Etiquette of Negative Reviews

Cute_cat_reading_Wallpaper__yvt2Lately, the internet has been swirling with stories about negative reviews. The issue is not readers that simply did not like the book (there is nothing wrong with that), but with readers leaving reviews that are either unhelpful or unnecessarily rude. Some take it a step further and move into the realm of cyber bullying. For reviewers that fall into this last category, I can only offer you one piece of advice: STOP. It’s not okay, and you could be in a heap of trouble if the writer decides to press the matter.

For those who are writing either unhelpful or rude reviews, I think I can help you. If you took the time to read the entire book, and you’re deciding to take further time to leave a review, why not ensure that it’s useful and helps the author improve? I’m not going to inundate you with sob stories about how long it takes the author to write the book, and how their soul is transferred to the pages, because you already KNOW that. But a review is one of the only opportunities for that writer to get feedback from their audience about what is and isn’t working. It may seem like a small thing to you, but a writer digests every single review they receive.

Before we go any further, I do want to get something out of the way: This post was not driven by some butt-hurt experience I’ve had with reviews. In fact, I don’t have that many reviews at all (yet) so I can’t relate to a lot of the experiences my fellow authors have had with bad reviews. But I do know the difference between a helpful review and an unhelpful one. There are far better ways to say “it sucks.”

So, I will say it again. It’s okay if you did not like a book! Reading is a matter of cat-reading-book-1366x768great subjectivity anyway. There are books that are revered as “classics” that many people can’t get past the first chapter of. And then there are poorly written books that are loved by masses. In the end, the review isn’t about whether the book is good or bad, it’s about the reader’s experience with that book.

As a reviewer, your review should be focused on YOUR experience- positive or negative- with that book. More importantly, your review should be used to explain why.

3 Basic Tips Before Writing the Review

Read the Whole Book. This might seem obvious, but many people review books without having finished them. I understand that a reader’s inability to finish a book may be in and of itself a reason for a negative endorsement, but if you’re unable to review an entire product then you shouldn’t review it. Some people may disagree with me on this, but a better place for this is through word-of-mouth discussions.

hollandcicaRead the Book, Period. No, this is not the same as the first one. There is a growing trend of reviews being posted by people who haven’t picked up the book at all. The comments are of the nature of “hate the cover,” or “sounds awful.” A review should be something you complete as a result of using the product as intended. Literally judging a book by its cover, and nothing else, should be reserved for side discussions.

Be Consistent with Star Rating. Read the guidelines for what each of the “stars” means on the site you are posting the review. Amazon has a different set of definitions than, say, Goodreads. Additionally, the star rating in your head might be another thing. Having a rating that follows a standard will make your review more useful to others.

Writing the Review

#1 Rule of Writing Reviews: Be Constructive. This seems to be the area where people struggle the most. When you finish a book that you absolutely hated, there’s a natural, emotional reaction. You feel like you wasted your time! That book never should have been written! The writer doesn’t know a dangling participle from a hole in the wall! The characters were so flat you could walk on them! To allow this writer to continue writing would be a crime! /Nerdrage.

And yet, none of that helps the writer improve, or helps potential readers understand September-07-2012-20-41-33-zwwhy they should or should not pick up the book.

Here are some examples of unhelpful, helpful, and very helpful review notes. As a general rule, your feedback should strive to be helpful, and if you feel like going the extra mile, aim for very helpful.

Example 1:

Unhelpful: The characters SUCKED!

Helpful: The characters were flat and I felt their actions were inconsistent.

Very Helpful: Jon’s behavior was inconsistent throughout the story. He was described as being a jerk, but was always going out of his way to help people. His actions never matched the story the author was selling. Also, choosing Charlotte made no sense. They’re not only opposites, but there was no development along the way that showed why he might warm up to her. It felt like one minute he didn’t like her and the next he was head over heels in love with her. Disappointing.

Example 2:

Unhelpful: UGH, this story was so boring!

Helpful: The pacing was way too slow at times, and way too quick at others. It felt like a rollercoaster, but not in a good way.

