Question: Do You Think It’s Right For A Publisher To Ask Not To Post A Low Rated Review?

Posted September 5, 2013 by Carmel in Question / 46 Comments

Question hosted by Yummy Men and Kick Ass Chicks

I can understand a publisher requesting that you post a negative review after the initial release hype dies down, especially if you received an advanced copy as part of a tour. You do have a right to your opinions but I also get the publisher’s perspective. The first few weeks after a novel goes on sale are some of the most critical publicity-wise and the publisher usually puts a lot of work and money into their marketing campaign so I get that they want to focus on the positives.

I’ve never been asked to not post a review because of how I rated it but I would consider delaying it if the above circumstances applied. However, if I purchased the book with my own money then that consideration goes out the window. Once the novel is for sale, you can’t start harassing negative reviewers; it’s just bad business. It also annoys me that many authors / publishers view 3-stars as being a low rating. I’m no Math whiz but on a scale of one to five, three is average. And finally, if a new release ONLY has 5-star reviews, I’d immediately be suspicious. There’s not one book in the entire world that’s going to please everyone and negative reviews are just as important as glowing ones in my opinion. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve bought a novel BECAUSE of a less than stellar review. You know what they say… there’s no such thing as bad publicity!

What are your thoughts?

Carmel Signature

Owner, designer and main blogger behind Rabid Reads. Avid book reader, snowboard bunny, video gamer and Supernatural fan. I love all things paranormal, werewolves especially. Oh, and I’m Canadian, eh!

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46 responses to “Question: Do You Think It’s Right For A Publisher To Ask Not To Post A Low Rated Review?

  1. I used to shy away from the negative reviews, especially when it comes to ARCs, but I’ve changed my thinking over the past year. Being an honest reviewer means being honest about both the good and the bad. I’ve seen reviewers who post nothing but glowing 4 and 5 star reviews, and I think that raises questions about their objectivity. You start asking yourself whether they’ve really never read a bad book, and whether they really like the ones they’ve reviewed as much as they claim to.

    I always try to find some good in a book, and suggest an audience who might enjoy, but if it was a bad book, it’s a bad book. In fact, I have an negative review of an ARC scheduled for this weekend. I did hold off until the week of publication, agreeing with you about being considerate of the advance hype, but I can’t not review it.

    • Most of my reviews are 4-5 stars but that’s because I rigorously screen all requests and only accepts books that I KNOW I’ll enjoy. Granted, a few bad eggs still slip through the cracks so I do post the occasional 2-3 star review.

      • Judy-Ree  

        I feel the same way. Although, to be honest I have more 3 and 4 star ratings than 5. (Yes, I am that picky.) I use the Goodreads star rating system, not the Amazon rating though. I find it interesting that the two do not match up even though Goodreads is now an Amazon “product”.

  2. 1. If it was a review request I’d do what you do. Delay or not publish the review on the blog. I’ll post a short one on Amazon or GR to “decrease” the influence.

    2. If I bought it, I’ll review it if I have something to say.

    3. Yeah, what’s with the three star complaints?! That’s why we landless ours as LIKE IT to be clear. I don’t easily give 5, those books are rare. 3 is entertaining but didn’t send me over the moon.

    Great Q, Carmel!

  3. sharonda  

    I feel pretty much the same on all your points Carmel.

    I’ve seen some tour companies asking not to post your review if its below a 3…I really don’t know how I feel about that one. I mean I get, but why ask someone to review your book and then get upset if they don’t like it…smh. The negative should be accepted with the positive because it should be a general rule that everyone is not going to just “love” your book…that’s crazy.

    Yeah, I don’t understand this 3 rating thing. I mean, come on…I liked it, didn’t necessarily love the thing and that’s not good enough either? I don’t get it at all.

    • Sometimes I feel like publishers want all reviewers to be crazy, barely coherent fan-girls. I’m sorry but “OMG SQUEEE I LOVED IT!!!” doesn’t really tell me much about the book. LOL

  4. I completely agree with you and your great post!

    I never understood why a “3” is considered a negative review b/c it’s smack in the middle so it’s neutral. On my scale, I plainly state that a 3 is a “good read”. If I’m on Amazon posting my review, I may adjust accordingly but that rarely, if ever happens.

    I guess it’s all those reviewers who don’t take the time to justify fairly their “negative” reviews that make it harder for us all. šŸ˜€

    • Anyone who doesn’t understand a 3 is “average” is a moron. I think it’s ridiculous that many reviewers have to define what a 3 really means.

  5. I’ve agreed to do a review for a tour before and ended up not enjoying the book. Since it was for a tour and at the time of release I contacted the tour organizer and requested to post a spotlight for the tour instead with a review after it was over, so that my post would stay positive. Everyone was very appreciative.

    But like you, if I’ve purchased the book on my own then I’m going to post my review whenever I have it scheduled to post.

    • I hate reading a book for nothing. I review 98% of the novels I read so when I accept a request and don’t enjoy the story; I’m sorry, but I’m still gonna write a review. The only wiggle room I’ll give ’em is delaying the post.

