Commentary on Reviews: Negative Reviews and Readers

There's been considerable discussion online lately about reviews, about authors reviewing other authors' books, and about how reviews work for book readers. With Goodreads deleting reviews, then apologizing for deleting reviews, and people migrating to other book review communities, there's been a good amount of discussion about what reviews specifically do. Shopping cart full of books - yes negative reviews sell books

You might imagine I have a lot to say about the topic of reviews, and how they work. I've written about the fact that nothing, most especially a book, is exempt from reviews in our written culture right now. EVERYTHING gets a review. I can go read reviews of every piece of clothing I'm wearing, the chair I'm sitting on, the computer I'm using, and I can probably get a review of the weather outside right now, too. (A++++ weather! Would have this humidity again!) 

I also do workshops at RWA chapters about reviews, how to pitch for them and how to react when you receive one, and talk a lot about reviews when I meet authors at varying conferences. I think about this a good bit, too, like when I'm walking the dog. Why does one review upset a whole lot of people while another similar review does not? Why is there a varying reaction to a negative review? What makes a “good” review good? 

Last week, Elyse reviewed Jennifer McQuiston's Summer Is For Lovers, giving it an A:

Summer is for Lovers by Jennifer McQuiston was just the sort of wonderful, summery read I was looking for. I was actually disappointed it was released in late September since it’s already cold here by then, and most of this book takes place by the ocean, and it has a wonderful beach-y feel to it. This is the sort of book I want to take on vacation to the Caribbean with me. I really enjoyed everything about this book, the characters, the setting, the conflict, the humor… I had one tiny issue with the hero, but more on that later.

She didn't like the previous book, What Happens in Scotland, and gave it a D:

If I had to describe What Happens in Scotland by Jennifer McQuiston in one sentence it would be this: the hero and heroine don't really meet until page 140. Also there's a lack of shoes, but more on that later.

I really wanted to like this book. The premise is similar toThe Hangover; a night of partying leads to confusion and regrets in the morning. The problem is, you can't have a romance novel where the hero and heroine are apart for 127 pages. The point of a romance novel is for them to grow and change together in order to find love. This was really just humorous historical fiction with some lovin' thrown in at the end, and that's not what I signed up for, folks.

I want to point out two things about Elyse's reviews.

1. She gave the first book a D. And then she read the second book in the series, despite not having liked the first one.

2. A negative review is not the end of the world. It means that book didn't work for that person. (This may seem like an obvious point, but I think it needs to be said. Repeatedly.)


I know a few readers whose taste aligns so perfectly with another reviewer's that their buying and borrowing decisions are heavily influenced by the reviews they read from that person. But that is a small number. Most readers in my experience read more than one review before they decide to buy or borrow a book.

So even if a book gets a D, it doesn't mean all hope is lost. That's one reader and one review. If that review is here, on Goodreads, on DearAuthor, on a brand new BlogSpot site with six total reviews in the archives (welcome to blogging! Woo!), whatever: it's one review. Most readers read more than one review before deciding whether they want to read a book. One of the smartest things Mandi at Smexybooks does (and she does a lot of smart things) is link to other reviews of a book when she reviews it. It gives a broader sense of what other romance readers online think of the same book. (And disparity in grading leads to more curiosity, but that's another topic). I don't know of any reviewer in any industry whose opinion is the final pronouncement of quality.  

But more importantly, one book that wasn't enjoyed doesn't equal the end for that reader. Elyse went back and read the second McQuiston book, despite the fact that she really had some issues with the first one.

I asked Elyse about her decision to read the second book after disliking the first, and she said: 

I think there's a misconception that a bad review of a book is a bad review of the author, and that's not the case at all. When I give a book a bad grade I'm not saying “This author is a bad writer and I'll never read anything by him/her again.” I'm saying that this book in particular didn't work for me.

