Why I’ll Likely Never Give A Truly Negative Review

Spare change for starving artists!  (Image credit LMRitchie via WANA Commons)

As many of you may or may not know, I’m a big fan of Chuck Wendig. He’s an excellent writer and always gives out helpful advice on his blog, http://terribleminds.com. Part of Mr. Wendig’s post today, Why I Don’t Like To Negatively Review Other Author’s Books, got me thinking. Actually, it was this quote in particular:

“When I say ‘do harm,’ what I actually mean is:

Potentially rob that author of one or many sales. I don’t want to do that. Writing a book is hard goddamn work. You’ve got rent to pay. Or a mortgage. You’ve got a food bill. And cats or dogs. Maybe one or several kids. I don’t like the thought that my review is going to take money out of your pockets, or snatch food out of your kids’ mouths. Fuck that. I’m not ‘Internet Famous’ or anything, but I have a blog and a social media feed that gets a substantial echo. Do I really want to use my social media reach to drink your milkshake or piss in your cereal bowl? No, I do not.”

That’s something I hadn’t considered. The fact that leaving a truly negative review could potentially keep money away from an author, and possibly keep them from feeding themselves, their kids, or their pets had never occurred to me. I mean, granted, said author should be doing everything possible to ensure they write a damn good book, but, like Chuck said, “Writing a book is hard goddamn work.” Who am I to tear apart something that someone has worked so hard on? Of course, I can give my opinions and point out things I didn’t particularly like, but there’s certainly no need to be a bully about it, which I hear is a growing problem on Goodreads, actually.

After reading Chuck’s post, I’ll definitely be more careful the next time I review a book (not that I review anything that often) to be sure that I’m not potentially leading some poor starving artist to their death.


4 thoughts on “Why I’ll Likely Never Give A Truly Negative Review

  1. You’re right. A bad review – even a mildly scalding one – can rob an author of sales. And does a reviewer really want to take food from an author’s mouth? I was well aware of it when I wrote reviews professionally, here in New Zealand.

    This kind of review, alas, is endemic in New Zealand. The problem here is that, because of the size of the writing community, books are often handed by newspaper editors to rival authors for review – partly because that rival author may be the only other expert in the field, though in the case of one books editor I’m aware of, it’s done quite deliberately to stir. And what emerges is often quite explicitly calculated to do the maximum damage to the repute and sales of the author whose work is being reviewed. It’s a sad indictment on the mind set of the people who do it – in the case of my books that have received roastings, inevitably from university employees whose own incomes are paid by my taxes. I think there is a lot of collateral damage to the public impression of all writing when these ‘character assassination’ reviews are published.

    My view? Better to look for the positives; every author has something to contribute, and we have to accept that something we don’t like, purely because it’s not to our own personal taste, may yet be a brilliantly good piece of writing – and should be applauded for its qualities.

  2. I agree, I would not feel very proud of a review if it was nothing more than an attack on the author just for meaness’s sake. I try to apply the Golden Rule to reviewing, being fair and honest. If there is a problem with something I try to phrase it in a manner that is not personal, that is supported by evidence and ultimately helpful.

  3. Thanks for sharing this perspective! I never thought about it this way. I stick to if I don’t have anything nice to say, I don’t say anything at all. Some reviewers are just mean for the sake of being mean. The relative anonymity of the Internet makes this much easier of course. I’ll be honest, though: As far as self-published books go, I’ve read a few that really needed more editing/polishing before they made it to the published stage -before the authors felt they should be asking people to pay for them. As someone who is planning to self-publish, I find this to be extremely disappointing. I still stick to the rule above, but I’m curious: Do you think it’s appropriate to politely mention in a review you felt it required more editing? Yes, it takes a lot of work to write a book, including up to that final polishing stage -but on the other hand, I don’t think an author should be asking for money for something that isn’t quite as done as they might think. (I hope this doesn’t sound mean, I’m really not trying to be. Just wondering what others’ thoughts are on this.)

  4. Yeah, I’m usually in the “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” camp. I’ve submitted a couple of three star reviews on Goodreads, but they were big-time authors, not small fish like us indies. I could never to do it to a fellow indie…hell, no!

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