Why negative book reviews are bad for the reviewer.
It is no secret that I love to review books I have adored. If you kick around on this blog, you will find them. And yes – they are raves, because I loved the books and the authors deserve the praise I have given them. Because ultimately a review IS about the ability of the author, and that is what is often forgotten. Which is why I don’t write bad reviews, choosing instead to simply NOT review the book at all.
Because a bad review (and I mean THE BRUTAL ONES), in the grand scheme of things, does nothing for the other potential audience members. I mean – what I may hate (a certain series about 50 gray window coverings comes to mind), they may love and vice versa, right? So, while a great review applauds the work of the author, a scathing review serves only to slap them.
And it is a slap.
The surest way I know a reviewer is not a writer, is when they pen a brutal review and then add “this is not about the author.” *SNORT*
Let me tell ya – IT IS ALWAYS about the author TO THE AUTHOR. I have seen writers be destroyed by a bad review and I tell them, “the person who wrote this is obviously not a writer.” Somehow that makes them feel better . . . briefly. But then they go and write down the reviewer’s name, making sure to find their book IF he / she ever writes one. Sigh . . .
But I do get it, because a brutal review is to kick the tar out of someone’s baby – tell them their kid is scum and ugly to boot. Because a novel is a literary child, raised from infancy, in the eyes of the person who gave it birth. Someone who slaved over it, adored it, and finally gave it life. Sure, their “baby” COULD be the ugliest thing on the planet, BUT I AM NOT TELLING THEM. And quite frankly, I would never slam anyone’s book (okay – well maybe Mein Kampf, which I haven’t read and my review would be ENTIRELY about the author . . . bad me).
First of all, who says I am so brilliant to know what the heck I am talking about? Secondly, if I wrote a bad review, it reflects poorly on me as a person because I am choosing to ignore the fact that someone, somewhere in this universe, WROTE it. There is a real human being behind those pages. And a scathing review reads as excessive grandstanding for attention. Most potential buyers see such reviews as bs and the reviewer’s credibility falls through the floor. And while the book itself is rarely hurt by such reviews, the author is – and so is the reviewer.
So, while I do not write bad reviews, I also do not write many reviews AT ALL because I simply didn’t like the book. If I am backed into a corner by a writer begging me to read their novel (FYI – bad idea in the first place), and I don’t like it, I simply let them know the story wasn’t for me and I was going to pass on reviewing it. I’ve done this on NetGalley, but I sent it as a note to the publisher (always with praise, followed by a “but” line).
Oh – and one other thing. If you write a bad review of someone’s book, and you yourself are trying to become a novelist / author / journalist / etc remember: author’s are like elephants – what you say about their book, they will never forget.