Monday, December 13, 2010

Why bad reviews are okay

“People shouldn’t post negative reviews of books. *I* only post reviews of books I’d recommend. You know that they say, ‘If you can’t say something nice…’”

If you could see me right now, I would be rubbing my temples in frustration. I just came away from an entire page of blog comments saying things like this. They’re trying to be supportive of a woman who’d just received the first negative review she’s ever seen of her book. I get that. It’s very nice.

But reading through these, all I can think is that I never, ever want to read any of these peoples’ book reviews. Ever. Because seriously, how selfish can you get?

As anyone who’s ever sat in a critique group with me knows, I am blunt. I am honest. Tact is not my strongest point. If I think something – anything – about the literature I have been given, I will make my opinion clear. I do not hold back, because holding back is dishonest, disrespectful and just plain unhelpful. I feel the same way about book reviews.

There is nothing ‘mean’ about giving a bad book review, despite what some prima-donna writers and oh-so-sensitive fans would have you believe. At best, it makes the author aware of flaws that they can improve upon in their next manuscript and clues the readers in on why they might better spend their month on a book they would enjoy more. At worst, it gives the author insight on the sort of people who don’t like their genre/character types/plot arcs/whatever and clues your readers in on why they may or may not agree with your opinions all the time.

To only post “good” reviews or reviews of “books that I would recommend” because you don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings or because you dislike the idea of conflict is selfish at best, cowardly at worst. As long as a negative review isn’t being a troll, or spouting lies, or used as some kind of revenge, there is nothing “mean” or “cruel” about it.


  1. 100% agree. Constructive criticism, IMO (as both a writer and a reader) is far better than a good review. A bad review, whilst of course not always a nice thing for a writer to read, is as invaluable as the first through rejection letters. If you're not secure enough to take criticism you honestly shouldn't be writing. I value honesty far above hollow praise.

  2. I always hope I'll have a strong enough stomach for my bad reviews, if I get published. It's always important to know what people think. But I admit I've stopped myself from reviewing things when I thought I couldn't contain my snark about them. It's one thing to say, "This isn't quality writing" and another thing entirely to say, "This is the most ridiculous piece of tripe I've ever read." So yeah, I restrain myself in public forums.

    Good points, good post. Nice to "meet" you.