Bookish Musings: Why Negative Reviews Can Be a Positive Thing


There’s been a lot of hubbub over negative reviews, authors behaving badly, reviewers behaving badly, fans behaving badly, and generally just everyone getting offended.

But here’s the thing—while I do recognize that some reviews are just plain mean and don’t particularly help anyone, there are times when negative reviews actually are a GOOD thing, for both readers and authors.

So I thought I’d make a post to try and alleviate some of the tension surrounding negative reviews so that we can all be a little more positive and get along a little bit better πŸ™‚

The Ways in Which Negative Reviews are Helpful


1) Negative reviews lend credibility to books.

I don’t know about you, but, as a reader, I have a tendency to be hesitant about reading books that have only 3 star and up reviews. I’ve had bad luck with those books in the past, and I start to get suspicious of how real all the positive reviews are and wonder why there are no negative ones.

2) Negative reviews help readers make decisions.

I like to read both positive AND negative reviews before deciding on a book so that I can weigh the good and bad. Without any negative reviews, I’m more likely to just walk away rather than take the risk. Also many positive reviews tend to be vague, like, “THIS BOOK WAS AMAZING!!!” and thus not very helpful whereas the lower rating reviews tend to give more information about the specific things the reader liked and disliked.

3) Negative reviews help create realistic expectations.

Knowing there are a few things that aren’t perfect in a book doesn’t automatically make me not want to read it. Sometimes the imperfect things aren’t things that really bother me as long as the rest is good, which means they won’t scare me off from reading. And if I’m really interested in a book, I’ll still read it regardless of what flaws are mentioned, but at least I can go into it with realistic expectations and thus end up giving it a better rating than if I had had my expectations too high and been disappointed.

4) Every review helps with exposure.

Even if someone posts a negative review on their blog, it’s still putting the book in front of the eyes of more people and therefore increasing the chances of more potential readers finding it. And, as far as I know, all reviews on Amazon count towards the numbers required for better promotion on the site, getting accepted for book promo emails, etc. (Anyone feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.)

5) Negative reviews help authors improve.

Authors are not obligated to read reviews or to listen to reader criticisms. That is entirely up to them. But if they want to, then reviews can help with that. Some things in reviews are completely subjective, but some things are more constructive and helpful, pointing out things the author didn’t notice but feels they can improve upon. Authors can use this constructive criticism to make future books even better.

6) Negative reviews help books find the right readers.

A negative review might scare someone off, but if it does, it’s doing the author a favor by weeding out the readers who aren’t right for that book. Negative reviews often point out things someone disliked about a book, so anyone else who also dislikes those particular things will skip the book, and that’s a good thing because when a someone reads a book that’s not right for them, well, nobody really wins.

7) And last but DEFINITELY not least… What one person hates, another may love.

BOOKS ARE SUBJECTIVE. I don’t know why people keep forgetting this. I have literally, on many occasions, been sold by a negative review—not because I was intrigued and just wanted to see what people were talking about, but literally because I happened to like the things that someone else didn’t. Books that are too dark and disturbing for other people? I love ’em! Love triangles, one of the most hated tropes? Sign me up! Characters who blow up at each other instead of getting along because they don’t communicate? I find that realistic, so I’ll take that too! Flowery writing? Hell yes! The point is, any review that explains why someone liked or disliked a book has the potential to make another person interested, regardless of the rating.

The Takeaway A.K.A. Some Brief Advice


Reviewers: For those of us who do still feel guilty, let’s try to stop feeling that way. When we accept review copies, it’s inevitable that we will sometimes have to write reviews for books we dislike. Personally, I try to write my reviews as respectfully as I can while still being honest, and I make sure I talk about what specific things I disliked about the book. I also try to find some positive things to mention as well.

Readers: Don’t discount a book just for having some negative reviews. See what they say, and you might find you like the things someone else didn’t. Remember that just because someone else didn’t like a book, that doesn’t mean you won’t love it. And keep in mind that even criticisms that seem objective are still subjective. One person might think the book was fast-paced and action-packed while another thinks it was slow, so reading many reviews and seeing what sorts of likes/dislikes/descriptions come up repeatedly can help.

Authors: Remember that books are judged subjectively, and not every book is for every person. We all have our preferences and opinions, and it doesn’t mean your book is bad just because someone didn’t like it. Their negative review can still be a good thing for you. And please don’t comment on negative reviews unless you want to make yourself look bad and lose potential readers. In fact, you don’t even have to read negative reviews, or any reviews, if you don’t want to!

Fans: Don’t downvote or bully or leave rude comments for another reader just because they have a different opinion. You’re not going to change their opinion because they still like what they like. You’re only hurting the author by scaring off more potential readers.

Some Other Great Related Posts


Coincidentally, I’ve happened to stumble across a couple other posts with similar thoughts lately, so here are some more great posts for you to check out!

