book reviews

The Writer’s Toolbox – negative book reviews

March 3rd, 2015 by Miriam Owen | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on The Writer’s Toolbox – negative book reviews

As a person who shops on line regularly  I have to admit I am fond of a review.  The most useful reviews to me are the negative ones.  These are the ones that balance the (usually) many positive reviews.  They tend to go into specifics about what they don’t like.  This information helps me to make up my mind about a purchase.   For example I may not care if someone has described a book negatively because the story is cheesy, predictable or overly romanticised, in fact that may be just what I am looking for, but if it is badly translated then I know it will just annoy me.  What’s negative to one consumer may not be to another.  These negative reviews help us to make decisions.

However as a blogger I have long deliberated over the place of negative book reviews in my own personal writing. I feel obliged to provide some kind of review when a publisher or author presents me with a book and my biggest worry is about writing a negative review.  Should I make people read between the lines or just say what I think openly?   I do feel quite strongly that open debate is healthy and for this to happen honest opinion must be raised. Constructive criticism is something we all need to listen to in order to grow.  What will it mean to the author or publisher and what if it is someone that I know, meet or have to work with in the future?

Today I discovered that the International Thriller Writers Organization has been asking its authors to share their worst reviews with the public by video on their Facebook page.  What an interesting idea! The clips vary in length but overall it would seem that these authors engage with the negative reviews, they can take it, they can even laugh about it.

If you are logged in to Facebook you can see one of the clips by international best-selling British writer of crime fiction Peter James here .  David Swatling, a recently published author who also took part in this, posted this piece on Facebook referring to negative reviews:  “I appreciate anyone who takes time to write a review – good or bad. So I had no problem recording my worst at the request of International Thriller Writers. As Irish author Brendan Behan once said, ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary’.”

At the end of the day I think one of the main ways to approach this is to think of the VALUE of a review.  A ‘negative’ review can provide balance and it can provide commentary on society trend and make people think outside the box. The reviewer has the choice of words in which to call a spade a spade and  if you want the spade to be used constructively in the future then the reviewer will consider carefully the value of their review in the writers toolbox.

If you are a publisher, reviewer, author or someone who reads reviews regularly I would be really interested to hear what you have to say about book reviews with negative opinions in them and the value they hold.