Musing by Moonlight: The Importance of Negative Reviews

musing by moonlight

Welcome to my new series of posts Musing by Moonlight, where I take the opportunity to get off my chest anything and everything to do with books.
Or maybe not.
Depends how I feel.

Today I’ll be talking about the importance of negative reviews. I generally don’t review books I don’t finish and I try not to finish books I’m not enjoying because I have very little free time to waste on crap books. Recently I felt bad because I gave my first tour stop book only 3 stars (review up on Monday). I wanted to support the author and the tour but I simply didn’t enjoy the book enough to give it a higher rating. I felt really bad about this, until I realised that it takes all sorts. It takes both positive reviews and negative reviews and even reviews firmly in the middle like mine to give legitimacy to a book and to cover all sorts of feedback.

“No one benefits from reviews that don’t give a true picture of what you loved and didn’t love about a book.”
– CJ Redwine

Why negative reviews are just as important as positive reviews:

  • Negative reviews may mention something in the review that sounds appealing to a reader. I have read a few negative reviews where they mentioned something they hated, decided the book sounded interesting because it simply didn’t work for the reviewer but might for me, and read and ended up enjoying it! Case in point: The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter.
  • Negative reviews give credibility to positive reviews. If a book has all 4 and 5 star reviews and the reviewers don’t talk about things they didn’t like, them the reviews all sound fishy, like there’s an agenda or they’re written by friends or family which, as we know, generally can’t be trusted as impartial. Or maybe the author has had the negative review removed for whatever reason. Most reviewers know that not everyone will love any given book – even Harry Potter has its haters.
  • While some reviewers can rate a book 1 star and keep a relationship with its author, it is rare. A lot of reviewers would prefer to err on the side of kindness. So an review from an impartial reader that is either positive or negative speaks droves. A negative review is far far more likely to be impartial and even honest than a positive review. I personally find it difficult to write long 5 star reviews because when a book works on all levels it just works, whereas  1 star reviews can be long rants about everything that is wrong with the book.
  • Just because the first book in a series is rated 1 star, it doesn’t mean the reader isn’t allowed to read the other books in the series or other books by the author. Authors are supposed to improve with everything they write (some authors don’t but that’s because they’re crap writers). A reviewer is not guaranteed to hate a book before they’ve read it. A reader has the right to give every book a fair chance, or to avoid it if they think they might not like it. A reader is even allowed to read a book if they think they’re going to hate it. But essentially a one star review should not put the reader off any future books by that author, but it’s okay if it does. Because we are not sheep, and we can make up our own minds.
  • If a reader reads a negative review of a book they are on the fence about, and it sways them not to read it, they probably weren’t all that excited to read the book in the first place, or found out something they wouldn’t like. Is it wrong to help reviewers avoid books they won’t enjoy?
  • I love reading negative reviews. I love hate-filled rants. Why? Because they are emotional. They get a reaction out of the reader. I don’t read so much the objective scholarly review because I want to read personality. I don’t want to read reviews that are trying to sell me a book, I want a specific person’s reaction. More often than not the person is one of my friends. I find it difficult to write reviews of great books: I also find it difficult to write reviews of poor but utterly bland books. I often have nothing to say beyond ‘This book was boring, slow, and nothing” and want to leave it at that. After all, nothing happened! There is nothing to criticise.
  • Our job as reviewers is not to sell books but to spread the joy of books, and if another reader doesn’t like the sound of the book then we haven’t forbidden anything, only stopped the negative emotions that come off from reading a book they’re not enjoying. We’ve protected the reader, because that’s what it’s all about, not the author, or selling books and making money for the author. Books are about the readers, the consumers, and their responses.


What’s your opinion on negative reviews?


About Nemo

A lover of kittens and all things sparkly, Nemo has a degree in English Literature and specialises in reviewing contemporary, paranormal, mystery/thriller, historical, sci-fi and fantasy Young Adult fiction. She is especially drawn to novels about princesses, strong female friendships, magical powers, and assassins.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,830 other subscribers

13 thoughts on “Musing by Moonlight: The Importance of Negative Reviews

  1. Laura @ Music Plus Books

    I have to agree with everything you said. A book really does need both positive and negative reviews. Like you said, every reader is different so what’s good to one person might be bad to another. Or vise versa. For example, some people love plot twists at the end, I HATE them. But even if we have to think of it in a negative light, sometimes its just better for the reader to know if they should stay away from the book or not. Great post!

  2. Miranda @ Tempest Books

    This is a really good post! I’m also a fan of negative reviews. I don’t always enjoy writing them, and it’s disappointing to not like a book that you were excited for/hoped you’d enjoy, but they’re totally necessary. And there have definitely been a bunch of cases where I read a negative review (or more than one) of a book and decided that I wanted to read it anyway. I like to make up my own mind, if I think there’s a chance that I might like it anyway.

  3. MidnightPageTurners

    I completely agree, negative reviews are important because they prove readers can be honest, if reviews were all positive people would end up buying terrible books and then being dissapointed a lot more often!

    1. Nemo

      Thank you for bringing up this point! You’re completely right: with only praise there will be a lot of secret disappointment. This is why books are for readers, because it’s their feelings that matter more.

  4. Kara @ Great Imaginations

    I actually really enjoy writing negative reviews. I love being critical, and I don’t really get to do that often outside of the manuscripts that I edit. Sometimes I rant, sometimes I remain professional, it really just depends what the book has inspired me to do. I agree with you about negative reviews being emotional. They are, and it’s important to get those feelings out there. That’s why I will never support an author who criticizes negative reviews. It gives legitimacy to their writing, and if they can’t see that, not someone I want to read.

  5. Musing by Moonlight: 7 Reasons Why I’ll DNF (Abandon) A Book | The Moonlight Library

    […] If you’re the type of reviewer who is like I NEED TO FINISH EVERY BOOK IT’S A SICKNESS that’s OK. I’m totally not judging anyone for finishing a book they’re hating of abandoning it on the first page (which I have done before). If you’re the type of reviewer who believes in ‘say something nice or don’t say anything at all’ you can go jump off a ledge. I’ve already blogged about the importance of negative reviews. […]

Comments are closed.