Are reviewers afraid of bad reviews?

Earlier this year I wrote a post about whether 1 star reviews are valuable. I had published a 1 star review and the author vehemently disagreed with both the review and the purpose so I asked what others thought. At the time the consensus was generally that 1 star reviews, while not always nice, as long as they’re honest without the intent to mock/sensationalize have a purpose. Readers and even authors claim that the 1 star reviews make a balanced review site and deserve their time in the sun, regardless of ensuing wank/dramafest.

I’ve long held that belief and to be honest the 1 star books are thankfully far and few between. Usually these tend to be DNFs so you don’t get to the end to write the 1 star negativity filled reviews. Not to mention reviewers are first and foremost readers so we choose books we want to read and hopefully like. Unfortunately I recently read a book that has absolutely no redeeming qualities. I can’t find one positive thing to say about this book and it also angers me because it feels like the author and publisher put no effort into the book. In fact the review I wrote (but haven’t published yet) is over 1,000 words and carefully written to be honest without being cruel. It’s a vastly negative review make no mistake and it comes close to eviscerating the poor story.

So when I asked on twitter “What happens when you find absolutely nothing positive about a book. Should you even review it?” I got a plethora of responses. Some said yes, be honest. Some said they wouldn’t. In fact a vast majority of the book readers/reviewers claimed they wouldn’t do the review themselves. These are the same intelligent, articulate, honest individuals that I count on when I read their reviews about books. Yet the overwhelming majority simply said they’d opt out.

So the impression I got was the 1 star reviews are worthwhile but no one wants to subject themselves to the inevitable backlash from doing them. It’s one thing if the review is mocking or clearly meant to be humorous, those tend to get a lot of positive feedback from readers. But I don’t ever write reviews meant to demean or mock a book or the author. No matter how much I hate the book, I think that’s just mean no matter how funny the reviewer may be (and I’ve read some incredibly clever, witty, and hilarious reviews but they’re still mean).

So I’m left in a bit of a quandary. Are reviewers afraid to be honest, if it’s very negative? If so, doesn’t that mean it’s more important than ever for those 1 star reviews to see the light of day? Or do we rely on whispered comments, emails that say “I won’t publically say this but that book sucked ass. Don’t read it!” and so on to avoid the drama and being seen as mean.

I’m curious to hear what people have to say – including authors, readers, reviewers.

If indeed 1 star reviews are worthwhile, what is the best action to avoid the drama?
Also if 1 star reviews are worthwhile, reviewers shouldn’t be afraid to post their honest reviews.

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69 thoughts on “Are reviewers afraid of bad reviews?

  1. I definitely think one star reviews/dnf’s are appropriate and should be posted. For the same reason you should post a 5 star. If you LOVE the book, I want to know. If you could not finish it or it was terrible – I want to know!! That way I may not buy it.
    There are some books I start that I only make it a chapter or two and decide not to read it – and usually if I only make it that far, I don’t post a review. but if I make it 100 pages and find it is terrible – I usually post a DNF. And you don’t have to be snarky or intentionally hurtful..just say your opinion and move on.
    Those are my thoughts anyway πŸ™‚

    • So true! I definitely read your reviews so that’s good to know. I don’t tend to write DNF’s… if I’m going to review the book, I read the entire thing. Thus my low star reviews would have been DNFs for me as a reader but I find it difficult to review a book I didn’t finish. That’s a talent I haven’t mastered for sure.
      Thanks!

  2. To be honest it’s one reason I’ve decided to lay off reviewing for a while, for fear I’ll end up having to write one for a book I really hate and end up making enemies when I’m just joining the ranks of m/m writers. It’s still a pretty small community, it’s too easy to end up offending someone you’re going to encounter online or even in person. And if there’s one thing I’m bad at, it’s confrontation. I’d just curl up like a hedgehog if I could.

    • I’m terrible at confrontation, too!!
      I do agree that as a writer, it’s best to not write reviews. As you said, our community is pretty small. I think an author who reviews in the same genre is either really brave, or really stupid. I’d just as soon keep my head buried in the sand! πŸ˜‰

    • I do think it’s a sticky situation for authors. Thankfully I’m just a reader, not a writer with no ambition to be an author so I don’t have to take into account who I piss off. If no one wants to send me their books I’m quite capable of buying my own – which I do! So I’m in a more unique position of not having to really care about the backlash per se. Not that I court it mind you either :s…

  3. Well, you already know my thoughts on one-star reviews. As a reader, I think they’re invaluable. Every reader has things that will make them toss a book out the window rather than finish reading it, and five-star reviews never get that kind of information across. Also, how many review sites are there out there that only give four- and five-star ratings? A good review becomes meaningless, and the few bad ones you do see become even more spectacular.
    As a writer, I’ve definitely had reviews where I felt like the reviewer completely missed the point. I’ve had reviews where the reviewer got something completely wrong and left me wondering if they’d even read the book. I’ve had reviews that left me lying awake at night thinking of all the things I would say to the reviewer, if only I could do it without the world knowing. I guess the difference is, I kept all that myself (well, that’s not entirely true – I raved to my husband and Ethan and Heidi). It’s easy as a writer to read those less-than-stellar reviews and take them personally. It’s easy to suddenly start imagining vast conspiracies. What we as writers need to do is a) get a f*n grip (myself included, at times), b) put on our big-girl and big-boy panties, and c) learn to accept that reviews are written primarily for readers (not for authors) and that they represent ONE PERSON’s OPINION. No matter how bad the review, it’s not the end of the world!!
    Okay, all that being said, I’m pretty sure I didn’t actually address your question. I can see why reviewers are reluctant to publish bad reviews, because you’re bound to run into an author who loses the battle against restraint and lashes out. I don’t know the best way to avoid the drama.
    So basically, that was a whole lot of rambling that boils down to, “I don’t know.” πŸ™‚

    • Anonymous says:

      By the same token, I have had authors become quite argumentative on reviews and completely misunderstand or not fully read what I written in a review. Said authors often lash out on Twitter or Facebook taking what had been written completely out of context. *shrugs*
      I also think some authors need to tell themselves that a review is not a personal critique on the author herself/himself. Too many authors take reviews personally.

      • By the same token, I have had authors become quite argumentative on reviews and completely misunderstand or not fully read what I written in a review. Said authors often lash out on Twitter or Facebook taking what had been written completely out of context. *shrugs*
        I also think some authors need to tell themselves that a review is not a personal critique on the author herself/himself. Too many authors take reviews personally.

        Ditto. Ditto. Ditto! What Dhympna said!