I don't pick up books to read and review that have themes I hate or are in a genre I don't care for (paranormals for instance). I don't think it's fair to say “I usually hate vampire books–and guess what, I did!” I set out every time with the expectation of enjoyment, and sometimes I don't get there. That's almost always specific to a book, not an author.

I didn't particularly like What Happens in Scotland. There were serious pacing issues for me–the hero and heroine didn't meet up until late in the book and so the first part dragged, and the second part (where they fell in love) felt rushed. I did like the humor in the book, and I could tell that McQuiston had a distinct voice that I enjoyed. I knew even as I was giving What Happens in Scotland a D, that I would be reading the sequel. As it happened, I loved Summer is for Lovers.

There were plenty of people who responded to my review saying that even though I didn't like it, they thought What Happens in Scotland sounded perfect for them, and that they were going to buy it.

I also gave The Last Kiss Goodbye by Karen Robards a F+ because the heroine is in love with the ghost of a serial killer. It didn't make sense to me, but I'll probably read the sequel to that too just because I want to see how it all plays out. She may well explain the serial killer thing in a way that makes sense to me, and I might give that book an A, too.

Even authors I love sometimes have a book that I just can't get into. Eloisa James is one of my auto-buys. Her books are like a big, warm quilt for me–total comfort reading. Her book An Affair Before Christmas was a big disappointment for me. I just couldn't get into it, and I didn't feel much for the hero or heroine. That hasn't stopped me from buying her books though, and I've enjoyed all of her subsequent titles.

The only time a book will stop me from ever reading an author again is if I find the content upsetting or offensive or if the writing/editing is so poor that it's work for me to get through the book. I've experienced the latter a few times with self-published authors.


I think Elyse is right, that there is a misconception that a negative review of a book is equated with a negative review of the author. That is not always the case. I think it's rarely the case, honestly. 

At an RT awhile back, Jane and I hosted a reader roundtable, and one of the questions she asked was how many books it takes for an author to land on a reader's autobuy list. Most readers in the room said one book. She then asked how many books it takes for an author to fall off the autobuy list. Most readers said two or three. It's harder to break off reading an author than it is to start a glom. Starting a glom can be very easy. And expensive.

I mean, come on. How many people complain about the directions that longstanding popular series go and STILL buy the next one when it comes out? It's a big deal to break up with a series.  It's not easy to do. One book not enjoyed does not mean a breakup. 

My point is, one negative review of a book is not the end of the world. It's one negative review. It doesn't mean the book is doomed, it doesn't mean readers won't try it. It doesn't even mean that particular reader won't try that author's work again. 

I'm going to try to make this a series of articles on reivews and what they do, partly to try to dispel some of the panic and fear of a negative review, and partly to open the conversation to how you use reviews.

I'm curious, especially as the number of things reviewed only increases. How many books does it take to fall off your autobuy list? If you didn't like one book by an author, have you tried another? What makes you stop reading an author altogether, and you're never, ever, ever getting back together? 

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    jimthered says:

    It usually takes two books, that have the same problems, for me to drop an author.  This happened with Dean Koontz, who for a time was the most popular comtenporary horror writer behind Stephen King.  I read STRANGERS (because it was Koontz’ most popular) and hated it; a while later, I read THE SERVANTS OF TWILIGHT (which has an interesting plot) in case STRANGERS was a popular-but-weak book.  When I hated TSOT as well, I decided that was more than enough Koontz for me.

    Dropping someone after a first book can be a big mistake.  (Comic book stuff coming.)  The first issue of the comic book ASTRO CITY involved a small-time criminal who accidentally stumbles on the secret identity of the hero Jack-in-the-Box, and what happens to the criminal as a result.  The problem was a few months ago, almost the same plot was used in an issue of Spider-Man, and to me that felt like a carbon copy.  (It didn’t help that Jack-in-the-Box was the Astro City version of Spider-Man.)  It happened to be just a coincidence, but it put me off ASTRO CITY for months.  And when I finally went back to the book, I loved it!

