Negative Reviews: To Post Or Not To Post?

21 March 2015

Writing negative reviews has become a bit of a sore subject within the bookish community during the last few years, following a couple of nasty incidents in which blogs were closed down due to authors being unable to handle the negative feedback. There's a very fine line dividing professional negativity from personal insult, and I cannot stress enough how important it is to make sure you're not crossing that line.

I'm one of these people who can see positivity in almost anything: if it's raining, I'll make the most of it by curling up on the sofa with a cup of tea and a good book; if I'm having a slow day at work, I'll push myself to get all of the little things done that I've been neglecting; and if I'm writing a review of a book I didn't like, I'll focus on the strongest parts, rather than the parts I hated. At the end of the day, it's okay if you didn't enjoy a book - nobody is going to penalize you for having an opinion. 

What isn't okay is writing a review that's full of criticism. As someone who fully understands and completely appreciates the time, energy, and emotion it takes to write a novel, I don't think it's difficult to find something positive to say about a book, whether it's related to characters, writing, settings, or descriptions, there's always something that the author got right. I know it's not so easy for everyone to look at things this way, but it is possible.

What I don't want to see is authors getting blacklisted because people don't like their books, and I certainly don't want to see authors getting defensive about respectful negative reviews. Flagging people on Goodreads for giving a book one or two stars isn't fair if they haven't actually insulted the author on a personal level. At the end of the day, reviewing is going to become obsolete if people don't feel comfortable with their freedom of speech. Negative reviews will become a thing of the past and people will not only start getting bored of seeing only positive reviews, but their blogging will suffer. Picture this: a blogger has no posts scheduled and has to rely on the book they're currently reading to provide content for their next review. What happens if they don't like the book? What happens if they don't like the next three books? If they don't feel confident enough to write a negative review, they'll have to skip posting, thus causing people to unfollow because of inactivity, or getting the blogger too stressed out to want to post anymore. Believe me, it happens.

I will admit that I'm not the easiest person to influence - I'm not going to blacklist a book just because one of my favourite bloggers has posted a negative review. Instead, I'll make a note of what they didn't like and I'll do my research. If a lot of people have mentioned their dislike of the same thing, I'll weigh up whether or not I would find it a problem, too. If I don't think it will be too much of an issue, I'll keep it on my wishlist. It's as simple as that. At the end of the day, I don't have enough money to be buying books I don't think I will like, but I also don't reject a book just because someone didn't like it. 

At the end of the day, I think reviews about books we don't like need to become less critical and more focused on the parts that we actually did enjoy. If you hated a book and can't think of anything good to say about it, just don't review it. It's as simple as that. There are too many fractured author/blogger relationships and neither of us can survive without the other.

What do you think about negative reviews? Do you think they have a place within our community? Do you, personally, write them? Let me know in the comments!