Should Authors Write Bad Book Reviews?

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Okay, yesterday we had a little bit of a debate about leaving book reviews. First of all, the post is to warn you of the dangers of posting bad reviews as an author. Does it mean you can’t? No. Can you tweet while drinking and listening to LinkinPark? Yes, but you do so at your own risk. Same here. I am not the social media gestapo, but I am here to warn you of the hazards that are REAL.

We Never Know Who People Know

I once commented offhandedly to an acquaintance about a book I was reading. I wasn’t nasty, I just mentioned that I found it confusing and the dream sequences were messing me up. I also added that it could be me. I WAS seven-months pregnant, so I added the caveat that it could just be Baby Brain.

Little did I know the acquaintance was BEST FRIENDS with the author. I didn’t even say anything all that bad and that author has HATED me since, even though I’d bought all her books to demonstrate support. Just an offhanded comment on the phone has impacted me professionally, and to this day it grieves me that I hurt her.

What if I’d posted a review?

Humans are NOT Rational

Okay, normal people are emotional and irrational. Writers? The Normal Ship sailed long ago without us. Part of what makes us good at our job is we are sensitive. Granted, we do need to wear Big Girl/Boy Pants, but it doesn’t change the fact that a bad review HURTS. A bad review from our peers? Our TRIBE? Our fellow writers-at-arms? Multiply the hurt by a million, then add 3. We don’t just feel hurt, we feel betrayed.

What is Your BRAND?

If you have an English degree and are a writer and you review lots and lots and lots of books? You have added “reviewer” to your brand. We won’t expect all sunshine and rainbows (or silence) from you. You wear TWO hats. Author. Reviewer. But, if you’re like me and you write a review every few months when you finally remember the password to Goodreads? Just keep to the positive. 3s, 4s, 5s are fine if your review is constructive and kind.

I have a higher bar and am extreme in ALL things, including praise. I don’t review unless I am all like…


But that’s me. So if you get a good review from me, I hope it’s valuable because it is EXTREMELY RARE. I was known as The Death Star as an editor, so if you get a 5 star review? You NAILED it. Beyond that? It’s hard to take off my “Editor Hat.” If I can’t proclaim unequivocal awesomeness? I just don’t say anything publicly.

Silence Speaks Volumes

If a writer posts a book and it isn’t selling and no one is leaving a review? Trust me, the writer gets that she didn’t hit it out of the park. She continues writing and (hopefully) improving.

I recall many years ago when I wrote my first novel. I thought it was PERFECT! It was a thriller-romantic-suspense-comedic-memoir guaranteed to please ALL readers and very smart pets.

****Might I mention that this is the book that is now banned under the Geneva Convention as torture.

Thing is, I brought the book to my great-aunt who 1) had a Masters in English and 2) had NO social intelligence. She was the aunt who could be guaranteed to announce in front of a group “Kristen, you’re getting fat!”

So I handed her my tome…so she could like, find the missing commas and typos, right? She gave it back to me UNMARKED.

It was at that point I thought, “Oh, DEAR GOD? What have I written?”

Now she could have SLAYED me, but her silence spoke VOLUMES. In fact, it was far more powerful than if she would have red-penned me into the third circle of Hell. It made me go back to the drawing board and take classes and read craft books. It was enough to humble me, but not CRUSH me.

Maybe It’s Because I am the WANA Mama

In the olden days of vanity press, I had a tough time accepting self-publishing. I felt it was an un-vetted author trying to pose as someone who’d passed a certain litmus test of approval. These days? People….regular people…know about self-publishing. So when I see a writer who is brave enough to TRY, that alone is worthy of my respect.

Hey, when I was new? I never met an adverb I didn’t LOVE.

So when I see this in new writers? It’s cute. Like baby steps. When a baby is learning to walk, we don’t yell, “YOU SO SUCK. CAN’T EVEN WALK! LUZR!” A lot of the writers brave enough to go it alone know they are risking rejection, but I prefer to focus on their bravery and not the lack of plot. That can be sent in a polite and constructive e-mail. Sure the writer might freak out or call you names. But she could then calm down, have some wine and realize why the book isn’t selling. THAT is paying it forward and looking out for your peeps.

And, like I said yesterday, I have the right to be WRONG. If this doesn’t work for you? Fine. I don’t support Stepford Blogs or Stepford Reviews, either. BUT, as a fellow writer, I think it is better to praise in public and criticize in private. It’s classy. It doesn’t burn bridges or crush people’s dreams.

If an author can’t take a private note of critique from a peer? Then they are in the wrong profession, but at least you didn’t hurt your brand or theirs. For all you know, they could take that critique and become an amazing writer…and you helped make that happen.

I STILL Get E-Mails

My first book, We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media actually had a handful of typos. My publisher was new and we were rushing the book in hopes of having it ready for RWA Nationals. To this DAY, I get kind e-mails notifying me of the typos. I think it’s super sweet. The person didn’t BASH me in a review. They CARED. And I can’t tell you how highly I think of these people. They could have given me an @$$#0!& review, but they cared enough to take the time to help me.

THAT, my friends, is ROCKSTAR material.

What are your thoughts? Am I dumber than a brain-damaged monkey? Undermining the establishment? What would you think if someone sent you an e-mail with critique and ways to improve?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of June, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of June I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!


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  1. I have an English degree but I only do occasional reviews. I just don’t review a book if I am not thrilled with it. I do some proofing (just looking for grammar, punctuation and spelling errors), so if a self-published book has a good story but the poor grammar punctuation and spelling detracts from it, I will sometimes send a quick e-mail off to the author offering my services. I have several of my own novels written, but I think I am so worried about them not being good enough, I haven’t taken them any further than writing the first drafts and doing the editing and revising of the first 10 pages or so.

    On the occasions when I review a book that was good but not great, I try saying what could be better about the book while also mentioning what was really great about the book too.

  2. I agree. As an author, I don’t leave a review unless it’s a 4 or 5 star. Luckily, this is pretty easy for me, as I don’t see most grammar mistakes, and I do like a lot of stories. I do have a couple I haven’t been able to get into, and I just quietly don’t mention them.

    I’d love to be confident enough to send someone an e-mail if I saw problems with their novels, but I’m not at that point yet. Just doing my first few critiques for fellow authors, and I struggled enough with that. I do appreciate it when readers point out typos to me though!

  3. I’ve only recently started writing reviews, and I’m very reluctant to write them for books I don’t enjoy. It’s a remnant feeling of the days at school when we were forced to do the critical essays thing. I know it might make us better writers etc to be like that, but……. I really don’t want to give a bad review, especially of an author I already love! Also, like you, I want people to be nice to me when I’m lucky enough to get published and important and interesting enough for people to consider reviewing!

  4. You’ve exactly described one of the reasons that the reviews that I do leave are positive. I am working to build an author platform, and I believe that if I can’t say anything nice about something, I shouldn’t say anything at all.

    The other reason is that there is way too much good stuff out there for me to spend time reading books I don’t like. If I’m not having a four or five star reading experience, I’ll put that book down and go on to the next.

    1. Ditto here.

      I don’t think I’d ever personally email a writer who didn’t ask for my opinions.

  5. I had a guy give me a copy of his book for free in exchange for a review. I gave him an honest 4/5 star review, when really it deserved less. I was kind, but did note in my review a few things I’d want to be aware of. I wasn’t going to pretend it was a perfect read, because anyone seeing my name attached to the review would also get impressions on my opinion based on what they read.

    I haven’t ever heard back from him, but I don’t think I did the wrong thing. I think you’ve got it right. We can burn bridges, but we can’t lie either. It’s about finding a happy medium.

  6. Yep. I fell into that pit once or twice. I used to do book reviews on my blog. I assumed that in the big, wide world of the internet the author would never notice that I was reviewing their work. WRONG. I now have writers who hate me too. Granted, they hate me because I was stating my opinion – which I’m entitled to – and pointing out legitimate flaws in their books, but they still hate me. It’s not worth the drama. Now I do “book reports” of the books I read, and am always careful to point out a book’s strengths regardless of my opinion about it. Even that makes me nervous.

    Thanks for the reminder!

    1. Ditto! Same mistakes here – same path forward. Ps – just found a typo in my own book – note to self…

  7. As a self-published author struggling to get any reviews… Much as I find 1- and 2-star reviews dismaying, they do at least constitute feedback. Is it bad to leave a two-star review on a book that otherwise has no reviews?

    1. Frank I had a look at your blog and have book marked it come back to when I’m not under a deadline pressure….interesting subjects.

      1. Thanks, & thanks for the like. 🙂

  8. Reblogged this on Merry Farmer and commented:
    Great post from Kristen Lamb! I’ve always wondered about the logistics and etiquette of an author writing bad reviews – or reviews of any sort really. Read this and tell me what you think.

  9. I choose not to review books. I have been known to tweet or email an author if I really loved a book. The reason I don’t review is because I have the perfect answer when someone asks me to review a book and leave a positive review. If I don’t review I am not stuck writing a positive review I don’t believe if the book is not my cup of tea or trying to explain to someone why I won’t review their book. As a writer I love having others critique my work before publication and accept negative reviews are a part of the gig. However, one of my books got a horrible review on Goodreads that didn’t even warrant one star from one of my beta readers. I guess she wasn’t happy I didn’t make all the changes she wanted. Being slammed publicly by someone who was supposed to be in your corner was devastating. There is no way I will be asking her to read for me again. In fact I never responded to the review or spoke to her again. Book reviewing is a can of worms I don’t want to open.

    Great blog Kristen.

    Best wishes

  10. Revisiting your previous post, some of the discussion seems to stem from a difference over what a review means.

    For me a review is a low grain opinion: was the plot exciting? Did it seem real? Who would enjoy/dislike this and why? Whereas a critique is a fine grain opinion: did the author make a spelling mistake? Is there inconsistent use of serial commas? There is always, of course, going to be some overlap.

    I definitely agree that authors should be very wary of public critique, so might be sensible avoiding reviewing books they felt were flawed enough to spoil the overall experience.

  11. I won’t review anything that doesn’t get at least 3 stars, even on my book review blog. One reason is that as an author, I don’t want to step on anyone’s feet, but the other reason is simply that I know how hard it is to get a book out there. I still point out what I didn’t like (maybe too much?), but I try to praise the things I thought were really good. Still, I wonder if I’m making a mistake by reviewing at all (as an author.)

  12. Kirsten
    As usual your comments are spot on and thought provoking. I am one of those people who loves to read and for me a good story trumps nit-picking over grammar and punctuation and the odd typo every time. I’m not a perfectionist and I don’t expect perfection from anyone else. And I’ve read some doozy mistakes in trad published books.

    Unless I can offer a constructive review, then I won’t say anything, but authors do need to remember that it is impossible to please all readers all of the time. I think a lot of authors are far too precious…. I always tell writers in our local author’s group that the first thing they need to do is develop a leather skin of rhino hide. Bad reviews come with the territory, if they can’t stand the heat, keep out of the kitchen.

    My books tend to polarise readers, they either love them or hate them. If they love them well and good, if they hate them that’s their privilege, too… If an author puts a book out there, asking people to buy it, then surely they should be able to take criticism, the good with the bad… from their peers or their readers alike.

    I have read some really nasty reviews and when one of my books created a controversy on Amazon discussion boards, what some readers had to say about me and my writing left me gobsmacked! Then I began to see the humorous side of it and it appealed to my sense of the ridiculous.

    The best part of it though, was one of the people who reviled that book when it was first published left a four star review a couple of weeks ago, after she’d read it twice. Did she read one of your posts, I wonder.

  13. If I don’t like a book enough to give it at least three stars, I probably won’t even finish it let alone review it.

  14. I think the lessons Grandma taught years ago resonate here. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. A writing acquaintance of mine recently rushed to self-publish long before her writing skills were ready for the market. It’s unfortunate, because she had a compelling story to tell. I supported her efforts and bought the e-book, but I didn’t finish it. The poor writing interfered with my enjoyment of the story. I chose not to post a review, because I couldn’t in good faith recommend it. I think what you say above, Kristen, is correct: the silence speaks volumes.

  15. Really enlightening post. I’ve often wondered about the circle jerk that I’ve observed here on WordPress among self published authors where they all review each other’s books. I would find it hard to write a good review of a book I didn’t like, and it sounds as though leaving a bad review would be absolutely detrimental.

  16. This was really helpful. Although I haven’t left a book review for ages it’s made me consider what I’d say in the future.
    I have had a few reviews recently that did completely trash what I’d written. I do find that going away having a glass of wine and coming back to the review the next day made me see that there were some valid points there. Although the reviewer hadn’t expressed themselves very tactfully when it stopped hurting it did help.

