Discussion Post: How I Write Negative Reviews

 

I had set as one of my blogging goals for this year to write more discussion posts, so here’s my first attempt for 2017…

Writing negative reviews is my least favorite part about being a book blogger.  Seriously, is there anything worse than settling in to read what you hope will be a fantastic book, only to find yourself disappointed?  But I do pride myself on writing honest reviews, so if I have to write a negative review, I have a few rules that I try to follow. I won’t even go so far as to call these tips or suggestions.  I’m a Libra and I’m all about being fair and balanced, and these are simply the steps I take to try to achieve the balance I’m looking for while writing those dreaded negative reviews.

 

  1. Be Honest but Still Respectful.  Maybe it’s the Libra in me, but no matter how much I dislike a book, I’m just not one who is going to write a scathing negative review.  I try to always remember who my potential audience might be – fellow readers, authors, publishers, etc. – and write in a tone that I feel will be honest yet still professional as I point out why a book just didn’t work for me.
  1. Be Constructive with Criticism. Don’t just rage about how much I hate it. I always try to keep in mind when I’m reviewing that just because a book wasn’t for me, that doesn’t mean others won’t love it.  There are many times when I don’t connect with a book for whatever reason, yet I can see that it has thousands and thousands of 4 and 5 star reviews on Goodreads.  Clearly there are plenty of readers out there who don’t share my quirks and personal preferences when it comes to certain books.  That said, if I think one of my criticisms is stemming from one of my own personal quirks, say maybe my hatred of love triangles, I’m quick to point that out in my reviews (i.e. “It might just be me who has a problem with this…”).  Sometimes I’ll even go a bit further and suggest a way that it could have been presented so that I might have enjoyed it more.
  1. Offset the negatives with a few positives, if possible. Even if I really disliked a book, I try to come up with a few positive things to say about it.  I think this is a carryover from my teaching days. My students were always more open to what I had to say about their writing if I was able to point out strengths as well as weaknesses.  Plus, again, just because a book isn’t for me doesn’t me another reader won’t love it.  I also usually start my reviews with what I did like about a book before I launch into the negatives. I prefer the tone that sets rather than starting with the negatives and then saying “But wait…not everything about this book sucked. I did like a couple of things.”
  1. Be Careful with Tagging. I don’t typically tag authors when I post my reviews on social media anyway, but I definitely will not tag them if I didn’t like their book.  For me, tagging them would be like saying “Hey, I really hated your book and I want to make sure you know that!”  If authors come across my negative review on their own, fine, but I just don’t go out of my way to shove it in front of their faces.

There you have it, folks. Do you follow any of these steps or have any tips you’d like to share on handling those dreaded negative reviews?

16 replies
  1. Angela
    Angela says:

    I tend to also follow these strategies when I’m writing a negative review. I would never criticize the author personally, just things I didn’t like about the book. I also try to add in something positive, as well. If I’m able to finish a book I’m not crazy about, there must have been something there to hold my attention, so I like to point that out. I usually put it at the end of my review, I guess to try to soften the harsher things I said before it!

    Reply
    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Exactly! Some times I have to dig deep to find something positive to say, but I agree with you. If I made it to the end, there has to be something there that kept me going.

      Reply
  2. Julia
    Julia says:

    This is such great advice! On one hand, bad reviews are the easiest to write because I always have so much to say, but writing it in a presentable manner without it being a hate fest is really difficult! It might be the fastest to write, but it always needs the most editing.

    Reply
    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Yes, same here and I’m glad I’m not the only. I do so much editing on those negative reviews. I sometimes even have someone else read through it just to make sure it doesn’t sound too much like a hate fest.

      Reply
    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      It really is. There’s still a chance they may come across my review just because it’s out there on the internet, but I don’t see the need to go out of my way to make sure they see it.

      Reply
  3. eli @ the (book) supplier
    eli @ the (book) supplier says:

    As an English teacher, I think I have a tendency to be critical of what I read, whether I like it or not. Lately I haven’t finished books I haven’t enjoyed; I don’t have the time or the energy. And if I don’t finish it, I don’t review it. I don’t find that to be fair.

    Reply
    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      I agree. I can’t review a book I don’t finish either. If I don’t finish, I typically just mark it as DNF in Goodreads, maybe with a note that says the book just wasn’t for me.

      Reply
  4. Wendy @ Birdie Bookworm
    Wendy @ Birdie Bookworm says:

    I really only tag an author on glowing reviews. If I’m criticizing it at all, I usually don’t tag the author. And sometimes I don’t even tag them on glowing reviews. I just go with my gut.

    I also don’t like to write scathing reviews, but that’s not to say I haven’t. There are a couple on Goodreads where I think my frustration got away from me and I let it all out. However, I never ever talk about the author on a personal level. It’s always about the book and the choices that were made in the writing of it.

    Reply
    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Right? I’m the same way. And I honestly think you can write a very negative review and still keep your tone professional. As you say, the key is to stay focused on the book and not let it cross over and become an attack on the author.

      Reply
  5. Lauren Becker
    Lauren Becker says:

    I really don’t get why people tag authors in negative reviews – it’s just common sense to me; don’t be rude, or outright mean.

    Anyway – I like this post! I try and do the same thing too if I didn’t really enjoy a book. I like to focus on what I did like or make sure that people know why I personally didn’t like something – but that they might have better luck.

    -Lauren

    Reply
    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Thanks! Yeah, I have so many quirks about what I like and what I don’t like that I feel like I need to point out that maybe it’s just me. I certainly don’t want to turn someone off from a book that might love just because it contained one of my pet peeves.

      Reply
  6. Jessica @ Strung Out On Books
    Jessica @ Strung Out On Books says:

    I usually do similar things when I write negative reviews, but sometimes I get really passionate if there’s something that really upset me about a book. I don’t tag authors anymore, but I would never tag an author with a negative review. Sometimes I don’t want to feel like I’m editing myself when I write reviews (as in, making what I mean sound nicer, because I’m a people pleaser sometimes) so I try to just be honest, even if it is a review where I just rage about what I didn’t like, but I try to keep it professional as well. I feel like it’s hard to find a balance sometimes. Great post! 🙂

    Reply
  7. verushka
    verushka says:

    I never tag authors with anything less than a positive, glowing review. That’s just being mean and asking for a confrontation that to be honest, the author doesn’t need in their lives and more important, neither do I. I try to be constructive, but I have to admit when a book seriously annoys me, all good sense about positives and negatives just goes out the window — 18 Months was a book like that. I just couldn’t with that one, despite my best intentions.

    Reply

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