Novel Thoughts: Bad Reactions to Negative Reviews

Posted by Jessi (Geo) on November 9, 2013 | 28 Comments


I’m not going to go into detail about what made me want to talk about this topic, because I don’t want to open up that can of worms and stir up drama. This post is not directed at a particular incident, but rather inspired by it. Because let’s face it, this has happened many, many times. 

So called ‘negative’ reviews

If you publish a book, you are knowingly putting it out there for criticism. That’s the risk you take, period. No matter how amazing it is, someone is going to hate it. It’s all a matter of opinion. And, as I like to say: Opinions are like buttholes; everybody has one. Just because someone’s opinion is different from yours does not make them wrong. Some people get so worked up when someone else thinks differently from them. To me, this is ignorant, immature, and narrow-minded.

Friendly debates are great, as long as both sides maintain maturity and professionalism. BUT – there’s points where debate crosses the line. And the word ‘bullying’ gets tossed around. Writing a ‘negative’ review – or, a rant review – is NOT bashing or bullying. There is a huge difference between being honest and being mean. If you write a negative review, and give specific examples (i.e. quotes from the book) of why exactly you did not like it, that is simply stating your opinion. Yes, sometimes negative reviews can get ranty and snarky, picking apart the book in gruesome detail. Still, this is not bashing. Bashing the author would be saying, ‘this book is a piece of crap,’ or ‘this author sucks at writing,’ or something else along those lines. That is mean. Hating a book is not. It just means you have an opinion. God forbid anybody think for themselves!

As Aprilynn Pike said once in a panel I attended: Reviews are not for authors. They’re for the consumers.

Under no circumstance should an author comment or respond to a negative review. (I’ve been lucky enough not to have one attack me, but I did have a couple different ones try to politely defend their book, which just made me feel awkward.) If the curiosity is killing you and you feel the need to read one, take it as constructive criticism, brush it off, and move on. Leave it alone. Because you do not want the fallout that comes with attacking a reviewer for their opinion. Especially since many Young Adult reviewers tend to be young these days. How does that make you look that you’re talking down to a teenager and you’re a grown ass adult? C’mon now. Instead of making yourself look like a badass, you’ve made yourself look like an unprofessional asshat and ensured that many of us will never touch your work in the future.

I personally love snarky rant reviews. Those are my favorite to read as well as my favorite to write. When I rant, my sarcasm comes out. It’s not that I hate the author, it’s just that the book was not for me (which is a nice way of saying I hated the book itself) and I feel the need to vent about it. That is just me, giving my honest opinion about a book I read. Isn’t that the point of being a book blogger? I think too many people have lost sight of that. Too many hardcore fans get their panties in a twist when someone doesn’t like that book they loved. If you’re going to say anything on anyone’s negative review about a book you loved, it had better be nothing more than ‘Oh I loved this one, sorry it didn’t work for you.’ I personally avoid making those comments at all, unless it’s a really good blogging friend.

People just need to live and let live. Accept that everyone thinks differently and everyone has different tastes. Stop being so damn sensitive! 

Things can get out of hand waaaay to fast. One person says something, someone else gets offended, then it blows up and soon friends and followers are getting involved and it turns into an internet lynch mob, complete with virtual pitchforks. Sometimes over a mere misunderstanding. If someone says something that offends you, why don’t you ask for clarification? Perhaps they didn’t intend it that way. Things can get misconstrued very easily online because we don’t have body language or tone of voice to judge intent. 

Jessi (Geo)

Posted in: Discussions | Tags: ,

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28 responses to “Novel Thoughts: Bad Reactions to Negative Reviews

  1. Well said Jessi and I agree! There are always people who will dislike your book, because we are all different. The things I like and look for in a book can be the thinks you highly dislike. There is no way to please everyone and if you can’t handle critic, don’t look for it.. I think negative reviews are great. It’s interesting to see why someone didn’t like a book and sometimes that makes me excited to try it.

    And I HATE IT SO MUCH when people call it bullying. I’ve been bullied and this is nothing like it. It’s so offensive.

    • Exactly! You can’t please everyone all the time. No matter what, someone will be unhappy! I love negative reviews too, because they tend to go over things that would make me personally not enjoy the book. If I want to know if I should read something, I go to the one and two star reviews, not the 5 star ones!

      It really is. You can’t understand true bullying until you’ve experienced it…

  2. “How does that make you look that you’re talking down to a teenager and you’re a grown ass adult? C’mon now.”

    Lol. Couldn’t agree more!

