Negative Reviews and why you shouldn't apologize for them

negative reviews


Hello everyone! Today I thought I’d talk to you about something that’s been nagging at me for a while now. Negative reviews are some of my favorite posts to write- apart from being fun, they’re also therapeutic. But looking back at some of my old reviews, I noticed that I apologize a lot. Which got me thinking: why should I apologize for simply not liking something?

We love some, we don’t like others so much

That’s understood, right? Just with anything that depends on taste, you’re bound to enjoy some things more than others. You might be a fan of rock so you dislike music by the likes of Taylor Swift and One Direction, and vice versa. You may enjoy political dramas on TV, so you’re not the biggest fan of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, or America’s Next Top Model. It’s all about taste- the word and the phenomenon exists, so we might as well embrace it.

It’s the same way with books. You may enjoy certain tropes in a genre and really hate other ones. I, for one, am not a fan of love triangles whatsoever, which is why if a book or series contains an over-the-top love triangle, chances are that I probably won’t like it. Another person may think love-triangles are the best thing since Nutella, so they primarily go for books that contain them. That’s completely fine.

Isn’t that common sense?

It should be. I thought respectful negative reviews weren’t a big deal in the bookish community, since everybody has books they dislike. And while the large majority of the members of this community are mature and accepting, there are others who launch attacks on you for simply not liking a book that they enjoyed. I get one or two hate-messages on tumblr now and then because someone came across my review and thought I was an idiot with bad taste in books. “That book is just realistic!!!!!!!!!!! You don’t understand them!!!!!!!!!!” Okay, cool? Or maybe I just have a vastly different taste in books, and I should be able to write an honest opinion without getting hate? That’s a wild idea.

Didn’t we start book blogging because we wanted to talk about books?

Notice how I put emphasis on the word “talk.” I’ve been noticing this increasingly throughout not only the book community, but also on the Internet in general. There is little to no tolerance for talking or conversation. Rather, it has become about disagreeing and slander- something I was the target of last month. It’s not a pleasant feeling, and instead of getting your point across, you’re making the other person increasingly hateful of this community. It’s not helping your cause, unless you’re doing it for comeback points- in that case, I don’t even know what to say.

It’s true; most – if not all – of us joined the book community so we could discuss books, whether they are our all-time favorite reads, or books that we disliked and want to discuss our dislikes with other people. Negative reviews are a huge part of that. If you’re one of those people who goes on a negative review and attacks said reviewer for posting it, maybe you should think about what you are doing. Instilling fear into reviewers for putting up an honest review is both suppression of their freedom of opinion, and also false advertising for the book. Slandering negative reviews and only supporting glowing reviews is false marketing.

So if negative reviews are natural, and even important for other people to make an informed decision, why do we apologize? Do we genuinely feel bad for disliking a book? Except from one or two instances, that is not why I find myself apologizing. I love writing negative reviews; they’re some of the most fun to write. Not only are they fun, they are also therapeutic and educational for myself. What don’t I like about a book? Why not? How would I fix it if I were an author? Realizing, upon reading many books, that characterization matters the most to me has enabled me to spend more time on my own characters than anything else. Taking a step back and analyzing someone else’s work will help you fix your own. And constructive criticism should always be welcome.

The mob-mentality

Reviewers add disclaimers and apologize because they do not want to attract the dreaded Twitter/Tumblr-mob. The Internet mob-mentality is something I’m very much against (perhaps it’ll be the subject of another post in the future), and many quieter members of the community are aware of the phenomenon. They know that a certain group of people will come flocking to their reviews to give them “a piece of their mind.” This largely exists on the Tumblr platform where anonymity is easier to maintain and popular users have thousands of followers that join in for shits and lulz. To avoid this, reviewers are forced to put a disclaimer before their reviews saying that they do not mean to offend anyone who made the book or liked the book, and that their opinions are their own.

Of course they’re your own fucking opinions. If people aren’t mature enough to understand that people with different tastes and opinions exist, you shouldn’t be the one apologizing for it!

Unless your criticism isn’t constructive, you shouldn’t need to apologize

I know I need not do it, but the sentiment still exists- it’s almost second-nature to me when I say, “I’m sorry, it just wasn’t for me.” Perhaps the reason for this is that I am aware that so much hard-work and commitment goes into writing a book. I can’t even write an 8-page short story without tearing out at least one patch of my hair. I apologize because I genuinely do not want to offend people who spent their time and sweat into making a book, as well as to readers who enjoyed it. But again, I shouldn’t have to do that because is it not obvious that my reviews are my opinions and do not exist with the intention to offend other people?

