Why I’m slightly scared to write negative reviews

So here’s the thing.

The book blogging community is a very tight-knit community. And I love that about it! It also means, though, that many authors read my reviews of their books. Some I’ve interacted with on Twitter even before I’ve read their books. So sometimes I’m kind of scared to write negative reviews of books – because authors put so much time into them, and they’re just so dang nice!



I don’t actually write too many negative reviews.

Most of my reviews talk about at least SOMETHING I liked. Probably the exception to this is Allegiant, which I…okay, let’s not talk about that one. But I didn’t feel bad about my negative review of that, because as if Veronica Roth’s going to read my review!! She’s got enough awesome fans 🙂

Often, it’s not the fault of a book when I don’t enjoy it. I didn’t like We Were Liars that much despite how EVERYONE else seemed to love it – and the same is true with Throne of Glass. And I DO say in my reviews that mine is an unpopular opinion, and other people might love it.

This scaredy-cat-ness is mostly for the smaller-scale books – the ones by small presses or Aussie authors whom I have connected with. Because even before I read the book, I think OH MY GOSH, WHAT IF I DON’T LIKE IT AND I HAVE TO WRITE A NEGATIVE REVIEW? HOW WILL I EVER TALK TO THAT AUTHOR AGAIN?


But as much as I’d like to, I cannot enjoy every book.

Because the other thing is that if I were to write a glowing review of every book, they would all sound the same, and it would diminish the books I really DID like/love.

As a writer, I’ve thought about this a lot as well. I mean, yes, I wouldn’t be ecstatic with negative reviews, but at the same time, I appreciate that honesty is the best policy when reviewing. As long as the honesty doesn’t extend to bashing. Because that’s not cool.

So in the end, I don’t think we should feel guilty/scared for posting a less-than-positive review, because we’re NOT going to love every book we read, and I don’t want to be dishonest in how I review books. So, to all the authors whose books I may not enjoy: I’m very sorry! I’m sure you’re lovely and awesome and I want to meet ALL of you. But no matter how much of themselves authors put into their books, they are NOT their books, and we can interact with authors separately from their work.

Those are my thoughts, anyway.

Excuse my rambling thoughts. I’ve been writing essays and I’m a bit brain-dead right now.


So how about you?

Are you like me, scared to post negative reviews? Or are you more of a tough critic (you guys know who I’m talking to)? Maybe I’m just too much of a softie. I need to work on that.


39 thoughts on “Why I’m slightly scared to write negative reviews

  1. I have a hard time writing negative reviews. Before I post I always ask myself, “If that was what someone said about my book would I be personally hurt?” Because there is a difference between writing an honest review and bashing the writer. I did not read the Twilight books, that’s not what I like to read; but I feel bad for her (I can’t think of the authors name). So many people bash her that haven’t even read the books. If I was her (even with the money she has gotten from the books), I would still feel hurt.

    • Oh good, it’s not just me. There is definitely a difference between an honest review and bashing, and I see a LOT of reviews crossing that line, which makes me sad. I do feel bad for Stephanie Meyer, and I feel awful that I was once one of those people (the HP fandom is very intent on Twilight-bashing!).

  2. I don’t have a hard time with negative reviews, but I’ve never been in your situation. I have never developed relationships with the authors that I read. However, I see where you are coming from and would be in the same boat if I had a personal connection to the author I was reviewing.

  3. Sometimes I feel bad about a negative review, sometimes not, especially if I suffered through and finished something truly awful. Most of the time if I’m not liking a book I DNF it and then don’t review it or give an abbreviated review. I have been contacted by authors about a couple of my negative or middle-of-road reviews and felt a little bad about those. I stood by my review though cause in the end it is just one person’s opinion. Like you said we are not going to love everything we read, and most authors understand that. Negative reviews help them to though. If a book only has glowing reviews I’m a little more skeptical about just how great it is going to be. I have to stop and think or judge if they are just all reviews from people they know. Like you though I try and find something nice to say or express my criticism as gently as possible stressing that this is just one person’s opinion. In the end an honest review, good or bad, is a valuable commodity to an author.

    • It depends for me as well. Sometimes if it’s a really popular book then I don’t mind as much, because the positive reviews far outweigh my negative one. But then if I’m one of the only ones who’s reviewed it so far, I feel kind of bad. I’ve never DNFd a book, though…yet. Too much of a perfectionist 😛 OMG though, authors have never contacted me about a review – that sounds terrifying!

  4. This is such a great post! And I think it’s a topic that every book blogger has a problem with… It’s awful to write something negative about a book.
    I don’t write negative reviews, if I don’t like something I rather not write anything as my blog is positive only. I can’t like every book, it’s just not possible. So when someone asks me if I want to read a book I tell them I will only do it if they’re okay with my review policy. I never announce it when I’m reading a book I don’t like. It appears as if I’ve never read it…
    Sometimes constructive criticism can be good, you can also help someone. As long as it isn’t rude and slagging off I think it’s great you’re taking the author’s feelings into account, but are still expressing your opinions.

