Negative Reader Reviews

Here's what I have to say about negative reader reviews:


I've seen blog posts and forum posts on the topic.  I've seen people complain that if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.  I've seen people remark that "karma" will come around in the end.  (Um, really?  I had no idea that a person *not* liking your book was grounds for them to receive a karmic ass-whooping.)  I've seen the tirades on both sides - authors and readers.

Here's what I think: we read books.  We either like them or we don't.  A good review (and that includes a negative one) will explain why the reader felt the way they did.  Even a "one-star" review can be excellent, if it explains why the reader felt the story was flawed.

I personally don't always feel the need to say why I didn't like a book.  Sometimes it's just not a right fit for me, and I don't even spend my time sharing a review of it.  Instead, I donate the book to the library or thrift store and move on.

Likewise, I don't complain if I receive a negative review.  A person has a right to their opinion.  Many things in life are subjective, and that includes books.

You didn't enjoy something I wrote?  That's totally cool, and thank you for taking the time to even read it in the first place.  I don't blame you for not finishing it, so you could move on to something else.  I've been there, done that.  :)

When I write, I do it to entertain people.  If a reader is entertained and gets lost in the story, I'm thrilled!  That is precisely what I hoped to accomplish.  If a reader cannot get past some thing or another about the story, then I'm all for moving on to something else (and, yes, they have a right to say "I just couldn't get into it).

I think it would be nice of writers stopped focusing so much on reviews, and paid more attention to writing a better story with each new project.

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan


  1. I tend not to pay attention to reviews as a reader. I just check out the rating. As a writer, I'm positive I won't read them. What difference does it make? It's too late to change the story.

    1. Precisely! And we can't please everybody. I've seen reviews where people complain a heroine is too needy/dependent/weak, and then reviews where people complain a heroine is too kickass. That's just an example of how it's all really about personal preference.

      Unless a review is attacking an author, there's no need to get upset over someone's opinion. Reviews are a chance for readers to share what they thought about a book - why they liked it or didn't like it.

      As a reader, I don't really pay attention to reviews either. I'm more interested in whether or not a book sounds like it's to my taste, than how many other people loved or hated it. :)

  2. LOVE everything you said!!! I have had authors complain (or get angry) about a review I have done for them. And I just can't love every book I read. I don't ever bash a book or an author for that matter, but I have to be honest. What is the point of being a book blogger if you not? I can say that I have heard a lot of authors say they get way more hits off of negative reviews than positive ones. I think that is interesting. Great post Wendy!

  3. Though I do believe in the adage "If you can't say something nice then say nothing at all", it only applies to spoken conversations. As an author putting something out into the world you invite commentary, and you need to understand that people are entitled to their opinions – good, bad or indifferent. As Wendy alludes, getting into a mudslinging match has to be one of the most foolish things you can do – much smarter to simply suck it up and move along… silently.

    That really isn’t my problem though, mine is much simpler – getting people to notice my work in the first place…

    1. Ah, I know that feeling... Getting readers is tricky. :D