Thursday, August 8, 2013

Jess' Thoughts: What to do with a bad review...

So I'm in the middle of writing a book review. I didn't like the book. Usually, we at the BRS don't review books that we don't like. Sometimes though, there is an exception. Maybe, the book had some good points but still wasn't a great read overall. The question is, do you publish a review that has more critique in it than praise?

I wrote a review a while ago that sat in the draft section for a year, before we decided to not publish it. Why? Well I was more than a little disappointed with the book. I think I had drifted into a complaining rant, rather than a constructive critique of the novel. For this reason, the review was not published. It felt good for me though to have written the review. I got my feelings down on paper and after a while, the urge to publish it dimmed.

There are some out there that would tell me to publish my thoughts. Others might say, temper it a bit. Still others would say, an author doesn't need to hear you ranting about how much you hated their book. For me, this book I'm currently reviewing, will not be published. I had high expectations of it and was bitterly disappointed with the product as a whole. As a result, I doubt I will ever read this particular author again. I also doubt that I could constructively critique this book without drifting into ranting territory.

What do you guys think? Publish a bad review or let it go and move on?

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Jess' favourite genre is contemporary women's fiction and contemporary romance fiction. She also enjoys historical fiction with a focus on romance. She loves books set in country towns or farms with a cowboy featured in either historical or contemporary settings.

She is currently writing her first novel, a contemporary women's fiction/romance set in a small country town.


  1. You can't just publish a post like this without telling us what the book was!

    It's hard to write a less-than-glowing review. For me, whether I publish it or not depends somewhat on where I got the book from.

    If it's a book I paid money for, I will probably give it a short low-star review saying what I didn't like. This will probably be balanced out by dozens of existing glowing five-star reviews. I don't feel guilty in this case - the author has plenty of people pleading his/her case, and my review is for the people who aren't sure. It might convince them to buy - after all, they may love what I don't like. Sometimes there is already a low-star review making exactly the points I wanted to make - in this case, I vote the review up and leave a comment.

    I'll also post a review if the book was a review copy from a book blogger programme such as BookSneeze, Blogging for Books or NetGalley, mostly because that's a condition of the programme. Again, the book will probably get plenty of glowing reviews, and mine will just provide a contrary viewpoint. Although there is a price here - these are the reviews that tend to be voted down.

    It gets harder if the review copy is from a lesser-known author with fewer reviews. These people approach me requesting honest reviews, but do they really mean it? What if my review says their book was full of cliché characters, a predictable plot and editing errors? Well, I figure they asked for an honest review. It's not my fault if I'm the first person to notice they are referring to Barnaby's Star when it's actually Barnard's Star. Or that they have spelled 'heroine' without the 'e'.

    But authors I know or know of? Very hard. That's probably when I chicken out and don't review.

    But there have been instances where I haven't posted negative reviews. In one case it was because I didn't think the indie author would be able to handle it. She'd published through a vanity publisher, and I just couldn't bring myself to tell her the $4950 she'd spent was money down the drain. In another case I could see that I'd get a lot of backlash from the author's fans, and I just didn't want/need to put myself through that.

    Hmmm. Maybe you're just a nicer person than me!

    1. Iola, I agree with many of your points. Sometimes, publishing a review can be so hard. Especially when as a reader I had such a good feeling about a book, only to have them dashed mercilessly at almost every page. For me, then writing a review is almost impossible. This book that I'm not naming, was from NetGalley, so I did a private review for them, explaining my problems with the book and why I'd probably never read this author again.

      For me the line I draw about posting a review is if I have basically nothing nice to say, then I don't post it.

      When it comes to authors I know or know of, yes totally it is harder if I didn't love the book. I would in that case, try really hard to find the good in it, and give a constructive critique.

  2. Hey Jess,

    I had to throw in my thoughts on this, only because I've had to process through this myself. This is how I roll... :-)

    If the book comes from the author, I tell him or her up front that I have the right to NOT post a review if I feel I can't give it at least 4 stars. In the case where I don't post a review, however, I promise a brief email explanation of why I didn't feel that I could give it the necessary rating. I explain that because my review would likely work against them rather than for them, I won't post it as I want them to succeed. I remind them that my reviews are my opinion only, so the email explanation is not something I want to debate, but simply my personal take on the material. I've had to do this twice, both times very difficult, but because the standards were set ahead of time, both times have come out well.

