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Negativity In Reviews (Discussion + Advice) #Reviewers #BeHonest #Constructive #Discussion #Sharing

Hello everyone and welcome to my first blogger discussion piece here on Always Trust In Books. Me! Trying to give help and advice! I know how it sounds but I know everyone struggles with negativity in the blogging business at one time or another. If you don’t then lucky you but it will arise eventually either internally or externally. The negativity I want to focus on is the criticisms you have towards books that you are unsure you should include in your reviews. I wanted to put our collective heads together and chat about our experiences with being negative in a review and why it is important not to leave out the bad comments within your reviews for fear of sounding unfair or being criticised yourself for having a different opinion.

This is a discussion so I want everyone to pitch in, every opinion matters and no one opinion is right or wrong. I would like reviewers to way-in on the following questions and give their thoughts on how negativity is important when giving your honest opinion about a review. Here are some discussion points I would like people to give their own thoughts and opinions on:

Discussion Points

  • Does leaving out negativity out harm your honest review of a book?
  • Does negativity in reviews stop people from wanting to work with you?
  • Is negativity unappealing to readers? Do people seek out and focus on the bad comments?
  • What would you say is appropriate negativity?
  • Does negativity affect your reputation amongst readers?

Here Are My Thoughts

I do honestly believe that leaving out what you didn’t enjoy or appreciate about the book affects the quality of a review. I can get a sense of a blogger who is glossing over the cracks of their enjoyment in a book by what they don’t say. I appreciate it more when a blogger/reviewer shares the full story of their reading experience. Negativity doesn’t harm your reputation as a reviewer as long as it is constructive and personal. I often talk about elements I didn’t enjoy about a book that other readers could enjoy or get behind.

Outright bashing a book because you feel you wasted your time with it is not cool and that will get people’s attention in a bad way. The book is already written and the author has poured their life into it so there is no point telling us ‘how you would do it differently’ but speaking about what parts you disliked is fair and encouraged. When you take the time to talk about a book, no matter whether you liked it or not, people listen and your dislikes may spark the attention of another reader’s interest.

I feel that the readers of my blog don’t focus on the negativity but it is noted. I have had people say to me that they get why I didn’t get along with a certain book but they will still give it a go because it sounds more like their type of read. I find it unappealing when I am reading a review that is all glossy and rosy without a murmur of distaste. I get there are books that are borderline perfect in your eyes, I have read many myself, but people can tell when your not being genuine. People approach bloggers because they value all of our opinions, not just the handpicked ones.

As I said before, negativity has to be productive or at least personal otherwise it is just ugly. Saying a book is ‘sh*t’ or telling people ‘not bother with it’ is not good. People understand that not all books sit well with readers but I like to encourage a certain group or style of reader to pick up the book. A group that I feel would appreciate so much more than I did. Turning negativity into a positive is a bonus in my eyes and differences in opinion exist to help us understand instead of creating conflict. Criticisms are there to guide others and if you start trying to dictate what people should and shouldn’t read then it won’t sit well with readers.

What do you think? Has what I said agreed with you? Am I wrong? What are your thoughts on negativity in reviews? Discuss!

Thank you for stopping by to check out my first discussion post! I don’t know how it is going to go but I felt the topic is worth discussing. If this post goes well then I will attempt to bring up some other prominent issues and ideas in blogging in the future. If you don’t get on with this post then please let me know, I am always looking for feedback on new posts. Thanks for all of your support and I look forward to reading all your thoughts on this very important matter. See you in the comments!

44 thoughts on “Negativity In Reviews (Discussion + Advice) #Reviewers #BeHonest #Constructive #Discussion #Sharing

  1. I’m a firm believer in highlighting the things you think are a negative. I’d feel bad if someone bought a book based on my review and then sent me a message saying ‘how come you didn’t mention the fact that the formatting was non-existent’ or that the author left glaring plot holes.
    As an author myself, seeing the negative aspects helps me see what I can do better. And any author who doesn’t believe their work should have negative points highlighted should just self-publish and distribute to friends and family.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I appreciate honest reviews and I really like reading a bit more than only positives.. so if you give me a choice I’d rather read a nuanced review than an overall positive one. I like it frank, but of course without being told not to read a novel. Even when I share some of my disappointment with a novel, I’ll always try to give some positives too. I really don’t think this can affect a blogger negatively, on the contrary. Great discussion post!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I think it’s important to be honest, and to work a little harder when it comes to a book that didn’t sit right with me, to really try and uncover what it was that didn’t suit me, but without putting potential readers off picking it up. My idea of a successful review of a book I didn’t really like, is that it provokes to readers to pick it up for themselves, after all, we know not everyone has the same taste.