    • That’s what I thought – or hoped, anyway. I know some reviewers have no problem with negative reviews, but I’ve really only started this year, so I’m not as experienced with it, lol. I think you’re right – there’s no way we can like every book.

  5. I am such a softie when it comes to reviewing books. For example, when I read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, I was about to rate it one or two stars due to the clunky writing and Bruno’s unrealistic innocence. Then, as I wrote the review, I started trying to think of more things that I liked about the book and I upped my rating to three stars. I just feel really bad rating books so low because I know how much work goes into a book. My Goodreads average rating is 4.16, which is REALLY HIGH. It’s either I’m way too easy on books or I pick my books wisely. It’s probably a mixture of both.

    • I’m a bit of a softie too, haha 😛 I can count on one hand the amount of books I’ve given below three stars this year. OH WOW, I thought I was the only one who didn’t like The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas!! Bruno annoyed me SO MUCH OH MY GOSH. 4.16 is a pretty high rating, but I mean, every reviewer is different, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing 🙂

  6. I think I’ve embraced the idea that everyone has different likes and dislikes regarding books. I believe that as long as you state that it’s just your opinion then it isn’t too bad. Also, when I write a negative review, I try to bring in my morals as a person, because that’s mostly the main reason why I didn’t like a book. Honestly, I’ve never really had the issue of crappy writing when I read a book. I generally sum the “writing” up to be all the components of the novel such as world-building, word choice, character consistency, etc. Therefore, I break it down piece by piece and criticize those components rather than just say, “The writing sucked.” I’ve never had to deal with indie authors as of yet, and I’m pretty sure I will handle those books the same way as published authors. As long as I bring in personal reasons, I feel as though negative reviews are more case-to-case rather than the book simply sucking. Also, usually at the end of a negative review, I’ll again state that some people may like it because the book is the type of books that they enjoy.

    Long, block paragraph! Sorry :3

    • That is very true. And hopefully there’s going to be people who DO like the book, so my negative review won’t hold as much weight. I try to say why other people might have liked it as well. Interesting point about crappy writing, though. I guess when I think of poor writing, it’s how it feels unrealistic, the author rather than the character…which, yeah, goes back to character, I suppose 😛 I don’t review many indie books either, mostly because I just don’t have the time (and also I don’t review ebooks).

  7. I used to be so afraid I’d hate a book as well when I first started blogging, but as the months passed, I realised that in order to maintain integrity, I had to show that I’m not a fangirl for everything. It’s definitely hard, especially when it’s for an author you love talking to. What I do is talk about the positive and negative, and offer feedback and criticism that I believe would be beneficial. I would never, ever author bash or talk about why I hated a certained thing without elaborating. I’m pretty sure you already do all this though, so I don’t think I’m stating anything new 😛

    • In that case, I have hope that it will pass 😛 I mean, I only started blogging PROPERLY this year, so yeah 🙂 I do all those things (I hope). I don’t just say “I hated it” without explaining why, because that might be something a reader would LOVE in a book!

  8. I have the same problems also whenever I’m writing negative reviews on books I don’t like. I understand that the author put so much work into writing those books but at the same time, I don’t want to give all the books I’ve read positive ratings unless I really enjoyed them, because it takes away from exploring different kinds of books and I sometimes feel a little dishonest if I just gave the book a positive review just because I don’t want to give out a negative review.

  9. I’ve only really reviewed one book, and it was a negative one. I think negative reviews are really great so long as you aren’t bashing the book relentlessly, or the author for that matter.

  10. I don’t like to write negative reviews. If I don’t like a book, I won’t review it – unless of course I’ve been giving a copy for review purposes, then I’ll write an honest review, negative or otherwise. The thing is, I hardly ever have to write a negative review. I’m picky about the books I read and I’m usually very good at picking books I’ll like.

  11. This is a really interesting topic! Though I feel absolutely horrible writing negative reviews… I still do. You’re right — we’re not going to like every book we read! Unfortunately. As much as I’d like to, it’s just not going to happen. I think the worst thing is that personally, I actually find it really easy to write negative reviews. That sounds horrible, I know. But usually if a review is negative, then I’m going to have lots to say about it. On the other hand, though, I also find it easy to write five star reviews. 🙂

    • Thanks, Kara 😛 I’m full of interesting-ness. I still will write negative reviews as well, because I’m not sure I’d be able to get away with only positive reviews – I’m a softie, but even I don’t like every book I read! I agree that negative reviews are often easier to write, because pinning down what you LOVED about a book is difficult 😛

  12. I’m lucky that the books I usually pick out to read are ones that I end up liking – but yes, occasionally there are those which don’t go down too well. At the end of the day, reading comes down to personal preference, and it is subjective. I do feel bad writing negative reviews, but even still I try to look for the positives and write something balanced (unless it really is just plain bad – and that doesn’t happen often).

