Low star reviews – helpful or just mean?

I recently wrote a 1 star review that ended with the author sending me a rather violent and vitriol filled letter about all the things wrong with the review and me personally. Among them I was simply uneducated, ignorant, and completely unqualified to review fiction, not to mention it was irresponsible of me not to have read up on Welsh religion or Sin Eater’s prior to reading the book. Now that’s her opinion and perhaps I’d have given it more weight if it wasn’t filled with such hypocritical statements among the ranting but she was pretty upset about the poor review so whatever. I stand by the review and don’t think it’s snarky or bitchy.

But part of her problem was that she felt the review was solely meant to be sensationalist and that got me thinking. Now I didn’t want to write the review of this book – partly because I knew the author was insane and would freak if I didn’t like her book – but also I don’t particularly enjoy writing 1 star reviews. Usually such low ratings means I felt more strongly about the book then perhaps even a 3 star review but still, it’s not a fun experience to list all the problems and things you didn’t like about a book. It’s not fun knowing that someone who worked hard on their creation will maybe read this and be upset. It’s not fun knowing you’re likely to get slammed personally for doing so.

So my question to the audience is two parts.

1. Do you find 1 star reviews to be of any value?

I’ve always held the belief that you can’t properly appreciate a 5 star review without knowing the entire spectrum. One of the great things about Three Dollar Bill Reviews is the ability to post honest reviews no matter what the rating. A lot of review sites simply won’t post anything below 3 stars so if a review is published; it almost guarantees a positive reception. But this tends to weight books much higher on 5 stars than others so if a high percentage of books are 5 stars, what makes one book any more special than another?

So do 1 star reviews actually tell you, the reader, anything you need to know?

And Part Two:

2. Do you think books submitted by the author are owed a review?

One of the other problems with writing and publishing the 1 star review was simply I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to write it or publish it. However, I felt since the author sent the book for review and I accepted it, the book then was “owed” an honest review. That’s sort of the quid pro quo of getting a free book in exchange for a review. The stipulation isn’t a “positive” review although no doubt every author is hoping for that. But they simply asked for an honest review. Thus I felt (as did others) that I would not be holding my part of the deal by not writing and publishing my review, even negative.

So what do you think? If a book is submitted for a review, is it owed a review even if it’s bad?

This isn’t to garner support for a negative review I wrote or even to slam the author’s bad behavior. It’s simply to ask a few questions that occurred to me and see what others think.

55 thoughts on “Low star reviews – helpful or just mean?

  1. > If a book is submitted for a review, is it owed a review even if it’s bad?
    No, a review is never owed, above all since, as you said, there are authors that can’t stand bad reviews so it’s better not to publish them. In my past experience, if an author sends you a book and you don’t review it, then sends another, and you don’t review it again, it’s unlikely that he sends a third time. If he does, it’s his own choice.
    Said that, I decided to reply since I have a “tale” (it’s not related to you or the above review you mentioned, it’s another review and reviewer). Said reviewer posted a very negative review about a book and an author. From what I understood that was a bad experience both for the reviewer than the author, something I, for once, wouldn’t like to experience. Then the same reviewer posted another negative review of another book of the same author… Sorry but, didn’t he learn from the past? He read one book, he didn’t like it, it was the cause of polemic and so on, did he really need to post another negative review? Who is he helping? The readers in their choice, or the hits on the website he is expecting thanks to that? End of the tale…

    • You’re right Elisa, definitely. I think it goes with the saying “fool me once, shame on you. fool me twice, shame on me.” I wouldn’t (obviously) review this author again. Although I have tried authors again that I didn’t like the first time. I don’t think there’s a reason to really slam an author repeatedly for every book they publish when it’s clear it’s not for you.
      Thank you for your comment. It’s very helpful. I’ve sort of always felt that if I agree to review something, then I “owe” the author some kind of review. I don’t owe a positive or negative one, merely an honest accounting. But it seems the thinking is nothing is owed. So I might need to adjust my thinking. Most helpful!

  2. Is a review ever owed? I don’t think. Just because I send you my book doesn’t mean you have to read it, though if a review chose not to review the book sent, it would be nice to receive a polite rejection.
    That said, I do think negative reviews are necessary. They’re a part of the writing process. A writer (and I am one) cannot expect everyone to just love their writing. Negative reviews that are well-written can include valuable information on where a writer is strong, and where a writer needs work. Writers need to develop thicker skins. Only offering them praise will give them an over-inflated sense of self and talent. Negative reviews are necessary, and someone reading the reviews can take or leave whatever they want from the review.
    After reading your review, you offered some helpful criticism the author should have taken. When an author sends a reviewer their book, they risk a negative review. This author should have expected that the outcome could be negative, and by submitting it to you, should have anticipated the possibility of a low rated book.
    A review site only offering 3 stars and above risks being called soft, and a then a 3 star becomes as bad as 1 star. πŸ™‚ Quite honestly, if an author sends a book to be reviewed, they are saying, ‘This is complete and published, the best I could offer, and I want your public opinion on it’, and that is what a reviewer gives, be it good or bad. The best reviewers simply give honest feedback, and thus far, I’d say that’s what you do.
    I’m sorry the author responded childishly and with insults. You do a favor by reviewing their book honestly, and what you received in return was abuse. That’s… not cool.

    • Thank you for commenting!
      I really wanted this to be about whether bad reviews are actually helpful or they’re just being mean so it’s invaluable to hear from readers and authors alike that while they may not like the review, it has a purpose to its existence.
      You brought up a VERY interesting idea that on those sites only offering a 3 or above, the 3 becomes a bad review. I never looked at it that way but I can see now why they get such bad receptions. It makes me appreciate the sites that offer a full range even more.

