When Is Harsh Too Harsh: The Need to be Nice in Book Reviews

3328472594_6e128e3016_bSome time ago I posted about whether or not writers should review books. At that time, I wasn’t sure myself, though I do post reviews even if I am conflicted. (Some of the negative reviews I post I do worry about potentially making it more difficult for me to get published…the whole “burning bridges” idea, though I try to be analytical in my reviews and not a rant-fest like some reviews I’ve seen. I also never fangirl reviews (posting obsessively positive reviews due to being a rabid fan of the book and/or author)).

However, recently I read a post titled “Be nice”  by author Becca Fitzpatrick. She discussed how aspiring authors should only post positive reviews because they don’t know who will read their reviews, and so they don’t want to burn any bridges.

While I agree that scathing reviews are not always the most helpful – neither are fangirl reviews – not commenting on any novels you didn’t like skews book ratings.

I hardly ever decide to read a book without first looking at reviews. If all I saw were positive reviews, I’d get excited about the book, purchase it, and then be angry when I ended up greatly disliking the book because it’s something I would have never read if not for the reviews. What would make that scenario worse is if I later found out that many people didn’t like the book, but because they were afraid that by posting a negative review they’d potentially hinder their chances of publication, so they didn’t say anything. I’d feel like I was lied to.

One of the book reviewers I follow, posted a response to Becca Fitzpatrick’s post. I thought it was intriguing and found that I agreed with the belief that while it’s difficult to see people bash your story (by the way, this happens all the time in critique groups and workshops), negative reviews can also be beneficial. They allow authors to know what they may need to improve on, and, also, sometimes people aren’t going to like your story regardless of whether or not it’s well written.

During one workshop I participated in, someone said to me that he hated all fantasy and science fiction writing. Because of that he thought everything in my story sucked. It didn’t matter that most of the class liked the majority of the things that person hated. My story dealt with fantasy and was therefore trash.

It stung that his critique was so incredibly harsh. I showed it to some of my friends and they were shocked at how rude he was, but I eventually shrugged it off. That’s probably one of the most important aspects I learned during workshops…how to strengthen my backbone against negative feedback.

What do you think? Should aspiring authors only share positive reviews or should they be free to express themselves?

(Photo courtesy of Carrie Kellenberger.)

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One thought on “When Is Harsh Too Harsh: The Need to be Nice in Book Reviews

  1. painterwrite

    I think reviews should be honest, but not in a mean way. As writers we have (or should have) the ability to understand why a book doesn’t work for us…poor character development, too-convenient plot, horrid dialogue. Offering the author constructive criticism without bashing should always be welcome.

    Reply

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