Negative reviews: the flip side

25 Nov

This post may be a bit rambling and even a tad ranty, but it’s stuff that’s been on my mind a lot lately and it’s put me into a serious funk. I’m probably going to lose followers and friends with this post and I anticipate some backlash in the comment section, but so be it. Everyone is entitled to their say, which is kind of what this post is about.

I’m pretty active on Twitter. I like chatting with friends, updating people on humorous things in my life and keeping up on the book community. But the last little while I’ve been backing away from Twittter, and the book blogging community in general. I guess you could say that I’m growing disillusioned with both.

There’s been some chatter lately about negative reviews and how they should be written. And there has been serious backlash against bloggers who have posted “mean” and “nasty” reviews. Other bloggers have taken it upon themselves to write posts about how negative reviews should be done. Authors are weighing in on the topic of nasty reviews, going as far as saying that aspiring authors who book blog should watch their words, because it could come back to bite them in the ass when trying to get published.

I’ve stayed out of the Twitter debates and talks about this for the most part, but it all leaves a really bad taste in my mouth and an icky feeling in my stomach. To the point that I am pretty sure once I start querying SUPERNORMAL I’m going to stop reviewing books on this blog.

And you know what? That makes me sad. And pisses  me off. My review style for the most part is off the cuff and informal. And the few negative reviews I’ve done? They haven’t been nice. No, I don’t personally attack the author, but yeah, I don’t sugar coat the fact that I didn’t like the book. And I’m snarky about it. After all, it’s my opinion, right? And this is my blog, right? So I should get to express my feelings and opinions over the books I read the way I want to. But it seems that maybe, just maybe, this isn’t the case.

Now, none of the comments about mean reviews have been directed at me (at least not that I know of), but I just don’t like the idea of others thinking that they can dictate how someone should run and write their blog. I don’t like the idea of being policed or censored. It makes my skin itch. And I don’t like the idea that my writing career could be in jeopardy because I didn’t like an author’s book and I expressed my dislike in a way that was seen as being mean.

When I get published (oh, and I will) if someone reviews SUPERNORMAL and says that they got halfway through and then wiped their ass with the rest of it, am I going to be upset? Probably. But you know what? It’s their right to express themselves how they want. I know, I know, it’s easy for me to sit here and say that, right? But it’s how it’s going to be. And if I need to vent and rant? That’s what the hubs, my friends and my writing group are for.

I almost didn’t write this post, because I figure that I’m probably shooting myself in the foot and if any authors read it, my name may go in the little black book of “aspiring authors that write mean reviews”. But this all makes me so sad that I couldn’t stay quiet anymore.

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25 Responses to “Negative reviews: the flip side”

  1. Carrie Clevenger November 25, 2010 at 12:21 pm #

    I’m with you. We need to be honest and give points of the book that we did like of the book as well as the weaknesses. Writers are sensitive creatures, but once they’ve had a good cry over their absolute failure they’ll appreciate (keyword RESPECTFUL) the negative review because next time they’ll do better. At least in theory.

    • lavenderlines November 25, 2010 at 12:30 pm #

      Yeppers. I just don’t like the whole “you can write a negative review, but here’s how to write it” thing that seems to be going on.

  2. amymckie November 25, 2010 at 12:23 pm #

    First of all, I don’t think you should abandon your blog. Second of all, I think the only thing that counts is keeping true to your style. You don’t bash the author, you are talking about the BOOK and that is a very important distinction… and really the only one that counts. Honesty is rare in today’s world and is important and deserves to stay around 🙂 I want to know why you liked or didn’t like the book, and what you thought of it, and that is what you do!

    • lavenderlines November 25, 2010 at 12:29 pm #

      Thanks Amy! I NEVER say anything about the author (after all I don’t know them) but I can be mean sometimes about books I don’t like. The funny thing is I could be a whole Hell of a lot meaner, but I’m not. LOL

  3. Bella November 25, 2010 at 12:23 pm #

    I’m the first to admit that when I see a negative review for a book I adored I want to throw food at it, lol. But I know lots of people have different tastes in books.

    Personally I like seeing negative reviews on blogs. We don’t all like the same books, and I like that some bloggers don’t sugarcoat it all. Besides its your blog and you should express things the way you want!

    Well said Colleen, and I sure hope you’re around next year because I love your reviews 🙂

    • lavenderlines November 25, 2010 at 12:27 pm #

      Thanks Bella. There hasn’t been much talk from my side (negative, snarky, sometimes mean reviews) and I felt that we needed to be heard.

