Jul 30, 2015

Let's Talk: The Difference Between Negative and Book-Bashing Reviews


Today at The Book Bratz, I, Jessica, will be discussing an important topic: the difference between negative reviews and book-bashing reviews. This topic is crucial to discuss because countless times bloggers have written reviews of books with just the intent of expressing their opinion. However, especially when dealing with something (a book or a topic) that you don't like, more strong and hurtful feelings come out than you may intend to. This is where your review crosses into the territory of book-bashing, which is a hurtful, offensive, and absolutely unacceptable form of review writing that should never be done if you're operating as a professional or aspiring-professional in the blogging field. It should basically never be done, ever. The question is: how can you tell the difference between a negative review and a book-bashing review?

Expression/Tone


Negative reviews express their reasons for not liking the book in a calm and professional manner. Here is an excerpt of a review I have written in the past and rated two stars or below:

"I waded through this book for a good few chapters before I realized that it was so heavy that my mind was starting to wander. And that's when I knew I had to put it down." 

Book-bashing reviews express their reasons for not liking the book in a rash, offensive manner. A fictional example:

"This book was vomit-inducing, horrible, and just needs to be burned because it sucks that badly. I didn't even get past page ten." 

*Notice that in the negative review, I explained that the book wasn't capturing my interest because it was too heavy of a topic. I also stated that I gave the book a chance. In the book-bashing review, the book is called rash and offensive things such as "vomit-inducing," "horrible," and that "it just needs to be burned because it sucks that badly." The reader even admits that he/she didn't get past page ten. The book wasn't even given a fair shot to see if it would improve.

Criticism


Negative reviews offer constructive criticism - ways that they wish the book had been improved.

"I wish that the author had developed the protagonist more, or added a few more scenes that would explain certain situations in more detail. If she had, maybe I would have understood the plot better."

Book-bashing reviews offer criticism on trivial things or things that can't be fixed - or are not viewed as constructive criticism. 

"The only thing the author could have done to fix this book would be if she went back in time and convinced herself to never write it."

*Notice how the negative reviewer actually explained several key ideas that would have improved the book for him/her. It leaves the reader with several points to think over, wondering what could happen if those events were changed in the writing. The book-bashing reviewer just continued to insult the book without pointing out what could have been fixed to leave them less confused or frustrated. It leaves the reader cringing and getting a hostile tone.

Intent


The intent of a negative review is to state why the reader wasn't a big fan of the book.

"So even if this book wasn't really my cup of tea, that doesn't mean it can't be somebody else's. It was a nice, easy read about a young girl navigating her way through high school, sticking to her morals and finding herself among her peers and family."

The intent of a book-bashing review is to attempt to turn all potential readers away from ever picking up the book.

"Do me a favor, and don't ever pick up this book. It sucks so bad that it isn't even worth your time."

*Notice that the negative review states that even though the reader wasn't a fan of the book, other readers are encouraged to give it a try. The review even sums up the story for anybody that would be potentially interested, even if that specific reader is not. The book-bashing review's clear intent is to ward all potential readers off from ever giving the book a fair shot, which is rude and unfair because everyone has a different reading taste.

Getting Personal


Negative reviews stick to talking about the subject at hand: the book being reviewed.

"All in all, this book definitely missed the mark for me, which was disappointing." 

Book-bashing reviews get personal and more often than not lead to personal attacks on the author's life or personality, which is not the subject of the review.

"This book sucked and not only can I not stand it, but I can't stand its author, either. She's a catty, snobby, vindictive person who deserves to have nobody read her book."

Or:

"What the heck was this author even thinking? She seriously must be dumb as a brick to write terrible stuff like this. I mean, did she even go to school? Get a degree in English? Who gave her the right to write this nonsense?"

*Notice that the negative review focused on the book while the book-bashing review turned its focus to the author and his/her personal life, possibly because the reviewer had nothing left to say about the book. Leave the authors out of it, unless you're giving them praise. If you have a personal problem or something of the like with the author, don't mention it. Leave it out. You are reviewing and critiquing the book, not the person. 

How do I know if my review is classified as negative or book-bashing?


There's a simple solution to deciding if your review is negative (in which case you have every right to post it) or book-bashing (in which case you should definitely rethink posting it). You just have to ask yourself a simple question: Would it be okay if I read this review out loud to the book's author?

Think about it. You'll naturally feel a little bit uncomfortable saying anything not positive about a writer's work to their face, yes. But if you're constructive and are honest with your feelings while remaining calm and professional, and you offer ideas to fix the solutions and have rational explanations for everything you've said, your review is not book-bashing. It's okay to not like everything you read. In fact, it's pretty normal. And definitely acceptable. What isn't acceptable is launching a tirade to scare readers away from the book and to make the author feel bad about himself or herself. Explain your feelings. JUSTIFY THEM WITH REASONS WHY YOU FEEL THE WAY YOU FEEL. Remember that someone will be reading your review - more times than not, the authors themselves. 

What do I need to remember when writing reviews about books I didn't like?


You need to remember that authors are people too. They are people who have put months, years, maybe even decades into the work you're writing about. It's okay not to like everything you read, like I said. It's expected. If you aren't crazy about a book, you have every right to say so. But you shouldn't take to social media with the intent of lashing out and being cruel and offensive and hurtful. And you always need to remember that you are reviewing the book, not the author. Take all of your personal beef with him or her and toss it to the side and write about how the book honestly makes you feel.

