Negative Reviews Are the Highest Form of Respect

negative reviews are a sign of respect

Many reviewers choose not to write negative reviews out of respect for authors.  Often they wish to acknowledge the effort it takes to write a book by focusing only on the positive.  Additionally, they may feel that that writing a negative review is mean.  A negative review, however, does not have to written in a mean spirit, nor does it mean that the effort of an author is overlooked.  Rather, a negative review is the highest form of respect because it engages with the text honestly and assumes that the author, if reading any reviews, does so because they are serious enough about their craft to want to improve.

Most reviewers who offer negative critiques probably do so because they are writing for readers–not authors.  By the time the book is published, the author is not going to be making any changes (usually), so critiques of how the plot was slow, the premise nonsensical, or the characterization poor are not meant to be taken as suggested areas of revision.  Rather, they are meant to help readers make an informed decision about how to spend their money or their time.  In this way, negative reviews show respect for readers.

However, some authors do read reviews (even if they are generally advised not to) and, in this case, a negative review is a sign of respect to them.  A negative review is not a mean review–it does not attack the author personally, but rather points out areas in the book that could be improved.  Serious writers want to know this.  They understand that receiving only positive reviews, while gratifying, does little to help them continue to hone their craft.  Negative reviews, however, provide opportunities for growth.  Negative reviews, in this sense, are not negative at all.

A negative review is not a personal indictment.  One negative review, or even a series of them, does not mean that a person is a terrible writer and will always remain so.  Rather, a negative review is a gesture towards a possible future, one that can be created with time and effort.  Criticism is not inherently bad or hurtful.  Given with charity, criticism is a helping hand.

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44 thoughts on “Negative Reviews Are the Highest Form of Respect

  1. Tamika @paperback & flick chick says:

    I agree. Negative reviews are extremely important especially for fellow readers. I think they are mainly written for fellow readers to be able to decide if a book will be for them or not. As not everyone is going to like every single book and there is too little time in life to waste it on a book you wont like. I also think that there is a way to write negative review respectfully or disrespectfully and reviewers should always aim to be respectful even if a book was terrible.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, precisely! Reviews are really to help readers decide if they want to invest time and money into a book. If there were no negative reviews, there’d be no point to reading or writing reviews.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, I have heard of some scary reactions! However, I think it’s important for authors to remember that not everyone shares the same tastes and not everyone can be pleased. One reviewer’s one-star book is another’s five-star book. So a negative review is not necessarily the end of a career!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Kim says:

    I am glad you said this. I think people should be able to honestly discuss books. As long as it is critiqued respectfully, it can help the author and readers.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, if we didn’t have negative reviews, there’d be no point to reviews, would there? They’d all be the same and we couldn’t trust that a positive review meant anything!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Stephanie says:

    I think there’s this idea that if a reader sees a negative review they won’t read the book when the fact is a properly written negative review can actually make you want to read the book. I read an entire series because of a negative review I saw for the first book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      I’ve read plenty of books I’ve seen negative reviews for! Often, the reviewer and I simply don’t share the same tastes or value the same things in a literary work. So I don’t think negative reviews are necessarily as detrimental as people may think.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Stephanie says:

        Exactly! If a negative review specifically names what it was about the book that the reviewer didn’t like, then it’s helpful. I think there’s this idea that if someone writes a negative review then that means they think the book is bad, which isn’t always the case.

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        • Krysta says:

          That is true. Plus, I think you can objectively recognize that something is not well-written but sometimes still enjoy it for entertainment purposes. For instance, I’ve seen a lot of Hallmark Christmas movies. They are not, I would argue, well-written. Most of them are, in fact, the same plot recycled. Most people who watch Hallmark know this. But there’s something incredibly entertaining about watching them and waiting for the tropes to appear.

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  4. Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

    Yes! I completely agree. I try to publish my DNF, 1 and 2 star reviews occasionally. Originally, it started as a way to help people solve for Tsundoku. Because you shouldn’t read books which don’t interest you (also, me). Life is too short to read books you aren’t interested in. I tend to follow people who enjoy books similar the ones I like. I feel like I need to share these opinions to help nurture other TBRs.

    But over time I’ve realized how important they are for helping authors grow. It doesn’t even have to be the author who wrote the book! There are lessons everywhere.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, I’m trying to get better about not finishing books I don’t like! I usually feel bad, like maybe the ending will justify the terrible 300 pages that preceded it. XD But sometimes, I think, you just have to know when to move onto something you’re actually enjoying.

      Like

  5. Miri ♪ Book Dragoness ♪ says:

    Lovely post, Krysta! It takes a lot of time and work for reviewers to explain what and why something didn’t work so even if the review is ouchy for the author (well negative reviews all are), it would be great for the author to try to appreciate the effort.

