Handling Negative Book Reviews

We have all been there. We finish a title we need to review and we simply did not enjoy it. It can be a difficult spot. I know many of you are pros at tackling those less than stellar reviews, but if you are like me, it did not always come easy. I can still remember the first time I completed an ARC and felt disappointed and completely terrified of the negative feedback I had to address. It was overwhelming.

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Jump forward nearly 2 years, and I have convinced myself that I might have a handle on the situation. But getting to this point truly was a process of trial and error. I can still look back at older reviews and cringe and shudder. It has taken hundreds of posts, multiple publishing contacts (and lengthy discussions with contacts), and a continuous assessment of follower reaction to develop an approach I feel comfortable with. I will not say it has been perfected, because life (blogging included) is one huge work in progress! Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you.

So how do I do it? Today I thought I would share a few tips I find useful for keeping even these most negative book reviews more positive. Please share your own as well!

Handling Negative Book Reviews

  1. Skip the star ratings – Okay, there is nothing wrong with stars. I still apply them to retail sites that require them and know many bloggers who utilize them beautifully. But for me, there is nothing more detrimental than slapping 1 or 2 stars right on a book review. Many bloggers have given them up for great reasons. Not only does the removal help reduce the harsh impact, but it encourages readers to actually read your review. It is too easy to see that a reviewer deemed a book 3 stars and move on. But without them, you kind of have to work for their thoughts 😉
  2. Itemize pros and cons – This is my favorite. Lists are fantastic in the fact that they really help us break down the material, often making it easier to find a few positives that we may have overlooked. And even it if is as simple as noting beautiful cover art, each additional item included in the pros can really help offset a bit of the cons.
  3. Seek balance – This is an important but sometimes impossible one. I always aim to provide a review that equally addresses the good and bad of each title reviewed. Unfortunately, there will not always be enough “good” to do this. Give it your best, and feel good knowing you were fair about the process.
  4. Do not let it become personal – I cannot stress this enough. I have seen it happen, and it is not pretty. Review the book, the story and your time with it, not the author and people behind it.
  5. Send feedback directly to the publisher – On the rare occasion that I find myself unable to finish a review copy or pull enough positive from the work to offer an insightful review, I opt to contact the provider directly instead. I have found this to actually be well received many times and appreciated.
  6. Short and sweet – If in doubt and you feel you must post a review, but are struggling to not completely rip someone’s work to shreds, favor brevity. Not all reviews need to be 1000+ words. Simplicity can be your friend.
  7. Target an ideal audience – Maybe you did not like the book, but you know fans of similar titles or series may. Acknowledge that and recommend the book to them!
  8. Be honest –  This is the most important and easiest part of reviewing books. It is okay to dislike a title and your readers deserve to know you did not and why. So the next time you are writing that less than stellar review about a largely popular title (I’m so sorry Cruel Prince) just remember how appreciated your honesty is!tumblr_m58cxoabqk1r6qbl6o2_250.gif

    How do you handle negative reviews? Maybe you enjoy writing the more difficult reviews. Drop a line in the comments and share some tips or thoughts!

    Let’s Chat,

    Danielle ❤

    Connect With Me: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram

My Personal How To: Affording Books on a Budget

Books! We love them and we need them. But reading is a hobby (and often necessity) that can really hit our funds hard at times. There is nothing like seeing new releases or incredible reviews and knowing it simply isn’t in the budget. For any book lover, it leads to inevitable disappointment.

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But! I am a believer, and so I constantly combat my limited funds and unlimited love of all things books with a few resources. Today I thought I would be nice and share my means to an end with you.

My Personal How To: Affording Books on a Budget

When spending money is simply not an option:

Libraries – First and foremost I am a huge advocator of all things relating to the public library. Outside of the usual hold and borrow system, we are very fortunate to have an expansive ebook collection available here that can be accessed through to easy to use applications, Overdrive & Libby. Both work together to provide a simple to use interface that allows you to not only place holds and check out audio & ebooks, but also create a wishlist, share ratings and see more of what is happening in the library community.