  2. 2
    VandyJ says:

    A major shift in genres will put me off.  Julie Garwood did this.  I loved her historicals and they were auto buys for me.  Then she went contemporary suspense romance and I couldn’t get into them at all.  Waiting for her to write another historical…
    I use review to see how other people reacted to the book.  In general, negative reviews will make me look closely at the book to see if the plot works for me, but fan girl good reviews don’t make me auto buy either.
    I really like to see reasons why a reviewer liked or didn’t like a book.  Not just OMG gushing about how great it is, or how bad it was.

  3. 3
    Torifl says:

    I recently wrote an article asking if you will try a series again even if you hated the first book. I found I will revisit and try again. I hate to be a quitter. lol

    I too disliked Karen Robard’s Last Kiss Goodbye but found myself eager to read book 2. I HAD to see if my opinions and hopefully the premise changed. It didn’t but that’s nether here or there. After trying again, I now feel secure in my decision to leave and not come back.

  4. 4
    Violet Gray says:

    I would say it takes a couple (maybe three) books before I stop reading an author’s work. Just because one story didn’t work for me, for whatever reason, doesn’t mean I won’t like the next one.

    The only exception I can think of would be Dean Koontz. My ex-husband used to read a lot of Koontz’s work, and so one day I picked up a copy of False Memory. I read the entire thing because I had to know what happened, but the content was very upsetting due to similarities in my own life (panic disorder, agoraphobia, childhood sexual abuse). I doubt I will ever read anything else by Koontz.

    As a new self-published author, I am bracing myself for the first reviews of my novella and short story which are on Kindle. Thank you for this article. Now when I get a negative review, which I’m certain I will (that’s life!), I won’t take it quite so hard.

    Best wishes,


  5. 5
    AnnB says:

    In the past couple of years, I’ve broken up with at least four series. They were all at one time auto buys for me. And I held on for at least three books past the ones where I could feel the story “slipping.” I just hate to give up on someone I know can write a great story.

    What makes me stop reading an author’s work is when the series doesn’t feel like it means anything to them anymore. Two of my former auto-buy authors have written some short stories that were “in universe” but did not involve the main characters from their series and these stories are far more interesting. It almost feels as if they are trapped by their own creations. Its such a shame.

    Negative reviews don’t turn me away from books. I always read the negative ones first because they seem more honest. And many times, the things the negative review points out as problems make me want to try the book. In the end a review is just an opnion, not a death sentance.

  6. 6
    Karenmc says:

    There’s one reviewer whose tastes are very similar to mine, although we don’t always match up.  I’m much more likely to check out a book she likes, but in the end, my purchase decisions are based on more than just one review or one reviewer.

    As for dropping a series, it takes a downward slide of interest on my part. I’ve read the first two Mackenzie brothers books by Jennifer Ashley, but haven’t gotten around to the rest of the series (Mac was a bit much for me in Book 2). However, the Christmas novella was free last week, so I picked that up, and perhaps it’ll get me interested again.

  7. 7

    For me, it is more a question of writing ability.  If I read a book that is so horrific that I can’t finish it, the author is done for me.  If I finish and still don’t like the book, but the writing is good/inventive/interesting and the characters have potential, I will give that writer another shot out of the box.  This is particularly true of first time writers or first books in a series.  I consider that the “pilot syndrome”.  Many television series I came to love almost lost me with a poor pilot or one so jammed with introductions and backstory that I became confused/bored/annoyed.

    I do have certain squick plot lines that will keep me from reading a book, even if it is written by my favorite writers on the “Buy Now” list.

    To fall off my autobuy list, you would probably have to give me two to three awful books in a row.  If you have changed genres, say romance to mystery, you might only get once change to win me over, so you better make it good.

    In a series, when there is a book I don’t like but really loved the others, I will give it one or two more books to see if the author fixes what I perceive as her mistakes.  The farther into a series I am, the more chances I might give them.


