Surprise Sunday


… and it’s another guest! Please welcome Mighty Editor Katy Sozaeva and her wonderful post on reviews!

Critical Reviews vs. Negative Reviews

5552109Recently, a friend of mine took part in a blog tour. The book she had to read was… not up to her expectations, so she wrote a well-balanced but critical review pointing out the deficits—and the positive aspects—of the book in question. The author was apparently having some sort of contest if her fans commented, so the blog was swarmed with comments, some of which were highly critical of my friend’s so-called “negative review”. This made me think about my own opinions about reviews, and to consider the differences between negative reviews and critical reviews.

A little background: some of you who have been living in a cave in Nepal might not be aware that there has been a lot of static in the book community between certain reviewers and certain authors over so-called “negative” reviews. Lines have been drawn. People have been polarized. Huge flame wars and arguments have broken out. Careers have been destroyed. All over people’s opinions about a book. This completely befuddles me. So, I started thinking about the issue a lot.

Here’s the thing. There is a major difference between a negative review and a critical review. A critical review is criticizing the book based upon specific details about it, outlining exactly why the reviewer feels that way, and explaining what might have been done to improve it. A negative review is, essentially, an attack. Consider the difference in my following examples.

 1 out of 1 star

 This book stank. It was a waste of my money, and I wouldn’t use the pages to wipe myself after using the toilet. It might be worth taking up a collection to hire someone to pull a Nancy Kerrigan on the author’s hands so we aren’t subjected to this sort of drivel anymore.

That is a negative review. Lest you think I’m exaggerating… I have seen reviews very similar to this, only with more profanity and additional frothing. The review tells us nothing about why the reviewer didn’t like the book. It doesn’t tell us anything about the book itself. It serves only to expose the reviewer as being incapable of expressing him/herself in a civilized manner. Take, for comparison, this critical review.

 1 out of 1 star

 While it is obvious that the author spent a lot of time working out the timeline and backgrounds for the characters in this book, it is also obvious that some critical elements in the publishing process were skipped, such as editing and proofreading. Words were frequently misused, or the wrong form of a homonym. Extra apostrophes were in words, or apostrophes were missing altogether. To make matters worse, while it is apparent that the characters backgrounds were carefully worked out, their personalities were skipped. They all sounded the same. Emotions were completely missing, and the author told us how we should react, rather than showing us through the actions of the characters and thereby building believable tension.

Do you see the difference there? The second hypothetical review (again, based upon other reviews I’ve both seen and written) explains exactly why the reviewer didn’t like the book. Since I am just making these up, I didn’t go into any sort of plot or book information, but hopefully you can see the idea behind it.

Any legitimate author will actually find something to help them with their future writing in a well-written and carefully crafted critical review, while a negative review… well, that just wastes everyone’s time. So, next time you read a book that is so bad you want to throw it against the wall, do everyone a favor. Cool down before you write your review, and since you’re taking the time to write the review, also take the time to tell the people who will read it why that book was horrible. And when you see a good critical review, take the time to tell that reviewer how much you appreciate them taking the time to do so as well. If you see a negative review? Just ignore it. Because why waste your time on all that negativity?

 ***

Katy Sozaeva is an obsessive bibliophile, reader, reviewer, freelance editor, and slave to her three cats. You can find more information about her editing and reviewing by visiting her blog, Now is Gone, at http://katysozaeva.blogspot.com. She has edited close to 70 books in the year and a half since she started her freelance service. You can see them (or most of them anyway) listed on Shelfari here: http://www.shelfari.com/authors/a1002650799/Katy-Sozaeva/ or by visiting her profile on Goodreads and viewing her bookshelf entitled “i-edited”.

***

You know I review only the things I like – if I can’t give at least 3 stars, you won’t know I read/watched it. Maybe I’ll contact the author, if it’s a friend, or maybe I’ll just shut up. And I don’t read the reviews of my own books either (nor do I stalk wanna-be reviewers who were obviously only after free downloads…). But I’ve heard of those flame wars and childish authors or reviewers (who can tell who started it) and I decided I’m not interested. I don’t buy books or movies based on reviews anyway! 😉

I wanted to add a list of my books edited by Katy (check the rest on her links):

Chronicles of the Varian Empire – The Left-handed Warrior (Smashwords, Amazon, Kobo and Lulu)

Chronicles of the Varian Empire – The Enlightened Emperor (Smashwords, Amazon, Kobo and Lulu)

Records of the Varian Empire (Smashwords, Amazon, Kobo and Lulu)

latest release The death of Queen Amazonia (Smashwords, Amazon and Kobo)

and mostly (because of some brainstorming on a couple of things) Star Minds:

Technological Angel (Smashwords, Amazon and Kobo)

Mind Link (Smashwords, Amazon and Kobo)

and upcoming Slave Traders (out next month).

