Do Or Don’t? Negative Reviews

I’m looking for legitimate feedback here, mostly because I want to understand other people’s thought process behind this. I have seen several people in the indie community expressly complaining about getting negative reviews on their work. I’ve seen traditionally published authors saying that it is a major no-no to tag an author in a negative review. I have even seen a book blogger or two mention the issue of whether or not to write those negative reviews. What are your thoughts on negative reviews?

I’ve always been for them because I feel like it is honest and, no matter the product, but books in particular, other people should have access to those honest opinions to be able to make a fully informed decision on if they want to buy/read something. As with everything, I feel like there are certain stipulations around that, though. I think it is an asshole move to leave inaccurate or malicious feedback just to be a jerk and because you can and that isn’t what I’m talking about here.

As an artist and a creative, it has always been my opinion that the second you do anything where another person can experience it, you’ve opened the door for criticism. Whether or not that criticism is justified falls into a gray area until you deliberately make that creation available to the public. At that point, as the creator, you have to accept the fact that people are going to feel the need to state those opinions. When you expect people to spend money on your creation, you absolutely are opening that door to criticism and, at least in my opinion, you do not get any kind of say in what that criticism is (again, the above exception being deliberately malicious or hateful). It is kind of like an unspoken social contract that criticism comes with the territory and it won’t always be something you like to hear.

I am truly curious as to why some people don’t agree with this concept. I want to understand the other side of this coin because, at the moment, I only see it as people only want to hear that they are awesome no matter if they are or aren’t. If I were to pick up a book with lots of 4 and 5 star ratings only to find it full of errors and plot holes and horrible characters, I would be pretty ticked off as a reader. I have never hesitated to write a negative review on a book if I felt it was necessary and, at least on Goodreads, those seem to be my most liked and commented on. Especially if it was contrary to many of the other reviews available.

Sometimes, even a negative review for one person can actually be what interests someone else because different people have different tastes and opinions. Some people adore steamy scenes, others want a steam free book, or issues with cussing or drugs or mental health issues. Some people may not want to read a book with a certain theme, but another will have that same theme at the top of the “must read” list. A negative review can bring some of those things to light and actually draw in new readers. A 1 or a 2 star review may not actually be a bad thing. Getting lots of those in an area may even alert an author to a genre placement issue or some other issue that got missed before publishing.

As far as tagging an author on social media platforms in negative reviews… that one may be a little different. Just because I don’t have a problem with people leaving negative reviews, as an author, I don’t know that I’d want those reviews shoved under my nose on a constant basis. Just because they are written, doesn’t mean I’m required to read them. Tagging an author kind of forces that issue and takes the choice away from them. I can only imagine how exponentially huge this could be, especially for a traditionally published author or anyone with a really huge following. It has always been my policy here to try not to link back to an author’s website in a review if it is particularly bad, but part of that is a lack of desire to promote an author if I didn’t like their work. I will link to the Goodreads page for the book, though.

Where do you stand on negative reviews and tagging authors and why?



Author: TJ Fox

I am a slightly sane artist, amateur photographer, book addict, wife, mom and raging introvert. I have more hobbies than I can count, so it is beyond shocking that I manage to find time to do any of them, let alone most of them and still have time to do anything else. Of all the talents I claim, writing wasn’t one of them until my muse dropped the idea for a book on my head.

19 thoughts on “Do Or Don’t? Negative Reviews”

  1. Ok, here’s my take on this. It’s one thing to negativity rate a physical product because it didn’t perform or live up to the description. Example one: a dog toy labeled “Tough” and “for extreme chewers” that is destroyed in less than 15 minutes. This is not an opinion, it’s based on quantitative evidence. Example two: a fireproof safe for important documents that gave the exterior dimensions only. When it arrived, my papers didn’t fit inside because the interior was significantly smaller than the dimensions listed. Again, product description that was misleading.
    On the other hand, a book or other piece of ‘art’ can only be measured by opinion unless it’s factually inaccurate or you’ve been mislead in the description. I don’t give less than 2 stars and if I DNF a book, I don’t believe I have the right to review it. I also take into account that most books I ended up not liking, it was more because I don’t care for the genre so I wasn’t really the target audience.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess one of the things that keeps sticking with me in this whole discussion, and it goes to both ends of the rating system, is why even bother having those lower ratings if they aren’t used? I think that pretty much everyone that reads or writes reviews understands the concept that they are opinions of an art form and take that into account. When a place such as Goodreads says that a 1 star review = “I didn’t like it”, why would it be wrong to rate a book that (and there is a big caveat here) if you are also willing to honestly express the why behind that and not just trash it? Same for the 5 star. I if you genuinely fell in love with a book and think it is awesome, why not rate it that way and say that?