  8. 8
    Janet says:

    If I don’t like a book,  I will try the next one with no thought about it. If you disappoint me with the second book, that’s it, I will quit you.

    I have broken up with 3 series this year.

    As much as I would love to know what happens to the rest of the 5 billion people left, when the stories become the same thing over and over, just with name changes, that is it for me.

    Also, if your series goes from 3-5 bucks an e-book then climbs to 10 buck a book, I will no longer buy automatically.

  9. 9
    Rebecca says:

    I don’t usually look at the reveiw rating unless it’s a one-star or and F. I look at what the reveiwer thought of it and what the actual plot line was as opposed to the back cover blurb, because I’ve read some very deceptive blurbs. And I picked up “What Happens in Scotland” because judging by the reveiw, it was exactly the kind of book I enjoy when I’m not wanting something too mushy.

  10. 10
    Calisto Kerrigan says:

    Ten years ago, I’d day that it would take 4+ books for me to break up with an author/series (JR Ward/LKH), but now? It’s 2 books tops and only if I really loved the series beforehand. There are just too many choices now.

    Autobuy books/authors immediately get dropped if they go from paperback to hardback mid-series even now that I’m digital.

    I agree that negative reviews feel more honest. I specifically follow certain reviewers because we seem polar opposites. Things they hate, I end up loving.

  11. 11
    Jessica says:

    It used to take me multiple books, but I just don’t have the time anymore to slog through books in the hope that they’ll get better.  I got the most recent LKH from the library, made it 100 pages in, and returned it without regret.  (I’ll still read the Merry Gentry books, but Anita is dead to me.)  I haven’t read the last two? three? JR Ward books, but I picked up Lover At Last in the hope that it’d be good.  I couldn’t make it through the endless variations of the douche brand clothes they wore or the “shitkickers”, and the thing that made me return it to the library was the appalling lack of lube.  YALL IF YOU’RE GOING TO PUT THINGS THERE YOU NEED LUBRICATION. 

    I went through a small personal mourning period when I didn’t finish the most recent Mercedes Lackey Valdemar book—I’ve been reading her for 22 years and it hurt to not care enough to finish.  I still love her books and characters, but I just can’t invest in the most recent series, and it’s painful to read it and be bored.

  12. 12
    Ann Lorz says:

    I usually know right away if I’d read a second book by a author if I’m not enjoying the first.  It’s just something about the book, most often the way the author writes it, not the plot or characters. I’ve read a ton of books where one book is so-so and I’ve read the second one. I have been known to buy a book just because of a real bad review. In fact that’s the way I found one of my favorite authors. I don’t always fully trust reviews. I understand that what you like I might not.

  13. 13
    Bithalynn says:

    AnnB said:

    What makes me stop reading an author’s work is when the series doesn’t feel like it means anything to them anymore.

    and I totally agree. I broke up with Janet Evanovich for this reason. I also broke up with a few others because their series took a weird turn and no longer resembled the series I’d fallen in love with in the first place. It’s an odd paradox, because one of the problems for me with the Janet Evanovich books was that they didn’t change and I got bored with the same old thing (and I really think Ms. Evanovich did too) but if the whole tone changes I’m no longer interested.

    Usually it’ll take three or four books in a well loved series for me to drop it. Less than that if I’m not as invested.

  14. 14
    Jessica says:

    And negative reviews don’t really matter to me—I know there’s always going to be dozens of negative reviews of high-profile series that have gone on for a long time, but I’ll use the library and decide for myself.  What will throw me off a book is if repeated reviewers mention certain racist/sexist/other -ist comments or themes in the book.  Fiction is for escape, I don’t need my escapes filled with the same jerk comments I read in real life.

  15. 15
    Jessi Gage says:

    When I’m shopping for books, I pay more attention to thoughtful reviews with supporting points. Whether the review is good, bad or mixed, I like to understand the reviewers reasons.