    • Oh I hear you. I definitely think there are two sides to every story (so to speak). While I can rant against a meanie author that DARED question my review, I also get why the author may feel like tearing my head off for the lack of intelligence and insight into their story. I’ve gotten some things really wrong – interpretation wise – where the author has told me thats not even remotely close to what they were going for.
      I think your comment actually is a totally ‘nother post about how authors can deal with reviews other than simply “suck it up.” I get that its the common practice and I can appreciate authors’ strength and maturity in doing so. I also think that dialogue about a book isn’t bad at all. If I say “well hero is a weakling and an ass” and the author says “why? Is (flaw) that unforgivable? ” or whatever. My point is that a dialogue and discussion about the book is stimulating and wonderful but too often the responses on both sides are defensive and knee jerk. No one wants to be called out and reviewers are in a rather lofty position of being able to say anything they want really from an author perspective while reviewers are still very aware of the potential backlash they don’t want to deal with. Double edged sword I think everyone loses on.
      Though I think I went off on a tangent… <.<

      • (Following your tangent)…
        To some extent, if it’s interpretation, I may be annoyed that the reviewer didn’t get it, but only because it makes me realize that I failed to get my point across. But I have to admit, it drives me batty when reviewers get things completely wrong (ie, saying something’s in 3rd person when it’s actually in 1st, saying something happened “several times” when it was actually only once, or saying that something was never mentioned before, when it was on the first f*n page of the story!) (haha. See? I’m already starting to twitch a bit). But even then, I’ve always figured any type of response at all would be inappropriate, and I just sit and mope and seethe in private. πŸ™‚
        You’re certainly right that dialog on a book can easily become defensive and argumentative, which isn’t productive. And yet, no discussion at all is also not productive. So yes, everyone loses either way I guess.
        Wow. Sad thought. :-/

        • I once wrote a blog post where I was really cross at one particular story which had been set in Britain and yet had used American words instead of the correct British words. I have to admit I wasn’t particularly kind and I upset the author (not one of my best moments). Anyway, she emailed me later to tell me that she was amending the story and pointed out she hadn’t been able to find one of the words I’d been ranting about. Well, I was extremely embarrassed to discover that in my ire I’d only thought the author had used that word (which was a common mis-used word often used by US authors when writing a book set in Britain) and that she hadn’t actually used it. Needless to say, I changed the blog post and sent a very apologetic reply to the author.
          Anyway, this rambling anecdote goes to show that sometimes us readers do get it wrong and I’d much rather have my mistakes pointed out to me so I can do something about it, than have other readers sniggering behind my back because I’ve made an error for all to see.
          I’ve also made other silly errors, like accidentally getting the name of a character wrong (I read hundreds of books, sometimes I get confused), and only found out the mistake later when the author complains on their blog. at which point I wonder why the author didn’t just email me and it could have all been quickly amended.

        • Thank you Marie and Jen! You both bring up a really really good point (and may need to be a separate blog post as we’re completely in a tangent but a good one IMHO).
          Sometimes reviewers get things wrong. Flat out! I’ve gotten the POV wrong. It was an honest accident and I *did* read the book but the problem was I added the POV comment later on the day the review was published, since that is a detail readers find helpful. Unfortunately the book I was reading then was 3rd person so I just got confused and wrong the wrong POV. Thankfully the very first commenter corrected me and I could make the appropriate change to the 1st person that was intended.
          Also sometimes readers get the “impression” that something happens more frequently then it does. One thing to remember is that readers and ESPECIALLY reviewers are voracious, avid readers. So we read a book, write the review, then read perhaps several others before the review is published. Also when we read so many books in the same genre, certain things crop up again and again, giving the impression that something happens often when its only say one mention. Its our feeling that the event occurred several times maybe because it’s so common in books? I’ve certainly done that before, without any intended malice, it’s just how I perceived the book.
          Since all of those above are errors, if unintended, I don’t think its horrible for the author to correct a reviewer. If the author wants to avoid doing so publicly, email the reviewer. Like Jen I’d be happy to amend any review in which I’ve made an error either unintentionally or otherwise. I’ll happy offer a thousand apologies to the author if I’ve stated wrong details.

  4. Prepare yourself for some backlash, maybe. But also prepare yourself for the brave readers who will step up and say–OH MY GOD I THOUGHT I WAS THE ONLY ONE!
    I just read an outraged author letter regarding a three star review (so tedious–but a real lesson in what-not-to-do-dumb-ass) and as an author myself, I say if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Put your big girl pants on because that’s the business. We all get bad reviews. Even Harper Lee and Sir Terry Pratchett get bad reviews!
    Once you write a book, it ceases to belong to you. It belongs to readers. We write these books for YOU. We hope to please YOU. If you don’t like my book, sure I’d like to know why (as I cry into my coffee PRIVATELY), but it doesn’t change anything for that particular book. But if I trust you as a reviewer, I’m going to listen to what you have to say when I’m writing my next book.
    Also– Does anyone else do this? I look at the average rating of each reviewer on Goodreads. Some reviewers have low averages and I know they may be tough, or they may just be sour apples who don’t like anything!
    L

    • Awesome points Lisbea. Very well said. My average rating is 3.07 stars. I’m actually happy when I see that because it means the average book is … average. Clearly I’m not weighting too heavily good or bad – or that’s how I read it. I agree that it’s important to know the reviewer and their tastes. For example there is a reviewer who will read a BDSM book, give it a low rating and say “I don’t like BDSM so I hated this.” Each time she does this (and it’s often) I wonder why the reader would choose a book they don’t like without further explanation of what drew you to a genre you dislike. You’ve totally nullified the review of any value by such bias from the beginning.
      However not to go off on yet another tangent, I think reviews are facts of life. You can’t please everyone and not even the most beloved 5 star lauded book everywhere will be immune. There WILL be people that don’t like it. If you write a book that everyone pans and you make bank on it… laugh at everyone to the bank. Knowing that you’re going to be picked apart, examined and judged is part of writing sadly. Any kind of writing. I accept it as part of reviewing as well. If I’m going to tear apart a book, I -firmly- expect someone to stand up for it. I can discuss my feelings and would be happy to hear why someone disagreed with me. Part of the crazy cycle..

  5. I’ll open with my opinion that in general AUTHORS should not post too many negative reviews in their own genre. They certainly have the right, but since everything an authors says and does in persona is PR, and since trashing one’s peers (even elegantly) always heightens tension, it’s generally best left alone. I’m not even sure I’ll give three stars on Goodreads any longer. I’m considering no longer giving stars, period, because it’s too political.
    For readers, I think it’s no-holds-barred. Readers may say and do whatever they like, and holy shit, authors SHUT UP and don’t say anything to them or about them. Cry to your friends and tell your stuffed animals how mean and unfair they are, but in public just smile and shrug it off. Even snarky stuff. There is so much idiocy among authors in this genre regarding this that I want to pound heads. I don’t care if they insult your mother. Say. Nothing. Anyone who says anything mean to a reader gets painted as mean, and I promise, the word gets out fast. And if I hear about it happening, I’ll be one of the people spreading word about you. That’s a promise.
    Reviewers. I stand by my conviction that reviewers are free to post whatever they like in whatever manner they like. I do think reviewers as professionals (even self-appointed) would be wise to bear in mind that snark paints them as mean and will lose THEM readers, but even so, if a reviewer wants to snark, they have a right. I think like authors reviewers need to consider their persona. How do they want to be perceived? Nice? Honest? Hard core? I think any is fine, but consistency is important. I also think a reviewer’s persona should be something the reviewer feels comfortable with. If a reviewer takes joy and has an art about snark (think Mrs. Giggles), then by all means, carry on as you like. If a reviewer doesn’t like conflict, go ahead and avoid it. If a reviewer prides herself on honesty and bald opinion, go for that too.
    As for this instance, I think Kassa has a reputation for being tough but fair. It slays me every time she doesn’t really like a story of mine, but that’s because I really want her to like it because I respect her opinion. I also don’t always agree with her opinions of other books, and sometimes her rave of a book convinces me, in fact, it’s not for me. But what I prize in Kassa is the fact that I feel she has a consistency and that I can not only learn what I want to read and not read from her reviews but that I sometimes learn as an author as well.
    My only advice in this instance would be to take care in presuming no thought was put into production. That may in fact be the case; I’d lean on using words like “seems” and back up your assertion with why you feel that way–what about the book made it seem slapdash? The other thing I think is helpful in one star reviews in general is why the reader didn’t fail to finish, or why the reviewer feels the need to speak on a DNF or low star book. This is not to question the right so much as to push toward the WHY, which is where I think the meat of the issue is. People have reviewed Sweet Son and been upset because they felt it was too close to rape and wished they’d been warned. I feel that’s fair. Readers have disliked Special Delivery and rated it very low because they felt Mitch was mean and cold. Honestly, those help me. I can see I’m not that person’s author, or at least this truly isn’t their story, but I like knowing that I didn’t reach that person because I just couldn’t reach them in that instance, that their dislike came from something I wanted to do as an artist.
    But again, I think even mean girl reviews have the right to be there. Yes, they hurt us as authors, as in they hurt our feelings. But I’m sorry. This is the price of admission. Anyone publishing to feel better about themselves might as well get beat up in a back alley now, because the bruising will only get worse and worse.

