Anatomy of a Bad Review


Thumb up and down buttons

I’ve been blessed. I’ve written a number of books. I’ve been very fortunate. Readers that I don’t know have given my work reviews that have, in the vast majority, earned four or five stars.

That’s why, when I receive a bad review, I like to study it and figure out if there is something I can learn to improve my work.

Let Me Be Frank - CoverWhen I signed onto the Amazon author’s site, I saw this review for my second book, Let Me Be Frank:

bad review

I’ve redacted the name in this review. I didn’t want to make this post about the person who submitted the review, I wanted to make it a teaching moment.

First, I looked at the review. It’s titled ‘Boring’ and starts out with the words ‘too slow’. This is valid criticism for a book and sometimes, in a detective novel, the pacing can be a bit slow as the protagonist follows up on leads. Then, as I read further, the reader states that ‘…nothing remotely interesting happens’. Again, this could be valid based on this reader’s opinion. The next part is telling. the reader finishes with ‘I read up to 25% and all I got was chit-chat over and over’.

I went into the kindle app and saw at what point the reader abandoned hope of further action. Ironically, at 26% there is a gun battle with a character being killed. The reader was right that there was a lot of chit-chat (dialogue) in the book to that point as my protagonist (Frank Rozzani) and his partner (Jonesy) traveled the Gulf Coast looking for clues.

I’m sorry I lost this reader at that point. Detective novels are often a slow burn as evidence is laid out for the reader and they attempt to figure out who committed the crime along with the characters.

I decided to delve into this reviewers record with other books. What I found was interesting.

  • My book was one of many (the majority) of those that were reviewed that received 1-2 stars.
  • The reviewer read at least two series numbering 4-5 books each and gave every book in the series 1 or 2 stars. Why read three to four more books in a series if you didn’t like the first one?
  • When I did find a book that was given a five-star review, it was a book that received 30% of its reviews at a score of three stars or less and 60% at four stars or less.

So, what did I learn from this review. Nothing. The reader only read a small portion of the book and then gave feedback that I would consider valid for the genre. This reader missed out on the action that was just around the corner.

For a book that has received 92% of its reviews in the 4-5 star range, I give this review zero stars.

So, how about you? How do you handle reviews like this?

51 thoughts on “Anatomy of a Bad Review

  1. I see you did your own detective work with that reviewer. I don’t understand their review concept either from your understanding.

    Doesn’t make much sense, but I always say the negative helps to grow (if taken the right way of course). I have yet to give a review below 3 stars. Never read a book that wasn’t just okay, or maybe I haven’t read enough. Who knows?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I only have one book out there Don, and, did get one out of about 15 reviews from a person that didn’t finish reading “The Italian Thing” (humorous, memoir), and gave it a 3 I think. It didn’t bother me because all the rest of the reviews were 4.5-5. That being said and knowing you researched the history of the reviewer (brilliant by the way) should give a confidence boost to some writers. It is also the exact reason I will never give a review unless I read the entire book, and if I don’t enjoy the content or find it confusing I will not post a review. Just because I didn’t care for it, it doesn’t mean other readers didn’t like it.
    I also have written short stories, poems, etc. on my blog, I am sure not everyone enjoys reading everything I post, but, that’s fine with me. The readers that do like the post usually leave a lovely comment and others just hit the like.
    My answer to your question? I can’t please everyone.
    I do have a question for you. Do people get paid for reviews? I researched it and it seems some do offer money for reviewing, maybe that’s the answer?
    Thank you for sharing this post, I found it very interesting and am reblogging it. It will probably make many writers smile. ☺☺☺

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thanks for your comments. I usually plod on through and I’ve been pleasantly surprised in some books. I don’t think 25% is enough to leave a review, but this person has read even less of other books and has done the same.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow Don. You dug deep. I’m impressed lol. You investigator you! 😂😂. OK, but seriously, I believe serious reviewers (OK, well. I take everything serious but still) should read the WHOLE book before reviewing it. Otherwise, that’s tacky. If you can’t finish it everyone knows you mark it DNF (Did not finish) but you don’t review it like you finished it 😒.

    Anywho, I’m preparing for my really bad review. So far I’ve got some three’s and your analysis is encouraging me to study them. Still waiting on lower ones. I know they coming. I’m afraid. Lol 😂


  4. I haven’t written a book yet but I think you followed a wise plan. There are people who are impatient and just don’t seem to be able to stick with things long, even books. Maybe your reviewer favored movies like the James Bond type where there’s immediate action. Good post, Don. 🙂 — Suzanne

    Liked by 1 person

  5. If I didn’t like a book I don’t post a review. Occasionally I will give feedback to the author explaining what I didn’t like (as you know! When I saw the heading to this post I had the scary thought that you were going to take my review apart!)

    Liked by 2 people

    • If I’m reading a book by an indie author, I won’t post a review of less than four stars. For mainstream authors, I think they’re fair game because they have passed the mythical gate keepers. For those books, however, I tend to read books by authors I like, so there haven’t been many less than three star reviews.


  6. I don’t pay any attention to blatant ignorance, but sometimes negative feedback warrants examination. I’ve been in feedback sessions in writing groups where the author was supposed to remain anonymous. However, when someone would give feedback such as, “I didn’t really understand what the writer was trying to say with…”, the author would speak up (losing anonymity in the process) to provide an explanation. The point they missed is that if the content warranted additional explanation, it wasn’t written well enough to begin with. It would have been better for the them to remain silent and use the feedback to improve their writing. I’m not saying the negative reviewer was worth attention in your case, but if it were me, I might consider examining to see if there was any way I could better grab readers’ attention in the first 25% of the next book. I haven’t done a lot of reading in the Detective/Mystery genre, but I never read an Agatha Christie novel that didn’t grab my attention immediately.

    That said, I loved this post, and I don’t mean for my reply to be taken negatively…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Having just published a collection of short stories, I’ve dreaded that first negative review. Belonging to a writing/critique group gives you plenty of experience in getting both poaitve and negative reveiws. I beleive less than stellar reviews can provide valuable information to us, but I also understand we can’t please every reader. Excellent post. Thanks for sharing.@sheilamgood at Cow Pasture Chronicles. Reblogged.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Reblogged this on COW PASTURE CHRONICLES and commented:
    Having just published a collection of short stories, Maybe Next Time, I’ve dreaded that first negative review. However, having belonged to a writers/critique group, I’ve had a bit of experience.
    What I learned is that reviews can be both helpful and insignificant. Just like the author of this post, Don Massenzio, found when he did a bit of investigation. As writers, we all must pay attention to the feedback our readers give, but their word on the subject is never the last word. Thanks Don for a great post!.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I go through the same process you did when I receive a lower than three-star review. I want to know the ‘whys’ of it and if there is something I need to change, or work on. Usually, like you pointed out, it’s a problem with the reviewer and their track record, not much for me to be concerned with.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Interesting post, Don. I had a rating of 2 on Goodread (ok) for one of my books but, unfortunately, the reviewer did not leave a review so I don’t know what she liked and didn’t like. I do appreciate it people leave comments as then you can act on them.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hmm, I know the reviewer and while I understand that reviews for personal things like writing or art can be frustrating, I find it makes me better to have an honest opinion. Even a negative one. The reviewer is very qualified to have this opinion. Now I will look for a copy and see what I think of it. I’m not at all qualified, I’m just a reader.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s