    I’m with Elyse on the poor editing or awkward writing. I’ll put down a book and ignore that author forever after for plain bad writing. BUT if I know it’s a debut author, sometimes I’ll pick up a future book to see if the author is improving. The problem with this is that if I’m paying money for a book, I expect a certain quality of entertainment. While it’s somewhat entertaining to watch an author grow, I prefer to read authors who “have arrived” at a certain level of competency. I have a little patience for budding authors who make big mistakes in a first-published work…but not much.

    Also, this is an excellent reminder to us sensitive authors!

  16. 16

    I have to admit, I like a good rant. Even if it’s a rant about one of my books. ; )

  17. 17
    Mina Lobo says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever broken up with an author whose works I’ve loved, even if later works didn’t appeal on the same level. BUT it’s true I’ve not liked the first work I’ve read of an unknown-to-me-author and then not felt much desire to read any more of his/her stuff.

  18. 18
    Charon says:

    There’s usually a difference between reading one book you don’t like by an author you don’t know, and reading one disliked book by an author you otherwise like. Stopping following an author (or especially a series) could be hard. Ditching an author after one book is easier.

    I really disliked my first and only Nora Roberts book, so I’m not reading any more. Maybe I’m missing out, but there are so many books and authors out there that I don’t feel like wasting my time trying to give a “fair” shot to any one author. (But to another point you made, lots of people loved that particular Nora Roberts book. So indeed authors shouldn’t despair if one person hates their book – others might love it!)

  19. 19
    SB Sarah says:


    “the thing that made me return it to the library was the appalling lack of lube.  YALL IF YOU’RE GOING TO PUT THINGS THERE YOU NEED LUBRICATION. “

    I just spit water on the floor, I laughed so hard.

  20. 20
    Lizzy says:

    One bad review generally isn’t enough to keep me from buying a book unless it’s bad for reasons that really resonate with me like rape scenes disguised as romantic. Sometimes one bad book can keep me from buying more, though. This is mostly true if it is the first time I have read an author, if I don’t like the first book I read by them I am less likely to try another but that is not a hard and fast rule at all. If I like their writing style but the plot just wasn’t my thing, I’m definitely willing to give them a whirl in the future.

    For the most part it takes a few books I dislike from an autobuy author to stop but even then I am interested in what they are writing, I just read reviews to see if they are going in a direction more up my alley again. For example, I loved Sarah MacLean’s 9 Rules, like love-loved it. I have the hard copy and e-copy just in case I need a happiness boost when I’m away from home. I more or less couldn’t stand her last book One Good Earl Deserves a Lover. I didn’t like the heroine and didn’t buy the love story at all. Meh, I figure she just had an off novel, I already pre-ordered her next book.

    One author that I am struggling with is Julia Quinn, I liked a few of her books and think she writes very well. Then I read The Duke and I. The heroine rapes the hero and this is never addressed. In fact, it is treated like she did the right thing. That one scene ruined a book that I liked up until that point and I’m not sure if I will ever buy a book by Ms. Quinn again. So I guess for me it really depends on what sin the author commits if I’m willing to give them a second chance or not.

  21. 21
    Kara Keenan says:

    I think I’ve officially broken up with MaryJanice Davidson and Queen Betsy. the first few books in the series were funny and interesting, then it really started to slog. I know her later books in the series have a lot of negative reviews, and they’re probably earned. I don’t even know if the series is finished, and at this point, I really don’t care.

    I used to love Amanda Quick- when she was writing stand alone Regency romance novels. Then, she went into mystery/romance Regency novels and she lost me.

  22. 22
    Katie says:

    I am guilty of leaving bad reviews on Amazon. I also leave good reviews though!! I review everything. I’ve been in search of good romance novels for a long time and I have to admit, I think it just might not be my genre because there are very few I actually like (still love this blog though).

    That said, I don’t have an “autobuy” author, but I ALWAYS read the 1 star reviews. I can’t help it, and I admit it’s made me NOT buy a book many times.

