Why I’m learning to write negative book reviews

Leaving negative reviews of books has become a tad of a controversial topic in the book community. There’s been a fair amount of discourse over if anyone really benefits from them and if it’s morally OK for people to be writing them in the first place. Once you’ve gotten past that debate you then come to the question of what is even classes as a negative review? Is three stars a negative review, but three and a half a positive one? Very quickly you can find yourself overwhelmed with a lot of people with a whole bunch of strong opinions.

In all my years of blogging I’ve never published a negative review on my blog (I class a review of under three stars to be negative). Goodreads yes, but here on Lost in the Story no. My reasoning behind it was why waste time reviewing a book I didn’t enjoy? Why spend all that time going through the book a second time making notes when I didn’t enjoy it? I also had the opinion that there was enough negativity in the world, and I didn’t want to be adding to that. All of that combined with the fact I tend to dnf books I don’t enjoy meant I never really had to face these problems.

However, I wouldn’t be writing this post if my thoughts on the matter hadn’t changed to some degree. Over the past few months, I’ve been doing some thinking and I want to break down for you why I’m now learning to write negative reviews of books.

Very quickly it’s worth explaining that reviews are for the READER and not the author. From what I’ve experienced, authors are discouraged from ever reading reviews of their books. If they’ve gone through beta reading correctly, they should have a pretty clear idea on what a spectrum of people’s thoughts are on their book. Reviews are there to help the reader decide if the book is a good fit for them to be spending their money on.

Authors don’t tend to include trigger warnings in their books

Not everyone agrees with leaving a negative review because the person didn’t like the content/ subject matter in the book however, this can be a very good thing when it comes to triggering topics in books. Books can often touch on sensitive and distressing topics in some pretty graphic detail what can be majorly problematic for some people if they’re caught by it out of the blue.

A poor review saying they didn’t like the book because it contained a graphic description of assault or an abusive relationship is super helpful for people who can be distressed by that.

I personally found this useful when I had just recovered from my eating disorder. I was looking at purchasing a book when I spotted that there were multiple reviews saying the protagonist had a poorly depicted eating disorder. The reviews said if you were battling one yourself to stay clear of the book because the content would most likely be upsetting. Needles to say I didn’t buy the book and was exceptionally thankful for those who had mentioned it.

Some books just have poor quality writing

Sometimes the quality of the writing inside just isn’t very good, you can tell it hasn’t been edited properly and you finish it feeling like you’ve wasted time and money. This tends to be more for self-published books and not those that have been published more traditionally, although it still can happen. A negative review can stop others from giving their time and money to a product that just isn’t worth it.

They add value to the good reviews

I don’t know about you but I’m suspicious of a book with only amazing reviews. Books aren’t one size fits all, it’s impossible for every single person who read a book to think it was worthy of five stars. You simply can’t please everyone. When I see a book with only amazing ratings I tend to get a tad suspicious, especially if the reviews are only from people who were gifted the book for review.

When I come across a book with 40 positive reviews and maybe three negatives, those three negative ones add credibility to the 37 positive ones. I know the author isn’t pulling a fast one and paying people to just leave positive reviews (something that I believe to be very rare). I don’t know if anyone else feels this way, you’ll have to let me know in the comments, maybe I’m just being too suspicious of people.

  1. Honesty – You guys trust my opinions when it comes to books and that’s something I really value. I don’t want to write five-star review after five-star review and you guys to think I’m a sell out and not giving you my honest opinion. If there’s the odd negative review it reinforces that those five-star reviews are genuine and deserving of that rating.
  2. If you’re following my blog, I assume you have a similar taste in books to me – If I didn’t enjoy a book you may not either. I’d hope that I can save you some money by explaining why I didn’t enjoy a certain book.
  3. If you’re not following my blog, you get to know why preferences better– You can have a read through my reviews, see what I do and don’t like in a book and decide if you want to stick around or not.
  4. I started to appreciate that reviews are to help the reader and not stroke the authors’ ego – As someone who is writing their own book and understands just how hard it is, I want to support every author I come across and write positive reviews to help them out. However, on my blog my loyalty has to lie with you guys, the readers. Yes, I want to support fellow writers, but my priority must be helping you guys and if that means writing the odd negative review then so be it.

I won’t be diving into the world of negative reviews right this second, truth be told I’ll never dive with great gusto into it because I don’t like writing them. Authors pour so much of their heart into their book and the last thing I want to do is stamp on it with a great big boot.

If I’m going to be writing the odd negative review, I’m going to do it properly. I want the reviews to be respectful to the author and be well-rounded. The last thing I want is to produce a poorly articulated rant. It’s going to take a bit of time for me to create the type of post that achieves all of this but it’ll be worth it.

Like I said above, I don’t like writing negative reviews. I won’t be going out of my way to review books I didn’t enjoy. I don’t find any pleasure criticising an author’s hard work, people can get surprisingly aggressive when you say you didn’t like their favourite book and I think there’s way too much negativity floating around the internet. However, I now understand the importance of negative reviews and how they benefit the reader. If I feel you guys would benefit from hearing about a book I thought negatively of then I’ll write the post, but by no means will I be actively searching for books I don’t like just to rant about them here.

3 thoughts on “Why I’m learning to write negative book reviews

  1. This is definitely something that should be discussed more. There is definitely value to lower rated reviews. Something that you didn’t mention is that for my website in particular, there is a large variety of books/genres and I know there are some that are a low rating for me however definitely might perk someone else’s ears.

    Loved the post. Happy reading!

    Liked by 1 person

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