Very Helpful: Early in the book there was a lot of exposition. Too much. All that backstory was not only unnecessary but I found myself reading past most of it just to get to the action. And then later when interesting things actually started happening, it moved way too fast. It felt like if you blinked you missed it.

Example 3:

Unhelpful: OMG THE WRITING WAS SOOOO BAD.

Helpful: I did not enjoy the writer’s writing style at all. The use of too many dialogue tags, and repetitive words, made it distracting.

Very Helpful: The author’s writing style really distracted me from the story. There were quite a few repetitive words, and the author insisted on varying up the dialogue tags so much that I was more focused on what word they were going to try to force in next than I was on what I was supposed to be reading. The dialogue itself was also weird; the characters are supposed to be in modern times, but they talked like they were in 18th century London society. I also found a number of spelling and grammar errors that should have been caught by an editor. All of these things took me out of the story.

As you can see, all of the examples basically say the same thing- that the reader did not enjoy the story, for whatever reason- but they do so in a way that is useful for authors and helpful for other people looking to pick up the book.

One final reflection: The words you use in a review reflect more on you, the reviewer, than they do on the author. They are part and parcel of the reputation you build for yourself. Do you want to be seen as a helpful member of the community, or as an internet troll with limited communication capabilities?

troll 6

“Your rank in life doesn’t depend on what you learn , it’s about what you give to those who want to learn”
Shamekh Al-Suwi

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69 thoughts on “Etiquette of Negative Reviews

  1. Hahaha, you kind of already mentioned what I was going to say. Sadly these types of people will probably not read this and the people who already agree with you will. Wish there was a better option to get rid of dumb reviews like this on the websites. Luckily, I think most of us can discern which reviews are quality and which reviews are crap. (My how meta, reviewing a review).

    If you are a troll and are reading this… then listen to the wise Sarah!

    1. Thanks Bradley…I agree, the good thing is that people can usually decipher a professional review from a troll, although it sucks when it hurts Amazon rankings.

      And I know, right? Its a review about a review. We shall call it…INCEPTION REVIEW.

  2. These are helpful hints and will be used when I write this next review (the book was amazing, but still it’ll help me to elaborate on the good and maybe the bad)!!!

    1. I’m glad you found it helpful, and that’s a good point that I didn’t really add here…even in terrible books, there are usually some positive points you can touch on. It helps writers to know what they are doing right as well 🙂

  3. Love this post, brilliant, a great example of what you are conveying by giving examples and detail and a positive, constructive message…the like button isn’t loading, so if it doesn’t after I post this, take this comment as a like!! 🙂

    1. Thank you Helen! Part of me wants to naively believe that some folks just don’t understand how unhelpful their reviews are…but I think I know better. Maybe examples will help drive that point home 🙂

  4. Great post. Some people are a little too laid back, especially when making reviews.

    “Thus sayeth The Critic”
    “And the Critic sayeth unto Moses”

  5. I will simply not post a negative review, instead preferring to let the author know privately that their book was not for me and try and give a reason for it. However, it seems that even that is not good enough at times and as a reviewer I am open to just as much abuse from some authors and their entourage as authors are to some reviewers. When are we all going to learn some mutal respect for one another and the work that both authors and reviewers do. We should all be working together to introduce readers to books, not mud slinging at one another. Great post! x

    1. I agree- this definitely goes both ways. If a reviewer has left a respectful review (or feedback otherwise), then they should be treated with respect. They’ve taken the time share their feedback in a professional way. I’m tired of seeing writers attack reviewers as well.

      I’ve had people give me private feedback that I did not necessarily agree with but I greatly appreciated nonetheless. It meant something to me that they took the time to share their opinion, and to do it in a way that was constructive and attempting to be helpful. It’s very easy to tunnel ourselves as writers, but without feedback from others its impossible to grow.

