Novel Nonsense || Review Etiquette

Posted April 18, 2019 by Bluestocking Bookworm in Discussion / 2 Comments

Welcome to Novel Nonsense, where I ramble about bookish things and goings on in the book community.

Today’s topic is review etiquette – is writing a negative review okay? What about when I DNF’d a book? My post was inspired by this post by Jen, which is actually from March, but was featured just yesterday by a book blog booster, The Write Reads.

Reviews are hard

It is funny, but ask almost any book blogger what their least favourite part of book blogging is, and they will probably say “writing reviews”. I know I struggle with it.

If I liked the book a lot, I am reduced to an incoherent mess of “YOU NEED TO READ THIS BECAUSE OF REASONS” and if I disliked it, I am trying to balance my personal tastes with what other readers might like. This is especially true when I am reading YA. As a thirty-something woman, I may not identify with the 16 year old who is… you know… acting like a teenager. But to actual teens? That might be their most favourite book of the year!

And none of us picks books that we think we will hate. We pick genres or authors we know we like. So when we get one that doesn’t click, it can be hard to figure out what to say.

So, what do we, as book bloggers do?

Blue’s Super Quick Review Etiquette Guide

  • Reviews are for fellow readers, NOT for the author of the book you are reviewing.
  • You are only ever obligated to give your honest opinion. If this is a negative opinion, then so be it. If your review is part of a blog tour, you may be asked to hold off on your review until the tour is done so that the marketing doesn’t suffer. This is a fair request, and you are not being censored. Post your review after the tour.
  • You absolutely DO NOT have to review every book you read. Nor do you have to accept every review request you receive.
  • However, if you choose to not review books from places like Edelweiss or NetGalley, it may negatively affect your ability to obtain future ARCs if you do not review.
  • Reviews, both positive AND negative, help boost a book’s visibility and eligibility for promos on Amazon. These don’t have to be long reviews, and can be as simple as “I liked it” or “Wasn’t for me”.
  • A positive review DOES NOT mean a review free of criticism or things you didn’t like. Generally anything 3 stars and up, with a higher number of things you loved over things you didn’t counts as a positive review.
  • NEVER tag an author or publisher in a negative review. This is NON-NEGOTIABLE.
  • If writing a negative or critical review, NEVER personally attack the author or the people who enjoy the book. This is also NON-NEGOTIABLE.
  • ALWAYS tag the author and publisher when you genuinely love the book. While the author may not read your review, they will definitely appreciate seeing that someone loved their word-baby. (And most authors really love when you @ them on Twitter saying you loved their book, just an FYI. You are NOT bothering them!)
  • If you read a book and you think the representation of any marginalized group is problematic (especially if you belong to that marginalized group) please SPEAK UP. This helps keep other readers from being harmed from bad rep and triggering content. This is especially important when reading and reviewing YA.
  • You CAN review a book you DNF’d, but maybe skip the star rating. Tell your readers what made you DNF the book. Was it a plot thing? A pacing problem? Did the characters just get on your nerves? It is also very OK to just say “I don’t know why, but this book didn’t click for me”.
  • Mini-reviews are a perfectly valid way to catch up on your backlog!

At the end of the day, reviews are extremely subjective. Anyone who tries to tell you to maintain absolute objectivity is setting an impossible task. But it is entirely possible to write a negative or critical review without being an asshole about it. And sugar-coating your thoughts on a book you didn’t love isn’t helping anyone out, least of all your readers.

You wouldn’t be worried about writing a negative review for a place of business or a piece of technology you bought that didn’t live up to your expectations, right? And when you are looking for somewhere to eat or what phone to buy next, you don’t look at JUST the glowing reviews, do you? So write that negative review!

Do you write negative reviews? Why or why not? Let’s chat in the comments!

Stay bookish, lovelies! ❤

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2 responses to “Novel Nonsense || Review Etiquette

  1. Jen

    Perfect! This is a great idea having these rules of etiquette. Thanks for mentioning my post and I’m glad it inspired you to write this. This is great.

    • Bluestocking Bookworm

      Thanks for stopping by!

      I find a lot of people, especially new bloggers, are in the same position as you – wondering if a negative review is appropriate. So I wanted to put my thoughts on etiquette out there. While some of them aren’t concrete, I still think they are a great starting point for bloggers who want to write negative reviews without being jerks about it. <3

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