    • I kind of want to copy your comments and put them on a wall somewhere that says everyone read this before entering. You’re incredibly eloquent and well spoken, one reason why I enjoy your books, but your comments and blogposts are so filled with common sense! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Everyone read this!
      Thank you so much as well for your additional comments. They’ve definitely helped me tailor my current reviews and future ones to show some constructive criticism which I was lacking. You’re also absolutely right. It’s totally arrogant and wrong to assume the level of care and work for another person’s work. For all I know there was a lot of care that was put in but due to circumstances something else happened. I definitely need to not assume anything of the book, author, or publisher and instead offer my impressions of what I read.
      Also I know you weren’t saying it for me but I appreciate the comments about my reviewing. I never meant to be a “tough but fair” reviewer but I soon came to realize I am a “tough but (hopefully) fair” reader so naturally that translates to reviewing. As long as I keep the fair in the moniker then I’m exceedingly happy. Even more so to be seen as consistent. I don’t expect readers to always agree with me. In fact it kind of tickles me that a reader can enjoy a story and really fall in love with it even if I can’t get past my own personal quirks and issues. As long as readers find worth in my reviews that’s the point. I know several readers who tell me if I pan a book, they tend to pick it up since their taste is completely opposite of mine. Yanno, that works too!

      • You’re also absolutely right. It’s totally arrogant and wrong to assume the level of care and work for another person’s work
        Well, I get the assumption, and it’s natural, and it might even be right, honestly. I think the key here is that anytime you’re going to bring up something negative, you want to go way out of your way to leave no entry for righteous outrage. A friend once really hurt me and legitimately was an ass, but in my reply to his “what’s going on?” email, I made ONE slip where I was snarky. Two pages of shit he should own up to presented calmly and logically and in a way that invited discussion and apology, and what was the only thing he addressed? My mean girl. A lesson I won’t soon forget.
        As human beings, authors will zero in on anything in your review that will get them off the hook of feeling lousy. Any time you can seal up a crack or undo potential comments that could even be argued into legitimate injury, it’s not a bad plan.
        And thanks for all the flattery. Make me blush.

  6. I’s afeered honey, deadly afeered of the negative backlash. πŸ™‚ Reviewing is not my JOB. Reading books and talking about them is something I do for fun. It’s a pleasant activity for me and the interaction I have with fellow readers and authors is fun and adds something positive to my life. If I think something I read/wrote is going to ruin that, make me stressed and angsty and feel attacked? Ummm. Yeah, I’ll pass thanks.
    If my JOB was to review and my boss said “read this and review it”, then that’s part of the job package. Just like if you choose to supervise employees some day you may have to give negative feedback or even fire someone. It’s not pleasant but it has to be done. So for me personally, if I think I’m liable to get backlash in a big way, I’ll pass.
    I did write something recently and gave it a D+. It did have some redeeming qualities and I noted that it had a good dose of humor but that wasn’t enough to get me past the problems. However I’ll be honest, if that book had been written by any of the big names in the m/m world who have avid (dare I say rabid?) followers, I would not have reviewed it. Simply because I don’t need to bring the crapfest I know would happen into my life.
    Much as I appreciate other reviewers who are able to do it and it’s helpful for me, I don’t feel I OWE anyone out there in cyberland anything, that I somehow have to sacrifice myself for the good of the reading community. Like I said, my inteactions on the internet are purely for my own personal and selfish pleasure (hush up, you know what I mean πŸ˜› ) and if I think something is going to upset that, I pass.
    Remember that post I tried to delete when I accidentally posted it? Yeah, well, I just figured in the end it wasn’t worth it even though I got some positive feedback on the 2.5 min. it was on the net. God damned Google Reader. LOL

    • hahaha…. well my fellow smut lover, well said! I do agree that reading and reviewing is for pleasure. That’s what I do it for. I make no money off reviewing and buy a good deal of my own books for reading. So really I’m not in some well oiled money making machine and have to deal with the bad since I get so much good.
      Instead like you I love reading, I love reading this genre and genuinely enjoy reviewing books. Some times it feels like a job and I take a break from reviewing, or only cheery picking certain books I want to review as those that really stand out.
      I don’t mind reviewing bad books, because I tend to feel strongly about them. I do hate the drama circus. Who wants more angst in their life!? Keep it to fiction please.
      BTW.. I love google reader hehe. Thanks for your comments Tam. As always it shows why I have a twitter crush on you LOL (apparently!)

  7. Anonymous says:

    bad reviews
    While I’m not against panning a book for a review, I’m far more of the opinion that recommending good books is more useful. Sometimes you’re committed to writing a review for a book, and good or bad you have to post, but personally, I think there are so many books out there that deserve good reviews, why waste your limited time and space on telling folks what you think they shouldn’t read?
    So many books out there worthy of good reviews and needing them, never see the light of day. Why pan something from a well-known or best-selling author? That review really isn’t going to serve much purpose. Instead, review the debut or little known author that had you up all night reading. I don’t agree with the point of view that someone who doesn’t post poor reviews isn’t a good reviewer.
    I’m not a reviewer. I’ve never written one, though with a new author blog, I may end up doing them on occasion. I want to promote good books. It’s as simple as that. If I don’t like it, unless I’ve told people I’ll review it, I’m not going to waste my time telling people not to read something.

    • Re: bad reviews
      Hi there and thank you for commenting! I love getting comments from people that don’t visit here often.
      You’ve really pointed out an excellent, excellent argument. Often I hear authors claiming that every review is important. Or as Heidi Cullinan likes to say “all ink is good ink.” Languishing in obscurity is the worst thing that can happen to an author. If they have a bad review, at least the readers are talking about the author and book instead of ignoring them.
      I hear what you’re saying and honestly there is a good deal of agreement with that position. I waiver back and forth and depends on my feelings for the book. I try hard to be consistent in that if I do write a 1 star review, there is a purpose to it. Ive no interest in sensationalism nor do I need to create drama (I have more than enough thankyou!) so if I do post a low review, I really need to have a reason. A solid, good reason. Not simply a principle or because why not.
      Thank you very much for your thoughts. This is a fascinating discussion and having well thought out articulate arguments on both sides makes it even better (if more difficult for me).