  17. I think this is a tough one. I recently blurbed a book by a friend — commercially published. I gave him a terrific blurb, which he deserves, even though a few chapters were a bit slow. Not poorly done, just slower-paced than I might have preferred. But overall, he did a terrific job (non-fiction.)

    Here’s the deal. I used to review books for The New York Times, back in the days when they ran paragraph-long reviews (300 words, good luck with that). I gave negative reviews on several occasions, and to big names like Michael Dorris and Kati Marton. I hadn’t even written my own books yet, but MY JOB was to review, not to suck up because these were powerful, connected people, which I was fully aware they were.

    Dorris — the husband of Louise Erdrich — and who later committed suicide, took exception to my review and wrote to me personally. I still stuck to my guns; he’d been asked to write on a subject he clearly did not know at all, for which I mostly blame the editor. Same with Marton’s book, which was confusing as hell.

    This is not a business for the sensitive and sissies! If your skills are weak, if your arguments confusing, if your structure bizarre..whatever…it is the reviewer’s JOB to point these out. Endless log-rolling wastes everyone’s time; some books are simply crap, no matter how hard it is (yes it’s really hard) to get a book commercially published. One of the larger problems of commercially produced books is that they are actually edited by someone else, and THEY may be rushed or incompetent or miss the same flaws you did as author.

    I have read some tough reviews of my second book. I may not have enjoyed them, but some of their comments did make sense and forced some self-examination. That’s their job. That’s our job.

    1. I totally agree. It’s a reviewers job to say it as it is otherwise what is the point of leaving a review at all. As long as what you do say is constructive and well thought out, most authors will appreciate it.

  18. I like your attitufe here. Criticism is useless if it’s not constructive and it’s so easy to just say what you don’t like and forget what you do. As a writer you understand how the other wirter felt about their work. No one wins if you crush it just for the sake of it. Even if you didn’t like it, it’s not like it murdered your cat or anything. As you say, leave critique that’s helpful and if you can’t think of any don’t say anything at all. It’s classy. As you say.

  19. I read, write, and review, but I don’t review if I can’t give a book at least a 3. Being an author myself, I know the time and heart that goes into each book. Mom reared me that if you can’t say anything good, say nothing at all, so that’s how I see it. A 3 is not a bad rating, and I can say something good and point out the positive aspects of the novel. That’s just my way of dealing with it, but I’m not reviewing for a magazine. I’m a reader, and I review as a reader. If I enjoy the story and plot, the characters, then the book is at least a 3 for me. If I don’t enjoy it because of the subject matter, I don’t review it because I feel that it wouldn’t be a fair review. There will be others out there who enjoy that subject matter and who will be able to leave more honest reviews. Blessings for success for all authors. We work hard to produce, and the more we practice writing and the more we read, the better we hone our craft and skills. To become better, read novels in your genre and writing books, take part in critique groups, or pick up a writing class. There are many different opportunities available to practice your craft and hone your skills. I’ve never seen a bad book review help me get better, but a friend’s constructive criticism in a writer’s group has.

    1. I think what you say about subject matter is spot on. If what I really like is literary fiction, then no matter how good a thriller, for example, is, it will never be as good. And yet I might give the thriller 4 or 5 stars because it’s a good story and people who read these would think it’s great. I think books should be reviewed in light of what their typical readers expect, not my own personal preferences.

  20. Thanks, Kristen, for reaffirming your stand on bad reviews. I will only put a public review on my blog, Goodreads, LibraryThing, NetGalley, Amazon and B&N if I can honestly give it a really good review. I have no idea how I would even word a review wherein I said, in public: “this writer has no idea how to write a simple, declarative sentence, obviously left major errors in the manuscript when he/she went back to edit, doesn’t know the difference between the two words ‘pear’ and ‘pare’ and probably didn’t make it out of 9th grade English with anything higher than a ‘D,’ he/she repeats the same word in the same sentence consistently (and, no, not for lyricism)!”

    I think my fingers would just freeze on the keyboard. I would also NEVER send that type of critique to an author, even if it was true. As I said yesterday, the response I have gotten from almost every author I have emailed privately to tactfully explain some of the things that would really improve their story/book/writing in general, has been positive. When you are just learning your craft, I do not think there is any need for someone to pillory you in public because your first attempt fell short of the mark. That’s just mean.

  21. I actually had this dilemma recently. I picked up a book, hoping that I could leave an amazing review, and it was just . . . horrible.
    I didn’t post it for all of the reasons you mentioned above.
    I never contemplated emailing them, so I might consider that. Still, I don’t want to start mentally referring to myself as The Dream Crusher.

    Awesome post. 🙂

  22. If people only write reviews if they like a book, you will never know the reasons why people haven’t enjoyed it. This may not matter, as you could say to yourself that it is a personal choice and your book just wasn’t for them. On the other hand authors should be prepared to take some criticism, particularly if it is constructive, so that they can learn from it. You don’t want to end up living in a bubble where everyone tells you how wonderful your work it all the time, if there is a chance that you could improve and appeal to even more a readers. Yes no one likes to be criticised, but it’s what you do with that criticism that counts.

  23. I love adverbs, and commas, and run-on sentences. I do not leave reviews for pieces I don’t like, but I do find out why I don’t like them, and if possible, I e-mail the author and tell them why, if appropriate- because sometimes it really is just a mismatch for me, personally.

    As a writer, though, I do wish I could get some sort of consistent feedback. There are sometimes places where in my stories, I’m not sure things are worked out in the right order to be followed easily. I know what I’m trying to convey, I’m just not sure I pulled it off. I once handed a story to a friend to read, where she came to me when finished and said, “How did we get from here to there with nothing in the middle, and why are we doing this and that?” Well, I knew how and why, but I’d forgotten to put it in words. When she asked me those questions, it made me go back and discover I had skipped a part.

  24. As a member of, I critique one story a week. Many other Critters do far more. I see a lot of newbie writers and some I take a great deal of time doing line edits. Some a very good and I focus on other aspects other than grammar.

    I also do reviews on Goodreads, The Librarything and Amazon. So far I haven’t gone as low as a two star, but I have done a few threes.

    You have to be careful though. Some people can be quite hateful. My first novel, Mankind’s Worst Fear, was generating some nice monthly checks from Amazon when I got a one star review. It was lengthy and the reviewer trashed the novel in every way possible.The next month’s check was quite a bit smaller and sales haven’t recovered. My reviews are varied, but with plenty of 4s and 5s, so I know for many readers it’s an excellent read.

    In this case, I think I just pissed someone off as I was quite active on the Kindle forums. So, my warning is that if you are active on various forums, be polite and try not to ruffle feathers. If you’re going to do a review, I’d avoid 1s or 2s, maybe even 3s. You never know how badly someone will react and if they’ll then set out to punish you.

  25. I think one can write an honest, constructive review without being nasty. I just read a book by Clive Barker (famous/well loved/big name etc.). It is called Coldheart Canyon. Great book, compelling story, wonderful descriptions, and then all fall down … sooooo long in some scenes; characters doing really stupid things like starting to argue when clear and present danger, with long sharp swords drawn, are just about upon them; dithering about when they know what to do to break the evil curse. I will say all these things in my review, and also say that CB fans love this aspect of his writing and have come to expect densely-packed and long, drawn-out scenes. Writers have a certain style and their fans like it, or else they would not buy the books. I think reviewers must recognize this. I often think a book is not my cup of tea, but many people will love it. I hesitate to write a 3-star without really compensating for it by emphasising the best aspects. I have felt a bit hurt when a reviewer gave my MG novel a 3-star. I felt I had failed the reader in a way. Reviews are subjective – you can only please some of the people some of the time.

  26. When I began writing my rare reviews (after I became a writer and learned their value) I was of the opinion that anything less than a three star ought to be communicated privately and not published. Since then I have been taken to task on that count. I argued that , as a writer, I ought to be kind enough not to do anything that would harm another writer. But others argue that we need to be balanced and honest, and that means publishing the bad as well as the good. Some of these arguments were well stated and made sense. In the end, though, i still can’t bring myself to do it. But your statement that we, as writers, are in a different position than the general public of readers had not even occurred to me. It does put a whole new spin on it. A bad review opens us up to backlash, to revenge, to losing our career. I think I’ll stick with my original thinking. Let the ‘reviewers’ take care of the others. When i think it will do some good I may still offer some private, kind, feedback. Otherwise I’ll leave well enough alone if I don’t like a book.

  27. I just started writing my first review. It has started out as a less than stellar review. I took a break in the middle of it because I felt bad about what I was saying. I tried to put myself into the author’s shoes. I am rewriting the review based on what I liked and pointing out only those things that I found confusing.

  28. Thing is, there’s bad writing and then there’s different writing. Sometimes different writing is construed as bad because what makes it different may also make it objectionable, for instance, if it flouts narrative conventions or is shocking or is weird. Also, of course, there’s good not-different writing.

    Reviewers who are honest (in a constructive manner) help to identify bad writing. We need to know, painful as it may be. Sometimes we remain wilfully blind to the faults in our writing and so an intervention is necessary. Reviewers will always sing the praises of good not-different writing. Again, helpful – if that’s what you’re about. However, different writing requires that you stubbornly persist with your approach and tell the editors to go annoy someone else with their nitpicking. It requires strength, in fact. And maybe stupidity too. Because it may turn out that the pigheaded effort wasn’t worth it after all. It may turn out that your aesthetic judgment was lamentably flawed. However, I am quixotic. I think different can sometimes be breathtakingly good. I think it matters. I think it’s not for the fainthearted or those who have redoubtable great-aunts sitting in judgment.

    Good debate. Not that I’ve really addressed it. But I’m enjoying what others have to say.

  29. Reblogged this on Chronicles of a 40-something Nurse Wannabe and commented:
    Reviewing books may be hazardous to your health, especially if you are an author. Kristen Lamb discusses her experience and how it has shaped her reviewing style.

    I have not published any books, but I have learned not to provide a review on any books I did not essentially like. If I strongly disliked, or worse, did not finish the book, I will not write a review. (I give the book a low rating because I don’t want Amazon or Goodreads to continually “recommend” similar books, but I will not provide any comments, whatsoever.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I wrote a negative review for a book, that I kept “live.” After that, I simply stopped posting negative reviews. I may send the author a private note, but I will not post a negative review because of the vitriolic backlash I have seen toward reviewers and authors.

    No review from me means the book was “fine,” or so poorly written that “silence is golden.”

    • Shantea on June 20, 2013 at 7:33 am
    • Reply

    I definitely praise publicly and criticize privately. As in, only to people who I know well, who know me well. Even if a book is SO not for me, I try to find the lesson in it. Especially the traditionally published or really popular ones. I’m not on the shelf out the front page, so there’s something to learn.
    I can’t discriminate based on lack of reviews though, I know of some books that just never got an ounce of marketing and so never sold enough to get enough reviews to get the ball rolling. So three years later it’s kind of just sad looking, but the book itself is good.
    I don’t know how I would feel about getting a private critique though. I feel like once it’s published, there’s no fixing it. It’s done. There’s nothing constructive enough to say in a direct message about a completed work that makes it not seem like hate- mail to me. Unless it’s invited, of course.
    Even when I send things to friends and family, I make sure to specify whether I’m looking for feedback or not, which might go something like “This is the final version and its already out of my hand, do if you find anything that could be fixed- keep it to yourself!”

  30. Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting about this sticky topic. There are books written by authors I know that don’t ping my spit-lick-page-flip-switch, and so far I simply haven’t posted a review.

    Your strategy is exactly what I’ve employed to date. If I know the author well enough, I’ll communicate off-loop.

    Piper’s book? Totally in the can’t-wait-to-review-this corner.

    You are to blame, btw, for my lack of comments on your blog recently. Your blog about fast drafting got me so energized, I’ve opened my WIP each morning and have written without letting my brain get in my way.

    I do many things without letting my brain get in my way, why did I choose writing for its focused attention?

    Come to think of it, I need a fresh boost of JuJu. I’m bopping back over there for another read.

  31. Very interesting debate and this has been a conundrum for me as an author too. I am in agreement with Yvonne. I can’t bring myself to post less than a 3-star for a fellow writer. The challenge is that my ‘coat of arms’ is truth and honesty! Hmmmm… Unless the punctuation/grammar is inordinately bad, I won’t comment publicly in a review. I may email the author privately and gig them a little about editorial services…in a wry way, I hope. Something like, you either didn’t pay enough or get your money back. Instead I try to concentrate on the story and was it woven well; could I see the characters and did I like them or hate them as the author intended. I try to always keep in mind that I haven’t liked literature I was supposed to love (Hello Edgar Sawtelle), and loved work that others thought inane (Hello Valley of the Dolls). But I can’t stay mute, because the silent treatment, to me, cuts deeper than an email stating, “I’m just not that into you/it.” I am always appreciative of the effort it takes to write any tome. I try to be respectful of that always.