Hoopla Digital is another application I hear great things about, but do not use with my local library.

*Please feel free to comment below with your local library’s apps and resources.

Pros – Borrowing titles (even ebooks and audio) from your local library and utilizing these services will aid them in requesting future funding for additional services and titles.

Cons – Hold times can be incredibly long for popular titles, and not everyone has access to a thriving library system.

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Public Domain: Thousand of titles are free and readily available due to expired licensing and copyrights. You can access them without registering at Project Gutenberg.

Pros: There are literally thousands of titles available with no fees or registrations required. The titles are available for download in multiple formats and volunteers are constantly proofreading and checking them for accuracy.

Cons: Selection is limited to titles that are no longer copyright protected.

When funds are severely limited:

Local thrift stores & donation centers: Purchasing titles from community thrift stores and charity centers are a great way to stretch your funds and give back to the community. Often, if you have the time to look, you can find some hidden gems.

Pros: These purchases are helping to keep small business alive and often fund nearby shelters and needs within your community. It is a win for everyone. Most shops will willingly give you a small discount or credit for the books you bring in or donate.

Cons: Availability may be limited to older and often more worn materials.

Local Independent Bookstores: These are my favorite to visit and for a great reason! Again, it is all about giving back to the community. These fixtures often add not only a nice selection of affordable titles, but contribute to the local economy, and provide a safe environment that encourages reading & creativity. This is another area that Portland is blessed in, as we currently boast the world’s largest Indie Bookstore, Powell’s Books (they ship!). But it doesn’t stop there. Downtown is dotted with lovely independent sellers, offering something for everyone.

Pros: You are truly supporting the local economy and helping your community. You can often find a large selection of used and affordable books in great condition.

Cons: I am really hesitant to list any, but some independent sellers may not acquire newer releases right away.

Daily Ebook Deals

Ebooks can offer an incredibly affordable advantage to readers. There are multiple sites that offer daily deals directly in your inbox with everything from free titles to those as low as 2.99 or less. I am including a link to the ones I use below. *Please feel free to add yours in the comments.

BookBub.com

Riffle.com

EarlyBirdBooks.com

Goodreads.com Ebook Deals

BookRiot.com (I no longer use them, but their daily deals are worth a look).

Pros: Daily saving delivered right to your inbox.

Cons: Limited selection and you occasionally weed through some unwanted emails.

Other Savings and Discounts:

Signing up for local bookstore memberships & loyalty programs: I discovered only 2 years ago that B&N offered an annual membership that for only $25.00 offered me free shipping on all orders (huge since I no longer drive) monthly 20% off coupons, 10% off of all in stores purchases and a myriad of other benefits. The investment was a no-brainer. Keeping a lookout for loyalty programs and membership opportunities can really benefit readers who tend to purchase books on a regular basis.

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Pros: The opportunity to take advantage of significant savings on books and other store products. This usually includes free shipping with retailers who offer online services.

Cons: The additional newsletters and info that will pop up in your inbox or mailbox from time to time. An annual fee is not ideal for everyone.

Amazon: Seriously, if you have no qualms with them, they offer several services that make reading very accessible and affordable. If you are a Prime Member, you can easily enjoy a large selection of free titles ready to be read through Prime Reading and receive access to one Kindle First title a month for free. For just $9.99/ month, Kindle Unlimited gives readers access to over a million ebooks. And their daily deals are always worth checking out.

Pros: Access to a large amount of titles and savings.

Cons: Monthly fees can really add up.

Book Outlet: This is my go-to online store for physical books on a budget. BookOutlet.com offers thousands of marked down titles (often in new condition) for a fraction of the cost. With free shipping on orders over $35.00, a new point system, and a scratch and dent section which means bigger savings, I often place one large purchase every few months. And their customer service has been stellar in terms of my personal experience.

Pros: A large selection of affordable, physical copies. A point system and free shipping help curb more costs.

