Monday, June 11, 2012

Bad Reviews: Leaving and Receiving

At Amazon
Marla Madison, author of the suspense novel She's Not There, is my guest.
My recent blog on reviewing received nasty feedback, one comment so bad that Blogspot censored it without printing. Since then, I’ve kept my blogs as non-controversial as possible. I’ve bravely decided to revisit the issue in question—bad reviews.
As a writer who’s been on the receiving end of a bad review or two, I must admit that despite knowing everyone receives them, even the most popular writers of the day, I nevertheless take them to heart and agonize over every one. And then get over it.
My request to reviewers is this: If you hate my writing so much that you feel the need to give it a one or two star review, please take the time to tell me why you didn’t like the book. While authors understand their work cannot be everyone’s favorite read, most of us will take criticism with an open mind and use it to improve our writing.
The thing that incited a near blog-comment riot was my frustration with reviewers who leave a bad review without reading the entire book. It is my personal policy not to leave a review for a book I don’t finish. My detractors, unfortunately, found one that I had done a while back (I’d forgotten about it), and called me a hypocrite. They got me on that, but I did put into the review what I didn’t like and why I didn’t finish the book.
I rarely leave negative reviews on books I don’t finish because my taste is rather narrow—I only read suspense and there are many things I don’t like in a suspense novel, e.g. a focus on drug crimes, gangs and super complicated conspiracy theories, to name a few. This is singularly my own prejudice, so I’m reticent to cut down an author for their inclusion.
My one exception to this rule, and I feel the need to mention it in the event I come under the microscope again, is for the authors I read regularly. Top-ten authors whose works I follow religiously, will get a candid review from me, whether I finish the book or not. Although it’s unusual when I don’t finish a book written by a favorite author.
I’m kind to new authors. Downloading many of the free suspense books available daily on Amazon, I find few to my liking, often only reading a few chapters. I don’t leave reviews on them. Maybe I should, but that’s what I do. I have found a few real gems in the free collections, and when I discover one of them I take the time to leave a review on both Amazon and Goodreads.
Marla Madison
Please share your own policy for reviews. I’m always interested in how others feel about a subject.
Thanks for reading. Come visit me on my blog at or contact me at
She’s Not There, available at


Polly Iyer said...

Reviews are tough, writing them and receiving them. I'm more forgiving with new writers than with the famous ones. For the most part, they don't care what I think.

I read a blog post recently that cited more than a dozen famous authors and their books, ones we would consider classic, and the blogger noted how many bad reviews each one got. One or two received over 1,000. It's part of the business, but it's hard to grow a tough skin when someone is talking trash about your baby. We take it personally, and we shouldn't. But we do.

Eric J. Gates said...

Hi Ellis,

I know just how you feel about reviews. We've all had bad ones as you say, yet if a review is done correctly and professionally, even a bad one can be useful. I felt so strongly about this, after a certain amateur reviewer not only panned a novel of mine, but then posted her review on every website she could find, that I blogged about it. You might find my take helpful. I wrote about what a professional review should be and how writers can squeeze more info from the reviews they receive. Here's a link to the blog:

Keep up the great work.


Marla M said...

Hi Polly,
Thanks for your comment! Sounds like we are on the same page with leaving reviews.
It amazes me every time I leave a review on Goodreads that I happily give five stars to and see how many bad ones the author has received--and these are "seasoned" authors.
I too am kind to new authors. I always take time to praise what they're doing right. If I don't like their work enough to read the whole thing, I generously don't leave a review.
Nice to hear from you,

Marla M said...

Hi Eric,
Thanks for reading my blog on reviews! It's always hard to read the bad ones we get. I always have to remind myself to learn something from each one.
I'll take a look at your blog.

Ellis Vidler said...

Marla, I agree with you about not reviewing something I don't finish. I don't review anything I can't be positive about either, and there may be a number of reasons. But no review doesn't necessarily mean anything negative. One big problem for me is finding time to read all the books I have. I may love them once I get to them.

Thanks for being here. Nice post.

Peg Brantley said...

If you would have asked me a few months ago how important I thought reviews were I would have told you they weren't. Period.

A few months ago I didn't have a dog in this hunt. Now that I do, and no one has ever heard of me, my opinion has done a one-eighty.

My first several reviews were from people I didn't know and they made my heart soar. The negative ones get my attention though, to the point that every time a new review shows up I steal myself for bad news.

Thanks for the post, Marla.

Marla M said...

Yes, the negative ones always hurt, but hopefully they will give us some helpful feedback.
I seldom leave negative reviews either unless it is a big-time author who I feel let me down! Figure they can take a bad review or two.
Thanks Ellis, for this opportunity and thank you to those who left comments.
Happy reading and writing,

Kim Mullins said...

This wwas a lovely blog post