    Great post….great comments.

  32. As an author for Astraea Press, I’m actually not allowed to write a public review if I want to keep my contract with them (and I’m extremely happy with them, so I’m good with that). There are too many examples of authors behaving badly when it comes to reviews – even good reviews. I completely understand the need for authors to avoid giving out public reviews, especially bad ones. Because I have a degree in English Lit, it can be a tough thing to swallow, but we need self-control in all aspects of life. You know, that whole “look before you leap” thing and all…

  33. I’m also the Death Star of editors, but only to my CPs. I don’t review books because I have such a hard time seeing anything except the mistakes. I’ve just spent so much time training myself to be critical that I don’t feel that should be inflicted on any authors unless they directly ask me. And then my notes will be given in private.
    Great post! 🙂

    • Jennifer Cole on June 20, 2013 at 7:59 am
    • Reply

    I had this same experience with my first book as the gentleman–who to this day has not responded back to me–told me about the typos in my book but he also gave me a four star review. For that matter, he brought the hard copy of the book, a whopping $33.00 book and he STILL gave me a four star review with a reminder to make sure I go back through it and get the typos taken care of. I’ve reached out to him and thanked him for his advice. I used a vanity press to publish it and any and all mistakes were mine.

    I understand what you mean about the review part. I totally concur. And silence has more effect than noise sometimes. We use it in our books all the time.

    Date: Thu, 20 Jun 2013 10:02:08 +0000 To:

  34. I began reviewing as a blogger long before I began writing my own books, and the material I primarily reviewed (60’s-80’s Men’s Adventure fiction) was often long out of print, written by authors who – these days – readily admitted any faults to their writing, so I tended towards being more honest than I am with new, current authors. We’re talking about a genre almost dedicated to “trash” fiction, with all the good and bad that entails.

    These days, like many of the other commenters, I work by a “Don’t be a dick” philosophy. If I can’t say something nice in a review, I don’t say it. I have pointed out that certain elements may or may not appeal to different readers (for example, if there’s a political undercurrent that leans strongly in one direction or another in a book that’s not primarily about politics…), but I try to remain neutral on my own opinion of those leanings. I also try to review a lot of newbie authors, and I might lob a few soft pitches in public, but also drop them an email (many of them I’ve known before they hit “publish”) to express any private concerns. So far, this practice has worked out pretty well.

  35. It is a tricky one, but i never write reviews if i thought the book was awful or even just ok. As someone mentioned earlier, these books will be found be non writer reviwers anyway. If a book is that bad, people will hear about it.
    I think constructive criticism is good, sending emails as well is a good way of helping an author, too.
    In the end, it’s just too risky for your career to be writing venomous reviews, and there really isn’t any point. What do you get out of it?
    I think being indirect is a better policy. I write blog posts detailing things i like and don’t like in the romance genre. This way, i get to discuss the things i disagree with in books i’ve read, but i don’t do it directly. If people find offence in that, then that’s fine, too. You can’t go through life trying to please everyone because you end up pleasing no one. Sometimes, the truth hurts, but that person will be better of in the long run learning from their mistakes rather than repeating the same ones over and over again.

  36. While I don’t review something that I can’t give at least 3 stars to (and shifting to a 4/5 star policy after discovering and blogging about how 3 stars can affect Amazon’s algorithms), that begs a question.

    Sometimes we’re given/accept ARCs in exchange for an “honest review.” While I wouldn’t trash a book – I can expound on what was good and simply point out what didn’t work – if it really only deserves a 2-3 star review, isn’t that what I should give it? The author didn’t ask for a review only if I liked it, he/she asked for an honest review. And I feel badly about taking a free book on condition of reviewing it, and then not doing so. So where do I draw the line? Any suggestions?

  37. A friend and co-writer wrote a book and e-published recently. She asked me for a review at Amazon. She had made all the mistakes common to first effort drafts. I couldn’t say, “No thank you, I’d rather not.” or, “I’m way too busy…” So, I read the book and began my first draft of the review, carefully, sometimes biting my lip.

    A review of a friend’s book is much different than a review of an author’s book that has garnered a lot of public attention and is selling well. I was kind. Uplifting–almost gushing–in my less-than-critical review. I gave the book 4 stars because a lot of the narrative was taxing. There were many other issues, mostly dealing with plot. But beyond that, a book with, say, 20 “reviews” at Amazon, all 5-star, is suspicious from the git-go. Most writers have at least 20 friends. It really begs the question, “Can a potential buyer put any credence in Amazon reviews? For that matter, Goodreads reviews?” Who is the reviewer? Even with Vine reviewers at Amazon, there are often vast differences in reviews.

    But the review itself. I agree with you 100%, Kristen. A scathing review, spot-on or otherwise, can do serious damage, so it boils down to honesty versus truthfulness, at least with friends’ works. That said, I always go back in a private correspondence with a critique, SUGGESTING that the author have another look at my remarks, and consider changes.

    IF the review is just another marketing tool these days, and I think it is, then I must tread lightly. From that aspect, the entire process is sad, if you think about it. Except in rare instances, the book up for reviews is the author’s child. Can I publicly “tell” the author that there precious loved one has three eyes and two noses? Only if I’m game enough to take on the work of a “successful” writer, and then in that case the author most likely won’t care what I think anyway.

  38. This is very interesting as I had a dilemma recently and asked this very question on my blog. I had a book that was not very good grammar and spelling wise. Nothing a good editor couldn’t fix. The story seemed compelling but I had a really hard time getting through it due to the editing. I wrote the review with 2 stars saying what could be fixed and also said what was good about it. I don’t believe in bashing someone. I wrote the review for goodreads but didn’t post on amazon or my site. I felt bad about it. Since reading your article, I have removed even the goodreads review. Thanks for posting Kristen. You gave me a lot to think about. For reference I do have an English degree and do read/review a lot of books, but I am no expert. I have many rejection letters…lol

  39. I’m glad you posted a follow up to yesterday’s post because I didn’t know where I stood. You’ve clarified it for me, now. I’m a writer ( not published yet) but I read tremendous quantities of book. I read on the metro, in bed, while walking and while eating. I review many books on my blog and sometimes it’s not positive, but I always try to make it constructive. Also, there are always good things to talk about. A book is rarely entirely bad, and so I try to point out what worked. But this is good advice, nevertheless. I will keep it in mind.

  40. This was excellent advise and I love your sense of humor! Thank you for posting this.

  41. I think reviewing books we love is the best idea. As a reader, I look at the 4 and 5 star reviews to see if I might like a book. I have been much more successful finding books I like that way, then by avoiding one and two star reviews. We don’t all like the things. But if we can focus on what we do like and find those commonalities in the book reviews, we’ll be happy readers and we won’t have to worry about hurt feelings.

  42. I wrote a couple of bad reviews. But this was before I was ever published (even if it’s a small time published deal). The first one I ever did was really bad….as was the book. The second one I did was more tasteful, at least I hoped it was. The author did take my advice and re-edited it, then re-posted a newer version. I think my review has since gone to la la land (except on my blog). I can’t bring myself to re-read her book though. :/ Maybe one day. But since that post, I’ve not given formal reviews…I even wrote a post asking if authors should review books. I’m still on the fence about this. I’ve actually turned my “review” energy into a “critique partner” energy simply for the fact that I want to make the author’s writing better…not bash it in public.

  43. I write about beer and food on one blog and my writing on another (my fiction blog). When I do anything like a review it is along the lines of a recommendation of something I think others should check out as well. My aim is always to guide others to things I find good and useful.

    I have made exceptions in the past for certain companies’ business practices. But those are a corporate entity, not an individual.

  44. Hope you’re not still acquainted with that acquaintence. lol I think going back to the author to say “She said this about your book” is just as bad as the author for hating you over your own opinion, and one that she could have talked to you about instead of hold a grudge.

    I’m learning (slowly) not to speak my mind so much, because I have no filter, but writers are people, and people can’t like everyone and everything. I wouldn’t go to the level of trying to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I think we should have a write to say how we felt about a read and not be blacklisted for it.

    1. right* grr lol

    • livrancourt on June 20, 2013 at 9:09 am
    • Reply

    For a long time I wouldn’t review books if a) I didn’t love them, or, b) I knew the author. I figured if I read a book by someone I knew and didn’t love it, I’d be stuck creating a review I didn’t truly believe. Or I’d lose a friend. In this world, though, swapping reviews is part of the deal, so I’ve had to get over myself. I find keeping things brief and focusing on the positive is the best strategy.

  45. I leave a review if I have enjoyed the book, and have something worth saying. If I feel I would hurt someone with the truth, I say nothing, or leave a positive few words. I could never publicly point out errors, or leave my personal disappointment for all to see.

  46. Best review I ever got was from your mother. After reading the first book, she asked for the sequel. A review doesn’t get any better than that.

  47. That was Normandie’s mother. Sorry about that. Probably help if I read whose blog before I commented. It was still my best review.

  48. Great post. I absolutely agree with you. Authors have to behave publicly like good children. Like our mothers taught us, we must remember: if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. As a professional in a field, it’s not appropriate to publicly ‘dis your coworkers. So, if the book wasn’t for you, then keep it to yourself. We all have opinions, but we don’t have to share all of them. Bad reviews are one of them. And if you do have to leave a review for something you didn’t love, focus on the positive.

  49. Totally agree. I still think of myself as a “newbie” author with only two books out, but when the first one came out I saw some really great reviews. 🙂 Then a good friend of mine (an author) reviewed it and gave me a 3. I was stunned. Hurt. I asked her what lacked in my story to earn a 3 from her. She then proceeded to say, well, it really deserved a 4 and changed it. To this day I feel bad asking her about it. I shoulda’ kept my big mouth shut. It should have stayed a 3. Oy. The hard lessons we learn along our way. 99% of first (and 2nd and 3rd, okay ALL) book’s will have some issues, but we hope to learn from them.

    One of my favorite reviews was from a woman or a man who went on to bash my book, then proceeded to say they didn’t even read the book. None of it. They hadn’t even bought it. LOL Guess they hated the blurb that much. Ha.

    And one of my favorite “pick me up” advice for authors is to pull up your all-time favorite author, and look at their reviews. You’ll see not everyone loves them like you do. We can’t win em’ all and that’s okay.

  50. Well, I have two English degrees and I find typos in many, many traditionally published books. (Typos, not just nitpicky grammatical errors.) So proofreading is not just a problem for self published books. I would never send someone an email about it or point it out in a review. Life’s too short. I also don’t leave negative reviews. Just because I didn’t like something doesn’t mean others won’t. If I’m friends with an author and I don’t like the book, I still find something positive to say.

  51. I read a over 200 books a year and for the last year I’ve been trying to review each one. Generally my reviews are positive but that has been changing a bit lately. I’ve gotten really fed up with rape in books and the number of times women fall for their rapist. Or the other trope of women finding the guys trying to kill them sexy/hot as hell. So I include “warnings” on those books. I try to make my reviews constructive.

    I knew when I started doing reviews it might come back to bite me. If I know an indie friend asking me to review their book doesn’t believe in editors I won’t review the book as I feel obligated to mention if the typos/grammar are so bad I can’t follow the text. I have written to friends suggesting they re-edit their books/hire a new editor due to the number of typos and give me a new copy to review. But my reviews are not high literary reviews. They are more of “I really enjoyed this book, the characters were fun, the story was interesting, it had a couple unexpected twists”. Or for a book I didn’t like “I just couldn’t get into this, I didn’t get attached to any of the characters/I was easily distracted/it contained more sex/graphic violence/cussing than I expected from the description”.

    I also know that I and a number of my friends buy books based on the lower star ratings because frequently that is where someone will mention whether our trigger issues will be in the book or not (rape, sexual abuse, childhood abuse, graphic violence, sexism, racism, homophobia, etc.)

    I do get the point your making. I certainly wouldn’t suggest that all writers be book reviewers. Not only can it hurt you career, destroy friendships, but it also takes time away from writing.

  52. I think you are right, although in the past I’ve felt safe doling out the 3-star with constructive criticism. I always try to make it clear that for me, a 3 is good. It means I enjoyed it. But I also saw areas for improvement.

    Now that I’m about to self publish, I will probably become more conservative in my reviews because…I dunno… We are all capable of falling into the trap of thinking our story is great, even when it’s not, and this can happen at any skill level, I think. I’m mindful that I could write something great today, but not so great tomorrow, and I REALLY hope people will cut me some slack for that. (Which means I have to cut others some slack.)