    The only trouble I might see here is that some advice that works for one book doesn’t necessarily work for another. An obvious case: suggesting to quicken the pacing doesn’t help much if the next book the author is writing is one that needs a slow buildup. But even then, it’s the author’s job to distinguish what is the *most* helpful so it might not really be an issue. /ramble

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      In some ways, I think authors should generally avoid reading reviews. Of course, maybe if I were an author and I were reviewed by a big publication like Kirkus or School Library Journal, I’d just have to look. But I also think there’s something to be said for avoiding all mentions of your name on the Internet! It’s probably better for your emotional well-being!

      But I think authors who seek out reviews generally know they’re going to find some positive ones and some negatives ones, and they have to decide what they’ll take away. It’s impossible to please everyone, so you have to seriously think about whether or not it’s really true your middle section was rushed, or whatever. If it is, okay! You have something to think about for your next book!

      So, yeah, I definitely agree. An author can look at reviews and/or advice, but it’s up to them to decide what they want to do with their project and what they think will work best. I know I used to get some wildly diverging peer reviews in school. One person would basically say my paper was trash and the other would say I had to change nothing (flattering, but not helpful). Ultimately, it was my job to decide which person to listen to/which parts to listen to. Sometimes I ignored everyone and did what I thought was best. It generally worked out.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Miri ♪ Book Dragoness ♪ says:

        I agree that it’s generally better not to read reviews. I’m an aspiring writer so if I do get published, I will stay away from reviews :p

        And haha, yes about critiques. Some are helpful and some (usually blanket comments) are not. And sometimes listening and trying to apply too much advice can lead to that adage “Too many cooks spoil the soup” or my Anne of Avonlea version: “Too many cooks makes peas too sweet”

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  6. Charvi says:

    I totally get your point. However I feel that there are two kinds of negative reviews- ones that offer constructive criticism and help the author grow and the other that just hate on the book. I feel that those two should be separated. Great review!

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, I think a good negative review gives well-reasoned evidence for any claims made by the reviewer. Though some people do like to hate on books–I think because people read those types of reviews for entertainment? I think you could write a funny negative review that’s not mean-spirited. Kind of like the “How it should have ended” series for movies. I think those are good-natured fun, even if they aren’t constructive criticism.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Grab the Lapels says:

    I’ve actually read that having negative reviews will increase the sales of a book, because the people who did really enjoy it will show up and defend the writer in the book in the negative book review. It starts more of a debate than all these positive reviews.

    Like

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      That’s very interesting and kind of makes sense if you even just think about how often people are suspicious if something has *only* negative reviews. Like, is it only this person’s friends and family reviewing? Are they bots? Negative reviews let you know “real” people are reading, so the positive reviews are probably real, too. And, yes, it increases discussion!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      Interesting! I can definitely see that happening, though! You want to support something you love! If it seems universally supported, you have no reason to go out and visibly support it.

      Like

  8. Alexandra says:

    Thanks for writing this post. I know many will appreciate it, and what you’re telling readers.

    I write negative reviews. I write negative reviews for the people who visit my blog and want to know what I thought about the book I just read. I want to be honest, and make sure that people have options in making an informed decision about who to read and buy. Just as I do. I appreciate a reviewer taking the time (knowing how many hostile comments they might get) to write what they thought, as long as it’s honest.

    And personally, a review is a review, whatever side they fall on, positive or negative.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Negative reviews are what make reviews worthwhile! We don’t need people to tell us only how amazing everything is! (Book lovers always start off by assuming all books are amazing, right? Haha.) Negative reviews help assure us that we’re getting an honest, balanced opinion.

      That’s not to say everyone has to write negative reviews. I respect people who like to focus on the positive and just promote books they love. But there’s room for all kinds of reviews, negative and positive.

      And, really, my negative review is one opinion. One that many people feel free to ignore! Sometimes what I think is a terrible book will make people say, “Oh, hey, that book sounds great!” People have different tastes, after all.

      Like

  9. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    Absolutely love this post! Very much agree about it being out of respect for readers- I write reviews so people can be informed and make their own decisions. Even if I write a positive review, I think people should take on board what I liked might not be to their tastes eg if I praise a book for taking its time, then the reader can infer that it’s slow paced and they might not like that. And just because a reviewer has written a negative review doesn’t mean it’s a bad book- it could just be a subjective opinion. I personally don’t write reviews for authors, but would like to think that if an author did go looking for my negative review (I never @ authors so I’ve no idea if they’d even see it), they’d take it in the spirit it was intended. Anyway, really liked your thoughts on this one!

    Like

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