Why I don’t Write Negative Book Reviews Anymore…

I just got finished reading a post over at Chuck Wendig’s TERRIBLE MINDS blog – (and if you aren’t following Chuck’s blog you are REALLY missing out on a giggle-fest and a lot of writerly wisdom – so long as you don’t mind the occasional every-line-or-two dose of potty-mouth that Chuck continually indulges in) – that was answering the question “Why I Don’t Like To Negatively Review Other Author’s Books”.

So I got to thinking on that and I posted a comment over at Chuck’s blog and now I’m going to re-post it for my readers.

Here goes.

I was a paid reviewer for about two years or so – back when magazines actually PAID you to write a review.

It was a REALLY cool gig. I got paid ten to twenty dollars for waxing loquaciously for about two or three paragraphs on a book that I hadn’t actually had to pay for. I don’t know how much per word that boiled down to – but it was still a REALLY cool gig.

But then I came to a book that I couldn’t find much nice to say about.

“This person paid for advertising,” the publisher told me. “Can’t you find ANYTHING nice to say about it?”

“Well,” I said. “I like that it had two covers – front and back – with pages in between – although it could have done with a few less of those pages – like all of them.”

Well that flew about as far as a solid concrete fart.

Another time I kicked a book hard in a review and three months heard back from an editor of an anthology that I had submitted a story too – and he wanted to know just why the hell I had gone and kicked his book so hard in print for?

Was he being unprofessional? Hell – I don’t know. I was just the guy who had kicked his book.

So if I’m reading a book and I don’t like it I just throw it in the corner and let the cat pee on it for awhile. I figure that’s criticism enough for my needs.

I still write the occasional Goodreads and Amazon review and the like – stuff that I don’t get paid for. And I’ve given up on EVER writing reviews on books that just plain toilet-bowl sucked.

The fact is we writers read DIFFERENTLY then honest-to-dewey-decimal-system readers.

A reader looks at a book it’s all about – well, I liked that.

Or – well, that book sucked worse than a toilet bowl clogged in the heart of a Texas black hole.

A writer looks at a book – well he’s looking at how it’s put together.

It’s like talking to a cabinet maker. He sees a table and he’s looking at the joints and the choices of wood and how much goat was thrown into that cabriole – while somebody else is just thinking “Gee, my beer sits really nicely on that table. It doesn’t even spill.”

Besides – my momma told me a LONG time ago that a fellow ought not to say ANYTHING if he can’t think of anything nice to say.

That’s my two bits.

Anyone doesn’t like it can get that quarter changed with the bartender.

But don’t forget to tip.

(You can read the WHOLE blog entry over at Chuck’s blog)

Yours in storytelling,
Steve Vernon

9 responses to “Why I don’t Write Negative Book Reviews Anymore…

  1. Steve – I agree with your thoughts on not writing negative reviews. If you don’t have anything nice or constructive to say, it’s best not to say it 🙂


  2. But as a writer, don’t you almost feel you owe it to the author to know where he/she fell down on the job? Then again, did he use beta readers? Editors? Did she tell them off or hold a grudge against them? Hey. Who am I to talk. I’m not published yet, and I’m using as many people as I can get and afford to critique my books. Rather hear it from them than have sales tank too late to fix! Good thinking post, sorry outcome for independent books.


    • Hi Linny,

      Listen – quick confession time. I keep a TERRIBLE yard. We’ve got goutweed and other assorted nasty weeds and the grass has successfully applied for minority status and neither of my neighbors give me grief – AND THAT’S THE WAY I LIKE IT.

      (In my defense, I’ll tell you that the weeds were there when e moved in and the only way to lose that goutweed – also called knotweed – is to take a backhoe to the backyard and re-dirt it from the bedrock on up)

      It’s a karma thing. The way I figure it if I start taking a shotgun to other folks books and pointing my finger at this plot-glitch and that non-character then the next thing I’m going to be looking at is an entire army of shotguns and pointing fingers – and THEN when would I find the time to not mow my lawn???

      It’s the beam and the mote, i’nt it?


  3. You’re right, I find myself looking for all the positives because to get better we have to have the encouragement to keep at it, regardless how bad we think our first tries are. But if someone asks, or expects an honest review, there are gentle ways to say the story line got lost, or the character never arc’d! Right now I think I spend more time on story structure than twists and turns. If they show up, even I’m surprised! Hey, I understand the lawn, and I certainly understand karma! I’m calling my meditation medication these days! Thanks for the honesty. — Linny


  4. Pingback: Self-Publishing: Carnival of the Indies Issue #36 — The Book Designer

  5. Pingback: Indie Authors: Dealing with Reviews, the Good and Bad | Musings and Marvels

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    • I want to clarify that Chuck Wendig and I did NOT collaborate upon the blog post – just in case some folks out there might get the wrong idea – we just happened to write about the same subject. 🙂


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