Friday, 15 March 2013

Reader's View: Back Off The Bad Reviews



Am I the only one who has noticed the trend towards denigrating 1 star reviews lately? Last year I read THIS POST by popular blogger J.A. Konrath in which he said, and I quote:

"Every one of those millions of reviewers who trashed a book deliberately did it to harm that book's sales. That's the whole point of a one star review. Someone yelling to the world "Don't buy this!"

This is why I don't leave one star reviews. I think it is a shitty, mean thing to do."

Whilst the post itself does contend that people should be allowed freedom of speech and  leaving 1 star reviews is allowed by such entities as Amazon and Goodreads, the overwhelming tone essentially says people who write 1 star reviews are evil.

Today I came across THIS POST  which sets out to list the The Top Ten Best Books With The Worst Amazon Reviews. The article lists the classics like 1984, The Great Gatsby, Ulysses and War & Peace, posts quotes from the bad reviews and then goes on to poke fun at those reviews.  Does this not strike anyone else as being a tad bit hypocritical? Don't even get me started on the literary, elitist, snobbery. I am currently trying to reread The Great Gatsby. Four months and counting. I don't dislike it but these people make it sound like it's a cardinal sin not to enjoy the classics.

Maybe I'll feel differently about it once I'm published and get my own 1 star reviews but for the moment, I am really annoyed at the assumption and the conceitedness that  surrounds these people who poo-poo 1 star reviews. I've left a few 1 star reviews in my time. Not once have I done it because I deliberately want to harm someone's book sales. To be honest, I couldn't care less about authors as people when I read their books. I judge a book by its contents and if I don't like what I read, I am honest about it. Why should I have to wait and consider the impact it has on the author if I write a 1 star review? Reviewing isn't charity. Good reviews shouldn't be given just because you feel sorry for an author and worry about what it might do to their book sales.  If I go to a dentist and they knock out all my teeth should I go home and contemplate the harm I will do to their business if I complain or will I make my displeasure known? 

I follow many reviewers on Goodreads who have posted 1 star reviews. Far from being remiss about it, these people always write lengthy considered reviews outlining why they truly disliked a book. I don't see anything wrong with this. I also don't see anything wrong with someone simply giving a 1 star review and writing a short paragraph about it not being for them. Just like reading is subjective so too if the amount of weight a person puts on a bad review. If I see a 1 star review with no explanation I simply don't give it any weight. Sometimes a reviewer finds a book so abhorrent they lose their marbles and write their own novel of a rant. So what? I find overly positive reviews with heaps of .gif animations useless and a waste of my screen space. Yet I don't see any  authors complaining about those reviews.

Don't get me wrong, it's not as though I hand out 1 star reviews like it's going out of fashion. Believe it or not it takes a lot for me to give a book a 1 star review. I don't mind grammatical errors, formatting slips or even slightly mundane story telling. These things are forgivable to me. I get that writing isn't easy. What I can't forgive is impossibly stupid characters and gender self hating female protagonists.  But none of the consideration I go through when I write a review is "Hmmm I don't want this book to make any money so I'm going to give it a 1 star review." Because you know, my blog and Goodreads profile is so super famous that my bad review will convince everyone not to buy a book.

I don't know about you guys but I for one and sick of all the 1 star review trashing

24 comments:

  1. One star with no review is suspect though - that's likely someone who just wanted to ding the book or author.
    After my own efforts of producing a book, I couldn't leave a one star review on anyone else's book. Then again, if I'm not enjoying the book, I don't finish it, and if I don't finish it, I can't really review it. So I've never written a one star review.

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    1. I think the notion of 1 star reviews without comments being suspect is over inflated. I know many readers who use Goodreads to simply get recommendations for books they might like to read. These people simply leave star reviews and don't write explanations. I think that's entirely fair.

      I totally get that as a writer who knows the difficulty with producing a book you would be remiss to leave a 1 star review. But most people who read books aren't writers. They simply express their opinion on a product they didn't enjoy.

      Ironically, most of the books I dont finish I give at least 3 stars to because I recognize that they may be of interest to other people. But there are some books I read that I feel are just appalling.

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  2. Amen to everything, Lan!