Author Hayley Stone talks about how reviews are ultimately for readers, not authors: Marion, Don’t Look at it: Authors and Reviews

Blogger Kazza talks about the growing problem of some authors expecting positive reviews: Review Terms and Conditions and Meltdowns? We’re Not Going to Take it!


Talk to me!

Now I want to hear your thoughts on negative reviews!
Do you feel they can be a positive thing?
Do you read both positive and negative reviews before deciding on a book?
Have you ever decided to read a book based specifically on a negative review?
If you're an author, do you feel you benefit from negative reviews?


Your Thoughts


65 thoughts on “Bookish Musings: Why Negative Reviews Can Be a Positive Thing

I'd love if you'd share your thoughts, too!


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  1. Clara @ Lost in My Library

    You put all of this really well! I know that I pretty much always look at negative reviews for books I’m thinking of reading, especially if I’m on the fence in the first place. But at the same time, I usually don’t feel as good about putting up my negative reviews. Overall, I definitely agree that negative reviews can be a good thing, but I do feel bad when I go to the Goodreads page for a book and ALL the top reviews are 1 or 2 stars, especially if the book has a much higher average rating.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Even though I wrote this whole post, I agree with you completely lol. I do still feel bad posting negative reviews because I know the author’s feelings might get hurt, and I understand how much work they put into the book, but, at the same time, I genuinely feel negative reviews can be just as helpful for getting people to read the book. And I also agree that I feel bad when the top reviews are negative ones, especially if they’re mean reviews. It’s sad to me when those kinds of reviews are the ones that get the most attention.

  2. Greg

    Yeah I want to know what’s maybe NOT great about a book so I can better determine if I want it. And reviews are so subjective that a negative review won’t necessarily turn me off to the book- unless the review says it’s absolutely terrible lol. that might dampen my enthusiasm. But yeah they serve a purpose, definitely. If everything’s all wine and roses I get a bit skeptical too, because come on a book can’t be THAT good to everybody.

    Good advice too. I think being respectful about what didn’t work is the way to go. If I have nothing good to say I just won’t write a review. It’s not like I have to after all. πŸ™‚ And even if I hate a book someone else may love it… plus an author pours heart and soul into their work so I don’t understand why anyone would tee off on them. I think some people just think their snarkiness makes them popular… and unfortunately maybe it does.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly, I need to know both in order to decide whether to read a book. And yeah, a negative review might turn me off, but so might a positive one if I don’t happen to like those things. And seriously, it’s happened to me numerous times that a book had all glowing, rave reviews, and then I ended up completely disliking it. So I’m especially skeptical now.

      Thanks. I generally won’t even read snarky reviews, and I definitely won’t like or comment on them. That’s the problem though, it’s the mean, snarky reviews that do get attention. And some people just like attention, regardless of who else it hurts (the authors, in this case). I also usually choose not to write a review if I don’t care for a book and it’s not a review copy.

  3. Kei @ The Lovely Pages Reviews

    Yes, finally someone said it! I always read a book’s negative reviews because I now that’s going to give me some insight on what might not work for me. Every reader is different but those reviews matter as well! There’s this weird concept that negative reviews generate negativity but it’s the opposite. Also, one other issue I have is the bloggers who do not posts reviews under 3 stars. If I don’t know what kind of books one blogger didn’t like how can I trust them when they always post glowing reviews, there’s no way you can love every book you read, there’s got to be a balance. Be respectful but don’t hesitate to post a negative review, it’s in everyone’s interest that you do. Great post!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly! I need those negative reviews to make my decisions. But unfortunately I think the problem is that *some* people do see a negative review and immediately jump ship :-/ But for many of us, the negative reviews don’t automatically generate negativity. I have to disagree about bloggers who don’t post reviews under 3 stars. It doesn’t mean they love every book they read, it just means they choose not to talk about the ones they dislike. And I’m fine with that. That was actually my original plan for the blog, but then I started accepting review copies, so things have changed because now I’m obligated to write certain reviews, whether I like the books or not. But it’s great that there are also people out there who post all their negative reviews without hesitation because obviously the whole point of this post is that they’re helpful lol.

  4. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    I don’t tend to post negative reviews on my blog. I don’t like discouraging people from books, it’s as simple as that. Also, I find it difficult to find a balance between constructively criticising the book and just complaining about it. I agree that negative reviews are good, that help give people an idea of what to expect when reading and give them realistic expectations amongst a crowd of rave reviews. I did say I wasn’t going to post them at all, but now I will post a review as part of a bulk post of reviews for those books I didn’t hate but had a bit to complain about.

