Discussion | On Negative Reviews, Authors, Bloggers, and the Book Community

I’ve actually written part of this post a while ago and then abandoned it because I wasn’t happy with how it turned out so I’m going to try again. I don’t know if it’s just me being more aware of what’s going on in the bookish community or whether things are actually changing. Only weeks ago I talked about how things were going with the international reviewers and now it seems we’ve got more to talk about.

As an introduction, there are some incidents that triggered this discussion. And I initially wanted to discuss them in more detail, but I don’t want to make this a negative post, so I won’t. I’ve heard quite a few stories of authors attacking reviewers over negative reviews they’ve written. Over the years, I haven’t heard much about these kinds of incidents, but I’m well-aware that I haven’t been as attentive to them before.

I have moved all of these authors that I’ve heard about to my no-way list on goodreads, and I refuse to support them so if I’ve reviewed any of their books, I’ve removed these too. If you want to talk about any of these authors, or any other authors that have attacked reviewers, feel free to email me (go to the contact page in the menu) or contact me on social media.

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On Negative Reviews

I’ve probably said this before, but I’ll say it again: negative reviews are important. Being able to express positive thoughts as well as negative should be the standard in this community. I want my reviews to be honest, and I will always write a negative review if I think I need to. I’m not saying everyone needs to write negative reviews or that you’re a bad blogger if you don’t, not at all. But for me, it is really important. 

When I started out with blogging, writing a negative review felt like I was personally attacking the author. They put so much time into something and then I came along and told them it’s bad. That does not feel right. But, over the 1,5 year I’ve been writing reviews on a weekly basis, I’ve come to realize a few things: if you write a negative review it doesn’t have to attack the author at all; reviews are not for authors, but instead should be used as a way of recommending or not recommending books you read.

My reviews are always honest, but they’re not harsh or brutal. If I didn’t like a book, I’ll say that honestly, but I will also always be decent and nice about it. And that’s, in my opinion, the best way to write a review, be honest but nice. It is always important to realize that just because you didn’t like the book, it doesn’t mean nobody else will and that we all have different tastes in books.

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On Authors and Reviews

My blog is my safe space. It’s where I can write about everything that I want to write about, including my thoughts on books. The good and the bad. For me, it is really important that I can be honest on here (and on other platforms) without getting attacked. I have luckily never been in the position where an author attacked me for my thoughts on their book, but a lot of others have been. 

Reviews are for readers. The goal of my reviews is to talk about my opinions on a book and help promote the book (if I feel it’s worth promoting). The goal of my reviews is not to make authors feel good or bad about their work. Therefore, I think, authors should not even be reading my reviews or any reviews in general. Sure, if they really want to read reviews, they can, but then the least they can do is NOT comment on them. Authors should not engage, no matter what their thoughts are on a review.

This is vital, because if authors were to comment on reviews at all times, the honesty behind the reviews would disappear. And if the honesty disappears, the trust of the people who read the review would too. I think people read my reviews because they trust my opinions, and if they can’t do that anymore, why would they read my reviews?

As a reviewer, I want nothing more than to make authors happy, by writing positive reviews, but that’s just not a healthy way to write reviews. We put authors on a pedestal, we look up to them, which is great, but if they turn their back to us, that can be really scary and traumatizing, especially for newer bloggers.

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I think the book community and authors should treat bloggers and reviewers with more respect than we currently get. I don’t mean this in a petty way, not at all, but I get the feeling a lot of people in this community do not realize how much work and effort we put into our blogs and reviews. I love being a blogger, and I love reading and reviewing books, but it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. 

We’re not just a free promo team, even though we do pretty much everything for free. Because we want to. We like to receive ARCs in whatever format and review them to help with promotion, to help authors, but we’re also just people. People from all over the world, with opinions, that work hard on our blogs, and it would be really nice if that could get a little more appreciation every now and then.

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What’s your opinion on this? Do you value negative reviews as highly as I do? Do you write negative reviews/thoughts in reviews? How should we solve this issue with authors invading reviews? How can we make this community better and more positive?

If you want to talk about any of this in private, you can email or dm me on twitter/instagram at all times.

