Writing reviews for a book I love is relatively easy. Sure, it’s not always simple to put down on paper how much you gushingly heart a perfect book, but writing a positive review is a breeze when compared to writing a negative one. At least for me. I hate when I don’t like a book, not only because I don’t like wasting my time, but also because I realize just how much authors put into their work. In a perfect world I would love every book I read, but that’s just silly. I’ve read books that have been lauded as classics that I found stiflingly boring. Similarly, I’ve enjoyed books that some might consider low brow. Like so many things, these issues are matters of taste; however, having started up this blog and my book-a-week reviews, the subject of negative opinions is something I’ve been agonizing over. What to do when you really didn’t like a book?
How to handle negative opinions is something I’ve really been struggling with. If I read a book I don’t enjoy should I just zip my lips, put the book aside (or press delete) and move on? A part of me doesn’t want to contribute to the negativity in the world, but at the same time the whole point of reviews is preventing others from wasting their time on something they might not enjoy. I think what I’ve come up with is that I would never write an “I hate everything about this book and the horse it rode in on” kind of review. If I don’t like a book I’m sure I can still have something positive to say while allowing my opinion to be known. I think we can express displeasure while still respecting the fact that someone worked hard on the very thing we’re critiquing.
I’ve also found that it’s important for me to determine why I don’t like a book. Is it a great book but simply not my style, perhaps in a genre I don’t really enjoy? I’m not a huge stickler for grammar, and I can enjoy a good story even if the writing isn’t flawless, but I’ve read a few books that were just screaming for some editing. Were the errors distracting me from an otherwise enjoyable read? The reasons why we may not like a book are many, but I definitely think it’s important to try to pinpoint the why in order to review fairly.
Of course, with the advent of free eBooks and indie novels my reading experience has also changed. Do I expect the same from a $0.99 debut novel from an unknown author as I do a $14.99 new release from a blockbuster bestseller? Nope. Right or wrong I’d also be much more comfortable expressing displeasure if I seriously disliked the well known author’s work and I’m not sure why that is. Price? Feeling like I’m not getting value for my dollar? Or is it the knowledge that a few bad reviews can really damage an indie author’s career, while an avalanche of negative reviews on blockbusters like Fifty Shades of Grey aren’t likely to impact sales. If anything, negative reviews on a best seller will just help generate more buzz.
I’d love to know how you deal with the sensitive issue of not liking a book and negative reviews. Are there any factors that affect the way you view or grade a book or author? Do you think it’s disingenuous to be more forgiving with a freebie than with a bestseller?
Overall, I think I’ll tread carefully when it comes to posting a lot of negativity in my reviews. Some books (like the recently reviewed The Taker) I won’t always love, but there are still redeeming qualities that I definitely want to share with anyone considering reading it. What are your views on this?
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