    I do think some people can go too far with their negative reviews. I want people to write about the book without just hating on it. It’s not just that you didn’t like it, I want to know why and if the book had any redeeming qualities (in your opinion) which kept you reading. I don’t think there are enough blogs which do that well.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I think that’s fine if anyone chooses not to post negative reviews. That was my original plan for the blog. But then I started accepting review copies, and now I feel an obligation to post reviews for certain books whether I like them or not.

      I completely agree. I generally won’t even read snarky, mean reviews anymore. I too want a more fair approach, and I want to know legitimate reasons. I feel like I do follow quite a few blogs that post respectful negative reviews though, and I do my best in my negative reviews to point out that the book was not *bad*, it just wasn’t *for me*, so they’re out there!

  5. Annika @ Hiding Books

    This is such a wonderful discussion, Kristen! I’ve been thinking about this a lot as well, and I agree with you on so many points. I do read negative reviews too, and I do think they’re important. So I don’t really know why I always feel really guilty about writing them. But I usually only include reviews on my blog where I liked the book enough to give it three stars. I feel like it’s better (/easier and less stressful for me somehow) to leave negative reviews on goodreads and only talk about mostly positive ones on my blog. Maybe I should practice by doing Reasons why I didn’t like X/reasons you might love X type posts.
    I agree with your message though. Let’s stop feeling guilty. That’s a pretty good mantra for a lot of things in life πŸ™‚
    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! (And the links to other posts)

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks! I completely agree though. I wrote the post, yet I also still feel bad writing them lol. It’s just, even though they have all these benefits, I know that they still seem personal to many authors, and I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But seriously, I meant every word here. I would never be able to make decisions about books without positive AND negative reviews. So we shouldn’t feel guilty! Your post idea sounds like a good idea, I say give it a shot πŸ™‚

      1. Annika @ Hiding Books

        Yeah it’s exactly that! I don’t want to hurt an author’s feelings, or anyone ‘s who really liked the book but at the same time… reviews are for other readers to decide if the book is for them, so honesty is important. I’m actually linking this post to a few people because we’ve been talking about how hard it is to write a negative review, and you’ve discussed it so well!

        1. Kristen Burns

          Share the post with as many people as you want! I definitely won’t complain about that πŸ˜› I’m happy to hear that I’ve touched on something that seems to be important to other reviewers πŸ™‚

  6. Yvo @ It's All About Books

    I can completely agree with all of this. I tend to have bad luck with hyped books or books with high ratings in general, and I prefer reading honest reviews over 5 star reviews simply stating the book is ‘awesome’. As you might guess, I have a lot of what you call ‘unpopular’ opinion reviews on my blog… I used to feel bad about it, but like you said each book is ment for a specific target group and it’s impossible to like every single book that is published. I always try to be specific about what I don’t like and try to never be disrespectful to the authors because I know how hard it is to write/publish a book, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to hand out those 4 or 5 star ratings just because otherwise authors/fans might take it badly. πŸ˜‰

    1. Kristen Burns

      I’ve had that happen to me numerous times that a book has all glowing, rave reviews, and then it turns out being something I completely dislike. So now I’m especially suspicious of books with all good reviews. But hey, no need to feel bad for having an unpopular opinion. I don’t even read most of the super popular books because they simply don’t interest me. Everyone is allowed to have their own taste and opinions. And as reviewers we definitely shouldn’t feel compelled to lie or hide our opinions if we want to express them just because someone might be offended. As long as we’re respectful, our reviews can still be helpful!

      1. Yvo @ It's All About Books

        Very true! I tend to find negative reviews even more helpful than the positive ones as long as there is a good explanation of why they didn’t enjoy it. It’s a great way of predicting if I would enjoy it or not myself!

        1. Kristen Burns

          Yeah, I tend to head to the 2 star reviews when first checking out a book if I’m undecided. I’m not sure why 2 stars lol. They seem to give me the best idea. But then I usually go and read reviews from every different rating anyway. And since negative ones are less fangirl-y, they’re often more helpful, or they at least help me to figure out which aspects of the fangirl-y reviews are legit πŸ˜›

  7. Laura

    I definitely think that any publicity is good publicity, even if it’s a negative review. It’s still getting the book out there, and I like to get a rounded view of a book before I read it, which includes the opinion of both people who liked and didn’t like it. I also think that negative reviews can recommend a book in some ways – as you say, if someone hates love triangles and reviews a book negatively because there was one, but you like them, then obviously that isn’t going to put you off!
    Great post! πŸ™‚

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly, it still gets the book in front of the eyes of people who might not have otherwise seen it. And it might be the perfect book for some of those people, regardless of the negative review. And I also like to get a rounded view. And yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying! Just because someone else didn’t like the love triangle, I still like them, so that would only make me more interested.

