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NetGalley Tips > A Review of a book you didn't like

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message 1: by Sheila (new)

Sheila | 62 comments We all have different tastes in books and choose them accordingly, BUT on occasions, there is a book you can't get into well, put down halfway through, dislike the style or format or find it boring. It's mean to be unkind about a book that may have taken months or years to write. I hate being in the position of writing a poor review but nor do I wish to mislead other readers. How does everyone deal with the situation without being unfair and critical?


message 2: by Ginger (last edited Jun 22, 2018 10:14AM) (new)

Ginger  (vedica) | 4 comments I try to focus on the book content. What didn't work for me, the characters, the writing style etc. It isn't about the author and I don't put anyone down that likes the book.
It will always be hard for an author to read a critical review of their work. I would not blame them for feeling a little hurt but it is all in the way we choose to react.
I have picked up books specifically because they had a bad review. I found that some of the things another reader dislikes is something I actually look for in a book :)
We all just need to remember we are all different and in the end a review is just and matter of opinion. We can't all like the same things! How boring would that be?!
#dontshamethereader


message 3: by Sheila (new)

Sheila | 62 comments Exactly how I think and act. Thank you for your opinion. I think the format is my biggest problem. If a book has several characters written in the first person and back and forth in eras it seems to be a marmite situation. Some love it. I prefer the third person but finding myself in the minority group. Not that it stops me reading books with tricky formats if it's successfully done, but often it's confusing.


message 4: by Donna (last edited Jun 22, 2018 01:25PM) (new)

Donna Davis (seattlebookmama) | 115 comments The only time I withhold a review is if I genuinely cannot figure out why I don't like the book. (Out of over 450 NG galleys, that's only occurred once so far.) I never assume anything about the writer's intentions, so my review addresses technical aspects as well as, sometimes, parts where social or political issues are included. Stereotypes are a hot-button issue, along with several others. If there are a lot of technical problems, I try to focus on just one or two. If I can find something good to say, I say it.

I consider that once I have the review copy, I have a contract of sorts and an obligation. I read at least the first third of the book, and if it's fiction I also read the last twenty percent to make sure there isn't some redemptive feature there that might add a star. A few times I have been set to cut my losses, but the book's ending is strong enough that I go back and read the whole thing after all.

Note that if you fail to review, you may find yourself below that 80% mark, and then it's hard to get DRCs. Constructive criticism may be helpful for a new author; if I hate a book by a long-established writer with a faithful readership, my criticism may get lost in the shuffle and the writer may never even look at it anyway, but I have called it as I see it and discharged my obligation. I have panned more than one book that went on to win awards, but the truth is, when I picked the book up again I still hated it. What can you do? False praise makes all of the heartfelt praise meaningless.

If I am about to write a critical review with a low rating, sometimes I save it until I also have a rave review of another book so the unhappy review is not the first thing anyone sees on my blog, GR, NG, etc.

In my experience, the occasional negative review rarely impacts whether publishers will grant future galleys. I actually got auto-approved for the first time when I wrote a scathing review of Dang Near Dead (Henery Press). There are a couple of small presses that don't want to dance with me anymore because (I am assuming) of negative reviews, but my overall average review is over 4 stars, and the big houses I prefer--Simon Schuster, Random House, and St. Martin's Press--look for consistent feedback and continue to grant me access.

The one thing I will never, ever do is give a star rating--especially a low rating--and then provide no reason. That is a hurtful, nasty thing to do. Better to withhold anything at all than to take a DRC, shoot it down with one or two stars (or even three), and give no explanation.


message 5: by SundayAtDusk (last edited Jun 22, 2018 07:11PM) (new)

SundayAtDusk | 100 comments Sheila: It's mean to be unkind about a book that may have taken months or years to write.

I disagree. In my opinion, it doesn't matter how long it took an author to write a book, and you are not suppose to treat authors like sensitive little children in reviews. That only leads to worthless reviews. A review is suppose to reflect your own opinion of the book, period, not reflect your concerns about an author's feelings or finances. It's not your job, as a reviewer, to be concerned about an author's personal life. It's your job to inform the reading public if you think the book is worth reading or buying. Where, may I ask, did you get the idea it is wrong to write a "critical" review?

Also, I don't agree, Donna, that just leaving a low star rating is "hurtful" and "nasty". Although I've always written a review because I'm required to do so with ARCs, more than once I wished I could have just left a 1-star rating; because I felt I'd already wasted enough of my time on a book that did not deserve to be read to the end.


message 6: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) SundayAtDusk wrote: "Sheila: It's mean to be unkind about a book that may have taken months or years to write.

I disagree. In my opinion, it doesn't matter how long it took an author to write a book, and you are not s..."


