Authors and Book Bloggers

On Friday the author and blogger, Matt Haig, tweeted

There then followed a twitter storm that lasted several days.

Some agreed with the points he subsequently made, some disagreed. There was much vehemence and a fair few hurt feelings on show. From what Matt said he also received some disturbing private messages. We all know that social media can turn nasty.

I followed the debate with interest and felt personally affronted by two strands:

  1. There was a suggestion that some book bloggers simply wish to receive free books.
  2. There was a suggestion that bloggers promote books without discernment.

I put a lot of time and effort into reading and then writing honest reviews. I do it because I love books and I want to talk about them, to share my opinions with like minded others. When I enjoy a book I want to support that author in whatever way I can.

From the discussion there was a suggestion of disparagement.

It is obviously true that writing a book takes a great deal more effort than reading it and then writing a review, but that was not the main point of this discussion.

What really grabbed my attention was the original topic, that authors do not value reviews if they are always positive, that they want to see some negative reviews of their work.

This has not been my experience so I weighed in.

I started to follow this twitter storm because personally I provide my honest opinion of a book and sometimes that is negative. Negative reviews are much harder to constructively create than positive and that effort then gets ignored. Publicists and authors are not going to promote an opinion of their book that is less than enthusiastic.

Another author came back to me with this:


I rarely hate a book (such a strong word) but I did empathise with the hurt. I have been there, facing up to criticism of my carefully crafted words. It does not feel good.

It is understandable that authors want the fruits of their extensive labours to be well received. To try to argue that authors want to see negative reviews though? Hmm.


One of the books that I read recently did not impress me. The plot was compelling but a good book requires more: a captivating writing style, comprehensible structure, convincing character development, readability, realism. I gave my opinion and the review sank to the bottom of my blog.

The author subsequently released a sequel and, curious to know how the plot continued, I requested a copy for review. I was refused. Rather than ignore me the author was kind enough to explain that, as I had not appeared to enjoy the first book, she felt that I was unlikely to enjoy the second. She also provided some constructive criticism of my reviewing style which I have since taken on board.

This author saw no point in submitting a book for review if the review was likely to be negative. To me this made sense. Negative reviews are not going to be used by publicists so why provide a free book?

Another thread in the Matt Haig twitter storm discussed the fact that book bloggers only want to read books that they will enjoy.

Before reading a book a reviewer cannot know exactly what it will be like. However, from the blurb there are certain types of book that I will never request (for me these include light romance or erotica). There are plenty who choose to read these genres but I do not. Life is short. Why spend time reading a book that is unlikely to appeal in order to write a review that is likely to be negative and will therefore be ignored?

Another thread bemoaned the book bloggers who endlessly promote books. Guys, this is why we do it! If I love a book then I will shout it from the rooftops, again and again. I only truly love a handful of the dozens of books that I read but as I tend to review a lot of books by less well known authors I want to play whatever small part I can in getting them noticed by a wider audience.


Matt sounded a little down about many of the comments made in response to his tweets. He wrote this blog post to clarify his thoughts: A blog about blogging.

At the end of the day a book review is the opinion of one reader. Writers tend to be sensitive souls who want their creations to be loved. Not all books are good, and no book is going to be considered good by everyone.

Matt, I see what you were trying to say but there was too much in this discussion that I could not agree with. Authors may want to see more negative reviews, but not it would appear of their own books.

A well written review, positive or negative, can be useful and that is why they are read. As Joanne Harris tweeted:


6 comments on “Authors and Book Bloggers

  1. Michele says:

    I guess I find myself confused. Are you saying you are discouraged from writing a negative review because you might not get free books anymore? Because publishers and authors won’t promote your blog anymore? Maybe I’ve misunderstood entirely.

    For example, I most certainly do not go purposefully looking for books I won’t like. That would be just silly because who *wants* to read a horrible book or one that just doesn’t suit them? That’s a waste of time. So naturally I seek out books that I’m more inclined to like (ie, genres I prefer, maybe an author I’ve read before and liked, etc). But statistics say that they just can’t all be winners.

    Sadly, I’m going to come across a clinker every now and again. So the question becomes: Am I going to sweep it under the rug and not say anything at all, lie and say it was fabulous when it was horrible, or write a review and say it was horrible and why it was horrible *for me* (have to be careful and note here that it might not be horrible for everyone, that’s why you have to say why and give examples….one person’s trash is another person’s treasure and all that, right?)….