  8. Kate Unger

    Great post! I agree with everything you said. I don’t mind writing negative reviews. I have a lot of opinions, and I like sharing them with other people. I am annoyed when I read a book someone recommended only to find out later that they disliked some aspects but did share those. I want to be honest in my reviews. I often find things that bothered other people are things I like as well. I want to help people find the right books for them, even if they’re not the right books for me.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks! That’s great that you don’t mind writing negative reviews since we need those. I’d never be able to decide on books without them lol. Although I don’t think reviewers need to necessarily include every single thing they liked and disliked in their reviews, but if there was something that really bothered me, then I do include it, even if the rest of the review is positive. It really is kind of funny though how often the things other people consider negative are the things that make me interested.

  9. Barb(boxermommyreads)

    Great discussions. I guess even when I rate a book lower than 3 stars, which does happen, I don’t even really consider it a negative review. I can’t recall ever blasting an author and usually it just means that the book wasn’t for me. However, I am a FIRM believer that there are enough books to go around and just because I don’t like something, doesn’t mean that someone else won’t love it. I have plenty of blog visitors who I am sure don’t read a lot of horror, or may get sick of my pups being plastered all over it at times, but they are still my “cyber” friends. I think some negative reviews are to be expected. Not everyone likes the same thing – thank heavens! How boring would that be? You brought up some great points about how even negative reviews can bring about good recognition.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Huh, that’s an interesting way of looking it, that you never consider any your reviews negative. And I completely agree about how just because I don’t like something, it doesn’t mean other people don’t. That’s why I’ve never referred to a book as being “bad” and I always try to make a point of saying in my reviews that it just wasn’t for me, or “if you like _____, you might like this book more than I did,” etc. I’m glad too that we don’t all have the same taste because it would be boring. Thanks πŸ™‚

  10. AngelErin

    I think negative reviews are great, unless they are just cruel. I like when they are constructive (at least somewhat) in some way or being truthful without just being UGLY about it. I think as bloggers/reviewers/etc. there will be some reviews that are negative. No one likes EVERY book and I like when people are honest. I stay away from bloggers who always love EVERY single book, well not stay away from exactly. I just won’t take their opinions into consideration. Even when I see negative reviews I may still read it. It depends on why they didn’t like it. It was too dark for them? Might be perfect for me! The characters were unrealistic? I might want to avoid that one. That blogger and I love a lot of the same books? I may have to try that one they loved! So I think negative reviews are great and I’ve never felt bad about any of mine lol!! Also so true that even negative reviews will give the books some recognition as well. Thanks for another excellent discussion post!! I hope this rambling makes sense haha!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I completely agree. I generally won’t even read cruel reviews anymore, and I definitely won’t like or comment on them because I don’t want to encourage them. Except just because someone only posts positive reviews, it doesn’t mean they love every book they read, it just means they don’t talk about the ones they dislike, so I still follow and take into consideration bloggers who only post positive reviews. But yeah, whether I read a book after seeing a negative reviews depends on why the person disliked it. But then whether I read a book after seeing a positive review also depends on why the person liked it, you know? And like you, I liked dark books, so on numerous occasions I’ve come across books in which people complained and gave lower ratings because it was too dark or emotional or whatever, and that was what made me decide to read it. (And every time it makes me wonder just how twisted I am that THOSE are the reviews that make me want to read the book lol.) Thanks! You made plenty sense. I think if anyone is rambling it’s me because I’m so exhausted I can’t even think straight right now lol.

  11. Lola

    This exactly! I have been thinking a few times about writing a post about this topic as well, as it seems that sometimes people seem to forget negative reviews often can be a good thing.

    I totally agree that negative reviews can lead credibility to a book and I often look at both positive and negative reviews when deciding whether to read a book or not. I also think that negative reviews can prevent more negative reviews as people know what to expect and can make their decisions based on that. Or you know to avoid a book when it contains a lot of things you don’t like for example. And reading multiple reviews can often make my expectations become more realistic I think.

    Concerning your point about amazon reviews counting towards promotions, you are right about that, although some promotion sites not only want a minimum amount of review,s but also a minimum average rating. But it really depends on which promo site you look at and there are a lot out there, there are even some that don’t require any reviews or not minimum average rating.

    And I also think that sometimes reviews can help authors improve, especially in the case when multiple reviewers point out the same thing. Sure a lot of of reading is subjective, but if you see a trend in reviews it might be worth paying attention to that.

    Good point about people liking what others don’t. That’s why negative and positive reviews can be so helpful, so you know which elements a book has and knowing your own preferences you can stay away from the book or pick it up. Dark and disturbing might something people enjoy, but I usually don’t enjoy that. On the other hand some people don’t like overly focus on world building or even info dump, which don’t bother me as much. Or love triangles, I don’t love them, but also don’t hate them.

