Why bad reviews can be a really good thing

Feb 22nd, 2016 | By | Category: Articles

Nimue Brown is the heartbeat of Moon Books. A brilliant Publicist and author of several books, she brings creativity and organisation to our normal state of chaos and confusion. If you’ve heard of Moon Books, let alone read one, it’s probably because of her

By Nimue Brown

I wear a lot of hats relevant to this topic. I write books, I review other people’s books, and I send out review books on behalf of Moon Books. We all want to write, publish, read the perfect book that is exactly what everyone was looking for. That book has never existed, could never exist. We’re all so different in our needs and beliefs, in the stage of learning and life experience we have. We all respond to different things. Inevitably, there are great books that some people hate, there are books one reviewer finds obvious and mediocre, and another clasps to their bosom with joy. This is as it should be.

A bad review is not necessarily a bad thing. Obviously, a review that says ‘this book is shit and I hated it’ is of little use to anyone, but a review that says why you thought it was shit can be really handy. It may be for example because you’re a Gardnerian Wiccan and the book is Alexandrian and this offends you – fantastic! Now anyone reading the review who feels as you do can stay safely away, but Alexandrians reading the same review will see this could be for them. This is really important where the title, blurb and cover fail to deliver what turns out to be key information – this book is for beginners. This book assumes you have already read a different book, this book would get you killed if you lived in Australia… you know how it goes.

This may seem like a weird statement, but it’s true – authors don’t always know what they’ve written. We write books that seem like a good idea to us, if the publisher agrees then it goes out into the world and we all make our best guess about who wants to read this book and how to flag up to the right readers that this is for them. We don’t want to sell books to people who are going to hate them – there’s no fun to be had in that, at any money.

If a book is published, somebody loved it. Usually more than one person. The odds are, someone else will love it too. If you hate a book, and you can work out why, you are actually doing everyone a huge favour, because it helps everyone learn who the book is for. If you can do it without having to totally shred the author’s self esteem, that’s even better!

Rare is the book whose sales have been hurt by controversy. If you totally disagree with an author and can make a case for it – that can be a really interesting thing to have happen. You might find the author is keen to have that discussion with you, even. If we can argue about ideas, facts, interpretations, this can really enrich everyone’s understanding, and we all benefit from that. Again ‘this person is shit and I hate them’ doesn’t get much done.

There is something exciting, I think, about being able to disagree amicably. Even when we’re arguing passionately over deeply held beliefs that conflict, if we can do that with respect, wonderful things happen.

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Comment