Negative Reviews in Children’s Books: How many Stars is Bad?

star pack

Let’s Shake up Saturday.

There is a big discussion going on at a LinkedIn group called Book Indie Review and Promotion. The question is:

“Do you think it’s your duty to write a bad review to warn other readers not to bother with a book, or do you just pass?”

What do you think? Should someone on Amazon–or a review site–write negative reviews or or not bother with the book? Here is my question for you:

“How valuable, or trustworthy, is a review site that only contains 4 and 5 star reviews?”

I love this answer, to the original LinkedIn question, by Byron Edgington:

“I’ve commented once already, but allow me to add another thought. With the advent of simple, reliable self-publishing venues and the stream of publications entering the marketplace—north of 3,000 per day, depending on the source—I believe it is incumbent on all of us independent writers to ‘police’ ourselves and our colleagues by being open, frank and brutally honest about the quality of work. If that means submitting what the author feels is a horrible review, so be it. That makes the great ones stand out as objective and raises the bar.”

This may come as a surprise to my readers, but some have accused me of writing negative reviews and they were not happy that I did. Do I write negative reviews? Are they horrible reviews? Hm, I do not know what a horrible review would look like, or what I would feel if I received a negative review. At least not yet. There are a few people who know what it feels like and I just happened upon a few of them.

REACHING FOR THE STARS

rect happy star
(Disclaimer: We lurve kids, of course, but this is for teens and adults only.)

From the Noblemania blog

These are just three of the first six “chapters, ” all from Noblemania.  How many more will depend on how many horribly off-the-wall reveiws children’s authors get and those authors willing to share their “failure” with us.  If you would like to see the three other videos in this series, here are the links:

Episodes 1, 2, and 3:  http://noblemania.blogspot.com/2014/01/childrens-authors-read-reviews-of-their.html

Episodes 4, 5. and 6:  http://noblemania.blogspot.com/2014/02/childrens-authors-read-reviews-of-their.html

 

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

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26 thoughts on “Negative Reviews in Children’s Books: How many Stars is Bad?

  1. We just watched the videos – and had seen them once before – they are so lovely to watch for other authors. Neighbor Girl REALLY appreciated them. Your reviews are well done, Sue. We think there is a difference between book review sites and then the blogs that do occasional reviews (such as us) – since we’d rather spend time writing than reviewing, we only take the time to review books that we like or love.
    Thanks for all you do!
    The Entire S&K Gang

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  2. Sue, I can’t help but wonder if this is a new discussion or one that was revived from last year. I had gotten involved in that one and I remember it getting heated! It was about the value of star ratings seeing as it’s difficult to know if they’re genuine.

    Anyway, since I’ve been following your blog, I’ve always been impressed your ability to assess a book from all angles and hit the nail on the head as far as what you mention. It helps your readers decide whether or not a book is worth checking out. Of course, it can be difficult on the author’s end if the review isn’t all fireworks and confetti, but often times the work really doesn’t warrant that. Whenever you’ve had a “negative” comment to make, it has always seemed valid by the way you make it and the reasons behind your comments. To me, that’s valuable reviewing.

    So, long story short: honesty’s the best policy, but there’s no need to be nasty about it when it’s negative. You’re always tactful 😀

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    • Thanks. I appreciate that. It is exactly what I try t do. That and have the final paragraph be positive. What did you think of the kidlit authors and the “bad” reviews they responded to? Some of the reviews were crazy. I have read a few at Amazon like that. I even defended the author on one that only said the book was “bad, bad, bad” and then a bad word four times nothing else. It was nasty , rude, and out of place. Why Amazon allows those is beyond me. They should take those down and ban the person if they do it again.

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      • Oh, I think this new trend of authors (celebs, etc.) reading bad reviews or comments is pretty funny, though I would imagine it doesn’t feel good, even if you do try to have a sense of humor about them. I would think it’s easy to fluff off the obvious “idiots” though. Some you can tell are just done with mean intent (I’ve never understood this mentality, but we live in a world of hurtful people), and some are simply strongly-felt opinions. Since opinions are naturally subjective, they need to be taken that way. I do think, though, that if there’s a large enough number of reviews which state the same/similar things and are said pretty thoughtfully, there’s usually something to it. None of it, positive or negative, guarantees popularity, a bestseller or a bomb. There are great books that get trashed, and lousy ones that sell off the charts. Go figure! I can tell you I do know of one book I read reviews for which had probably a 50/50 breakdown of positive vs. negative. Some people literally raved about this book, and others had the opposite opinion. I happened to agree with the negative opinions, having read the book : / but there IS a way of stating you don’t like something without having to be cutting and hurtful.

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  3. Those videos were hilarious! I, for one, appreciate your honest reviews. You make note of problem areas and find positive things to say as well. As I am not a “professional” reviewer, I just like to share books that I like.

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    • It is not easy writing a bad sentence about a book. I thought it would be “no big deal” but it is. I thought some of the author in the videos were terrific. I loved the one accused of swearing in a YA novel (may not be one of these three), and the ones who pull their book in close to protect it from the bad words. I bet this felt good to those author. I am just glad none of those words belonged to me. 🙂

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  4. I’ve always found your reviews very constructive, Sue. Reviews are strictly someone’s opinion. There will always be haters in the world, full of negativity. It’s hard to laugh off a bad review, but the authors did a stellar job of doing just that. That shows real class. I loved the reviews where the parent had to hide the book to keep from having to read it to their child AGAIN. That says it all and what it is all about!

