Can you trust negative reviews?

Why you can’t really trust negative reviews


Hello to all my friends and readers. I’m very interested in reviews, including negative reviews.

In preparing for the imminent release of my newest book Perfect Prey, the sequel to The Trafficking Consortium, I’ve kept my eyes and ears open to anything that might apply to you, my readers, and all readers alike about why one buys and reads books.

This morning I came across this NY Times article written by Caroline Beaton. She is a freelance writer and producer who sends a monthly newsletter about science and society. She wrote the following article ( on reviews.

Now as all writers and independent publishers know, our books live and die by the reviews people put on our products. In my case, people either write extraordinarily positive or negative reviews. Given the subject matter of my stories, I feel that is understandable.


What bothered me were negative reviews based on pure emotion because of the subject material fell outside their usual comfort levels. Let me say this in response. I write to push the reader to step outside their comfort levels, to experience something other than the usual fare and get a sense of what could happen. I want to write something different that appealed to a decently sized reader base which stood out among the crowd.

Not wanting to compete with thousands of authors with similar material, I looked long and hard to find a less populated niche of competing books. I found that niche and I proudly write my stories to stand out from the crowd.

Then today I found this article. Mostly, it confirms my findings and beliefs, yet articulated in a way I might not have considered. The essay does not focus on books but on all online products for sale. I still feel it is pertinent to my arguments on the decision process to read a book or not.

Postive and Negative ReviewsAmazon and other online retailers would have you believe that if a product has a bunch of five-star reviews, it must be good. Inversely, if it has a bunch of one-star reviews, it must not be good. In my case, my books garner either five-star or one-star reviews. Few are in the middle. Combined those reviews net out to about three-stars, which may appear to be mediocre.


What is important to remember, is to read the language of the review in the book’s context. One of them doesn’t even apply to one of my books but a pair of socks. Huh? Obviously, the reviewer made a mistake, but there is little I can do about it. If I could edit or delete someone else’s review, that would destroy the confidence of the buyer in the decision-making process.

“Pay attention to contextual details and specific facts rather than reviewers’ general impressions and ratings. The number of stars someone selects often has “very little to do with’ their review text, Dr. Gretzel said. People have different rating standards, and written explanations are inherently more nuanced.” — lrike Gretzel, a communications professor at the University of Southern California and the director of research at Netnografica

Writing Reviews

Still, from my sales figures, I have an audience out there. Thousands of people have bought my books. Few wrote a review. So, as a writer, how can I decide on whether what I write is what they want?

Negative Reviews

That’s a hard question.

“Very few people write reviews. It’s about 1.5 percent or 15 people out of 1,000. Should we be relying on these people if we’re part of the other 985?”
~Duncan Simester, a marketing professor at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management

We all read the reviews and decide based upon them. As an author, I would want everyone to write a review so I can learn. However, as a consumer, I depend upon the reviews written to decide whether I buy the product, and, rarely post a review. How stupid is that? I try to be good about them, knowing what I know from both sides. I still do not do justice to my fellow authors. What I know, is that negative reviews have more weight in my decision-making process than positive ones.

“People are much more likely to write reviews if they have extreme emotions about something. This is why you see so many rave reviews and so many rancorous ones.” — Eric K. Clemons, who teaches information management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.


“We want to feel secure in our decision-making processes. We use negative reviews to understand our risk and reduce our losses, studies show. — Put simply, we should distrust online reviews because emotions are involved.” — Lauren Dragan, an analyst of consumer feedback as the audio tech products reviewer at Wirecutter, a New York Times company.

My thoughts

As I read and processed this article, I understand and agree with most of the conclusions made therein. However, I want people to write reviews, both good and bad regarding my books. I need the feedback. The only bad review is the one not written. All I ask as you write your review, write constructive and meaningful evaluations of your opinions, without letting your emotions drive your words. That’s all I ask.

Have a great day and a better tomorrow.