But I also understand that some reviewers take their dislike to an extreme. Instead of talking about the elements of a book, they instead actively look for ways to attack an author. I know this because I am guilty of it, too- something I realized and have tried my extreme best to eradicate. Using ad hominem attacks against an author is not okay. You are judging the content of a book, not the person who wrote it. Personal attacks are never okay, whether they are against someone you disagree with, or someone whose work you dislike.

Have a civilized conversation

You come across a negative review of a book you really enjoyed. Some points raised are good, others you disagree with. That’s okay. You can type up a comment that eloquently portrays your point of view without using cuss words, without using ad hominem attacks against the reviewer, and you can express exactly why you enjoyed the book. Civilized conversation is the key to everything. Cross-posting links to reviews and posts on your blogs and demanding that your followers attack the writer is not okay, and I cannot say that enough.

Some of the things you probably shouldn’t say to reviewers:
  • The aforementioned: you just don’t understand the complexity of this book (don’t call people stupid).
  • Unlike YA books, adult books are actually realistic (don’t imply that your taste in books is simply better than an entire genre).
  • The author knows better than you about her own characters (reading is entirely subjective. What the author knows and what she presents on paper – which is what reaches me – are too separate things.)
  • Show me your receipts- how many books have you written? (By that logic, you shouldn’t be able to say you don’t like a song or a movie or a TV show because you haven’t produced any of those things. In other words, next argument please).

Don’t ever forget the spirit of books

We all love and enjoy books. Our blogs celebrate reading and literature in their own little ways. But some of us tend to forget that books exist to facilitate conversation and ideas. Authors with every point of view from every field from every region exist because this large network of ideas is priceless. So as someone who enjoys books and literature, do not stomp on other people’s ideas or thoughts. You have every right to disagree, but don’t do it in a way so that the other person needs to apologize for simply writing their opinion on their own blog.

Join the List

  • Totally agree with you here. People hardly ever talk anymore. It’s all about agreeing with the masses rather than sharing/discussing a unique opinion. And it irks me that people feel the need to offer an apology when sharing an unpopular opinion and also that they are attacked for sharing such opinions. It’s stifling our freedom of expression.

    • Totally! It’s such a sad state of affairs that people hurl insults and sassy remarks before engaging in a proper conversation. 🙁

  • such a great post love! 🙂
    and i absolutely agree! i think the bottom line of this is, everyone just needs to respect each other. not everyone would have the same taste in books or the same thoughts about the books you read. every opinion would definitely differ in one way or the other.
    i hate it when people bash others who have a negative opinion of a book they love. that just isn’t right. everyone has their own right to express what they love and do not love.
    like i said, respect is the key here. 🙂

    • Thank you so much!

      I find it so ironic when someone from the bookish community decides to bash another person from a difference in opinion. You celebrate BOOKS! Which exist to facilitate discussion and discourse! You, of all people, shouldn’t be the one stomping on other people’s opinions! XD

  • I agree with you on this. Negative reviews should be honest. If nothing else, it should be there to help the writer understand what went wrong or if it just wasn’t that reader’s cup of tea. Leaving a low rating without a review, however, doesn’t help anyone. But from what I’ve seen, book bloggers don’t do that. It’s just the retailers and Goodreads that you’ll find things like that. 😊

  • Awesome post! 🙂 This is why I kind of dislike “Unpopular Opinions” tags and things like that. I understand the point they’re trying to get across, but I think that in actuality they just reinforce the idea that there’s a “correct” popular opinion that should be followed and that any other opinion is scandalous or abnormal. Opinions are opinions are opinions, and so long as they are expressed thoughtfully and respectfully, I don’t have a problem with them at all!

    • That’s such a good point! I’ve never thought about it that way, but now that you mention it, it does seem a little silly. I also see a ton of people online apologizing because they disliked a popular book, and while I understand the sentiment, I just want to shake them and say, “Just because it’s popular, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you for not liking it!”

  • Great post – really interesting topic. I totally agree – you are not going to love anything you read. As long as you are honest and constructive in your criticism then you shouldn’t have to apologise, as well as being respectful to the author + book.

  • Love this! After I finish a book I like to go on Goodreads and read both five- and one-star reviews. I’ve always loved seeing why someone might walk away with a totally different opinion from me after reading the same thing. And when I really disliked a book, it’s nice to know I wasn’t the only one.

    And the idea that we should only write positive reviews is…boring? Reminds me of Jessa Crispin (bookslut) saying that book bloggers have just become “cheerleaders for books.” I want some discourse!

    • I thought I was the only one who did that! XD It’s strangely satisfying to see other people rave about a book you loved or point out the flaws that you missed while you were so enamored. Reading differing opinions has taught me a lot about tolerance and balance; people need to not take everything so seriously, ha.