  4. Carin B. November 25, 2010 at 12:32 pm #

    Oh yes, so this is what you were talking about. I would say to not abandon your blog. I get irritated at stuff like that too, but you know what? If we believe in freedom of speech and expression we have to let those people write and say the things they say that we don’t agree with either. Definitely not attacking you because I have felt the same way numerous times on Twitter and on reading others’ blogs, but then I realize that they should be allowed to say what they want to say too. I just don’t have to pay attention to it…and I don’t! hehehehe

    I for one enjoy talking to you and lately have been very bad about reading anyone’s blog. I hope that you allow yourself to vent about this and then pick up and enjoy blogging again. I think having good dialogue about books is good! We all have different tastes and that’s ok! So what you hate, someone else might love and it can at the very least create interesting discussion. I know sometimes the book blogging community doesn’t see it that way, but if we foster that attitude then maybe it will change for the better. You are an amazing person and I hope to see you stick around. 🙂

    • lavenderlines November 25, 2010 at 12:54 pm #

      Thanks Carin. Actually, writing this post has been very cathartic and has improved my mood and attitude about blogging by about a zillion. I’ve always been the type to worry about what others think, and can get caught up in that A LOT. I think my next step is to maybe weed out some of the bloggers I follow. You know, just stick to my friends, like you. :0)

  5. Cat November 25, 2010 at 12:37 pm #

    I am totally out of loop here. You’re the second person I have seen mention “all these blog posts about negative reviews” and yet, I have seen nary a one (until yours ;)). I think I am 100% happy with this because I honestly don’t care a whit about what people feel bloggers should and shouldn’t do with their blog. (Unless it is in regards to auto-play music or video where I will put my foot down and demand that person be shot, no one should have that on any website!!!!!!).

    I have made a handful of friends through blogging and recently some new ones in the book blogging world. Other than that I don’t pay attention to anyone else really. I have cut my feed lists by a bazillion and now only follow those I truly enjoy and have started friendships with.

    It is a blog. It is personal. It is public. It is free. If you were getting paid to write things I could imagine you having guidelines as to how to phrase things. But other than that? It’s a public forum where you can express your thoughts. It’s up to those who read your blog to make their own decisions as to whether or not to read the blog.

    I am tired of bloggers acting like they are competing to be the Cool Crowd in high school. No matter what they blog about.

    • lavenderlines November 25, 2010 at 12:52 pm #

      Exactly! That’s where I’m at. I think if i continue to book blog, I’m going to be more selective about which blogs I follow, who I follow on Twitter, etc. I didn’t get into it to be Miss Popular or anything and I think I just need awesome people like you to remind me of that every once in a while. :0)

    • steph November 28, 2010 at 12:12 am #

      I’m with Cat on this one; I had no clue what you were talking about with the negative review thing. I totally missed that boat somehow! But now that you’ve called my attention to it…

      The thing is, I don’t want to read people gushing over books all the time. That’s boring. And it makes me think either they’re not reading the books thoughtfully or they’re not being honest. Publicists and authors aren’t expecting us to kiss ass all the time; they expect us to be fair and honest. Talk about what worked for us and what didn’t. I get good feedback when I do this, particularly from authors (in emails) who appreciate a thoughtful review. Not telling them what didn’t work for us doesn’t do them any favours. It’s the way we do it that comes more to issue, obviously. I don’t think this is about not being negative but how we are negative.

      Personally, and this is just my own rule of thumb, if I have anything negative to say I try to apply tact. Say whatever negative stuff you need to say, but keep the author in mind. And you already said you do this, you don’t bash the author. But writing is very personal and intimate, which means their text is very close to them; if you hated that, they will take it personally, even if they can take the criticism well. So bashing their writing is essentially also bashing them. Just as I don’t want you to stop blogging because of these posts out there, I also don’t want an author to be so hurt they stop writing because of the way I said something.

      I don’t mean we should sugar-coat, at all. I just mean saying what we need or want to say but with consideration. Reading is subjective; anything we write is opinion. Which we’re entitled to, totally! I guess I would say we should just write the way we’d appreciate someone else writing about our own stuff, good and bad.

      Ugh, I’m sorry this sounds preachy, I’m not intending it to be.

      • steph November 28, 2010 at 12:18 am #

        I should add that I don’t mean rephrasing anything so that you change your meaning to suit others. Say exactly what you want to say, but there are many words to choose from.

        I don’t feel I’m articulating what I mean very well, But it’s okay if you disagree; it’s my own rule of thumb. It doesn’t have to be yours.

        You have a ton of support here, and I guess you quitting the blog because of these posts telling you what and how to write just doesn’t make sense. Since you feel so strongly against them, all the more reason to stay your ground and blog on!

  6. slpmartin November 25, 2010 at 12:45 pm #

    As Shakespeare said “Easier to teach twenty, than to be one of mind own teaching.”

  7. HoedownGal November 25, 2010 at 12:47 pm #

    Hun, No one should call themselves a reviewer if the shy away from writing reviews that are negative. Negative reviews should inspire an author to work harder to strive for perfection. Any writer worth their salt knows not everyone will like their book. Writing is not a career you should choose if you can’t take criticism! And you are always respectful when you are negative. Having shared books with you, I know you never tell anyone to not to read a book because you didn’t like it!
    Please don’t give up blogging or reviewing ever, even when you DO get published and I KNOW you WILL! I absolutely love reading your posts, I creeped you on here even when we weren’t friends because your a terrific writer and reviewer!