    If I read an author who has a tendency to overuse people’s names in dialogue (huge pet peeve, no one talks that way) I won’t buy again.

  23. 23
    Kristin says:

    I think reviews are hard to quantify. Obviously, reviews reflect personal taste. There’s a movie critic who wrote for the local in my region and everything he loathed I usually loved, so I take every review I read with a grain of salt. Based solely on Elyse’s review of that Karen Robards novel, I got it out of the library because I had to read something that gave her such a reaction. Was it completely ridiculous? Absolutely. But the writing itself wasn’t bad.

    Breaking up with a series or an author is hard, especially when you loved the prior ones SO much. I still read Patricia Cornwall’s Scarpetta books and I should probably stop. They’ve gotten so, so weird and so far away from what they originally started as. I don’t even know what’s going on in them half the time, but I’ve invested 20 books in her. I’ve read them all and I hate to give up.

    That being said, I can’t deal with the Outlander books any more. They just got too outrageous for me and I couldn’t even with that. It doesn’t change my enjoyment of the first two or three, but it makes me a little sad that somewhere along the way what made the books special got routine and boring (and nonsensical in some cases).

  24. 24

    Well said, Sarah (and Elyse)! I completely agree.

    It must be repeated again and again, and perhaps one day it will be understood by all—just because the book didn’t work for one person, does not mean that book will not be loved by others. It’s happened to me a million times, and I’m sure it will happen a million more. That’s life—or reading, I should say.

    I don’t always love every book by every author, even ones that I’ve been following for years. But I can’t think of a single time I’ve actually “broken up” with a favorite author/series. I may not rush out to buy the next one (though typically this is due more and more to my scary huge TBR mountain in my room….), but I’ve yet to write off an entire series/author based on just one book, one bad experience, one meh review.

    Thanks for this wonderful post, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on other review-y things in the near future! :D


  25. 25
    Genghis Mom says:

    If I was an author and wanted to get my panties in a bunch about reviews, I would focus all of righteous rage at the farking fake CAT reviews on the sites!! Ugh CATS!

  26. 26
    MissB2U says:

    I’m almost always willing to give an author a second chance.  Since I’ve started reading author blogs and checking out places like Goodreads, (not to mention the Hot Pink Palace here…), I’ve seen how darn hard it is to write a good book.  Not everyone can hit a home run every time.  That’s why I’m never heartbroken for a series to end, especially if it’s been consistently good.  Nothing wrong with quitting while you’re ahead! 

    I agree with Elyse; bad writing/editing will make me put a book down for good.  Good editing is like running water or electricity – you take it for granted until you don’t have it anymore!

    I don’t have an autobuy list.  I usually only buy a book if I can’t get it at the library and I absolutely HAVE to read it, in which case I’ll check out the ebook price.  If I’m willing to pay for instant gratification I’ll buy the ebook, but anything over ten dollars is usually a no-go for me.  In that case I use Amazon and buy a used copy.  I’m lucky to live where we have an awesome library system and I don’t have to buy many books.  I keep a REALLY big TBR pile handy to keep me busy while I wait my turn to read a new release.

    One note on reading reviews – I disregard reviews that lack examples to back up an opinion be it good or bad.  I also ignore the reviews that spend too much time retelling the story, especially at the start of the review.  Makes me crazy.

  27. 27
    LML says:

    “Why does one review upset … while another similar review does not?”
    Someone reads a review and broadcasts their opinion of that review.  Second-hand reactions to an opinion [of a review] and not to either review itself.

    “Why is there a varying reaction to a negative review?” 
    Based on level of emotional attachment to that and previous works by the author.

    “What makes a good review ‘good’?” 
    This is the interesting question.  I like a review that includes a brief synopsis, why the author of the review chose to read the book in the first place, their opinion and the reason for their opinion.  I especially enjoy the voice of the reviewer ringing clearly throughout the review (that would be Elyse). 