    It’s timely that you posted about this. On Sunday, I had a blog post written up about the stack of books I’ve accumulated lately that I haven’t been able to finish. I listed about five books and added a short blurb about why. Then I took a nap. When I woke up, I had a queasy feeling about the post. I modified it to included only the NYT Bestseller that is making millions of dollars anyway, so who cares what little ol’ me thinks. I’m not going to hurt the author’s brand, in fact, I might help his name recognition even further by adding a little controversy to the mix.

  53. I agree. A review can be left that isn’t perfect, but still says in essence, “A good read, enjoyable..” yes? It’s how we learn the details of why we didn’t hit it out of the park.

  54. I love this Kristen!
    I may not have been a writer for very long, but I have been well-educated and a reader for a looooong time. It sometimes makes reading new author’s books difficult. I LOVE your idea of letting the “crickets” speak for themselves.

    Even JR Moehringer who won several awards and is a New York Times best-selling author of “The Tender Bar,” received a scathing review for “Sutton,” from the very same newspaper. Personally, I loved both books. I am sure it hurt, but he didn’t respond publicly. It went away like yesterday’s newspaper. Literally!

    The most disturbing trend is for an author to write about how someone left a bad review. I read one author’s retort that left me laughing. I had respect for the author until he/she went point by point down the laundry list of complaints and disputed each one of them. I couldn’t believe it! I could “hear” the stamping of feet and fuming during the tantrum. Why would anyone want to bring a negative review to their followers attention???? Anger can be a very destructive emotion.

  55. I think you make an important distinction, that is, as a WRITER, is it good for your own career to give unpopular reviews. I tend to lean toward the old, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” adage. However, I have been paid to do critiques and have had to learn to temper my natural directness so as not to destroy the soul of the writer.

  56. I think you’re right: praise in public, criticize in private. Loved your post today. Thanks!

  57. Kristen, you are way more brilliant than the smartest NASA monkey ever. I think you may even be more brilliant than that monkey’s trainer. I love this post.

    May I ask a Goodreads question? I’m an author with a pen name. I use GRas my pen name and leave only nice reviews on books I genuinely loved. But I do rank books as low as 3 stars without leaving any text review. (I don’t give rankings of 1 or 2 because I don’t finish any book that has me thinking “1 or 2 stars” in the first few chapters). I’m honest on GR, because I consider it my personal bookshelf. It’s where I keep track of what I’ve read.

    I wonder if I should be using GR as my “real” self instead of my pen name for that reason. The reason I’ve gone with my pen name is that when I leave reviews and rankings, anyone who is on my friends list will have my pen name run across their friend updates. It’s like exposure, right? But I’m starting to think I might be trying to do too much with GR. Is it my own personal bookshelf or is it a self-promo tool? Am I a tool for thinking there might be some promotional benefit to being active on GR? (By the way, I don’t “invite” people to release parties for my books or spam my GR friends. I ONLY leave ratings and reviews and occasionally interact in a discussion). Do you have any advice on GR etiquette? Am I doing it right?

    Switching gears, I love the praise you give to those brave readers who emailed you privately with feedback on WANA (the book). I’ve gotten the private emails too with constructive criticism, and I cherish them. I learn from them. And sometimes I even see the same person drop a nice review on GR or Amazon that only mentions the positives, which I think is so kind.

    Thanks for the post. I agree with your stance here. I’d actually be okay with you being the social media gestapo. But I don’t think that position provides dental, so I can see why you’re not volunteering for the job;-)

    1. I’m curious about this too. I mostly post positive reviews, and even “negative” are more pointing out why I didn’t connect with a book versus pointing out problems with the book itself. But I’m wondering, if/when I move into the realm of published author myself, should I hide my reviews and ratings? Stop posting reviews altogether?

  58. If a writer “hates” you for being honest, why in the world would you care about his/her opinion? So what?

    Authors should not put their books out in public if they cannot take bad reviews. And if they’re childish enough to throw a hissy fit when you’re being honest, why would you want to read more of their work?

    I give honest reviews. I don’t slam. I do point out what could be done better next time, because quite frankly, if an author doesn’t want to know how she can grow and improve (which all of us should want to do), I have no need for her personal validation. If she slams in return, so be it. Readers are smart enough to know one slam review in the middle of a bunch of nice reviews only looks like a vendetta, or like she read a genre she doesn’t like, which is her own error.

    And having no reviews or only 1 or 2 reviews doesn’t say your book doesn’t work. It says you’re not marketing it well enough to get people to try/buy in the first place. Plenty of people are happy to slam a book they hated. If you get too many of those, you might step back and study the craft more.

    If I ever see an author slam a reviewer publicly just because her feelings were hurt, I won’t read that author. It’s petty. Let it go. That’s death to your career faster than anything else.

  59. This whole topic of reviewing is so interesting and so all over the place. Nothing like when I was a reviewer for newspapers and we didn’t have Amazon, and blogs, and online review sites, and readers who haven’t a clue what a review is supposed to be. LOL

    Like some others have said, I do not review a book if I cannot find enough positive about it to give it a 3 star rating, which to me indicates good. Four stars is for excellent, and 5 stars is for “blew me out of my chair.” I rarely give 5 stars, and even my closest writer friends understand that I cannot give their book a glowing review just because I love them. The book has to earn it.

    Regarding books that are sent to me by authors I do not know. I don’t write a review if I cannot get get past the first few chapters without having the same reaction Jessi mentioned.

  60. I go out of my way to find and mention positive qualities of every book I review, but I review books and provide constructive criticism so that other writers can learn from the mistakes of a published author.
    I feel that if you pulish your work (public, being the operative principle of publishing) then your reviews will be public as well.

    This actually reminds me of a recent post I did on how to give constructive criticism without hurting another author’s feelings.

    • annerallen on June 20, 2013 at 12:29 pm
    • Reply

    We also face the complication that the Zon’s TOS say a reviewer can’t review a “competitor”. The idea of competitor is pretty widely interpreted by the Zon enforcers. They consider an author in the same genre to be a “competitor”, so if you give a bad review to an author in your own genre, you may be accused of trying to bring down her sales. Ditto a review full of wild praise if that author reviews your book in similar gushing style. (They’ll suspect you of trading reviews) Both offenses get your review pulled.

    Some people even say no author should review another author, period, which seems remarkably short-sighted, since who better knows the genre than a fellow writer. But definitely, if you write vampire romance and trash another vamp romance writer, you can be accused of abuse and get banned from Amazon. Something to consider.

    Like Kristen, I adore readers who are kind enough to email me helpful comments and notes about typos!

  61. I really wish the person that read my first novel…thought about what they were saying…or read your post. It has a lot of typos…but she basically called me illiterate…and she didn’t do a break down of the synopsis…which is what I expected. I know my novel has errors…what novel doesn’t? Even after thorough editing…mistakes will still be throughout.

    Criticism is okay. If it’s done right. It’s supposed to be helpful, not hurtful.

    It isn’t that I want to be praised for my characters and story line. But calling me “Sweetie” and suggesting I need an editor (as those cost are about my monthly figures in food…) makes it seem as if she didn’t read it.

    In fact I’m almost sure she didn’t. My book had been on for months before I published. People pointed out what needed to be edited…but didn’t conclude I was a horrible writer. I was commended on my style, regardless of mistakes. And that was it. “Hey this is spelled wrong, but over all this book is awesome.”

    It’s critical to review anything in a way that leaves a positive feeling. It’s not sugar coating. Its actually common sense.

  62. One thing we must always remember if we point the finger at someone, three are pointing back at us. What comes around goes around and all of those other tired cliches which I won’t bother with. Thing is we can be an encouragement to our fellow writers without bringing the wrath of all future book publishers and reviewers upon us. Choose your words carefully.

  63. Reblogged this on Tales From The Fifth Tower and commented:
    Fellow authors take note of this article…

  64. I am a hard-to-please reader myself. No I am not an author and I think that authors are extremely critical of other writers especially if they have a degree related to writing, English etc.

    As a reviewer, i write my reviews professionally. I was recently told by another author that my review was respectable in other words I “punched him in the face and picked him back up”.

    Typos are just humor error. If the book is not edited and its distracting, then ok I can look past it with a note to the author saying hey this is what I found. There are so many ways to give an honest opinion and not be a jerk.

    Honestly, I get annoyed at authors who go Diva-Style on people and they have that degree. Then you read the book and its crap. Then you become torn about what you would say in a review because #1 the author is brat #2 her degree didn’t help her produce a story that anyone gives a crap about.

    Furthermore, those authors who correct your grammar and mistakes on social sites. Like really, get over yourself because I can pretty much guarantee that your manuscript is not perfect, without error.

    Any one, author or not, should be really careful about publicity slamming someone. Bad girl like me will find your flaws and retaliate.

    Here is my example of a recent review of a book I didn’t much care for in the end. The author respected me after.

    Thanks for letting me share! 😉

    1. A good pro review is way different than a fellow authors opinion. I love reviewers who can point out without bias, the flaws. As a writer, that is freaking gold.

      Have no guilt. You offer a valuable service!

      1. oh yes indeed! I work for a publicity company and I edit incoming reviews, some written by authors. It is interesting to read how critical an author can be. And sometimes unfair. Their educated writing minds can be really cruel at times. I would be ashamed of myself.

    2. I do so totally agree. You can give a constructive review without being at all personal. Far too many writers are far too precious! For me it’s the story every time.

  65. I’m of two minds here. I understand the concerns, and I agree with them. I also, however, am a reader, not just a writer, and seeing both positive and negative reviews on sites like Amazon and Goodreads (okay, technically they are the same thing now) helps me when I’m looking to buy something. There is a lot to learn from bad reviews as well as good ones (and really, most people know how to ignore the blindingly biased comments out there).

    I understand your feelings about hurting that author, Kristen, but remember that that information was relayed to the author second hand. It’s completely unreasonable on his/her part to be holding a grudge, and even more so to do so without trying to speak civilly to you about it. Sensitive is fine… Sensible is also good too.

    And one last thought on silence: In a world where everyone is talking and giving their opinions on products, silence may be golden, but it can leave a person wondering if people are trying to not say anything nice, if they’ve done something horrible, or if they just were not heard at all.

  66. I am careful with reviews – not wanting to hurt feelings. At the same time I look at the reviews with low ratings on Amazon – always curious what went wrong – most of them sound more like people trying to be “literate” and doing it by putting others down. Sometimes the reviews are because Amazon Kindle isn’t printing the book well on the Kindle. If I do have a negative comment, I try to find a few positive ones to offset. If I can’t give a four or five star rating, I usually don’t comment. Silence is a powerful comment too. I am afraid that easy ePublishing makes for less editing in the mad rush to be published.

  67. I typically rate a book without leaving a detailed review, unless specifically asked to, but there are exceptions. I rarely a negative rating without saying something nice about it as well, usually leading with it.
    But I avoid negativity, it doesn’t sit well with me.

  68. I used to teach riding. Quite well, without being immodest. I was always taught, and believed, that the first comment one made should be a positive one. Then you could follow-up with all the nitty-gritty of what was wrong and how we were going to fix it.

    I was once assessing a new client who was working towards an exam so had turned up in proper exam dress of smart tweed hacking jacket. I watched her warm up and she was so unremittingly awful I couldn’t imagine how she had passed the lower exam, let alone put her entry in for the next one higher up.

    Calling her over, I first commented on what a lovely, well-cut jacket she had and how it improved her position. Lo and behold, on hearing that praise, she suddenly sat up properly for the first time and actually started to look halfway like a rider.

    She had been lacking all confidence and self-belief which made her sit like a sack of spuds. So suddenly I had something I could work with, and after another half hour or so, I had a candidate who might possibly have stood a chance in her exam.

    I’ve never forgotten that lesson, to me. I always try therefore to begin and end what I say with encouragement, to sweeten the pill of any hopefully constructive criticism I make in the middle.

  69. We were just discussing this issue last night in my critique group. Glad you posted this today so I could pass it along. As always, you have the best advice.

  70. Thanks Kristen. You made several excellent points.
    My main takeaway from your post is – Constructive criticism has the power for tremendous good.
    I sincerely wish I had had more of it during my lifetime as when I look back on the one and only occasion I received constructive criticism, I realise it helped me enormously. It highlighted what I was doing wrong and what I could do to improve in the situation.

  71. I agree with everything you have said! I personally don’t write reviews because I don’t want to be branded as a “reviewer.” Nor do I want to spend time writing reviews for others when I should be writing my own book(s)…It’s a time management thing. I just can’t be all things to all people. 😉

    But the rest of what you said rings true for me too…I think it’s better to critique in private, and praise in public. 🙂

    • Amanda on June 20, 2013 at 1:42 pm
    • Reply

    I agree. We’re all supposed to be helping each other, a community. I once read somewhere from a fellow writer that she didn’t look at other writers as enemies rather comrades in writing (or something like that). I think that’s awesome that someone would take the time to write a private email with suggestions or notations of possible corrections, miss-spelled words (that do get missed by multiple look overs, by the way) or sentences and scenes that need revamping. Be helpful, not hurtful. 🙂

    • Gail Campbell on June 20, 2013 at 1:50 pm
    • Reply

    Loved this part! I think it is better to praise in public and criticize in private. It’s classy.