      • In my opinion, all reviews are good reviews. They’re all helpful, so long as an author takes it in stride that everyone has a different opinion. If they send their work to a reviewer, then they are asking for that reviewer’s opinion and should expect the worst rather than the best. That’s how I approach it. πŸ™‚
        And there is also a difference in opinion. I read your review aloud to the three other people in my household at the moment, and three of us thought you were blunt and clear in what was wrong while one felt you were snarky. She quickly said that snarky wasn’t bad, but the other three of us disagreed intensely with her assessment. But, it goes to show that four people can read the same review and all hear something different in the typed words. If an author sees a 1 star review, she is instantly going to be on the defensive and read things into the words that they want. The only solution to that is for the author to simply grow a thicker skin.
        The author’s response, however, should not have been to attack you. If she was truly unhappy with the review, she could have emailed you and asked to discuss the review. Insulting you is just childish. You submit your book for a review, you risk that the reviewer is not going to like it.
        My first book is coming out in December and I’m a little worried about submitting it to site because it is a traditional vampire tale. XD I’ve been told most people are tired of vampires, but they’re a guilty pleasure of mine.

        • Ooo very interesting! Thank you so much for the feedback. I actually ran the review through several people to see if they thought it was snarky but I can see how some may view it as such. The author especially thought I wrote the review for pure sensationalism – which confused me and prompted the questions. So it’s good to know how others feel about those and that they’re not just for drama’s sake. [Who would -want- to start drama but that’s another post entirely.]
          As for vamp tales, I once jokes that I should write a guide to vampire books I think I’ve read so many. I have no desire – at all – to be an author so I’d never do it but vampires in books have been around forever and will continue. I think a lot of readers look for something unique and different in vamp stories now, just so they don’t feel they’ve read that before. If you think you’ve offered something a little different on the same old genre, then absolutely. πŸ˜€ I for one love those biters.

    • I’m so sorry for ruining your time management!
      That is a comprehensive and fascinating look at reviewers and authors. I’ll be doing a main link on my side bar so thank you!

      • No more apologies! It was a testament of how important I feel the issue is. I’ve been trying to write it all weekend, but I decided finally this had to be the moment I made for myself.
        It’s wrong on so many levels, what happened to you. It makes me hot with rage. It’s so unprofessional, which is bad, but it’s worse because it damages what is a very good thing. I want all reviewers to feel safe and supported by authors. I want MORE reviewers. We cannot get enough aggregators. This hissy fit she’s pitching is the equivalent of throwing the food back in your face when we’re all an apple away from starving.
        I took the time because it’s important. You and the work you do are worth it.

  3. here via :
    A review is a gift. Period. Any feedback is a gift. I find the idea of owing an author a review a bit mind boggling, but then I am a bit new at this.
    As to your first question, I have this to say: as a reader I appreciate any and all dialog on a product I’m considering. I may buy a one-star book and pass on a four-star, or vise versa. It’s very dependent on my likes and dislikes, which may or may not match the reviewer’s, but I appreciate that the reviewer has taken the time to offer their opinion. Always.

    • Hi there, thank you for commenting!
      Congrats on your new book btw.. looks interesting and can’t wait to get my hands on it.
      I do appreciate your comments and I’m really re-evaluating what I think of as the quid pro quo with getting a free book and may be slightly more cautious in my choices for review.
      As a reader I’m very grateful for reviews of all ratings. I want to know why something scored high or low and like you said, I may read it anyway. I once picked up a book that got 1-2 stars from several on goodreads and adored the book entirely. So I always assumed others felt the same and just wanted to see if readers agreed/disagreed. So thank you! Feedback is always welcome and has helped a lot.

  4. Hi Kassa,
    as I just wrote in Amazoniowan’s LJ:
    Thank you. I’ve been attacked that I was trying to “kill the competition”, was “mean”, “envious of a great talent”, have no “spine”, am “gormless” (I had to check that one in a dictionary, hey, I learnt a new word!) – I’ve been told to “shut the fuck up”, been told I “don’t have the right to review” because I’m an author, too.
    There’s a major shitstorm brewing about this exact issue right now, and I’ve seen a writer lynchmob come down like a ton of brick on a reviewer who didn’t like an – honestly atrocious – book.
    Today alone, I’ve been mobbed and cajoled to not hang out with that person, because I could be next. Somebody said to me I might jeopardize selling to the pub in question. I see my friends stagger away, hurting and shocked, because one writer whipped up a supporting lynch mob in response to – perfectly justified – criticism of a book.
    I was told that opinion attacked the author (it didn’t) and the publisher and I would be “collateral damage”.
    I’m *this* close to hanging up my reviewing gloves and put the time and energy it takes me to review a book into writing. It takes me around 10 hours to write a review. In that time, I could write a chapter.
    *whew* Sorry for the rant. I just get so pissed off at authors being bitches. As if our fight wasn’t hard enough already – no, now we have to attack our own troops, our own *best* supporters, the people that sacrifice so much time and effort to *promote* our books. I sometimes feel ashamed to be an author, and do wonder, every time I have to deal with the fall-out, whether I shouldn’t shut the fuck up and leave it. Promoting people’s books only to get kicked in the ‘nads?
    I do expect to find my joy back in reviewing, but right now, I’m not feeling it.
    All that said, I do believe 1 star reviews are necessary, and we don’t actually owe the writer anything. As a writer, I’m happy for each and every review – it’s free marketing, and I’ve made friends for life, because, at the bottom of it, reviewers are book people and love books dearly. Hence, they are the same as authors – we both love books.
    When I send out anything of mine for review, of course I’m hoping for a “I LOVED THIS! I WANT VASHTAN’S BABIES!” (Okay, the latter would be freaky but you know what I mean) – but I have friends who tell me “Listen, you last three chapters sucked donkey balls, fix it, you lazy coward” – and at the end, we’re still friends. I may get angry, and I might rant a bit, but in th end I sit down and fix it. Revieweras should be like that – give me how they feel it, because, in writing, honesty and an educated opinion are worth their weight (errr…) in gold. You don’t get those reviews from agents or publishers (it’s either form letter or “YAY WE LOVE THIS), and readers often can’t put into words why they hated a book , or didn’t like it.
    Anyway. You’re doing a great job, and writers being crazy to reviewers hurt themselves. I know that I wouldn’t buy books from writers that attack reviewers in public. There’s a lot of competition out there, and many other books that want my attention.

