Let’s talk about giving bad reviews on ARCs! – Discussion Post

Hello lovelies!

A few weeks ago, I went on an ARC frenzy and requested many eARCS through various medias and reviewed quite a few. There were some good ones and there were some pretty bad ones and I found myself in quite a conundrum: how was I supposed to review bad ARCs without deterring others to pick up the book? I thought I would share my thoughts on the question with a discussion post.

I don’t really think there’s a miracle solution to the question. The thing is that I want to be honest and not trick anyone into picking up a book that I, myself didn’t enjoy. There’s also the issue that a lot of us have different tastes and different expectations when we pick up a book. The diversity is actually wonderful and my guilty pleasure is reading bad reviews of my favourite books. It’s sometimes eye-opening. Now that’s completely fine when the book is published and no one expects anything from you. But for ARCS? Boy, that’s a problem.

I read an ARC and while there were many interesting and enjoyable elements, the writing style and the way the story carried out was just…not good. At all. I knew the author would read the review and I didn’t want to be that person who criticized their work. I know how much effort people put into writing a book and I know the struggle of getting a book published; it’s tough out there. I don’t think anyone needs someone picking thire book apart and ruining chances of persuading readers to give it a try. I say this because I am very easily influenced and swayed by reviews; I have a few reviewers who I trust with my life and I almost feel exactly the same way about a book that they do. Reviews are crucial. So what to do when there’s just a book that you didn’t like?

what I do, is that I try to balance it out. When I can feel myself strongly disliking a book, I still try to find good things about it: why did I request it? What interested me? Is there a character that makes things better? I try to find something enjoyable; It makes me feel less guilty about then saying what’s wrong. I try to phrase the sentence as to emphasize that it is my opinion and that there are issues that bothered me. When there’s something truly bad about a book I still think it’s important to mention it. I don’t mean problematic elements (that’s a talk for another day), but just elements that don’t work in terms of the story or the writing style. Criticism doesn’t have to be negative as long as it’s constructive. I try to pinpoint where it went wrong whether it be the pace, the writing style or the characters. I think we owe it to each other to be honest. The fact that I try to find good elements doesn’t mean I sugarcoat it but I still remember that there’s a human behind the author and that harsh reviews are not necessarily helpful (for ARCS I mean). Now back to the ARC I didn’t like, I sent all of my criticism to the author. I know I wasn’t harsh but I wasn’t praising them either. I was so stressed to hear back from the author but they actually told me the feedback was helpful and that they will focus on a few things I pointed out for future projects. I cannot tell you how relieved I felt to read that. I felt incredibly bad when I submitted it and I like that the author was understanding; When a book is out there, it is no longer your baby and people will love it or hate it; it’s fine, that means people care enough to feel something. So in conclusion my answer is: be kindly honest about how you feel.

What did you think? What do you do when an ARC you’re reading is bad? Or you have to review a bad book? Let me know in the comments!

Karla xx

24 thoughts on “Let’s talk about giving bad reviews on ARCs! – Discussion Post

  1. I think you’re doing it right, say what works and what didn’t. Even if you didn’t like anything about the book (and that happens sometimes), I think it’s fair to say that and say why. I mean, everyone should know that a review is subjective so if it didn’t work for you, that doesn’t mean it won’t work for someone else. I’ve added books to my TBR that have received harsh negative reviews because what the story is about appealed to me.