  6. recently I read a review by someone who hadn’t even read the book, I was shocked and then angry. Why bother saying something so negative about the “ending” of a book you have not read?!? What gives you the knowledge to be able to do so? It really shows poorly on the person willing to post such a thing if you ask me…

    1. I know, its nuts! The story of all the Sookie fans swarming the reviews for Dead Ever After comes to mind as well…reviewing it based on spoilers and trashing the author. Its completely ridiculous.

      And I totally agree its a reflection on the review writer…it sucks that it can impact an author’s ratings. I always get a nice sense of satisfaction when someone posts an immature review and people downvote it.

      1. that would be where I ran across someone who had not read the book and was posting. I could not believe it in all honesty… and having read the book… I still can’t figure out why people were so upset!!!

        I know right!!! I don’t know if I could do that… maybe I should go and see. When people don’t read the book, they shouldn’t be able to post reviews like that. Especially when they blatantly say they didn’t read the book and don’t want to!!!

      2. And the worst part is how these so called “fans” started these huge internet campaigns to get people to go over and do the same thing! Sometimes I think I must be naive, because I don’t understand the natural inclination for some people to be negative and to breed it around them. I mean, I understand not liking what an author did with your favorite character. I can think of several series’ where I left disappointed in a decision. But come on…its a fictional character that the author allowed you to follow because they were kind enough to share it.

        But again, we come back to the fact that this behavior is more a reflection on the reader than the writer 🙂

      3. Yup, and I agree, I don’t understand first, living with the want and need to spread that much negativity, and secondly… well, of course everyone could see a different outcome for a book, a character that we have grown to love, especially over the course of that many books. But to spread “hate” because of it? Because of a work of fiction?!? Actually in this Friday’s letter, Dreamland and I are going to be talking about the role of a writer, how it shapes lives, I guess that just goes to prove it.

        Every action, thought, and word we put into the world reflects on us as people… I can only try to remember that, and make sure mine are a reflection of what I want them to be! Sure does make you conscious of the things you say/do doesn’t it?

      4. It sort of reminds me of that quote (I don’t know the origins), that goes something like this:

        Before you open your mouth, ask yourself: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?

        If only everyone asked themselves these questions!

  7. Well done! Your examples are great and while the trolls might ignore your advice, the rest of us will not. I like that you make the point that the words in the review are more a reflection of the reviewer than the book. I think another important point is that the reviewer should like the genre in which the book was written. If you don’t like science fiction, then don’t review scifi. At least acknowledge your biases so the reader knows how much “salt” to take with your review. Oh, and love the kitties 🙂

    1. Oh, I so agree on the genre thing. I actually almost added that in, honestly. If you don’t like Fantasy…and you pick up a Fantasy book and don’t like it…SURPRISE! And if I did have the bad sense to read in a genre I wasn’t keen on, I probably would have the good sense to know that my review will be heavily biased and probably not the best reflection of the intended reading experience.

      Glad you liked the kitties…I thought they might “soften” the message up a bit. No one feels like they’re being scolded when a kitten is involved 🙂

  8. Great rules and I fully agree. I haven’t run into a negative review that didn’t read the book, but I had a positive review from a friend who didn’t read the book. I think that one made me more annoyed that the negatives because it was so blatant. I guess that one can go both ways.

    1. Its so funny you said that, because that’s also a great point. Its fine for friends and family to review your work (and you can always tell too, because they are always five stars and always your biggest fans :P), but they should be following the same rules as anyone: read the book. Besides, fans can always tell a fake review.

  9. Love your post! I have been reading an enormous amount of reviews, both “professional” reviews on websites and reviews of books on retail bookseller sites. Some of the “professional reviews” are so very unprofessional it is an embarrassment. I have challenged myself to join a book club to experience more genres and become a better reader and a better writer. I have also challenged myself to write a review of every book that we read. I do not claim to be a professional reviewer, but I would like to say, A) If you are going to write a review, at least get your own spelling, grammar, punctuation etc.. in order before you offer a critique of someone else’s work, and B) Definitely read the book…you might be pleasantly surprised that you did.

    In my humble opinion, negative reviews, without an attempt to be helpful, are always unprofessional.