82 thoughts on “Discussion | On Negative Reviews, Authors, Bloggers, and the Book Community

  1. I may not be part of the bookish community but the way you wrote this post is so incredibly respectful and well thought-out. I think that everyone should express their opinion without being attacked, as long as that opinion is not stated in a harmful way.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is such an important and well thought out post. We do not write reviews for the author but for other readers. Not everyone is going to share the same opinion about novels and that is important! That’s what makes us all unique! I can not imagine how upsetting it would be to be attacked by an author. I was sad to see Benjamin Alice Saenz engaging in this behaviour since I really enjoyed one of his books. I will not be picking up a book by him ever again.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Definitely! Well-said!
      I won’t pick up any books by him either. I’ve read two of them, loved one and was a bit ‘meh’ about the other but I refuse to support people that act that way.

      Like

  3. Amazing post! I agree with you that reviews are for readers, and authors should take a deep breath before reading them, if they decide to… I don’t understand what is the point of attacking a reviewer, really.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh me neither, defending their pride, I guess? It’ll never lead to anything good, so I don’t understand why you would do such a thing.

      Like

  4. I agree with you that negative reviews are important. If all reviews were positive, then they wouldn’t mean anything. They wouldn’t serve their purpose to inform readers about the actual quality of the book. I think there are always going to be writers that lash out at criticism, but they are only making themselves look bad. Great post! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. When reviewing books I try to treat them the same way I treat the essays I mark for my students. I always try to highlight the good points, then point out the negatives/ areas for improvement. If possible I then try to end on a positive note. Luckily I haven’t had to review a book as yet where I could find no redeeming qualities. But in general book bloggers do try to be respectful of the authors they review and we should receive the same respect In return.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I value negative reviews. They’re just as important as positive and mixed reviews. I feel like the only time authors should read reviews is when they are sent from NetGalley for Advanced Reader Copies. If authors don’t read reviews on Advanced Reader Copies how are they supposed to know if they need to change anything and what needs to be changed? But once that final copy is out in the world, reviews should be for readers only, and authors shouldn’t be attacking anyone in the community, not just bloggers, but booktubers and bookstagrammers too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t know how it works with ARCs, whether the author needs to go out and look for points of improvement themselves or whether the publisher keeps an eye out for points of improvement, or anything like that. But then, I still think they shouldn’t comment on the reviews! Oh yes definitely booktubers and bookstagrammers too!

      Like

  7. I completely agree about negative reviews. They are extremely important to me and I just don’t understand how they have become almost taboo. Like some of these commenters said, the reviews (post ARC) should really only be for readers. Our blogs and our reviews should be safe places for us to express our personal opinions. They shouldn’t be places of attack. Personally, I have a hard time trusting books with only happy, fluffy reviews. I think the clash of someone else’s option brings out parts of the story I may not considered, and truthfully, the really mixes reviewed books grab my attention and make me want to read it more, simply because I want to get in on the discussion! All reviews (good and bad) have their merits. So long as you are not personally attacking the authors character, etc., they are still relevant to the bookish community.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes definitely! If a review only mentions how amazing the book was, I have a tendency to trust it less then if they say “I loved it but I liked these minor things less”. Mixed reviews are the best kind of reviews!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Great post! I think this is a really important topic, and as a book reviewer, it is necessary that we are honest. I recently saw someone on Twitter talking about honest reviews and diverse books, and how it’s ok to write a negative review even if it’s diverse, as long as you acknowledge the fact that it’s #ownvoices and that that’s a good thing, and I really agree with that. Honestly, there have been diverse books that I read and decided not to review, because sometimes it feels like people will bring too negative backlash, when really that shouldn’t be happening. It’s ok not to like a book, and it’s ok to share your opinion!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes definitely! There’s a bit more controversy around diverse books, but in my opinion, they should be reviewed just like other books. I’m sorry you don’t feel comfortable with sharing negative views on some diverse books!

      Like

  9. I definitely value negative reviews. Everyone has different opinions on books. Reading is subjective. Authors should go with the mindset that not everyone will love their books and shouldn’t be attacking reviewers. If there was only positive, it wouldn’t be real. You need a balance. I hope authors have more respect to the reviewers in the future.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. As you said “My reviews are always honest, but they’re not harsh or brutal. If I didn’t like a book, I’ll say that honestly, but I will also always be decent and nice about it. ” I wrote a post about how to write reviews months ago and I told the same. It does not bother me if the author comments on my review. It does not happen often but I do enjoy chatting with them if they are respectful. Reading like writing is a personal and subjective experience. We can’t love evey book written and that’s perfectly fine if we say it with respect 😉

    Liked by 3 people

  11. i think honest, negative reviews are important. for one, it is silly to think everyone will love your book. just because one person didn’t like it doesn’t mean no one will like it. for two, i think criticism is an important tool for growth. if an author only ever receives positive feedback they will continue to write the same way they have been instead of reaching their full potential.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. i think people in general should probably learn to deal with criticism. lol just because we don’t agree with everyone’s opinion doesn’t mean we need to get bent out of shape about it!