The best piece of advice when writing a review of a book you didn't like is to write all of your thoughts and feelings into the review first, raw and emotional. After you're done expressing your feelings, go back and revise it. Swap out offensive adjectives with kinder and more polite ones. Delete anything you wrote about the authors themselves, or anything that is so mean or offensive that you have no way to make it sound kinder. Read your review out loud and ask yourself if you'd feel comfortable emailing it to the author right that second. If you don't, continue fixing it. If you do, then you successively wrote a negative review.

Keep in mind that negative reviews are normal, and no blogger will ever truly be able to get away with not writing one. You just have to remember to review the book itself, not the author, and to make sure that in the end you would feel comfortable sending it to the author. (Because, believe it or not, whether or not you tag an author in his/her review, they'll find them. They'll read them. And if you're cruel and bash their book, their pride and joy, they'll be hurt.)

Here's what some of you had to say about negative reviews vs. book-bashing reviews:



I hope that this post helped to make you more aware of the differences between negative and book-bashing reviews, and that when you write reviews on unfavorable books in the future, you keep these ideas in mind! Remember, it's okay not to like something - but never okay to be hurtful about it.

9 comments:

  1. Especially when you're a new blogger I think it's super hard to differentiate between bashing and negative reviews. I looked back on a few reviews that I wrote in my early blogging days and discovered a few that are very disrespectful and I probably wouldn't write them like this if I read the book again now.

    I think what plays a major role is Goodreads. There you see so many book reviews written in a joke-y style that are actually absolutely mean and unnecessary. As a new blogger I must have thought to myself it's okay to write reviews like this. You're absolutely right with all the advice you gave. Authors are people, too.

    - Jen @ The Bookavid

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    1. Thank you. I agree with the Goodreads remarks - I see so many reviews where people try so hard to be funny that they actually end up being hurtful. I guess they don't care as much because if you are a blogger you're more aware of how much impact your words have - but those Goodreads reviews get read by the authors too and can hurt a lot of people.

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  2. Hmmm.. this is great topic, but I fear I will be one of unpopular opinion here.

    I am mixed on this because I feel that if you are taking two separate issues and combining them into one. You are combining the dislike of a book and personal "attacks" on authors. Just because someone may "bash a book" in their review, does not mean they are bashing the author, or TRYING to hurt anyone's feelings. You can "bash a book" in a review and not take to social media and slam the book, and you can slam a book on social media and ever write a review. So, I fail to see how these issues are one in the same. Maybe I am misunderstanding YOUR definition of book bashing?? Not sure. But, I can write a very constructive review and others may think it is the rudest thing, or I could hurt their feelings. People take other's opinions/thoughts differently and no one will EVER be 100% pleased. While I do care about others; offending them or possibly hurting their feelings, I don't censor myself either.

    I am not condoning it, on the contrary, I think "book bashing" can get pretty harsh, but few, that I have seen, intend ill will towards an author.. We are all passionate people, and sometimes those passionate emotions are negative.

    At the same time, it would kill me to see someone tearing apart my blog, so I understand what you are coming from on that aspect. But their opinions and thoughts would be respected, by me, and I would go about my way. I don't blog to please others, and I can't put a censor on my thoughts and won't put a censor on my words.

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    1. There's a difference between censoring what people say for vanity reasons and just watching HOW you say something to be kind and not aggressive. It isn't censorship - I did not say anywhere in the post that you CAN'T say how you feel - but it's finding a kinder way to say your thoughts without ripping people apart. It isn't censoring your thoughts or your words. But I still thank you for checking out this post and voicing your opinion. :)

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  3. What I don't like is when people completely put the author down and make them feel like writing their book was a waste. Authors put so much time and effort in their books so instead of shooting them down, people should give constructive criticism and valid reasons for their point. I think that sarcasm can easily be mistaken for bashing which is quite a problem. Love this post!!

    -Naomi@The Perks Of Being A Bookworm

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    1. Definitely! Sarcasm is something that needs to be used sparingly, which a lot of people don't realize.

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  4. Ahhh great post Jess! I don't write negative reviews but when I do, I honestly feel so about it because I dislike disliking books. Oh but it happens. The only thing I remember when writing a negative review 1) Do not bash the author and hold things against them. You hold yourself accountable for not being able to enjoy the book because you are not going to like all books. I know as I read more books I will have to write more negative reviews and I hope that they are negative reviews and not a post full of bashing. :)

    ~Kaitlin @ Next Page Please!

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    1. Holding yourself and not the author accountable is the best way to put it. :)

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  5. I actually just bookmarked this post for future reference, because it's been SO helpful for me! (Thank you!!) I've been blogging for a little over a year, and I've only had to write a handful of actual negative reviews. But a few weeks ago I had to write my first negative review for an eARC that I got directly from the publisher, and I got SO stressed out about it! I wanted to express my real feelings to my readers, but I didn't want to be hurtful or even completely turn anyone off the book. I kept double thinking EVERYTHING I wrote. Sleeping on it and returning gave me a little more perspective, but even when I posted it I wasn't completely sure. But I've put it through your "test" of sorts and I think it passes. All your tips make a lot of sense, and I finally feel more at ease with my review. And your advice about first getting out all your raw emotions and then rewriting is definitely something I'll keep in mind! It might just be the only way to experience a bit of catharsis and get some real thoughts into your review, but still not be hurtful. And I know that I'd probably regret posting a review that tore a book to shreds. The internet is a negative enough place and I don't want my corner of it to add to the negativity. Another big thank you! :)
    - Lina @ Every Book a World

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