Why You Should Give Zero Fucks About Posting Critical Book Reviews

  • Reviews are not for impressing or pleasing publishers.
  • Reviews are not for getting into a publisher’s “good graces” by showing them you love everything.
  • Reviews are not for making authors feel good.

Reviews are about you, your thoughts, your experiences, your opinions, and how you felt while reading that book. They’re about you telling the world:

“Hey, I read this book. Here’s what I thought about it, and here’s why you may or may not feel the same and want to read it too.”

It’s not your job to make the publisher or author happy. It’s your job to tell us about how you felt while reading.

Sure, your critical review might dissuade people from reading the book, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe you saved that reader 3-6 hours of reading a book they wouldn’t have liked. I’m sure they’d appreciate that.

Or maybe someone will read your critical review, think to themselves, “The things (s)he didn’t like wouldn’t actually bother me so I’ll still read the book anyway.” And guess what, that’s fine too! I’ve totally thought that before. Sometimes I deliberately read critical reviews just to check this. It can be very helpful!

Your review isn’t single-handedly going to make or break a publisher’s company or an author’s career. And unless your review is mean/racist/harassing or attacking the author personally, it probably isn’t going to get you banned from the publisher’s ARC distribution list. Publishers have said time and time again that they understand not everyone will love every book. They get it. They expect it.

Just don’t tag the author in your tweet about your critical review because that’s not cool.

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  1. I’m glad you posted this!! When I started my blog I was sure worried about offending the author and/or publishing company I debated on weather to post my critical review or not but I sat down and was like “no, this is my thoughts and how I feel and neither is wrong”. I honestly just feel like starting a blog is intimidating on it’s own let alone putting a huge wight on your shoulder by trying to please everyone. So, yeah thank for posting this lol.

  2. I completely agree! One of my harshest reviews was for an ARC of a final book in a series I loved. It was the biggest let down ever, and I had no problem listing my reasons how the book deviated so strongly from the two previous books and why I was completely devastated in my 1 I Wish I Could Give It 0 Star Review. We should all feel that we can post our honest thoughts for why characters, writing style, plot points etc don’t work for us, regardless of whether the book was an ARC or not. Great post, Ashley!

  3. Thank you so much for voicing this. I tried to explain this to a reviewing friend the other day and he just didn’t get it, saying he didn’t want to make “enemies” or appear unprofessional???? I think some people forgot that it’s okay to have an opinion.

  4. Thank you so much for posting this. I just had a critical review go up literally an hour ago and I was so worried about it because the author had given me the book to review and then gotten really nasty publicly with me after I informed her in advance that I disliked the book and was rating it a 2 stars. I debated a long time if I should still post the review but finally decided that I should because I read this book and I didn’t like it and you’re right. Perhaps I’ve saved someone the hours that they would have taken reading it and I’m not sorry about that. My views are my views and an author cannot handpick which reviews get publicly posted.

  5. So true! I used to hate writing critical reviews to the point that if I didn’t like a book, I just wouldn’t review it. But that’s not the right thing to do at all! Now, I don’t like reading negative reviews that are negative just for the sake of being negative. But if there are justifiable reasons for NOT liking a book, I WANT people to share them! I also like to think that as an author, I’ll read critical reviews as an opportunity for improvement. I’m sure that if/when I start publishing I’ll inevitably take some things personally, but almost all feedback CAN be taken as a learning moment. 🙂

  6. Agreed! I’m sure no author or publisher *likes* when the book gets a negative review, but at the end of the day, reviews are for you (the writer) and for other readers. As you say, it’s about your personal reaction to and interpretation of the book. It’s not about being nice to the author or doing marketing for the publishing house.