  8. I think that you do your readers a disservice if you don’t post the 0 star/1 star/dnf reviews. Overall I’ve been pretty lucky in not getting involved in teh dramaz when I write such reviews. The one time I have been involved in some drama was over a 3 star review. Um. Yeah. Nothing wrong with 3 star books! 3 stars is NOT a bad rating. Anyway, I suspect that I mostly fly under the radar in my little corner of teh internetz. I’m ok with that.
    Also, sites that only post glowing reviews? I don’t trust or bother with.

    • Oh, there are also some authors that I will not read anymore, because of their aggressive behavior toward those who dare to post anything not glowing about said authors’ works…. and their tendency to send their friends and minions to browbeat the poor reviewer, too.

    • Your comments are pretty much in line with my thinking. Those sites that only post 3 stars or up (and generally tend to be 4/5 star reviews) are totally worthless. I don’t read them and have no interest in what they say. THere is no context to them. THey just love everything so that means a book I absolutely love means the exact same as a book I loathe. Wrong.
      I also totally disagree that 3 stars is a bad review. I fight that horrible impression forever. It means the book is average and FITS WITH THE GENRE! Sorry but not everyone is a special snowflake 😦 …
      Oh and I have many authors I won’t read or review due to their behavior. It doesn’t have to be to me personally either. If I hear about an author and/or minions slamming a reader or reviewer I stop reading them. At the same time if I hear about a reviewer making personal attacks on authors, I don’t read their reviews either. I’m interested in the merits of the books… thats all.

  9. Am I afraid to be honest? No, because someone has to be, and from what I’ve seen online, there are more sites/reviewers that don’t have anything constructive to say about a book than do (not to mention that there are a lot more books that get released than there are reviewers, and a book I’m interested might not ever get reviewed anywhere). As a reader, I want to know if an author can’t handle the basic tools of his trade (spelling, grammar, and the whatnot), because mistakes like that stand out to me and ruin my reading experience. I want to know what tropes the author tends to use, because everybody has their own likes/dislikes. I want to know about telling vs. showing, and frankly, not enough sites out there do that well enough for my needs.
    However, I recognize that everyone has different circumstances. I am not a social person online. I don’t hang out places where authors tend to congregate, so I don’t feel the need to cater to anybody so I don’t hurt their feelings. I’ve had my share of backlash from authors and their fans before, and it’s annoying/infuriating/hurtful, but that’s what delete is for on my email. If I allow it to continue and get to me, it’s my own fault for continuing to read their messages. But again, I don’t have social interactions with authors, because I truly believe it’s impossible to be completely unbiased once that starts happening. I don’t listen to them talk about their work beforehand, and I don’t try and hear explanations after it’s released because that information always gets factored into the reading experience. I’m interested in the work, as it stands on its own. If it requires explanation, some part of the process has failed.
    That’s a tangent. Sorry. But it’s part of why I don’t fear writing negative reviews, so hopefully helpful.

    • Excellent comments, thank you!
      You’re absolutely correct about the elements of reviews and those are ones I look for as well. I also agree that very very few reviews ever go into telling vs. showing, nor do I believe a lot of readers are aware of the distinction or confuse the issue. This kind of gets into what makes a useful review, which varies from reader to reader, and a whole other topic (though one I’m happy to get into).
      You’re one of the rare reviewers that is completely, 100% unaffected by anything but the book. This of course makes your opinion mean quite a bit and I’m very happy you’re going to be reviewing regularly again. Your reviews are always incredibly articulate. You have a very intelligent way of getting the point across without droning on and on (like me!). More and more I just don’t listen to negative rants when the rants don’t offer any important discussion. Like a negative review that simply says “I hated it” a negative comment that says “you suck” offers little and is likewise ignored. I just don’t read certain comments from authors that I know are rants.
      You’ve done it right and it does help keep both the objectivity and ability to be honest without fear of reprisal.

  10. You have a range of excellent responses here. I especially like Heidi’s.
    Not posting 1-star reviews makes about as much sense to me as not posting 5-star reviews. Although I personally disapprove of outright cruelty, I think it’s very possible to present a less-than-favorable opinion tactfully, and everyone should have the right to do so.
    I find it upsetting that fear of backlash, author or otherwise, is an issue for reviewers.

    • That’s definitely something I struggle with. I want to be honest and think that’s important but I also feel saying something is “honest” is often an excuse to be cruel. In fact sometimes I read a review I’ve written and it looks like I’ve taken a fire poker to the thing while yelling “DIE DIE DIE!” I mean tell us how you really feel then? I think it’s fine to be passionate but I hate the idea of being honest as an excuse to really be cruel. I never intend to be but sometimes strong language needs to be tempered and better written. I’m not the best at that so definitely something to work on when I know it’s going to be a negative review.
      Well sadly everyone wants to be applauded from authors to reviewers. I think if authors need to suck it up with the reviews, reviewers need to do so as well if that’s their policy. Reviewers that want to avoid that absolutely do so, but I haven’t in the past so really I personally need to suck it up I believe, ensure the review is not bashing or cruel and offer the other spectrum.

  11. Anonymous says:

    My thoughts on one star reviews…
    I have different grades of one star reviews. If I feel a book completely disgusts me and I don’t want to give it added publicity or attention, then I don’t review it. On the other hand, if I think other people may enjoy the book and can over look what I found to be flaws, then I will review it.
    Having had run-ins with some authors who feel entitled to at least three stars (which btw was the case of the author who wrote you a nasty letter Kassa, I think, that is if I have the correct author in mind), I just figure they are making an arse out of themselves and authors who continually try to bully readers and/or reviewers publicly or through email or through passive aggressive slams on social media are only ruining their own reputation. I have learned to just not engage with an author if he/she is on the rampage.
    I also don’t see a two star rating as negative, which quite a few authors do. My one star reviews are most often DNFs and I always state upfront that the book is a DNF and try to articulate why I was having trouble reading the narrative.
    I don’t trust books that have glowing five star reviews and I often read the one and two star reviews first. There are quite a few books that I have bought based on a one star or F review–some of these books caused me to buy out the author’s entire backlist.
    My wish is that more reviewers would post honest negative reviews–an author who will dislike you or be your “enemy” over a negative review is just childish and is clearly a fair weather friend person.
    I am waxing prolix so shall cease my ramblings there.

