Writing negative reviews is something that every reviewer is going to have to do at some point or another. No matter how easy to please we are and no matter how good we are at picking out books (or movies, TV shows, etc.), we will inevitably end up picking something up that we don’t like. For those of us who write reviews for every book we read, this means we will eventually have to write a negative review.
I’ll be honest: I hate writing negative reviews. I feel bad saying negative things about a book, no matter how much I hated it. I’m worried that people who would enjoy it will see my review and not want to read it. I’m worried that people will think I was too harsh. I’m worried that the author will somehow stumble across it and be hurt that I didn’t like their work (this is a big one for me). Basically, I’m worried about how my negative review will affect other people.
But at the same time, I feel that as a blogger and reviewer, I have an obligation to be honest about how I feel about the books I read. After all, isn’t the whole point of being a reviewer to share your thoughts about books? I feel that if I were to exclude these reviews I’d be being dishonest which is not at all the type of blogger I want to be. I also feel like if people are coming to my blog to see what I think about things, I shouldn’t feel bad about not liking a book here and there. The people who read my blog posts and reviews presumably trust my opinion and want to hear what I think, whether it be positive or negative.
I still feel guilty though. I recently reviewed Truthwitch by Susan Dennard which was a 2.5 star read for me which I think is the lowest rating I’ve given a book so far on this blog. I hated writing that review. Knowing that a lot of people loved that book made it even worse for me because I was kind of worried that people would be hurt that I didn’t like a book that they loved (I fully admit that I sometimes get a little upset? disappointed? when someone dislikes a book that I really liked).
More than anything, I’m afraid that the author – who has put so many hours and so much effort into coming up with this idea and writing it all out into a book – is going to see my review and be discouraged or think they’re a bad author. Honestly, this was only a mild problem for me in the past, but once I started following a lot of authors (especially new or relatively unknown authors) on Twitter, it became more of a problem. I see a lot of authors on Twitter talking about how they don’t feel like they’re a “real” author or a good enough author and how one negative review can really affect their confidence, even if it’s only one negative review to one thousand positive reviews. I never want to be someone who makes someone else feel bad or discourage them from doing something they love and so the thought that my negative reviews could do that really worries me.
So how do I get over this and get myself to write negative reviews? Mostly I just tell myself that I’m not responsible for how other people respond to my opinions. As long as I’m not being overly mean or disrespectful, I can’t do anything to change how someone feels about what I’ve said. I ALWAYS make sure that anything negative I say about a book is about the book and not the author. Because I’ll be honest: I’ve seen some negative reviews that get me downright angry because the reviewer says things like “this author should never get published again” or “why did this author even try” and I just feel like that’s cruel. So I make sure I avoid saying things like that and instead say something like “the book’s pacing was off” or “X confused me” – things that point out what I disliked, but that can be used by the author to improve should they actually come across my review. And most of the time I include at the end of the review to keep in mind that just because I didn’t like a book doesn’t mean that no one else will. By doing these things, I can stop myself from feeling too bad about writing a negative review.
For those of you who also review books (or anything else for that matter), how do you feel about writing negative reviews? If writing them makes you feel bad, is there anything you do to make yourself feel better about it?