Is it ever OK to post a bad review?


Having a wee Throwback Thursday post today. This week I had a wee chat with Bookspume about whether it’s OK to leave bad reviews for books we get sent, or if its nicer to just say nothing, bury them in the garden, and pretend they never happened.

If you don’t have anything nice to say, and all that.

It reminded me of a post from a few years ago, so rather than write it all again, here’s some old stuff for you (with the odd error changed):

Is it ever OK to post a bad review?

As a blogger who reviews things, I occasionally get sent stuff from people to transform into words.  When this happens Rule Number One is always:

Make it clear to your audience that your opinions haven’t been bought.

Shiny New Thing doesn’t equal Glowing Review.

The other day I posted a review of The Reluctant Yogi. Needless to say, I didn’t rate it and my review reflected this completely. I also didn’t rate Gone Girl much, and didn’t reel in my terrible opinion of  it.

I felt justified about posting these less than glowing reviews; I had invested a lot of my time reading the books (time which could have been sent reading my first Austen or something), not to mention the pennies I spent.

Particularly in the case of Gone Girl, I also felt a need…


…an OBLIGATION, to give a bit of balance to a world gone bonkers for it.

But, like I say, I paid for these books and when it comes to my dollar I don’t mind saying my piece.

However, what about all those books you get for free?

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When you blog, or sell books for a living, you are often sent proof copies of new titles. The intention is that these free books are read and reviewed in return. Hopefully the result is that they are loved, adored and pushed into as many people’s hands as possible.

When you pick up a proof and love it, this is the greatest gift possible. You feel stunned that you would have been gifted this thing of utter joy! You want to track down the person at the publisher’s office who sent it and give them a Starbucks gift card or something.

Writing about these books is dead easy. That is a joy. And that makes everyone happy.

The hard thing about getting free books to review, especially when you request them, is ending up hating them.

This happened at the weekend. I began reading something I requested, and though it started out pretty well, it wasn’t long before I was going:

“errr…can I have a plot please Bob?”

Then I started getting annoyed by the characters, then the writing style, then the ending made me crazy. And I thought:

“Great! I’m going to have to review this, and be all honest and stuff, and what if the author reads it and hates me?”

And that’s the thing, in our Twitter world it’s like the author you are reviewing is sitting right next to you, reading over your shoulder as you type.

It’s hard to not to cringe about that.

So?!” I hear you cry, “Grow up you big baby, this is the nature of the gig, and surely this is just the same thing as being sent some turd without asking for it? they didn’t have to send it to you and they have sent it to you in the full knowledge that you MAY hate it and tell people this. This is their JOB.”

It’s true, no-one purposefully asks for turd in order to write about turd, and I totally understand that people dishing out false praise in return for books is pointless and downright nauseating.

But should you just keep quiet if you don’t like something, let the publisher know on the side, all subtle like, without telling everyone you know (and quite possibly the author) how much something made you want to punch holes in your face?

What about when this, totally made-up-in-my-head-paranoid-scenario, happens:

Publisher: “Hi! Such a gorgeous day today! Wow, makes you glad to be alive and in the sending out books market! Did you get a chance to read [book]? Just wondering what you made of it, really looking forward to hearing your thoughts!”

Me: *in head* Oh no! It’s them, they have come for me about that pile of discharging honk I just burned in the garden. They seem really lovely! Just like their twitter picture promised they’d be. I’m going to have to hurt them, hurt that wonderful person and their client with my stabby words…” Yeeeeeeah…..about that…..thanks for sending it, I really loved the chocolates you popped in, really…..really sweet gesture…they are my absolute favourites, and the embossed bookmark…so lovely. Thing is….that book made me want to die.”

Publisher: I see…… did request it though, kinda makes me think like perhaps you shouldn’t have done that.

Me: Yeeeeeeah.

I know! I am being totally melodramatic. Publishers know the deal, authors know the deal. Publishers can be totally generous; I’ve been sent chocolates, boxes of tea, Eyes Wide Shut type eye masks (don’t ask) – but that is their choice. Gifts don’t make the book, and the book is the most important thing in any box of marketing.


Whether you have paid for a book in money shouldn’t matter, you always pay with your time no matter what, and when you love books there is nothing worse than feeling cheated out of numerous hours that could have been spent reading something better.

Also, if there is one thing I have learnt about book blogs, there are plenty of opinions, good and bad, to go round!

What do you think? How did you feel when you posted your first bad review of a proof? Did you feel dirty for more or did it put you off? Do I need to calm it?