    I’ve just read a book that was very well received for many, but did nothing for me and so I’ll be trying to put together my thoughts on what it was about it that meant I felt differently to others. I love the challenge of that exercise. I do look at what I’ve written though and ask myself how I would receive it if I were the author, that ensures we don’t fall into the trap of being lazy and unappreciative, but as a writer, I’d want constructive feedback, so I make sure I try to explain it as best I can. However I do think often, that books trigger things in readers and therefore, the fault isn’t always with what’s written, but with what life experience we bring to it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I totally agree. What works for one may not work for another. Life experience on top of that is another hurdle to how we perceive a book. Our time as bloggers should be spent guiding readers instead of trying to directly influence what they should and shouldn’t read.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I personally don’t go on recommendations by bloggers who never say anything negative in their book reviews – quite frequently bloggers use my personal opinions on my review to state how they struggled with an aspect of the book too and yet when I check out their review it raves about how good it was. I don’t ever outright slate a book but if there are parts that didn’t work for me personally (and a review is a personal opinion whether good or bad) I say so. That said other bloggers are absolutely free to blog/ review in a way that suits them best

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Keeping it personal is important and purely positive reviews are certainly off putting. I really enjoy the reviews you write because they are fair. I just want to let people who are unsure about including certain aspects of their reading experiences (and I have spoken to quite a few) that it is fine as long as it is personal and not unhelpful.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. My blog is just a hobby and for fun and so I tend to have very few negative reviews because I simply don’t feel the need to read books that I’m not enjoying and I don’t review books that I haven’t finished. Plus, I think it makes me unreasonably angry if I force myself to read a book I’m not enjoying because it’s wasting my time – but, like you said, the book is already out there and the author has poured their heart and soul into it – and I don’t like book bashing or snarky reviews, so, for me, it’s better not to read it and stay calm.
    But, yes, I do feel that I should be true to my own thoughts when I review a book so if I have any negative comments or criticisms then I do include these. Clearly, I’ve finished the book so I’ve enjoyed it but sometimes I have reservations and I like to point those out. Otherwise it’s not really a complete review is it. I don’t want to gloss things over any more than I want to be overly critical but constructive comments are okay and when I read other reviews that are similar I find that I really appreciate the heads up.
    Lynn 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think negativity has a part to play in reviews. I guess no-one likes to focus on the negative but it has its place in reviews. I think the thing with negativity is that if it’s a negative review then you also need to look for and highlight the positives in the book and not just bash it. Same for positive reviews. If something doesn’t work for you in the book, etc then it should be mentioned to go along with the positive.

    I think the main thing with negativity though is that it needs to be constructive. You can’t just say that a no is crap, bad, sh#t, etc. You need to tell the person reading your review why you felt that way and not just that you did. Let’s be honest, a review that consists solely of ‘the book was crap, I hated it, don’t read it, if others like it they are wrong as it’s sh#t’ doesn’t help anyone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly. I don’t want people who are scared of being negative to think that people are not going to appreciate your dislikes as well as your likes. Book bashing pisses me off because it is intellectually redundant. People think their opinion is law when really out thoughts are just a guide. We all blog because we enjoy chatting about books in diverse ways. Good or bad but clearly personal.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I always appreciate honest reviews. I prefer to read both +ve and -ve opinion. Even if reader has DNF the book I want to read their thoughts. It helps in knowing what went wrong, why readers didn’t like it, or if I chose to read that book, I would know if it will be okay with me or not. If I like the main theme then I’m going to read the book whether it got more +ve or -ve thoughts, it won’t change my decision. I guess most authors want honest review and even if we rate it low, they like to know why it didn’t work for us. I do agree that we should not say that it was bad or give a statement that can hurt author’s feeling. It’s good to analyze than criticize, that’s what reviews should be.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It seems to be a decision between leaving out the negativity or including it in meaningful way that is personal but can also spark other readers attention. We all know what is easier but we all agree that reviews that cover all opinions are more welcome. I want up and coming bloggers to read exactly the kind comment you have written here. Helping not hurting but fundamentally honest.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I definitely think readers of our blogs deserve the true, honest opinion. I do tend to mention things I didn’t like. I even do a post about books I DNF or didn’t like very much because I know that some people might enjoy the book. It’s never to meant to be taken as a ‘stay away from these books!’ they just didn’t work for me and I think it’s important to say that. No one loves every book. That’s just unrealistic! Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I find this such a tough topic because of what you said – someone poured their life into a book. But like you, I try as much as possible to be constructive in a way that lets others know what they might actually like or appreciate even though I didn’t. That’s the hardest to do when I really disliked a book, but if I went to the trouble of finishing it, then I try to focus on what drove me to actually finish as there might be some value there for someone else. I think it’s easiest to include a negative aspect or drawback even in a glowing review because like you said, rarely is a book SO perfect as to not have anything detracting about it. It can be really tough though, I’ve had two recent ARCs that I really didn’t enjoy yet for some reason pushed through and finished and I’m struggling with how to review them. It’s a good challenge, I guess. Excellent, thoughtful post!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I don’t believe in book bashing for the sake of it, but an honest review is essential. Constructive criticism is something the author – hopefully – would take on board, especially if specific points are mentioned more than once or twice. I appreciate the time and effort that goes into writing a book, but the other side of the coin being the author should also make sure their work is edited and proofread properly.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I totally agree with you that you can tell if someone isn’t being honest with their review, so I always try to be as honest as possible without being too harsh (I still wonder if I am too critical sometimes but I’ll still post them) I don’t like just out and out destroying a book though, I’m actually put off other bloggers if they harp on about how terrible it was but don’t give any real reasons for why, I think even if you are talking about negatives you should aim for constructive criticism not just shooting down an author and their work 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just talking about a book in any regard can encourage others to read it. You can be totally honest and still get people reading books. Like you say, it is just those who think their word is law and they can say what ever they want that are causing issues. Be honest but use negavity in an appropriate way.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Full disclosure: I split my blogging time between beer and books, but I feel like the issue of negativity is definitely relevant to both.