    1. Thank you! Its a smart idea, as a reader, to try other genres. If I don’t force myself, I’ll only read historical Tudor dramas, so I do my best to branch out. It definitely makes you a better writer too.

      I always laugh at the reviews who correct the spelling with more bad spelling as well…it takes epic levels of self-control not to call them out 🙂

      And completely agree with your last sentence…that sums up the exact point I was trying to make with this post.

  10. I read recently about an author whose book was attacked with one-star reviews after some controversy over things she said on her blog and Twitter.

    Most of the reviews came from people who hadn’t read the book or even bought it. One reviewer said he read and enjoyed the book but came back later to give it one star because of “the author’s behavior.”

    Reviews are supposed to help customers find the right book for them. I think Amazon shouldn’t allow reviews from people who haven’t at least purchased the book. At least then the author would benefit from the unfair review.

    Great article, Sarah. ❤

    1. I’ve seen very similar behavior myself. A review should be based on the product, not on any other opinion or experience, but unfortunately, a lot of people use reviews as a platform to get an opinion across =/. I believe you can ask Amazon to take reviews down that are blatantly shown to be doing something other then reviewing the product, but I am not 100% sure.

      Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for the comment! 🙂

  11. Hi,
    love the way you explained everything. And I’m glad I’m not so far from “almost” perfect reviewer. It’s horrible when you read a book and it sucks, but on the other hand, the author took long time sharing his ideas… We should at least respect his/her work.
    For coincidence today I did 2 “not happy – I didnt like” reviews. Hope I could be respectful with the authors…

    =P

    Thanks again!

    1. Glad you found it helpful! I’ve certainly left negative reviews myself. Its hard to do (I always feel so guilty, even if the book is terrible), but you’re doing the author and the other readers a favor by being honest 🙂

  12. I have mixed thoughts on this. As a writer, I fully understand the need and desire for constructive criticism; sandwiching the bad with the good and detailed reviews. However, as a reader who spends money on books, I do expect a certain amount of quality in what I purchase. If I buy a book and its riddled with misspellings and grammatical errors, I’m not going to be happy. Self publishing is not a writing class or a free writing forum. If one needs an editor, one should get one. If I have to suspend disbelief because the writer didn’t do their research, I’m going to call them on it. Self publishing does not equate to lack of professionalism and quality. Sure, helpful concrit is always better than a flame review but there are always readers who also can’t pinpoint or articulate how they feel about a book. They’re readers, many of them aren’t writers and they only know they don’t like something. They’re not reading the story as a beta or to help the writer. Their main interest is not to be helpful but to be entertained.

    1. Thanks Lisa…I agree with what you’re saying. A reader’s job is not to coach the author, but to be entertained. And you’re right- you SHOULD expect a certain amount of quality from a book, especially if you’ve paid for it. As a self-published author myself, I am very sensitive to my editing and producing a work that reflects positively on me. If someone doesn’t like my book, I’d rather it not be a result of poor editing, that’s for sure.

      My concern was more with not leaving rude reviews. Even if you are only thinking of other readers (who are the other main audience of a review), giving some detail on what didn’t work for you with the book will help them decide if its something they want to pick up or not. I’m always baffled when someone takes time to review something, but then only leaves two words, or just says something rude and unhelpful. As a reader, whenever I see reviews that just say “this sucks,” I skip over them.

    1. Me too Deb…sometimes its hard to even define what you didn’t like about something (especially when the answer is “everything”). Sometimes even pulling out a couple of points helps focus the review. Glad you found it helpful!

  13. I always feel bad when I don’t like a book. Thankfully it doesn’t happen often but I really hate it.
    I’ve been lucky enough to become FB “friends” with a few authors I really enjoy, so I know how much of themselves they put into each of their books.
    When I don’t like a story I always question myself. Was it a personal bias on my behalf, like subject matter I just don’t agree with or did I just not grasp the concept the writer was trying to convey.
    In the same vein I am not going out of my way to read a historical romance.. BLECH
    I wouldn’t enjoy it and I wouldn’t feel right leaving any review because of my bias.