  72. Mrs. Kristen Lamb, I wanted to say thank you for this post! I happen to have a few different blogs (for various purposes), and WordPress just recommended that I check yours out. I am so glad it did! One of my blogs is a self-publishing author page (using my name: Gia Francine…not sure if that is on your list of pros or cons, but there is a lot of reasoning behind why I decided on a pen name and particularly this one…). I am currently planning to self-publish a book in the next month. I have been writing it for years (the only one I ever actually finished in spite of my 20-some planned stories/plots piled up in a cabinet at my home), but I know it needs so much more work. However, being the publisher and editor and writer, plus trying to find time to finish it amidst my other demands and work in life, I am figuring I might as well just do my final editing round now and get it out there; imperfections and all. It’s better than nothing, right? I’ll just be excited to have a hard cover or paperback version of something I wrote. haha

    The speaker at my recent college graduation ceremony happened to be Will Haygood. He currently has a movie, The Butler, coming out on August 16th based on his book (for which I am SUPER excited to go see!!!). His speech was about finding who we are and our purpose and never being afraid to pursue it. Words I have, in many ways, needed to hear over the past year, especially with all the uncertainties that come in post-college life. Education’s been my life for two decades, and now there’s a completely wide open door! Both exciting and daunting.

    I mention this to you because happening upon this blog today was a blessing and very encouraging. Thank you. I am glad you either don’t review or you give helpful comments, and hearing you say that you think those who go for it with self-publishing are brave was uplifting! I know you said our names get put in a lottery for you to read our book, so it’d be crazy if I would be fortunate enough to be picked and you got to read part of my book (which is actually “planned” as part of a 4-book series/quartet…) this next month before I plan to publish it and could give me some last minute reviews and comments (and maybe kindly deter me and encourage me to be patient a little longer and then publish it)! But, I know there are many of others who think the same. 🙂 No matter what, what’s supposed to happen will, and I am excited to get my book out there, terrible or not.

    Thank you, again, and keep encouraging others!

    • Cara Michelle on June 20, 2013 at 2:00 pm
    • Reply

    Reblogged this on Gia Francine and commented:
    Just found this blog with the help of WordPress’ suggestions, and it is a beautiful blog for all people who aspire to write! Visit it, and become a part of the WANA (We Are Not Alone) community that Kristen Lamb started with her book (of the same title – We Are Not Alone). It is always encouraging for us to find fellowship. 🙂

  73. I too had the experience like you describe with the author whose book you found confusing. I mentioned to a friend that I thought a certain very famous author whose work I have never actually read, and whom I have never met, was an arrogant arse. Why did I say that? Why? I don’t know. It was unfounded, and maybe colored slightly by the literary way he conducted himself but I had no evidence to back up my statement, and it was really poor all around.

    And my friend? She said, “Good, I’ll tell him that when I see him tomorrow in a meeting about how to improve his image.”

    What? Wha….?.

    I begged her not to do it, not to tell him anything, but as she was a corporate coach, she thought it was great feedback. I said, no, no, it isn’t. It’s terrible feedback because I based it on nothing but my own issues and pleeeeeeaase don’t say my name even though he won’t know it, what if…what if she told him and he wrote my name down on a pad of paper where he was jotting these things (while increasingly getting angry) and then he pinned my name up and…

    Just really, if you have or plan to have your name out in public, use judgement in what you say.

  74. I did about 9 reviews. I stopped writing reviews, because I felt their honesty wasn’t well recieved. Now, I know to not bother. If a hb book falls apart within the first year (poor binding), if illustrations are cut off the page, if typos are numerous, or if the choppy writing is puzzling, don’t look at me for reviews. Mums the word.

  75. I agree – Praise in public, Constructive criticism in private – which works on many more items than just authors/books…

    • Lalo on June 20, 2013 at 2:30 pm
    • Reply

    I love this blog post! I’m a new author in the self publishing arena. I actually left a 1 or 2 star review on a series of books that I read. Yes, I read every one of them. I kept thinking it would get better. After I began writing, I went back and changed my reviews. As an author, even a new one, I didn’t feel I should be leaving bad reviews. It goes back to, if you can’t say anything good… keep your mouth shut. That was my mother’s version, anyway.

    I did leave a three star review for an author, she had a great story but her personal pronouns gnawed at me. I left some hopefully, very constructive comments for her and emphasized all the good things she had done.

    I am now known as The Adverb Killer. 🙂 I wrote my story, then read the craft books. I will publish it eventually, maybe this next million and first re-write will be the one and I’ll finally be done.

    I love this post! And I’m now following your blog. 🙂

  76. I had agreed to review a friend’s work and fretted over the darned thing for over a week. the book was not to my taste. eventually I wrote the review saying the positives of the book and that people who like a particular type of movie would love this book.
    but I try not to write reviews for books I don’t really enjoy. thanks for the great post, Kristen.

  77. Again. I agree. I’m not in the profession of book reviewer, so I don’t try to pretend I am. Also, as a writer, I have requests from people to read outside my genre of choice and offer a review. So do I rip them because sci-fi bores me? No. I look for the good stuff and highlight that (and if it’s got nothing I can be impressed by, then I will tell it to the inbox.)

    I will never give a rotten review. I feel like its like telling someone their kid is ugly over an intercom. Writers put their hearts in their books and I respect that.

  78. Reblogged this on Tricia Drammeh and commented:
    As a writer who also posts reviews, I’m usually careful about the feelings of other writers, but should I be posting reviews at all? Should I get rid of my ‘reviewer’ hat once and for all? Read Kristen Lamb’s blog post and let me know what you think.

  79. I’m always to afraid of hurting someone’s feelings to write a bad review, and I was always taught, “If you can’t say anything nice…” So I’m totally with you on the only writing reviews of books that I find AMAZING.

    I have, however, been doing a little editing lately, and I find that I am ruthless in that area. I hope my editors will be the same way with my work.

  80. Eek. This made me go back & check my review of your books. I did mention the editing, but I hope my enthusiasm for your work and philosophy put that in perspective. I was trying to encourage people not to get too caught up in that aspect and miss out on all the good stuff. Hope I wasn’t hurtful. I tend toward silence, and the more I consider it, the more it seems like the best way to go. The simple fact that I wrote something for both “WANA” and “Blog” speaks volumes.

    I do hate reading glowing reviews and then picking up the book to find it is garbage. And I hate seeing 5 stars for mediocre work. If you raise my expectations above reality, I will not trust your opinion or the ratings on subsequent books by that author. I appreciate an honest 3 more than an inflated 4 or 5.

    Reviewing is very different from critiquing. The two should be approached in the appropriate forum. GoodReads is not the place to critique, nor is the author’s blog or website.

    Thanks for making me think more about this issue.

    • Rachel Thompson on June 20, 2013 at 4:32 pm
    • Reply

    Screw hurt feelings over criticism. I say there is nothing for it; buck up and truck on. What else can you do accept write better.

  81. I never review books. On my blog on Fridays, I recommend books that I have read and enjoyed. So the post is always very positive. I go out of my way to praise some aspect of the writing such as the writer’s use of voice. I recently read the average person reads 8 books a year! I often read 3 or 4 books a week and while working on my second novel. I read across genres and I read a lot of books I don’t like. In fact, I have finally given myself permission not to finish a book but I never badmouth them. Not only for all the reasons you mention but because I KNOW how hard it is to write a book. I have been a member of the same Writers Group for eleven years and even there I watch what I say. I agree with Elizabeth Seckman. It’s like looking into a baby carriage and telling someone their baby is ugly. Great post. Thank you.

  82. Swimming against the tide, I rarely give 5 star reviews. That’s reserved for the truly spectacular. However, I believe 4-star (and even 3-star) reviews help books get noticed, too. (Since when is “pretty good” an insult?!) When I make a decision whether to buy a book, it’s the 3-star ratings that decide it for me. If the worst that can be said is that there were typos or that the book is great but has a slow start, then I’m likely to buy it. If all I see are dozens of raving 5-star reviews for a book by an unknown writer, then I start to get suspicious.

    On the flip side, if another writer gave my novel a thoughtful 4-star, I’d take it as a compliment. (Though naturally I’d prefer 5 stars. Heh.)

  83. This is a toughie. I started reading and reviewing books LONG before I ever became a writer. Now I feel conflicted. As a new writer, I know how difficult it is to pour your heart and soul into a book. And, then to put it out there for people to judge–well, that takes a lot of courage. Now that I write, I won’t leave less than a three star review because I know how hurtful it is to receive a poor review. If I don’t like a book, I don’t review it. I’d rather send the writer a private message to tell him or her why I don’t feel like I can give a favorable review. When I do leave a three-star review that has bits of criticism, I point out the good as well. Authors deserve to know what isn’t working, just as they need to know what they’re doing right.

    In some ways I feel like it’s a conflict of interest to continue to review books on my blog. But, then again, I don’t want to give it up. I love reading and reviewing! I’ve heard arguments on both sides. Thanks for posting this, Kristen!

    1. Tricia, I feel a similar conflict. I occasionally think about giving it up but then I read something so awesome I want to tell everyone about it!

  84. I have commented on blogs and eArticles, but I have never reviewed a book (non-fiction or fiction). I guess; it is up to the individual. Someone suggested it, before the craziness of Social Media, to send VIA paper mail to newspapers and magazines to get published credits. Readers read book reviews and so do editors were the logic in order to get a name in the industry. Today, there is Social Media. But the circulation of the New York Times (print form) or the Washington Post or Esquire Magazine is still very influential to those targeting success. I do not know if USA Today, the colorful nationwide newspaper, accepts book reviews. A book review could take fifteen minutes to write and send, VIA the post office.

  85. My policy is that if I receive a book from the author/publisher/promoter I will post an honest review if I can give it 3 or more stars. If I can’t give it at least 3 stars I will send a note to whoever gave me the book explaining why. I never talk about author’s personally, their talent or personhood, just the work. However, if I paid money for a book, I’ll write whatever I want. That’s consumerism. I will also sometimes write a critique and not star reviews and not put it on Amazon if it’s something that I think is worth reading but isn’t quite ready for a review. I’ve made some great friends thanks to 3 and 4 star reviews I’ve written because the authors I’ve known have been gracious about my thoughts and analysis. But I post a book review usually once a week and have for years so there’s some precedent.

  86. Personally I think a review, good or bad, shows an author a LOT of love (you bought the book, read the book, talked to others about the book – what more could any author want?). Of course at the moment I don’t post ANY reviews (awful or awesome) to Amazon as I haven’t felt any of the authors I’ve reviewed needed the boost (they have 25 or more reviews already) – or they would have gotten less than 3 stars.

    Posting a less than 3 star review on Amazon? Now that’s just mean.

    It’s impossible for an author to improve without SOME feedback. You had your aunt’s guidance and knew what her silence meant – it is not reasonable to assume everyone’s silence means the same thing. Until someone steps forward and tells you you’ve got egg on your face, you could conceivably walk forever and never know you look silly.

  87. Sometimes I feel like you are looking over my shoulder. I just finished reading a book that will be released tomorrow. I informed the author of some minor spelling errors. Some were able to be changed, some were too late.

    I washappy to read and review as I want to develop relationships with other authors and get their feedback on my novels. I will add reviews tomorrow because today I am riding a tour bus and have only my Kindle Fire.

    I hope someone will be honest enough to tell me where my work needs attention. At the moment my wife is my only critique source. I bristled at her original opinions, but now I am editing with those ideas in mind

  88. Reblogged this on My Writing Life and commented:
    Good advice.

  89. The story of my almost-one-and-only negative book review:

    I stumbled across a new book from one of my favorite authors recently. I was really excited – how could I have missed it? Sure, it was one of her first books, just re-packaged and re-released, but it was bound to be good, right?

    It. Was. Awful. Her pacing and plot was just as good as in her later books, but the hero and heroine were both so whiny and annoying I couldn’t stand to read about them. The heroine didn’t make a single decision throughout the whole book – she just passively let stuff happen to her, including GETTING MARRIED, and went along with whatever the whiny hero wanted.

    I almost never bother leaving Amazon reviews, but I left a review of this one because I didn’t want someone else to pick up the book and think all her work was like that. I wrote a well-thought-out two-star review, and . . .

    . . . Amazon wouldn’t let me post it. Because I had already given the book a two-star review, four years ago. Somehow I managed to read it, hate it, write a review, give my copy away, then *forget about it* so thoroughly that I didn’t twig onto the fact I already had read it until I was trying to post another one.

