Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ten Types of Reviews That Make Authors Sad

First, let me say that I love reviews in general. Some authors avoid reading their reviews ever. But I actually would not want to never read my reviews. I like knowing that some people loved my book, I love seeing thoughtful reactions, I like knowing what generally didn't go over well, and so while I might angst about those things, I enjoy them too. I praise those who are wise to avoid them to protect their sanity, but I will keep reading reviews. I've probably read 500 different opinions of Magic Under Glass already. After awhile, any one opinion means very little, but getting a feel for the collective opinion is nice.

So this is not a criticism against reviewers. This is just...a hopefully amusing list inspired by a Tenners/Elevensies chat the other day in which we Tenners warned the Elevensies what to expect and NOT TO STRESS over it. If possible. (Probably not possible.)

All book examples are made up and resemblance to real books is purely coincidental. In no particular order:

1. The Sloppy Slam. The reviewer didn't like your book. Or maybe they kind of liked it, but damned it with faint praise. More importantly, they called your fairy character a pixie and spelled Rutherford's name wrong, so clearly they weren't even PAYING ATTENTION REALLY so how dare they say the whole thing was just dumb? Also they added an apostrophe in an ungrammatical place.

2. The Turnaround. This reviewer was so excited to read your book. They drove 60 miles from their small town to the only bookstore in their entire county, pawning jewelry they inherited from their grandmother so they could buy your book in hardcover. And they are SOOO disappointed because this book SUCKS. I always feel so, so bad, so much so that when people tell me they just bought my book and can't wait to read it I'm just like, "I'M SORRY IF YOU HATE IT!!!"

3. The Unfair Criticism. This reviewer maybe even liked your book but they think the cover is sooo ugly, why did the author let them use that cover, or the font size is too big or too small and it's not available on Kindle and why did the sequel get pushed back a season?

4. The Mind-Reader. So, the other day you were thinking about some tiny little flaw in your book or work in general that luckily no one has never really commented on or noticed, and...the very next day, someone DOES notice.

5. The Reviewer With a Vengeance. All right. They didn't like your book. Fair enough. But did they have to go comment on every good review of it all over the web and point out how they didn't like it? Did they have to say something like "every other review of this on Amazon is so glowing but that just shows the dumbing down of the American taste" or "I can't BELIEVE Kirkus gave this a starred review"? It's a little much. Dear writer, have some chocolates.

6. The Assumption. Some reviewers see context in your work you never intended or realized, which is entirely fair and a part of literary criticism. Once it's published, interpretations are out of your hands. But it does get painful when readers assume you had an agenda that you didn't actually have, or when they seem to miss the point entirely, like say you make sure to handle teen sex in a sensitive, responsible way and show birth control and everything and the review makes it out like your characters are a bunch of irresponsible whores. Or they assume the characters' thoughts and beliefs are exactly like yours. Maybe they weren't reading carefully. Maybe you could have done better. You keep thinking about it. DID you put that in there? Ugh, maybe you did. Or maybe they're just stupid. Or maybe you did. Dude. Stop thinking about it, and whatever you do, do not comment on the review for goodness sake.

7. The Wrong Reader. So, say you adore writing about sensitive musician boys, maybe you are even married to a sensitive musician boy, and the reviewer is just like "OMG I HATE SENSITIVE MUSICIAN BOYS!" Well, they were not the reader for your book. The sensitive musician boy is what kept you going when you almost gave up on this book. There is no way you can please this reader and yourself at the same time. Why does it still hurt!?

8. The Reviewer That is Obviously Wrong. Obviously Wrong, Damnit! You've gotten fifty reviews that said your ideas were so original, and then you get the one who says that your book is the most typical unimaginative piece of tripe that they've ever read. What book were they reading? Maybe one of your books was somehow printed with a different book inside? Yes. Yes, that is it.

9. The Salt in the Wound. So, every book can always be better. From the moment your book leaves your hands, you will probably already be thinking about its weak points. This reviewer gives you a critical review that you totally agree with. And it makes you cringe. Augh, you could have pleased this person! If only you could take the book back and fix things! Please will they give your next book a chance? You have realized the error of your ways!

10. The Blog You Once Loved. So, you love a certain bloggers reviews. They have great taste! They like all the books you like! Their good reviews make you want to rush out and buy the book, and their bad reviews are so witty and astute and fun to read...oh. Until they hate yours. Oh. could they?

