Why No Negative Reviews?

Not too long ago, I was asked why I didn’t seem to ever post a negative review here. As a matter of fact, very few of the reviews I write are negative, no matter where they appear. The reason why I don’t seem to write negative reviews is simple: it’s because I actually don’t write negative reviews.

If I think a book or a product is junk, I simply won’t write about it, in most cases. I’m certainly not going to waste space on it here and I’m not going to waste my own time on it either. I have only so many hours each day and I really have no interest in reading something that is poorly put together in any way. I receive plenty of review copies I never write about. I even buy more than a few products specifically for reviews that I wind up not writing about. That may be life, but I don’t feel a need to put less-than-great stuff in front of you.

Similarly, unless I have a very good reason, I’m not going to pitch one of the editors I write for on a review of something that their readers don’t need or want. It’s partly a matter of making sure that I land the assignment and get paid, but it’s also is due to the fact that I’d prefer to review something that I find enjoyable to write about. Finding a pleasant and new way to express that a particularly book will hopefully be remaindered soon is not a great use of my time.

The Exceptions

There are some situations in which I will write a negative review, although they are few and far between.

  • If I find a product that seems to be universally reviewed well but I find problems with, I’ll write up those problems in the form of a review.
  • If an editor requests a specific review, I will do it — I do like my paychecks, after all.
  • If a review, even negative, is truly relevant to what I’m writing about. This category is particularly rare and is typically limited to ‘You’re doing it wrong!’ reviews.

I don’t give positive reviews just because I know the author of the book. If I did that, I’d have to read books that family members have written, such as how to manage the serial collection at a large library — I love my family and far too many of us are writers of some sort.

I also don’t give positive reviews due to affiliate programs and other monetary considerations. While a nice steak dinner may bump a book to the top of my to-read pile, that’s as far as financial considerations will extend. I will promote (vigorously, even) products that I believe in and if they have an affiliate program, so much the better. But we have to be talking about a quality product to begin with. And any time I post an affiliate link, you’re free to use it in such a manner that I don’t get a commission, if that’s a big concern for you. I’d rather you don’t — I have hosting fees and a mortgage — but it’s not a big deal to me either way.


  1. Jade Craven   •  

    I never write negative reviews. I do a lot of reviews elsewhere. Usually, the audience is quite savvy. People will get angry if someone dares draw attention to a poor quality product.

    I’ll draw attention to the faults in products that are average but I will also talk about why its useful. If its a poor quality product I’ll refuse to talk about it unless someone asks directly for my opinion.

  2. thursday   •     Author

    @Jade, I think that you’ve got a good point: most readers will complain if you try to draw their attention to poor quality products, although everyone wants to know the potential flaws in a product before releasing it.

  3. Jenn Mattern   •  

    I fall somewhere in between. If something is awful, I don’t review it, because any mention of it / link to it can be seen as an endorsement in its own right. But I also don’t approve of “glowy” reviews and I don’t take them seriously when I read them. I believe in balanced reviews. Absolutely nothing is perfect, and shouldn’t be reviewed as such. There will always be suggestions for improvements or some kind of potential problem, no matter how great something is overall. If I’m going to bother to write a review, my readers know they’ll hear about those things right alongside the good. My goal is to tell them what they can really expect — never to make it sound like something is great for everyone, because that would be disingenuous at best. It doesn’t mean I’m going to attack a product / service, but the problems are usually covered in the form of suggestions should they release a new version down the road. I find the balanced approach tends to make readers trust the reviews more (both as a writer and reader of reviews).

  4. Farouk   •  

    that makes a lot of sense, people want to know about good books not bad ones

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