    • Hi Vashtan,
      Thank you for commenting as always and more so, your impassioned defense of reviewers. I can tell you’ve been slammed a time or two for your reviews. We should have a badge and wear it proudly. I think reviewers shouldn’t be afraid or fearful of posting thoughtful, intelligent reviews. Reviewers shouldn’t have to say “ok am I going to be ripped apart for this?” when saying honestly something just didn’t work for them. Then honest reviews start to become careful and delicate so no one (especially the author) gets upset.
      I really don’t want to turn this into an author behaving badly post because honestly there are TONS out there. Just as reviewers will likely always exist there will be authors that fly off the handle. In fact, reading some of the blog circus’ of late, mine is pretty mild in comparison. Your attacks are pretty harsh and I’m sorry for that. So I don’t begrudge you your rant at all and it shows how such can affect a reviewer just as deeply as the upset author.
      I think you just demonstrated why it’s essential reviewers aren’t afraid to review honestly. So clearly negative reviews have their place, which is what I wanted to know :D.

      • I think those “battle scars” are well-deserved – they just itch when there’s a storm brewing. (Like right now) πŸ™‚
        I have dished out some pretty punishing reviews on http://www.speakitsname.com, but the fact is, there *are* books that just lack everything. And while half the Internet seems to use the “polite silence” strategy, I can’t help but say a book is shit if it’s shit. It means I sometimes have to step away from reviewing to re-charge my fighting spirit, but at least I’m not running one of those dishonest “free book rackets”, as I call “review sites” where everybody/thing gets 4-5 stars.
        I’m trying hard to educate my fellow authors where I can, because, yes, especially if you’re new and your mommy and daddy always loved your books and your little sis drew you a cover for it, having somebody tell you “actually, it sucked” is tough. But you won’t get anywhere if you don’t have that inner strength to say “maybe it sucked for some, but I’ll try and work harder so it sucks for less people next time!”
        Perfection is unattainable. Every book will suck for somebody. Like the commenter below, when I buy something, I read the best and the worst review of a book.
        I’ve been told that my opinion “means something”, because I’ve given out one-star reviews (which were deserved) and say things like “I was bored to tears” rather than “this might have benefited from a little tightening”. Okay, I gotta work on my diplomacy skill. But honestly, there *are* bad books out there, and lazy writers with serious lack of craft but huge egos, and both together are a terrible combination.
        When I’m was planning to launch my review blog (it might still happen), I was considering letting reviewers review under pseudonyms, so at least they are safe from Teh Crazy.

        • Well you bring up a good point that is actually not all books written are 5 stars fabulous. Given the wealth of books in the e-world alone, I always say 3 stars is average and fits with the genre. It’s not bad!! I mean everyone wants to be the best but fitting in as average is not bad (at least in my reader opinion). So you’re going to have some bad books and some great books.
          But its usually drama inducing to point that out. Then you wish you really were anonymous! Emily and I discussed being anonymous on $3, but I figured it’d be obvious so I’d just use my name. Sometimes I do wish I’d been “mask #1”

          • Exactly. πŸ™‚ For me, 3 Stars is a solid, but forgettable read. Many authors are “solid”, that’s fine. They delivered, but they didn’t exceed my expectations, that’s 4-5 star stuff.

  5. Kassa, I really can’t improve on the statements of Moons_storm and Libby Drew because they said it all. Any feedback is a gift. A one-star review can be hard for an author to take, but it contains valuable information if done right (and you did, especially in that you quoted from the book to support your conclusions). It’s also useful to the reader. I could see from the review and its supporting evidence that trying to read this particular book would drive me completely nuts.
    I’m not sure if I can even theorize as to this writer’s reaction. I mean, she voluntarily sent you the book. She knows you’re a reviewer and not her publicist. If she had been paying attention to your review sites, she would have known that you’re among our most fearless reviewers in that you state the flaws as you see them, and all the flaws, along with the praise.
    I don’t think she realizes what a good thing that is. If there were no one willing to state the flaws, then we’d all be writers surrounded by readers who, for whatever reason, would prefer to voice praise only, and THAT would make us self-indulgent, too fragile to withstand criticism, and completely out of touch with reality.

    • Hi Val, Thanks as always for stopping by and taking the time to comment. You’re always so supportive and I appreciate it.
      As for this case, well I wasn’t trying to garner support or explain the author’s bad behavior. You know I do get it. It was a largely negative review about an author’s book. I get why she’d be upset and ranting. I really do. I of course wished she’d sent that letter off to a girlfriend instead of me but that’s how it goes. I get why she was upset and we’ll just have to agree to disagree. While it was poor taste and I’d warn other reviewers from reviewing this author for free of the same – it’s still something that I think we can all see why it happened. Even if we disagree.
      I was really curious if the statement about a 1 star review being for drama and the shock effect is really true. As you said, you found something very helpful in the review and could see if it would or would not attract you to the same book. That is the sole purpose of a review so regardless of author reaction, the review succeeded. So that is good to know. That’s really answered my question and I can put the matter to rest. Thank you!

      • Hi, Kassa! You’re very welcome. You’re right that you didn’t need to garner support and also that explaining the author’s behavior isn’t really necessary. I think I continue to find it baffling that authors choose to respond this way — not that they FEEL upset, but that they go ahead and send the email. I understand why she’d be upset because she may not have ever experienced the wide range of critical responses that you get when you show your work outside your circle of supporters, so she might have been convinced that it was a perfect book. (But what book is ever truly without flaws?) I’m just amazed that she chose to send you a snotty email. What on earth is that supposed to accomplish? It might make all other reviewers refuse to review her … Anyway, this certainly has turned out to be a fascinating post on a timely subject!

        • Oh you’re totally right Val. Why she actually -sent- the email, I’ll never know. I’m not sure if she thought I’d change my review entirely and say “you know, you’re right, it’s a fabulous book.” I’m not really sure what she was hoping to accomplish unless it was lashing back at my “lash” at her/her book.
          It certainly has turned into an interesting topic and reviewers showing their battle wounds. Tough business for all involved – both reviewers AND authors.

  6. Well to me, a review isn’t technically feedback for the writer. It might be useful to them, whether it’s positive or negative, but a review is for the readers not the writer. Once the book is out there in the wild, published, it’s fair game – whether they asked you for a review or not. The writer and publisher have decided this book is ready for primetime. The reviewers and readers are then entitled to give their opinion about whether that’s true.