So, there you go. Collect them all! It's a rite of passage. Just like rejections.


  1. Hahahaha as a blogger i loved this post, it's always interesting to see the pov from the authors side. You have some great points there

  2. I loved this pot as a blogger too, because I have a big thing about reviewing books (what in my head is) "the proper way." Especially those belonging to writer's I tweet at, visit blogs of, etc.

    I'll be keeping this in mind to make sure I'm not creating a review that borders on any facet of this list!

  3. Brilliant post - I'd add a couple..

    - The reviewer who loved your book...but gives away the entire plot in the review and doesn't put in one phrase that you can pull out and quote.
    - the reviewer who loves your book, but clearly (from the mistakes in the review) didn't quite understand it.

  4. HAHAHAH I LOVE this, I am a reviewer myself.

    Truth Be Told

  5. How about the reviewer who not only tediously summarises the plot but gets crucial elements of the plot WRONG along the way?

    I loved this post; it appealed to all the petty parts of me!

  6. @ Jaclyn,

    God, I loved this post.

    I was cracking up so hard. The sidesplitting, tearing, knee-slapping kind! I'm going to link back to this on my blog.


  7. i love this, and i'm saving it! if i'm lucky enough to get ten reviews at all, i'm going to use this as a checklist and laugh about it instead of stress.
    thanks! :)

  8. As someone whose books just came out and has been obsessively searching for reviews I agree SO MUCH with this it kind of hurts. Awesome post!

    Though I have to say, the one bad review I do like is the person who takes the time to completely eviscerate the book. We're talking a total burn, but then they end the review with "I'll give the next book a try, but I bet it will suck too."

    Yeah, you loved it. You just don't want to admit it! HA.

  9. Great, funny, all-too-accurate post, Jackie. Loved it!

  10. I've had all of those reviews, plus the type Keren and Rachel mentioned. LMAO My favorite though is the "I just don't know how to feel about it" review. You know, they love it but it's too inappropriate to recommend to anyone. Or they hate and yet for some strange reason they couldn't stop reading it. *rolling my eyes*

    Great post, Jacks!

  11. Bri Meets Books: Well, a lot of these reviews I listed really can't be helped, even by the most thoughtful blogger out there, unless you only do positive reviews (and I think it would be a dull world if anyone only did glowing reviews)...The Unfair Criticism and The Reviewer With a Vengeance are the only ones that I really think we could do without...though the former is just uninformed I guess, and I can understand the temptation to be the latter if you really hate a book...

    Keren: Oh, yes, good point, especially that first one--some Tenners have definitely had frustrating reviews like that!

    Among Amid While: LOL, true. That's a good one too.

    Rachel Aaron: You're right. That's a good way of looking at it. I've gotten some of those too and they do crack me up.

    Dia: Haha...I bet you've gotten a lot of those. Because your book is pretty weird. ;) I had sort of a "whoa, what IS this, but I can't stop reading it!" reaction to it myself.

    Everyone, thanks for stopping by, reviewers and writers alike!

  12. Very entertaining.

    On The Unfair Criticism, though, it's worth bearing in mind that the reviewer isn't just reviewing the writer's work, but the book as a whole - so there's isn't necessarily anything wrong with commenting on the cover artist, typesetting, printing and proofreading, etc.

  13. brilliant, funny, spot on!!!

    As a blogger and a reviewer, I know I've done bits and pieces of some of those things, to the advantage of no one. I KNOW I've been The Wrong Reader at least once. I recall once giving a book a great review, but then complaining that it was typeset in like size negative 2 font, and I had to read it with a stinkin' magnifying glass.

  14. Ha! Thanks so much for this - I'm bookmarking it to re-read every time I need it. :)

  15. Stephen: Well, that's true. I should have made it clear that the unfair criticism is only unfair when it comes with blame TO the author. I also don't think it's fair to give, like, one star on Amazon just because the book doesn't come as a Kindle. But you're right, just complaining about those things by themselves isn't unfair.

  16. Love this! Here's another one for the list.

    The Rabid Fan (But Not of Your Book):

    This reviewer can't stop talking about their favorite book/series/author, even while writing a review for your book. (And guess what: you're not that favorite author...) Your plots and characters get compared to this Shining Standard of Literature, which inevitably triumphs over your creation. This review ends up promoting a book that is "better" than yours.

