The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Book Review…

Did you even read it?

I have had a bad review. Scratch that, I have had a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Review.

Actually, I’ve had several in recent years and it has brought to mind a very dismal thought. What if writers have only Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Reviews to look forward to?

What is the difference between that and a bad or negative review? First off, bad reviews aren’t “bad.” They point out your mistakes in this book and help you to avoid them or correct them for the next. They’re sometimes biting, sometimes unpleasant, but always contain something of substance or tangibility.

In years past, the large majority of bad reviews were intelligent. The critic obviously poured much time and energy into listing their complaints and often providing some kind of example. They would be something like this:

“There were frequent typos….”

“The character’s name on page 15 was changed on page 201.”

“The author obviously rushed through this piece because the character’s hair color changed….”

Even these brief statements could provide you something to go on. Readers benefited from these legitimate discoveries, as well. Some may even decide not to buy the book because of misspellings, inconsistencies, or poor attention to detail. But, they were always issues that could be remedied in some way. The author could pay closer attention in the next book, brush up on their spelling, there are steps they can take.

Today, the assumption is reviewers are now exclusively for other reviewers and authors who want feedback should join a critique group. I believe reviewers should be confident enough in their writing to back it up.

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Review does nothing. It essentially wastes space on the page and provides no helpful information to the author or prospective readers. These reviews are usually a few sentences, written by people who can’t spell, who make it a point to hurt the author over what should actually be obvious. Readers are often misled, by misleading reviews, and it hurts both writer and reader.

Writers, unfortunately, are painted into a corner when it comes to discussion of reviews. If you say anything about a review, no matter how level-headed you are, or how unreasonable the review is, you’re often labeled “defensive,” or “eating sour grapes.” Sadly, most businesses get to defend their product and remain professional, but for some reason authors haven’t reached that point. A company can sue for slander if someone is malicious or abnormally libelous. In business terms what is a writer, but an entity creating a product?

So, how can readers (and authors) ignore these seemingly clueless individuals? Here are some criteria for consideration:

  • They complain because the book is just like the description. For example, if it’s a regional history, it will not be a biography of one individual. If it’s written like an autobiography, it will indeed like an essay. If it’s horror, it will often be gory and sometimes dogmatic.

How does this affect the reader? It tells you nothing more than the book’s original description. It makes it appear as if, somehow, the author/publisher has misled someone when they haven’t.

  • They complain it isn’t long enough or it’s too long. The length of the book is listed on the page before you buy it. Both print and electronic books, at most major sellers, have these specifications listed.

Length does not determine the quality of the work. A padded novel, that should really be a short story, reads just as poorly as a short story that is missing information and should be a novel. How many readers have complained that Gone with the Wind was just 50 pages too much? Has anyone ever stated, ” If only The Great Gatsby was a short story.” Of course not. If a story doesn’t need length, it doesn’t need it.

  • The reader is obviously not familiar with the genre. A reader who enjoys mysteries will not like romance novels and vice versa. The romance reader may have a dozen complaints over violence, language, or other content, when in reality, it’s just part of the genre.

How does this affect the reader? It’s another type that states the obvious and attempts to imply the author/publisher somehow mislead them.

  • The review is really short. Sometimes, it’s just a number of clauses strung together with no punctuation.

How does this affect the reader? In all honesty, if they can’t write, how can you trust their ability to read?

  • They state the obvious. And restate it. For example, a book that calls itself a “quick guide,” tends to be short.

How does this affect the reader? Yet another type that states the obvious and attempts to imply the author/publisher somehow mislead them.

  • They don’t seem to have actually read the book at all. Their review is incoherent. For example, “The characters started out fighting in a kitchen, or something, I couldn’t get into it.”

If they can’t be bothered to read it, why do they bother reviewing it?

  • The reviewer isn’t a reviewer at all. If you click on their screen identity, you find they’ve actually only reviewed 1 book. Or they’re serial reviewers that give most items poorly-written, bad reviews.

This is a complex subject and writers everywhere should, in all honesty, be allowed to question reviews that hurt their efforts.





4 thoughts on “The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Book Review…

  1. Hello Laura,

    You know, I have had to face these people before as well. You find them everywhere. The trouble is that you can never really evade them.

    That’s why I see the desire in confronting them. Do research on their background and determine their qualifications for book reviews. This way you know where they stand and feel confident as to the legitimacy of their views.

    Still, when it comes right down to it, they do have a point-of-view and they are going to express it whether you like it or not, even if they are merely trolls. I hate being the harbinger of bad news, and I am not siding with these… Well, I am a professional and a gentleman, so I won’t say, LOL. The point is: I came to realize a long time ago that negativity–even incoherent and erratic negativity–is inevitable.