    In response to Stepherotica, Ive also heard about an author who basically wrote a few books in a certain genre and they were not hugely popular, but then she wrote a Romance of some sort and it took off. She then basically slammed the entire romance genre and it’s readers, saying she hated writing the book and felt it was horrible. Why write and then release a book you are not passionate about? I was honestly offended. I enjoy and love romance novels of different genre’s and I felt as if she was questioning me, as if I wasn’t smart enough to understand the things I truly liked. However I wouldn’t leave a negative review based on something she said. I may post my beliefs about her on social networking sites but not her works.

    thank you for such a well written and easy to discuss post!

    1. Thanks Brenda! I do the same thing- ask myself if this was an issue with the book or me. I almost included something like that in the post, but in the end I decided not to, if only because I didn’t want to make it seem too biased toward the writer. But the point is important- if I don’t like romance (and I generally don’t), then I shouldn’t be surprised when I don’t like a romance novel. Nor should I be overly critical of a genre that I was predisposed to disliking going into it! Not that I can’t read it, or can’t review it…just that I need to keep these things in mind when I am preparing to review.

      And that author…I have some thoughts about that (some strong ones!) but I’ll just say that if you write something, and publish it, you better be prepared to stand behind it. Nothing is more frustrating than an artist who bashes their own work!!

      Thanks again and glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

  14. Thank you for this very informative article. I intend to share it with my reading groups.
    I’m from the old school Toastmistress, when you critique someone always use the sandwhich method – commend, recommend, appreciate. No feelings are hurt, but valuable information to improve is passed on. Definitely no personal atttacks!
    I appreciate the time and effort you put into this article for us.

    1. I’m also a fan of the sandwich approach. Mostly because I think people will receive feedback better if you can demonstrate that you’re looking at the issue objectively (and as a reader reading a review, I am looking for reviewers who can do just that). But even if you can really find no redeemable qualities of the book, its still important to be respectful. Like you said, no personal attacks 🙂

      Thanks Janet…glad you enjoyed it!

  15. Great blog post! I loved your examples, and as an indie writer, I so agree that reviews should be, at the very least, polite. Constructive would be good. And for heaven’s sake, read the book first.

    I think, however, that writing the kind of review you suggest is rare because it takes both analysis and effort on the reader’s part. Many readers can do that, but a lot won’t… they don’t know what “sucks” about the book, and even if they do it feels too much like work to describe it in writing.

    One of the things that bothers me a lot is when a review gives a summary of the plot. If I’d wanted you to know from the start what happens halfway through, I would have put it at the beginning. I really despise reading reviews (and book descriptions) that tell me too much about a story… that grand reveal? Spoiled. That bittersweet love triangle? Ruined. That dynamite ending? I knew all about it!

    So don’t TELL me, reviewers. Let me read the book for myself, in the way the author wrote it.

    1. You actually bring up a good point about not spoiling the book…my examples (in that regard) were probably not the best, but I was looking for ways of saying “it sucks” in less ridiculous ways 😛 I always get so annoyed when a reviewer doesn’t put their spoilers behind a spoiler warning.

      I agree that a constructive review might be too much to ask of most readers. I would still challenge them to say why they did not like it, though. If taking the time to actually write a review, why not make it at least somewhat thoughtful and helpful to the other people who might be thinking of buying the book?

      Thanks for the comment! 🙂

  16. Lots of comments! That’s great but I didn’t read to find if anyone else wrote the same thing, so here goes.

    I don’t totally agree. I think part of what an author needs to know is that the cover was a turn off, or the first few chapters were so cumbersome or annoying that the reader did not want to continue; thus not finishing the book but providing feedback as to why is totally legitimate.

    Also, a review is not the same as a critique. I try to tell readers why I was turned off but as we all know, even that is subjective.

    I’m an indie author who self-published but I also endured the traditional route and brutal writing workshops. Feedback should be respectful, yes, but never pull your punches. If the writing is anemic and the plot decent, enough said. If the grammatical errors are plentiful, then a low score is inevitable (and snark is deserved).

