How to write a bad book review

DIYYep, that title was carefully phrased to have dual meanings. I’ve been a book reviewer and an author. Sometimes, as a book reviewer, I just didn’t like a book. That’s tough. Sometimes, as an author, readers don’t like what I have written, and that is tougher, because a one star review can cause book sales to plummet. Well, unless the reviewer is an obvious nut-case, and in that instance…it still hurts.

First, let’s deal with how to review a book that isn’t just want the reviewer/reader wanted. If writing for a site or magazine, the best thing is for the reviewer to just pass on it. Let’s face it, not everyone likes every book. Really. I’ve read classics and wondered, how the heck did this book even get published, much less remain after its fellows all ended up in the landfill? So, it really is best to pass it to another reviewer who might be more amenable to the book. But, if it is absolutely necessary to review it, begin with what isn’t wrong with it. Surely there is something— good prose, interesting setting, an absence of poor spelling and/or grammar. Find something good. Then, state the objection(s) clearly, and then explain the obvious— that others might not agree. If five stars are available, then rate accordingly, and there really should be more than one star clicked. Because whatever the reviewer found that was good probably warrants a second or even a third star.

A really, really bad book is going to be rife with problems— spelling, grammar, formatting; or lackluster characters, a plot that moves more slowly than molasses on a cold winter’s day; or even inconsistencies (such as a character with blue eyes in chapter 1 and brown ones in chapter 8). In such cases there is no need for the reviewer to get emotional and resort to “I”, “me”, or “my” because the author burdens the work with too much evidence that the book is indeed bad. There, and only there, might those one and two star reviews be warranted.

If the book is an eBook, and the reader purchased it from Amazon, there is a return feature. Did you know that? I didn’t, until recently. Anyway, the other day I returned a highly rated sci-fi novel. I did not write a bad review, because I wasn’t about to waste enough time to read it and then review it. Those who slog all the way through a Kindle title only to write a one star review must have intense masochistic tendencies.

Finally, I’ll deal with the second interpretation of my title. Sometimes readers do write really bad reviews. Readers (hopefully not reviewers) who write bad reviews seem to have a tantrum while sitting at the keyboard. The most prominent word in the review is probably a first person pronoun, such as “I” or “my” or “me” because such reviews are not written for other readers, but to express the emotions of the reviewer. In short, bad reviews begin with a lack of objectivity. Then the bad reviewer indulges in emotion, from boredom to revulsion, but the writer of the bad review seldom mentions any positive(s) in the book. Finally, writers of bad reviews usually need a reason for the hissy fit, so the review ends with a warning, guised as altruism to save potential buyers from a book that took months (or even years) to write and costs less than a Quarter Pounder with cheese.

Do it yourself book reviews are just as much a part of modern life as kids who commit suicide because they can’t handle what their mean peers write about them online. Authors just have to be tough.

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