    I think the oddest thing about working in publishing must be acting enthusiastic about books you personally do not like–because then it IS your job to market it and keep the author’s spirits up. I would try to frame it as “finding the right audience for the book” because I’m sure someone will, in fact, love it. But there must be some frustration when you personally dislike the book and can’t really say so. 😉

  7. Ohhh, I actually posted a similar discussion last Monday, Ashley! And I totally agree with what you said here. I have written critical reviews on books written by my favorite authors, which I posted on my blog and Goodreads. I have NOT tagged them in any of it. Even when I am a member of their street team. I think writing an honest review is still VERY important. I read negative reviews first before reading the positive ones, actually. I have also picked up a book because of the negative review that I read and also decided not to read a book because of a positive review.

  8. Thank you! I always leave honest reviews on Goodreads and my blog and every time I do I feel a little regretful about it. You’re right though. It’s MY review on something that might have taken me only a few hours to read but could have taken me literally weeks and I deserve to let my opinion known.
    It’s true that someone’s critical review might make a book more appealing to you. Lots of times I will read someone rant about a book and think “ooh now I just want to read it more”!

  9. “The things (s)he didn’t like wouldn’t actually bother me so I’ll still read the book anyway.” Yes, exactly. I feel like authors and publishers seem to forget this. Not only that, I’ve been completely turned off from books before because of the *positive* reviews, simply because the things the person was so excited about were things I didn’t like. So yeah, the reviews that are helpful are the ones that are honest because it’s all subjective. As another commenter mentioned, it’s all about finding the right audience for a book. No one wins if a bunch of people end up reading a book that’s not right for them. It’s just unfortunate that some publishers and authors react so poorly to fairly written negative reviews.

  10. I’m a reviewer and I like to be as honest as possible. Even though I may not care for a particular book, I always state that I’m sure there are others who will like it. I don’t think it is necessary to trash a book because that is hurtful. Say why it didn’t appeal to you and let it go. I would like to add that while I have long been a huge fan of historical romance, I’m beginning to get annoyed with the entire genre because I think there is too much gratuitous sex and characters are “jumping each other’s bones” on the second page. That did not happen in Regency times. I am happy to see more authors writing what they term “clean” historical romance. I read it for the time period and the true romance of the time.

  11. YES. THIS. I respect honest bloggers way more when they write honest reviews good or bad, it honestly makes my blood boil when I visit a blog and only see positive reviews, because it’s physically not possible. At some point, a book will irritate you so REVIEW it.

    It’s one of the things that baffles me about publishing – what if a publicist gets a book they just don’t like? HOW DO THEY PUBLICISE A BOOK THEY HATED? I would be far, far too honest to be able to ever be a publicist, or in publishing in general, because it’s very much love thy neighbour, and everything is just the best book ever. *eye roll*

    1. Yes it must be so hard for a publicist to promote a book they don’t like. 🙁 I can’t imagine having to do that. It would go against every fibre of my being! I’d feel like I was constantly lying to people. I know it’s their job and they have to do it, so I don’t think less of them for it, but it would just be too hard for me.

  12. I totally agree! When I first started blogging, I was always hesitant to write a negative review in case of offending the publisher or author, but I think it’s always better to write your own honest opinion. Overthinking about how others will react to your review, takes the fun away from blogging and you’re not always going to like everything about a book. Great post!

  13. I completely agree with this! I think it’s bs to expect reviewers to post “honest” reviews and then get upset when the review is a negative one. I think as long as the review is about the aspects of the book and why it was unlikeable by the reader, then that’s fine, like you said, because then the reader of the review can decide for themselves. I think when you writ a book and share it with the world you’re opening yourself up to criticism.

    Great post!

  14. I usually don’t mind posting negative reviews. Yet, with time, I found that I’m not really motivated to write anything at all about an unpleasant book. I also have considerably less time to read than I used to, so I DNF frequently when I don’t enjoy a read, and I don’t even want to think about reviewing DNFs!
    However, I find it interesting to read reviews that are going against the general opinion about a book. For instance, if there’s a hype around a book, I like to read negative reviews because it often gives you insight.

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