  • This is such a great post. I agree with all of your points. A review is essentially YOUR opinion, not anyone else’s so even if it isn’t like that of a majority of people, you shouldn’t have to apologise for it as long as your critique is respectful and not offensive. What really sucks though, is when an author sends you a book to review which you disliked upon reading. I feel terrible sending authors links to negative reviews. Apart from that though, you shouldn’t have to hide what you think of a book just because many people liked it.

    • Thank you so much! 🙂 I totally get what you mean! I hate submitting negative reviews for ARCs I received because it becomes so much more personal when the author requests you to read their book, ha. But I do still think it’s important to be honest and impartial, even if it is a little uncomfortable. Doesn’t change the fact I feel horrible about it! 😛

  • Great post i agree

  • I do not mind constructive reviews, but if someone is downright nasty about my work, or give me a rating (on Goodreads) with no explanation, then I do get annoyed. A ‘so called Editor’ did that to me once when I didn’t use her services! How unprofessional!

    • Definitely! Constructive criticism is meant to help someone expand and polish their work. Being nasty is nothing but bullying. Sorry to hear about your editor. 🙁 Maybe she needs more training on how to handle people’s hard work!

      • Yes, precisely. Honestly, she was vile and completely unprofessional. Her name was ‘Deborah A. Bowman’so if she ever approaches you, say no! :p I didn’t really ask her to look at my work, she offered her services with a hefty price tag, that I could not physically afford. It was going to cost somewhere in the region of £900- GULP! 🙁

  • Great topic. I especially love the part about what not to say to reviewers. I try to be very careful how I word things for example I dont read a lot of YA cotemporary because my teenage years were very difficult and different to most so I struggle to connect but I wouldnt dream of saying this makes it “unrealistic” because a) they are not unrealistic (just different to my experience) and B) it is belittling to people who enjoy that genre

    • Thank you so much! 🙂

      You took the words right out of my mouth! Just because it’s unrealistic to one person doesn’t mean someone in the world won’t find it realistic! We are such diverse creatures, as humans, with vastly different experiences. To simply paint an entire genre as “realistic” or otherwise is a gross generalization!

  • I think you brought up quite a few important points here. Sharing your thoughts and opinions of a book (whether it be positive or negative) shouldn’t lead to an attack by someone with the opposite opinion. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  • I don’t tend to write negative reviews but when I do I feel slightly bad (more so if it’s a review copy, and have to talk and send my review to the publicist). However, you’re so right, Aimal! We should all be entitled to our opinions whether they be positive or negative. I haven’t received any hate for a negative review, but when I see it on other bloggers’ posts, I’m just like, “Why?? Can’t we all just be respectful towards one another?” Personally, I greatly enjoy reading a review that shares a different opinion from my own; I can gain insight on what may be the flaws of the story for others. Anyway, awesome discussion, as always! ☺️💕

    • Thanks so much, Summer!

      I think it’s so normal to feel bad about writing a negative review, especially if it’s going directly to the publisher. I have a silent struggle with myself whenever I’m reviewing an ARC for Netgalley and have given it a bad rating. So, I totally get that.

      I definitely enjoy differing opinions too. They always make me sit back and wonder why I did not mind the things another person did; it’s a strangely therapeutic inward look at yourself.

  • I find myself not liking books a lot. That’s of course very unfortunate, but it is the truth, I have read a lot since I was a kid and I kind of have high standards for entertainment. That said, I usually have reviews in which I tell that the book was bad (and I didn’t like it OR I liked it nevertheless) or reviews in which I say that I didn’t like the book (or did like the book), yet it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a bad book. I feel like I need to make this distinction, because I don’t want to turn off a possible reader from a good book just because I didn’t like it. But, if I find the book bad, well…

    And since I post a lot of negative reviews (and always am kind of sad and stressed to do so, because I always hope to love the book, obviously), I have encountered so many positive comments that people who loved the books I criticise, understand my points and add their own and I just love this open discussion. Very rare people are straight out hostile, that also happens, of course, because they feel like I wounded them personally, but I am really happy that people are so open to other’s views about something they love.