    • Hi there, thanks for commenting. I’m getting lucky with feedback about whether negative or low star reviews actually help a reader.
      In fact I think you touched upon a key issue. The reviews aren’t really for authors. Sure they may (or not) help but just because a reviewer says the characters were flat doesn’t mean the author will change anything. It’s just one person’s opinion. I think it helps a reader say “i usually agree and ok I may not like that” or “i dont always agree so i’ll probably like this one.” I’ve had both types of readers and I do that to reviewers myself.

  7. Hi! I’m also here via Heidi’s LJ. First off, I think ALL reviews are valuable, both with my writer hat on and as a reader.
    As a reader: As long as the reviewer gives a detailed enough criticism of the book so that the reader can work out whether they’re likely to agree with that reviewer’s opinion.
    I’ve seen books I loved absolutely slated, but in such a way that I had to admit that the reviewer had a point. It was just that what was a deal-breaker for them, wasn’t for me.
    As a writer: Well, here’s where my natural cowardice comes into play. If I were to send a book to you for review, and you emailed me back saying, “look, it’s a stinker, do you want me to post it or not?” (which obviously you would be under no kind of obligation to do) my gut reaction would probably be “Please, NO!” But I’d be doing myself, not to mention my readers, a disservice.
    Is a review ever owed? I’m with Libby Drew on this: no way, not ever. And I really do appreciate the time people put into their reviews. As Libby said: It’s a gift.

    • Hi there, thanks for cruising over! It’s like newcomer’s day on my little blog. How fun.
      Thank you even more for taking the time to answer my questions because that’s exactly what I was hoping to find out. Either for or against, it’s good to know how others feel.
      I’ve occasionally sent books back without a review if the book is a DNF (which is very rare) or I didn’t like it so much I couldn’t come up with one positive thing at all to say. But to be honest, I feel bad not writing a review after agreeing and weigh that against an author cringing and saying OMG dont write that! So it’s really helpful to realize that readers and authors dont feel a free book=must review. Kind of alter my thinking somewhat.
      Thank you so much for your contribution, very helpful.

  8. I find reading negative reviews just as helpful as reading positive ones. Not speaking of this one specifically, but I have seen one star reviews in the past that actually led me to buy the book, because I either noticed that the reviewer and I rarely agree, and if s/he hated it, then I may like it, or there was something in the middle of all the negative that sparks my interest. I agree that if you show the 5 star reviews, you should also show the 1 star, not to trash a book, but to show the review readers a full spectrum.

    • Hi there, welcome and thank you for commenting. Cookies are available by the door on the way out.
      Your comment is exactly what I was asking so thank you! It helps to know that readers do use 1 star reviews. They may not agree but it’s something useful in making choices.
      Good to hear from another that agrees on the 1-5 spectrum. You’ve confirmed my ideas and that’s a relief :D.

  9. EEK.
    As a voracious reader, fellow reviewer and oh-so-definitely not a writer, I have to say:
    1. I do not believe you are ever obligated to write a review, even when the author has sent you that book for free.
    If they bug you about it, you could say, “I’ve read your book, and I wanted you to know that I’m not going to be posting a review of your book because it doesn’t fit into the criteria I’ve set for my LJ” or something like that.
    But I don’t think you are obligated. There are lots of reasons — including that it just doesn’t float your boat — that you might not want to post a review.
    2. As a reader and as a reviewer, I do think 1 star reviews are useful. I hate giving them myself because I know the author sees that book like a beloved child and is going to be hurt. But if I only ever give 5 star reviews, what are my reviews worth? As a reader, a 1 star review doesn’t necessarily keep me from buying a book, although it does make me stop and think. But — it’s only one person’s opinion and *seeing* the review brings that book to my mind. I can’t be aware of every book that comes out, so even if it got a low review, I might be tempted to try it if it sounds like a genre I’d like.
    I have also received a vitriolic email about a review – from a different author – who felt like my 3 star review of her “award-winning” book was stupid and ill-considered and unfair, since it’s not her fault I didn’t adore her book, that I should fall into line with the “award”. Well – she convinced me. I’ll never buy/read/review another of her books.
    I know it’s hard for an author to see a negative review. I have a friend who makes a point of never reading her reviews for that reason, which may be an overreaction. But she still sends her books for review because she agrees wholeheartedly with the poster above who said ‘there is no bad publicity’. And I think that’s the bottom line.

    • Re: EEK.
      Hi Carole, thanks for commenting!
      Great to hear from some reviewers on this thread. A topic near and dear to many hearts as survivors of such things. I’m sorry to hear about your own experiences and I can remember similar things happening to Jenre (over a 4 star review!), Vashtan explained his near lynching, Emily got trashed over a 3.5 star review, and no doubt every reviewer that will post anything but a glowing review will feel the lash at some point.
      Again, we need badges!
      You said it so perfectly though – the author convinced you not to read their books again. That is a shame and really the biggest loss. I remember offhand I loathed one of an author’s books but went on to give high marks to several other of her books and if I’d received a negative response, Id have given up.
      I do appreciate that you don’t think authors are “owed” reviews. I’m waffling on that but the overwhelming majority think it’s not a given. So that’s very helpful personally.
      It is hard to give and more so to receive a negative review. Those who take it well are truly worth applauding. Next we need to celebrate some great authors!

  10. I always check the lowest-starred, highest-rated reviews on Amazon; they’re good for pointing out specific things I might like or dislike, while positive reviews tend to be more vague, in my experience.

    • Hi there and welcome! Very interesting observation. I hadn’t thought about it like that and I’ll definitely be looking more closely if that is also a trend on other sites.
      I do notice on Amazon there are those throw away reviews “I loved it! Buy it Now!” um.. ok why? And also those “this is total trash. i want my money back” also.. um why?
      Very astute observation and one I’ll keep in mind. Thank you!