    And your summary sums it up nicely. I think as reviewers we should be able to write honest reviews about books we read, but we don’t have to be mean or nasty when we didn’t enjoy a book. And the not commenting on negative reviews is so important, I’ve seen that backfire so often. I also know some authors don’t read negative reviews at all and I think that if that’s what works for you, that’s fine too. I do think negative reviews have their place and can help both readers/ reviewers and authors.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Haha I read your mind πŸ˜›

      Exactly, they lend credibility, and they get the book into the hands of the right people. And that then prevents even more negative reviews from popping up because now the people who aren’t going to like aren’t reading it in the first place. That’s why it can even be a good thing when someone decides not to read the book.

      Thanks, I didn’t realize some of them had certain rating standards, I’m going to amend the post to include that πŸ™‚

      That’s a good point too, that if a whole bunch of people are pointing out the same issue, it’s probably not so subjective.

      Yeah, that’s what I feel like people sometimes forget? That everyone has different preferences. I seriously have become interested in books because of negative reviews, simply because I liked what those people didn’t. Like, you don’t like dark and disturbing, but I do. So if people rate a book down and complain that it was too dark or emotional or something like that, it immediately piques my interest. And there have also been times when positive reviews have turned me away simply because I didn’t like those things.

      I am completely against mean reviews. But as reviewers we shouldn’t have to worry or feel guilty about writing honest, respectful reviews since I genuinely do believe they can be helpful in all these ways. But authors should definitely not comment on negative reviews. There is absolutely no way for that to NOT backfire. And I agree, it’s fine if an author can’t deal with reading negative reviews. No one’s forcing authors to read reviews at all, and it’s better not to read them than to react badly.

  12. Alexa @ Words Off the Page

    I remember when an author was talking at an event and she mentioned that she never looked at the reviews esp negative ones and I found that so strange. The biggest things that help us as artists improve is criticisms. What can we do better? What can we do to make what we think is great even greater? So it’s so strange to me when people regard negative reviews so… negatively (lol). I mean yes, like you said, there are some reviews that are just plain mean and that’s not right either, but it’s important to look at reviews of someone that just didn’t enjoy the book for whatever reasons. Plus I’m with you where if I see a book with endless four star reviews, I get suspicious. By having this attitude with negative reviews, it’ll help more reviewers feel like they don’t have to post a positive review for every book they read.

    While the author might get a bit hurt by reading negative reviews, I think it’s important to look at.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I mean, I respect if an author makes the choice to not read negative reviews. If they can’t handle them, it’s better not to read them than to cause drama by responding or something. But I agree in that I feel like I’d want to know how to improve. I can still why negative reviews would be upsetting, and maybe I’d feel differently if I actually had a book published, but I’ve appreciated getting feedback on smaller pieces of writing in the past. But most importantly, I really do use negative reviews to help make my decisions, and lots of other people do too, so they’re still helpful regardless of whether authors read them or not.

  13. Kazza

    I’ve been reviewing for over 4 years and at times, a lot of times, it’s honestly been similar to working a full-time job. I think people who write any review give of themselves and are entitled to their opinion. You have to push through feeling mean and I know it can be hard for people to do that. These days I have to step back more from reviewing so I oh-so-carefully choose books I feel will resonate with me, I just don’t have the time otherwise. But you know that old saying, ‘the best laid plans…’ so it doesn’t always work. If the book doesn’t grab me or doesn’t really irritate me I’ll leave a paragraph or two on Goodreads. If I love it or if it ticks me right off I’ll give it a full review on the blog and probably Amazon. People just don’t have the time to review everything fully. I know I’d prefer to spend my energy on things that I’m enjoying. But it’s no good holding back on reviews, they inform other readers of what you did or didn’t like/love and then other readers can make up their mind. It’s not just reviews either, it’s a myriad of things – the blurb, the cover, sometimes the author knows how to work their primary demographic, and there are other factors that might resonate with an individual reader about a book or an author.

    Negative reviews can be full of all the things you love. I’m with you, I’m good on a love triangle. People will hate a book because of cheating, I’ll read that cheating book. It’s too dark? Bring it, I love dark. Not necessarily a HEA? Give it to me, I can take it. MΓ©nage? Yes, yes, yes πŸ™‚

    If a writer is serious they need to have honest beta readers and/or proof readers and/or editors to help them get a story into shape pre-publishing. Having said that, the good and bad outlined in a review can help, particularly when there’s a common theme running through the reviews. People look at negative reviews differently and even when I see people saying, “Thanks, XYZ, for this review, I won’t be touching this book now” I know a lot of them will be picking it up to have a look-see because more than a few people are drawn to negatively reviewed books. Bottom line is, reviews are just opinions and the more varied opinions out there the more people check it out. I’ve lost count of the times people have said that there are people loving a book and hating the same book so they have to check it out.