    • Same with me! But I do get surprise copies from publishers, and I often don’t enjoy those. And sometimes I think I’ll love a book and I…don’t. Like We Were Liars. I still try to write a balanced review, except for that one time I reviewed Allegiant and…just ranted about it, lol.

  13. This post is brilliant Em, and so incredibly relevant for what seems to be going on with a few select authors lately. I’m of the same mind, even a book I didn’t enjoy, unless it was absolutely awful, most still have redeeming aspects and I like to highlight those as well as what didn’t work for me. The problem lately is that some authors (and only a small few) seem to take it upon themselves to belittle reviewers who didn’t enjoy their work. One implied that we must all be failed writers ourselves. As long as we’re respectful, we’re entitled to discuss a book however we see fit. I think authors need to keep it in perspective, even a negative review is still publicity, but going off your nuts because a reader didn’t enjoy it? Then you’ve lost half your audience.

    • I actually haven’t had that response from authors – it’s more that I really enjoy talking to them on Twitter or whatever. But that’s AWFUL. Reminds me of the indie author who was saying that bloggers should be ashamed of themselves for not reading/reviewing indie books. Like, as a writer, I totally do not understand going off at someone for not liking their book. Because I realise that not everyone can like every book – that would be impossible! Ugh, I’m glad I’ve never had that experience before.

  14. I’m really not that afraid of writing negative reviews, I think it just comes with the hobby really, not everything will appeal and you should say why I think. I quite like being able to get my annoyance and frustration out in a book that didn’t impress me (I mean, like 0.5 stars type level) and it’s wonderful, but I really try not to bash, I will snark and be angry though, sometimes, very sometimes.. great post though Emily 🙂

    • That’s very true 🙂 There are good and bad parts of reviewing, definitely – negative reviews just happen to be one of my least favourite parts, haha. I can totally understand wanting to vent about a book, but luckily I’m pretty good at choosing books I’m going to like 🙂

  15. I really don’t have a problem with writing negative reviews…but that’s probably because I’m not really a very nice person.
    That being said, I do often feel bad when I don’t like a book, especially when it has so much potential, but that doesn’t change the fact that I didn’t like it.
    Of course, I would never be horrible about it, and if someone else loves a book that I absolutely hated, then that’s fine by me. I might go on and on about how much I disliked a book to my sister or my mum, but I wouldn’t do that online, because when I do that, I’m essentially bashing the book, which is not something I do publicly (because that’s mean, and while I’m not a nice person, I’m not a horrible person either).
    And I do sometimes get worried about not liking books…especially when I’ve won the book, or if I’ve met/talked to the author before. But, again, if I don’t like it, I don’t like it.
    Also, I find it easier to talk about things I didn’t like, as opposed to things I did, because I find that the things I like are often hard to describe, whereas the things I dislike are usually pretty obvious. So, generally speaking, even if I loved the book, I would probably focus on the problems I had with it.

    • HAHA. I think you’re a nice person 🙂 Just maybe not someone who cares about what others think, which is often a good thing.

      Ah yes, books with potential. It’s always sad when I’m SO excited to read a book and then it just doesn’t follow through. LOL, I go on about books to my sister as well (okay, one book in particular – Allegiant), but certainly not on my blog. But you’re right – I can’t change the fact that I don’t like it.

      And you’re right that it’s often easier to review books I don’t like, whereas I often love books for no quantifiable reason 😛

  16. Pingback: Stacking the Shelves: the MEGA EDITION | The Loony Teen Writer

  17. I’m totally like you as well! Even though I don’t interact with that many authors, it’s still kind of daunting. I’ve written negative reviews and then had authors tweet me before and it’s hella scary! I do try to be as honest as I can and I feel like as long as I’m not completely bashing the book, it should be okay. 😀

  18. I don’t feel daunted at all, mainly because when I write negative reviews, I make sure that my points are all valid, and if it’s something subjective, I make a disclaimer saying that it is. I think a good author is someone who accepts feedback – positive AND negative – and use the negative ones as something to improve their craft. You won’t be able to please every reader, and accepting that will make every negative review sting less. As long as the review is honest, it’s fair game 😀

    Faye at The Social Potato

    • I wish I was like that!!! I can’t help it, though. Maybe I’m just naturally self-conscious??? lol 🙂 I agree, I think authors should take on board both types of feedback – I mean, negative feedback might even be more useful, in a way, but not bashing of course 🙂

  19. This is a great post. I feel the same way about writing negative reviews. I’m always nervous about getting review requests because I want to help authors out, and I feel bad if I don’t end up liking the book. I haven’t had any trouble with any authors though, so that’s always good.

    When I do write a negative review, I try to make sure to be respectful and not to deter others from reading the book. I usually try to remind readers that other people have liked the book, and it’s up to the reader to decide if they would like to read it.

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