    I've given my share of one-star reviews. I wrote them because that's how I felt about the book. But I also believe bad reviews have their benefits. While I believe that not everyone will agree with my ratings, there are some who have the same tastes as I do. When those people read my reviews, they can use their time more wisely by picking up another book. Some bad reviews even actually help hype books up. I know there are lots but funnily enough my mind is going blank right now so...

    Well, those are my additional two cents!

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    1. I've bought books after reading a 1 star review of it! Actually I've bought more than one. I don't believe bad reviews really hurt book sales unless at least 80% of people who read the review give it less than 2 stars. I just really dislike this notion that 1 star reviews are less valid than 5 star reviews.

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  3. Wow, I'm certainly not thinking I need to halt sales when I write a one star review. I just didn't like the book at all. That being said, I have given a one star rating without a review because I simply didn't want to spend anymore time on the book. I guess I need to rethink that so I don't look like I'm out to get someone. :(

    I can think of at least 2 books right off the top of my head I bought based on 1 star reviews. One of them turned out to be one of my favorite books of the year.

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    1. I've bought a few books based on 1 star reviews as well. Just goes to show that the star rating and reviews don't automatically stop people buying books. I don't know any reviewers who would go out of their way to give a bad review simply because they wanted to halt sales. Even if they did it wouldn't work!

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  4. I've been a bit out of book blogging for a while, but I remember reading quite a few anti THREE-stars ratings - how three stars are just as bad as one star, etc. I am appalled by the way how these kind of posts want to guilt us into giving higher rating. I just ignore that and do what I've always done - give an honest review.

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    1. It'd ridiculous isn't it? People SHOULD be able to give honest reviews of every book they read. Not just the ones that aren't considered classics or universally loved. I adore HP but I've read some of the 1 star reviews it gets and I can see their point. And it's their opinion and choice and I respect that.

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  5. I never leave one star review. Actually, I have mostly given up doing stars at all. I dislike the system and in my opinion, many people just don't think, they merrily stick in one star. I've seen Lord Of The Rings get a one star review! More than one, though only one made the mistake of saying, "Don't bother reading this" and was immediately attacked by a large bunch of Tolkien fans. Another was a no-comment one from friend of mine whom I generally respect. He just doesn't like it. That's his right, but why stick it on Goodreads? There's so much else to put there. I prefer to share books I did like. Oh, I do admit to the odd two-star thing for a huge bestseller I thought overrated. On my own blog, though, I don't do stars at all and I don't review a book I couldn't find something positive to say about. Mind you, I have stopped the automatic tweets from Goodreads since I discovered that it went straight to Twitter after I had clicked my first star in a five star review!

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    1. I'm not convinced most people don't think think before they give a star rating. I certainly do. At least I think about whether I dislike a book enough to merit giving it a 1 star review.

      I take it you don't mind that a person who gave LOTR gave a 1 star review and was attached by LOTR fans? There seems to be some sort of idea that it's okay to not let people have an opinion just because it's different to the consensus. I fell asleep reading LOTR and never finished it. If I cared enough I would give it a 1 star review as well.

      Again I have to ask, why is it only alright to put up positive opinions? The point of the star system is so that people don't have to trawl through countless reviews to find out if a book is worth their reading it. If everything was 3 stars and about why have reviews at all?

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    2. You take it wrongly - I do think people have a right to an opinion, I merely object to bad manners, and we're seeing far too much of that these days when anyone can review anything and say,"I read eight pages of this and hated it, don't bother to read it" without any more. The man was a fool to say it of a book so many people love, but that was his problem, not mine. It was like turning up at a Beatles concert and saying loudly, "These guys suck!" ;-) All I meant, though, as that even classics have had one star ratings on Goodreads and Amazon, so how much can it mean? actually, I have thoroughly enjoyed some one star reviews that took the trouble to say why - even when I didn't agree. In one case, I was sent a copy of the book soon after to review and found it was better than I had expected. But if I had merely read the reviews I wouldn't have bought it. This is something you will discover when your own books are out. Every one star review drops the average of your book's ratings. Goodreads is a much-respected site and when you try getting an agent, you'd better hope that they don't check out the averages of your previous books there. And didn't you say you had ignored some one star ratings? Again - I object to bad manners on line. I don't tear apart books - life is too short to be bothered!