      I am seeing this from both sides for the first time and I really do want to understand it, but as a reader, I really want to know if someone truly didn’t like a book and why. I’ve said before that there are times THAT review is what gets me to pick up a book. If everyone that read it that would give it 2 stars or less, doesn’t leave that feedback, the book will potentially show at a much higher rating than it potentially deserves.

      I do agree with almost all the points you’ve mentioned. This is an art form and it is subjective, but I’ve always felt like that is the entire purpose of reviews, helping others to be able to decide for themselves based on other people’s experience.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t really rely on stranger’s reviews to help me decide if I’m going to read something so a random 5 star or 1 star review from someone I don’t know isn’t going to impact my decision. I have a few people who I go to for recommendations. Here’s another example. Everyone loved Educated. Even people who I believe are like-minded and whose opinions I value. I didn’t like it. It was one of the most highly rated books of 2018. I found it self-indulgent and very uncomfortable to read about physical and emotional abuse that no one cared enough about to stop. I felt the same way about The Glass Castle, another highly acclaimed book.
        I think reviews for electronics or other measurable products are important to consumers but books are subjective. I always err on the side of kindness when I write a review. This stems from a combination of “if you don’t have anything nice to say …” and karma because I don’t want to put negativity into the world.

        Full disclosure, I have a book that was released in February and so far the reviews have been glowing, even from strangers. I know that this will influence buyers, including bookstores and libraries as well as future publishers for other books so I know it’s important to have a lot of reviews.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m coming from a similar perspective having just self-published at the end of March and is one of the reasons this has been so heavily on my mind lately.

        I will often read through reviews, though usually only on books by authors I’ve never read before. For me, it is mostly to weed out books that will obviously push up against a peeve of mine and ensure I really won’t like it. Those aren’t always the same for everyone so I look at both the positive and the negative. Blurbs rarely give me what I need to know that. I rely on this because the majority of people I would trust with opinions are not readers. I’m the odd one out around here, so I get input where I can.


  2. For me, a negative review shouldn’t be an attempt to have a conversation with (or give pointers to) the author. The best sort of negative reviews speak to other readers (ie, should you try this book and why or why not) or more generally to highlight an issue or trend.

    Low ratings on indie books is an odd one for me, and I’ve gone back and forth over the years. Right now, I’m of the mind that it’s better to avoid scathing reviews on things that have very low readerships (ie, say nothing at all). If it’s offensively awful in some specific way, I might leave a a note warning readers that they may expect certain topics or issues.

    But because indie writers have such a small fanbase already, any review I leave will have disproportionate weight; an author will see it and be impacted by it. It’s not worth it for some principle of higher truth. It’s just unnecessary.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like your perspective on the indie aspect. I hadn’t really thought of it that way really. When I’ve considered the concept of reviews to this point, it has mostly been in the context of traditionally published authors with large review numbers. I can absolutely see how a review on a book with such low numbers can carry so much more weight. I’m going to have to think about this part side of things a bit more. Thank you!


  3. I think it’s ok for a negative review assuming it’s well thought out and constructive. I think that’s fair. What I. D.o.n.t like are stupid reviews that give ridiculous criticism like saying there was a typo on page 73 so therefor you get a bad review. I. D.o.n.t believe in one star reviews though. I think that’s just cruel

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree that there are just some crazy nitpicky people out there that will give a horrible rating for something really minor like a single typo. More than likely, they just didn’t like the book and can’t figure out how to justify why.

      It is really rare I give a rating that low, but I have. That said, it is usually because of the rating system scale of the place I rated it. Goodreads in particular forces a much lower star rating if I really didn’t like a book. I did double check and I have given a book a 1 star review here before, but I honestly think that was before Amazon put in some quality control in their KU books.

