A Case For The Negative Review

I have a question; when did writing negative reviews become a stigma in the book world? Why is it that no matter where I look on social media lately someone is complaining about something and someone not writing a “proper” review. When did it become equivalent to school children on a playground bickering about stupid shit that wouldn’t even make anyone’s radar until it’s posted and bitched about on social media? Why is it that professional reviewers and bloggers are being lumped in with the few rotten apples that apparently seem to be only on Goodreads? When did it become necessary to publicly shame people in posts or comments simply because you don’t agree with them?

Notice that I’m not specifically pointing at anyone here? Well there’s a reason for that, because it’s not just limited to authors and reviewers lately. Everyone seems to be jumping on the judgy bandwagon and finding it necessary criticize and/or to “educate” (often rudely) on how someone else should be doing something (writing reviews, writing books, pricing, selling, buying, reading, you name it). Are we not grown adults and professionals? Do we not know how to conduct ourselves professionally? Are things like common courtesy and professionalism now a thing of a very distant past?

Allow me to address the elephant in the room here: I write negative reviews. There’s lots of people that don’t believe in reviewing a book that they didn’t enjoy, and hey, different strokes for different folks. I don’t happen to subscribe to that particular newsletter. You see, I find negative reviews to be extremely helpful for me as a reader. Why? Because most of the time my buying decision comes from the negative reviews more so than the glowing positive one. 
As a consumer, don’t you want to know both sides of the coin before spending your hard earned money on a product that you may know in advance won’t work for you? Everything is a business essentially. Authors provide a product (their books), and reviewers/bloggers provide a service (their opinions). While I love to promote my favorite authors, and I’m lucky enough to have discovered many of them throughout the years, they’re not the main reason I write reviews. Nope. The main reason is people like me; readers. 
You guys trust me enough to follow my reviews and more often than not it’s because your book tastes are in line with mine. Personally, that’s why I follow many of the reviewers that I do; because they have similar books tastes and that’s how I discover new authors and books for myself. Of course that’s not always the case and not everyone will always agree with my opinion, and you know what? That’s OK. That’s your right. Same as it’s my right to have mine.
And that brings me to the touchy subject on negative reviews…
re·view
rəˈvyo͞o/
noun
  1. A formal assessment or examination of something with the possibility or intention of instituting change if necessary.
Does anywhere in that definition imply that reviews are only meant to be positive? No. Because that defeats the purpose of a review, does it not? If all my reviews were 4 or 5 stars, I’d mostly think of it as a plot summary with praise. While I try to pick books and authors that I know in advance would work for me, there’s always the occasion that it doesn’t. I also like to try new authors and give books outside my own personal comfort zone a shot. Why not? How else would I diverse my library?
Have you all visited the interwebs lately? Do sites like TravelAdvisor, Yelp, Glassdoor, Cnet, yahoo and plenty more ring a bell? Of course they do. Have you read any of the reviews on them lately? No? I suggest you take a look, because you’re going to find that they’re not all nicely written, grammatically correct, glowing, or sometimes even fair. (Psst, they also allow other users to comment on them).They’re opinions after all, and you know what they say about those, right?
Why do people get so riled up about something as simple as an opinion? You don’t agree with it? That’s your right, of course. Just as it’s that person’s right to have their own opinion. You don’t think it’s correct? Well that pretty much defeats the definition of opinion. You think it’s mean spirited? It happens, this is the internet after all. Anyone with an opinion feels it’s their right to write about it and there’s not much you can do to change that. What you can change is how you react to it. Because here’s the thing, the only thing that’s affected here is public image, and in this industry (like any other industry out there) that’s a BIG thing. 
What I mean is, you write a mean spirited review that’s completely without merit or just plain stupid, the only thing you do is tarnish your image. If I read a review like this, I certainly wouldn’t put much weight on what they said. And if you’re a person (whether it be author, reader, reviewer, whatever) that decides to start publicly shaming reviewers that write negative reviews, well again, the only thing it will affect is your own image. I grew up on a very wise Russian saying; Never argue with an idiot, people won’t be able to tell the difference. And when I see commenters on negative reviews, that’s essentially what is going on.
The funny thing, is most of these “reviews” don’t even make my radar until some drama explodes over them. I wouldn’t even bat an eyelash at them until it turns into some controversy where everyone and their mother decides to jump into the fray and educate the reviewer on what they’re doing wrong. Then it’s blowing up my social media feeds everywhere. Le sigh.
Personally when I’m deciding to purchase a book, I like to read both the positive and negative reviews. I like to know in advance if a book will have a particular no-no trigger of mine (love triangle, cheating, etc). Why would I pick up a book knowing in advance it won’t work for me. I’d feel mislead and pissed. That goes for any product you purchase. That’s what makes you an educated consumer. As an educated consumer, don’t you think you can differentiate between an objectively written negative review and something that’s completely without merit? Of course you can. I personally wouldn’t trust any product that only has 5 star reviews. It’s just not possible that something is so great it will work for everyone. That’s just not the world that we live in. And most of the time, the negative reviews (even the stupid ones) only give the positive ones merit.
This is what happens when you put something up for public consumption; people will have opinions on it. That goes for any product or even business out there. Everything is subjective, and everyone is different.
Have I read negative reviews that were mean spirited and pointless or just flat out rude? Also-fucking-lutely. And it’s certainly not just limited to books. Unfortunately not everyone will take the time to consider things like feelings before expressing their thoughts. But that’s what differentiates the professionals from the assholes. Personally, I can’t remember the last time I saw someone talking about a great reviewer on Goodreads or Amazon that’s fair, constructive, and honest. But boy is my feed riddled with complaining about those few bad apples that seem to color the rest of us poorly. If I had a dollar for every time I read something about one of those “Goodreads” assholes, I’m pretty sure I could safely retire. 
Spoiler Alert: there’s still plenty of us out there (Goodreads included) that rate fairly, write constructive reviews, don’t bash authors, and help pimp books that we think deserve the praise. Why are we getting lost in this negative shuffle? Why are we lumped in along with the assholes that give the rest of us a bad name? Why does it look like we’re a rare breed where in fact if you truly looked, you’d see that we’re the majority. 
My point with this post is not to shame anyone, criticize or educate. Quite the contrary actually. Why do we keep focusing on all the negative when there’s so much positive as well. If I focused on only the negative experiences, I’m pretty sure I’d lose my ever loving mind. So why not brush the negative off and live happily ever after together? Let’s take a moment here, shall we?

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Comments

  1. This post deserves one million high-fives!!

  2. Nice job! Very true.

    • TY! I know it won't solve any problems, but I just hate being lumped in with the few rotten apples out there that seem to be coloring all of us in a negative light out there :-/

  3. Oh man I wrote a post related to this cause so many of my friends are being insulted or trolled for writing bad reviews…but it's scheduled for Feb 19 lol
    The wonders of scheduled osts…no need to write in a hurry 😛

    Melissa @ http://eversomela.blogspot.com/

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