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  6. I don't agree with Konrath's views of reviews on Amazon and all that. Of course authors are going to see 1-star reviews as being attempts to ruin their careers, which is just ridiculous. Unless there is an obvious boycott going on, then that's not what they are meant to do, nor what they are capable of. I'm a book reviewer, too, and I don't give 1-star reviews lightly. If I do give them, then the book was so abhorrent to me that I just can't stand to give it anything higher than that. But, it's not an attempt to ruin anyone's career.

    I would never be able to single-handedly do that because I simply don't have that kind of power. What one individual does? A 1-star review here or there has NEVER killed any author's career. Konrath is being a super sensitive idiot about that. I respect him for his research and informative blog, but, at the end of the day, he's an author and authors are usually inclined to feel attacked when they get bad reviews. It's understandable, but they need to stop assuming the world will end because a few people hated their books.

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  7. I agree with you totally, there is nothing wrong with leaving one star reviews. I don't do it lightly at all, I have to have real issues with the book first before I will, but I always explain why I give a 1 star review so mine like many others are never just random nastiness.
    As for the idea of 1 star reviews harming authors or being pointless is not correct, I had an author who sent me his book for free and asked me to review it. I did not like it at all and didn't even finish it. I emailed the author and asked him if he was happy for me to publish the review -giving him a copy of what I said (as he had provided the book I thought I should check) I expected him to be angry and demand I not publish anything etc, but he replied that he was sorry I hadn't enjoyed it but everyone was entitled to an opinion and could I please post it as any publicity is good. His book was still being featured on my blog and then getting another rating on Amazon (and maybe causing conversation) He said all reviews help good and bad and if anyone said otherwise then they didn't understand the system. So since then I haven't worried about it.

    I do admit there are a lot of pointless one star reviews that are just a way of people ranting, but most will just glaze over them and ignore them. Not all 1 star reviews should be judged on those standards.

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  8. Ok random tangent, but THIS: "people make it sound like it's a cardinal sin not to enjoy the classics." -- I hate those people who hate me for not enjoying the classics. They make me feel like a sub-par writer/reader/human being ;_;

    I personally don't give one-star reviews (for a variety of reasons that I'm still trying to understand myself). But I don't write all that many reviews. To be honest I'm a little scared to as an author. I know I shouldn't be, but I am. I guess partly it's overactive sympathy for fellow writers. If I were only a reader, I'd totally be all over it, but I don't know ... it's hard to separate myself from that as a reader ... I need to work on that I guess.

    Because like you, I've totally bought books BECAUSE they were given one star reviews. Case in point? BUMPED by Megan McCafferty. Really any review is going to be a boost. It creates a buzz.

    Re: intentionality/thoughtfulness in one-star ratings, I don't know. On Goodreads I can't tell you how many times I have accidentally left one-star (or two, or four etc) ratings that were inaccurate (stupid, inadequate clicky-clicky finger) and not realized my error for several months and/or ever. Of course those are just ratings not review/ratings.





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  9. Honestly, I do not give 1 or 2-star reviews. If I dislike a book that much, I delete it from my GR shelf and do not review it. Being a writer, I just don't feel like I can publicly insult or denounce a fellow artist. Karma and all that.

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  10. I could go on and on about this subject but I'll just say this: I constantly give bad reviews, as you well know, but I never do it to ruin book sales. In fact, until I read your post I didn't know this was even being discussed. I rarely don't finish a book. I feel like if I made the effort to finish a book I wasn't liking, I have every right to complain about it. I'm tired of people bashing anybody about anything, though. People have the right to say whatever they want. Can't we all just get along? ;-)

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  11. I don't see anything wrong with 1 star reviews. I have a problem with the idiots that go around posting ONLY 1 star reviews for every book they read because they're obviously doing it on purpose or just don't know how to read a book that they will ever enjoy... but in general, I have no problem with it. A review should be HONEST, and if you're being honest saying it just wasn't your cup of tea, so be it. I try to avoid 1 star reviews because I can usually find something redeeming in a book and give it two, but there are those books that just are NOT good at all to me.