Cons: Longer shipping times and books may have a remainder mark.

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And there you have it. These are just a few of the resources I utilize to keep my bookshelves full. What resources do you have? Any favorites you care to add in the comments?

Let’s Chat,

Danielle ❤

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10 Times Authors Nailed it With Fictional Villains

I love villains! And I say that with next to no shame. Nothing creates successful tension and plot like an evil heartless bastard at the center of it all. Today I am looking at 10 times the author really shined in villain crafting.

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10 Times Authors Nailed it With Fictional Villains


 

Big Brother from George Orwell’s 1984. Okay, so this one is technically symbolic but no less villainous. Portrayed as the leader of a totalitarian state, Ocean, we are exposed to the Party which holds absolute control over society for its own benefit. Perhaps, this villain is most successful because it addresses relevant fears and themes.

“Always eyes watching you and the voice enveloping you. Asleep or awake, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or bed- no escape. Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters in your skull.”
~George Orwell, 1984

walderfreyWalder Frey from George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series easily lands a spot in my top 10 Villians. Boasting a terrible arsenal of crimes that range from murder and incest to incredibly horrible hospitality (can we say Red Wedding) this weasel leaves the reader feeling so violated that the hate flows naturally and uncontrollably.

 

Hal 9000 is a sentient computer in Arthur C. Clark’s 2001: A Space Odessy. There was something completely unsettling about this unlikely antagonist and his ever calm and light demeanor. What Hal 9000 lacks for in physical form, he makes up for in a very unnerving omniscient presence.

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The White Witch is no stranger to many us. Appearing in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion,  Witch and The Wardrobe, she single-handedly stopped Christmas. Turning her many victims to stone, she is incredibly cruel and responsible for a large amount of unhappiness. As a child, I found this disheartening and terrifying. I still loathe her. I also still have an odd desire to experience Turkish Delight. Go figure.

Thomas Harris’ cannibalistic genius, Hannibal Lecter first appeared in Red Dragon, 1981. As if murder was not a heinous enough crime, Harris upped the ante by adding the element of cannibalism. Include Lecter’s ability to really tap into his victim’s psyche and the whole experience took the unsettling to a brand new level.

“When the fox hears the rabbits scream, he comes a-runnin, but not to help.”
~Hannibal Lecter, Thomas Harris

Amy Dunne from Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl earns a spot for redefining femme fatale and running away with it! Brilliant and incredibly manipulative, she offers the reader many reasons to fear her. There is a part of me that was more terrified of the small amount of admiration I felt. The girl has skills.

Sauron

Sauron really needs no introduction, but for those of you who are incredibly behind the times, he was first mentioned in JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit but best know for Lord of the Rings. Being of a higher order of Maiar and possessing divine powers, he seeks the 10th ring in order to wield its power to corrupt and destroy all that is good. And let us not forget his all-seeing eye. Frightening right?

Miss Havisham from Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations. If being heartless qualifies one as a solid villain, I must award her with a spot today. After having her own heart broken, she takes in young Estella and raises her to do exactly that, break hearts.  Perhaps what is most evil here is that she seeks revenge for her own pain through the suffering of others with no regard to the consequence.

auntlydiaAunt Lydia from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale unnerves me on multiple fronts. Belonging to the Republic of Gilead, she is charged with overseeing and teaching the handmaids. Her techniques that range from cattle prods to many other torturous methods are used to enforce the horrendous rules and laws of the Republic of Gilead. Perhaps it is the thought of witnessing women take up sides against themselves that really did the trick here?

Ordinary, said Aunt Lydia, is what you are used to. This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary.
~The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

Alex from A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess takes the final spot today. While he could possibly be categorized as an antihero, I am including him for his sociopathic behavior and violent tendencies. Everything about Alex is morally wrong and worked in a stellar fashion to convey some heavy hitting themes.


Your turn! Which villains made the biggest impact on you, good or bad?

Let’s Chat!

Danielle ❤

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