    • Re: My thoughts on one star reviews…
      *noddles* I hear ya. I can understand the idea of simply not giving a book a review is the same as not giving it any press. A lot of readers/authors/reviewers subscribe to this argument. It’s a new one for me as I never quite thought about it that way until that initial flurry of back lash on that first review. Then I started to realize that my review for a book I hated created a ton of buzz about the author and no doubt led to some sales. I’m not against that even if I hated the book because someone else may love it, so that’s fine. But then I realized the author’s bad behavior actually got her some buzz and yanno that’s not right.
      So I do agree that sometimes it’s best not to say anything and there have been numerous books that I haven’t reviewed. I review almost exclusively in m/m though I read all genres of fiction yet even within m/m there are books I won’t review for various reasons. Some of these simply because I don’t feel a review would do anything for readers. They know enough and can make their own decisions.
      At the same time I believe strongly in reviewing the good with the bad. The 1 and 5 star reviews are far and few between for me and happen with about the same frequency to be honest. I rarely LOVE or LOATHE something so I think it just shows a good range. Plus I know for a fact when I give a book 1 or 2 stars, there are several readers who look into it because we have opposite tastes.
      Thank you for your rambling .. hopefully you don’t mind mine in return πŸ˜€

  12. Am I scared of writing 1 star reviews? Hell Yes!
    Does that stop me writing them? No.
    I don’t write 1 star reviews very often. In fact I think in the 2 and a bit years I’ve been reviewing books I’ve only given three 1 star reviews (or the equivalent on my blog which is ‘Terrible’. 2 out of those 3 reviews led to a backlash of some kind against me where I was insulted either by fans of the author or by the author him/herself. This makes me very wary of rating a book 1 star.
    Just recently, I’ve noticed a bit of a worrying trend on review sites, especially Good Reads, where not only do 1 or 2 star ratings bring out the ravaging fans of the author who attempt to discredit a reviewer, but now 3 star reviews are also considered bad reviews. I’ve always considered a 3 star review to still be a pretty decent grade. To me it means that the book has its flaws and it’s an average read. However, increasingly authors are seeing three stars and thinking that means bad. Certainly a 3 star review will have some critical points in it, but they should be balanced with positive points too. I would have thought that a well written 3 star review would be infinitely more useful to a reader than a gushing 5 star review that says nothing other than ‘this is brilliant, buy it now’.
    So to answer your original question. I am afraid of writing 1 star reviews. Like Tam I review for a hobby and to keep my brain oiled. The times when I’ve been personally insulted because I’ve been brave enough to state coherently why a book hasn’t worked for me haven’t been fun, but I refuse to be intimidated by the tactics of spineless authors who send their attack dog fans to bully me in the hope that no-one will dare to criticise them in the future. I will continue to write my 1 star (or 3 star) reviews and I hope that I shall remain a well respected reviewer as a result (if in fact I am well respected, I hope I am πŸ™‚ ).

    • I consider 3 stars a good review on Goodreads personally. Theire system is based more on enjoyment really, three stars being “liked it”. What part of liked it means “bad”? Maybe some of the rabid attack dogs should actually look at what the star rating means before they jump in and start barking.

    • Jenre, I think the idea that a 3-star rating is bad is related to the fact that 1- and 2-star reviews and ratings are so rarely seen. A 3-star has become equivalent to “bottom of the barrel.”
      Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not defending that practice. I’m not saying it’s right, and I’m certainly not defending any author who behaves badly and attacks or tries to argue with a reviewer. πŸ™‚

      • That’s a really good point Marie. Many sites have a policy of not reviewing books they consider less than 3 stars, in which case the three star reviews are seen as bad. If all review sites offered the full range of ratings then 3 stars wouldn’t have the stigma it seems to have developed.

    • Like others I follow your reviews and greatly respect your opinion :). I also know your reputation of being a highly, highly respected reviewer. You may see yourself as a generous reviewer but you’re honest and forthright. I know you’re not fishing but just so you know.. I definitely find you a reviewer I look up to.
      As for the reviews, ugh it’s such a quagmire. Like you, every time I post a negative review I get backlash. For the most part I ignore it entirely. I skim the emails and if they are largely ranting about my stupidity, there’s a folder they can fall into happily never to be seen again. Just like I assume some authors would do that with my negative review and that’s fine for us both.
      I think the problem is that reading has become so integrated with social networking that it’s so much easier and faster and more intimate(!) to respond. There is not so much the author and/or reviewer who’d never cross paths being complete strangers other than by reputation. And this has created a feeling that friends/fans/etc need to stand up for the author. They need to ensure that the author’s precious works aren’t slighted. Instead of simply accepting that one person’s opinion is bound to be different and yanno that’s ok.
      I really wish fans instead would offer their opinions of why they loved the book and that may entice the reader/reviewer to pick up another book by the author and give them another try. Writing negative reviews simply isn’t fun at all and often writing 3 star reviews is the most work. Balancing good with bad and explaining why something is just “ok” or “good but not great” can be a challenge. I think people need to stop looking at the ratings, the stars, and actually read what someone is saying. Judge from that…

  13. This has got me wondering about who is potentially the best type of person to be a reviewer.
    First off, of course, someone who can write good reviews and is honest and objective about them.
    Someone who isn’t a writer themselves and has no intention of being one.
    Someone who is prepared to buy the books they review themselves if they have to (to avoid the worry of being ‘cut off’ by the suppliers of review copies if they give bad reviews.)
    Someone with the hide of a rhino, who will merely laugh at flames from authors and rabid fans of an author.
    And possibly, someone whose real name, address and phone number are impossible to find on the Internet.

    • Well I’m fucked then. LOL Although I do buy 90% of the books I read. Never claimed to be a “reviewer” though, just a reader who spits out if I liked it or not. Trying not to be snarky because there is at least one person somewhere who loves a book. I just may not be the one.
      You can probably find me in real-life too if anyone cared to look very hard. I don’t hide very well. If anyone cares to try, bring chocolate.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t understand why people worry about being cut off. Between the number of epubs popping up out of the woodwork (and the good epubs value all reviews–positive and negative) and netgalley there are plenty of review subjects. πŸ˜‰
      I am a writer, but I write nonfiction and frankly the peer review that many academics go through would make most of these author’s cry. My feeling is that if you cannot take criticism then either don’t read reviews or get out of the business.
      The real problem is that many authors conflate reviews as being a promotional tool and see a “negative” review as harmful to their promotion, when a review is really for other readers and is not meant for the author (unless the review or rating is done by friend’s of the author or one of the author’s pen names…)

      • many authors conflate reviews as being a promotional tool and see a “negative” review as harmful to their promotion, when a review is really for other readers and is not meant for the author
        Excellent point!
        Whilst it’s great for authors to have a good sound-bite for their book, reviews are for readers. After all, authors have already read the book, they don’t need to be persuaded/dissuaded to buy.

      • I prefer generally to “review” books I paid for, then I don’t feel obliged to do it. If I dislike the book or can’t think of anything to say, either good or bad, I just don’t. If someone gives you something you are expected to give something in return.

        • Anonymous says:

          That’s a good point. I do a mix of books that I receive for review (usually via netgalley), books I borrow purchase, and books I borrow from the library.
          Books from netgalley I have no qualms about reviewing a book that I did not care for. That being said, if a friend gives me their book then I may not review it because of our relationship (good or bad) and if I do review it, I note my relationship with the person at the outset.

    • Junkfoodmonkey, Tam, Jen, Dhympha –
      I’ll just respond in general and hope everyone gets this. I really really really need to transfer to word press.
      Anyway I’m kind of with Tam on this one. I’m not trying to hide nor do I really care since I’m not afraid of what would happen. Is someone going to show up at my door and yell at me about my review? I mean… really? I’d be happy to have a discussion but the thing about the internet is people are often much more passionate (I hesitate to say braver) but much more willing to engage in drama that they wouldn’t face to face.
      I’m not really worried about reprisals or being cut off. I’ve had publishers decline to work with me before (over a 2 star review and a 3 star review) and that’s perfectly fine. If I review their work now I buy it. I buy a good majority of my books that I read and review so while it’s nice that an author offers their book and says “if you want to review it that’d be nice” if they don’t do that my reviews wouldn’t change a bit.
      In fact if I stopped reviewing for any site right now and just did reviews for my LJ/Goodreads, absolutely nothing would change. But that’s just me.
      I also agree with the statement that often reviews are seen as promotional tools but at the same time I think authors just realize that a thoughtful review can prompt other readers to want their book. I think the key though is thoughtful, not necessarily simply getting a bunch of stars.