    I’ve been thinking of writing of this topic myself! Thanks! 🙂

    • You raise a good point! I think I do the same; when I’m being rather objective about a book, I very rarely use the “I” pronoun because I know that my problems for the book run beyond personal preference. But if I believe the book wasn’t good for ME, per se, I make sure I let my readers know. I’ve never told someone to simply NOT read a book- again, what I disliked, others may really enjoy!
      I agree; on traditional blogging websites like WordPress and Blogger, I don’t often see people being straight up hostile. Since I’ve been book blogging on Tumblr longer than I have been on here, I’ve noticed that the same does not apply for websites where anonymity is largely preserved. 🙂

  • I actually just recently wrote a discussion post about negative reviews as well and I mentioned how they make me nervous because I don’t mean to offend anyone with my negative feelings. I really liked reading your post, you brought up a lot of really good points and I really appreciated your post 🙂

    • Thank you so much! I think that’s a lot of people’s concern (including mine, sometimes, especially if it’s a less-known book!)

  • This post hit the nail on the head. I don’t tend to write negative reviews but when I do I tend to feel bad and I always wonder why. Reading is all about interpretation. Everyone has a different opinion on what they read and we should not have to worry about being attacked for simply offering a different perspective on things. I do agree that sometimes people take the negativity to far and it reads more like an attack but for the most part the negative reviews I have read have all been respectable, critical and constructive.

    The mob mentality is one thing that gets on my nerves. There have been several occasions where I’ve seen people lash out at a blogger for writing a negative review of a popular franchise series and it baffles me how they simply cannot respect the fact that everyone has a different interpretation. Instead of lashing out, how about they take the time to respectfully discuss the book or simply agree to disagree.

    At the end of the day, our role as bloggers is to be honest and if we’re not honest in our opinions what does that say about our credibility? Great discussion post. 😀

  • I enjoy writing a negative review where it’s due, but I also try to reign myself in when writing bad reviews because I don’t want to insult the author. Negative reviews are good for sparking discussions and for offering information for readers who may not enjoy the book like yourself. However, it should not be an attack on the author. The author put lots of time, effort, and soul into their books and that should be respected. The story is the only thing that should be judged and that’s where I think many reviewers cross the line. They make their negative reviews too personal and that’s not appropriate.

    • You’re completely right. I know people can get carried away when it comes to books they’re so invested in, because I’ve done similar things (*cough* SJM *cough*), but it’s totally uncalled for. Judging a book’s content is why you write reviews; personal attacks against authors are completely unwarranted!

  • Molly’s Book Nook

    Great post! I actually did not expect you to take it the direction you did, but I loved it! While I’ve never been the target of any hate because of my negative reviews, I’ve seen other people get in arguments over books one loved and the other didn’t. It’s so odd to me! I would never get so defensive about a book. I mean, I can get passionate, but not about a lot (basically LOTR or any Tolkien is probably the only thing I would get passionate about).

    The only thing I disagree with is that you have to apologize if your review isn’t constructive. If the reviewer is just being a dick and calling the author names is one thing, but if the review is a rant about the book, that’s still talking about it to me. Recently I did a review for a book I REALLY hated and my review wasn’t very constructive but was rather me just ranting about the book, but I never said anything mean about the author. I did let people know prior that it was a rant and not a review worthy of Amazon or B&N or even for the author to use as helpful tips to improve. Sometimes you just need to vent and your own blog is the perfect place to do that xD So, yeah, I think there’s still a little bit of gray area of what people might consider constructive, being cruel & somewhere in the middle.

    Great post!

    Molly @ Molly’s Book Nook

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  • As a new blogger, I recently read several posts (mostly by authors) about how negative reviews hurt books sales. That made me hesitant to write them. I already don’t post them on my blog, because my reviews there are long and time consuming. But I do post short ones to Amazon & Goodreads sometimes.

    BUT, then I realized that if a book really isn’t very good then it SHOULD sell fewer copies. So my current policy is that if I am going to post a 3* review or lower, then I wait until there are a few other reviews for the book first. That way my 2* review (or whatever) isn’t the only one and people can make an informed decision.

    However, I have also read that any review on a retailer site, including 1* ones, can be good for the author since it increases the profile of their book in searches etc.

    And finally, although I enjoy helping authors promote books I believe are worth it, ultimately I am writing reviews to share my thoughts and maybe help other readers find something good or avoid something bad.

    My Most Recent Discussion: Love It or DNF It: Living with Chronic TBR Overflow Pt 3

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  • I agree with you. I think that negative reviews have a lot of value, and it’s definitely true that something that made me dislike a book might work just fine for someone else. Reading is subjective – we don’t all love the same things! A lot of times in my negative reviews, I say something like, “This book wasn’t for me, but it might really appeal to …” The only times I’ve really felt a little bit bad about a negative review is when I was reviewing a self-pubbed book (because you know those authors are a lot more invested in each and every individual review) and one time when I reviewed a book written by a high schooler – I had such a hard time saying I didn’t love the book because I kept thinking, “If my kid wrote this, I’d think it was a fantastic accomplishment!” 🙂

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