Thursday, July 14, 2016

Thursentary: Do You Write Negative Reviews?

Not My Pirate Face (But Suspiciously Similar)
Flickr Credit: David Goehring

Malevolent reader confession: I like writing negative reviews.

Admittedly, I hate writing reviews in general. They take a long time to write and wouldn’t offer much of value and other people will write better reviews. I’d rather just read and if I see something cool I’ll talk about it here somewhere. Yeah, I don’t write reviews.

There are a few exceptions to this rule:

1) I got it for free, in which I will be polite and gracious by reviewing.
2) The book is in desperate need of reviews and people need to know.
3) I did not like the book at all.

Also, I made writing a few Goodreads reviews a goal for my summer reading challenge, but I don’t know how I feel about doing that again.

Anyway, the third one tends to be the rule to the exceptions—if I write a review, chances are it will be negative. That fact has been on my mind for a while. Brett Michael Orr discussed the topic on his blog a little while back. His post framed the discussion as a moral question: “Should You Write a Negative Review?” He went on to offer some reviewing guidelines for readers, like don’t send bad reviews to authors and don’t make it personal. All good ideas.

But the question still gets me. Should you write a negative review? Should you write it? Should you not? Brett talks a little bit about negative reviews from the perspective of an author and reader, and his thoughts remain totally valid. But malevolent reader that I am, I have only one answer: YES OF COURSE WRITE THE NEGATIVE REVIEW.

My practical reason for this, I suppose, is that I feel it is my solemn duty to warn other readers about the investment they’re making. If I had a miserable experience, others shouldn’t suffer the same, especially if an exchange of money is involved. Or just time. They have value and shouldn’t be wasted.

Then, of course, I like to be critical. Of course, you should and must be critical with books you truly enjoyed, too—it isn’t that there’s exclusivity in this premise. For me, though, criticizing books I like often takes two or three reads before I feel confident enough to get a sense of the details and an objective attitude. It’s easier with books I don’t like because all of the problematic bits stick right out and I can put out a review right away condemning the writing, or whatever else it is that bothers me.

I often have a lot of fun when that happens.

I also suspect that most people either may not enjoy writing negative reviews or simply stop reading books they dislike (both of which are fine, by the way). If this is true, though, books may have reviews skewed towards the positive side. And it’s great that people like a book but I also like to read negative reviews because they’re often more honest about the content and contain a more critical eye. Thus, I seek to provide an equalizer. 

That critical eye is not important just to judge a book’s content, but also to judge a person’s. Because I judge people on their negative reviews. If I see that they dislike things that would also concern me, I’m more inclined to trust their values and discernment. And if I see they dislike things that are not concerning or just ridiculous, then I also lose trust in their opinions. And sometimes their personality, too.

Is it wrong to judge people this way? Yes, I’m sure it is. But I am a malevolent reader—inherently implying that I have bad character, okay? Okay.

Anyway, I like negative reviews. They’re fun to write and can even offer a meaningful perspective of the people in your bookish neighborhood. And that’s okay. Malevolent reader out.


Do you write negative reviews? Do you enjoy it?


20 comments :

  1. I don't write many negative reviews, because it's honestly much easier to explain why I like a book than why I despise it. I have written quite a few "meh" reviews, but only one or two outright negative ones. I do love being critical, though, and I can TALK about the reasons why I hated a certain book until the cows come home.

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    1. Huh, that's funny, because I'm the complete opposite! Sometimes it takes me three times to figure out why I adore something. But, hey, talking is better than writing sometimes. :)

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  2. I used to review books a lot, and some of them were negative. I don't necessarily like writing negative reviews, but I do like being honest about whether or not I like a book (I try to point out any good points or things I liked to keep it balanced though). When I'm checking out book reviews, I look at positive and negative to see if it's something I'd be interested in. (I also like checking out 3-star reviews, since they tend to look at the good and bad too).

    So, negative reviews are definitely helpful, but I personally find them difficult to write.

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    1. *nods* Being balanced in any review is important. And I have attempted to do that, occasionally. And I agree. When it comes to something I might actually want to buy, I like to look at 2-star and 3-star reviews because they tend to have the most balanced ideas about the product or book they've received.

      But, of course, it's fine if they aren't your thing!

