|negative (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)|
As book bloggers, we pledge to our readers to provide honest reviews. At the same time, most bloggers I know agonize over not being able to give every book they read a glowing 5 STAR rating. I think negative reviews is one of the most talked about topics among book bloggers (the only topic that comes up more is the pet peeves of review requests). Book bloggers are passionate readers and love nothing more than to promote authors. But not every book is for every person.
Because we are a diverse group of readers, negative reviews can help readers decide if a book is for them or not. Often times, negative reviews are much more informative than positive reviews. Because reviewers are not out to destroy the author's career, they often painstakingly provide details as to what didn't work for them. They also try to highlight the good stuff as well. I know I try to point out positive aspects of every book I review.This effort often leads to a more balanced review since the blogger isn't just gushing about how wonderful the book is.
Readers who regularly follow a blogger learn the blogger's taste and know how it lines up with their own reading taste. A negative review may lead to someone else buying it. Just because I'm not a huge fan of paranormal romance doesn't mean my readers aren't. When I write a review of a book that I didn't really like, I try to keep in mind what might appeal to others.
A few comments for authors: Bloggers aren't writing their review for you, but for the readers. Bloggers feel a responsibility to provide an informative post so that readers can decide for themselves to read the book or not. A review is one person's opinion and everyone is entitled to their opinion. Also few bloggers are influential enough to impact sales significantly. A negative review or two amongst several glowing reviews can lend credibility to your book so embrace the good and the bad. If a negative review leaves you scratching your head and you must have answers, DO NOT attack the reviewer (you'll damage your reputation more so than any negative review could) and do not question their opinion in a public forum (Twitter, Facebook, comment sections). If you sent your book to the blogger then you already have their email address, use it. I've had an author contact me even though I got his book from Netgalley to address my concerns (his book got a great review I just pointed out a couple of problems). When you do contact the blogger, be respectful and polite. Do NOT use inflammatory or confrontational words. You are an author, you can choose your words wisely.
A word for bloggers: If you must give a negative review (and I strongly believe they are an important part of our free market society), be respectful. Do NOT lash out at the author or make the review personal - it is about the book. Give examples, when possible, of the problems you had with the book. At the same time don't belabor the point - support your opinion and then move on. Step back from your emotions, be objective and ask yourself who would enjoy the book, what worked well in the story.
Finally for both authors and book bloggers - remember we are in a public forum and what we say and how we act can reflect on the community as a whole. Book blogging, much like self and indie published authors, is still trying to find its footing in the publishing industry. A lot of positive steps have occurred but if we start fighting amongst ourselves then ground will be lost. Be mature. Be professional.