    If the book I don't care for comes from a review program, I look for reasons why the book might appeal to someone besides me. I usually list 2-3 reasons (even if there are 30!) why I don't care for the book, and a minimum of 3 reasons (always at least one more pro than con!) why I think the book has market value. If I can come up with 3 reasons why the book might sell, then I'll give it 3 stars. If I can't come up with that, I contact the review company, something I've had to do only once. The review program immediately replaced the book, thanking me for my honesty, and we moved on. Sounds like that's what you've done, too.

    I recently posted a not-so-great review on a book by an extremely popular author, but this is the first of her books I've read. I was NOT impressed, but because she was so popular, I made a huge effort to try and understand why readers like her. I explained this in the review, and received NO comments on the site, but several private emails expressing various degrees of agreement, and much encouragement to try the author's earlier work, but nothing negative.

    Anyhoo, there's my two bits!

    Hope all is well with you and yours! Blessings,

    1. Appreciate your thoughts. I just took a quick look at your blog and liked what I saw. Will be following your reviews. Thanks for taking the time to comment here. I live in such a tiny "corner" of the book "world" that it is exciting to learn from some one new.

    2. Hi Becky,

      Thanks for popping by and sharing your thoughts. I like the system you have, it seems like a consistent and achievable way to go about this.

      I do agree that it's really important to come up with more good than bad and to be able to share that.

      God Bless my friend!

    3. Mary,

      I'll welcome you warmly! I think Jess and Helen's site is one of my favorite review sites. I love their take on things, and I love that they don't always agree, and that they read and read and read! The whole sister thing works really well for me!


  3. As an avid reader I can't tell you how much I personally appreciate an honest reviewer. I buy all my own books, so it means more to me to read an honest review before I spend our money.

    On the other hand, my mother always said, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." So there has to be a polite and healthy balance by the reviewer.

    Sadly, in the last two or three years I have felt some very well loved authors were not treated fairly by their editors and publishers and I hate to give up on their books too quickly.

    I share my personal and totally honest verbal reviews with only my close book reading friends.

    I don't even read many of the book reviewers blogs anymore because they give every one five stars. How does that help me determine which book to buy? That is why BRS is only one of three reviewers I read.

    Oh yes, and while I'm on my little soap box, a "review" does NOT mean the retelling of the entire storyline, a "review" means YOUR OWN personal thoughts about the book. Period.

    Great subject matter today, Jess. Appreciate your concerns and the direction you want to take your blog. You are doing a good work here.

    1. Hi Mary,

      Thanks again for dropping by! Love seeing your comments here! I agree pretty much with all that you have to say. There's a popular author I really like, but one of her newer books just left me reeling with the stupidity in the storytelling - we're talking glaring holes in both logic and physics - yet most people adored the book, saying it just wonderful.

      Things like that make me mad and have me wondering about how clued in people are to the things they are reading. Are they blinded by their love for the author that they don't see the problems?

      Anyways, thanks for taking the time to comment and share your thoughts - much appreciated! :)

  4. This is a subject I struggle with as well. Like you, I choose books that I think I will like, that way the odds are I can write a good review, but also enjoy the book I am reading. But as you said, every now and then a book will not meet my expectations. Like others, I publish the negative review if I received the book from a PR group or publisher. I make sure that my readers know the review is my opinion not shared by everybody and will link to an alternate viewpoint so that my readers will have both sides. A negative review is a tough decision, but I don't want to buy a book based on a glowing recommendation that was just wasn't true.

    So I guess the bottom line is either don't publish the negative review or "speak the truth in love". :)

    1. Well said Becky! I really think sometimes speaking the truth if love is right and great, but if ,my heart is not in the right place, then I can't speak the truth in love - so in that case let the negative review go! :)

    2. Beckie not Becky! Sorry!

  5. I just wanted to say I appreciated this post and all the comments made. It's a hard question to answer and I think I've learned more than I have to offer :)

    1. Glad you dropped by Paula! It's good when we can dialogue this stuff and learn from each other. I have certainly learned something. :)