Allison has a lot of good advice about negative book reviews in her blog post, but I feel there’s more to be said as one who reviews books for NetGalley and others.
I have never given a single star to any book I’ve read. My review history tends to be on the opposite spectrum of five-star reviews. I say tends because I have read two books that did not get a five-star review from me. One book I decided not to review because I did not want to write a poor review, so I decided not reviewing would be more beneficial to the author than reviewing. I contacted the author and explained to her why I was not going to write a review and told her I wanted to see her succeed as an author. I gave her some recommendations and offered to write her a review if she provided me with an edited revision. I also received an email from her publisher who told me they had made a few changes to the book. Unfortunately, the book was no longer on my NetGalley bookshelf as I had notified NetGalley I was not going to write a review on this particular book. I hope when this book goes to publishing that it does well and the author meets with success.
The second book I read that fell below my five-star far-right spectrum; I gave three and a half stars in my review. My review was fair, and the review was not harmful, nor did I berate the author; I lifted her up as the talented writer she is, and she is a genuinely gifted writer that we will see a lot from in the future. I am confident of this and said as much in my review. The novel I reviewed is her first novel, and she will grow. As much as I enjoyed the book, I could not overlook the obvious that was apparent to me as an English major but may have gone unnoticed by a reader without an English degree. I struggled with this one because the author is talented, but I would not have done her justice by giving her five stars.
Why do I care? I care for four reasons. I am an English major; I am a writer working on a manuscript between reading and reviewing books; I don’t want to be a half-assed reviewer, and I select books to read that I want to be winners. I find it wrong and unfair to any author that has put their all into writing a book, which entails more than merely sitting down to write. I cannot think of a book that did not require endless hours of research before beginning the writing process and if as a reviewer, you know anything about the writing process I would think more about giving an author’s book one star and stating what you did not like. That’s not fair to the author, and you cannot call this type of criticism a book review.
I will also add that as a book reviewer, I more often than not receive a book that has yet to make it through its first round of editing. As a reader and reviewer, this is frustrating to me because I find myself editing as I read the book which is distracting from the story. Many writers with an English degree will admit to doing the same while reading a book; it’s an occupational hazard.
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Pop quiz time.
What do the following things have in common?
- Traffic jams
- Fish in the ocean
- The full moon appearing every month
- Negative book reviews
If you answered they are all certain to happen, then you pass!
Every book gets negative reviews. The Hunger Games, a book I absolutely love, has 443 1-star reviews. No matter how good your book is, eventually, you will get negative reviews. So since we can’t avoid them, we should have a strategy for what to do when they appear on our product pages, else we collapse into a blubbering heap or decide to quit writing and join the carnival. Sure, the endless access to funnel cakes would be awesome, but your family would miss you.
Below are four actions I’ve gathered from personal experience, talking with author friends/reading similar posts, and research. I hope that by the end, you’ll be able to read…
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