    As a writer, I have mixed emotions about how I will handle reviews of my book. I may not like seeing any low star reviews or negative comments on my book, but part of me believes two things: 1). It will help me improve my writing, and 2). Some reviewers are just jerks that need to be ignored. I'd rather someone be honest than just tell me what I want to hear anyways. ;)

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  12. I can see a clear divide between the opinions of writers compared to readers. I guess right now I identify more as being a reader and as such I take offense to being called "shitty" or "mean spirited" for expressing and opinion I have every right to share. I respect the right of writers who feel they themselves shouldn't write negative reviews for karmic or professional reasons and I'd like the same courtesy extended in return.

    The more I read Konraths blog the more I see that he does more harm to traditional publishing than any 1 star review could do for a book.

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  13. I myself have never given any 1 star review since I think that the authors have given all their might to write a book, and what can I say: I can't even write. Another reason, I think it might be because I believe that if you don't have anything nice to say, then say nothing. I don't mind negative reviews as long as they don't attack the authors personally though. Sometimes I think negative reviews with gifs in Goodreads are only made for the sole reason of bashing and entertaining the crowd, and they don't seem to realize that authors are human being with feeling too. But well, that's only my opinion. >.<

    I remember reading a saying once that when a book is published, the author might as well dies. We can't force what we want readers to think when they read the book, and after all, everyone has their opinion. It would be much better world if we can respect each other's opinion I think. :)

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  14. When I first started blogging, I gave a one star on Amazon for Texas Gothic because I could not finish it. Someone read my review and proceeded to shoot down all my explanations on why I gave it a one star, and should reread it and give it another though through six paragraphs worth of ranting. Now, I only post DNFs (which are highly controversial too) and one-two star reviews on my blog. I only place Amazon and Goodread reviews if it was a book sent from a publisher, to avoid drama. But I totally agree with your reasoning.

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  15. I think 1 star ratings are fine, as long as the reviewer has a reason. Just like they should have a reason for giving a 5 star review. I don't think I've personally ever given a 1 star, just because the ones I probably would give that rating to are DNFs, and I don't like rating DNFs since I feel like I shouldn't rate a book if I haven't read the whole thing.

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  16. As you already know, I agree to the whole 1 star thing. If I'm able to make it entirely through a book, then I will review it (unless it's in a super long series, in which case I'll just put a star rating up on goodreads and no description and leave it at that). That means even if I read the whole book and hated it, my review will go up. It's not malicious or anything (though I do take a bit of pride in the fact that I'm often very blunt and honest in real life and people have called me mean and told me I dont care enough about others' feelings...oh well) I just want others to know what's going through my head. It's my experience that books I hate, and books I absolutely love get reviews that are roughly the same length. I like to explain why exactly books earned such a rating, and I think with enough explanation, my rating is warranted. It shows I thought enough about the book to offer an explanation. It's like in relationships, when a guy breaks up with the girl. It's a bit better when he says he wants to break up and explains in detail why exactly he feels that way. It's terrible when a guy breakd up and then walks away with no explanation, and the dumpee is left wondering why. In my practice, if I though enough about your book to give it a rating at all, you should be happy. I made sure to include some god tidbits and hopefully thorough explanation. It's when I dont review a book at all that authors should worry. When I hat ethe book so much that I completely remove it from my goodreads profile, not even wanting my name to be associated with the book at all. Thats the worst.

    Idk, I feel like if you're going to publish a book, tou should attempt to grow some tough skin (or at least throw a blanket around yourself) and appreciate that people are even willing to read your book instead of watching tv like the rest of the normal world.

    And with that, I mustleave you to go finish writing my 1 1/2 star review that will be up tomorrow.

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  17. so many typos in my comment :( Ignore them

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  18. One stars don't bother me at all. It's like a big warning sign--however, I always read both 1 stars and 5 stars. Then I make my own decision. Most of the time, I don't even read reviews before I pick up a book lol. I just read the description/first page then decide for myself. I think people should be able to decide for themselves. Just my opinion :).
    Ninja Girl

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