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    • Yes, people forget that we all have different tastes but trying to insert some positivity is key! So glad that you still added the book even with bad reviews. I will try to do the same πŸ₯° thank you so much for your comment! πŸ’•

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  2. Karla, I thought that this was SUCH a well-written discussion. I personally have never gotten an ARC except once, but I can definitely see this as a problem in the bookish community, and how many people will be able to resonate with your post. Truly, the dilemma is horrible to be faced with in the first place, but I totally concur with what you said about criticism being good as long as it is constructive, and how it also makes our reviews more realistic. I’m incredibly happy for you that the author found your feedback helpful and that you’re finding a way to balance it well! Overall, this was such a thought-provoking discussion post, thank you for that! ❀

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  3. Great discussion, Karla! 😊 I’ve never had an ARC before so I don’t know that pressure, but I can imagine it. I think when I have to write a review for a book I didn’t like, I try to talk about the things that did work for me so that there is balance in the review so it’s not all bad.
    I’m glad to hear that the author was appreciative of your feedback! πŸ’ž

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  4. karla, this discussion post was so thoughtful!! i feel so bad when i write a negative review for an ARC, or when i’m criticising, because i don’t want the publishers to sort of “blacklist” me, but i also want to tell other readers what i thought about the book!! i think balancing it out as constructive feedback is such a good idea, and i will definitely be trying that out soon!! i’m so glad that the author was appreciative of your feedback though! i loved reading this post ❀️

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  5. This is such a great post! I SO agree – writing negative reviews for ARCs (especially when you know the author will see) is extremely stressful! It’s this internal battle where I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I also want to be honest in my reviews! Anyways, I really liked your approach, trying to balance out what worked with what didn’t is definitely something I rely on too. πŸ’•

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  6. This is a super interesting post!
    First of all, I too enjoy reading bad reviews of some of my favorite books haha.
    But I agree that this is a difficult situation. I’ve never really gotten any traditionally-published ARCs but there was a time last year where I managed to acquire several self-published ARCs and, well, there are times when self published books are not the most polished or best books out there.
    At the time, I honestly was just super easy with my reviews which I sort of regret now but that’s the thing–since these are self published, they aren’t on a site like edelweiss or netgalley–I’m actually talking with the authors about reviewing their book. So it feels really weird and bad to give a bad review. (in fact I actually did have a weird conversation with an author trying to get me to bump up the rating of his book because I only rated it 3 stars).
    But I totally agree with all your points and will keep this in mind if I ever get an ARC! Thank you for this post! (and apologies for telling you a whole story in it)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Reading bad reviews is a form of therapy haha πŸ˜‚
      Yes! I can completely understand how difficult it must be especially since it’s self-published because the authors are already struggling a bit and you giving a bad review can have a negative impact. Also 3 stars IS a good rating so what was that author about? It must have been uncomfortable for you;
      Thank you for commenting Phoenix and I did like your whole story haha, it is a discussion post after all so everything’s fine! πŸ˜‰πŸ’•

      Liked by 1 person

      • So true. Exactly! I understand that self published authors don’t really have all the resources that traditionally published authors have and it can really be difficult to get hype around their book. Ha, I’ve always seen 3 stars as a middle ground. Basically what happened was that on goodreads I gave it 3 stars and said it was 3.4 stars in my review but then on the review on my blog, I said it was 7 stars out of 10, which is technically 3.5 out of 5 which rounds up to 4 for a goodreads rating…but on my blog I would only give whole stars and half stars, nothing in between, so I had felt it better to give a 7 than like a 6.5 But the author was like, ‘this actually rounds and you should change it,’ and I don’t know it just sort of rubbed me the wrong way. I can do simple math.

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      • Oh I get how annoying that must have been! You know exactly how much you want to give a book and no one should tell you otherwise! I do wish Goodreads would update to 0.5 reviews so it would be more accurate!

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  7. “Criticism doesn’t have to be negative as long as its constructive.”- I think you nailed it right there. I face the same issue, but like you I differentiate if it’s something relating to my tastes and preferences versus a technical issue with the book. Even then I work my around it because just typing up a negative review with nothing constructive is not good for anybody.

    I really enjoyed reading this Karla and felt like you totally got it right!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your sweet comment!! Yes! Sometimes I read negative reviews with nothing constructive and it feels gratuitous and plainly mean. And yes, our own tastes play an important part and we often forget it! πŸ₯°

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