    A couple of things I don’t like – nasty sniping under reviews, crazed fans who get shirty with your reviews, and authors who write nasty emails or have expectations and throw a wobbly. One more (personal) irritation, people saying they don’t like books about – insert (sub)genre here – and then read that book and complain. Hello, it might be an idea not to read that book in that (sub)genre you don’t like πŸ˜€

    Another terrific post, Kristen. Very fair and enlightened. Keep ’em coming πŸ™‚

    1. Kristen Burns

      I’m picky with what books I’ll request/accept for review and also try to choose what I think I’ll really like, but you just can’t always tell. And I too would prefer to spend my time and energy on books that I like which is why I usually choose not to review non-review copies if I don’t care for them or feel kind of apathetic about them. But that’s exactly it, reviews don’t really tell people what to do, they give people the information so they can make up their own minds. And it’s definitely a combination of things, not just reviews. I mean, I’ve sometimes immediately decided I needed a book simply because of the blurb, and I didn’t care what any of the reviews said.

      I think we have a lot of similarities in taste lol. I don’t think I’d be a fan of cheating, but I agree with the rest!

      Exactly, if a writer wants to improve, then they do need criticism. I hate it when people say they’re not going to give a book a chance just because of one review though. But I guess you’re right, people just say things a lot and then don’t stick to them, so some of those people probably do end up giving the book a look. And negative reviews do pique people’s curiosity sometimes.

      I don’t like nasty reviews either. I definitely don’t encourage those. And obviously I don’t like crazed fans or badly behaving authors either. I do get annoyed when I see reviews like, “I hate vampires, and this book was about vampires, so I hated it.” Like, seriously? But on the other hand, I sometimes try books in genres that I haven’t liked in the past because they still sound interesting or because I’m trying to give the genre a fair chance, to try something new, etc. So if that’s the case, that’s fair.


  14. Melanie Simmons @mlsimmons

    I completely agree with you. I’ve bought books based on negative reviews. I’m not a fan of the love triangle, but dark and creepy (even in romance), sign me up. Before the release of Rachel Vincent’s Menagerie book, I saw a tweet she put out that said she had seen 3 DNF reviews for the book because it was too dark. That had me jumping for joy. I gave the book 4.5 stars once I finally got my hands on the audio. I’ve also read reviews on books that had too much sex. Well, the book was erotica, so it was supposed to have a lot of sex, it also had a phenomenal plot, so one again, I love that series (Beyond by Kit Rocha).

    I also agree that I’m very leery of book that has only positive reviews. It makes me think that the author’s friends and family are review stuffing.

    Great post and topic. πŸ™‚

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly, I knew I couldn’t be the only one who’s ever bought books based on the negative reviews. I love your example because I’ve also done things like that. Sometimes I question my sanity when reviews complaining about how dark or disturbing a book was are the ones that make me excited to read it πŸ˜› But lol to the erotica book having too much sex. You have me interested in that series now though, I don’t mind a fair amount of sex as long as there’s also a plot.

      Yeah, all positive reviews just seems suspicious, especially when they’re all short and vague.


  15. Genni @ Ready, Set, Read!

    I completely agree with you. Even though I sometimes feel bad that I am writing a negative review, I tell myself it is fine as long as I’m respectful. Reading negative reviews help me too. If I know a person I follow is more critical than me and gave a book 2 stars, I can easily assume that while I may enjoy it better, I might find the same flaws. Plus, I like having a variety of reviews on my blog. I don’t love every book I read, and my reviews should reflect that, not be wary of it. Great discussion Kristen!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I do feel bad too simply because I know that it can still feel very personal to authors, and I don’t want to hurt their feelings, but the negative reviews are in fact helpful in the end to readers, and then that creates more sales for the authors. And exactly, it’s all subjective, so you know not to automatically make a decision based on pure rating, you take into account that likes and dislikes of the reviewer. Thanks!

  16. Got My Book

    I agree completely with all of your points. And I appreciate your Advice for Reviewers. Although I myself like to read thoughtful low star reviews, since sometimes I agree completely and can avoid the book and other times I disagree and choose to read the book, I still hate writing them. It’s good to occasionally be reminded that other people may want to read them.

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    1. Kristen Burns

      I actually am the same way. I meant everything in this post, and I completely rely on low star reviews (by the way, I like that term better!) to make my decisions, but I still feel bad every time I write them because I know it can still feel personal to authors. But I probably should write more of them since they really are super helpful to me as a reader.

  17. Molly @ Molly's Book Nook

    I totally agree with all of this. Especially the point you made that if a book has ONLY good reviews, you’re skeptical. I’m that way too. There has to be someone who didn’t like it! I also feel like negative reviews sometimes give more detail than positive ones. If that makes sense. Like, negative reviews are more critical and constructive while positive reviews (especially 5 stars) are just “omg, it was so good, read it”. (Not all the time, but I’ve definitely seen that happen). So yes, I love negative reviews xD

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly! It’s just suspicious. And I get what you’re saying, I agree. As bloggers, we tend to be specific about things even in our positive reviews, but I feel like non-bloggers often leave vague positive reviews. And I’m glad they enjoyed the book and were nice enough to leave a review, but, “I loved it!” isn’t helpful. Negative reviews do tend to be more specific about things.