    I’ve actually spent a good amount of time thinking about this lately and have come to the conclusion that eventually having negative opinions about something you are reviewing is inevitable. Even the luckiest and most selective among us will eventually come across material we don’t like and it is disingenuous to just be cheerleader for everything we touch.

    I do share the belief that negativity by itself is unproductive and generally off-putting. If I don’t like something, I (ideally) try to make it a point to explain why and explore whether or not the reasoning behind that opinion is due to my own particular preferences or if something in the source material would be considered deficient by a reasonable assembly of the intended audience. It is entirely possible something I couldn’t stand might be exactly what someone else is looking for! It’s also possible I found a dud. I see it as my place to give the reader the information to decide and they can take or leave my opinion based on that.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I think it’s important to be completely honest in a review and if that means including some negative points, so be it. Providing a reason behind the negativity helps too, so other readers can understand what in particular didn’t work for the reviewer. Since everyone has their own opinions, this helps the reader to decide if a book is for them or not – something that might be a negative for you or me might be a positive for someone else.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is so true. You saying what is on your mind is hugely important but you’re right, as long as it is constructive then other readers may think it was a shame you didn’t enjoy it but they will give it a go as it sounds pretty good to them. Just taking the time to explain can make or break a review.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Honesty is the best policy. When I review a book I write a what I liked and What I didn’t like section. There are some books that I can’t find fault in and I say that. Other times I explain what I didn’t like about the book/character/storyline. We are writing about our experience with the book.
    However, I do think it is important that it is constructive and not negative toward the author. I do try to find things even with books that I didn’t enjoy that I liked about them. Even if I thought the writing was good or I liked certain aspects of the characters. I do try to make the review as balanced as possible.
    I think that this is a relevant conversation to have as bloggers.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I get asked about negativity quite a lot because people are worried that publishers or authors won’t want to work with them or it might offend someone and this is basically the advice I give them. Be true but fair.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. 🙂 Exactly. I think that they would stop working with someone who attacked the author. But creative critisim should be welcome by publishers and authors as it shows areas that the author can improve in.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. This is a great discussion post! I specifically made a point to read this before publishing my next review for a book which didn’t work out for me that well. I don’t know what I was expecting… mainly because I have lately come across so many ‘advocates’ for no negativity in reviews, and ‘ohh, if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it at all- so I have been feeling like the freaking Satan incarnate! 😀

    BUT- reading your post and others’ comments, I feel like I have found the mojo and the gang that stands for what is common sense and logical. I agree with not just bashing the book/author with no reason. Never down with that but if there was genuinely an element in the book that rubbed the wrong way then it’s OK to address it in the review… hell, that’s what a review is for!

