BEA BLOGGERS CONFERENCE: Negative Reviews

2:00 PM Tif Sweeney 11 Comments



Yesterday in Chicago, the BEA Bloggers Conference took place and the afternoon was devoted to a number of round table discussions.  We have already shared a couple round-ups with you, but now we bring you yet another.  Please welcome Heather from Based on a True Story, one of our on-site correspondents as well as the co-facilitator of Negative Reviews.

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Negative reviewing is a hot topic among bloggers. If we don't like a book should we post about it? If we do write a negative post, what is the best way to go about it? Are there any consequences? What is a negative review? Most people agreed that it was a one or two star review. The term critical review was preferred for reviews of books that bloggers liked overall but which had some problematic points that needed to be addressed. What should you keep in mind if writing a critical review?

Be specific. State what part of the book bothered you. If there is a racist or homophobic storyline that you object to, for example, point it out and give specific instances.

Stay factual and don't get personal. Talk about the book and not about the author as a person.


What worries people most about writing critical reviews?

Damaging relationships with authors or publishers.

Upsetting fans who then attack the reviewer on social media.


Some participants shared stories about online and offline encounters with angry authors and fans. These are not common experiences but can be scary. We also heard the other side from an author who has had angry reviews sent to her. She said that she is much more lenient when reviewing books now because she knows what it is like to get bad reviews. We asked if people had ever toned down or not posted a review if they thought it was too negative, especially if they knew the author. Several people had. Is that ethical? Some people send a notice to the author or publisher saying that the review is going to be critical of the book and asking if they still wanted it to be posted. These were all considerations when talking about ARC reviews. One thing everyone agreed on was that if the book was purchased by the reviewer, then the reviewer is free to post whatever type of review they feel is appropriate. This topic was a great discussion starter and there are several questions that each person needs to answer for themselves and their blog.

11 comments:

  1. This sounds like a really interesting talk! Personally, I feel, as a reader and reviewer, that I should post negative reviews of books I didn't like, being clear as to why, so that other potential readers can get a balanced view on a book before starting it. If everyone censored negative reviews, and only positive ones showed up on Goodreads/Amazon, then how could you trust that those average ratings and reviews were fair and unbiased?

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    1. Dani W. ... I agree with you! All the ratings would then be totally overinflated!

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  2. I am always honest with my reviews. You lose your credibility if you know a book is bad and you don't reflect that in your review.

    I am sure this was a great discussion.

    Happy ABEA Day 2.

    Elizabeth
    Silver's Reviews
    My BEA ARMCHAIR POST

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  3. I once had an author call me every name in the book after I said I didn't agree with some of the things he had written. His book was non-fiction. I stuck by my review. I normally do not post critical reviews, unless they are truly warranted. How can you post a true review if you don't give an honest opinion. I totally agree though, attacking is wrong!

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  4. This is actually the reason why I stay away from star ratings on my blog; I think the "why" is more important than "positive" or "negative." Different folks like different books for different reasons, so something that bothers me (aka love triangles) might be something that someone else will love.

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  5. i believe in negative reviews too as long as you explain why it didn't work for you vs angry rants

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  6. I think posting a negative review should be okay as long as you aren't attacking or slandering the author!

    I will refrain from posting a negative review though if it is part of a blog tour. If it is, and my review is negative, I will post something else and then later after the tour is said and done I will share my review/thoughts on the book.

    All in all, I want to help promote book love. Just because something didn't mesh with me, doesn't mean it will be the same experience for someone else. However, that being said, a negative review could keep someone from reading the same book and having the same experience that I had. And if it is someone newer to reading, I wouldn't want them to be turned off because they went in unknowingly.

    Does that make sense?

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  7. I am team Honest Reviews Even If They're Negative. I know what it's like to have people pick apart your work (~~what do you do with a BA in creative writing???~~) and it can feel awful, especially if it's something really important or personal...but that's how the artistic process is. My average rating on Good Reads hovers around 3 stars or so.

    The one time it gets tricky for me is when I know the author, even vaguely. As a writerly person, I tend to know writerly people, so I've read a few books by people I've met first as people rather than encountered as authors. Some of them are definitely better than others, and also more patient -- within my circle of acquaintances, there are a couple who immediately went and self-published their novel when they felt it was done, and I read them and...they were NOT done, not by a long stretch. (And I know the difference between when something is Not For Me, and when something Needs More Work.) If they had taken those rejections to heart, and maybe found more/better critique partners or beta readers, their novels certainly could have been good. So it feels unfair to put them on blast publicly (even if my readership is quite small), but I also don't know them well enough to contact them privately with my thoughts and help them write a better book. Those books just stay in unreviewed, undiscussed purgatory lol.

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  8. My job as a reviewer is to give specific reasons why a book did or didn't work. The ultimate goal is for a reader to see the review and be able to tell whether it is something THEY would like (or not).

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  9. Negative reviews should always be posted probably especially if the book was given to you review since the book was given with the intent of your honest and unbiased review. It is totally unfair to the readers of reviews if we censor our thoughts or ask the publisher/author if they want us to post the review or not. I do think we need to be kind and thoughtful when posting negative reviews. They need to be written critically and with grace. I know a lot of books that I may take a negative stance on others would love so I make sure to state why I didn't like it as that may be the very reason someone else may love it. Those are my two cents on the topic.

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  10. Negative reviews should always be posted probably especially if the book was given to you review since the book was given with the intent of your honest and unbiased review. It is totally unfair to the readers of reviews if we censor our thoughts or ask the publisher/author if they want us to post the review or not. I do think we need to be kind and thoughtful when posting negative reviews. They need to be written critically and with grace. I know a lot of books that I may take a negative stance on others would love so I make sure to state why I didn't like it as that may be the very reason someone else may love it. Those are my two cents on the topic.

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