Agreed 100%. I don’t write reviews to be fair or unfair, kind or unkind. I write them to assist other readers in spending their reading time wisely. If a book is poorly plotted, characters are flat or stereotypical, the ending makes no sense, the writing is convoluted, etc., a good review should disclose those facts. Then, it’s every reader for herself, once armed with the benefit of accurate, detailed reviews.


Jen - The Tolkien Gal (fayepixie) | 25 comments Sheila wrote: "We all have different tastes in books and choose them accordingly, BUT on occasions, there is a book you can't get into well, put down halfway through, dislike the style or format or find it boring..."

I try my best to read as much as possible, but I still critique the book. I think it's important to always state the book may not just have been your style - I understand people put years of their lives into writing books, but the reality of life is that you need to handle criticism if you want to succeed as an author. Stephen King used to pin all of his rejection notes onto a nail hammered into his bedroom wall. Look where he is now. I'm not saying be mean to someone who wrote a book that is poor in your eyes - I just mean that if you can't benefit from constructive criticism, they shouldn't be posting books to NetGalley in the first place.


message 8: by Sheila (new)

Sheila | 62 comments I don't feel quite so guilty now! I recently put someone off reading a book with a review and worried that although it wasn't to my taste (far-fetched) she might have enjoyed it.

Fancy Stephen King doing that. Using criticism to improve and excel. Solid character and purpose.

I agree about a low rating without an explanation. That is confusing for the author and the potential reader.


message 9: by SundayAtDusk (new)

SundayAtDusk | 100 comments There's another reason, though, some may post a low star rating without a review--something in the book is controversial and the reviewer fears their point of view will be attacked in comments. Not everyone desires to defend or debate their opinions in online discussions with strangers. Hence, they just leave a star rating and nothing else.


message 10: by Dee (new)

Dee (austhokie) | 82 comments I always approach negative reviews carefully and try to have someone else read it for me to make sure it isn’t too mean - because several years ago I posted a 1star review for a book (the author had donated it to a GR group and it was being circulated for reviews) - abt 2 weeks later a friend sent me a message and a link...said author had gone to an indie publishing blog, and basically called me a dumb romance reader for not enjoying his book

The attacks by other authors/commentors - ie I was a failed author wanting to get back at someone successful were just cruel


message 11: by Sheila (new)

Sheila | 62 comments Ouch!!!


message 12: by Robin (new)

Robin (ukamerican) | 87 comments SundayAtDusk wrote: "Sheila: It's mean to be unkind about a book that may have taken months or years to write.

I disagree. In my opinion, it doesn't matter how long it took an author to write a book, and you are not s..."


I agree. I know authors put their heart and soul into their books sometimes and it's probably upsetting for them when someone doesn't like their book - but reviewers aren't doing it to be "mean and nasty". We're doing it because it's our honest opinion and we're entitled to have and express that opinion - we leave reviews for other readers, not necessarily for the author, because readers are the ones buying the product and deserve to know what other people truly think about a book before investing their time and money into it.

Authors should be able to understand that no matter how good a book is, there's always going to be someone, somewhere, who doesn't like it - and as much as that may disappoint or upset them, they have to expect and accept it, and handle it like an adult and professional. If they can't do that, it's NOT the reviewer's fault - we shouldn't be afraid to be honest. Books are supposed to be a vehicle for freedom of speech and expression - so why shouldn't book reviews also be afforded the same freedoms?


message 13: by SundayAtDusk (last edited Jun 24, 2018 06:30PM) (new)

SundayAtDusk | 100 comments Dee wrote: "I always approach negative reviews carefully and try to have someone else read it for me to make sure it isn’t too mean - because several years ago I posted a 1star review for a book (the author ha..."

Dee, just as authors should be able to deal with criticism, we reviewers should be able to do so, too. I've had authors leave nasty comments; including suggesting I'm trying to torpedo their book sales because I'm possibly someone they know; or am another jealous author, or associated with another author. All absolute nonsense. As others have stated here, if an author can't deal with criticism like a mature adult, they really have no business being published authors. Or maybe they should just self-publish their books and pass them out to their friends and family.

Sometimes an author's criticism of a reviewer may be legit, too, because there are those who write troll type reviews, or write "reviews" that really have nothing to do with the book. As an honest reviewer just doing your job, though, don't second guess your own opinions, or worry about being "mean". Book reviewing, by its very nature, is critical writing, in the sense you are suppose to be reading the book with a critical eye. Anyone who can't be critical; when criticism, either positive or negative, is warranted; should not be reviewing books or movies or anything else, in my opinion. What's the point of reading reviews where the reviewers are not saying what they truly think?


message 14: by Christine (new)

Christine | 2 comments It is always difficult to do *those* reviews. I hate it. When I have to review a book I didn't care for, I do try to make a point of talking about what it is that I did not like about it and what about that exact issue may work for someone else, and/or try to find something positive (but honest - always honest) to soften the blow so to speak. Were the characters too "juvenile" for me? I might write "Maybe I am just not the target demographic, a younger reader may enjoy it more than I did. The basic story-line itself was original and enticing".