  17. These are all brilliant and completely true. Including the ones mentioned in the comments.

  18. Oh boy, this is a keeper!

  19. You are a g-ddess. That is all. :-)

  20. These are great, I go through this angst with anything I write, even if it's not "creative" per se. I realized just now that I've created all these types of reviews in my head for my unpulished novel, and that they are what has me nitpicking my novel over and over.

    But now I think getting reviews period would really be gratifying. Although I wouldn't read them, citing my sanity.

  21. Dying laughing! And I gave your book an "A". :-)

  22. I hope non of the authors are reading my reviews. . .Just kidding :) It's easier to say the good stuff about a book even if I didn't like it. I might not like the plot, but I'll comment on the writing. There might have been a couple of writing errors, but who cares!! The author worked hard to make this book for those people out there that LIKE that kind of novel. If you don't like it, don't just go around saying it was the worst thing ever! So what you don't like it? Get over it!

    My rambling is done :)

  23. A great post. My debut novel comes out in 2011 and I'm definitely nervous about the whole review thing. Nice to know I'm not alone! - Stasia

  24. I post negative reviews very sparingly - nobody visits my blog to learn about crappy books - and if I do, I try to provide meticulous backup. But the comments that I've gotten from authors whose books I have criticized are wildly, almost entertainingly variable.

    Some are so good-humored about the review that I resolve immediately to read everything else they've ever written... but occasionally I am stunned to get a huge contemptuous flame comment informing me that I don't know what I'm talking about.

    You writers keep writing, and we reviewers will keep reviewing, and posts like this will keep reminding us that we're all on the same side!

    Thank you, and Happy Thanksgiving in advance!

  25. Ahaaha, this is brilliant! Love that last one, lol That must be so annoying XD

    Cool inside look!


  26. Am a reviewer and couldn't agree more with all of the above. Love this post! (And certainly try to avoid at least the first 9!)

    For The Blog You Once Loved: That could also apply to bloggers who you couldn't have agreed more with until they five-starred something you hated.

  27. Brilliant! I'm looking forward to getting these kinds of reviews... not!

  28. Great post! As a blogger, I try to be nice, and I agonize over posting reviews for books that just didn't do it for me. But I learned to be honest, and at the same time fair - anytime I didn't like a book, I'll make sure I know exactly why before posting a review of it.

    And I try to avoid Wrong Reader problems - there was one time I read a thriller, which I hardly ever read, so I did some research as to what thriller readers look for so I could give relevant feedback.

    As to authors commenting on reviews - as ynl said, those who interact with the review positively - even when the review was negative! - make me want to give them another chance. There was one author whose work I gave a low rating to and I detailed all the reasons (there were many) of why I didn't like it, and he wrote a defensive "well, people liked it, so you obviously don't know what you're talking about," and that totally turned me off from trying any of his other books.

  29. Nice post! You mean, writers are people with feelings too? Reviewers aren't always right? lol Loved this and it is good for reviewers to keep this in mind when reviewing from the Mount and for writer's to take some reviews with a grain of salt. :D

  30. So I'm NOT the only one, thank god!! Great post, made me feel better about what I've dealt with, hee hee

  31. Oh, man. The Reviewer With a Vengeance! The Wrong Reader! Laughing (and cringing with very recent memories).

  32. Jackie, this is brilliant, and I think I've gotten every single one of those reviews.



  33. This was a fun interesting post to read. I try to avoid some of the traps that you mentioned, and I try not to take it personally when an author, or their family member!, dislikes my review of their book. I publish mostly postive reviews but when I do have a negative review, I also try to find at least one positive thign to say about the book. However, I also don't squee or give utterly gushing reviews. I rarely give 5 star reviews, I'm picky. :P

  34. I don't even have a book published, but I've experienced these with books (tv shows, movies, etc.) that I love.

  35. This could totally be a trading card game. (Like Pokemon; "My Salt in the Wound beats your Wrong Reader by 7 points! Take that!")

    But seriously, this is a great post. It's good to know what to watch out for when reviewing books, and this makes an excellent reference. :)

  36. so, basically, you don't like negative reviews. LOL

  37. A year late, but Leah Cypress linked to this and you had me rolling around laughing. Hopefully I will never fall into one of those ten when it comes to you. I haven't yet! ^.~