How to Write Negative Book Reviews Without Being Mean

If you review books from time to time, you've probably written a negative review. If you're a published author, you've probably received a negative review. If you're an author who reviews books a lot, like me, you've probably experienced both.

Negative reviews are very important, to both readers and authors. For readers, negative reviews help decide whether or not to buy the book. For authors, negative reviews give valuable feedback on how to make their books better in the future.

However, negative reviews have the potential to be very hurtful to authors. Authors do need to have thick skins, but it's also up to the reviewers to be fair in their reviews. In this post, I'm going to share some best practices for writing honest reviews without being mean.

1. If you didn't like the book, give the reason.

Authors hate it when someone posts a one-star review with just the words, "This book is horrible. I hated it. Do not buy." This sort of review is very unhelpful to everyone. Both readers and the author want to know why you didn't like the book. Was it the characters? Was it the plot? What?

Understandably, a lot of readers don't like writing long reviews. But a review doesn't have to be long to make it clear why you didn't like the book. For example: "I didn't like this book. The main character really annoyed me." Bam. Done!

2. Don't attack the author.

You are reviewing a book, not a person. Whenever you have something critical to say, don't make it sound like the author is a terrible person/bad at their job. Instead of saying:
This author has terrible grammar.
Try saying:
The grammar in this book is not the best.
 It's a simple fix, but it's a lot nicer to the author.

3. Make it clear whether something is a genuine problem, or your personal preference.

If you felt that the characters were flat, then go ahead and say it. But if you didn't like the fact that the author used British spelling instead of American spelling, tread cautiously. You can definitely mention it, but you have to make it clear that you personally prefer American spelling. Most readers don't care about how certain words are spelled (unless they're typos, of course).

A good rule of thumb is that if a large number of people disagree with your preference, then make sure you say it's a preference.

4. Find something to compliment.

Every book has something good about it. Find the good and mention it in your review. This has two benefits: it makes your review more balanced, and it doesn't hurt the author so much.


This is what it all boils down to: be nice! Be courteous, and respect the author and your fellow reviewers. Be clear about your reasons for disliking a book. Don't be mean.

This can be summed up by what happened to me the other day. A fellow author posted a review of Super Sporty 4: The Curse of the Delba which could have come across as critical. The day after the review went up, the author sent me a lovely email apologizing in case I found his review too blunt. As a matter of fact, I thought his review was very fair (and it was four stars, so I can't exactly complain!), but it was very nice of him to be so courteous.

You don't have to be generous with your stars,
but you do have to be generous with your manners.

And now I'm off to read and review a rather lovely YA paranormal.

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