    • lavenderlines November 25, 2010 at 12:49 pm #

      Ah, thanks sweetie! I know I’m pretty respectful even when being snarky, but I think if a reviewer wants to be mean as Hell it’s their right, as long as they aren’t bashing the author. 🙂

  8. Chrisbookarama November 25, 2010 at 12:47 pm #

    There will always be those who think they know how to run your blog. But it’s your blog and run it whatever way you like. Don’t sweat it. There have been critics who’ve gone on to be writers and it hasn’t hurt them any. You have a good attitude in regards to your book and I think your experience as a blogger will benefit you when your book is reviewed.

    What bothers me is when friends or fans of an author attack a negative review. Everyone has an opinion, why shouldn’t they say they didn’t like a book? It’s silly. Anyway, I think you’ll find that most bloggers (the ones I know anyway) don’t have a problem with negative reviews. Honesty is important. I’m suspicious of any book that has only rave reviews. Someone must not have liked it!

    I haven’t requested a review book in a long time. I got tired of reading books I’m not overly fond of. Half the time I don’t finish them. That doesn’t mean I don’t write negative reviews, I just rarely read what I don’t like.

    Anyway keep on bloggin’!

    • lavenderlines November 25, 2010 at 12:56 pm #

      Thanks Chris! Yeah, I think December is going to be about re-evaluating why I started the blog in the first place. I’ve also stopped requesting books, unless it’s by an author that I already know I love.

  9. Jody Bernard November 25, 2010 at 1:14 pm #

    Hmmmm…how do you properly write a review if you’re not able to use your own words? If you write the way other’s think you should write, then it really isn’t you doing the writing at all is it? It’s you customizing your writing style and words to please the literary pallet of someone who can’t handle the cold hard truth.

    Write whatever the hell you want, wherever you want. If people don’t want to read it…they don’t have to.

  10. Reese M. November 25, 2010 at 8:14 pm #

    Well said! I’m with you, I think that nobody has any right (or reason) to go around dictating how one should express their personal opinion on a book.

    I have not been all that active lately, but I do stop by here every now and again, and I would hate it if you found yourself re-phrasing or generally censoring your opinion to fit someone else’s guidelines.

    I’m glad you’re feeling better about blogging after having written this. I look forward to more! 🙂

  11. Jennifer @ Mrs. Q: Book Addict November 25, 2010 at 8:52 pm #

    I think your blog should reflect you as a reader and person. If you want to write a negative review there’s no reason not to. I know I appreciate honest reviews. It makes me appreciate the positive reviews more. If every single book is a five star rating, I would question that blogger. Realistically some books I love, and others I hate. It doesn’t mean that the next person won’t love it.

  12. pqm November 25, 2010 at 8:54 pm #

    well said. I rarely do a negative review because I am good at vetting for my tastes but when I do it aint pretty.

  13. Cait H. November 25, 2010 at 10:42 pm #

    I’m with you Colleen. This is your blog, and only you get a say in what and how you write your posts. I would hate to see you abandon the blog, I love how honest your reviews are.

    Not everyone is going to like the same thing, and as long as the author is not being attacked (and like you said, you never mention the author) I think negative reviews hold just as much as a positive one. I love reading negative reviews of books – sometimes it makes me want to read the book just to see if I agree!

  14. Laura Best November 27, 2010 at 11:25 pm #

    Wow! As a writer I think that in a prefect world, I’d never receive a negative review. So far, my reviews have been postitive and that’s been nice, but I’m also adult enough to know that everyone will not like my book just as I don’t like every book I read.

    Awhile back I had someone I know tell me that their husband didn’t like the ending of my book and it didn’t bother me at all. In fact, it felt kind of good to know that a negative response didn’t crush my feelings. I didn’t even flinch. (Guess that means I’m all grown up. :))

    To be true to yourself, you need to tell it like it is. You’re not going to like every book you read. No one does. You have a right to express it on your blog and I’m sure your reasons for not liking a book will be valid ones– something that your readers have come to expect from you. This is your blog, your home on the web. Hopefully, you’ll keep on doing what you do…:)

  15. steph November 28, 2010 at 10:11 pm #

    Coincidentally, I started and finished a book last night and wrote my first totally negative review today. And you know what? Ugh! It was so hard it took me four hours. I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. In the end, I couldn’t really say anything good but I decided to post about it in case it was someone else’s cup of tea. And the author tweeted it!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tweets that mention Negative reviews: the flip side. -- Topsy.com - November 25, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Pam Green, Colleen McKie. Colleen McKie said: Negative reviews: the flip side. http://wp.me/pAWn2-zR […]

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