I received an email the other day asking me how I handle bad reviews, and it's not the first email I've received that question. I actually like hearing it because I think that it shows readers aren't simply giving trigger-pull responses to the books they read, but rather taking the time to accurately assess what is and isn't working for them in the novels they read.
I absolutely never take pleasure in giving bad reviews. As an aspiring author, it pulls at my heartstrings to tell a writer that their book simply didn't work for me, but it happens. For example, back in 2010, I was on tour for Bumped by Megan McCafferty - a favourite author of mine. This book was so hyped in the world of dystopians that I was certain I'd love it, but I ended up barely making it through. Since I was going to feature an author interview, I spoke with Ms. McCafferty ahead of time, and we ended up focusing the interview around those issues I had with the book. It was probably the most insightful interview I've ever featured, and it convinced me that someday I should read the book the book again.
^^^ Just a few of the books I've given negative reviews in the past 4 years.
Some of the most major drama and conflict in the book blogosphere the past couple years has revolved around reviews, Goodreads and how we, as bloggers, actually impact the sale of books - if at all. Here's the thing though, I think that we do, and we need to take the time to truly watch our words and post reviews that are thoughtful, insightful and honest - even if that means a negative review. Here are the five things I focus on when writing a negative review.
1. Why didn't the book work for you? By sitting back and taking the time to identify the exact elements of the story that didn't work for me, I'm able to give a comprehensive and thorough overview of what didn't work for me in the novel. In doing so, I'm able to show other readers what might and might not work for them.
2. Do I have any sort of bias that is affecting my review? Let's be honest here. This does happen, whether we want to admit it or not. Writing a clear, honest and insightful negative review means putting aside all biases and taking the high road.
3. What is your ratio of opinion to fact in your review? I've found over time that it needs to be a delicate balance of the two, or your negative review is skewed in the general direction of pettiness. When writing a negative review, only after assessing the elements that were flawed to I feel the right to insert my opinion.
4. Are your assertions backed by elements of the story? If I were to write a negative review but provide no context for it, it would seem like an awfully one-sided review. To make sure that my negative review makes sense and offers truth, I make certain to provide examples and reasoning for each assertion that I make.
5. Are you being fair with your review? I truly believe there is merit to a good negative review. It provides balance and insight, and it also helps readers differentiate between what does and doesn't work for them. Writing a negative review, however, requires a delicate touch of honesty and fairness. Never do I want to cross a line of sarcasm and pettiness in a negative review, or I only serve to compromise my own reviewing integrity.
I am absolutely no expert on book reviewing, but I do believe there is something to be said for writing the negative reviews and calling out the difference between the good, bad and great novels out there. At the end of the day, it's our opinion, but I'd rather my opinion be taken serious than as something petty and malicious.
Do you write negative reviews? What is your take on writing them, or how do you go about writing a good negative review?