The Art of Book Reviews: How To Write A Dissatisfied One

You've read the book and it's left you feeling something... whether or not you can put your finger on what that feeling is right away doesn't matter. You aren't happy. You disliked the book. You couldn't get all the way through it. Or maybe the ending got you down? That's OK, not everything is going to strike you as a masterpiece. However, if you're going to leave a dissatisfied review of a book (or any product for that matter) there are a few things to be aware of.


Attitude:
Keep in mind that this author has passed the test of publisher's and editors by having their manuscript accepted, so obviously there is something there worth reading for the right people.

Rather than lambaste the author, their skill, and the story line, take a "it's not you, it's me" approach. This way you can give fruitful feedback for potential readers and even the author... because believe me, we're watching those reviews like a hawk!

Warm Fuzzies:
Before you start into what you didn't like about the book try to talk about something you did like, first. This will help review readers see that you are an objective source. Even if you're only mentioning the cover art or overall story idea, something good adds to your credibility as a reviewer.

Why: 
Here's some truth: Not everyone is going to feel the same way as you so don't assume that if you didn't like the book, no one else will either.

Remember our segment on The Art of Criticism: How to Be Constructive? Yeah, it applies here, too! Make sure that when you say you disliked a book you offer a reason (or two or three) why to support your claim. If you just simply state "hated it" future readers won't be able to take anything away from that to make their own decision on whether or not it is worth the risk of them purchasing and investing time into the book.

Explain what you didn't like about the book in a way that isn't attacking or belittling. Be informative and objective. This doesn't mean you shouldn't be direct, because you absolutely can. But delivery has much to do with how we communicate with others so be aware of your tone and word choice. Nothing loses an argument faster than when one party starts attacking the other rather than stating facts.

Pin Point Your Focus:
There are a few things to focus your attention on when talking about what you didn't like - many of them are functional pieces of the writing, while others take on a more personal approach.

Functional:
Sentence structure - Smooth, choppy?
Description - Not enough? Too Much? Cliche?
Story continuity - Did everything make sense? Pacing, interest - Does the story keep you moving forward?

Personal:
Did you like the story?
Did you like the writing style?
How do you feel about the book overall?

You don't have to include all of these, in fact, you probably shouldn't if you don't want your book review to turn into a novel itself! The list is merely a helper or inspiration in case you get stuck.

Rating:
Be careful that your rating matches what you have to say. If you offer three stars makes sure you have enough of a balance between what you liked and disliked about the book. However, don't give three stars and title your review "A wonderful piece of literature" and praise the book only to mention one thing you didn't like about it.

Ratings are really important because that's the first thing future readers see so make sure you rate it accordingly.


Reviews, whether positive or negative, are crucial to an author's success - so please, even if dissatisfied with a read, let us know about it... just mind your manners, remain objective, and give us some insight. Otherwise, happy reading everyone!

Have you ever been disappointed by a book before?