BOOK TALK: Why a Bad Review is a Good Review

Traveling in London (4)

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a book discussion topic and truth be told, I was rather suffering some creativity blocks. What types of topics do my readers what to read? What topics interest me and most importantly, are ones that make me feel like needs to be discussed right now?

The topic of bad reviews is a continuation to “Are you too honest with your book reviews?” or rather an extension of this blog post to help enlighten me and readers of why you should still write reviews for books you don’t particularly like.

      1. Reviews are a good thing. No matter what.

There has been research that indie authors who suffer poor reviews for their books do not necessarily get impacted in terms of sales on websites that heavily depend on reviews like Amazon. In fact, the more reviews whether good or bad, increase the visibility of books on the major retailer platform. And we all know that on a mega platform like Amazon where thousands of titles are added everyday, visibility is key to sales and getting that indie author noticed.

     2. Bad reviews spark interest.

Remember the age old saying that no publicity is bad publicity? Well, it rings pretty true to books as well. Take for example, the oh-so-famous series, Fifty Shades of Grey. Fifty Shades of Grey was an international phenomenon for many arguable reasons. It introduced to some readers the world of BDSM (kind of), erotica, billionaire/employee relationships and much more. But it was also popular because of the amount of hate generated towards it. Readers absolutely hated the story because of it romanticized stalker-like actions, emotional/mental abuse, and the poor depiction of the BDSM community. As more and more reviews poured in, the public’s interest was peaked. What was so special about this book? Why did people hate it so much?

And that’s how three movies are produced and millions of dollars have been gifted to E.L. James.

     3. Authors know how to improve.

Constructive criticism is a key point to writing reviews for poorly written books or books that fell flat. A review is giving feedback to an author. It’s letting them know how you interpreted their pieces of work and how you reacted to said piece of work. It gives them an understanding of key flaws whether in the plot, the character, writing, and dialogue. Try to explain why you believe such and such need to be improved or why you didn’t think the characters were perfect.

A bad review isn’t going to put their career in a coffin. A bad review will allow them to analyze their writing and hopefully, improve on them so that their next one can be a better one.

      4. Think of yourself as an adviser

Imagine yourself giving advice to your friend. You would most likely want the best for him/her so you would always act with best interest when dishing out the advice to help them through a tough situation. You probably also don’t want them to waste time, effort, and money on things that are bothering them.

As a book reviewer, we are an adviser. We give advice to other fellow readers who are considering to read the item we have just read. They need to know if they’re going to invest money and time into a read after what you have to say. A review praising the book  may make them purchase the book and read it. Now what if this review you wrote wasn’t actually what you felt? The person who purchased the book because of your review may feel the same negative feelings towards the novel and now believe your review was a poor representation.

You start to lose credibility as a reviewer at this point because how many 4 stars reads can you have? On a personal note, I’m friends with a lot of people of Goodreads who seem to have this problem. They are usually receiving ARCs and reviewing on the first week of publication or well ahead of time. The ratings usually vary between 3 to 5 stars but never fall below a two. Most of the times, it’s around a three and the review looks past negative aspects of the book that make it not a perfect rating of five. Suspicious huh?

Despite these warning signs, I believed in their reviews and invested time and money into reading the books they raved about. And guess what? There were flaws. I didn’t agree with the review that glazed over the good, bad, and ugly. And now? I take her reviews with a grain of salt.

      5. A review is a review and a rating means nothing.

This is a topic similar to point number 1. We discussed that the number of reviews are important because let’s think about this. When we see a book with a high rating but very small reviews, we’re most likely to think that this book’s rating was based on a small group of people’s opinions and therefore, do not help us decide whether or not it’s a book worth investing in.

I know this sounds harsh but I do this a lot. I base popularity of the book on the number of reviews and ratings. An average rating of 3 and above but with 40,000 reviews to me means it’s promising. Despite having hitting lows to some people in the forty thousand, you still manage to set a rating of 3 and above? That’s rather impressive. However, when you’re telling me you have 4 star rating but only a handful of reviewers? I worry.

I wonder if it’s your mom, your dad, your cousin, your whole arc team you bribed with gift boxes that are rating your book. I also worry because it’s not enough of a sample size of readers to determine if it’s a good book.

The point is that even though you may have a lower rating but you have a high number of reviews, I’ll probably take your book more seriously than the rest.


Reviewing ARCs are tough. They set up the expectations for a lot of readers and you have certain expectations as well set by publishers or yourself. Because they gave it to you for free, you might feel obliged to give them more notice or a good rating in hopes with continuing a good relationship with them in the future.

While, I strongly recommend creating and maintaining healthy relationships with authors and publishers, I also suggest giving constructive feedback whenever possible.

