It’s pretty obvious why authors live in fear of bad reviews. Not only do they bruise the ego, they also damage sales. Readers frequently check reviews before buying books, and negative reviews are bound to put some of them off.
But maybe we should worry a little less about bad reviews, because it’s not quite as simple as bad review=no sale. Now that I think about it, there are certain types of bad review that actually make me more interested in a book.
The “unlikeable female protagonist” review
She’s a bitch. She’s toxic. She’s problematic. Hooray, I love her already! Reviewers often throw these words around to describe any female character with genuine flaws, rather than the Allowable Flaws For Women which are:
- Being chaotic (but never in a way that causes actual problems, just in a cute way)
- Being hot-tempered (but only with people who deserve it, not genuine anger issues)
- Having messy hair and bitten nails
I feel like the era of antiheroes ended too soon, and women and minorities never got to see enough characters like us being messed up and morally questionable. I’ll take a flawed and complicated female character over a perfect angel any day.
The “pacing issues” review
Nine times out of ten, when a reviewer says a book has pacing issues, they mean it is slow-paced. This might be an issue for that particular reader, but I’m often in the mood for a leisurely, reflective read, and a slow pace will suit me just fine.
If the review praises a book’s characters but says it’s “let down by pacing”, that probably means it’s a character-focussed book rather than a plot-focussed one. I read for character rather than plot (with a few genre-related exceptions, e.g. mysteries), so I’ll be happy to read it and hang out with the characters even if they aren’t going anywhere quickly.
The “unnecessary gay characters” review
“Waaaaaah, why are there LGBTQ characters in my fantasy/sci-fi/thriller/historical fiction? It’s forced diversity and the author’s just trying to be woke. Queer people didn’t exist before the 1980s anyway so it’s historically inaccurate.”
This type of review pops up when LGBTQ characters star in books that aren’t about romance, sexuality or gender identity. It always makes me want to read the story more because I’m a queer person who rarely reads romance, but I still want to see our awesome community represented in books.
Are there any types of “bad” review that make you more tempted to pick up the book?