      1. Molly @ Molly's Book Nook

        Yeah, book bloggers do tend to go into more detail because we kind of have to. It’s usually on Goodreads that I see those vague reviews. Which still sucks, though, because that’s where I read MOST reviews for books. Sigh.

  18. Trish @ Between My Lines

    Totally agree with all your points. If I see a book (especially a debut novel) with all the stars and raving reviews, I’m immediately suspicious. I always like to read a negative review to see what the issue is, say if it’s an unlikeable character, then that won’t turn me off as I find flawed characters more interesting.
    As long as the review is what you think of the book and not slamming the author, then I think that’s fine. Our review is our opinion and no one can pick perfect books time after time.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly, not only is it suspicious to have no negative reviews, I like to know what issues the book has since I know that some of them don’t bother me all that much. Unlikeable characters don’t always turn me off either since I also like truly flawed characters, and I don’t have to like the main character in order to like a book.

      But yes, I’m not ok with slamming the author or just being cruel. Respectful reviews, however, are fair because as you said no one can always pick the right book!

  19. Michelle @ Pink Polka Dot Books

    Great discussion topic!! I’m the black sheep when it comes to books– like a lot, a lot. Some of my MOST LOVED books are ones that get tons of negative reviews. So just because I read a negative review, it doesn’t mean I’m not going to give the book a try. I also will unfollow people who give every book 5 stars. That to me is fake. No one LOVES every book. I do think there is a respectful way to say what your problems were about the book, but I also don’t think we as reviewers should have to censor our feelings or feel pressured to lie. Honest reviews are best and do the book the best justice!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I’m somewhat of a black sheep with books too lol, except more in the sense that most of the popular books don’t interest me and my favorites are books that no one’s heard of. And I’ve also loved things about books that other people hated. I have to disagree though about the people who give 5 stars. It doesn’t necessarily mean they love every book, it might just mean they choose not to talk about the ones they dislike. If they are giving 5 stars to literally every book they read though, that’s another story, and that does seem fake. But regardless, you’re right, as reviewers we should never feel pressured to lie! It’s unfortunate that some people do :-/

  20. Zoey @ Uncreatively Zoey

    I totally agree about basically all of this. Especially the points about lending credibility and helping make decisions. If I can’t find basically any negative reviews I definitely get pretty suspicious. And like you said, positive reviews tend to be a lot more vague while negative ones can provide some more details about the book, and I always like to have more details beyond just the blurb!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I think those are the most important benefits of negative reviews too. I really do use both positive and negative reviews to make my decisions about what to read, and the negative ones are often the more helpful ones. I definitely need more detail than just the blurb for most books!

  21. Theresa

    Great post!!! You said it all so well!
    I’m not a blogger and I rarely ever post reviews (for which I do feel bad – I just never know what to say.)
    We need reviews from good to neg, it’s just life!
    I rarely read reviews, will skim if I’m not sure about a book but it’s very rare if I choose to not read a book based on reviews.
    As long as people don’t attack the author or literally trash the book (there are plenty of ways to day nicely what you don’t like), please keep posting the negative along with the positive! Gotta have balance!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thank you! If you do want to write reviews though, don’t worry too much about what to say or trying to make it sound perfect, just say what you liked and what you disliked. Even a bullet point list would be helpful to people πŸ™‚

      I do read a lot of reviews before choosing books, so they’re especially helpful to me. But if I’m truly interested, I usually won’t be scared away by some negative reviews because all books are going to have some people who dislike them, even the books I love.

      I agree, I don’t like when people attack the author or are cruel, but the respectful reviews are helpful!

  22. Donna @ OnDBookshelf

    Yes to all of this. I’d also like to add that if a blog that I follow always gives glowing reviews of every book, I’m much less apt to trust them when reading their reviews. As mentioned above, no one can love every book they pick up.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks, I’m glad you agree πŸ™‚ I do think, however, that just because a blog only posts positive reviews, it doesn’t necessarily mean they love every book they read or are lying about it, it might just mean they choose not to talk about the ones they dislike, and I’m ok with that. But if someone really did give 5 stars to every single book they read, that would be a different story.