  11. Read the post on Meta writer, commented on it and then decided to move my comment on your lj-journal.
    It’s hard to swallow a bad review, especially when it’s true (and than doesn’t apply just for books and writing). – But then you find out (at least I did) that if you want to become better, to improve, you need people to point out the things you should work on.
    And yes, that review was bad, really bad, it didn’t just criticize the book and plot and characteristic, but also the writer’s skill. That’s had to hurt. I think that was the main reason for bashing – which was still unjustified.
    Do I think that the review should be nicer? No. It’s seen that you put a lot of thought, time and effort in it and there was nothing insulting.
    I’m not a published writer, the things I write are available free on internet, and I prefer constructive criticism over the ‘I love it and/or update soon’ anytime , because constructive criticism is the one that would help in improving my skills and better my stories. (Even though it had to t sucks when that happens after you already published the story and there’s no way you can correct it.) And I do use beta reader – she loves my works, my writing, she always makes me blush with her praise, but when she beta-reads she pulls out her small magnifying glass and sticks her fingers in everything; her reviews sometimes leave me wet from sweat and beaten to the core – and I’m so grateful to her.
    So, that the author bashed you over the mail – it’s really sad, unjustified and not only shows the author’s lack of manners, but her immaturity. I hope that that won’t discourage you from reviewing, because your reviews offer a great peek into the books.
    Do you find one star reviews to be of any value?
    I can really answer that, because I’m not in situation where that would influence me, but since I do think that any review is better than no review I would say yes.
    Do you think books submitted for review by the author are owed a review? No. But in the case the review is denied writer should be entitled to know the reason or at least know that he/she had been rejected.

    • Hi there,
      Thank you very much for taking the time to come over and leave a lengthy, thought provoking comment. This is exactly why I started this discussion and it’s incredibly helpful and insightful. So thank you for your comment!
      I love to hear how others view a review – in this case a VERY negative review – as I can read it and think “oh its bad but I explained myself” and someone else thinks its just bashing. Hearing from a totally neutral person, very helpful. So thank you for taking the time not only to comment but to read through that review.
      I understand why the author did what she did. I don’t condone it obviously but I do understand the anger, pain, and embarrassment and believe it or not I do feel bad for contributing to that and getting the splashback on myself. Which is why it’s nice to hear that some think it’s ok to refuse a review and offer a reason. Yet on the flip side, all reviews help so it’s a fine line clearly.
      Your comments definitely give some food for thought and best of luck with your writing! I’ll have to pop over and peer at some. Also congratulations on getting such a great beta. Having one that will love you yet be brutally honest is a god send. You better protect her!

      • I’m glad that I could be of help and if when you have time you are more than welcome to pop over, I would be grateful for any input, opinion and suggestions that you are willing to share.
        And no worries, I do protect her and bribe her with the same treatment. xD
        Hope that the next authors would appreciate your reviews for what they are, your opinion of the book in which you have invested time and efforts (first to read the book, then to think about it and at then to write the review).

  12. Hi, I came here via a link from .
    I’m not sure what your book-reviewing policy is and how you got the book. If I had received a book for free and was asked to review it as payment, I would warn the author that my review would be 1-star and overwhelmingly negative before posting it. I suspect that the shame/embarrassment of having such a negative review online might be a big factor behind them sending nasty comments to reviewers, too.
    That being said, if something negative is going to be said, I would rather hear it in private. I would like to know for future reference just why someone hated my book, and I would thank them for it. I just would prefer they not say that in public on the internet; a compromise, IMHO, would be a short review (marked with one star) saying the book was bad but that details had been sent to the author privately.
    But this is just my oversensitive writer’s ego talking. ^_^ As a reader, I’d want to know why it was marked only one star, after all.
    If, however, I had not received the book from the author and if I were reviewing it with zero contact, I would probably have done what you had in the review.
    Er. I’ll stop editing this now.

    • Hi there! Thank you for coming over and taking the time to comment and share your thoughts, especially from an author perspective.
      I totally understand what you’re saying. I received the book from the review site where the author had requested a review and I agreed to review it so thus I felt obligated in some way to take the time to read and review the book, even though I didn’t like.
      We definitely discussed not publishing the review and simply saying to the author that the reviewer had disliked the book. But there were a lot of arguments for and against this course of action. Whether that would have been preferred, I don’t know. There were a lot of things to take into consideration and in the end, we decided to publish the review.
      I can say that if I had picked this up on my own, I likely wouldn’t have published the review and just kept it to myself. Since a review was specifically requested it changed things from my perspective.
      I feel bad that no doubt this hurt the author’s feelings. So perhaps I should have erred on the side of caution and simply not posted it and no one be the wiser. Hard decision since I really do feel you need to show a range from bad books to good books to really appreciate when a book is fabulous 5 stars. Thus our policy is to post all reviews, regardless of rating. I will say that 1 star review are incredibly rare but definitely food for thought.
      Thank you so much for adding your opinion. It helps to have all sides so something better can happen in the future.

  13. do 1 star reviews actually tell you, the reader, anything you need to know?
    If nothing else, it tells me what books not to buy, and since I have only so much $$ each moth to spend on books and comics, that’s a valuable service. If the review is actually detailed, i.e. with a description of the book and exactly what the reviewer did and didn’t like, it’s even more useful, because my tatses are not always the reviewers’ tastes. I’ve rushed out to find books that Dear Author gave a C- or D to based on their (negative) description of the book. One of the lj comms I follow contains rants about readable-but-I-hated-them fanfiction by a reccer/reviewer, and I can usually guaratee myself at least one guilty pleasure read every couple of months out of her bad reviews, because some of the things I know she hates in fiction are things I love.
    If a book is submitted for a review, is it owed a review even if it’s bad?
    If an author submits a book for review, she (or he) ought to be prepared to accept a negative or mixed review if that’s the reviewer’s honest opinion. Reviewers aren’t obligated to like a book, but writers *are* obligated to accept criticism like a professional when they’ve deliberately sought someone’s opinion on their work.

    • Hi there! Welcome and thank you for commenting. This topic certainly has drawn a crowd.
      I think your comments are so topical and true and show how a bad review can still generate sales. I’ve felt the same way and I can think of one instant in particular when Dear Author rated a book a C- but it sounded like something I would like so I bought it anyway and actually really enjoyed it. I could see where the previous reviewer had issues, but they didn’t bother me as much like I suspected.
      I guess I was living under a misconception since it seems the majority feel that even if you get a “free” book for review, reviewers are not obligated to actually review the book and can decline. Not that I ever agree to review a book I know I won’t like (of course) but it does help avoid nasty circumstances.
      It really helps that everyone has taken the time to comment and helped reinforce or change my views on the topic. Thank you so much, very much appreciated!