I also do a very low-key approach to poor reviews. While I want to shout from the roof-tops about a book I like, praising the book every time I come across it on social media etc., I do not enjoy bashing someone's work, so once my basic review is done, I move on quietly. But I cannot leave gaps in my blogging, goodreads, etc. I have to write something.

Ultimately, as long as you are respectful, the author will have to expect that not everyone will like the book and that they will have to accept some reviews that are less than 4 or 5 stars. I agree that we do not review for the sake of the authors, but for the sake of other readers, and if I only ever gave 5 star reviews, they would become meaningless.


message 15: by Sheila (new)

Sheila | 62 comments That raises the issue of everyone's criteria for star rating which must vary. I have never put a 1 or 2* For example if the book is a fair read and you enjoyed it - that should be 3 stars - a book you can't bring to mind a week or a month ahead. 4 * for that extra connect (plot, structure, characters) and leave 5* for the exceptional book you know you will never forget.


message 16: by Sheila (new)

Sheila | 62 comments P.S I read on the NetGalley FAQ that what you say is more important than the star rating and I wonder at that. If I see a lot of low star ratings on a book I might skip buying it or at best try a sample.


message 17: by Christine (new)

Christine | 2 comments Sheila wrote: "That raises the issue of everyone's criteria for star rating which must vary. I have never put a 1 or 2* For example if the book is a fair read and you enjoyed it - that should be 3 stars - a book ..."

I agree. I don't feel 3 stars is a bad review. But I have seen many people treat it as such.


message 18: by Dee (new)

Dee (austhokie) | 82 comments 3 stars is an average book for me


message 19: by Renee (new)

Renee | 67 comments I thought this was interesting from a publisher's perspective on NG. I saw a book that looked intriguing and since I hadn't requested from the publisher before, I looked at the Approval Preference. This is what they posted:
"Having been on Netgalley for some time I have learned a lot about how our books are treated. Generally, your reviews are wonderful, honest, and we are grateful. However, if you rate books without fully reading them just to show feedback, we rather you didn't. If we see this kind of behavior - which is easy to spot - we will block you. And, if you rather see a book in print, please ORDER it, don't knock the virtual copy if it doesn't measure up to what it might look like "in person." We thank you for taking the time to review HCI titles and hope you'll give this some thought. Stars mean something and especially to authors. Be delicate and thoughtful. I'm sure you'd appreciate the same. Thank you for reading this. We appreciate you! And please follow us on Facebook and Twitter!"


message 20: by Donna (new)

Donna Davis (seattlebookmama) | 115 comments Renee wrote: "I thought this was interesting from a publisher's perspective on NG. I saw a book that looked intriguing and since I hadn't requested from the publisher before, I looked at the Approval Preference...."
I haven't looked at an Approval Preference in a long time, so thanks for the post. And they're right; it is easy to spot. Most DRCs are amazingly well edited. Sometimes the peripheral stuff like author's details (which we can see on GR anyway) and acknowledgments are missing, but I can live with that. It's been a couple of years since I saw a really rough galley, with paragraphs out of whack etc, and that one was for Sara Paretsky, so it was worth it.


message 21: by Robin (new)

Robin (ukamerican) | 87 comments "However, if you rate books without fully reading them just to show feedback, we rather you didn't. If we see this kind of behavior - which is easy to spot - we will block you."

Hmm, well, I do rate books without finishing them sometimes, but I don't do it "just to show feedback". I stop reading a book when I've had enough of it, and I rate/review them because I think I have a right to explain why I felt strongly enough about it that I stopped reading it.

These approval preferences sound a little presumptuous, and almost like they are enjoying wielding their powers of approval over the beggars of books. But worse, it sounds like they may actually be blocking people who give negative reviews: "Stars mean something and especially to authors. Be delicate and thoughtful. I'm sure you'd appreciate the same."

Fortunately, I can't say I've ever heard of HCI, much less requested any of their books.


message 22: by SundayAtDusk (last edited Jun 25, 2018 11:13PM) (new)

SundayAtDusk | 100 comments HCI Publisher: Be delicate and thoughtful. I'm sure you'd appreciate the same.

Thoughtful, always. Delicate, no. You treat babies in a delicate manner, not adults.