    When weighing whether or not I want to read a book, I look at a positive review versus a negative one. If the negative one just says they didn’t like the book or they didn’t like the way it ended but then offer no reasons why, I’m less likely to take a negative review into account, and more likely to read more positive reviews to see why everyone enjoyed the book.

    Great post!

    • I read both as well, because many times a negative review will explain things that I personally would have a problem with and may not enjoy the book because of it. 5 star reviews usually don’t have flaws like that because the person was blinded by how much they enjoyed the book to notice them!

  3. Honestly I’m really sick of people seeing negative reviews and calling them “bullying”. Negative/snarky review != bulling. Bashing, insulting, and harassing an author is bullying. There’s a massive difference.

  4. Well said! I too enjoy reading snarky negative reviews. They are usually quite funny. I don’t know what I’d do if an author attacked me for a not favorable review. That would just be awful, but like you said also extremely unprofessional on their part.

    • Thanks Julie! Exactly! I don’t either. It would be very upsetting, that’s for sure. I guess I’d just try my best to keep my cool so I don’t buy into the drama and make it worse. If I could stay professional and polite (despite my temper lol), it’d just make them look even worse!

  5. I once gave a 2.5 star rating and the author commented on my blog “Thank you for your review! You have no idea how much reviewers mean” or something along those lines. She was just really sweet. <3

    • Wow! Hopefully she actually read it lol. But it’s nice when they take it as constructive criticism to learn from instead of being offended because someone didn’t like their baby. That’s awesome!

  6. TRQ

    Exactly!! Authors need to put on their big girl panties and learn to take criticism as constructive. It’s one thing to say you hate an author, another to say you hate a book. Personally, I think I like writing negative reviews more than positive ones. Also, I think that it’s our duty as book bloggers to warn people against reading bad books. If I don’t think a book is worth reading, then I will let you know not to spend your time on it. It’s nothing personal against the author, but sometimes I don’t like books, so what should I do, lie?

    • Yes!! If you say something about the author personally, I can understand people getting offended. If you don’t actually know the author, you have no right to say anything about them. But you can’t help if you read something and can’t stand it! Jeez. Sadly, I do too. Negative reviews are easier to write, because for me ranting just flows. (What does that say about me that I’m good at ranting? lol!)

      Exactly! We’re book reviewers. Honesty is (or should be, anyway) our policy!

  7. I couldn’t agree with you more. The great thing about the internet is the fact that you can have your initial reaction private and, if you do want to respond, think about the best way to do that BEFORE you hit the submit button. You can’t take things back on here.

    • Very well said! Just because you read something and think, “B*tch, who do you think you are?!” doesn’t mean you should type it! It’s all about how you handle things like that. You could make a big deal of it and have everything blown out of proportion, OR you could brush it off and move on, like an adult. Gee, that’s a hard choice *rolls eyes*
      Thanks for your input!

  8. YES. I totally agree!!
    I love snark too, and I think negative reviews help to shed a different light, maybe a more truthful one, about a book. I like to see both sides, and take into account different opinions objectively. And I definitely think snark can be super funny too! I always find myself tickled at snarky reviews xD
    I think our blogs give us space to share our own opinion, like it or not. Because that’s our own personal opinion. You don’t have to defend yourself, like there are probably many people out there who already love your work! And you don’t have to attack a negative review as bullying, because there’s a massive difference, and we are just sharing an opinion. Like you said, reviews are for other readers, not only authors.
    Oh gosh I’m rambling >< Sorry! But like TRQ pointed out, criticism can be constructive too; it can help you improve what you already have! :)
    Great post, Jessi! :D

    • Exactly! I loooove reading snarky reviews because I love snark!
      And yeah, in the end it is still OUR blog. Not anyone else’s. Not only do we have freedom of speech anyway, but it’s our space so technically we can say whatever we want!
      That’s what gets me…the people who hate the book are usually the minority. Why do they focus so much on the negative, instead of looking at the positive?

      Thanks for your input Emily! <3

  9. I come at this topic as both a writer and book blogger. To recuse myself, what I’ve written hasn’t been reviewed much (*cough* at all) (yet?) in a public forum. I’m also kind of a grumpy book blogger. And I wonder sometimes how I’d take the reviews I’ve written.

    I’m generally not ranty or snarky in my reviews, but if something’s not working for me, I try to put a succinct name on it and that can be rather harsh. I came across a quote recently, and I should have bookmarked it, to the effect of: As a writer, a reader who tears apart your manuscript before publication should be headed; after publication, ignored. I think that’s somewhat true. A post-publication review might help a writer from making a mistake again and again. Would it be worth the ego blows that result from a rough review? I don’t know. I’d love to say I’d feel gracious about the feedback. Right now, I just hope I’ll have the opportunity to put that to the test one day.