    I read a horrible book (name not to be shared) and gave the author a full explanation of what I thought went wrong. That was challenge in of itself because it was a right sodding mess with a great title. I won it so I read it. It never got better. It was not salvageable. It was terrible. I sent my review by email to privately inform the author but I did post a very low star review because I refuse to be dishonest.

    As I read more indies, I’m becoming as impatient as agents and publishers of old. I know within 15 pages if a book is a waste of my time. Personally, I’ll give until 100 pages, but a weak opening is a negative. The only thing more annoying are the vapid reviews that encouraged me to investigate. It’s one thing to enjoy, but another to be oblivious.

    In the review of my novel, two people have said it was slow to begin but totally worth it. I think that is the most brilliant part of their reviews because it’s genuine feedback. Reading a summary of my story is rather boring (and can be frustrating). The rest of the time reviews are about the reviewer being a writer: look at my pretty prose as I summarize.

    The fact is reviewing is hard. It’s subjective, but I’d rather know that a book isn’t worth my time because the opening is weak, the writing thin on substance, the plot overly simplistic and unoriginal. These are not the words an author wants to read. A good author will take them and do better.

    1. You might be surprised, but I actually agree with everything you said. Had I known this post was going to get so many views (phew!) I would have taken time to expand even further on my thoughts. I could write pages about this subject.

      I do agree that comments about being unable to get into it are helpful as well. As an author, I do need to know if there are aesthetic turnoffs, or other things (even things unrelated to the writing and story) that make it hard to get into. My point was more about being respectful. Its okay to give one-star reviews. Its just as okay to be brutally honest with the feedback, so long as its not a personal attack and its relevant to the review. But saying “this is the worst book I’ve ever read,” without saying why, is really a waste of a review. And surely if its the worst book someone has ever read, then they can find at least one reason why 🙂

      The only area where I differ slightly from your opinion is on your second paragraph; if a cover was a turn-off, or the reader couldn’t get into the story, I think those sort of comments should be reserved for something other than a review…either private feedback, or another channel. A review of a product should be a review of a whole product. That’s just my opinion, though.

      1. And I you. I realize now that I buried the all important comment–I totally concur with expecting respectful reviews. Your examples really do a great job showing the difference. So much I tweeted your post and sent it out on my Google +.

        As a reader, I find most reviews to be unhelpful and often misleading. I think that’s what sparked my devil’s advocate response.

        You make a totally valid point about review places maybe not being the place for feedback on covers. I’m torn about not being able to get into a book, though. I think that’s hugely important feedback for author and audience. However, I totally see your point that if you haven’t finished the book, it’s not a fair because you can’t say if it gets better or if it remains consistently difficult to read.

        My last thought on that: indie’s may be pretty accessible, but most people will place their comments in the most readily available slot. In fact, before publishing, I rarely returned to Amazon to rate a book! With Goodreads, it’s even easier to review on the fly as you post your stars. Thus I’m far more effective on GB than anywhere else.

        Whether we ought or not, people will respond in the easist spot to find (aka the book itself), or not at all, rather than take five minutes to look for the author’s contact email. In fact, sometimes I think readers are so disappointed, the want to publically call an author out.

        Thick skin isn’t just a cautionary tale.

      2. Thanks for sharing it 🙂

        You’re right- its much easier to get feedback to indies than well-knowns, and a part of me DOES think that a review is the best place to list this feedback (mostly because it might be the only place readers will see it). Its a tough one. And you’re right that some people intentionally do it in a review to express their displeasure/anger/etc at the author.

        I look at reviews the way I look at any opportunity where I am trying to get my point across; if I do it effectively, people might listen. If I don’t, I’ve probably wasted my time.

        I guess in the end, the readers will usually look for the most helpful reviews to guide their purchasing decisions, so in a way it doesn’t matter. As a reader, I always scan for the reviews that go into detail.

        Of course, most of this falls into the “perfect world” scenario. Like most things, its not easily solved.