  14. Hi, Kassa. πŸ™‚
    I pretty much take the stance that any review is something *I* owe the reviewer thanks for. I mean, not only did they take the time to acquire and then read my book, but they also spent time writing their thoughts on it. Even if they didn’t care for the book, they still devoted thought, energy and what’s likely to be limited free time to it. I’ll even go so far as to say that writing a less than glowing review is probably less pleasant for a reviewer than write a 5 star one. I mean, first they didn’t like the book, then they’re spending still more of their limited spare time saying why. For that alone, I owe them a debt of gratitude. More so if they actually indicate why (which you do with your very clear and well thought out comments).
    As for whether an author is ‘owed’ a review just because they give you their book… and again, I’m speaking solely for myself… NO. Sure, I’ve sent copies of my books out to people for review, but I don’t feel they OWE me, beyond “I received the copy of ‘Blah-blah-blah’ you sent and I’ll let you know if I review it.”
    I don’t review books. Never have and likely never will. I write and I read. Lord, do I read. I have a TBR file of a couple hundred books of various lengths. I shudder to think of the number of stories reviewers have just waiting for them to have yet more free time, even for reading.
    I always HOPE for a review, either good or bad (because this means at least someone’s read my story and felt strongly enough about it to say something– anything!), but I don’t feel it’s OWED to me. And in the event of a bad review (and I’ve had a few), I may grumble to myself or whine to my friends in IM… but ordinarily, after a day or so, I read it again and discover that there are points I agree with or at least understand the reason for.
    Either way, though, even the worst review ever should never garner anything more than an email from the author saying “I’m sorry you didn’t care for my story ‘Blah-blah-blah’ but hope you’ll give other of my books a try in future and find them more to your tastes. Thank you for your time in reviewing it.”
    Then again, maybe that’s just cuz I’m old. *hee*

    • You’re not old! *laughs* Old is only as old as you feel (which granted recently oy) but no way could you be old. You always remind me of someone with so much energy and happiness.
      Anyway thank you for your comments. It’s been a fascinating topic that has garnered a TON of replies – far more than I ever ever thought possible. I’ve been incredibly lucky to get a wide variety of author input, which is so helpful. Considering I get review books, it’s honestly a bit of a shock to me to hear that many dont consider that an obligation on the reader. I guess I’m from another planet because I always thought it did. Not that such really affected what I thought or how I wrote the review – my obligation is an honest accounting that’s it. But I guess I need to adjust my thinking some.
      I do understand why I’d get slammed by an author for negative reviews both the recent one and in the past. Normally this grumbling is done behind closed doors as it were or a minor comment is dropped to me. I get that and also I never except an author to reply to a review I’ve written, good or bad. I don’t expect a thank you or a sorry you didn’t like it or glad you thought it was the best thing ever. I understand completely why authors may choose not to respond at all and that’s perfectly fine. But if they do, sadly acting like that may cause me a few problems in the short term but ultimately all the author has done is ensured fewer people will buy their next book. Which is a true shame because the same reviewer could LOVE the next book by the same author.
      Thanks for stopping by and sharing. I’m shocked at all the comments!

  15. Hi. Here from meta_writer.
    Gah, entitlement again. No reviewer owes a review just because a book was submitted. One hopes for a review–“Best Book I Ever Read,” by preference– but “publish” means “to make public” and once a book is out, there’s no way to control what reviewers may say, nor should there be. I think a review is indeed feedback for a writer, but its purpose is to let people know what Reviewer X thought of the book.
    Now, disclosure: If someone gives me an unsolicited thumbs-up, I see nothing wrong in asking them to post a review somewhere. IMO, that’s like the restaurant that has a sign saying “If you like our food, please tell your friends.” And I admit that I very seldom write a review unless I really enjoyed the book. (I am a very critical reader and while I’d like to believe that a critical review would not generate retaliation, I have seen good reviews vanish because I ticked off some friend of the reviewer. I don’t need to get into petty skirmishes.) I had that DNF experience with a friend’s book once (it dealt with issues that I find intolerable) and even though it’s superbly written, I couldn’t finish it. Did Not Finish, IMO, is a valid thing to say in a review if the book is so bad it’s a waste of time, but that wasn’t the case here.
    I don’t see any point to a 5-star system that only publishes 3 and up, for two reasons. The big one is, as others have said, that a 5-star review from a site that does nothing below 3 doesn’t mean as much–but the reverse of that is that a book’s omission implies that the book is sub-level. That’s ridiculous, because no site owes a review… but if I send “Turtle Frappaccino*” to HappySweetReviews and they don’t review it, a reader might deduce that “Turtle Frappaccino” must have been too low to rate. The truth might be that HappySweet’s menage reviewer was out with the flu or maybe they just couldn’t find a reviewer who was willing to tackle a menage involving a vampire, a ninja turtle, and a bisexual Belgian barista, or maybe they got 85 books that month and have only 3 people doing reviews, who also have to earn a living and care for their families… but there’s no way to know the reason for the omission.
    I read your 1-star review and I wish more people reviewed like that–giving specific reasons for what you found unsatisfactory. You obviously put some work into it. Yes, you gave it a low rating, but you explained why. (I fail to see where research on Welsh religion would have given you a handle on ancient, evil vampires. I did a quick search on Welsh religion and found Druids, Anglicans, Methodists, even Mormons.. but nothing at all on two-legged mosquitoes.) I’m sure that your critique felt like an attack to the writer, but as a reader, I found myself nodding at your logic about advancing the plot by having characters make dumb choices. I like characters who think. I don’t like stories about horny nitwits.
    Would I like a 1-star review? Of course not! But the most annoying low review I’ve ever had was a 2-star that gave no reason at all for the rating, and I think it would have been very useful if the reviewer had explained she low-balled my book because I didn’t use the names of actual Royal Navy ships. (I mentioned this in a chat and found I was talking to the reviewer… she gave the details offlist, in a reasonably cordial discussion about explaining the rationale behind a rating.) Low marks without an explanation are a reviewer’s privilege, of course, but not helpful to reader or author.
    I was half-relieved and half-disappointed to see you had not reviewed any of my books.
    A bit of site feedback–as an over-40 reader with astigmatism, that textured blue background combined with grey print is very hard on the eyes.
    * Hell, no, not a real title.

