I know what you are thinking – the title implies that there is a standard to writing a bad review right? Well, not so much a standard but a polite way of doing things, so brace yourself while I go on an epic mind fart on this subject as this is my daily life and a subject which frustrates me!
When I say a ‘bad’ review , I do not mean an incoherent garbled mess that no one can decipher…
I mean when you quite simply want to tell an author, their book was bad.
Now contrary to what some readers think – authors do NOT hate you for bad reviews. Weird I know, it’s like we are almost human!?!?!?!
Yes some will cry, hide under their desk and commit your name to memory for future killing off in the ripper book that they have lurking in the depths of their putrid minds (only joking), but then they will sit up, be a mature adult, take note and take heed of any criticism you have offered. That’s normally how it goes (after downing a drink, crying to writer friends and being a tad over dramatic for a while). See, we are creators and our craft constantly evolves as we do, we are always striving to be better. We want to learn and we want to know when something is not working. Authors tend to be naturally self critical so trust me, you don’t need to be the one to knock us down a peg or two, we do it to ourselves.
Now lets get to the part in which I point out some very simple ways you can be sure to never end up as Jane Doe in ‘The thrasher who killed reviewers – part 6’.
Critical reviews are both welcomed and read by us, they even make our ratings look far more plausible and not fixed – so don’t be afraid to stand by your opinion and show some real honesty. We do actually respect you for it.
First and foremost, even if you hated it – Be Respectful.
An author put their blood, sweat, tears, heart, and soul into that piece of work, whether you like it or not. Writing is a very personal thing and nine times out of ten something of their personal experiences or tragedies are in those words. It’s much the same as telling your 3 year old kid that the finger painting they are mostly wearing after hours of perfecting – is trash. Would that make their face break and end in heartbroken sobs? Would that make you feel good inside?
No…. there is another way . Constructive criticism and tact.
I feel kind of stupid that I have to be schooling grown adults on the art of reviewing but seriously, look at amazon. It’s a horrendous battlefield of digs, insults and quite frankly veiled bullying of certain books. How is that ever acceptable?
Authors do not ruin your life by writing something you dislike, but you may very well ruin theirs by discrediting their livelihood.
Don’t say I hate this, this, and this, with no explanation. Tell the author what it is and why.
Now don’t get me wrong, some books and readers do not gel and if you think this was a case of just ‘not your kind of book’ then say that. We don’t expect everyone to love what we write. Books are subjective, much like art, opinion and such, and you can dislike someone’s work, but still respect them as a craftsman.
And then yes, there are books that are not well written and neither one should be attacked with disdain or negative insults.
If you think a book warrants 2 stars – Be honest. But explain, be tactful and be respectful.
See my example below
1⭐- Book was awful, did not finish. boring, characters were lame (Yep, I found this on a random book on amazon with an overall 5 star rating into the hundreds)
Now here is how this review would have made an impact, not made you seem stroppy and spiteful. Giving insight, giving readers a real review to ponder and gaining respect in the process and not offending both the author and anyone else who actually adored the book
1 ⭐ – Book was not to my liking so probably not my cup of tea. I struggled to get to the end as I just felt there were areas of the plot which could be summarised and condensed so it did not drag as much. I also felt one or two of the characters did not gel with me (good moment to say what or why you thought they were ‘lame). Lack of personality, selfish or had a stilted outlook.
The list is endless and not hard to verbalise what you disliked about someone or something. Also bear in mind – some characters were created to be hated.
See the difference? Still a review with honesty and 1 star but much easier to swallow and gives the author some valuable insight they may choose to act on. Readers can see it as a well thought out quick review and help decide if they might actually like the book.
Don’t forget to also add in anything you DID like – it will soften the whole review and give the author something positive even if you did not enjoy the book as a whole.
I am a firm believer that you reap what you sow and if you put out negative and nasty then it will come back to bite you in the ass one day.
Now lets move on to another thing that readers do which quite simply drives EVERY author nuts. This one is a personal pet hate and I simply do not understand it.
The bad review in a series you ‘loved’ yet the only review you posted.
I myself have had this happen so many times it’s no longer something I care about per say , but it still does give me an inkling of Grrrrrr. I just have a very long list for my ripper movie stored in my head (cue evil laugh)
This is when someone leaves a review in negative light about a book later in a series with the words ‘I loved all the previous books but this one…….’ Yet 99.9999999% of the time this reviewer has never once left another review on any of the books at all.
Stop doing that!
Do you know what this does?
It gives the author negative feedback, lowers their rank or rating on the platform and gives them none of the praise for the ones you enjoyed.
You are basically only tearing someone down you maybe do follow and like as a writer. You also drag down their ratings while giving no balance on their other books.
Think about that.
Going through life and only being told what a terrible job you do and bypassing all the times you excelled or did great as unimportant and no need to hear it. Would be pretty soul destroying right? That’s what happens anytime you bypass good books in an authors arsenal to rush and ONLY review the one you hated. Would bruise anyone’s confidence to hear only how badly they are doing.
You are not enforcing your stand as a fan who disliked something they wrote…
When other reviewers look at your profile and all they see is negative reviews on books and nothing else, they dismiss your opinion as just ‘a grumpy person who should stop reading’ – Yep I have seen those kinds of comments in book groups.
I do not pretend to understand the psychology of it but I can only assume that you feel others should know when to avoid a book but not deem it necessary to praise one?
As consumers I want to read the good and bad reviews. I love checking, no matter the product to get a balanced view from people on the pro’s and con’s of things before making that decision. Now imagine if it became standard to only leave a review when you were unhappy?
The mind boggles and I would probably never buy anything again.
Okay, I know you are probably falling asleep now so this is my last point and I shall shut up and get back to my day job.
Most authors have very easy to find public email addresses and welcome critical reviews…
In fact, we also welcome volunteers to beta read before publication to give us exactly that. Bear in mind – we pick the readers who critic with tact, respect and give intelligent explanations to why or how… because we know these readers can elaborate and help us improve what we have. We bypass the ones requesting if their review was like the one above and offers nothing to work on.
There is a whole process we go through when it comes to feedback and criticism and more than not, authors would rather you pop them an email to highlight in a respectful, intelligent manner, than blast them on Goodreads. You could compose tactfully all the things you think would benefit their book if they re-evaluated certain points if you wanted to go beyond just leaving a review.
I am not saying they will always agree, ‘see above – writing is objective’ but it’s a far healthier way to impart your advice in a constructive way. And in some cases you may make a friend for life. A lot of my own beta readers were fans who were not shy about sending me a private message and talking out points in advanced copies. I trust and respect my beta readers opinion because they treat me fairly, respectfully and charmingly. I am not someone who abuses bad reviewers (except in the literary world of my future serial killer book – Joking)
I love honesty. I love feedback, and I love contact from readers.
I hope you found this article helpful or a tad eyeopening and if you struggle to leave reviews I have a helpful picture that may be of use. Reviews make a huge difference to Indie authors and we appreciate the time you take to leave us one xx