Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Value of the Negative Review

Maybe I'm a weird monkey, but for some reason when I'm checking out a new book to read sometimes it's the negative reviews that decide me and not the positive ones. When I see too many positive reviews that just say, "RAH RAH RAH, SWOON, YAY, AWESOME book" I start to wonder why there's no thoughtful dialogue about the story, the characters, the writing... I mean, we're talking erotica, so yeah, I get that there's swooning and hotness and masturbation involved. And obviously that's "rah rah rah"-worthy and super awesome. Hence, "yay." It's expected. But then there's the actual story, you know ... the plot, the development, the protagonists, the nuance, the feelings all those things combined stir in you, the reader. And, no, I'm not talking about those feelings. I mean, connecting with the story, feeling anger, worry, happiness, suspense, etc. Sometimes the negative reviews talk more about those things than the positive "rah rah rah" reviews.

When I read a review, any review, I try to consider the source. Who is this person and how will that affect their opinion? I'm talking about erotica books here, and since it's me, to be more specific, I'm talking about BDSM, Domestic Discipline, or Dubious Consent/Dark Erotica, all with Alpha Male/Male Dom scenarios. So I run into a lot of reviewers who rate low because they don't understand the dynamic and mistake it for abuse. Or maybe the reviewer has a misguided idea of what feminism means and mistakes the books in this genre as misogynistic. This type of feedback pretty much tells me that the book is most likely right up my alley.

Then there's the constructive negative reviews that provide valuable reader feedback. I'm not much of an author right now, but I've scribbled things here and there. I wrote the sex column for my college paper and always valued feedback from my readers, whether it was positive or negative. It gave me an idea of whether I was reaching my audience and stirring up strong feelings. Whether they be positive or negative, it is very important for a writer. Sometimes, taking a risk and pissing a lot of people off is actually a good thing! I know it's hard to believe, but there it is. All press is good press and if people react strongly, they will talk about your book, which then stirs up more interest and more conversation and more exposure and so on and so forth.

I actually just started a book based on a negative review. It was a constructive review. Just one person's opinion that the realism was lacking, which prevented her from being able to connect to the characters. Okay, that should put me off, right? Right. But I had already seen some praise for the quality of the development of the story and realism and such. So, instead of turning me off, this review made me INSANELY curious. I NEEDED to buy and read said book like right away and find out if she was right. All the positive reviews didn't rev up my interest the same way. Conclusion? Controversy stirs interest.

I know you're all dying to know whether the negative review had it right and if this book sucked hairy monkey balls. You should be very pleased to find out that the reviewer was sorely mistaken, in my view, and I loved the book and probably wouldn't have bought it if this misguided soul hadn't said those awful things about it in her little opinion corner. I tend to write and post my entries out of order, so my review for said book was published a few weeks ago. It'd be fun to see if you can figure out which one it is - feel free to leave a comment with you guess. 


  1. I've also been inspired to read a book by the negative reviews. And I've noticed that reviews for other products run similar to book reviews. I recently purchased a pogo stick. One Amazon reviewer said, "It's okay, but all you do is jump around."

    One's expectations often influence reviews.

    I've noticed with DD fiction, some "vanilla" readers find it too extreme, while BDSM readers find it too mild.

    1. So true re: expectations influencing the reviews.

      The DD genre has a hard time among people who don't quite understand what it is. But I think it's expanding now and getting more popular as more people are understanding the difference between DD and BDSM and vanilla.

  2. I love this post. There. A good review for you!

    Seriously, I don't put much stock in reviews when I shop for books for myself, because I usually know what I want and I'm there to buy it. Or even buy everything that author has, all at once.

    Sometimes I'll see a bunch of bad reviews, though, as you said, and it piques my interest. And I do glean a lot from the writing of the bad review: the technical prowess, spelling, and grammar. Those things tell me a lot as to ... credibility of the reviewer. Just my two cents. YMMV. :)

    1. Hah! Thanks. I love a good review! Cause everything I write is so amazing. (right...I sooo believe that... which explains why I wait like 2 weeks before posting something I write)

      I do read reviews for authors that are completely new to me, but I don't necessarily give them too much credence, unless I know that the reviewer's preferences are completely in line with my own. Which, let's face it, is not a common phenomenon (cause when it comes to romance, I only read alpha male stories). I usually get a sample and then make the decision based on that, but then so often the book starts out so great and then degenerates into silliness (or insert a better suited deprecating word of your choice) by the end. I've had that happen (more times than I'd like to admit), so I don't buy blind anymore... well, not everything they have out, at least.

      And, yes! Whenever I see a reviewer rant about the poor editing and grammar of the book they're tearing apart, but don't know the difference between then and than, it just makes me chuckle.