    But! Even if I felt absurdly furious about a review, I’d have to keep in mind the sentiment from above: “Reviews are not for authors. They’re for the consumers.” An author being an idiot in response to a review does not, ever, increase the their goodwill with the consumer–other readers.

    • Thanks for the great input! It’s awesome to hear what a writer thinks of this. And I agree, before publication it could definitely help to improve. After, there’s no reason to even read it unless you want to take advice for the future of things not to do. I would hope in that position I’d feel gracious too, especially since they took the time to read it. But I can indeed understand how it would be difficult to see something you’d worked so hard on being torn apart. But again, by putting your work out there you’re knowingly opening it up to critique.
      Good luck with your writing and I’m glad you have that mindset about negative reviews!

  10. “‘Oh I loved this one, sorry it didn’t work for you.’”

    This – and the opposite – are as far as I’ll go when commenting on a review I don’t agree with (or not even that I don’t agree with it… sometimes I’ll agree with every point they make but just have a different overall opinion of the book… it happens). If it’s a blogger I’m closer with I might give a detail or two.

    It can be hard when someone hates a book you love. It can be confusing when someone loves a book you hated. But that’s life… we all have different opinions.

    I’ve never had an author comment on a review I wrote, good or bad. Honestly, I think I’d find it awkward either way.

  11. AMEN Jessi. This post needs to be shared EVERYWHERE. Bullying? Is not freaking writing a negative review. Bashing an author is saying “I hate this author,” or “this author should never be able to write books again.” Negative HONEST reviews that provide criticism are just that. Everyone – bloggers AND authors – just needs to put on their big girl/boy panties and show each other some respect. There’s an alarming level of entitlement online and a REAL lack of respect and classy behavior.

    Someone negatively reviews your book? Log off, shut down your computer, and go to the gym. Or cry it out. Or eat chocolate. But do NOT attack the reviewer. And the same goes for bloggers. Passionately hate a book you read? Fine – say so. But do NOT attack the author. Jeez people. It’s really really simple.

    I have seen this go on and on for months and months now. I’ve seen bloggers turning on authors, and vice versa. I’ve even seen bloggers turning on other BLOGGERS because “oh you said this BUT YOUR TONE WAS WRONG,” or “you used a certain word.” Guess what? On the Internet you can’t possibly know EXACTLY what someone was thinking when they wrote a review or said something, because you’re not in their head. And they aren’t speaking aloud to you. So STOP poking at that white space and reading between the lines to things that aren’t there.

    I mean, heck. Ron Burgundy said it best: “Stay class.”

    /rant. Sorry Jessi, I know this is your space, but I just had to vent a little. :D :D Love ya girl!

    • EXACTLY!!! Well said, Molli! They really do need to put their big kid panties on and stop crying over stupid stuff. There’s a major difference between stating your opinion and bullying! Argh. And yeah, the tone thing gets me. Once there was someone who was like, ‘Well I can tell tone through text’ um NO, you can’t. I don’t care what you do for a living, there’s no way to know the difference between one person’s typing style and another’s. You and I type with exclamation points and caps lock to portray feeling, but I know people who use a period for EVERYTHING. Happiness and excitement included. It’s just the way they type. You don’t know that unless you know the person! There is NO way to determine intent through typing. None. People are idiots!

  12. Stephanie H.

    As a school psychologist, one of my roles is often to provide students, special education students in particular, with lessons in social skills. At times these social skills lessons have included sessions on teasing v. bullying. I even once found the excuse to use parts of a Friends episode where Rachel teases Ross’ son how to play practical jokes. I feel like before authors are allowed to publish they should have some social skills training. To be fair to authors, many book bloggers and reviewers could benefit as well. I say this partly in jest, but to be honest I may not be that far off. Think about it. Many authors and serious readers are not the popular kids in school. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with that (after all I’m one of them too), many of them demonstrate some antisocial behaviors, so is it really a surprise that we continue to have this disagreement over what is someone expressing their opinion on a book, maybe even providing some constructive criticism v. bullying?

  13. I’m consistently surprised (although I really shouldn’t be at this point) at how artists think they’re special in the criticism department. There’s such a pervasive sense of “I am my art” and often the excuse is “I poured my heart and soul, my blood sweat and tears into this” but…so? So does everyone in every profession, as long as they’re doing it well, and they all have to have performance reviews, too. Artists shouldn’t get to be special snowflakes in that regard.

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