Have a wonderful Sunday! 🙂

p.s. Katy, I’m afraid I mispelled your name in the acknowledgements of most of the above… forgive me? Won’t happen again, and on Star Minds I’ll write it properly, I swear, when the omnibus comes out you’ll be fairly credited! 🙂

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21 Comments

  1. Hi, Barb 🙂 shes too hot 😉 Have an awesome weekend 🙂

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  2. Thanks for the compliment, Nafees. And thanks for letting me rant to your peeps, Barb!

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  3. Well, said Katy. Great advice from a pro.

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  4. Nancy M. Griffis

     /  10/03/2013

    Reblogged this on Nancy M. Griffis and commented:
    Yeah, there’s a big difference between ‘negative reviews’ and ‘critical ones.’ Katy nails it.

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  5. I sometimes wonder what prompts people to post negative reviews (especially on free books.) I sometimes end up downloading a book that I don’t like…but then I just don’t read it, and I forget all about it. I don’t feel the need to spew venom against the writer. In fact, if I don’t like something, I don’t want to waste my time writing a negative review. It appears to me that people have enough free time on their hands to write negative stuff about something that they hated.

    (They probably assume that they are saving rest of the world from a terrible fate, little realizing that what they hated could easily be what something else would love. There are enough people who dislike the Harry Potter books and call them “bland”.)

    Thanks Katy. An excellent post 🙂

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    • they’re all trolls! 😉
      True, though, something disgusting for someone might be something that someone else is actually looking for.
      Unfortunately those negative reviews don’t give any hint of what’s wrong with the book – the critical ones do. So if you really want to “warn” about a “bad book”, be specific and critical, otherwise, just shut up! 🙂

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  6. Great post! 😀

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  7. Reblogged this on Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors and commented:
    Critical Reviews vs. Negative Reviews – though, as authors, we honestly don’t like to see either one, there IS a difference…

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  8. Rohan 7 Things

     /  12/03/2013

    Great post, there’s definitely a big difference. I’ve had both, and while both kinds are hard to take it’s always better to get something that help you improve than pure anger and insults.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Rohan.

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  9. Barb,

    Nice post.

    I do occassional reviews on my blog and do post some that are critical. My view is that, if an author is asking people to pay for their book, it should be worthy of the money. If you’re doing it for fun and offering it for free, that’s another story.

    Even self published authors should aspire to a certain standard, and, in my mind, there’s nothing wrong with telling them what they did wrong.

    At the same time, I never buy a book hoping to give a critical review. I’d much prefer that I love the book and can give it five stars.

    Thanks.

    Brian
    http://www.brianwfoster.com

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    • I’m a writer myself, but I do read, sometimes even in other genres. But, like I said, I review only the books I liked or loved, especially if they’re indie-published. I did one “negative” review on Goodreads (but didn’t paste it on Smashwords) saying that if the author updated the file, I’d happily rewrite it – and I did this on Goodreads only because you can edit your reviews, on Smashwords you can’t.
      Yeah, I got the book for free, so I felt compelled to write that review… knowing I can always delete or edit it on GR! 😉 (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17202023-event-survivors)
      Anyhow, it’s Katy who is an excellent editor AND reviewer! 😀
      Thanks for stopping by!

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  10. LOL. I am crawling out of the cave in Nepal…

    This was a great post about the types of reviews. I consider the first of your examples to be a disgruntled “reader review” and the second a more educated “critical review”. I think they’re both important. Many readers who read for entertainment and have not been exposed to the writerly arts may not understand WHY they didn’t like the book. They just think it stinks and wants to make sure others know how they feel (since Amazon has given them just the tools to express themselves in this way). The second review is helpful in more obvious ways. If I gain a few or more of the first type of review, I’ll know I’ve not done what I’d intended to do with my story. The second reviews will tell me why.

    I’ve heard many people say they didn’t like a movie because it was ‘stupid’ or ‘boring’ or just a waste of their time because they weren’t interested. So I imagine people do the same with books.

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    • Absolutely, Madison. Personally, I can’t even tell how I write, imagine if I can explain what I didn’t like (besides the obvious – typos, bad formatting and stuff). Okay, I’m good at spotting plot holes, but that’s it! 😉 And if there’s no story (like in literary fiction), it’s usually just not for me – movie or book. No story, no like, LOL!

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  11. I’m a writer. If someone slams my book in a review (no matter where it’s published), I say nothng. I don’t get involved. I love seeing postiive reviews. I myself will only post postitive reviews. If i didn’t like the book, I’ll say nothing about it. That’s just my choice. But trust me, never get in a war with a reader about your book!

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  12. Well done Katy. I appreciate the distinction between negative and critical. It helps not just with writing, but with life I think. Thanks for the insight.

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