    • To start I want to apologize for the comment background and its difficulty to read. I rarely get comments so I never really thought about it so I’ll find a way to lighten this. I apologize and thank you for wading in anyway!
      I appreciate that readers and authors alike can appreciate a site that offers a range of reviews low to high. Given the sheer number of books submitted to most of the major review sites, if a book isn’t reviewed 99% of the time it’s just due to the fact that there are too few reviewers for the overwhelming number of submitted books. Often the book just didn’t catch a reader/reviewer’s eye and never requested. Very few books are kicked back as too low to review, though of course it happens.
      So when I can’t find a review of a book around, I never know if it was because it was bad or just something that never caught reviewer’s eyes.
      I appreciate your feedback on my review very much. Thank you for taking the time and energy to read through that and then comment here. It’s very much appreciated! I can understand that such a review is not easy to take and one might be enticed to rage upon reading it. I DO understand that. I also think it’s why a lot of sites/reviewer’s/readers just don’t want to get involved in the drama and problems that posting something like that could bring.
      So for me it’s essential and incredibly helpful to know that negative reviews can be helpful and have a clear purpose on a review site. I also clearly need to adjust my thinking on whether authors are “owed” reviews.
      Oh and I have your book in my “To Read First” pile after I get through some review requests. πŸ™‚ I’m not sure if that scares or thrills you!
      Again thank you for commenting and I apologize about the layout. I’ll try to change that.

  16. To tell you the truth, I’m automatically suspect of any review site that DOESN’T have any lower-starred reviews. We all read/view things that we end up disliking or have problems with – if a site doesn’t find these then it’s possible that they may have an agenda of some sort (even if it’s a relatively innocent one such as not wanting to rock the boat).

    • I think most don’t want to insult authors (after all that’s where their books come from) and also don’t want to deal with the drama of negative reviews. But as a reader, that’s frustrating.

  17. I think if a book is just offered, no it’s not owed a review. If, however, a reviewer *accepts* that free book, then yes I feel they ought to write a review for it. Otherwise it’s something for nothing. Authors only get so many author copies so if one is accepted for review, we do expect that review to happen, whether good or bad. And honestly, oftentimes a really bad review like that will garner more sales than a really good one. The trainwreck effect, I think. So yes, if a reviewer accepts the offered book, it’s imo an agreement that in exchange for that free copy they will provide an honest review. It certainly does not imply the reviewer is required to give a good review, of course.
    I’m sorry you got slammed for your review. I will never understand authors who do this. I’ve gotten a few really terrible reviews (thankfully not many in relation to the good lol) and thought they sting, I keep my whining and butthurt-ness between myself and a couple very close IRL friends. I never, ever comment anywhere about it nor bitch in any online forum about it.

    • I’d like to clarify that I don’t mean reviewers who receive swaths of new releases from publishers automatically or anything. They can obviously pick and choose. What I mean is if an author emails a blogger/reviewer personally and says “Hey, I have a new release, do you want a copy to review?” In which case, I think yeah, if the blogger/reviewer says “Sure, send it my way” then it’s sort of an agreement to do the review.
      If it’s sent unsolicited then no, you’re not obligated imo.

      • Hi there!
        See you’re on my wavelength. If I’m sent a copy and I say “yes” I feel that’s an agreement. Whether I asked the publisher for the copy or was sent one by the author/publisher, if I send a verbal yes it feels like an agreement to me. I don’t agree to love and shower flowers on said book, but I do agree to write my honest thoughts about it. It’s a chance the author takes to get a bad review. Perhaps this author thought that Three Dollar Bill wouldn’t post anything that low or negative, keeping in line with a lot of review sites. I don’t know. What’s funny is if she’d simply asked me to take it down instead of trashing me, I’d have taken the review down. I’m not out to cause drama and if she felt offended and could simply say “please take it down” ok.
        But oh well. I definitely was operating on your thought line as well with regards to reviews which thus prompted this specific one. Although most seem to think the review is a gift regardless of how the book is acquired, which makes for some food for thought.

  18. First of all a big hug to you, Kassa, for having to deal with horrid emails from authors. Many of us reviewers have had to put up with such personal rants, either in the comments sections of reviews or privately by email and all it does is make the author look bad. Well done for naming and shaming here.
    In terms of 1 star reviews then, yes, I do think that there’s a value in writing them. As a reader I want to know whether a book has major flaws – even if it’s just in the eyes of the reviewer. That way I can compare the negative review to one which may be more favourable from another reviewer and make my mind up about the book based on a range of reviews.
    One thing I always find very suspicious is when there are no reviews for a book, especially if people on sites like Good Reads have read the book but declined to put a rating. That suggests to me that there is a certain amount of trepidation or even fear of reprisal for readers who hated a book, so instead of giving it that one star they choose not to rate it at all. That’s a great shame IMO. Readers should feel as comfortable rating a book 1 star as they do 3-5 stars and not worry that loony authors are then going to target that reviewer with a campaign of hate, just for being honest.
    In terms of whether you should review a book which has been submitted for review, I often feel obliged to review a book which has been sent to me so I review everything, although I will make it very clear to the author that a positive review is not guaranteed. Like you, this has meant that I’ve had to write very negative reviews. I didn’t like doing it but if you want to run a site known for honesty and integrity, then sometimes it’s going to happen. Well done to you for sticking to your guns on this one Kassa. I read the review and was impressed by your fairness in putting your reasons across as to why the book didn’t work.

    • Hi Jen! Thanks for stopping by. I know most reviewers have dealt with this and I remember your horrible experience over a GOOD review! I’m torn on the naming and shaming thing because on the one hand, I’m not trying to be a mean girl and bash the author for her behavior. It’s more of a warning also for reviewers that this particular author will attack so judge carefully before investing time and effort into a review. I also wanted to reference my review so people could comment good or bad on it, which they have. I’ve gotten a ton of feedback which is amazing and very helpful.
      You eloquently stated pretty much everything in line with my thinking. It’s always a relief that another reviewer and one I admire feels the same. I often feel like I should offer a review, good or bad, if I accept the book. But many authors still don’t feel you have such an obligation. Very interesting if you ask me.
      I do think you touched on one issue that really bothers me and that’s fear of being honest. You’ve experienced a fan base attacking you and other readers have as well for daring to say you didn’t like something. Author letters are just one part but sometimes publishers will drop a reviewer/site if there aren’t enough positive reviews or something. I think reviewers have to be strong in a sense like authors and say what they really think without being mean or worrying about being attacked. It’s rough since an author feels attacked by a bad review so it’s a very fine line to balance. But as always – work in progress!

