Hi there, fellow bookworms! In last week’s discussion post, I wrote out my guidelines for writing a negative review, because, let’s be honest, there are times when we’ve all sounded a little rant-y and could definitely use some help in keeping our negative reviews organized.
But this week, I want to talk about why it’s okay to write a negative review of a book you didn’t like. I’ve seen and talked to several book reviewers who absolutely refuse to write a negative review, and honestly, kudos to them. I WISH I had the will power to stay positive about every book I read, but I can’t. So, for those of us who face the moral dilemma of disliking a book but not wanting to bash it completely, today’s discussion post is about why it’s okay to write a negative review.
***Some of these notes are kind of dependent on the how-to I shared last week. But I like to think they’re still okay even if we have different ways of writing negative reviews.
So let’s get to it!
This one is probably the most obvious, but also one of the most important. Honesty is so important as a book blogger/reviewer. If every single one of my reviews are positive, gushy, glowing reviews, people are bound to start distrusting my bookish opinion. Not because they think I’m some awful, terrible person, but simply from experience. If I write a positive review for every book, they’re bound to read some that I said good things about, dislike those books, and then wonder if we have similar book tastes at all. That’s not fair to them OR me! It’s much better for both of us if I’m just honest about my opinion from the beginning, whether it’s positive or not.
Publishers Know What They’re Getting Into
I think people are most unwilling to write a negative review of ARCs they’ve received, because not only is it the author’s pride and joy, but a publisher also agreed to send them a free book, which can make them feel a little obligated to say good things! But here’s the thing: When you go to NetGalley, or Eidelweiss, or email a book’s publisher, and they agree to send you an advanced copy of their book, they
usually do it with the understanding that you may not like it. And that’s okay! You can’t be expected to love every book you read! Publishers know that, and are willing to take the risk of sending you an ARC anyway. And, in the end, publishers want you to write honest reviews so readers trust your opinion, and are more likely to traffic your blog and find these publisher’s books! Because, really, it all comes down to…
Long story short, this is really all a review is: publicity. Getting people to see a title or an author or a series. When a publisher agrees to send you a book to review, they’re basically paying you the price of that book for some publicity. This is why I’m so particular about how I write my negative reviews. I can be honest in a review of a book I didn’t like and people may still be convinced to buy that book. Assume I say something like, “While the characters themselves are well-written, the romance is not. There’s insta-love all the way!” Other people who have insta-love on their list of bookish pet peeves may not buy the book. But those who only sort of dislike it might still buy the book for its well-developed characters, and the people who don’t mind insta-love at all are practically reading a positive review! Even when I write a negative review, if I go about it right, the publisher still gets their publicity, people may still buy the book, and I still get to be an honest reviewer. It’s a win for everyone!
Being able to talk about books is at the very heart of being a book blogger. In fact, that’s probably why most of us became book bloggers in the first place! And yes, I know that positive reviews can spark book-talk, but in my experience, negative reviews often lend themselves to broader discussions. Very often, I see things like representation, mental illness, and so many other important topics discussed in negative reviews.
And when we love how a book addresses race, or sexual orientation, or depression, or anything else, those things usually shine through our reviews. But if we don’t like how someone or something is being represented, we need to be open and honest about it. Authors and publishers take note of what people are saying they dislike in books, and sometimes negative reviews are the way to change the issues in the book community.
That’s it for this week’s discussion. Thanks for reading!
How do you feel about negative reviews? Have you ever felt guilty for writing one? Do you disagree with me on any of my points, or maybe have something to add? Let me know in the comments below!