Bad review, bad person?

There is a discussion going on in one of the groups I belong to and my opinion on the subject seems quite different than that of many others participating. I have responded there several times, but I felt that it would be best if I moved my opinion off the group, so I wouldn’t just be keeping the argument going. The topic of discussion is whether or not 1 or 2 star reviews should be posted publicly, especially by other authors.

3-Star review

Many say no, because it is mean and humiliating. Okay, but my question is, if an author doesn’t want people to review their books honestly, should we really be worried about their feelings getting hurt? Of course we should, but there is the whole point that when you put yourself and your work out in the public and ask people what they think, you had better have thick enough skin to accept all the answers. It is unrealistic to think everyone will like your book.

I have been criticized repeatedly over the years for a 1-star review I posted of THE LOVELY BONES. Okay, I posted the review publicly so everyone has a right to point out their agreement or disagreement. So be it. Does it make me a bad person because I did not like this book and said so publicly? I didn’t rag on the author, I was not malicious or hurtful. I was honest in my opinion.

My review of The Lovely Bones

I have to admit to reading this book because of all the fuss. Everyone raved about how wonderful it was and so beautifully written, etc. I was very disappointed.

I found the voice of the main character to be contrived and out of character. I hated hearing the story being told by a child in an adult voice. It took away a lot of the emotional impact for me.

I think this could have been much better.

I think it is quite to the point and professional. No one has to like it, it is my opinion.

2-Star Review

Why would you bother to post a review of a book you read and then not be honest? The point of reviews is to help other readers have a better knowledge of what that book is about and what other readers think of it. What happens to the industry if everyone who reads a book either posts a positive review or no review at all, even if they did not like the book and had solid reasons for the dislike? The industry would become a shallow popularity contest…oh wait, it already has. I am furious when I buy a book that has gotten 25 5-star reviews claiming it to be the best book ever and then when I read it I discover that it is poorly edited, poorly constructed, dipping with multitudes of plotholes, and just plain bad. I feel cheated and mislead by each and every person who failed to point out even one of the problems. Now, I am the first to agree that even a poorly written book can be exciting and engaging, I have read many.  I simply tell fellow readers how much I loved the story, but to be prepared for lots of editorial issues. Honest, not cruel. But I certainly would not give it a 5-star review, even if I knew the author.

Bottom line is, a review is intended to serve a specific purpose, if the reviewers cannot be honest, then why bother, it just makes things icky for the rest of us.

One last note. This is for all you authors out there. If you are not willing to give an honest review and STAND BEHIND IT (this means posting it, whether good or bad) then do us all a favor and don’t review books by friends and other authors you know. This is just my personal request/opinion.

I would love to know what you all think of this, whether you agree with me or not. Please don’t hesitate to share your comments, this is a no judgment zone.

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11 responses to “Bad review, bad person?

  1. I’ve given a lot of reviews to two different sites and keep them positive. I’ve also taken a pass at those to which i couldn’t give a good review. On another site if I run into a book I can’t give a good review, I’m allowed to make comments as to why. On my review blog I am more honest and will give a poor review. Again though, I state the reasons. Usually bad reviews come from books that have a plot that is unbelievable, characters who aren’t developed, and contain poor editing throughout. I can forgive a few mistakes, but when it’s obvious nobody really edited, then my enjoyment drops.

  2. I 100% agree. There is an author I am acquainted with. She gave several copies out in exchange for reviews and then a week later I got a panicked email wanting no more reviews because someone had given her a 3-star and criticized (very lightly) the grammar. She was absolutely freaking out over a very nice review. It boggled my mind. Yes, all 4 & 5 star reviews would be great. But I don’t tend to trust reviews that don’t have a single 3-star or lower so in my mind, this one review was giving the others credulity. Fortunately, I was able to calm her down a little. But I noticed the other day that that review had been changed to a four-star and the grammar line removed. That made me sad.

