My Proposed Etiquette Guide to Writing Bad Book Reviews

I came across an amazing new blog this week, The Worst Review Ever, and I’ve been shouting its praises because it’s so unbelievably cathartic and funny. Essentially, it’s a venue—created by Alexa Young, author of Frenemies—for writers to post the worst reviews their novels ever received with the intent being for all of us to join together to chuckle and commiserate. Heal the pain, people.

Because, really, there’s nothing you can do when your book is ripped to shreds. You can’t defend it, and there’s no point in crying about it. Ultimately, you just got to shrug it off and laugh when someone actually has the nerve to call your book “a holocaust of prose.” Or when someone says your romance novel is so “derivatively chick-lit it was physically passed from Oprah’s uterus onto paper made out of Helen Fielding’s afterbirth.” (Honestly, that line deserves to be on a T-shirt somewhere.)

But I noticed a common thread among the bad reviews posted here (as well as elsewhere)—most come from bloggers who openly admit they don’t like books in the genre in which the novel is written. They hate chick-lit, yet they’re reviewing a romance novel. They hate young adult, yet they’re reviewing a teen novel. They hate books featuring rich prep school girls, yet they’re reviewing a book about a rich prep school girl.

See where I’m going with this?

So to take a cue from Emily Post (or these days Martha Stewart), I’ve decided to create:

An Etiquette Guide to Writing Bad Book Reviews

1. Do not spend half your bad review bragging about how you received the book for free, and begging people to use your Amazon link for purchases so you can get a few pennies of “commission.” To steal a line from Z100, “Knock, knock. Who’s there? TACKY.”

2. Be sure you get all your facts straight. If you’re going to attack an author’s plot and characters, be for darn sure you’re getting every scathing detail correct. Do not leave the author (who will read it) to wonder whether they should comment on your plethora of factual inaccuracies (as was the case in one of the blog’s reviews).

3. If you hate SciFi, don’t review it! If you hate chicklit, don’t review it! If you hate thrillers, don’t review ‘em! It’s not brain surgery, folks.

4. The author (often) has little or no control over their cover or title. So picking on these aspects of a novel in the book review isn’t really fair to them—especially if you follow it up by stating you hate all pink covers that look like chick-lit. (See a trend here?)

5. If you’re going to trash an author’s book, at least do it with some comedic flair. Show some originality! Calling someone’s book Oprah’s afterbirth is far superior to calling it a “cliché commentary on the perils of adolescence.” Because, let’s face it, the reviewer’s cliché there was probably worse than anything the author wrote.

I’m sure there are many, many more etiquette tips we could share—feel free to leave some of your ideas in the comments section. And check out the site, if not for just a good dose of schadenfreude.

POP CULTURE RANT: Lost –vs- Fringe

It’s been said before that Lost needs to start selling a companion study guide, equipped with a few chapters on quantum physics, because it can get a bit daunting to follow. (How do people watch this show without DVR? Because I had to rewind Faraday’s theories several times before I got them). But, confusion aside, have you guys noticed a growing trend with time travel themes? Both Lost and Fringe are dipping into this time-honored scifi territory, both with unique twists (Fringe is really based more on an “alternate universe,” but it’s close enough). Now the question is—who explained their crazy plot best? Personally, I preferred Fringe’s “déjà vu” analogy to Lost’s “record skipping” analogy. But hands down, I gotta give it to Hurley’s character for always uttering what we’re all thinking, “Dude, what?”

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2 comments on “My Proposed Etiquette Guide to Writing Bad Book Reviews
  1. Alexa Young says:

    Thanks for the great plug…and what a fantastic etiquette guide. I’m going to have to think about some new tips to go with those. Also, just to clarify, The Worst Review Ever blog welcomes all creative types who’ve been panned, slammed or otherwise ripped to shreds.

    Thanks again! 🙂


  2. Nisha says:

    Haha, this is AWESOME. I totally agree about the line on the t-shirt thing, by the way. It should come with another shirt that has a line that says “will write for food.” Sorta captures the whole light reviewers want to portray writers in, right? 🙂


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