  6. I read a lot of book blogs. If I notice that they are only giving out 4 and 5 star reviews, I tend to drop that particular blog. It is not possible to like every single book. I think that if you give an honest review of what worked for you and what didn’t, and try to find something nice to say about the book, and not attack the author – then any review you give is valid. Reading is subjective and the enjoyment of books involves way too many variables. What worked for you may not work for me.

    I too, give a lot of 3 star reviews for books that I’ve LIKED. I used to give a lot of 5 star reviews many years ago, but my reading habits and expectations have changed since then. 5 star reads are much less frequent now.

    With regards to the tour operator’s request, Traci’s solution was a good one. I would get in touch with the organizer and if I still felt strongly about the book, I would post a review later on.

    • I find the longer I review, the more stringent I am on 5-star reviews. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or if I’ve just become a book snob. LOL o_O

  7. I agree with you 100%. I’ve always been baffled by the reports of author vitriol at 3-star reviews. Someone told me that no one likes to be told they’re average, but that’s not really what’s happening. The reader brings as much to the table as the author does, so the rating is a combination of the two.

    I wouldn’t look askance at a reviewer who only gave 4- or 5-star reviews because I would assume they just didn’t review books they didn’t like. I wouldn’t! I don’t even finish books I don’t like! šŸ™‚ But a *book* that only has 5-star reviews…yeah, I do have skepticism about that.

    As for the publisher request thing…I think that can cause problems and is a mistake on the publisher’s part. Now, if the request is because the review has massive spoilers or is an unfair attack, that might be a little different, but not if it’s just because it’s a low rating. Kind of hurts everyone’s credibility.

  8. As an author, I don’t expect everyone to like what I write. Tastes vary widely, and considering that I’m largely writing about romance, what turns one person on may turn off another. I don’t consider a 3 a bad review at all! I often learn a lot from what dedicated book bloggers say — hey, they work HARD to read all those books, and they’re exposed to a LOT of stories. I usually consider their opinions carefully and consider what I can improve for next time.

  9. If a book only had positive reviews I would be less likely to buy it too, I’d rather see a wide range of opinions about it. I’ve ignored review requests for books on Amazon simply because they were all 5 stars, and who am I to know if they’re fake? I’ve read quite a few books that some other didn’t like too, I’m always willing to give a book a chance if it sounds interesting so if anything negative reviews aren’t really all that bad. It’s just the reader’s opinion, and we don’t all think the same.
    I think 3 stars are definitely not a low rating, it’s the “I liked it but it wasn’t amazing”. As for publishers asking for lower reviews not to be posted, I think they should let us post them. I understand that they want to sell the book, but if a person only sees glowing reviews, does that mean they’ll actually read it? Who knows. I’ve had to back out of tours before because I didn’t like the book and there were strict rules about posting certain ratings. If I remember correctly, one tour said if it was 3 stars or under I couldn’t post, so they only wanted 4s and 5s.
    Great question!

  10. I don’t get the 3 star either. My 3.5 is like it a lot, which is still a big compliment to me.
    If you buy the book then I agree, the publisher has nothing to say. If they send it I think that the negative or did not finish is absolutely fine after initial push

  11. Judy-Ree  

    I actually like to read the negative reviews for a book first. Because what turns off one person, I may not have any issues with. Besides, I hate to say it, but the lower rating on a book is usually the more honest review. Only after that do I go and read the better reviews. And, especially on Goodreads, if there are only a couple of reviews, I will compare the books that I have read to the reviewers and if we are even close on tastes.

    So far I have only had 1 book that I reviewed for a tour that was under a 3 star rating. I simply told the tour group that I didn’t like the book and would post a promo spot and then after the tour was over I posted my honest review. Surprisingly the tour group followed up after the tour was over and asked for a link to the review, even though it was negative. It made me feel really good about that tour. They wanted x-amount of reviews, good or bad, and they got them.

  12. I’ve delayed negative reviews until after book tours, but I’ve never had a publisher request I hold off or not post. Of course, the only time I send reviews before posting is for Netgalley, but I’ve never had any problems.

    I use 3 stars as good – like you mentioned, it means average on a scale of 1-5. I’ve mostly had good responses to them, mostly because I try to contain positive and constructive points in my reviews.

  13. I *might* consider holding off until the initial release if I gave a one or a two for the rating. A review is my opinion of the book. Put five reviewers in a room who all gave the same rating on the same book and they will be for different reasons. Books effect each person differently. My average is someone else’s great. A low rating does not mean the book sucks. If I think the back blurb sounds good, I will read it regardless of the peer reviews.

  14. I will say a lot of the blog tour companies ask to hold negative reviews until a couple of week after the tour is over. I get it. The author or publisher has paid the tour company money to publicize the book so having a blog on the tour to a post negative review can impact the tour company’s business. Same with the publishers. Marketing dollars are tight. If I paid my money for the book, I will post whenever and wherever I choose. I paid for that right.