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  3. I definitely write negative reviews...but I honestly come at it from the angle of: people who have similar taste to me will benefit from my reviews, good or bad! I don't think reviews are for authors. Aaaaand I don't believe in judging people for what they do/don't like in books. ;) Sorry! Gotta disagree there! I just think books are soooo subjective! BUT ANYWAY. Like I've found several book bloggers whose tastes are like 90% similar to mine. So I totally eyeball their reviews and it helps me know what to read/not read. So negative reviews = crucial for helping me figure out what to read!
    *whispers* Plus they are totally fun to write omg. XDXD

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    1. *nods* I definitely don't think that reviews are for authors AT ALL, although when it comes to the audiences of my reviews... it tends to be just me, lol. I don't expect anyone to give any credence to my opinions on Amazon or Goodreads.

      Aaaand like I said I'm a bad person so you have the moral upper hand on that argument. XD

      I don't know anyone like that, so, generally, reviewing is just for me!

      *whispers* Yes, yes they are.

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  4. Funny you should post about this because I just wrote a negative review a few weeks ago (haven't posted it yet, but writing it was a little difficult for me). I'm kind of on the fence with this issue: one the one hand, like you said, writing negative reviews is easy because you can simply rant about the things you didn't like. For some reason, I find that I have so much more to say when I did not like a book, and it can come out quite sarcastic, which amuses me even if I cut the sassy parts out before the reviews go live (if I'm already tearing it apart, sass just kinda adds insult to injury, IMO). And like you said, I think posting the negative reviews is important so that one, people know what they're getting into, and two, so that the ratings on sites like Goodreads and Amazon are accurate.

    BUT. Then come the writer side of me who realizes the time and energy and LOVE that went into this book and is extremely loathe to in dampen another writer's passion in any way, even if I do the best I can to be nice about it.

    *sighs* So yes. All that to say, I like writing negative reviews because it gives me a chance to vent and I hate posting them because I don't want to discourage others. But as a book reviewer, posting my honest opinion is kinda my job. :p So my rule is to just be as nice as I can about the negative ones, include something I like in every review, and give logical reasons for what I disliked, rather than simply saying I hated it.

    Cool post, btw, and interesting--if malevolent ;)--thoughts!


    Alexa
    thessalexa.blogspot.com
    verbosityreviews.com

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    1. BUT ALEXA. SASS IS THE BEST PART. I LOVE TO BE SASSY. SASSINESS IS CLOSE TO HILARIOUSNESS. I mean... I don't know. Of course, if it doesn't make you comfortable then that's why you shouldn't go for it, but then I don't think that negative reviews are necessarily injurious. Although I could be wrong. It depends.

      *nods* Yeahhhh... Malevolent reader that I am, that doesn't really happen to me. I guess as a writer, I think it's kind of silly because "love" doesn't make a good book. Good writing makes a good book. And if you spent more time on love than quality, then I have no sympathy for you.

      Alexa, you are so nice. More nice than me. That is very nice of you. *just stares at Alexa's niceness because she is not nearly that nice*

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  5. I agree with this a lot. I actually really enjoy writing a negative review, although again, I don't really write that many reviews. But there's something very satisfactory about saying 'this book was not good because of these reasons'. Sometimes my reasons are things that other people might not mind, and other times things that bother me about a book are things that should bother everybody. The other thing with a negative review is that if you're going to give something a really low rating on goodreads, it seems fair to the author and for other readers to justify it. Like if I'm trying to decide if I'll like a book and I see a lot of people didn't like it but I don't know why, then there's no way for me to know whether what they disliked are things I'll dislike. And if I were an author and read review of my books on goodreads (which I probably wouldn't, if I were an author), it seems more useful to know why this novel was so bad. *shrugs*. I don't use goodreads apart from stalking people/books though, so I don't know if that's what I would do if I used it. I also agree that you can probably work out whether someone's reviewing is trustworthy based on their reviews because you can basically gauge their critical eye. *nods*

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    1. *nods* It is important to remember that some things are just going to bother you, versus some that will (or SHOULD) bother everybody. Like a poor handle on formatting, or something. I don't know. And that's also true. I have felt like I need to justify a bad opinion before just because so often we assume that the good stuff is the norm. And yes! Gauging people's critical eye is very enjoyable to me.