    I kept this copy in my collection – with a big “DO NOT READ THIS AGAIN IT WAS TERRIBLE” sticky note on the cover. Hopefully that will help keep me from buying it again by mistake.

    1. Hahaha! Wendy, sorry but it just tickles me that you could forget a story so effectively. 😀 I wish I could do that with some of the more inane stories that I’ve read. Sometimes their scenes just pop up in my thoughts at random. *shudders*

  90. Would that I only received 3, 4, or 5 star reviews. The few 1 and 2 stars I’ve received typically indicate that the reader really hasn’t read my book or come from an angry jealous person.

    I write quite a few reviews myself and I wouldn’t ever post a bad review. People work too hard on their books to get disrespect. Here’s a wonderful quote that I found yesterday that I think reviewers should think about before they post a bad review:

    “Nearly every writer writes a book with a great amount of attention and intention and hopes and dreams. And it’s important to take that effort seriously and to recognize that a book may have taken ten years of a writer’s life, that the writer has put heart and soul into it. And it behooves us, as book-review-editors, to treat those books with the care and attention they deserve, and to give the writer that respect.” -Pamela Paul, New York Times Book Review editor, in a Poets & Writers interview

    So glad I found your blog, Kristen. I’ll be back often.

  91. If I don’t like a book, I won’t review it. Most of my reviews are 4 and 5 star. I agree that reviewers should not post 1 or 2 star reviews. When my book comes out, I hope that people will extend that courtesy to me.

    • meredithmorgan on June 20, 2013 at 5:58 pm
    • Reply

    Generally, I only post reviews of books I like. Sometimes my “like” may be qualified, but for the most part my reviews are for those books that I want to hold up and say, “Read this!!” If I read a book I don’t like, I don’t review it.

    Authors have enough problems with other authors savaging them for fun.

  92. What a fascinating discussion, Kristen and followers!

    Correct me if I’m wrong, though. A critique is not review. A review is one person’s opinion concerning the work as a whole, generally with some sort of synopsis (that doesn’t give away the ending). Were the characters unique and individual? Was the plot spellbinding, weak in the center, or worse, all over the map? Was the theme relevant?

    A critique, as I was taught, is generally more focused on chapters or segments, as in group activity. I am a little more bare-knuckled when it comes to critiques, although, as many above have stated, I always, always begin with the good stuff. “I loved your main character. You opened…” And then I list the shortcomings, as I SEE THEM. I preface the written critique with that. We all know what they say about opinions! That’s one of the beauties of group critiquing. Another member might totally disagree with me and state why.

    I end with some sort of positive statement, and a reiteration of, “This is my opinion. If two of us seem to see the same things, consider having another look, and changing if YOU feel a change is warranted.” I would certainly never say something like that in a review.

    1. We are actually going to talk about that tomorrow, because I think this question is a BIG DEAL. Stay tuned ;).

      1. Can we take a vote, Kristen? Should we as authors review…wait a minute. What was the original question, lol?

        1. Ah, there it is:
          Should Authors Write Bad Book Reviews?
          No. Authors should edit, edit, edit, and then post the scathing review 🙂

  93. I don’t review at all, though maybe this is my lawyer showing. They tell you in law school, “an appearance of conflict of interest is as bad as an actual conflict…” Nobody is objective, and no published author is going to look like he or she is offering an objective review on a book written by somebody who could be viewed as a competitor/friend/publisher-sibling etc.

    I need to focus on writing my books as well as I can, not offering my opinion on other people’s books uninvited. There are excellent, constructive, sincere people out there who can and do cover that base wonderfully. From both time management and branding points of view, I think the higher ground is for this author to not review.

    That said, it bothers me that there’s no push against the reviewers who are mean, destructive, and gleefully playing get the author/genre/subgenre. I respect a thoughtful critical review. One couched in sarcasm and condescension isn’t intended to help improve my writing, in fact, it’s often only marginally about my book or my writing. And yet, this type of review is not only tolerated, in some circles, it’s celebrated.

  94. Reblogged this on "CommuniCATE" Resources for Writers and commented:
    The kind of common sense we all need to hear: caring for others means you also, watch your OWN back. Thanks for another gem Kristen.

  95. Back when it was suggested to send book reviews to newspapers to get published credits and a name, I was making $6 an hour washing dishes at a corporate hospital. The $1, which I spent for printing and the envelope and the postage, was better spent on sending a 500 words short story to Highlights for Children magazine or a 2K to Cricket Magazine or a 2K mystery to Woman’s World or a political satire to The New Yorker. I am writing novels so commenting on textboxes of blogs and eArticles on Yahoo! News is plenty to consume my time. FACEBOOK, I just added and I can do research on the internal community along with getting questions answered from the already successful about writing novels and there are the groups involving the writing industry.

    • Tamara LeBlanc on June 20, 2013 at 6:39 pm
    • Reply

    First of all, you look like a bad @$$ with a rifle! Second, this post had me rolling, soooo funny. Right off the bat when you said, “can you tweet while drinking and listening to Linkin Park” I laughed out loud. Third, if the email critiquing and critisising my work came from my critique partners, I’d listen to nearly everything they said. We’ve been together for over ten years, we argue over our writing, praise each other when it’s warranted and we’re bloody honest. I’d listen to them. Especially if all three of them had an issue.
    But if it was just some random hoo ha that decided they wanted to give me a lesson in authoring, I’d more than likely thank them for their time and then pick and choose the elements that meant the most to me…or that I feel would help me grow as a writer.
    And fourth, you are SO NOT a brain damaged monkey…you’re a rock star!
    Have a grrrrrreat weekend 🙂

  96. Reblogged this on Anna M Dobritt and commented:
    Very interesting. I try to leave good reviews on books I’ve read, but also point out when there are typos.

  97. Hi Kristen.
    I enjoyed your article.
    I don’t review other writer’s work, partly because I don’t have time for extra reading, but also, because I would hate to hurt another writer’s feelings, knowing what a tough, solitary, bare your soul experience writing is.
    I’m also wary of the veracity of writer’s swapping positive reviews for marketing reasons, and would not like to be known as someone who engages in that sort of activity.

  98. Phew! What a lot of comments to scroll through! Seems this is a topic which hits a nerve with a lot of people, whether they be fully-fledged, aspiring or maybe-one-day writers, editors, reviewers or readers.

    I must say I do agree with your sentiments, nothing gets me down more than reading negative reviews of books that I have really enjoyed. As a reader, it makes me start to wonder…am I dumb to have liked this book? I think a lot of people post scathing reviews online from the safety of their ivory tower, secure in the knowledge that they can tear a book to shreds. Why not? They have their online thesaurus, their spell check and their spark notes handy, and they also have the gift of perspective and time on their side, two things the published author never has when it comes to their own writing. Why it is necessary to then dissect a piece of work sentence by sentence, looking for each and every flaw, is beyond me.

    My blog is wholly centred around reviewing books, but I only review those that I love. There are so many wonderful books out there, waiting to be shared with the world that I don’t feel the need to focus on poorly written ones. I will read pretty much anything, but if I get to Chapter Two and feel that the book is not worth my time, I put it down. Never to be picked up again. As you say, people not reading your books is going to tell you a lot more about your writing than a few harshly worded, cutting reviews.

    Excellent post, gave me much food for thought!

    Cheers, Kelsie.

  99. I’m not sharing this because I want to win a contest (though, that would be awesome sauce) – I’m going to share it because it’s brilliant. And wise. And necessary. Thanks.

    1. Thanks, Wylie and lovely to meet you *hugs*

  100. Thanks Kristen, you’ve just summed up my feelings exactly. I only review the indie books that a) give me that ‘oh my god I’ve discovered a gem’ buzz, and b) that really can stand toe-to-toe with the best of the traditionally published book out there.

    I’ve copped some flack for not writing bad reviews, but I’m not a professional reviewer so I don’t have to be cruel. There are more than enough anonymous readers out there who seem to enjoy handing out 1 star reviews. I won’t ever be joining their ranks. Ever.

    1. It’s almost like a group of Mean Girls.

      1. Yes. 🙁

  101. Awesome article. I don’t review much (I don’t get to read much!), but if I review, you know I loved it. I will not post a negative review. Maybe the book deserved it, but it’s not worth it to me to publicly criticize another author.

  102. I’ve never been one to give bad reviews. I always think about the fact that no matter how much I may have disliked the book, the author put a lot of work into it. I like the thought of private critiques. Definitely a good idea. 🙂

  103. I agree with you whole-heartedly. Saying why you liked a book is always helpful, whereas the reasons for DISliking can be so subjective. I did once wonder about he wisdom on not leaving a bad review on a professionally produced book that was simply bad – badly written, badly edited, badly conceived, but then I thought “Well, I didn’t like “Twilight” either, but millions did…” and let it go.

    I don’t mind people pointing out the flaws in my books (I wish I could say that’s why I leave them in, but it’s not true…) as long as they are polite and provide examples, or at least are specific about the errors they encountered. Like you said, it makes me work that much harder on the next. Plus, of course, the joy of e-books is that you can haul ’em in and re-work them.

  104. I agree completely. I write and review, and I’ve made it my policy to only write reviews for books that I like (three or more stars). Anything less and I just don’t say anything about it. As you said, it doesn’t need to be said. Silence says so much more.

  105. Obviously this is a hot topic, but I do feel I need to leave my two cents. I will express my honest opinion about strengths of the book, but overall I fallow the “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” philosophy when it comes to reviews. I have also helped a number of new authors by reviewing their books – but I’m always very clear that if I can’t leave an honest positive review I will contact them with my concerns rather than post anything negative. This provides them with the opportunity to make changes should they choose to.

    1. GO…YOU!!! You, my friend, are a ROCKSTAR!

  106. “THIS BOOK IS SO AWESOME I SAW JESUS!” Love this! Love the post and your humanity!

  107. I might do a four star review, as well as five stars. I consider those both positive reviews. But if I can’t give a positive review? Nope. Don’t have nothin’ nice to say, don’t say nothin’ at all, is my thought.

    For pretty much the reasons Kristen spelled out above.

    Listen, I see writers GO OFF on each other all the time. Dear, sensitive souls that we are… We’re also somewhat mean when tweaked. 😉 I have NO desire to have some writer I gave two stars get their fifty best friends and systematically one-star everything I write from now until doomsday. 🙂

    I’ve made that my firm policy. If I don’t LOVE a book, I don’t review it.

  108. My approach is to write articles on what I learned from a book, rather than straight-up reviews. I always find that there’s something positive to learn, whatever the overall quality, and that gives me a way of focusing on the positive. It also reminds me to use every reading experience to help develop as a writer.

  109. Love the post, Kristen! As a writer who isn’t pubbed or self-pubbed yet, but post my short stories on my website, I would find it hard to hurt the feelings of fellow writers, many of whom I know at least superficially on Twitter. I do try and leave comments when I enjoy something they wrote online. But I have to admit, I wasn’t aware that there are writers who actually hold a serious grudge against someone who didn’t like their book. I can see being hurt, but angry? Everything can’t appeal to everyone. it sounds like writers writing reviews is like walking through a minefield.

    But feedback is important. Given that I get silence from all but a couple friends (bless em!) when i post my stories (even though I often get hundreds of hits), I’m left feeling my writing must have taken a wrong turn somewhere. To have someone (readers, writers, or visitors from the planet Ornk) tell me what they do or don’t like would be helpful. Hmmm … I hadn’t thought of the concept of commenting privately if it’s critical.

    So, here is yet another thing I’ve learned from you, Kristen! I will put my (business) email address on my website. :-}

  110. I never give bad reviews. If I don’t like a book, I just don’t review it. I’m trying to get away from reviewing anyway, because I’m an author, not a reviewer, but sometimes I feel I have to. If I can’t give it a 4 or 5 star, I usually don’t bother. It could be that it’s a good book and it just didn’t click with me, and I don’t want to bring someone’s average down because I didn’t like it.

  111. I started reviewing before I started publishing my stories because I have friends who ask me for recommendations. My continuing efforts may be a hangover from my journalism days (as well as a hat tip to the fact that it’s HARD to find reviewers): Report, Tonya! 😀

    On the other hand, I see my reviews as being a book match-maker. If I don’t like it, that doesn’t mean it isn’t for everybody (at least… if the book has been through editing). I also don’t give star ratings on my blog, because I don’t want to predispose readers one way or the other until they’ve had a chance to try out the book in question for themselves.

    The upshot: The book I really hated, the author LOVED my review. ::shrug:: There are ways to share information and point out strengths and weaknesses without being a troll. Though I admit to having become a LOT more picky about the review requests I actually accept, because I just don’t have time to waste these days on stories that don’t genuinely reach out and grab me.