Amazon started treating 3-star reviews as "critical", within the last 10 years, because they obviously did not want to show a 1 or 2-star review as the "Top Critical Review", if they did not have to do so. Thus, for example, instead of a 2-star review with 50 positive votes being the top critical one, a 3-star review with five votes would be it. If a 3-star review was not available, than a 1 or 2-star review would have to be the top one. I think they still do that most of the time, but really don't pay that much attention any longer to the "top review", either positive or critical, since the top ones often have far less positive votes than other reviews for the book. This is one of the big and odd lies Amazon tells about reviews.


message 23: by Emily (new)

Emily Veinglory | 7 comments As long as the review is accurate and emotionally neutral, I don't see it as a matter of kind or unkind. Being honest is important for the integrity of the system.


message 24: by Elaine (new)

Elaine Howlin (elainehowlinbooks) Emily wrote: "As long as the review is accurate and emotionally neutral, I don't see it as a matter of kind or unkind. Being honest is important for the integrity of the system."

I agree with you on this


message 25: by Mirkat (new)

Mirkat | 11 comments Three stars in Goodreads = "I liked it." (If you mouse over each star rating under the thumbnail for a book, on its book page, you get the Goodreads suggested scale for each. * = "did not like it"; ** = "it was ok"; *** = "liked it"; **** = "really liked it"; ***** = "it was amazing")


message 26: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) Mirkat wrote: "Three stars in Goodreads = "I liked it." (If you mouse over each star rating under the thumbnail for a book, on its book page, you get the Goodreads suggested scale for each. * = "did not like it";..."

yes, this is GoodReads suggested scale; however publishers don't view 3 stars in the same manner.


message 27: by Mirkat (new)

Mirkat | 11 comments Right--I guess publishers view anything below **** as an insult....


message 28: by Nomadic Librarian (last edited Feb 24, 2019 11:18AM) (new)

Nomadic Librarian (sgpeters) I just joined NG this month but already had a book I couldn’t finish. I gave it one * only because there is no zero. I honestly couldn’t understand how it got published. Only after I posted my review did I check on the publisher, BHC Press. Turns out they’re what they called a “hybrid” publisher which is just a glorified self-publisher. Although they claim to not accept all submissions, they charge authors a $950 fee. My feeling is that, if you can’t get a legit publisher, then you really need to be able to accept constructive criticism in order to improve. I know it seems harsh, but reviewers are your only honest feedback. I don’t think I’m doing any fledgling author a favor by reserving my negative comments.

It was also a lesson to me that not all publishers on NG are legit. I’m paying much closer attention now, especially since 4 other books I requested (and had approved) on my first day are already released and all self-published. I’m probably not going to bother reading them since I have so many others (80+ already), but not doing so will affect my feedback score to a small extent.


message 29: by Dee (new)

Dee (austhokie) | 82 comments not all self-published books are bad - I know many authors who were traditionally published and also self-publish because they don't want to be stuck within the confines of what is the current IT thing - so don't discredit them all because of a bad experience


message 30: by Nomadic Librarian (last edited Feb 24, 2019 11:51AM) (new)

Nomadic Librarian (sgpeters) Dee wrote: "not all self-published books are bad - I know many authors who were traditionally published and also self-publish because they don't want to be stuck within the confines of what is the current IT t..."

You’re right. I’ll keep an open mind, but will still probably stear clear of authors who haven’t been traditionally published.


Dorie  - Cats&Books :)  (dorie--catsbooks) | 489 comments Sarah wrote: "Dee wrote: "not all self-published books are bad - I know many authors who were traditionally published and also self-publish because they don't want to be stuck within the confines of what is the ..."

Oh please do keep an open mind. In my 4 years of reviewing I have read many good, interesting books from small, independent publishing houses. An example would be Across the Great Lake by Lee Zacharias , published by University of Wisconsin Press, which was a well written story that I enjoyed with a wonderful young protagonist :)


message 32: by Dee (new)

Dee (austhokie) | 82 comments Sarah wrote: "Dee wrote: "not all self-published books are bad - I know many authors who were traditionally published and also self-publish because they don't want to be stuck within the confines of what is the ..."

then you are potentially missing out on that diamond in the rough...


Nomadic Librarian (sgpeters) Dee wrote: "Sarah wrote: "Dee wrote: "not all self-published books are bad - I know many authors who were traditionally published and also self-publish because they don't want to be stuck within the confines o..."

Yes, probably. If I see one that has good reviews, I’ll take a closer look. There are just so many books I’ll never get to read. I wish there were more hours in the day.


message 34: by Dee (new)

Dee (austhokie) | 82 comments I have more books on my pile than I could ever read and yet it doesn't stop me from requesting more or adding more books to my TBR list (I just added like 20 books today that i'm going to request from the library) - rarely if ever do I look at reviews prior (I may glance to see what GR friends have given - but I don't use them as a make-break decision)


message 35: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 4 comments I have no qualms whatsoever about writing a one or two star review if I don't like a book. The point is to be honest and let other readers know what I thought. I really appreciate negative reviews of books I'm thinking of reading, especially if they say why they didn't like it, so I know if it sounds like a reason that would also put me off the book (sometimes, negative review make me want to read the book!). So I do try to say why I didn't like it, so other readers will be able to make informed decisions.


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