Hints & Tips

Negative Reviews: Honesty is the best policy

Bad or negative  reviews – something that no one really likes writing or posting, or sharing. There is that little element of guilt, that accompanies bad reviews. But why should you or, we, rather, feel guilty for being honest.

Advanced Reader Copies or ARC’s for short, are sent out for this exact reason, not only to create some hype around the titles release date, but also for honest reviews. Even if you didn’t like the book, by posting, ranting, blogging, videoing, about it, you are creating chatter. You are creating a conversation about the book, and that is exactly what the publishers want.

When I started reviewing for NetGalley, I never posted one bad review. I always took the one thing I liked about a book and focused on that, not really sharing my thoughts or impressions. But slowly, my desire to review books started to dwindle, I wasn’t being honest to myself, the publisher or to the people I was talking to, about the books I was reading. It started to make reading un-enjoyable. So out came the honest reviews. And you want to know something, since I have started posting negative reviews, I have been approved for so many more titles through NetGalley, and received more comments on my GoodReads and have been approached by more authors and publishing companies. My thoughts on this are, people want honesty, they want to be told whether something is worthy of their time or not. They want to know exactly what it was about a title that made you go “Hmm this one just isn’t for me.

I will say though, writing a negative or bad review, is something to tread carefully with. You can’t just write “I hated it.” and click submit. If you didn’t like it, make sure you can support that claim with valid reasoning.

Here are a few of my go-to, how I rate a book, standards, that may help you to write your negative review, in a nice way. While still remaining honest and up front.

  • Disconnect from the protagonist.
    • Sometimes the protagonist, just isn’t relatable, which makes finding that connection to the novel that much harder to achieve. What makes you have that disconnect? Are they too different from you? Do you find them naive? Is the protagonist a person who you wouldn’t like or interact with in the real world?
  • Pacing.
    • This is a big one for me personally, the pace of the novel really helps me with loving or hating. I love a fast-paced book, I find them so much easier to get into, the scenes flow from one to the next and it makes for a fast and enjoyable read.
    • My advice here, is to work out what style of pacing is your favourite, do you like fast-paced like me? Or are you more of a rolling, medium pace fan? Maybe you like the pace to be slow so you can really take in the detail of each moment of the book.
    • Once you have worked out what you like, work out what you don’t like about the other pacing styles. This way if you come across a title with a pacing style you don’t gel with, you have another point to write about
  • Writing Style
    • Now this is a touchy one to write negatively about. Mainly due to the fact that this can seem as though you are attacking the author. So if the writing style is putting you off, make sure you  don’t write something like “The writing style is crap”.
    • I love a more modern writing style, so when I am reading a current novel, published within 2010-2018 and the writing style is more like what you would see in a Jane Austen novel, I tend to write something a little like “The writing style has a Victorian era feel” then I explain how this takes away or adds to the novel. This way you aren’t saying directly that you hate the style. You are diplomatically explaining your opinion with facts or quotes from the text to back your claims (or opinions).
  • “This has been done before”
    • Do you ever have that distinct feeling, while reading that you have read something very similar before? This isn’t uncommon, as all books are inspired by something already produced. But when the similarities are hard to look away from, use this to add to your negative review.
    • I would advise perhaps saying “This novel has a Hunger Games vibe” or somehow, gently comparing it to the other work you have previously read.
  • Overall style, setting and feel
    • Is the style, setting and feel of the book, something you are enjoying? If not, why not? What is it that is making you not want to read on? What is it that isn’t quite right?
    • When writing about these things in your review, it is too tempting to say things like ‘I didn’t like the setting’ but make yourself elaborate, ‘The setting didn’t gel with the story line, it felt forced…’ or ‘I found the setting to be somewhat disconnected with the plot, why are we being told it is constantly raining, when the characters live in Western Australia, where there is only rain in one part of the year and there is no mention of the Wet Season.” You get my drift? Always elaborate on why something isn’t to your liking. It makes for a more honest review and you will feel better about posting something negative.

 

Inspiration for this post came to me while I was typing my own negative reviews on NetGalley. I have more NetGalley hints and tips here if you are interested!

Remember, honesty really is the best policy when it comes to reviewing books, or anything for that matter. If you aren’t going to be honest, why even write the review?

Thanks for reading!

Julie.

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Netgalley: Pros & Cons and how to not get overwhelmed.

