Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What makes a bad book

I have a couple friends who have had some really harsh reviews lately. I KNOW this is part of the business. I know it is to be expected. We all have to get used to it because it will happen to all of us at one point or another in our careers. What gets me is books are getting bad reviews, or in some situations torn apart, not because it's a bad book per se but for reasons that to me don't make a book bad. In my opinion bad writing makes a bad book. A story that doesn't flow well, if the writer doesn't know the facts on a subject they're writing about, or a book that doesn't make sense makes a bad book. A story that surprised me by throwing in elements of a sub genre I didn't expected? That doesn't necessarily make a bad book. Yeah it may make the book not for me. Not what I expected and I DO believe that a reader has the right to KNOW what kind of book they're getting when they buy it but me, as a reader or reviewer, not liking elements of a different sub genre alone, don't make it a bad book. Is there a way to give that book an honest review, without grading it low but by stressing what made it difficult for you?

I think some times it's hard to draw that line between a bad book and a book that just didn't do it for ME or YOU specifically. Does a book deserve a bad review just because it doesn't work for me? Maybe, maybe not. I think it depends on how the reviewer goes about the review. I do believe that they should be honest. They put their time into reading the book that they should be able to say how they feel about it but if it isn't a BAD book, just not the right one for you, isn't there a way to say that without completely ripping the book apart?

Someone I know had a review done where a conversation about the book by the reviewers was posted. She signed up for this. She knew ahead of time what would happen but her book was ripped apart. Some of the concerns were valid. I completely understand it but others were going on and on about how they don't like books set in this time period so that's why they had a hard time with it. I'll say it again, that doesn't make the book bad. I don't think reviewers should have to read books they aren't interested in. I also think reviews, where situations like the above occur, should get an honest review but one that doesn't purely grade that book on elements that a reviewer may not have been into, but on the book itself. The writing, the characters. Is that even possible? I don't know....


Regina Carlysle said...

This topic couldn't be more timely for me because I just got a bad review a few days ago. The book has gotten great reviews so I wasn't too upset, especially considering the reviewer had trashed about a dozen books at the same time she'd trashed mine. Sensing a trend here, I just chalked it up to my bad luck. I'd introduced a series and she didn't like the fact I mentioned the characters who would show up in later stories and she hated my hero and my heroine. Okay. Her opinion. I gave myself about thirty minutes to poke out my bottom lip and pout and then I moved on. The book just didn't ring her bells.

What REALLY bothers me are the things you mentioned, Kell. I've seen reviewers trash books simply because they were SHORT. Okay. Don't like short books? Don't choose them to review. If a book says QUICKIE...expect a QUICKIE.

I've also noticed reviews that trash a book because they don't enjoy the genre. That's just dumb. Bad reviews based on such faulty logic don't deserve a second thought. Normally, I post my reviews on my website or blog but books that have been judged because of genre preference don't get posted nor does their website get a link from me.

Anne Rainey said...

I'm with you on this 100%!! If there are things in a book that don't do it for you, that's okay, but don't trash the author, the book, her entire family, her LIFE just because you didn't like an aspect of the plot.

A review should sum up the book, and then giving an opinion. Tell what you liked and what you didn't like. If there were a lot of grammar mistakes, or plot holes, mention it. But, keep the stupid crap to yourself. The snarky nonsense I see on the net really does get on my nerves. It’s so highschool.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ms. Booktrasher-authorbasher,

Do your credentials qualify you to review books and are they listed anywhere for public view?
What was the score of your last comprehension test?
Have you ever written a romance novel and tried to get it published?

Professional Romance Author -
Spreading love and hope to the masses.

(So what are *you* spreading, Ms. Booktrasher-authorbasher? Most likely something only my lawn and garden would benefit from.)

Isabel Roman said...

I tend to agree. I admit to not liking certain genres (don't we all) but I don't read them. Why would I? If you read something you don't like OF COURSE you're going to trash it.

I'm not sure about a subplot that goes in a different direction I think it should go but then again I'm not reading MY work but someone else's. They're entitled to go in whatever direction they want. So long as it makes sense. :)

Kelley Nyrae said...

Yeah, I don't get it.

Regina Carlysle said...

You know, I have no problem with reviewers. They do us a service and for the most part,help us promote our work but listing us on sites or whatever. But you have to wonder about the reviewer who doesn't seem to like anything.Does she want to be perceived as a badass or is she a frustrated writer? Who the heck knows.

Unknown said...

I read a review once where the reviewer said she didn't like the genre to begin with. Did she like the book, no. Why didn't she ask someone who liked the genre to review it? I can't imagine. I knew it was wrong, that's for sure.

What makes a book unreadable for a person doesn't make it bad, it's just not for that person.

I tried to read two books recently that I could not finish. They weren't bad, I just couldn't get into them.

I don't know what makes a bad book but I know a lot of stuff that doesn't.

Julie Robinson said...

Great topic for a blog, Kelley. The problem with bad reviews is that other people, not knowing about the reviewer's likes or dislikes, will take the review at face value. You would hope that a reviewer who didn't like a certain genre plainly stated that s/he did not like that genre. This way, the innocent bystander/reader would know that the review is biased, and therefore, flawed.

We would hope, like any media outlet, that a review would be an objective analysis so that OTHER readers could decide if they like the story or not. A subjective/negative review subtly tells the reader, "Hey I didn't like this book and therefore you shouldn't either" without taking into account personal preferences.