    Mini-Rant: indy authors, I am not interested in your personal journey to arrive at authorship; I am curious about the story in your book.  Reviewers’ “It was wonderful”, “The characters are so real”, “You will really enjoy this book” just don’t cut it.  Synopses, please.

    This morning I also enjoyed reading SB Sarah’s earlier article about breaking up with series and all ( ! ) 226 comments.  (Is this a comment record?)  It would be interesting to hear what readers have to say, 4 1/2 years on, as it seems many of the series mentioned continue.

  28. 28
    Eliza Mars says:

    I have a good sense of what I like and dislike in romance, so thoughtful reviews will give me clues as to whether I’ll like a book or not.  I tend to give authors I like lots of space to make mistakes, until I get to either a) content I find upsetting or offensive or b) insipid heroines.  Charlotte almost killed my Pink Carnation love, as did No’one of the JL Ward series.

    I like thoughtful, critical (which is different than “negative”) reviews, and am puzzled why some reviewers want to get into an argument with each other, or attribute a negative review to a failing on the part of the reader. 

    I also don’t like how some parts of the romance reader/writer community seems to think negative reviews are bad for the genre. In contrast, I think thoughtful readership elevates the genre. 

    When I see a lot of one-sentence 5 star reviews, I tend to think “wow, that author has a lot of friends” rather than “wow, I want to read that book.

  29. 29
    Jill Shultz says:

    If I wasn’t wowed by a book but a trusted reader recommends another title by that author, I’ll give it a try.

    Usually, it takes 2-3 books for an author to fall off my autobuy, although I have to admit that with one series I abandoned, every time a new title comes out I have to fight the urge to buy it. I’d so badly love to rediscover the feeling I had with the first five books.

    Dreadful writing or seriously offensive behaviors/values will stop me. Immediately, as in, toss the book across the room and scare the cat. Right now, my tolerance for extruded fantasy product is low, so I’m mostly avoiding those books.

  30. 30
    Nali says:

    I read the negative reviews, first. Pretty much always. I find them *way* more helpful.

    If the negative reviews are all about the writing quality, I stop there. Especially with self-published things. But if they are all about the particular storyline or whatever, I keep going, because I find that negative reviews tend to be much more specific than positive reviews. A positive review might be all about how something was a “feel good story” or how something was a “comfort read”, but a negative review is often “I hated this book, and here is a very specific reason why and a list of what the deal-breakers were.”

    As often as not (maybe more), it will turn out that what that reviewer HATED about a book is exactly what I am looking for. For example, I went and read the above-linked negative review about pacing problems, noted that the Kindle edition was currently .99, and immediately bought the book. Why? Because I have been bored to tears with “the usual” and really wanted something different.

    Negative reviews will often talk about particular tropes that the reviewer just cannot stand; those tropes might be something I *love*. It might be something perfectly suited to my current mood. For instance… sometimes I want something with a solid story line and good, well-developed characters and an interesting well-thought-out plot. But sometimes… I just want some decently written smut. If there is a book that gets a lot of “the writing was decent, but it seems like the characters spent almost the entire book either fighting or ripping one another’s clothes off” type reviews, I am sometimes all “Hot Damn! Jackpot!”

    When checking out a new-to-me series that already has several books published, I especially pay attention to negative reviews. The better reviews are often from people who already love that author/series and might enjoy a book just because it is comfortable. More helpful are the comments from people who picked up the series mid-way, or just happened to read that book, since they are more likely to note and be bothered by the weaknesses. If two or three of the books in the middle of a series have a lot of “meh” negative reviews, chances are that the positive reviews will end up mentioning that the book was more of a “happy to revisit characters I love” kind of thing for the fans. I don’t have the time or money to invest in a series where I already know that not all of the books are outstanding on their own.

    If a book has a few good reviews, a ton of middle-ground reviews, and *no* negative reviews, I may actually skip it (depending on a few specifics, of course), because there is a chance the book is just *boring*.

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