Why Negative Reviews are Good

A negative review is not bad.

A bad review is when someone gives one star on Amazon and says, “I don’t know if I like this book. I haven’t read it yet.” That calls for reporting, except I’m not sure it helps to report someone who’s not clever enough to figure out that when Amazon sends you an email asking “What did you think of this?” an immediate answer is not obligatory.

A bad review is when someone gives five stars on Goodreads and says, “ZOMG This book was like, so totally awesome I was all …” and then they follow it up with 18 gifs that have no meaning to you because you haven’t seen those TV shows.

© Disney

Use your words, people.

A negative review, by contrast, is a well-reasoned statement for why the reviewer didn’t like the book. A well-placed negative review may very well sell a book to someone whose tastes differ from the reviewer. I, for one, have bought romance novels because someone wrote a review that said something like, “This was well-written, but I’m disappointed because there’s no sex and the characters are always praying.” Sold!

Besides, when a book has nothing but five-star reviews, it looks like the author is paying people to leave positive reviews … or at least cajoling family and friends into doing so.

All of which is prelude to my pointing out that Alara’s Call got its first two-star review, offered here verbatim, which is to say [sic]:

The writing is very good, the characters believeable but what I really dislike is the idea of a female God. This goes against the bible and the author says she is a christian ?
No thank you, this goes against evrything the bible says and I immediately erased it from my kindle.

As much as it stings to have someone who doesn’t even know me question the sincerity of my faith, I appreciate the reviewer’s effort in leaving any review at all. And by calling attention to the thing that offended the reviewer the most, perhaps that review will have a few of my fellow feminists saying Sold! to Alara’s Call.

Besides, all the four-and five-star reviews, including Gretchen’s review and this fabulous review by Katherine Coble more than make up for it.

About Kristen Stieffel

Kristen Stieffel is a writer and freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction. She's a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Christian Editor Connection, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

3 comments on “Why Negative Reviews are Good

  1. My one star review for The Blacksmith’s Gift:

    I need to point out that this book is misrepresented on the site. From reading what Amazon says, it sounds like a great Christmas story with a bit of Norwegian Heritage. The book just arrived. I haven’t read it, and I don’t plan to. In fact, I’m going to return it!!! Here is what it says on the back of the book:

    “Not only is a beautiful dollhouse created, but purpose is found, the love of God is revealed, and something legendary is born.”

    Nowhere on the Amazon site does it mention that this is a religious based book. I was not looking for a religious book, nor do I want one. Please be aware that it’s not just a secular Christmas story with Santa.

    Of course, she has actually no idea of the book content, having only read the back cover blurb, and makes multiple assumptions. Ah well.

  2. This was a balk-point for me the first time I read the book, but I suspended judgment a bit, and realized I wouldn’t even have blinked at the idea of a creator goddess in a “secular” fantasy book. My real issue was – like your reviewer’s – your claim to be a Christian, but you wrote a story that completely conflicted with my understanding of Christian theology. Yet this is exactly the purpose of speculative fiction. Asking “what if?” I finished the story, and took the opportunity to reexamine my own worldview and what God does say about male and female.
    It was also an opportunity to examine the meaning of speculative fiction, which for any author other than the Christian, is just called “fiction.” We’re the only ones who have to justify writing stories that don’t completely follow every established Biblical tenet because someone may think we’re blowing our witness for Christ. I am not my story. I am not my characters. I am a person who is trying to work out truth with fear and trembling and this is one way I’m doing it.

  3. This is a brave post. I like that you not only accept your two-star review, but you own it. You know you can’t please all readers and appreciate this person for even leaving a review. This is what I strive for. Thank you for sharing. BTW- I so want to read your book now.

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