Why I Don’t Leave Bad Book Reviews

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It’s a dilemma I believe many of us face. At least those of us who are also writers — those of us who consider ourselves somewhat decent writers. I honestly don’t remember what it was like to be a reader who had no experience with writing, so I am hella curious about their perspective on this.

Should you leave a review when you didn’t like a book? Do critical reviews help the author by pumping up the review numbers, or do they hurt them, especially when they’ve got so few reviews that a critical review would significantly drag their rating down? I know many people believe reviews aren’t for the author, they’re for other readers, but as reviews are the primary promotional tool for many unknown authors, the reviews we leave will affect the authors whether or not we want them to.

Unless you’re reviewing a Stephen King novel. Then, I guess, it’s like a drip in the ocean.

This morning I finished reading a book. It’s the second in the series and one I very much hoped to love. And I did. I loved parts of it very much. But there were parts that drastically impacted my reading experience and if not for the Goodreads Reading Challenge I’m doing, I probably would have stopped reading at several points.

I will not name the book, though those of you who follow me can likely figure it out.

But that brought up the question. It left me debating with myself: Do I write the review I wanted to write before the book ceased to be enjoyable? Would that be dishonest? Would it hurt the author, who only has twenty or so reviews for it so far? Do I write an honest, negative review? Or do I scrap the document full of notes on it, and say nothing?

You can guess which one I ultimately settled on based on the title of this post.

I’m Selfish

The biggest reason was that I’m selfish. I have just eked out my first officially published book, and during my rounds of the writing community I have heard horror stories of rabid fans review-bombing other authors who dare leave a critical review on a book they loved. I am a poor-ass author who ain’t got a dime for marketing, so a bunch of angry fans coming down on me could do a helluva lot of damage. At least to this pen name.

I’m not Their Beta Reader

When the book is already out there, it doesn’t feel like the prime time for constructive criticism. I’ve been a beta reader for twenty years. I’ve done my fair share of intensive copy editing for people who post on online archives like Ao3, Wattpad, and Literotica. So, when I read a book that I love that disappoints me, the urge to help them gets mighty strong. But I don’t feel it’s my role as a reader and reviewer. The only thing a negative review would do for an author is potentially steer readers away.

Honestly, I feel like the best thing I could do when I’m tempted to leave a negative review, is to contact the author and offer to be a beta reader instead. At least then I could get in at the point of the book’s development when my concrit would do good.

And yet, the whole point of this Reading Challenge was to break away from beta-reading and editing and rediscover the art of reading for funsies. Adding another author to my beta pile seems counter productive.

The Purpose of Reviews

I read for books to escape. To suspend disbelief, to get pulled into a different world, a different perspective. Reviews are something I do extra. I don’t particularly enjoy writing them — they feel too non-fictiony and I’m very much a speculative kinda writer. So, for me, writing reviews is work. It’s something I put time and energy into with the primary intention of giving an author a small promotional boost.

That’s it. That’s the whole reason. That’s why I do it.

Why do you do it?


Sam Clover

Is an author of queer dark romance. She is pan/demi, so Canadian she bleeds plaid maple syrup, and an avid lover of all things horror-and-pirate-and-gay-smut-related. Her debut book ‘Cold Snap’ came out in December of 2020 and her second book is on the way!


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5 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Leave Bad Book Reviews

  1. I used to not care about leaving bad reviews on books, until I myself started writing them. Now I realise that even the crappiest of books require some degree of effort that has to be respected.

    Also, I’m probably selfish as well and I don’t want people to review my books badly now that I have a title or two under my name, lol.

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    1. Definitely! A lot of time and energy goes into them, even the ones that don’t seem like it. And congrats on getting a title or two out there!

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  2. Hi Sam. I also don’t leave negative reviews. If I don’t like a book, I stop reading and move on to the next one. If I read the book to the end and was entertained, the author will always get five stars from me. I was the target of negative review bombing early in my writing career, and it’s not fun. I almost quit. Thankfully, a BookBub ad brought a slew of reviews from strangers (not peers) and my reviews took off for the good. Glad I spotted you today.

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    1. I’m so sorry you went through that, Maddie! But I’m glad you haven’t given up. That would have been a tragedy on top of a tragedy. Do you remember the review that brought you back from the brink, or was it the slew of them as a whole?

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      1. It was a slew of them as a whole – some threes, but the majority were fours and fives. There is a lot of pain in negative reviews when you don’t have very many. The thick skin comes when the good far outweigh the bad. I rarely check my reviews now, and an occasional bad one no longer causes me to flinch. Every book can’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Thanks for asking!

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