  14. Some fascinating discussion. As I’m an author in this little pond – and not a well known one – I decided to approach reviewing more as recommendations. I will only post reviews of books I enjoyed – although that has included a few three star ones – because I just want to share my positive reading experiences. Anything I’ve started that felt like it was heading for one or two star territory was a DNF.
    I appreciate the advice given by others not to even do this much reviewing, but damn it, I like sharing my love of a good story!
    And Kassa, I would love to read your one star review. I’ve always thought your reviews are very fair and balanced, and I like the fact you are not afraid to criticise. I don’t always agree with the assessment you’ve given of books I’ve really enjoyed, but it’s always interesting to read your opinions.

    • Hi there and welcome! I absolutely love that this discussion has produced so many interesting responses and from those I rarely hear from. I know it’s a lot to read but it’s worthwhile to peruse through the various responses. Very illuminating!
      Since I’m not an author I can’t really advise you one way or the other as reviewing. I will say that author reviews I take with a grain of salt. I don’t know their motivations behind the review (ie. its their best friend/sworn enemy/random book they happened to like) so without knowing the history of the reviewer/author you don’t know how to take their review. I’m more likely to trust an unknown reviewer who I see as a reader with an opinion than an author but . . that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t trust an author. If that makes sense?
      Thank you for the compliment! I really don’t mind that readers (such as yourself) have a different opinion on the books as long as my reviews are helpful. If you know a certain trope annoys me but you love it then you can disregard any negative comments about it and confidently enjoy the book. I also know that sometimes books speak to others. I’ve had a couple readers say “Everything you said about the book was true but yanno I adored it anyway and didn’t care.” Good for them!! Kind of makes me envious lol…

  15. Dude. I so feel you on this one.
    I definitely think there’s a place for one-star reviews, and 1.5s and 2s. I really want to know what readers thought of a book, and moreover, I can’t imagine a society where you can’t have a free and open discussion of what you like and don’t like to see in stories.
    I don’t understand people who say there’s no use in one-star reviews. Why in the world people object to them is beyond me. I really object to the glowing 5-star reviews posted by authors for their own books, or their best friends, or their mothers. I saw an ad for freelance book reviews–paid–but the caveat was that they could only be positive. How is that even appropriate?
    Now, over on TDB, I’ve pissed off my share of folks. Most notably one of Cheri Crystal’s books seriously annoyed one of her fans, who got on and ripped me a new one. I have to say, I think the only way to shut the drama down was to respond in a calm manner and try to draw the person into a rational dialogue. Ask them questions about their position, try to get them to clarify. It’s not what they’re after at all πŸ™‚
    And for the record, I’ve been dragging my feet on getting a new review up on TDB because I too have another low-star review to post.

    • Safety in numbers? I’ll show you mine, you show me yours?
      I’m sorry you got ripped a new one on that review (and I think I know which one it is.. and I heard about it sadly after the fact or I’d have stepped in). But you’re right, be calm and rational and never degrade into name calling or sarcasm. If you’re not engaging, how can they?
      I think this fear we have of dealing with the backlash can only be alleviated if we persevere (or give up!). I’m pretty sure I’m going to post the review anyway, it’s what my gut says to do and I’ll deal with the backlash. I guess for me it’s more important to be honest and fearless than let that fear dictate what I want to say. Since my gut says I want to post the review, then I think I will.
      But hey… you’re not alone if that helps πŸ™‚

      • Safety in numbers? I’ll show you mine, you show me yours?
        πŸ™‚ You’re on!
        I actually think for me, I prefer kind of over-engaging critics. Instead of turning the other cheek or ignoring their outbursts, I want to ask them what exactly they meant and point out where I’ve cited textual support and basically, dare them to whip out their textual support for being a giant unfun meanypants. I hope it kind of makes people feel listened-to but also taken to task about the kind of dialogue they *could* be engaging in rather than running around the comments section with no pants on.
        What can I say, I am in fact, a dreamer.
        I have to say, though, (and welcome to the unpopular portion of today’s commenting) that I honestly would not read a site that featured only positive reviews. It’s kind of like ice cream’s good, but who wants it all the time?

  16. You know my general thoughts on reviewers. πŸ™‚ I’ve been given negative reviews and glowing reviews and everything in between. I learned the moment I put out The Keeper that a review was merely a person’s opinion of something I created. Did I want them to like it? Oh, by all means, yes. Did it break my heart they didn’t? No, I just hoped the next thing I wrote would be more their taste.
    I feel reviewers should be free to post negative reviews. I also feel authors should be able to respond to all reviews, engage in discussion with a reviewer, but I know too many authors seem to just get into arguments with those reviewers. Discussion I’m all for, arguments just look tacky. I know there are times I’ve wanted to email you about a review you’ve done for one of my books and ask, ‘Really? What made you think that?’ because it genuinely interests me. Then again, I may place too much responsibility on a reviewer as I like knowing what didn’t and did work and adjust my writing accordingly (in other words, I use reviews as professional critiques and try to apply them to future works to better polish my writing).
    But, reviewers have other things to do besides engage with the author over a review. πŸ˜‰ I think reviewers–even authors who also review, because I will for things I read–should feel free to post their honest opinions. People can take or leave it in the end, and an author should know that even if Kassa doesn’t like it, there will be a reader whose preferences are exactly the opposite who will love the book. A review is, after all, only one opinion.

    • You always sweep onto my blog like a breath of fresh air. Your opinion and attitude is so healthy, responsible, and above all professional that it’s always a pleasure to speak with you. When I reviewed your recent book I honestly felt bad I didn’t like it more. I wanted to for all of the above reasons but wanting to sadly didn’t translate into the story. But what it also means that I continue to purchase, support, buy, and talk about your books – good or bad.
      Also I welcome discussion and dialogue about books. That is after all the heart of reviewing. I want to speak about the books I’m reading. I want to laugh about the elements that were funny, rant about what drove me crazy, and gush about things I loved. I’m more than happy to discuss my reviews with authors and how my perspective came about. Perhaps I’m influenced by reading the same trope three times in a row in books and the third book got the axe :s (I hope not but my point is that there are always underlying details that may help).
      If you (or any other author for that matter) wish to keep the discussion private then feel free. I don’t hide my email lol. If the discussion turns argumentative, circular, or simply unhelpful either one can simply stop responding. It’s that easy. I had a very nice email exchange with an author once whose book flat out offended me. We talked about why and came away agreeing to disagree but I understood her position and hopefully she understood mine. Surprisingly there were no tacky name calling or defensive comments and that author still sends me books to review. So I do believe it’s possible to have that kind of discussion. Just doesn’t happen often. πŸ™‚

