generally pretty easily won over by most YA. You don't have to be earth shatteringly profound, just entertain me and show me your skills (that's sounding a bit gangsta...). Also, I like some cliches. I don't think they're cliches, I think they're classic. So there.

That's my two cents.

Anonymous said...

TCR- You and I would get along well (which we knew already, right? lol) because I enjoy cliches too. Although usually, I don't see them as cliches or even classics, I just see them as a plot device. I never roll my eyes when they appear like some people I've talked to have done, nor do I think an author is somehow less worthy of attention for using them. If the story is good, who cares if a couple cliches are used?

It always bugs me when people say stuff like "Meg Cabot writes such cliche books." because to me, that's not true. And it doesn't matter if they're cliche because her stories ring true for a lot of teenagers, and that's what really matters, I think.

Alright, rant over. lol.

Anonymous said...

Great question - I've wondered about this, too.

It seems that most of the books I read rate somewhere between 3 and 5 on a 5 point scale. I rarely hate or even dislike a book.

However, if I did, I would probably choose not to review it.

Brooke Taylor said...

Hey Steph--great question! I think if the author is sending you the book to be reviewed, well then they should expect your honest opinions.

I've bought many a book because of a bad review, but usually the bad review was very specif about what they did not like and those things were not things that put me off.

This doesn't apply to you, of course, but I've seen some reviews that will start out as "I don't read YA, so blah blah bad review blah blah, but if your a 13 yo girl you might like it" and those are just stupid--if you aren't qaulified to critique the book then don't. Okay--off my soap box on that issue. LOL.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I usually do want to give a good review. However, if it really sucks, then I'll be honest. That's never happened before.

I did recieve this book that was self-published and the author was REALLY nice but once I started reading the book, I just couldn't finish it. I tried for weeks but I had to give up. I didn't want to bash the book so what I did was I emailed the author and told her that I was sorry but I honestly couldn't finish the book. She seemed to understand but I felt horrible.

Amee said...

I have a follow up to Brooke's suggestion of not reviewing something if you don't usually read that type of book...

What if you told the author you didn't usually read or review the genre their book is in but would give it a try anyway? Should we not give it a try or just email and offer to not review it if we end up not liking it?

I'm curious because I gave a bad review to a book whose genre I don't usually read. Would it have been better to not review the book even though the author sent it for that purpose, knowing it wasn't what I usually read?

Brooke Taylor said...


I think where I have the problem is when they give a bad review, but everything they knock fits with the genre. It's not fair to give a teen book a 1 star on Amazon or Good Reads for being exactly what it appears and claims to be. That to me is like giving a critical review of an apple and saying--"I usually eat oranges, but a friend convinced me to eat this apple and well where do I begin? It was hideously red, and then there was -gasp- white inside, and even worse--it tasted all apple-y. But I guess if you like apples or are a horse or something you might enjoy it."

I think even if something isn't your cup of tea and if you are a reviewer, you should be able to still review it without bias. And if you just can't get over the fact that it is an apple, then IMO it would be better not to review it at all than to review it as if it were an orange.

Again, though--just my opinion.

And if an author is asking for a review from someone who states they aren't really interested in that genre, well then--the author should probably rethink their strategy.

Again, though--just my opinion. (grin)


Amee said...

Thanks for answering my questions, Brooke. I think I understand a little better what you meant. :)

Anonymous said...

I have a YA book coming out next year, and I hope you (and any other reviewers) feel free to post your uncensored opinions. Of course we authors always hope people will like our books ... but we accept the reality that not everyone will.

Freedom of speech - w00t!

I'm posting anonymously so as not to appear to be sucking up.


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Hey! For some reason, this embedded comment form makes most people click twice before the comment is processed and published. It's not you - it's just that it's a new Blogger feature with kinks and all that. (But I adore it and don't wanna get rid of it!) I removed Captcha to make the process easier. You don't have to rewrite the comments twice; just click on SUBMIT twice and it should work. If not, email me. Thanks! -Steph