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  6. I do like writing negative books because people gotta know if a book is bad or not. And yes, I don't want people to waste their money! And unfortunately, a lot of good books are not as popular as they should be.

    On the other side, I'm also a writer and other writers say that you should avoid writing negative reviews because it can hurt their feelings. I try not to write reviews too harshly but if it has a bad message, it has to be criticised, man. And it sucks when people get praised for writing the EXACT SAME THING over and over and over again. Different writing, same plot.

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    1. Right? THE PEOPLE ARE ASKING TO HEAR MY VOICE. Wasting money is so sad to me.

      *awkwards* FEELINGS schmeelings. I guess. *shakes head* Criticism matters, and I totally agree with you. If someone isn't being original, that is worth calling out!

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  7. My guilty pleasure is writing bad reviews and this is probably not a healthy thing?? I nearly always feel more strongly about disliking a book than liking it. Honestly, bad reviews NEED to be written for some books. I know authors put hours and hours into a book, so I try to be nice, but sometimes I just get so sick of some plots and themes, and it just has to be said.

    It's a tricky line to walk, but walk it we do :)

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    1. *shrugs* It always makes me feel better? Don't feel guilty about your pleasures, Opal! It does have to be said sometimes. Especially when others are not always willing to say it.

      Walk it we do indeed. :)

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  8. *nods* This post is great, and also timely because it's a subject I've been thinking about lately. (Also, I'm with you on judging people, both positively and negatively, by their negative reviews.) I've been worrying if I like being negative too much (because even though people tell me I'm polite about my criticism, I tend to worry that I'm being mean, which is lame). I like to be the equalizer too, and I like to be able to think critically and say bad things as well as good about the books I read. I'm also contrary and have, on multiple occasions, decided to read a book based on bad reviews and not regretted. Actually, it's more common for me to decide to read a book based on good reviews and then get disappointed, so it would be nice to have more balanced reviews at least.

    Anyways, I'm rambling. I don't hold myself to a bunch of rules and regulations, but I basically have one major rule for myself that I try my hardest not to break, and that is to do no harm. So I've been trying to figure out if writing bad reviews falls under the doing harm category or the doing no harm category, and it was nice to hear another opinion in favor of negative reviews. :P

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    1. (Thank you, I appreciate that, because I like feeling validated by my readers.)

      Yeah, going in hunting for the bad can kind of be a fun experience, you know? And I also agree with that. When a book has a hype, it can be nearly impossible to find any of the disappointing things and then be HUGELY DISAPPOINTED when you actually do get around to reading it.

      Hm, that is an interesting rule. And I think since it can be harmful to not write reviews for other readers, I would be able to justify it. But then, if it were to hurt an author, I might say that no publicity is bad publicity. But then, I am having a malevolent post day over here.

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  9. I also like writing negative reviews, so I agreed with this post a lot. I think it lets you bring out your critical side, and my negative reviews end up being the ones where I analyze the book most thoroughly. I also agree on what you said about judging other people on their negative reviews. Sometimes it's a matter of trustworthiness and other times just a matter of preference, but it lets me know what kind of things they look for in a book, perhaps even more than a very positive review.
    Great post!

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    1. Nice! And I agree, some of my best reviews have been critical. Also, yes, reviews can be very informative when it comes to who a person is. Like you said, it tells me what they look for. And that matters.

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  10. I really pray for books to be good--to be well-written and engaging. When they're not, I'm as disappointed as the authors would be if I told them their stories just didn't work for me. I've written negative reviews, but I didn't enjoy doing it, and I've since created a new policy for myself. If I can finish a book, if I can give at least 3 stars, I review. Otherwise, I do not. By omission, I'm telling the writers my opinion, but I'm keenly aware that what I have to say about any book is extremely subjective. It's only my take. Others might find the story to their liking.

    Well, that's enough rambling. Thanks for the post and for the chance to give my thoughts. I found your link on Alexa's super site.

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    1. Hmmm... I don't think I'd be able to have the same opinion. Since it works for you, that's great, but I personally would feel like "by omission" wouldn't say anything. I, for one, don't make a habit of reviewing things so not saying anything would be perfectly normal. And, the fact that I didn't make a point of what I did or didn't like would ultimately be failing to take a stance at all. And that would be hard for me.

      Though, again, since it works for you, keep it up. Thanks for visiting me!

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