  19. Kassa
    Like you, I have been subjected to vitriolic emails by authors who hate my reviews but that never stopped me from being honest. I give my opinion which is what a reviewer is supposed to do. Some reviewers don’t for their own reasons, but personally I think they don’t have the balls to say whether a book is good, bad or ugly maybe because they feel that they have to be nice to the author who sent them a book to review. In my view if you’re reviewing a book then you should state your OPINION.
    Good on you for sticking to your guns and don’t let anyone stop you from doing your job. I love your reviews which I think are among the best in the business and just because one author hates your guts is no reason to change what you’re doing.
    Sorry my comment is so late but I just saw this post.

  20. Sure, as a writer I think one star reviews are helpful when it’s explained what the problems were, what the reader or reviewer didn’t like. Is it just a personal opinion, or were there mechanical problems, etc and so forth. Further, these reviews are supposed to tell other readers what you thought of the book. Sure, it tells the writers as well, but they need to keep their mouths shut. It’s unprofessional to respond to a review other than to ask for clarification or thank the reader for reading.
    And I don’t think you owe anybody anything. The author or publisher makes the choice to send the book to you, if you don’t feel comfortable writing that review, you shouldn’t.
    This is a big soap box for me though. I personally won’t buy an author’s work if I know them to be shitty to their readers or sick their harpies on someone who doesn’t love everything they write.
    I can promise you, if you read my stuff and think it sucks hairy donkey balls, I’ll smile and thank you for reading and ask you what made it suck hairy donkey balls. There are too many authors who think because you crapped out a story, somebody owes you something.
    Readers are consumers and books are a product like any other. If you don’t like something, you should be able to say so without fear of verbal abuse. The CEO of Proctor and Gamble doesn’t show up at your house if you change the brand of toothpaste you use. And it is the same thing. For those people that created that toothpaste, that’s their baby the same as any book. It takes the same creativity and passion.
    Don’t let a few asshats stop you from exercising your right to free speech. Just don’t buy their work or accept it for review and further, if someone harasses you, write their publisher.

    • Sorry for my late reply! It seems this post still has legs (hehe). Thanks for stopping by and caring enough to comment. It’s nice to see that authors feel there IS a place for low reviews, even if they’re hard to take (which I’m not heartless, I do understand).
      I pretty much stick to the belief now that if I have a reason not to want to review, then I don’t. If for some reason I don’t want to write the review, I simply don’t and tell the author/publisher it’s best if I pass. It’s not easy to review yet I think reviews are essential to consumers. I can’t think of a product I want to buy that I DONT google for reviews. I google reviews on everything from household cleaner to a new laptop. Everyone wants to know what general people think and they can pick and choose from there.
      I LOVE your analogy about the CEO not going to your house when you change products lol. I may have to steal that with credit. Your comment is very spot on and much appreciated.

  21. I know I’m jumping in to this discussion very late. πŸ™‚
    I’ll just agree with what most of the others have said. One-star reviews ARE useful. None of us wants to receive one, of course, but they are important. As a writer, I hate getting a good review, then browsing the site and realizing that every single book has either four or five stars. The review means next to nothing to me at that point.
    I’ve seen a similar discussion on another forum where authors were basically claiming that nobody has a right to post a bad review. I think those authors were forgetting that reviews really aren’t for the authors. They’re for the readers. And as a reader, I’m always FAR more interested in the negative reviews than the positive ones. There are certain things, i.e. head-hopping, that will turn me off of a book immediately, and I want to know ahead of time so I don’t end up wasting my money on a book I won’t finish (and positive reviews rarely contain those kinds of details).
    If this was an author’s very first published work, I could understand it more. Not that it’s justified, but it’s more understandable. When my first book came out back in January, I had no idea that most of this community even existed. I’d never even heard of Goodreads, or Jessewave. I only knew about reader reviews on Amazon, which aren’t that common for our genre anyway. Sort of bungling into the whole thing, I’m sure I made some mistakes. In that case, maybe some slack could be afforded? But it doesn’t seem that was the case here.
    All that being said, I must admit I have mixed feelings about other authors rating and reviewing books. If I loved a book, I wouldn’t hesitate to say so, but as writers, I don’t really feel any of us have the right to publiclly criticize somebody else’s work. I think it’s tacky. But I know that opinion isn’t shared by everybody.

    • Old topics are still relevant! It’s nice to see this still generates interest, since it’ll always be relevant.
      I think you hit the nail on the head with the comment that reviews are for readers. My reviews are entirely for readers. They talk about the writing, the characters, the plot… will this bug you while reading? Would this shark jump make you throw the book? But again they’re 100% MY personal opinion. I can absolutely love something that someone else just can’t get into and gives up 3 pages in (which has happened).
      I can hate something that someone else loves to the depths of their soul (also happened). I think the key is that readers are simply smart. They know how to read reviews and pick things they personally like and dislike. I can say “this totally bothered me and I hated the book” but a reader will think “I get that and I know thats actually more up my alley” and off they go to get a book.
      I think the fact that low reviews tend to get support gets authors into thinking low reviews are detrimental to their work, which isn’t true. Also I GET that it’s personal. I know that everyone in the world hears the negative comments with much more impact than the positive. It’s always criticism that stays with people rather than the praise. So reading an entirely negative review where someone didn’t like anything from the title, the cover, to the story and even the author bio is going to suck. It’s also why I think ranting to friends or behind closed doors is the place. I’d expect an author to call me a brain dead hack, just yanno not to my face lol.
      As for authors reviewing other authors’ work, I wrote a post about that. I feel the m/m genre is too small currently to support that. It’s one thing to write a quip line for the cover but another to write a review – but that’s just my opinion.

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