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Be honest, but nice, is honestly the best way to put forth your reviews. I love that you’ve managed to capture the essence of what reviews should be. And what I’ve noticed you do, and what I try to do. If I don’t like a book, I am honest about it, but I try to find a few positives too, because there usually is something that maybe someone else will like. Just because I didn’t like it does not necessarily mean it’s a bad book, just not my cup of tea.

    This was an important post in light of the Drama that’s been happening, so thank you for writing it!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I agree with this so much! This a great post. It’s sad that we even need to have a discussion on how people should be treated. It is unrealistic to think that every person is going to love any one thing. I appreciate negative reviews, I find them just as helpful as postive ones.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I absolutely agree that reviewers are primarily for readers. I do include negative opinions of books, but I try to remain balanced and critical – completely trashing a book is unproductive and I don’t think any (good) book reviewer would do that. I think so long as the criticism is balance focused on the book rather than flinging personal insults at the author, there is nothing wrong with being negative in reviews and it’s actually quite helpful in order to completely explore your opinions of the book.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. This is such a great post, thank you for writing it especially now in the light of everything happening in the bookish community. It is so important to remember that reviews should be honest and are made for readers, not for authors. I think it’s so important to draw a line between readers and authors. If interaction happening between them is awesome, I’m not going to deny it, reviews should NOT be part of this interaction, especially not bad reviews. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and bad reviews are important, too. They’re so helpful for readers and authors need to stay away from that and know where they should stand. :/

    Liked by 3 people

  16. I have to agree with you. I’ve been attacked by an author, though I still haven’t blogged for a year, and it must be pretty horrible. I just wrote a negative review on a book I tried very hard to like, but I couldn’t.
    I’m sorry I couldn’t get into the story, but things like this happen.
    Great post! 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, definitely! There are plenty of books I don’t like and you shouldn’t have to pretend you love them just for the sake of a positive review. Thank you!

      Like

  17. Sometimes I still buy a book after a bad review. I don’t often see pro/con lists in 5 star reviews because everything was apparently perfect. I occasionally include cons to my 5 star reviews, but 5 star reviews don’t give me the whole picture. I recently read both good and so-so reviews of a brand new release this year, but when I read the so-so reviews the reviewers only didn’t like things I actually enjoy in book, so I went ahead an ordered it! I wouldn’t have ordered it as soon if I didn’t realize what was actually going on the book.
    I also need bad reviews for books that could potentially be harmful or triggering to the reader, especially since I’m a POC reader. However, I don’t believe in direct attacks against the author such as 1-starring books without reading them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes definitely! If reviews are only positive it can also be unhelpful! Usually a bit in the middle is better. Yes, negative reviews are also important for warning people off! NOBODY should give books 1-star ratings before reading them, that’s just ridiculous!

      Like

  18. I agree with what you said about negative reviews. They are important. If I have similar taste to a reviewer and he/she rates a book 1 or 2, then high chances are that I won’t like it either. It doesn’t mean nobody else will. I think a negative review just show who the book is / isn’t for.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. “A book read by a thousand different people is a thousand different books.” — Andrei Tarkovsky
    the above post came from: https://booknormblog.com/2018/01/14/thought-of-the-day-59/