    You can do your background checks, determine the reviewer’s qualifications, even argue with said person until you are blue in the face, but, when it comes right down to it, none of these efforts will make a difference. Why? In the end, the person doing the reviewing has an opinion and that person has a right to express that opinion.

    You might have ONE option online: If you have a tight relationship with webmasters at the sites where certain ‘horrible, no good, very bad’ book reviews are posted, you might possibly get the eyesores removed from public view. The webmaster can always devise an excus–I mean, a reason–for eliminating them, but that’s the extent of it.

    Then again, you can always go public with the reviewer’s [lack of] credentials and , in turn,discredit that person. That might work. Truth be told, however, such an attempt will likely make you appear petty–unless loads of other commentators come back and criticize the reviewer as well. That is possible, but not guaranteed. The strategy here, though, is timing: Wait until the commentators have already posted their condemnations of the reviewer, and THEN go public with your findings.

    The only sure-fire way you might get the reviewer is if that person defamed you in the review, in which case you could take said reviewer to court (that is, IF you could identify and locate said reviewer. Online, that’s not always possible).

    In the end, though, that won’t change the fact that the reviewer had an opinion, and no amount of contesting or protesting will change that.

    Does that mean that these individuals win the battle?

    Only if you fight back.

    The best way to win is to let it go and disregard it. Sounds easier said than done, I know, but that’s all you can really do in the long run. Why? As said: the reviewer has an opinion and the reviewer has a right to express that opinion.

    So much for freedom of speech, LOL.

    Sorry. I realize that isn’t funny.

    You do recall the saying about opinions, don’t you?… That should, at least, make you feel better about it. 😉

    Take care.

    1. Hi, Mark!

      I have no issue with differing opinions, certainly not. And I’m not really down about it or anything. As I said, I’m pretty immune to negativity, I’ve encountered it for years. I suppose it’s just the presentation I get irritated with. I know I’m not the only one, I had one author friend discuss a reviewer and she had no idea where they got the information for their review. They said things about characters that weren’t in her story. Likewise, a British author, who’s story was in England with English characters, got a complaint because her work was “too British.”

      No, I’m not suggesting legal prosecution or anything, simply stating that writers should have the ability, with sellers, to point out reviews that aren’t accurate and don’t provide helpful information. Readers like that apparently make assumptions, despite the ability to evaluate everything before purchase, and then charge the author with things like misleading them, when they honestly didn’t. Perhaps not even delete the reviews, just maybe ask other readers for validation on dubious reviews.

      I remember when “bad reviews,” were amazing. They would point out mistakes not even major publishers caught. Perhaps that’s why I’m a bit biased against those so often found today. It’s one thing to not like a story and complain about it. It’s another to just fabricate something about someone else’s work and promote it as the truth. It would a lot like complaining over the character Madeline in Gone with the Wind, when there was no Madeline in Gone with the Wind.

      Well, thanks again!

  2. Ho Laura,

    You bring up some very good points here. Reviews based on inaccurate or lack of appropriate information are certainly enigmas. We can’t help but wonder where they come from, and, yes, we, as writers SHOULD be concerned about them and do whatever we can to rectify them. I like your idea regarding readers to chime in to discuss the issues, if not only to correct the initial reviewer’s mistakes than to spur discussions about the work in question. Doing so will bring out the content so that others (even those who haven’t yet read the work) become aware of it. This is even one way to generate further sales, but that strays from the point of the post, however.

    Also, your response to a dubious review will help with clarifications. Such responses aren’t being defensive, just a matter of setting records straight.

    Then again, many writers compose their own descriptive reviews immediately following the release of their work so as to offer insight on the premise, the story and its characters (should the work be one of fiction) right away. This way, any misinformed reviews that will eventually emerge appear insubstantial and weak, and then you can challenge it publicly without fear of seeming defensive or petty.

    As for me, no review is really worth anything unless it can get readers to think about the work, or to provide helpful insight to the writer. THESE serve as the purposes of any review. “It was good/bad” alone doesn’t hold any value whatsoever.

    By the way, thanks for clarifying the overall point of the post for me. Now I can offer helpful responses. 😉


    1. Hello!

      Sorry, if I didn’t clarify that in my original post. That’s why I kept mentioning the reviewer implying that the author or publisher misled them, when they didn’t. I may go back and try to clarify that. I’ve came across many on other books like that. A reader is not forced to make assumptions about any book, and that’s what it boils down to. And it’s kind of silly in this day and age when you can read 20% or 30% of the book, before you even buy it, to make sure you’re interested.

      Although, a lot of them come across akin to someone who purchased a lawn mower, but claim to have expected a swing set. They’re just out there. And if an author ever questions or simply wants to ask “why,” it’s some sort of cardinal sin in literature. Or so it seems.

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