To Leave or Not to Leave…

To leave or not to leave an unfavorable book review.


I’ve read several blog posts of late saying that we shouldn’t leave unfavorable book reviews, especially if we’re authors ourselves. The contention is that with the very hostile conditions authors face today, we should be supporting each other, not tearing each other down.

So, my mom’s advice: if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

I’m not sure how I feel about this.

On the one hand, the current environment for authors is truly awful. Most authors are lucky for a book to payback all the costs of publishing it, and almost none make minimum wage on the hours they’ve poured into their work. There’s a lot of reasons for this, none of which are going away anytime soon.

In this environment, authors really do need to stick together. Combine that with the fact you could be having a bad day when you read the novel, maybe it just isn’t your thing, or any other reasons that could influence something as subjective as whether or not you liked a book, and I can understand the advice.

Yet, I’ve read books that are well and truly awful. They lack basic plot structure, or their plots are so full of holes Swiss cheese’ll hold more water. Flat characters, heroines too stupid to breathe, or heroes that are jerks. I read romance, so this is not really okay.

My personal “favorite” was the book where the heroine knew everything about everyone just by looking in their eyes (this was a historical romance with no magic), and she was always right.


Not really sure what the correct path is. On the one hand, I want to support fellow authors. I want them to keep writing so I can read their stories. I want them to be able to make a living at it.

But I feel like it’s disingenuous to only leave good reviews. If I only do that, then reviews cease to mean much as only those satisfied (or those paid to leave good reviews) do so.

I’m still torn on this.
How about you? Do you leave reviews for books you’ve read? It’s easy if the book’s good, but what if the book is really bad?

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9 thoughts on “To Leave or Not to Leave…

  1. I get so in my own head about books I don’t leave them at all because I hit analysis paralysis with them.

    Would you feel ok saying something positive or this book might be for this group kind of thing without a star rating? (Does that make sense?)

    1. It does make sense, but you can’t leave a review without a star rating. At least at Amazon you can’t, and that’s where I get most of my books. They’re also really good about nudging me and reminding me to leave a review.

  2. You most certainly can leave a bad review. Like anything there else, there’s a way to do things. Don’t just say it sucks and drone on. Leave specifics about why you didn’t like it, or how it didn’t live up to the hype. A review should be truthful and an aid in helping others decide if they should invest their time and possibly money, not false advertising. If you’re not sure how, I can send you a link or two to some reviews I wrote as examples.

  3. Unless the book was really offensive, and I read one about a girl constantly being abused by her mother and she or nobody did anything about it, I felt I had to write a review, as the story was not portrayed by the blurb. I did write a review. Otherwise, I don’t. Just because I didn’t like it, doesn’t mean someone else will love it. I’d hate to influence their opinion.

  4. I think you’ve seen a few of my reviews. I’m still working out the star system. I don’t want anyone to feel bad, especially other authors I know and respect. Plus, the star system is fragmented. BUT I always leave reviews. To get away from “I didn’t like” to “I like” I stay to critiquing the elements of the book that are based on what I look for from a book. I actually developed it when I was with a writers’ group in San Diego. If I’m talking about the elements of the book, there will be a range, but it speaks of the qualities of the book while acknowledging some of the weaker areas. It’s more analytical, but that’s me. Now…If I truly enjoy the book, I can continue to say that, but most books I read are from authors I already know and enjoy as well. I get nervous when I read something for the first time, but I leave my analytical review, and then decide not to follow a series or author if I’m less a fan of their work. I’m not out to hurt feelings or anything, so when I review the book, I’m looking for how they handled it from an author point of view. As a fan, well, that’s a different viewpoint and I save that for talking with my friends.

  5. I rarely leave negative reviews. If the book really didn’t work for me, there’s a good chance I either didn’t finish it or skimmed to the end. In either case, I won’t know enough about the book in question to leave a review of any kind.

    On the other hand, I think you, personally, are capable of giving thoughtful bad reviews. And those are fine–no ax to grind, you’re just saying “hey, this isn’t working for me and here’s why.” I received a couple of bad reviews under my pen name, and because they were thoughtful and fair-minded, they didn’t crush me. One, I think, won me some sales, because while the book didn’t work for her, what she described of it did work for others!

    On the other, um, other hand, I think leaving only positive reviews is still valuable for other readers. Here’s my reasoning: if I like your style of writing, your stories, or even just other books you happen to like, I’ll probably follow your reviews thinking that, hey, if she likes this, I probably will too. So a rec from you will be quite meaningful.

    So, I guess this was a long winded way of saying I’m on the fence . . . .

    1. I am really trying not to finish books I don’t like. A bit of that “I started it, I’m going to see it through” mentality.

      And yeah, it’s tough. You want to be fair, but books are so subjective.

      There’s this super popular series where I read the first book because a friend loaned it to me. I was meh about it, but she loved it so I agreed it was pretty good. She loaned me the other three books in this series. I hated it so much, I couldn’t get past the second book and was thinking of ways that the author could satisfyingly kill off the main character.

      I was clearly in the minority of readers as this series made the author and millionaire.

      Books are just subjective.

  6. If I like it, I’ll review it on my blog. If I didn’t like it, I won’t because it doesn’t fit the tone of my blog. I’m no grammatical or literary expert, and that isn’t what my audience looks for from my blog. If it isn’t worth at LEAST three stars, I don’t spend the time writing the review. I WILL review books on Amazon, but I try to leave critical ones.

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