  17. As a reader I was never sure on how to write a bad review!! So I never did, plain and simple!! Now if I love a book your gonna hear about it! Through amazon, iBooks, goodreads and of course Facebook!! What I was wondering was how long should a review be?? I’m a straight to the point type of girl, if I love it I say so! What drives me batty is when I do read reviews some of them seem like they go over the book point by point, telling me the whole story in the review! They sort of ruin the book for me! Thank you for a great article! I know many trolls won’t read it but I’m glad I did!

    1. Hey Kim…I think its okay to be straight and to the point 🙂 A short review can be just as helpful as long one (and sometimes more so) if used correctly. I think as long as you can say what you did or didn’t like about it, any length should be fine.

      And you’re right…I doubt the people that NEED to read this will 😛

  18. Thank you for this, I’m not a blogger but I do read quite a bit and try to review what I do read. I must say I mostly started reviewing on goodreads for myself to remember the book and characters. I will try to change how I review now after reading this! Thanks!

  19. That’s a helpful article, I liked the way you used examples to illustrate your points. I try to be constructive but will make sure I explain my negatives thoroughly from now on. I do try but I’ll be even more conscious from now on. And I do always think of the author behind the book, it makes writing negative reviews a struggle for me.
    BookishTrish @ Between the Lines

    1. I agree, I can’t help thinking of the author behind the book. I think negative reviews serve a purpose though, and my hope here was that it would help people understand a helpful way to get the point across. Glad you found it enjoyable 🙂

  20. This is great advice for people who leave reviews. Now if only you could get Amazon and the rest of the gang to publish your tips on leaving reviews! Thank you, Bridle Press, for sharing Sarah’s link and thank you, Sarah, for posting this. .

  21. It’s a good idea to write detailed and helpful reviews, or at least give some reason why it was good or bad. On that we agree. As another commenter said, though, it seems a lot to ask of most readers. Plus, the readers aren’t responsible for helping the writer become better a better writer. That’s the writer’s own responsibility, and if she failed in it (at least for that reader), then it’s understandable if the reader’s reaction is to be angry about his wasted money and time rather than to wonder how he can help the writer in her future endeavors by taking even more of his time and effort to give super-helpful feedback. That doesn’t give him a license to be a jackass, of course, but he also has no obligation to become a skilled critic in order to express his views.

    1. It isn’t so much that the critic should be concerned with helping the writer improve. Writers have editors, beta readers, and other means for getting that information. But if a reviewer is taking the time to leave a review, his/her words should give other readers an articulate assessment of what he/she liked/didn’t like. As a reader, when I am looking at reviews for a book I want to read, if I see one that’s written poorly and includes a lot of the word “suck,” I ignore it. My general impression is that this is not someone’s opinion I’m going to respect much one way or the other. When I find intelligently written reviews panning the book, however- those I pay attention to. When a critic can tell me why they didn’t like the book, then I can use that information to make an informed purchasing decision.

      So this advice is more for the critic to take to heart if they’re serious about people finding their reviews helpful and useful. Otherwise they are just wasting their time putting up the review in the first place.

  22. I can’t even begin to tell how much I loved this!
    I don’t mind criticism at all if it’s helpful, but I can’t stand it when people do what they in the EX you gave.
    When I first started writing smut (well I call it romance now since it’s not that graphic). Someone just told me it sucked. They didn’t tell how to make it better they just simply said my writing sucked.
    How are we as writers suppose to get better with that kind of criticism? We can’t….
    Okay I’ve ramble on enough just wanted to tell you how much I loved this:)

    1. Thank you Melissa! I understand completely. I don’t expect a reviewer to be a coach, but if you can’t at least explain what you didn’t like about a book, then why are you even taking the time to review it? What didn’t you like? This goes beyond books even…any product, really. And not just for the writer’s sake, but for other consumers. As a consumer, I am looking for reviews that give me the “why.” Why should I, or should I not, pick up this product?

      But then, every now and then, someone surprises you with that negative review that includes some helpful feedback. Its even more of a jackpot when they’re willing to discuss it with you. You can learn a lot from your readers if they’re willing to be involved 🙂

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