Some Thoughts On Review Slamming, Especially When It’s Instigated By Authors

Posted February 15, 2021 by Amber in Bookish Things / 4 Comments

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A few months ago, one of the authors I follow on Instagram posted a series of stories calling out what her followers suggested – and she agreed – were “ridiculous reviews”.  Some of these were the usual “I didn’t read the book, but 1-star” reviews.  Others were things “I didn’t like this one, but I’m still going to read the sequel” and “I loved this book, 3-stars”.  The whole thread was 20-30 stories long, and months later, I’m still thinking about it, because it didn’t sit well with me.

There’s a lot of things about this incident that didn’t sit will with me, to be honest.

First of all, I understand that authors will often feel dejected after reading unfavorable reviews.  It sucks getting your work criticized, but that’s also part of this business.  Not to exhaust this sentiment, but it’s worth saying again since the people in the back may have missed it: reviews are for readers and not authors.  Authors can read reviews at their own risk, and it’s not professional to go ranting at your followers if you don’t like something you read.

Secondly, I feel this really plays into the conversation that’s been popping up again about negative reviews.  Yes, negative reviews have actual value.  It’s important for us to talk about the ups and downs of every book and provide valuable insight about different things.  Authors don’t get a “pass” on criticism, and neither do actors, artists, bands, or comedians… if you’re in entertainment… people are going to talk about your work and have complicated feelings about it.  It comes with the territory.

Third.  Reviews, even good reviews, are complicated.  A plot can be compelling, but the writing or world building could be really blah – I can see that leading to a mid-range review instead of a glowing five stars.  The thread also contained a comment about partial stars…. specifically something along the lines of “What is even a 3.49583 review?!  Do they not understand how the star system works?  It’s pretty simple.  I don’t understand how they don’t get it.”  As a blogger and reviewer, I knew what that rating was immediately because I do something similar on my blog.  It’s a weighted rating, where the reviewer is taking components of the book and weighting them individually.  Sometimes a good books has poor elements.  It should not necessarily get a pass because it was entertaining.  If I 5-stars enjoyed a book, but the characters were 2-stars flat as pancakes, then that book doesn’t really deserve five stars because it’s not objectively a perfect book.  Et voila, weighted reviews.

I could keep going, pulling specific examples out of this thread and defending them.  Some of them are the types of reviews I would write (“I hated the romance” was another criticism, which I holler all the time).  Maybe this is me being a sad soft special little lamb who can’t take personal criticism, but this whole situation made me mad, and I’m so tired of reviews that don’t fit into a box getting criticized.  Or readers hating on each other if their star ratings on popular books don’t match up.  And to see an author, one who I had previous liked, spurring up her followers on a review slamming session was so disappointing.

When are we going to do better, book community?  When are we going to look at one another and seek to understand why we read, love, and hate the books we do instead of of throwing one another under a bus when we don’t agree with a sentiment, or the words used?  We are a community that literally thrives on words, but sometimes, I wonder how much we bother to read and understand.  Why can’t we show kindness and empathy and curiosity, or barring that… just, professionalism and decency?  If the words are hurtful, that’s one thing. But petty disagreements like this are exhausting.

And authors who can’t stay in their lanes aren’t helping.

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Do you agree with any of the sentiments in this post?  Do you think authors should read or comment on their own book’s reviews?  Do you think there are superior or inferior types of reviews?  Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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4 responses to “Some Thoughts On Review Slamming, Especially When It’s Instigated By Authors

  1. It bugs me so much when I see people try to police how reviews should be written, and it’s a huge reason why I don’t write reviews anymore. I get that people have their preferences (I personally don’t like GIF reviews or reviews that are just recaps of the plot with a couple of opinions sprinkled in because they don’t tell me anything), but to say that someone’s review style is outright wrong just doesn’t sit right with me.

    • Amber

      Plot recaps are so frustrating to read as a review. I do like there are all sorts of reviews out there for all sorts of people to access. I just write the kind of reviews that I would find helpful… half the time my reviews are less “reviews” and more “quick discussions” about my thoughts on a book. 😛 Drawing the line in the sand between “wrong” and “right” reviews really bothered me, too. :/

  2. Monica Laurette

    If I ever become a published author and found any low reviews I’d almost accept and enjoy them (to myself of course) because I love when people are honest with me, even when it hurts. I feel like one could learn from negative reviews too, maybe if someone says the characters are a little flat, I could work on making my characters more well-rounded in the next one. I’d never attack or mock someone for their opinion, especially as a reader first myself.

    • Amber

      I love that you already have a plan for this eventuality! <3 I don't think I could read the reviews myself - I'm not always great about constructive criticism - but I'd want a trusted friend to filter out a few for my that they thing I could handle. 😛 I love that you will remember where you started. In so many parts of life, I feel like folks forget where they've been because they're so focused on where they're going. It's good to have that humility. <3