  112. Had to laugh about having the normal ship sail away, it’s too true! I feel a bit bad for the author who chose to be mortally offended by your remark, they are wasting a lot of energy on something that in the end is trivial. Writers have got to be able to take critique or they need a different occupation. Great advice on staying silent.

  113. Well that was humbling. I have a degree but not in Literature and it has taken some courage to write about the books I enjoy. I turned to Sc-Fi a number of years ago and just started a Sci-Fi Book Review Blog – for my enjoyment. I decided not to write about books I didn’t get or like. I learned that my likes can change. I also hate reviews that tell you the story – so I try to just say the things that I enjoyed the most – humour, action, imagination, morality issues etc. You covered many of my own concerns. So far, few have read my ramblings and no one has taken offense. For those who disagree – move on and read what you like.

  114. Once I became a writer, I went back to Goodreads and removed every bad comment I’d ever left. So, anything 3 stars or less. I figured karma was a bitch and it WOULD come back and bite me if I didn’t do that. Mom always said, if you don’t have something nice to say, then keep your trap shut.

  115. Typically if I don’t enjoy a book/short story I stop reading it. I have way too many books & stories on my TBR list to waste my time on books that aren’t resonating with me. I write book reviews on my blog and they’ve all been positive. I try to promote authors, not demote them. There are way too many trolls out there as it is!
    There are exceptions of course. I read submissions for a literary magazine so I have no choice but to read stories that I don’t particularly like. Fortunately, I can be honest b/c the editor handles all the acceptance/rejection emails. 😉 I’m also a beta-reader, part of a writing group, etc. and I try my best to offer constructive criticism only. I think you can only be brutally honest w/ very few people. One of my writing partners is very critical of my work and he tends to hurt my feelings at times but after my initial boo-hoo, I realize that he’s simply pushing me to take my writing further. But I’ll admit, it still hurts. I’m a sensitive person, as I assume most artists are. It’s something to keep in mind when reviewing. 😉

  116. I appreciate this post. I regularly review books for several publishers/authors and have a running debate about this in my head. I hate the idea of offending someone or creating a problem, yet I want to be honest, yet kind and tactful. One thing I do is to choose books that I am pretty sure I will like – that helps a lot! lol But there have been a few instances where something was confusing or I didn’t care for the book, so I make my comments more generic and focus on the good aspects.

    It’s hard putting your work out there – it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. That, in theory is okay, but it still stings when they don’t like it.

  117. I liked your take on this subject. I am a wannabe author, in the throes of editing my first draft and taking way too long to do it, wanting so much for it to be perfect that I can hardly face my computer.

    As a result of my studies of craft books and reading blogs and rewriting every sentence to death in my own book, I am having an extremely hard time just READING a book and enjoying another author’s work without seeing all the little (and BIG) mistakes. I have started so many books, only to toss them aside after only a few pages, unable to wade through poorly-written, error-filled, sloppily edited, or un-edited, garbage (with my best self-indulgent “My writing is superior to that junk” mentality). It is difficult not to indulge ourselves, as authors, in the overwhelming desire to SHARE our knowledge and expertise with others who are so obviously in need of our valuable and much more elevated skills.

    As authors we are the most critical of readers, and we should be careful, lest we receive backlash as harsh as we dished out.

    HOWEVER – my only problem with the educated reader NOT sharing real opinions is that reviews become just an admiration-fest. When a reader (such as myself) goes online to find a good book to read, she is unable to rely upon the posted reviews, which seem to be always only those 4 and 5-stars. I just read one, which will remain unnamed (bow to Kristen). I hung in there with it due to the fact that it is one in a series and I was committed to the whole series. At the end I wanted to throw it against the wall – I would call it a first draft and edit it a good two or three more times!

  118. I think you’re mixing up reviews and critiques, especially since they’re being used interchangeably. A review is for readers, to help them determine if they want to buy the book. A critique is for a writer to help them improve.

    Reviews: Yes, I do give one star reviews. I’m a reader. Why can’t I tell the world if I liked or a book or didn’t like it?

    Too many writers get focused on the review being “bad” or “negative” and not that people are talking about the book. Discussion and conflict is promotion. Look at The Da Vinci Code. It sold because of the conflicts people had with it.

    I have bought books because of 1 star reviews, and I’ve also passed on them for 1 star reviews. It depends on what I’m looking for. Having all kinds of reviews is fair and realistic.

    Frankly, authors shouldn’t read the reviews, and they definitely shouldn’t be using them like critiques. That leads to writers who feel like they have to change their story to please everyone, a very bad place to be in.

    Critiques: Frankly, I thought your aunt did you a disservice by not commenting on the story. Critiques are to help you improve. Not telling you any comments — how does that help you improve? You can’t read her mind. You don’t know if she thought the story was terrible because it was a genre she didn’t read. You don’t know that she thought your grammar needed a lot of work. You don’t know that she might have gotten an entirely different impression from your character’s on page behavior than you thought.

    I learn more about where people are confused and what I’m not doing right from what the critiques tell me. And I ask questions. It’s one of the reasons I found out that I was completely leaving details out of my story, and asking the questions helped me learn how to get them into the story. It is what you make of it.

    1. Perfect, Linda. Thanks so much.

      Once again; reviews are public statements. Crits are private, or shared in a group. They have totally different objectives.

  119. Admittedly, I feel uncomfortable leaving a bad review. On the other hand, I like leaving reviews on Goodreads because it helps me to pinpoint why I liked or didn’t like a book and how I might improve my own writing.

    Regardless of how high I rate a book, I try to decide why I liked or didn’t like it, and point out both the good and bad in my review. If it’s something I know is subjective, I try to note that, too. That way, if an author is reading it, it might at least be helpful to know why I felt the way I did.

    As a reader, the lower end reviews often give me a good clue of whether or not I’ll like a book. If they say why they didn’t like it, and it matches with things I don’ t enjoy, I’ll bypass it. If they say didn’t like it for things I do typically enjoy, I’ll be more likely to pick it up.

    I do see the point of not wanting to create hard feelings, that’s the reason I’m hesitant to leave reviews at times, but I also feel like I should share my thoughts and feedback, because right now I hope that others would do the same once I eventually get something published.

  120. Linda Adams said what I was thinking. Reviews are not meant for the author–they are not intended as critiques or to help them become better writers. Reviews are for READERS. I’m not pubbed (yet), but like every other writer, I’m a voracious reader, and have scads of writer friends. I learned early on to only accept ARCs from friends whose work I knew I would like (usually from reading early drafts), and that I could write positive reviews for. I write reviews rarely, and only for books I *really* love, and I aim them at the reader, not the author. The goal of a review should be to help a reader determine whether or not this book would be a good match for them, and to help the book find its target audience. And if a friend asks me to review a book, and I’m pretty sure I’m not going to like it (meaning, I’m probably not the target audience)? Sometimes I just cop out and plead to being busy. Sometimes I simply say I couldn’t do it justice, and perhaps offer some *private* critique. I hope that when the day comes that I’m pubbed, folks will have the same respect for me, and only write a review if they want to help my work find its proper, loving audience.

  121. I’m late to the party, but I’m glad you did this post. Before I started writing, I came across a book whose historical accuracy was so bad, I did my very first review on Amazon. I slammed the anachronisms, but praised the writing, and gave it a three, then promptly forgot the author’s name. Fast forward a year or two later, here I am writing. I learned early on that one of the jobs in this profession is to be nice. How did I learn this? From my agent. At a conference I introduced myself to an editor who’d requested a submission of my book. She was very nice. When I described my meeting, to my agent, she said, “It’s her job to be nice.” That took me back a bit, so I replied, “I thought her job was to buy books.” Whereupon my agent said, “That’s true, but being nice is part of it.”

    I will not give an author less than a 4. Most of my reviews are 5s, because if I don’t like a book I just won’t review it. That author? Apparently forgave me because she did one of my cover quotes.

  122. I have gone back and forth on this. I think my solution is to wear two hats:) As well as writing, I’m an avid reader. I love reading reviews and I have opinions about the books I read. I will not post a 1- or 2- star review though. If a book is leaning in that direction for me, I usually can’t or don’t finish it just because my tbr stack (like so many others) is huge. But it feels unnecessary to express that I couldn’t finish a book publicly because reading is so subjective, and honestly, I’d rather gush about the books I love. I’ve received some lower reviews on my own work, and while they don’t make me jump up and down and cheer, I believe once you put you’re work out in the public, anyone who reads it has a right to express their opinion. Most professional writers have their share of less than glowing reviews. Rating systems do seem to reward higher rated books, and we’ve probably all come across one or two books that were very highly rated that didn’t click for us. The bottom line is reviews are subjective, as they should be, and as readers become more experienced, I think we become better able to sort through reviews that are relevant and irrelevant.

  123. I am the recent recipient of a bad review, and I have to say I’ve taken it rather philosophically. For the most part I’ve received nothing but silence by way of feedback, and even before reading your post, I took this to mean that I haven’t hit the nail squarely on the head. I had one 5* write up, the first review, but I was also getting non-official feedback that the prose contained too many long words and that the ending was a little confusing.

    The truth of the matter? No, I hadn’t swallowed a thesaurus, but I HAD taken far too long to construct each sentence, aiming for perfection every time and, conversely, achieving only a rather stuttering, hard to follow structure of writing. The ending I am fine with – it does make sense, you just have to think about it, but that’s the same with one of my inspirations, the movie ‘The Usual Suspects’ (in fact my ending makes more sense than that!).

    The reason I came under fire with my second (and yes, so far, only other, review) I suspect is because I’ve come across as a smart-arse. And I’m really not. In fact as soon as I got this bad review I went on to post about it on Twitter and made a self-defamatory joke about it. The review gave me one star, but I suspect, if she could have given me zero or minus one, she would have. You would think I had mugged her grandma. When in fact I was just trying, a little too hard, to create the perfect book. She didn’t even bother to write more than two sentences, so if it were a gunshot it would be a quick bullet to the head. In fact, she didn’t bother to write it correctly from a few grammatical points. And from those brief, acerbic words, I deduce she knows a little bit about writing. Therefore she couldn’t REALLY be bothered to give me the time of day, but felt so compelled to slate me that she managed to spit a few words out.

    Should she have written it? Well for one thing, it hammered a point home that had been simmering already. I need to go through the book and take out the ‘clever’ words, par it down a little bit. That’s actually easy to accomplish because it’s only in the first few pages that it’s so rife for some reason.

    And, when I think about it, she IS right. I mean I sort of knew it before she said it, but just hadn’t woken up to it. She’s given me that wakeup call. So I should be thanking her for leaving that bad review right? Well in a way, I am, but I doubt she wants my thanks, at least not as much as she’d like to see my fingernails removed. I suppose in an ideal world (for me) she would have sent me a private message, albeit equally vituperous, from which I could have taken heed. Instead she has probably damaged my sales. But that’s okay, I’m in it for the long term – I want to know what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong. If she had been more subtle, maybe I wouldn’t have got the message?

    Or maybe she’s just plain evil… 🙂

    In any case, I’m in the process of editing out the poncy stuff and will republish shortly. Oh and for anyone interested in that review to end all reviews, it’s just here:

  124. Oh sorry, I meant to link to the review itself, I am not shamelessly plugging my book. In fact: do not buy this book, do not even look inside. It is full of long words that will make you think I’m an idiot.

  125. I don’t really think authors should write bad book reviews. Why is it necessary to destroy someone’s self confidence as well as career before it started?
    After all it’s mostly a matter of taste!
    If I like a dress, but not the color, it’s as much as matter of taste as when I like or dislike a movie.
    Why should it be different with books?
    I personally wouldn’t like bad reviews either – who does?
    At least I wouldn’t do it – even though I have to admit I wrote one review because I didn’t like the book… but I do have to say: it wasn’t fiction – it was more a true adventure – and badly written too. *sigh*. And even there I was more mentioning the bad editing before publishing than I cirisized the writer herself… but that’s another story….

  126. Coincidently I came across Jeaniene Frost post on why she doesn’t leave negative reviews today. An interesting read in support of much you say Kristen. I came across it because she was including a partial negative review of a previous book with her review of a soon to be released book with permission from the author

  127. Love it: //her silence spoke VOLUMES. In fact, it was far more powerful than if she would have red-penned me into the third circle of Hell.//

  128. Writer egos slay me. I’ve taken my lumps (“Take it like a man!” I do), but when asked my honest opinion, silly me, I dare to begin with the good and move on to the “this however” stuff, and doors slam in my face. Long-trusted friends. Don’t they I love them even if I don’t love their writing? I guess not. SLAM, so long, ouch. Am I the only author who welcomes honest feedback?

