Hints & Tips

Negative Reviews: Honesty is the best policy

Bad or negative  reviews – something that no one really likes writing or posting, or sharing. There is that little element of guilt, that accompanies bad reviews. But why should you or, we, rather, feel guilty for being honest.

Advanced Reader Copies or ARC’s for short, are sent out for this exact reason, not only to create some hype around the titles release date, but also for honest reviews. Even if you didn’t like the book, by posting, ranting, blogging, videoing, about it, you are creating chatter. You are creating a conversation about the book, and that is exactly what the publishers want.

When I started reviewing for NetGalley, I never posted one bad review. I always took the one thing I liked about a book and focused on that, not really sharing my thoughts or impressions. But slowly, my desire to review books started to dwindle, I wasn’t being honest to myself, the publisher or to the people I was talking to, about the books I was reading. It started to make reading un-enjoyable. So out came the honest reviews. And you want to know something, since I have started posting negative reviews, I have been approved for so many more titles through NetGalley, and received more comments on my GoodReads and have been approached by more authors and publishing companies. My thoughts on this are, people want honesty, they want to be told whether something is worthy of their time or not. They want to know exactly what it was about a title that made you go “Hmm this one just isn’t for me.

I will say though, writing a negative or bad review, is something to tread carefully with. You can’t just write “I hated it.” and click submit. If you didn’t like it, make sure you can support that claim with valid reasoning.

Here are a few of my go-to, how I rate a book, standards, that may help you to write your negative review, in a nice way. While still remaining honest and up front.

  • Disconnect from the protagonist.
    • Sometimes the protagonist, just isn’t relatable, which makes finding that connection to the novel that much harder to achieve. What makes you have that disconnect? Are they too different from you? Do you find them naive? Is the protagonist a person who you wouldn’t like or interact with in the real world?
  • Pacing.
    • This is a big one for me personally, the pace of the novel really helps me with loving or hating. I love a fast-paced book, I find them so much easier to get into, the scenes flow from one to the next and it makes for a fast and enjoyable read.
    • My advice here, is to work out what style of pacing is your favourite, do you like fast-paced like me? Or are you more of a rolling, medium pace fan? Maybe you like the pace to be slow so you can really take in the detail of each moment of the book.
    • Once you have worked out what you like, work out what you don’t like about the other pacing styles. This way if you come across a title with a pacing style you don’t gel with, you have another point to write about
  • Writing Style
    • Now this is a touchy one to write negatively about. Mainly due to the fact that this can seem as though you are attacking the author. So if the writing style is putting you off, make sure you  don’t write something like “The writing style is crap”.
    • I love a more modern writing style, so when I am reading a current novel, published within 2010-2018 and the writing style is more like what you would see in a Jane Austen novel, I tend to write something a little like “The writing style has a Victorian era feel” then I explain how this takes away or adds to the novel. This way you aren’t saying directly that you hate the style. You are diplomatically explaining your opinion with facts or quotes from the text to back your claims (or opinions).
  • “This has been done before”
    • Do you ever have that distinct feeling, while reading that you have read something very similar before? This isn’t uncommon, as all books are inspired by something already produced. But when the similarities are hard to look away from, use this to add to your negative review.
    • I would advise perhaps saying “This novel has a Hunger Games vibe” or somehow, gently comparing it to the other work you have previously read.
  • Overall style, setting and feel
    • Is the style, setting and feel of the book, something you are enjoying? If not, why not? What is it that is making you not want to read on? What is it that isn’t quite right?
    • When writing about these things in your review, it is too tempting to say things like ‘I didn’t like the setting’ but make yourself elaborate, ‘The setting didn’t gel with the story line, it felt forced…’ or ‘I found the setting to be somewhat disconnected with the plot, why are we being told it is constantly raining, when the characters live in Western Australia, where there is only rain in one part of the year and there is no mention of the Wet Season.” You get my drift? Always elaborate on why something isn’t to your liking. It makes for a more honest review and you will feel better about posting something negative.


Inspiration for this post came to me while I was typing my own negative reviews on NetGalley. I have more NetGalley hints and tips here if you are interested!

Remember, honesty really is the best policy when it comes to reviewing books, or anything for that matter. If you aren’t going to be honest, why even write the review?

Thanks for reading!


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