And when you absolutely hate the book, don’t just ignore it. Explain why you didn’t like it. Another tip is that if you’re still not comfortable with writing a review for a book you don’t like, wait. Wait for the publication date to pass so not so much attention is focused on it anymore so you’ll be more comfortable to drop your review when so many other reviews are with your pile.




13 thoughts on “BOOK TALK: Why a Bad Review is a Good Review

  1. Great post. I have to admit when I’m on Amazon trying to decide whether or not to buy a book it tends to be the bad reviews I read. Even if it has 10 thousand 5 star ratings and only 2 1 star, I’ll go read the 1 star reviews to see what the potential problems are.

    I’m actually very suspicious if a book has only high ratings but especially so if it has only a handful. True story, the worst book I ever read had 3 five star ratings and rave reviews, one of those reviewers had the same surname as the author.

    As a reviewer I have to admit most of my reviews land in the 3 to 5 star range (although 5s are rare) but I haven’t really read any books I’ve disliked and I hope my reviews are balanced enough that any issues I had are clear. I would hate someone to buy a book I’ve gushed over and be disappointed.


    1. You know what? Your advice was fantastic because I never thought of looking at the bad reviews. I always look at the good reviews and see what others have to say and then buy. But when I disagree with the rating, I go back to the bad reviews and see all the flaws others pointed out that I found too.

      And yes, me too. I would hate it to know that a book I recommended was hated by the person.


  2. My reviews pretty much range between 3-5 stars and a lot of those are 5 stars. I rate books by how invested/interested in them I was. If it kept my attention throughout the whole book and I wasn’t questioning everything about what was going on it will most likely get a 4 or 5 star from me. I don’t think I am good enough at reviewing to be able to truly review them any other way.


    1. hey, hey. As long as you review, you’re good enough to review anyway that you please. When I first starting reviewing books, I gave very unhelpful one sentence reviews like “this book was boring” and gave it a two star rating. And i agree. The amount of time I invest in the book plays an important factor to my rating as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I actually chose to never give ratings on the books that I read. I found that it allowed me to focus more on an honest review where I could point out the good and the bad of the book without it taking away from my actual feelings on it. I, however, have see what you mean with some bloggers where it is everything is 3 to 5 stars and the reality is no reader is going to love that many books for goodness sake. Also they are not going to be ones consecutively for a month that everyone just had to go buy right now because it is that good! Books can be bad and it is perfectly acceptable to say what sucked in a book, so I appreciate this posting a lot!


    1. That’s a really good method of reviewing books! I always feel obligated to give a rating and I never realized how encouraging and discouraging it is for readers to read a book. It also gives them the expectation that the book will follow a similar rating. Thank you for commenting!


  4. It feels refreshing to find someone else that agrees on posting bad reviews. So many bloggers are of the mentality of if you have nothing nice to say don’t say anything at all to keep their blogs positive. But we are supposed to deliver our honest opinions. If I rate an ARC below 3 stars I tend to contact publisherto let them know I’ll post a week after release. And on few occasions I’ve felt strongly enough to review a DNF book if there were good reasons to mention. Great topic!


    1. It pleases me so much that we are both on the same page. I believe you’re a great blogger and a major influencer in terms of indie romances community or at least, that’s the impression I have of you so to have you agree and let me know that I’m not the only one who suffers so much pressure from writing a raving review…it’s amazing. I feel so relieved. Thank you for giving me the helpful advice as well.


  5. Great post 🙂 I agree with you. I’ve written a similar (but totally different :D) post about what to do if you didn’t like a hyped book. It also operates on the premise that we need bad reviews. Otherwise we can gain no trust, and inevitably, it’s important to warn readers of triggers and possible problems. So it’s definitely worth it giving negative reviews, even though nobody really likes being the black sheep.
    Sharing your post this week on my weekly summary 🙂 loved it.


    1. awww Evelina, you’re so kind. Thank you for letting me be in your weekly summary. I would definitely love to read your post on this similar blog topic because I’m seriously getting annoyed at this point that I have to deal with publicists who just won’t give me a break.


  6. I rarely give ratings below 3-stars in part because I wrote reviews on Amazon for years before starting my blog, and Amazon ratings for books tend to skew 3+. And I LIKE books. Why would I give a book I enjoyed reading 1- or 2-stars? And I like most of the books I read, even if they don’t break away from the pack (it is much, much easier to find a mediocre book than to find a bad book). To me, a 1- or 2-star book isn’t just flawed, it is shouldn’t-have-been-published-bad.

    But then a single rating isn’t very useful to a reader. That’s why we write long reviews to go along with them, eh?


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