  129. LOL!! I am not alone: “you write a review every few months when you finally remember the password to Goodreads” —

  130. Once, when faced with a promise to review a book that was pretty mediocre (at best), I asked a fellow writer how to handle the situation. The advice I was given was, “Remember it’s not a critique, focus on what potential readers might enjoy”. Great idea, unless there’s nothing enjoyable to focus on.

    I don’t promise reviews anymore and your advice is perfect, Kristen. Thanks!

    1. I tell people that I will not post a review under 5 stars. If it blows my mind and makes me want to recommend it to the world? You get a review. But that’s just me.

  131. Amen, selah. You nailed the issues to the cathedral door.

    I am a multi-brand enterprise, with my fiction under a pen name, and non-fiction under my own name. I do write reviews, in print and online, but not often. I do not review anything that I can’t be wildly enthusiastic about, in part because that is what it takes for me to finish anything these days.

  132. I’m usually pretty positive in my reviews, but there have been a couple that weren’t so positive, dealing mainly with mainstream published works. However, I’ve recently come to the conclusion reviewing books is taking up too much of my time as I try to get my own manuscript together, so this post helps to further my decision. Thanks!

  133. I liked this post a lot! You made some very good points. I really liked contacting the author in private rather than in public. Sound advice throughout. Thank you.

  134. What happens if someone reads the book based on your positive recommendations and they also find it sucks. Will that say to them your are a coward for not expressing your true feelings and mistrusting you to ever express the truth, even in your own writings? This is a delicate subject. Should you not review it at all?

    1. @Carole Anne – I would not write a good review of a bad book nor do I think Kristen would. If it’s bad, I shut up in public, damning by absent praise. Perhaps I might send a private note to the author. Leave well enough alone, and bad writing eventually dies–or makes it to the Best Seller lists despite the fact.

  135. Reblogged this on A Writer's Wings and commented:
    This is a fabulous post that I stumbled upon today. It’s something I’ve struggled with myself. As I am not a heavy book reviewer, I wondered if writing a bad book review would be acceptable. There have been a few books I’ve read that caused me to consider a least giving the author a heads up on some issues within a book. This certainly put the subject in perspective for me and I couldn’t help but share.

  136. Out of 68 reviews, I got one that was perfectly hateful. (a 2) As a comedian I’m used to not everyone thinking I’m funny. Recently I reread her review and then read her other reviews and discovered that her favorite genre was historical romance. So she was coming from a place not even remotely close to mine. I’m in LA, think the Mars Rover is the reviewer.

    So give me a bad review if you must, but it’d be nice to mention that the genre you’re more familiar with is not the genre the author specializes in. Then type away!

    (And she got it on a KDP FREEBIE day. Now THAT hurt.)

    1. I do agree that if you’re not familiar with the genre, it is a good idea to make a disclaimer pointing out this isn’t your usual read, so other readers are aware of the difference in the review.

  137. I’m an Author/Reviewer who has an English degree with Honours. As a reviewer, I try to avoid reviewing work that is too similar to my own, unless it is an absolute classic of the genre or the author has given me a good reason why I should review their work. I think this is the fairest way to go.

    • John Simon on July 22, 2013 at 7:32 am
    • Reply

    I would recommend Peter Church’s book Added Value-the life stories of Indian business leaders. Amazing insight on some truly inspirational people. You should read this book not only because it was fantastically insightful and interesting in relation to the individuals but also gives the reader an incredibly helpful view of the mindset of the business leaders. The book is an excellent primer for anyone seeking to do business.

  138. This post sums up exactly how I feel at the moment. While I’ve had poetry published in various magazines, I’ve recently self-published my first novel — and no one knows about it! I went on a quest to find reviewers and what I found was a lot of ‘tit for tat’. Which seems fair, doesn’t it? You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. The problem I’m having is, what if the book I receive has major issues? I’m a writer first. I can’t criticize another author, especially in a public forum. These are my peers. These are people just like me, struggling to hone their craft. We’re all on the same mission to share something with others, to constantly improve, and to expose ourselves with our words–we’re just at different stages of that process. I want to encourage other authors, not bring them down. If I read a book I couldn’t give three stars, I could never post that on a public forum. Even on my Good Reads shelf, the books I don’t like (I do have likes and dislikes!), I just don’t bother rating.

    1. Good for you. Rising water lifts all the ships.

    2. A bad review from our peers? Our TRIBE? Our fellow writers-at-arms? Multiply the hurt by a million, then add 3. We don’t just feel hurt, we feel betrayed.

      I’m asked often–I’m sure we all are–to review a book written by a friend or peer that’s listed at Amazon. We all know the problem of being put into that position. Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. It’s extremely difficult to rate a book 3, 4 or 5 stars that lies in a genre outside my interests for starters. Vampires and shapeshifters, etc., for instance. Couple that with stories poorly plotted, with grammatical nightmares…well. I find myself hard pressed to say, “I’m so sorry. Right now I’m way too busy…” The friend or peer is hurt. So, what does one do?

  139. Reblogged this on carolkean and commented:
    Authors who are book reviewers, too, should revisit this blog from time to time. We don’t criticize a baby is learning to walk, –“I prefer to focus on their bravery and not the lack of plot” or other weakness, Lamb writes. True in a workshop, but should hold published authors to a higher standard?

  140. Reblogged this on Mandisa M. Parnell – Jamaican Writer on the Rise and commented:
    Such true words of wisdom. And definitely a word to the wise.

  141. Once again, Ms. Lamb, your words resonate with me. I have been there. As a reader, editor and writer, I have found myself in this position. Like you said, if I can’t find anything good to say after reading a book, I don’t bother posting a review. As an editor, when I read books self-published via Amazon that are riddled with errors and typos,full of inconsistencies, repetition and redundancies and all sorts of POV issues, I feel like I am being slapped in the face over and over. Ultimately, these problems spoil the story for me and leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Sometimes I am left with a bad impression of the author. But I did try the whole “emailing the author privately to point out the problems with the work” once and – to put it mildly – this was an epic fail!
    Needless to say, I have no regrets and still hope that this oversensitive writer will have, as you said “calm down and have a glass of wine” but since this writer is a huge success – with sales to back that up – I will leave out the “not-selling” part and substitute: and figure out how to improve the standard of his content thereby improving the reader experience for his myriad fans. After all, he owes them that much and only the best is good enough.
    As you rightly said: “If an author can’t take a private note of critique from a peer? Then they are in the wrong profession”. Hear! Hear! But I can only hope…
    In the meantime, no more reaching out to fellow authors on my part.
    Thanks again for your post, Ms. Lamb. Word to the wise, indeed.

    1. Yeah, it is tricky. I haven’t done it, but I have been on the end of it. And it may be different for NF and not as emotional. I just know I’ve read stories that were a train wreck but I just don’t say anything. Crushing a writer’s spirit isn’t going to help them improve and if you read the other post I wrote on it, as editors/authors we see a lot of things regular people don’t. So regular Joe Reader might love it, where we are counting word echoes and POV shifts.

    • Renee on April 22, 2015 at 1:10 pm
    • Reply

    Hi, Kristen: I’m coming to this blog late, (just discovered it). I heard about this latest controversy involving a popular blogger/reviewer and found your post.

    I do my best to stay off Goodreads and Amazon and hope they’ll police some of the mean-spirited, vindictive comments that more accurately reflect the reviewer and not the book. And a lot of these are women, (making the incredibly nasty Mean Girl comments). Read a recent article on Amazon reviews that bear this out, that a great deal of the reviews are from WRITERS and not necessarily readers. The RWA magazine had an interesting article a few years ago… on how readers make the decision to purchase a book. Reviews weren’t rated at the top. Ergo, reviews might be taken more seriously by other aspiring writers, but not necessarily by strictly readers, (who don’t write).

    I often wonder if this vindictive mud-slinging doesn’t stem from green-eyed envy or some smug superior position that “your” opinion matters the most. It’s likely rooted in the tetrad personality.

    To me, sneering book reviews just aren’t good form. It’s not classy, San Diego. When Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal went at it — was it on the Dick Cavett show? — it made both men look bad. They looked petty. Steven Spielberg wouldn’t eviscerate a Tarantino film. Musicians won’t publicly trash another band. They might do it privately, and the Sony hack would validate this — but to do it publicly is ugly. Look at Charlie Sheen attacking his producers. Ugh.

    Manners still mean something, don’t they? Good online etiquette? Or am I a Pollyanna about this?

    Outside of novel writing, I don’t know too many professions that do this, call each other out and criticize their work. There is some icky ethical boundary you’re crossing when you engage in this behavior.

    Once you write seriously and are published, don’t review. That’s my take. Have your personal opinions, that’s fine, but to post public reviews of another author’s work and even gut their novels — just seems unethical.

    I’ve visited Goodreads, checked out some of the reviewers — and it’s hilarious — some of them rate so many books a “one star” that they’re hard to take seriously. They’re like mean junior-high girls. How can anyone take their reviews seriously after awhile? They’re too negative.

    The anonymity of the Internet, coupled with some of the flagrant narcissism (“my opinion matters, and read how cleverly I write — your book sucks, n’yah, n’yah”) — has led to such a tsunami of ugly. We as authors are advised to rise above it. Hard to do when there is an almost gleeful nastiness to ripping apart a book.

    I suspect that 20% to 30% of the nastiest people posting are doing 80% to 85% of the comments, too. My husband’s a gamer and said one comment board he was on — he noted that 2 or 3 nasties were responsible for 80% of the most poisonous commentary. They savored engaging another person, start an argument, and start hurling out invective. It crosses into bullying.

    It’s as though the trolls (tetrad personality) live for this. And it’s no way to live.

    If there was some way to expose them, or their so-called insistence on having their “First Amendment” rights, but at least to get them to have the guts to reveal their true identities… that would be something.

  142. I’m late to the party too, but was thinking about this very subject too much recently not to find somewhere to comment 🙂

    The same issue that Renee above mentioned was the reason I decided to just list the books I’ve read and only add stars if I liked them. It’s true – other professions stand with each other regardless and don’t pick each other apart in public. But if I think a book deserves four or five stars and are worth a read, it’s always good to say so, I think.

    Sometimes it’s hard for someone opinionated to keep quiet, but just because we might have a strong one doesn’t mean it has to be shared. Especially negative ones with strangers. People can always surmise what my tastes are by seeing what I *love* anyway.

  143. Reblogged this on Nancy Segovia and commented:
    This is so right on the money!

  144. I couldn’t agree with you more. A few months ago, I was gifted a book to read and review. It was horrible, the concept was unique, but the cliches, the typos, the sentence structure, the verb tenses, and yada, yada, yada were so distracting, I gave up after about 60 pages. And, that is to say nothing about the long, long flashbacks that had absolutely nothing to do with the moving the plot forward. I e-mailed the author and asked her a couple of questions, very politely, about style and editing. She snarled and hissed, and we both agreed that it would be best if I would just not review the book because even on a scale of 1-5 it would have been a -6. Bottom line, we are not friends, but at least we are not enemies which we would have been if I have written the honest review I was supposed to write.

  145. 100% agree.

    • Amorina on July 27, 2020 at 10:20 am
    • Reply

    I realize this was a really old blog post, but I just wanted you to know it helped me in a lot of ways. I’m one of those “baby writers” considering self-publishing, and many people still have such a stigma against it! (I haven’t even been rejected yet, there are just a lot of positives these days). Anyway, I found your blog because I’m building my “brand” as we speak and other writers keep asking me to review their books that are full of errors. Im like you and never left a negative review before this, and would feel even worse doing it when asked to look at a book!

    Thanks so much for your kind words and positive inspiration! Your willingness to offer mentorship instead of barriers to others trying to pursue writing is amazing.

    1. I wouldn’t have made it as a baby writer without mentors, so I take it as a personal duty to pass on what I was gifted. I am happy the post helped and great to meet you!

  146. I was a reviewer before I was an author.

    I leave honest book reviews.

    By honest book reviews, I keep it straight to the point. I review plot, characters, etc. I just stick to the facts and avoid personal attacks on the author.

    I don’t like book reviews skewing negative or positive because someone was afraid to leave a negative review, or someone didn’t have the time to leave a review of something they liked (though that’s their choice and it’s okay – but that’s a long subject so I’ll stop here).

    I don’t owe any authors a positive review if I didn’t like the book. I am a human being and I have my own likes and dislikes.

    However, negative reviews that target the author or are mean are not my cup of tea, and I never go there in my reviews.

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  13. […] Should authors write bad reviews […]

  14. […] other blog was from author Kristen Lamb where she shares her own reasons for choosing not to post negative […]

  15. […] a quick side note this is one of the many, many reasons I never leave a review unless I can give it four stars. There is a person on the other side of that review and for all I know it really could just be me. […]

  16. […] Should Authors Write Bad Book Reviews by Kristen Lamb […]

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