  3. Hi Karen,
    I find that I write almost universally good reviews. Why? It’s certainly not that there aren’t a lot of bad books out there. Rather, it’s because I’ve lost the need I had when I was a teen to finish everything I start (I think being an acquisitions editor cured me of this in a big way). So, if I’m not enjoying a book, it hits the wall and I move on to the next one. There are always more. The exceptions… if I have a favorite author, I’ll keep reading in hopes that the book will get good. Those will get the few bad reviews I write which hardly seems fair (since they’re a favorite author) but even great authors can have off days (years).
    Rob Preece
    Publisher, http://www.BooksForABuck.com

    • I see what you mean, Rob. I sit on the other side of the review fence with not finishing a book. I too have realized I don’t have to finish a book if I don’t like it. But I do post reviews on those as well.

      If I don’t finish, it is an automatic one star, with an explanation of why “I” did not finish it. My dislikes explained as kindly as I can.

      I think maybe once or twice, I might have had a book I did not finish only because it was not “my kind of book” and I gave it 3 stars because the first half that I read was well-written, but simply didn’t interest me. I explained all that and moved on.

  4. I admit to being a gentle reviewer. If I could only give a bad review, I don’t bother–I probably didn’t finish the book anyway. If I know the author and find things that could be fixed, I may write privately. When I do review, I focus on the positives and leave unsaid the things I disliked. Maybe that’s because I think of the long hours the writer spent creating the story.
    When I receive bad reviews, I’m okay as long as the reviewer appears to have read the book and has the facts right. That’s life. Not everyone is going to like my work.

  5. As long as reviews are professional, honest, and constructive, readers should leave whatever rating they decide the book deserves. Poor reviews validate the good ones. I’m suspicious of books with all 5 star reviews. As Karen states, no book is for everyone. If I include ratings in my book buying decisions, I pay more attention to the 2, and 3 stars, where I am more likely to find the “truth” about the book.

  6. You are absolutely right. The problem is, who is writing the review…what kind of writing do they like? What is their experience in reviewing books? Also, do you have the same tastes? I read Lovely Bones and I loved it. I read LIfe of Pi and I hated it. I read The Corrections and couldn’t put it down…it gets complicated when you look at reviewers to make a decision. I always go with the blurb, open the book and read the first few pages, if it gets me, I’m going to the cash! 🙂 Nice write!

  7. Karen, you touched on the most important point. You didn’t insult the author. It’s like telling someone,”It’s not YOU I don’t like, it’s just your behavior”; that is to say, your book didn’t enthrall me, excite me, interest me; the editing of your book could be better; etc. There’s plenty of room for criticism with respect, right? (You and I both know how damaging a personal attack in the guise of a review can be! LOL.)
    You are a straight shooter and I always appreciate your opinions and insights.

  8. A review isn’t any different than feedback from a critique group. Some people will like it, some won’t. The good ones (readers or critiquers) will tell you the truth. That’s all I want for my books — the truth, at the reader sees it. As Ms. Roth says, knowing where it falls short will help me improve the next books — and that’s priceless to me.

  9. I completely agree C.L. As a reader, my goal when I post a review is to help other readers determine whether the book is one he/she might enjoy, and honest reviews do this. As a writer, reviews serve a number of purposes, ranking, feedback, and sales. As Karen said, when you put yourself out there for public consumption, you have to be willing to take the good with the bad, learn as much as you can, improve as you go, grow from the experience, and build on your strengths – oh, that’s kind of how I feel about life. Good post Karen. I give it 4.5 stars. 🙂

  10. I’m responding as a writer, not as a reader, although I’m both. As a writer newly published I value ALL reviews. The good ones help sell my book but the not so good ones, if the reviewer will explain to me why the book was rated lower helps me produce a better book in the future. I need to know what works, but I also need to know what doesn’t work. I can’t improve my writing skills if I don’t first realize the weakness. So, while the lower ratings don’t feel good, they are helpful. And my goal is to get seen. Every review allows others to see me just a little clearer.

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