I do. I write negative reviews. I always have, I always will, and here are the reasons why:
1. Reviews are not for writers. Repeat that as many times as you need to in order to understand it: Reviews are not for writers. The content of a review is not intended as constructive criticism for a writer. They have someone who offers constructive criticism: their editor. Also, their critique partners. Not random strangers on the internet. I'm also going to go way out on a limb here and say any person who takes the internet's "advice" to heart is in for a world of heartbreak, just in general.
2. Reviews are for readers. It sounds like a repeat of #1, and it is closely related, but it is absolutely different. Readers use reviews to determine if they might want to read (or buy!) a book. That's it. That's the purpose of a review: to convince someone to either read a book or not read it. Period. It is not meant to give advice on how to improve the next book in the series, it is not meant to discuss the author's personal life, and it is not intended as a soapbox for the reviews (that's what blogging is for, hey-yo!)
3. I use reviews to make decisions about books and I expect them to do their job. Here's a story for you: Back in early 2011, there was a book coming out. Everyone on the internet was psyched for it. Early reviews were glowing, raving, bowing-down-and-worshipping. I read it, eagerly...
And it sucked.
Bad. So bad. So so so so bad. Continuity problems, stupid science in a science fiction book (seriously... my second-grader could have debunked this "science"), paper-doll characters, a flimsy plot that was poorly explained, etc. Just really, grade-A awful. I contacted some of my reviewer friends and talked to them about this book. Their response?
"Oh. Yeah. I noticed those things. But I just wanted to love it, so ... whatever."
Now, don't get me wrong. I am known to fangirl-flail and forgive a lot of errors if something is awesome (Harry Potter, anybody?), but this was a brand new author, so nobody could be a "fan" yet. They had just bought into the hype and then lied in their reviews.
I bought a book because a couple reviewers lied. It made me so angry. I have a hard time not hating the author by extension (it's not her fault - she just wrote a book... she didn't lie to me!) and I absolutely stopped trusting those reviewers. Which brings me to the next point -
4. I want people to trust my opinion. If you're looking for romance recommendations, I am not your girl. If you're looking for sweet middle-grade stuff, again, I am not your girl. But you want high fantasy? Or science fantasy? Or steam punk? I am your girl. And you know you can trust my opinion on those subjects because I will not gush indiscriminately, nor will I coyly say I loved the secondary characters when I really hated the whole thing.
If I say it's good, I really mean it, and I want people to know that. Because when I love a book? I want everyone to love it. I become an evangelist for that book. And I want people to think, "Hey. Gina doesn't do this for every book, so this stamp of approval must really mean something!"
And the very last reason that I will write negative reviews...
5. There's no such thing as bad publicity. When I write a negative review, it can actually help the author. Mike Mullin, author of the ASHFALL series, said a negative review drove six times as much traffic as a positive one, and then boosted his sales. Studies by Harvard Business Review and Stanford University both conducted studies that said negative reviews, even scathing reviews, can boost sales for newbie authors as much as 50%. Several author friends have attested to the same thing - when a big-name blogger gives them a negative review, it actually helped their sales.
Think about it this way, if I write the following in a review:
"I hated this book. Too much kissing, not enough swordfighting!"
There are likely to be several people who see that and think,
"Wow. I love kissing and hate swordfighting. This book sounds awesome!"
And thus a "bad" review turns out to actually help someone find a book they're probably going to love.
|Everybody has different tastes.|
Now, I want to be very clear.
Just because I write negative reviews does not mean I write mean reviews. I did, unfortunately, write a few mean ones when I first started. I am ashamed to say I did, and I have deleted the substance of those reviews from my profile.
While those mean reviews were up, however, they drove the most traffic, collected the most likes and comments.
The internet really likes mean stuff, you guys.
But when I say "negative book reviews" I do NOT mean:
- Attacking an author for his/her personal life
- Attacking an entire genre just for existing
- Attacking an entire category just for existing
- Being deliberately insulting to the author
- Being deliberately insulting to people who enjoyed the book
That's not "negative" ... okay... it is. But it's also mean and totally unnecessary.
Here's a negative criticism:
"The whole climax of the story felt lackluster and as a result I felt cheated by the end of the story."
Here's the same thing, but mean and unnecessary:
"This book sucked and I hated it. The author should quit writing because he is worse than anything."
I won't write mean reviews. But I do write negative reviews, and I stand by that decision. Do you write reviews? What's your policy?