    So that’s how *I* interpreted Haig’s comments. I could be wrong. I heard him to say that there is a difference between thoughtful reviews and just being a promotion machine for publishers and authors. But that’s just how I interpreted…Twitter is hard to read with such short bits and bytes.

    • zeudytigre says:

      I’m sorry you were confused. No, I always write an honest review. If I don’t get sent the books that I want to read then I buy them. I am grateful to publishers who send me books because I get to read authors I wouldn’t otherwise discover, but I will always write an honest review, i.e. my opinion, good or bad.

      I think the storm occurred because twitter is, by its nature, a truncated conversation with input from so many directions at once. I took issue with the start topic, that authors want to read negative reviews of their work. In my experience they don’t. I also felt miffed by the suggestion that book bloggers are little more than unthinking cheerleaders for publicists.

      I followed the debate as many interesting topics were covered. I only disagreed with some of them. It is a shame that at times it got heated and personal.

      • Michele says:

        You’re right, Twitter is a horrible platform to have that kind of conversation. And thank you for clarifying — I suspected I wasn’t hearing you right. I don’t think authors want to hear negative reviews of their books, either. (Although I don’t think the reviews are for them, so if they don’t deal well with negative reviews, they really need to not read them. I know I wouldn’t read reviews at all if I were a writer.)

        The majority of book bloggers write good reviews, in my opinion. Oh, we could *all* be better. I know I’m continually striving to write better reviews. But most do their best to explain why they loved or didn’t love the book they are reviewing. In the six years I’ve been doing this, though, I have to admit that I’ve seen more than a few that were nothing short of a pro-bono PR employee for publishers/authors. Not too often, but they’ve been out there. I’m sure you have run across one or two….identifiable by their huge SQUEE, along with a blurb of the book, and an admonishment to *buy it NOW* with absolutely no indication of why…no real review, no nothing except for 5 huge stars and maybe a comment of how gorgeous the cover is (cringe). Thankfully, it’s been my experience that these folks don’t last too long and quickly fade away.

        Again, thanks so much for the clarification. I suspect that most book bloggers, even though Twitter made it seem like we were in different “camps” on this, agree with the most fundamental issues. 🙂

  2. I agree that Twitter doesn’t allow for subtly, especially when the inclusion of multiple Twitter handles eats away at one’s 140 character limit. But I feel a point of clarification is needed here as there is plenty of room for a lengthier discussion.

    My tweet was very carefully crafted, and the use of two words was meant to guard against it being taken as a blanket statement about all book bloggers. I tweeted: “We all know OF bloggers WHO mindlessly promote. I wouldn’t value their praise either.” [emphasis added]

    This is what happens when I remove those two words: “We all know bloggers mindlessly promote.” If I had tweeted that, then I could see why someone might take offense. Even the word “mindlessly” in my original tweet qualifies the statement and excludes you and other bloggers who thoughtfully promote books they like or love.

    I’ve been blogging about books since 2009. Early on, I wrote what could be considered “real reviews”. In recent years, when I do write about specific books, I tend to give general impressions, or favorite moments, or blind love, or annoyance, or whatever it is the book made me feel. And most of the authors I write about are dead so I rarely have to worry about hurting anyone’s feelings. (I did once raise the ire of Nevil Shute fans. Despite my love of his books, some of his fans don’t take kindly to critical views of his work.)

    I am one of those people who think that negative reviews are important because they help me better understand a blogger’s point of view. This, in turn, helps better understand our reading compatibility. There are some bloggers I love to read but I have found through trial and error that I don’t necessarily like their taste in books. But then there are others whose tastes are more in line with mine and I can pretty much trust them implicitly. If a blogger occasionally writes a negative review it helps me cut down on the trial and error part.

    • Michele says:

      Love this. And yes, yes, yes. Thoughtful is the key point.

    • zeudytigre says:

      Interesting clarification, thank you.

      “I am one of those people who think that negative reviews are important because they help me better understand a blogger’s point of view. This, in turn, helps better understand our reading compatibility”

      Absolutely! Just as I take notice of book recommendations from friends who have raved about books that I have enjoyed so I take note of reviews (positive and negative) from like minded bloggers. Reviews are for readers.

      Authors are generally also readers. I remain unconvinced that they *want* to see negative reviews of their work.

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