      If a rating scale system actually has that low of a rating available with clear reasons for those ratings, why would it be cruel if the review attached to that rating is honest? Not trying to be a pain, I’m genuinely curious. Sure, it would suck so bad to get a 1 star rating/review and I honestly don’t know how I’d react, but… it would still be a honest opinion.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I always think two stars is the lowest because my thought is, writing a story from beginning to end deserves at least two stars, how many people don’t even get that far?

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I do agree with that in part, but we are talking something published. Does it not require a certain standard since authors are expecting to be paid for it (this touches on a whole other issue that’s been on my mind lately and may require a separate post)? I guess I look at it like if I were to buy a TV and it worked, but maybe only half the screen or something that basically makes it nearly useless, would I be willing to give it even a two start review just because someone actually came up with a TV? (Not the best analogy, but it still gets the point across maybe)

        Liked by 1 person

      3. But reviews are completely subjective. I’ve read books that I hated that others loved and vice versa. I would really need to see a quantified list as to what was so bad about a novel. To give it a one star would mean it would need to be 95% bad. The plot, characters, story line and narrative would all need to be totally crap to get one star. I can’t see any book as having no redeeming qualities at all. But I also don’t believe in 5 stars either. I’ve rarely seen perfect. My issue with goodreads is that you can’t rate something in halves or quarters. I usually underrate….I might rate something a 3 but it’s in my mind 3.5, etc

        Liked by 1 person

      4. My first round with KU nearly killed the entire concept for me because they literally had zero quality control AT ALL. I dropped a book once that had no paragraphs, quotation marks, missing half or more of ANY form of punctuation and major spelling/typo errors about every other sentence. And that isn’t much of an exaggeration. It was horrible and I don’t think I made it even through the first chapter. Things aren’t nearly as bad now because that has (mostly) been fixed, but it was a nasty problem in the beginning, so absolutely those got a single star because they never should have made it to a published state. Every once in a great while, I’ll see another one that comes really close, but I’m seeing now those potentially come from book farms.

        I will give a DNF a one star review on Goodreads because that is their “I did not like it” option. If I DNF a book here, I won’t leave a rating as DNF kind of is that rating. Most of those it is only if I felt like I had something to say about it, though. Otherwise I won’t do anything at all.

        I think one of the reasons I struggle with this whole concept is that if someone really didn’t like a book and gives it a 2 or a 3 star review and then so do dozens of other people, it really skews the overall rating and can be misleading to other readers.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. It depends on how you define do not like. I automatically discount a one star review unless there is a book of reasons why it’s so bad. Agreed, spelling, grammar, incompletions, blah blah, but I’m probably not even going to start a book like that so I’m never getting far enough to review. . I do not like science fiction, so would it be fair for me to rate a sci fi book one star? I’ve never watched Game of thrones. I watched an episode and thought it was ridiculous drivel. Would it be fair for me to rate that one star because it’s not my taste?

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I agree. I won’t pick up a book I know I won’t like, so would never review that kind of book. I’ve actually seen reviewers do that, though, and I honestly wonder why they ever picked the book up in the first place when they don’t like the genre. The exception, and is one of my peeves, is when a book is incorrectly marked as being in a genre that it clearly doesn’t belong in. I will absolutely drop a low rating and state that is why. It is false advertising as far as I’m concerned and often done to attempt to inflate their sales. (again, one of those things I’ve seen is an actual problem in the industry) I once read a book that was supposed to be a fantasy, spent the whole obnoxious thing reading a bad cowboy romance. Not one drop of fantasy in the thing. Was it possibly a mistake on someone’s part? Possibly. I did feel that other readers should know that it wasn’t what it said it was supposed to be.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. I guess one of the things I was really trying to get at with my post (and I’ve apparently gotten a bit off track, but thank you so much for you feedback) is the expectation of authors and maybe even publishers to provide ONLY positive reviews and ratings and whether or not that is reasonable. I think reviewers need to do what they feels is right, but what about author/publisher expectations?


      8. That’s different…if someone purposely misidentifies the genre. But I’ve seen people lambaste something cause they don’t like the genre. A reviewer must be open minded. I’ve yet to see a one start review with any merit

        Liked by 1 person

      9. I think those really low reviews on a genre they don’t like fall solidly into the malicious review range as far as I’m concerned. They go into it knowing they aren’t going to like it and they complain when that holds true. That is a jerk move all the way.

        Liked by 1 person

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