Should Authors Write Bad Book Reviews?

Great post from Kristen Lamb! I’ve always wondered about the logistics and etiquette of an author writing bad reviews – or reviews of any sort really. Read this and tell me what you think.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Okay, yesterday we had a little bit of a debate about leaving book reviews. First of all, the post is to warn you of the dangers of posting bad reviews as an author. Does it mean you can’t? No. Can you tweet while drinking and listening to LinkinPark? Yes, but you do so at your own risk. Same here. I am not the social media gestapo, but I am here to warn you of the hazards that are REAL.

We Never Know Who People Know

I once commented offhandedly to an acquaintance about a book I was reading. I wasn’t nasty, I just mentioned that I found it confusing and the dream sequences were messing me up. I also added that it could be me. I WAS seven-months pregnant, so I added the caveat that it could just be Baby Brain.

Little did I know the acquaintance was BEST…

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8 thoughts on “Should Authors Write Bad Book Reviews?

  1. I wrote a couple of bad reviews. But this was before I was ever published (even if it’s a small time published deal). The first one I ever did was really bad….as was the book. The second one I did was more tasteful, at least I hoped it was. The author did take my advice and re-edited it, then re-posted a newer version. I think my review has since gone to la la land (except on my blog). I can’t bring myself to re-read her book though. :/ Maybe one day. But since that post, I’ve not given formal reviews…I even wrote a post asking if authors should review books. I’m still on the fence about this. I’ve actually turned my “review” energy into a “critique partner” energy simply for the fact that I want to make the author’s writing better…not bash it in public.

    • I learned my lesson – twice – by writing a bad review that ended with the author (or their friends) heaping scorn on me. So now I try not to write bad reviews. Not because the books don’t need them, mind you, but because it’s just too much trouble. I figure that if that author is going to behave like that when they receive criticism, their career isn’t going to be very long. Some of the worst criticism I’ve had has led to the most important improvements I’ve made to my writing.

  2. It is a tricky one. I enjoy reviewing books I like. And even less than stunning works with merit – I know there will be an audience for them out there (many readers are less picky than me).
    I agree, it is better if we can be critique partners and help get the book polished BEFORE it is published, but I know some writers struggle to find good critique partners.
    A self-publisher once asked people to buy his book at $0.99 or whatever it was and post reviews… I thought I could handle that, so did. I didn’t like the book. I didn’t review it. Then sometime later, I noticed the book had a perfect 5-star score from several reviewers… When I decided to “balance” things with a 1-star (and, to me, it was a 1-star read – on Goodreads, that simply means “I didn’t like it”, which was true), the author contacted me, asking me to explain myself. I tried as best I could, but he was quite rude, and eventually I just took my review down… so his book went back to a perfect 5… lucky him.
    The next less than stunning book I read, I contacted the author directly (it helped that we already had some back-and-forth before then) and explained why I couldn’t review his book in public. He’s a much stronger writer now. Whether my feedback had a part in that I can’t know.
    To date, I have only read one self-pubbed book that I deemed worthy of 4.5-5 stars (no, I haven’t read yours, yet, Merry – though I have bought two, so I will get to them!). The rest have been lucky to get 3-stars. But, often they were first efforts. So I have a huge amount of respect for them to go it alone and put their work out there… So, while I try to be honest for the sake of other readers, I try to be gentle to the author – and I aim for that “critique sandwich”: start and end with positives.

    • I think a lot of self-published authors rush into things before their book is ready. One of the bad reviews I gave someone (and received the worst backlash I’ve seen from a writer) was simply that they had a story with potential, but it wasn’t ready to be published. The saddest thing to me in that instance was that, given a few more revisions and a professional editor, it could have been a really great book. Too bad.

      And when you get around to reading my stuff, I hope you can feel free to tell me what you think! I don’t bite. heh heh heh. I also recognize that I’ve gotten better with each book that I’ve written and I intend to keep getting better as I continue to write. 🙂

      • That’s my plan, too! As much as we need to put the best book out that we can, a book is only ever going to get so much better with successive edits… eventually, we have to just put it out there and get on with writing the next!

  3. I believe that leaving a bad review is more than unhelpful, it’s somewhat counter productive. When I post reviews on Goodreads they’re as balanced as possible. I prefer to start with my overall impression before moving onto what I didn’t like, what didn’t work and why, what was bad and so on, and finishing on the good points. That way the author, and other potential readers can see I’ve given my review a lot thought and not acted on impulse.

    I’m a big fan of leaving constructive reviews for self publishing authors, especially fledgeling ones, because I believe it can be encouraging for them to see my genuine thoughts – good and bad, rather than a single negative blast or heaping praise where it might not be deserved just to make that author happy. And that constructive criticism might reinforce their desire to improve and keep at it.

    To echo what DebE said, I too have yet to read one of yours Merry, and since I’ve just finished my current read, The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter (worth checking out if you haven’t already) I’m looking for something new to get stuck into. So, which of your books do you suggest I start with Merry?

    • I even wonder about constructive criticism though. One of my two big mistake negative reviews I THOUGHT was constructive criticism, but the author didn’t take it that way.

      As far as reading something of mine (and I’m super flattered, btw!), I love my Noble Hearts medieval series, but I would start with my western series, which begins with Our Little Secrets. HOWEVER, having just said that, by any chance would you be interested in beta-reading a sci-fi novel (the first in a series) that I’ve been working on for a while? I love the premise and the characters and I think the story is good, but I’m in serious need of someone else’s opinion as to whether the conflict is pitched enough or whether I need to raise the stakes. Sounds like you have exactly the reading background to give me a really valuable opinion. Interested?

      • The constructive reviews I’ve left on Goodreads have been well received so far, though I hadn’t considered how even what I hoped would be helpful could be taken negatively. Suddenly feels like a bit of a minefield!

        I’d be honoured to be a beta-reader for your sci-fi novel. More than happy to provide some constructive feedback. And thanks for the recommendation, I’ll get a copy of Our Little Secrets this weekend!

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