    Thank you for this post… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I think it’s important to be honest and it can be done without being harsh or disrespectful. I don’t write reviews when I DNF, but I write about books that I haven’t liked that much.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I feel that honesty should include the good and the bad. As long as you can back it up, you have every right to state it. You can’t just say ‘I didn’t like this book’. You CAN say ‘I didn’t like THESE ASPECTS of the book, because…’ I don’t know if that has ever hurt my chances of reading anyone’s work. I’ve been honest from the start and even posted a couple 2-2 1/2 star reviews. I feel that if that hurts your relationship with authors then they aren’t strong enough to take some constructive criticism or they’re not strong enought to stand behind their work. As long as you’re not being NEGATIVE, but being constructive, it should be an issue.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Great comments here and I agree with most of them. I hate reading reviews with profanity in them. I have seen some that totally bashed a book using terms that were not called for. If you did not like a book you can say so without all the extra. I definitely agree with the comment above about being constructive, not negative. If I have read a book and really did not like it for whatever reason, I try to say why. If I did not finish it, I do not review it. Often it is not the book but perhaps the genre or story that did not appeal to me. If that is the case, there are still things to like such as the prose, the descriptions etc. Having said all that, I am somewhat of a chicken and if I can’t find nice things to say, I might not review that book. I do not put every review on my blog that I have put on Goodreads for example. Having said that, as a reader of blogs, I appreciate knowing why the blogger liked the book and why they didn’t. It is not the only thing I use to determine if I will read something, but it has some influence. Great topic!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I do worry about being negative in my review when I don’t gel with books – but I try to do what you have suggested and show that while I didn’t enjoy it, other readers might. Every reader is different, and authors know that.
    Unless it’s an absolutely glowing review and I want the author to know about it, I rarely share my review with authors on social media, because I blog for fellow readers.
    My personal concern is that people think i’m too positive in my reviews – but recently, I have genuinely really liked almost everything that I’ve read haha!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am on a bit of a streak myself but that is because I am handpicking the books I read more now than I ever have. I don’t think people should try and find things wrong with books but just feel confident enough to share a few reservations and constructive feedback if it arises.

      Like

      1. No, I understand that balance is good (so many years being told to discuss both sides of an argument in essays) but there’s no point being picky just to do that. Like you mentioned, it’s about conveying your own reading experience ☺

        Liked by 1 person

  20. Hi Stuart, fab post. I actually respect reviewers more if they are honest about not getting on with a book. Of course there’s no need for rudeness but as you said if it’s done in a constructive way that’s great. I do feel guilty about writing negative reviews sometimes but I have to honest at the end of the day. I try if I can to find something positive to say about the book that other readers might like even if I didn’t necessarily get on with it. 🤔

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Beth, it was really beneficial to open up this discussion so I am grateful for the all the excellent responses. I am glad you feel comfortable including the parts of reading a book that you didn’t enjoy. Hopefully more people will read this and open up a bit more too.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. I love this idea, of having a discussion like about blogging, so thank you for hosting! And it’s a nice controversial topic to begin with!

    Firstly, I think it’s important to always be *honest* when you’re reviewing. Thats not the same as always being negative; if you only have positives to say, then that’s fine, that’s your honest opinion. But if there are things you felt that were negative, then not including those negative opinions isn’t really an honest review.

    I haven’t received any complaints about my review style, and I haven’t had anyone say they won’t work with me again. In the early days of my blogging I was approached and asked to review someone’s book, and I had to DNF it. The author was understanding, appreciating that we don’t all have the same taste, but the author didn’t want me to review it and didn’t want to hear my thoughts on why I DNF so I didn’t publish anything. I’m not sure if I would take that approach now I’ve reviewed more books, I probably would still voice my opinion and an explanation on why I didn’t like it.

    Which leads me on to my next point about being “negative”. Not enjoying something, disliking something, even hating something, is fine. We are all different, have different tastes, etc; the world would be a monotonous place otherwise. And so that is perfectly fine. But I dislike negative opinions that aren’t substantiated; if you didn’t like something, explain why you didn’t like it. Just screaming your hate into the void isn’t going to help anyone; how can your reader assess for themselves if what you didn’t enjoy they wouldn’t either? “I hated this character, they grated across my nerves; it felt like their constant quips and come backs was just trying to hard”. Your reader may think, “oh hey, I quite like a mouthy character that makes a lot of jokes, maybe I’ll like this book even if this blogger didn’t”.

    So basically, everything that you said only less eloquently 😅

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I agree with everything you said. It’s important to be honest, you’re readers trust your judgment and that’s why they connect with your book blog. Also authors can faith in your feedback. Negative reviews should be given in a helpful and not harmful way. Although, I haven’t had the heart to post a book review of below 3 stars. Mostly because I can’t finish those books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I gave a 2.5/5 review once and I still think about it 😅. I think having a spotlight on us can bend our opinions in the books favour but like you said, dislikes are just as important as they highlight key aspects of the book that other may think ‘that sounds brilliant’. I am glad you enjoyed the post!

      Liked by 1 person

  23. This is a very interesting post! I must admit I very much struggle with constructive criticism when it comes to review. I can say what I didn’t particularly like, and very much keep it to the book and not make it personal to the author/publisher.

    But I always worry that by doing this it will create ‘bad blood’. But this post has been really positive, as I’m still new to the world of blogging it’s given me some really great tips on how to handle it.

    Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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