    Why did I put this here? I am a writer, and I am a reader. First, I was (and still am) a reader. It’s important to me to read. But in a busy life, how can I know what will interest me and what probably won’t? I know from reading what a reviewer (or multiples of same) say about a story. I understand not every review is going to be good. Nor should they all be generic. No book, no story anytime anywhere is going to appeal to every reader. Not possible. I dislike Dostoyevski (strongly), but millions love his writing. My choice, as a reader, whether I want to or not.
    It is the same for a reviewer. it is their take on the story as they read it.
    I like to read the reviews (words, not just numbers) to try to understand what made it strong, who enjoyed what most, could it have been done better, could some element have been stronger? etc. etc. etc.
    When I find a book to read and it only has reviews of three or less doesn’t shake me from reading it if it sounds like ‘my’ kind of story.
    The reader owns the story as they read it, but I rely on what other people say to help me initiate a tiny piece of intrigue. Any writer worth a pinch of salt will understand this because they are a reader first.
    And I thank all reviewers for the work they do, the effort and time they devote to giving us this insight.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment! I agree with all you said! Reviews can definitely be helpful, both positive and negative. Not everyone likes the same book so as a reviewer that also should be taken into account. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Yeah, I saw a little while back on twitter that a lot of people were talking about this and it kinda just made me curious if there was a particular incident that really triggered it. I never did get an answer from those I asked. I definitely think authors need to respect bloggers more. There’s no reason to attack us. It’s our opinion and we’re entitled to it. I also think if you’re that kind of sensitive person that’s going to be easily offended because one person doesn’t like your book then maybe you shouldn’t be reading reviews (or asking people for them). I also saw a group of authors somewhere online that are banding together to demand changes to Goodreads… to limit negative reviews and things like that. It’s ridiculous! That’s what the site is for! To leave reviews both good and bad so that people can make their own informed decisions about whether the book is right for them. That’s just my opinion. Anyways, great post as always Lia!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, there were a few incidents actually. Taryn Bashford had threatened legal action against a 3-star review and then Benjamin Alire Saenz posted an incredibly rude comment on a review.
      Oh yes definitely, if authors can’t handle the criticism they should try not to read reviews!
      Okay that’s just idiocy! Why are those authors so horrible! If they can’t deal with negative reviews being on goodreads then they don’t deserve the good ones either 😦
      Thank you!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow, I didn’t know it was that extreme. I don’t know how you can expect to use “legal action” against someone who doesn’t like your book. Not everyone is going to like something! No problem, and thanks for letting me know what was going on!

        Liked by 1 person

  21. I love your post ❤ it's talking about so many important things aghhah
    AUTHORS NEED TO RESPECT BLOGGERS MORE??? goodreads is not for authors and honestly can people not attack bloggers. I have a whole rant prepared but I'll probably restrain myself.
    DID YOU SEE THE ONLINE PETITION I'M SO MAD ABOUT IT 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Okay, this is SUCH a good post omg. I’m so angry about authors attacking reviewers & that petition going around for GR to change their review policy. Like you said, authors can get a little frustrated with the misinterpretation of their work, but instead of attacking a reviewer, maybe write something clarifying it?? Or just move on, since their book is out there in the world for people to form their own opinions on. I don’t get what’s so hard to understand that books are for readers to read & interpret as they will, and reviewers are for readers to write??? UGH. I just get so frustrated because it’s something so simple to grasp!!! This is a really beautifully written post, Lia. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much! That is absolutely horrible, that petition??? wtf??
      Yes, attacking is never good, clarifying would be much better! But not commenting at all too haha
      I get frustrated too! I just don’t get it. It’s a book, it’s supposed to be read and enjoyed and interpreted and reviewed and if someone didn’t like it, that doesn’t mean the book is bad???
      Thank you!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. To add to this: I feel that if an author attempts to clarify something – what if the part they’re attempting to clarify is something a reviewer perceived as sexist or discriminatory – just turns into a big circular argument where they’re defending what they’ve written rather than apologizing for the offensive content they’ve written. I think it’s probably better for the author to either make a genuine public apology and/or make their next novel better.

        Liked by 1 person

  23. Great post!! I’ve never written a review before nor do I do any ARCs but I’ve always considered writing my opinions on books that I read for fun and always wondered how to go about it. Reading this post brought a lot of things to consider and I’m happy you wrote it!
    I agree with what you said on the post. Negative reviews can be just as important as positive ones. Reviews give honest opinions and you can still be respectful to the author. As a reader, you just stating whether you enjoyed it or not and c’mon, every book out there can’t win everyone over. Some people have distinctive tastes and it’s all objective. You win some, you lose some so authors some authors out there should chill. I’ve read some negative reviews before and STILL read the book because I wanted my own opinion on it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’m glad it was helpful! Yes, definitely, negative reviews are just as important! And they often don’t stop people from reading a book!

      Like

  24. This was an interesting read! Love what you said about book reviews being for readers. When I first started reviewing books, I often gave books more positive reviews than I truly felt they deserved. But it wasn’t for the authors, it was what I thought my readers/viewers wanted. I didn’t want to give a negative review of someone’s fave haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha that’s definitely relatable! I don’t like hating someone’s favourite book, but guess not everyone can love the same books so if you’re nice about it, I don’t think anyone should hate you for it!