  17. I had to laugh when I saw your post because it seemed you had read my mind! I just got done posting over at my own blog ( www.lilygracetales.blogspot.com) about how it meant more to me as an author to get a 4 star review from a reviewer who wrote the full spectrum of reviews (1-5 stars) then to get a good review from a reviewer who seems to only give out 4 and 5 stars. I was specifically referencing you in my post and your review of ‘An Angel for Christmas.’ πŸ˜‰
    I can see both sides of the argument. If a book is so bad that it deserves (in the reviewer’s mind) a negative review, why bother reviewing it? But, I often feel it’s gotten to the point where all one sees is 4 and 5 star reviews and, at least for me, they begin to loose their meaning. As some people have already pointed out, a 3 star review is not bad! But, it seems that is the direction we are moving in. I like seeing 1 and 2 star reviews as it helps me to know what to avoid (if I agree with the reviewer’s reasoning for the low rating) and it also makes me believe that the 4 and 5 star reviews on the site are truly excellent books.
    As an author, of course you pray for only good reviews. But, I was a reader long before I was an author. Though it is lovely as an author to get the extra promo a good review will bring, reviews are really for consumers (the readers) as a way to make educated choices on what books to purchase.
    I won’t comment on how I feel about authors who get all up in arms about negative reviews of their books and the nasty online battles than can ensue… we would be here all day. ;p But I certainly feel 1 and 2 star reviews have their place if they are done in a thoughtful and as unbiased a manner as possible.
    Kassa, one of the reasons I enjoy your reviews so much is that I know you are capable of giving a broad spectrum of reviews. It makes reading a 4 or 5 star review or yours that much more meaningful for me because I know it must have been a truly good read. I appreciate how honest and forthright you are in your reviews. The backlash reviewers can receive from writing negative reviews is just so unfortunate. But, I say keep on trucking with the occasional bad review. I dare say you will have a cheering section supporting you that will be far larger than the upset author and their outraged fans. πŸ˜‰

    • Hi there and thank you! I’m heading off to read your link right after I post this. Thank you for the kind mention and very kind compliments about my reviewing. These posts are never about confirmation or fishing for compliments but it’s nice to see that I have a fairly consistent “tough but fair” reputation.
      And honestly that is exactly why I bother to write 1 star reviews. Because if I didn’t, why would those 4 star and the rare 5 star reviews mean anything? Soon the 3 star reviews of “good but not great” would mean, eh not very good at all. This is exactly what happens on too many review sites to count. In fact I’d dare to say the standard practice is not to publish reviews of books below 3 stars. That’s why it’s even more important.
      This particular book I picked up randomly. It got sent for review but there were no promises. In fact I simply picked it up because I was in the mood for a novella sized story and hey, werewolves are always fun. Now if I’d loved the story Id have no qualms posting the review so I feel the reverse is true too. If I dislike the story I should have no qualms writing the review. I simply chose the book at near random out of a list of books I have for review and decided to go for it. The fact that I dislike it so much is unfortunate but I kind of feel like it’s a cop out to only post the positive.
      This btw is for me only since I’ve posted negative reviews in the past. Even some scathing ones so I don’t feel this applies to those reviewers who’ve made a conscience and well publicized decision to do the opposite.
      In the end, you’re absolutely right. It’s just my opinion and take it for what its worth, which could be nothing. That’s ok too :). I’ll keep reviewing as long as my reviews are worthwhile so thank you!!

      • Hi, Kassa! I just got done responding to you on my blog, but I wanted to dash back over here to address something you said re: the bad werewolf novella.
        Here’s the thing, just because an author sent you a book and asked for a review (as opposed to a reviewer purchasing a book and reviewing it on their own accord) that does not guarantee a good review. Nor, should the reviewer feel obligated to give one. At least, that’s my thoughts on the subject. I can completely understand your dilemma, though. Obviously an author does not send a book out to be reviewed to get a negative reaction. But, it happens. If you felt strongly about the novella and feel you have something worthwhile to say about it… even if it’s not positive, I would say stick to your guns and approach the review like you normally would.
        Having said all that, of course I realize this is easier said than done… which is probably why I would make a horrible reviewer! But, as Marie so aptly put it, authors need to learn to strap on their big boy/girl pants and roll with the punches. They’ve gotten themselves into a business where their creative output will be judged and critiqued by the masses. If they can’t deal with it, then I suggest they only write stories to read to their pet goldfish. πŸ˜‰

  18. I say go for it. I recently had a three star review on Amazon that was pretty brutally written, and I’m totally okay with it. I can see the reader and his/her expectations in the review just as much as I can see my novel.
    “‘Charleston’ is just too fantastical to be true. No, really, he’s PERFECT.”
    If you think that, fine. And readers should know that Charleston is larger than life. If you’re looking for realistic, I don’t want you to pick up this book, so the review is a warning for anyone who (like this reader) is looking for realism in a romance novel.
    “Finally, there was the endless, and I mean endless, amount of talking in this book. It is about 80% dialogue and I wish I were exaggerating. The book read more like a horrible screenplay than it did a novel.”
    Yep. I like dialogue. I like to “hear” the character’s voices. That’s what I like, that’s what I write, so if you want lots of internal, emotional introspection, find another author.
    “And the talking wasn’t even hot, there is little to no sex in this book and what little there is consists of about five lines an instance.”
    Um, I would say there’s significantly more than five lines, but again, true in spirit if not literally true. Readers can see this and know that this is not a sex-heavy book. Lots of UST, but these guys are jumping in the sack much.
    “it had me laughing out loud at its ridiculousness, so there was that. It’s the last $6.99 I’ll spend on this author though”
    Good. You don’t like my writing style. Good for you for figuring it out, now stop reading me and we’ll both be happy.
    I think bad reviews (and quite frankly, I don’t know why this one didn’t give me a one or two stars after going on about hating Gathering Storm) when done well tell the reader not only about the book but also about the reader’s taste in novels. This person wanted more emotion, more sex, more of what I would call mush. That’s fine. It’s an honest review and an honest interpretation of the book. My stuff isn’t for him/her. Any reader who reads this is going to know that they won’t find that in this book. If they have a similar taste as the reviewer, this is the book to avoid.
    But other readers might say, “Hey, I love those larger-than-life heroes” and pick up the book because the reviewer didn’t like it. Someone else might say, “I want something with less internal angst.” So I think a bad review can be just as helpful if not more. And as a writer, I am honestly not upset at bad reviews. I say post it.

    • It kind of kills me inside just a little that someone would say that about Gathering Storm. While I realize my tastes aren’t for everyone that does kind of make my little black heart wither a bit. But then again as soon as I read those statements I kind of nodded and said, yea so this isn’t for you. OTOH I can read those and also realize what statements apply to my reading and those that don’t. I think thats the point of reviews.
      I think you’re right.. my negative review is kind of similar in that the elements just didn’t work at all for me. Someone else can read it and maybe feel differently. It’s just one person’s opinion.
      I love your response btw.. kind of makes me want to buy you a beer and chat.

      • I learned in my fanfic days that any story that some people love will create equal and opposite hate in others. It truly is okay because different things appeal to different reader. And sometimes I despair that no one has invented a transporter yet because I would love to pop in on all my electronic buddies.