  23. Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

    I think negative reviews are really, really necessary. Like you, I don’t really trust a book that has only positive reviews – it’s simply impossible for me to wrap my head around the fact that every single person who read the book loved it. However, I do know several bloggers who won’t write reviews for books they rated with less than three stars, which is sad – but understandable.
    Some authors do lose their calm when they see a negative review of their book, and it’s been very scary to see the lengths some have gone to in order to ‘get back’ at reviewers who wrote negative reviews. I tend to not really think of the author when I write my review, because I’m not a critique partner, I’m writing reviews to help other readers find books they’d like to read as well. So I may not exactly write a review that would help an author – because I don’t aim my review at them.
    Awesome post as always, Kristin! <3

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly, it seems like most people don’t trust books that only have positive reviews, but it seems like some authors aren’t quite grasping that. I mean, I know negative reviews can hurt, but the respectful ones can still be helpful to sales. I don’t mind though if bloggers don’t post reviews for books they disliked. That was actually my original plan, but that changed once I started taking review copies.

      I’ve luckily never had a bad experience with an author, but it’s sad that as reviewers that’s always kind of a thing we’re worried about happening. But I get what you’re saying, I wasn’t trying to say anyone should write their negative reviews *for* the author, I just still think authors can improve from them if they choose to read them.


  24. Eva @ All Books Considered

    Great post! You’ve mentioned some things I’ve thought about and many I hadn’t re: negative reviews! I so know what you mean about being skeptical if only all the reviews are super positive for a book and those same books usually don’t work for me! And yes, every review is exposure at the very least!!

    1. Kristen Burns

      It seems like everyone is skeptical of books with no negative reviews, so really they’re helpful just for that reason alone! And yeah, for whatever reason, those are the books I seem to have the worst luck with.

  25. Zeee @ I Heart Romance & YA

    I write negative reviews and also post them on my blog. Although if it is something that I really can’t say anything constructive, I just pass and not review it at all.

    On another note, I do read negative reviews first before reading the positive ones. If it’s a book that has a lot of positive hype, I read negative reviews to help me decide if it IS worth the hype.

    I do draw the line on hateful and mean/demeaning reviews. There really is NO reason for a blogger/reviewer to personally attack an author and there is also NO reason for authors and fans to attack someone who wrote a negative review of their book. I remember the catfish debacle a couple of years ago.. sigh*

    1. Kristen Burns

      I get what you’re saying. There are some books I literally couldn’t even review without getting snarky and ranting, so I just won’t ever review those. I do feel like readers deserve to know what they’re getting into, but my review would just come out really mean, and I can’t do that to the author, no matter how poorly I think the book was written.

      But like you, I do often read the negative reviews first.

      I agree, it’s definitely not ok to attack the author, and it’s also not ok for authors or fans to attack reviewers! Authors and reviewers should have a mutually beneficial relationship, not one in which we attack each other!

  26. Tasya

    I really like the way you presented this discussion, by giving advice to all point of views! I do write negative reviews, I like to be honest with how I feel while reading. I try to keep it polite though, and if there’s really nothing good to say then I just write one or two lines of review. I also try to avoid swear words because I just want to hurt anyone feelings, especially the author. I know it hurts to see your books getting negative reviews, but as you said, it actually help us as the writers to grow πŸ™‚ And as a reader, I do read both good and bad reviews. If everyone is raving about a certain book, I would scroll really far down on goodreads to go looking for that one negative reviews. It helps to lower my expectations and help me from feeling dissapointed πŸ™‚

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks! That’s great that you do write negative reviews but that you try to keep them respectful. I would never use a swear word to insult a book, but I do sometimes use them in positive reviews, haha. I completely agree though. I get that, as an author, it must hurt to see a negative review. But at the end of the day, the negative reviews can in fact help sales, and that will eventually lead to more people reading the book and more positive reviews! And I just use the filter to go straight to the lower rating reviews on GR πŸ˜‰

  27. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    I completely agree with you, Lots of times, a book that I don’t love might make someone else really happy – I always try to be really explicit about my likes and dislikes about a book and explain why. That way, people have all the information they need to know if they’d agree with me or not.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly, it’s that explanation of why that I always look for in reviews, not whether someone actually liked the book or not. Because then I get to make my own decision since I know what I like, I assume other people are also capable of making their own decisions.

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  29. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    Sometimes negative reviews are just ranting. But when they include specific criticisms of a book, I do find them really helpful. They don’t necessarily put me off – they can indicate to me reasons why I would not want to read that book, but also reasons that are not relevant to me, or even make me more curious and intrigued! I am suspicious of books that get only positive reviews, so that can be a deterrent as well.

    Though authors should be open to criticism, I can understand being reluctant to be bombarded by too much, especially when it’s hateful and ignorant. Maybe having someone else read your negative reviews and pass on the ones that seem balanced could help.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I completely agree, I don’t like those negative reviews that are just mean or ranting. But the ones that respectfully explain why someone didn’t like a book are helpful to me. And it seems like most people are suspicious of books that only have positive reviews, so that’s a really strong argument for negative reviews right there.

      I do understand why some authors might choose to not read negative reviews, and that’s totally their prerogative. Reading those mean ones could get disheartening and do more harm than good. Having someone screen them does seem like a good idea.

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