      Liked by 1 person

  25. I can’t imagine an author trying to sue over a not-stellar review. It would be like a restaurant suing over a poor Yelp review… inconceivable. I think it’s quite sad that some authors feel the need to attack people, but I can also understand hurt feelings. Over and over again, I’ve seen authors advise that other authors stay off Goodreads. One (I can’t remember which) said the other day that she has a Goodreads but who will forward her good reviews so she isn’t tempted, and keeps her from going on review sites. 🙂 I think that’s a good idea.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, exactly!! I can understand their feelings are hurt if someone says they don’t like their book, but attacking that person is just really bad. That’s definitely a good idea! I like that!

      Like

      1. Good point!

        I can also understand why an author would feel the need to defend their book if they feel the reviewer misunderstood parts of it, but that can turn into a VERY slippery slope (what if the reviewer felt something about the book was offensive – racist, homophobic, etc) and is best for the author to just “walk away,” and review the content they’ve written and learn how to make their next work more understandable or more inclusive, etc, etc

        Liked by 1 person

  26. well i kinda trash the book when i dislike it because this is how one epxresses herself and i think thats okay. my two main rules for negative reviews are

    1) dont tag authors in negative reviews
    and
    2) authors dont read reviews. reviews are not for authors
    if everyone listens to that EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE! Very wonderful post!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha I know you do and to be very honest, I think you could be a little nicer to people lol
      But I know that’s the way you like to write your reviews so I know you’re not doing it to be mean 😛
      But yes! Never tag authors in negative reviews! I don’t understand why people do that!

      Like

  27. Great Post! 🙂 I find negative Reviews to be especially important, because they are part of helping me decide if I should pick up a book. When I’m unsure about a book I looked at both sides positive AND negative. I have been able to avoid books I wouldn’t have ended up liking by reading through critical Reviews. Therefore, it always makes me angry when I see Reviewers getting attacked, because this could have been me as well – I try to be constructive in my negative Reviews, but if I dislike a book I will say it. Reviews simply are not for authors, which is why I never tag authors in Reviews and expect them to stay out of readers spaces in return. I cannot even imagine the horror of Reviewers getting threatened by authors, there is a power imbalance at play :/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes!! I couldn’t agree more! Negative reviews can say a lot about a book and even help people decide to pick it up (or not). Reviews should be for readers!

      Liked by 1 person

  28. It wasn’t until I got a Twitter account that I became aware of this issue of authors seeking vengeance for bad reviews. It’s so immature and irresponsible considering the massive platform authors can have. Like you said, reviews are for readers – not authors – which is why authors should not be going after reviewers in the first place.

    I’ve actually started to put less trust into BookTuber reviews, which is such a shame, because I no longer feel them to be honest. There are RARELY negative reviews on YouTube. I just find that a little hard to believe that all the hyped YA books were 100% “perfect, amazing, made me shed a tear, etc” When authors begin delving more in the world of how books are reviewed – it breaks down all barriers of trust.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it is indeed very immature! Yeah, I feel you. I don’t watch booktube reviews almost ever. I feel like the popular booktubers are now using a lot of paid promotion and I don’t think you can be very honest when you’re paid to do something.

      Liked by 1 person

  29. Such a well-written post! I’m not part of the book blogging community but I do believe negative reviews are important. And I can empathize how hard it must have been to write a negative review without being a complete jerk and so I think it’s unfair for some authors to pounce on the bloggers for writing such. They should know firsthand how important it is to be completely honest with yourself and with your readers when writing something, right? 🙂
    Also can I just say when you said “be honest but nice” I was like, “YAAAS GURL TELL EMMM” Because I’ve seen someone go out of their way to be completely rude in a book review and like whoa. Hold up. Thas not nice at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! Writing negative reviews can definitely be hard and authors should really keep their distance if they don’t want to read negative reviews. I understand that they want to know what someone has to say about their book, but then they shouldn’t attack people over having an opinion! Yasss being nice is key!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Totally agree with you! I mean, if they know a negative review will devastate them and they won’t be able to handle it, why read? Then again, there are those who take criticism on their works too personally. And yaaas it takes 0% effort to be a decent person 😄

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Right?? I agree with you there, there’s always two sides of the coin. And I honestly think the opinion can be negative but the attitude or the way it’s written doesn’t necessarily have to be. Especially when it’s in public.

        Liked by 2 people

  30. Well-written and thoughtful post! I wholeheartedly agree. Honesty in reviews is so important, especially as they’re for the readers who are ultimately the ones buying the books.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. i am about to write my first “book” review and i feel like i am on a thin wire, judging someone else’s body of work and me also trying to be a writer. But i’m really glad i was reminded that i’m simply recommending something – is it worth the money, what will you get from it – and not judging someone’s book baby

    Liked by 1 person

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