  19. Sorry I’m late to the party!
    This is another one of your thought-provoking posts, and I love it when you get people not only thinking but putting their thoughts in words. Everyone here made valid points and it confirms for me that there is no one ‘right’ way of approaching this. In your particular case, Kassa, you have a comprehensive backlist of reviews, and I have always found your reviews to be very clear in terms of why you rated a book the way you did. I have come to depend on that, and would hate to see you steer clear of the books you rate on the low end. It is quite possible that the things you don’t like are things I love! (And if it happens that you don’t like a book of mine, that’s okay. At least I’ll know specifically why you don’t like it – which is much easier to deal with than “this book just didn’t do it for me.”)
    So, go for it.

    • You’re not late Wren! In fact I’m late responding to everyone (I started top to bottom so sorry for getting here so late myself).
      I think you’re right and I appreciate you taking the time to comment. I do agree there is no “one” way to do this. Some won’t post the review, others would, and some simply won’t do negative reviews regardless. Each time there is a sensible and articulate argument for it.
      For me, my gut tells me to post the review. I would have posted a review for the book if I loved it so I think the reverse holds true. I simply didn’t like the book, excessively in this case, but the basic point is the same. I’ve posted previous negative reviews and this one is no different. Can’t let the fear of a “possible” backlash really stop me when that’s not been my practice. But yanno either way, this has led to a really wonderful discussion. Group hug! hehe…

  20. are reviewers afraid of bad reviews
    Kassa, I’m late to the party, too. I’m just coming up for air after a 5-month deadline thing. This is such an awesome discussion I almost don’t know where to start.
    Authors reviewing their peers? Whoa, that’s a complex question. It’s hard to look unbiased once you let yourself get drawn into the social aspect of the m/m community. That’s why someone like Book Utopia Mom is so rare – a reviewer focused on the books only. Even if you’re not publishing fiction in the field, it can be hard to review with ruthless honesty once you’ve made friends and started to care about the authors.
    I’m so involved in the m/m community at this point that my motives for reviewing could get questioned. (e.g., am I slamming my “rivals”, etc.?) So I’m considering trying to back up all my impressions in the reviews with extensive evidence from the book. Of course that can look like I’m going out of my way to be persnickety.
    I’m still reviewing because I learn a lot from it, and, like somebody else here was saying, we need reviewers in m/m because many of these books will never get reviewed if I or somebody else doesn’t do it. And we’re talking months and years of these new authors’ lives going into a book that could get completely ignored in the flood of new releases. As a reviewer, we have a chance to make a huge difference to these writers, even if we do post a mixed, or negative review.
    I got away from posting ratings (except where I agreed I do it, e.g., for Wave’s site) after reading some advice for new writers that Josh Lanyon wrote for a post on Wave’s site. Specifically, if you must review your peers at all, consider doing it without grades as the reviewers for Publishers Weekly do. That way you can give your opinion (and every reader is entitled to that), but not come across obnoxiously like you think you’re in a position above your own peers, handing out grades on a 1 to 5 scale.
    On the other hand, if you’re a reviewer and don’t ever plan to write in the field, there’s no question that you’re helping the readers by assigning ratings. We’re all so strapped for time and so overwhelmed with new books that I’ll bet many of us scan the ratings ONLY to pick out new books. We come in and read the review only if a combination of things like title, author name, and maybe cover art draw us. And from there, we might read the blurb and maybe an excerpt.
    Authors who react negatively to bad reviews? I’ve already seen both my books labeled DNF by readers at Goodreads. My initial (private) response is negative surprise, as in, “Whoa! Damn …” But I have no control over reader reactions, and if I’m entitled to mine, they’re entitled to theirs.
    Meanwhile, when I get a true mix of good and bad reactions, it makes the praise that much more meaningful. Plus, I’m incredibly grateful for evidence that I’m getting read at all (or partially read as in a DNF!). The worst thing that can happen to an author is to get completely out of touch with reality in regards to their own writing like Laurell K. Hamilton or Janet Evanovich to the point that they think that everything they write is perfect and there is no room for improvement.
    Authors that attack reviewers over reviews? I’ve never had it happen to me because I’m still too obscure, ha, ha! But I never forget it when I see it happen to someone else. I know which author it was who went after you for that initial 1-star review, and she lost a potential reader (i.e., paying customer) and reviewer in me (and probably others who heard about this). There’s too many authors already to review, and not nearly enough time, so it’s no hardship to permanently drop the arrogant, nasty ones from the to-be-read list.

  21. Hi Kassa,
    I’ve been thinking about this post since I read it a while ago and one thing that hasn’t really come up is what I believe might be an essential question to ask, which is: what is the purpose of writing a review at all? I know this might seem like a no-brainer since I think most people reading reviews look at them as performing a kind of Consumer Reports function and most authors see reviews as performing only one function and that is to promote the sale of books. Following that logic any negative review or any review that contains criticism of the work would be counter-productive, right? Add to that the prevailing wisdom that contact between authors and reviewers is forbidden territory and you get this dynamic of authors and reviewers being in opposition. And if you just look at reviews in these terms, they kind of are. In this scenario a one star review advocates for the customer who might be cheated out of cash by purchasing a substandard product and is of no benefit to an author.
    But if one looks at this question more deeply, and removes money (both in terms of potential product value to the consumer and potential royalties for the author) from the equation, what remains, I think, is the concept of critique. If the criticism of the reviewer is supported, lucid and, above all, valid then there can be takeaway value for the author in a one star review. But that puts an enormous burden on the reviewer to identify what, precisely she thinks is going wrong in a book. This, I think goes beyond the concept of taste. To critique well, a reviewer has to have really broad knowledge of their genre, expansive personal taste and above all the desire to take reviewing out of the realm of commerce and into the territory of art–the art of writing and above all the art of literary criticism. Thoughtful critique is of inestimable value to authors and that is where value can be created for an author receiving even something as depressing as a one star review.
    As a reviewer, I know you have accomplished valuable critique at least one time. Here’s why: I was reading your review of my book, Black Cat Ink and I came across a line that read something like, “I still don’t know why these two are together” or something like that. When I read that I thought, “Huh, I guess I really should delve directly into that at some point if I continue this series. Romance is fundamentally about relationships and what could be more telling of a relationship than identifying exact points of attraction?”
    Now, obviously, BCI didn’t get a one star review. Nonetheless, I feel I can use it as an example of frisson created between a reviewer and an author because as a profitable critique, that line was really excellent. It affected the outline of the next book in the series in a really positive way.
    I suppose my point here is that I do truly believe that critique is vital to an author’s artistic growth. Third-party assessments of work (sometimes called reviews) have value outside of mere word-of-mouth advertising–or they can, provided that the reviewer puts as much thought into her reviews as any other writer puts into their own work. Because reviewers are, at the end of the day, also writers. The fact that their primary subject matter is other people’s writing does not disqualify them from membership in the club. Far from it. To this end, the one star review can be seen as, perhaps the most challenging piece of work a reviewer will ever write–one that will undoubtedly attract criticism. My personal advice would be to make the one-star review as beautiful a piece of rock-solid reasoning as you have ever written. And if you are directly criticized for writing it, from whatever quarter, simply fall back into the standard line used by all other writers, “Thank you for your thoughts,” and then, like all other writers receiving critique, see if there’s anything of value in it. Take the valid points, if there are any, and then just let the rest go. πŸ™‚
    Nicole Kimberling

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