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    • I thought that was hilarious, too! If you’re hiding the book does not keep your child from reading it and insisting you read it to them . . . it is NOT a bad book. I guess some just do not understand. I don’t know what I would say if I wrote a book and received a “bad” review. If it is on a website, you can usually find out who owns it and their address. Maybe I would start there. hehe 🙂 How would you handle it if Lobo was trashed?

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      • Are you saying you’d hunt them down? Yikes! Being the sensitive wolf that I am, I’d cry my eyes out. I’d probably hide in my den for weeks, not eating or sleeping, all while realizing that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. ; )

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        • Nah, I’d never hunt you down Lobo. The author, maybe, but not you. You are too cute. Even my kitties like you. Truth is, if or rather when, I get a negative review I will probably pout for a while and then double check to verify if what was said was true or not. Then let it go, or fix it. Least that is what I hope I do. You should not worry, if your author keeps up the writing, giving you the good stuff to read. No hiding out for you. I was just making a joke. 🙂

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  5. I usually only bother to post negative reviews if it’s a really popular book where I think my opinion is significantly different from what everyone else is saying and if I felt enough about it to post. If it’s a little indie book, I don’t see a point in hurting an author’s feelings just to say something bad about a book people wouldn’t have heard of otherwise. But I only post on my own blog, not on Amazon or GoodReads.

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    • I think the majority of the negative reviews the authors are responding to are from Amazon. I am starting to understand what you mean about indie books. I had not thought of it this way.

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  6. These videos made me laugh, especially Ms. Mass saying “I was 35 when I wrote this – THIRTY-FIVE!!!” 🙂 You write good reviews. Except when you review a book before me. Then, they’re horrible. 😛 I try to be polite about books I don’t really like and not just say it stunk up the house when I read it but more like I didn’t like how a certain character acted or I thought the plot didn’t make sense at times – things like that.

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    • Yeah like 35 is old . . right? Right?! “You write good reviews,” sorry Erik but that sounds like Tarzan. Are you Tarzan now? He won’t rule the world some day. 🙂 I love the phrase “stunk up the house” that is terrific. I would love to read that in one of your reviews. Sorry I beat you to the review, once every ten or so mutual reviews. Think how I feel, having to leave a pleasant comment after you have reviewed my book first. 😀 You write excellent reviews. Seriously, look at all the people who not only read yours but comment, too. You write good.

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  7. If someone spends money on a product, no matter what it is, surely they have a right to offer feedback. Sure, there’s a big difference between a book and a refrigerator. The latter should work in a particular way and if it fails to do so, there’s clearly an issue. Books, on the other hand, are a more subjective proposition, which is why it’s vital that the review process be approached with a high degree of objectivity.

    By the same token, anyone willing to offer negative critique should also provide positive reviews where they’re due. Criticism for its own sake is plain wrong.

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    • I agree that reviews need to be as objective as possible, but it is hard to not be subjective, especially if one liked the book. I absolutely agree that anything viewed as negative should be backed up by explaining why. I think the same goes for positive remarks, but those are easy to write. Craig, thanks for offering your views.

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  8. This is a very interesting question, Sue! I guess I take a different tactic. I don’t review books that I can’t give at least 3 stars to. If I read a book I think I would give a 2 or a 1 star to I don’t review it. This does not mean that I’m artificially inflating the number of stars for the books I do review. If I give a book 3, 4 or 5 stars that’s because I genuinely think it deserves that. But given that I know how hard it is to write a book, and given that NO book is going to meet with everyone’s approval, and that some people love books that other people hate, I just don’t see the need to write a negative review. Mine is just one opinion… and maybe it’s influenced by one too many bad reviews of my own books 🙂 What I really don’t like is when people give you 1 star and don’t say why!

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    • First, thank you for commenting. I agree with you that 1 stars/ no reason why “reviews” are very bad. Regardless of the number of stars, 5 included, reasons should be given to support the number of stars given. I have seen many reviews at a book sellers site that seem to be vicious and nothing more. When someone say a book is ‘F. ., F. . ., F. . . (word spelled out) BAD, this says nothing and is filled with hate, but of what? The book or the author? But why? I just recently defended by comment to this exact “review.” I do not get those. I don’t think it is bad or negative to say something you didn’t like and why or that you think this or that was whatever – as long as you justify the remark. Thanks again, Susanna. I cannot image, though, anyone berating one of your books. I really can’t.

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  9. There’s writing an honestly negative review and then there’s just bad manners. I’m sure you’re not bad mannered. Some of these reviewers are, though. At least these authors can have a laugh. It made me giggle.

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    • Yes, I loved some of the exaggerated responses. Obviously these authors take bad reviews in stride. You are correct, I am NOT bad mannered. There is no reason to attack the author, use foul language, or condemn a book. Most every book has at least one good redeeming factor a reviewer can mention. Reviews should, in my opinion, end on a positive note.

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