    As for ratings, I tend to have the same philosophy as most others who posted here. A 3 rating is not a bad. It’s average. But from an author’s perspective, 3’s are non-influencing. If you want to advertise with a service like BookBub, they look at how many 4 & 5 star ratings you have to determine whether they’ll accept your book. It means nothing to say you have a lot of 3’s. Readers don’t want average. When people have to budget their money, they want to get the biggest bang for their buck. So, naturally they won’t purchase a 3 star book over a 4 or 5 star book. While the scale makes sense to us as reviewers, when it comes to the business of being an author or publisher, a 3 star or average rating has a different impact.

    Good question.

  15. I’ve never been asked by a publisher not to post a negative review but I would certainly question the wisdom of that kind of request. Negative reviews are important. When reading reviews to decide on a book, I always look at both opinions. I have also bought more than one book BECAUSE of a negative review, what one person dislikes may be just what another person enjoys. And authors and publishers need to understand that the average readers are fairly intelligent, they are capable of spotting a bashing review with no substance and overlook it in favor of a review based on the merits (or lack thereof) of the book. I absolutely agree with you. I’m am so sick of the whiney crap lately about negative reviews. Like you said, a 3 star review is NOT bad. It is a solid average rating and I use 3 starts pretty regularly for books that I enjoy but aren’t exactly outstanding.

    • I agree about negative reviews. Sometimes I’ll be reading a review and the poster will make a comment on how they didn’t like a certain element and I’m like “what? I LOVE that kind thing.” One-click buy here I come. LOL

  16. I have had this happen to me with a review request and the author had me buy her book, I didn’t like it so she asked me to take to book reviews down, 3 stars isn’t bad that just kinda means not your favorite but you didn’t hate it. How rude! I absolutely agree with you that it’s not okay to ask those kinds of things ever especially since you’re nice enough to say you’d be willing to post the review later.

  17. I am really not a fan of the fact that 3 stars is considered low, therefore if you’re rating it that, you can’t post your review. I really think they need to change this to 2.5. I mean if a book is average, then a book is average. As a reviewer it pressures me to love it. I doubt I’m alone here.

  18. A three is a solid likeable book, I don’t understand peeps fear of it. My ratings fall on average between 3 and 4 and like you I am picky about what I chose, but I also take on new authors and many genres. I have never had a publisher ask me to delay a review, I have had indie authors beg me to change my rating from a 3 to a 4.

  19. Jamie

    Please, please, please (is that enough) don’t delay a review. The purpose of reviews is so people can see what the book is about (without giving away the story) to see if the book is worth the purchase. If the reviewers don’t review a book and I buy it and hate it and then my fave reviewers post a review I get more irritated, not with the reviewer but myself. As a reader I rely on the reviewers. Between work and family I don’t have time to read as much as I used to and reviewers are really important. Yes, I will read a 3, if the story sounds interesting to me. Sometimes what one person does not like another person will love.

  20. I understand when blog tours and the like ask to hold off on a bad review, but I don’t think it’s fair to ask outright not to post a bad review. Not every book is bad for every one. That’s why the rating system exists, is to let other people know what you honestly thought. If I honestly thought that it was awful, I’m going to say so. I will say so in the most respectful way possible, but still.

  21. I get a book, I read it, I post the honest review – and I tend to post the review as soon as I’ve read it or I have a slot opening. With ARCs I try to get the review up within 2 weeks of release date

    I never ever refuse to put up a review, never change a review and never delay a review because it’s negative, even when asked. My review policy is clear, they know what they’re getting into with me so can’t complain when they get what I said I’d do. I think it’s all part of the dedication to honest, unbiased reviews

    I can see the publisher’s point of view – but I’m not here for the publisher or the author. I’m hear for the readers and to critique my genre, not to be a branch of their marketing arm.

    I’ve had tour operators ask me not to publish negative reviews or to delay them and I dropped the tour.

  22. I think it’s an opinion and it can be posted whenever you want. Any publisher or author who asks me not to post a review at all if it’s lower than whatever arbitrary amount no longer earns my interest. Now, if they asked me to hold a review until after pub date, I may consider it, but even then…readers deserve to have the full gambit of opinions from reviewers when a book is released. Just my 2 cents.

  23. Iā€™m not a fan of having to wait to post my review after a blog tour is over because it is below 3 stars. Yes, it is a promotional tour, but it just feels wrong to do a promo post for a book that I feel deserves a low rating. Like you said, not everyone is going to love the book and all reviews are valid. People need to know if the book has issues they would have problems with as well. I for one usually read a few 3 star and lower reviews before deciding if I want to read a book. I’ve never had a publisher or tour host tell me to not post a negative review at all, but if I ever got that request I would completely deny it. It is my right to post a review and my opinion, and that is why the publisher/author/tour host gave me a copy of the book – for my honest review.

  24. My book is a Romantic Suspense and lets just say that the romance is a little unconventional, so I expected to get reviews across the board. But even if I did everything by the book (Pardon the Pun) I’d be a fool to expect glowing reviews from everyone. You simply can’t please everyone. I take the good and the bad and know in my heart that I wrote the best book I possibly could and I’m proud of it.