As a reader, it is hard not to get over-excited at the idea of free books. It feels almost too good to be true, that all you need to do in return is, write a review, a few hundred words in return for free books at your fingertips… But let me give you a tiny bit of advice, don’t do what I did, when I first found the reader’s utopia, NetGalleynetgalley_logo

I, like many readers before me, found Netgalley, made an account and requested every single title that was in the YA section… big, big mistake. In theory, requesting and being accepted for all of the books, is a dream… In reality it is super over whelming and quite intimidating. And I am here,  three years later, still trying to tackle the list of titles that past me requested… Hence why this post came to the fore-front of my mind.

Let us begin. NetGalley Pros and Cons.

Pros 

  1. Come, on… the first one is blatantly obvious… Free books, and lots of them. There is no submission area for you to plead your case, all you do is choose from the options, why you want to read the book, and press submit. Boom, you are in with a pretty good chance of receiving an E-Galley of your chosen book.

2. All you need to do is write a review, in return for your free titles. Maybe copy and paste it to your GoodReads or Amazon account. Give it a /5 rating and then search for more books to request and review.

3. Did I mention free books?

4. It is a fantastic platform to use, easy to find your way around, easy to find titles and easy to request, download and review. 

5. Your review may get featured on the title’s page! It is so rewarding to see a snippet of something you have written, on a page for the whole world to see (well all of the members of NetGalley anyway).

6. There are titles from every genre from non-fiction, to children’s picture books. There Advance Reader Copies, popular books from previous years, books being re-published and so much more. The main point of this website is publicity for all of the available titles. The more readers they can reach, the better, and this is where it gets tricky.

Cons

 

  1. The books are completely free. This may be a strange thing to be adding to a Cons list, but trust me, it is dangerous. You see, knowing they won’t cost you anything, other than your time, is such a tempting factor, to request ALLL of the books. 

2. There is no system in place to remind you when a book is going to be archived. This is when the title you have requested, becomes unavailable for downloading to your device, computer or kindle/kobo. This can lead to you not being able to read the titles you requested.

3. There is no system to remind you to write reviews, or to chase up reviews. This website gives you complete freedom. Firstly it gives you free books, with the expectation that you will review them, but it doesn’t send reminders like ‘hey, we sent you that book, any chance you can review it now?. It leaves you with the ball in your court and it is completely up to you as to when and if you return the ball… so to speak.

 

How to not become completely overwhelmed within the NetGalley platform.

 

As you can see, the pro’s outweigh the cons, but the thing that stands out in my mind, to use this platform efficiently and fairly, (and to not end up like me with a crazy amount of books sitting on my Kindle from years ago, that I still need to read and review), is to not go crazy when you first sign up. 

Here are a few of my NetGalley Reader top tips.

♦ Only choose up to five (5) titles to review per month. 

♦ Only choose those five (5) titles from genres you are genuinely interested in.

♦ Make a note of when the title is going to be archived, if it is an ARC, when it is due to be published, or if it has already been published, when it was.                                                                   This will help you to work out the order in which you need to read your requested titles. remember, publishers like your reviews to be posted as close to the publication date as possible.

♦ Write a full review.                                                                                                                                       I know this one seems obvious, but it can be so tempting to toss a few lines in the review box and move on to the next title. But remember, you are receiving this service for free, in exchange for a full and honest review. Why write something half heartedly, when you are receiving something free of charge, in exchange for your services?

♦ Netgalley have a Review percentage that they look for.                                                    They are more likely to approve you for a title if you have reviewed 80% of the titles that you have been approved for. This is where you can get unstuck. if you download all of the books, chances are you won’t get to them before they are archived. This means, if you read it, after it has been archived and even if you post the best review of your life, it still won’t go towards your review percentage… 

 

I know these things seem to take all of the fun out of the endless supply of free, available books that are at your fingertips, but I think the main thing to remember is, you are providing a service. Yes, you receive all of the ‘goods’ if you like, but this host is expecting you to hold up your end of the bargain. 

It is easy to fall into the trap of ‘collecting’ freebies, if you like, to request, download and hoard these titles for a later date, for when you feel like reading them, but try to avoid this mindset. NetGalley is a business providing readers and reviewers a fantastic service, don’t take advantage of that!

The most important thing is to remember why you signed up for the NetGalley service… wether it be for your love of reading, to get more experience writing reviews, to boost your blog posts or whatever it may be. Enjoy the chance to read something you may not have been able to find or read before. It is such a fantastic platform for readers of every kind.

As I wrap up, I realise that this post isn’t quite what I planned it to be. Sorry-not-sorry. Return the good juju that you receive and it will return to you ten-fold. If you request a book, review it before it’s publishing and archive date. Simples 🙂

As always, Thanks for reading!

Julie