What Not To Do When Reviewing

Everyone is a critic, smashing out reviews left right and centre. Is there a problem with this? Not all the time. In fact, there are plenty of critiques that are what the author, creator or artist need to continue improving upon themselves. Whether or not the review is negative or positive, we are able to learn. Sure we have seen those who refuse to comment on something they had read because they feel that it didn’t make their three-star guidelines. But even if you didn’t enjoy the work produced, would a little tip cause you to go astray?

So here a few pointers on how best to review a person’s blood, sweat and tears.


1. Don’t be the grammar police

Not everyone in the writing world passed English at school, nor did they receive a masters in communication at a university. So with that everyone is prone to making some errors in their work. So what can we do, I suggest that we mention what we enjoyed about the piece. If you are to bring up issues with grammar, find the most common errors and explain to the author, the area/s that can be improved. No one is going to achieve greatness within their work if they are oblivious to the mistakes they are making. I know that within my own work there are areas that I need working on. So point out what key points they need to work on, instead of being a grammar Nazi.

2. Don’t say something is unrealistic

Fiction, a story that lives within the realm of imagination. It is a form of writing that is untrue, imaginary. If an author is saying a woman is wearing a dress in a season other than summer, wouldn’t it be less likely that the location is somewhere other than America, Europe or the United Kingdom? Or rather that the place of this town or city doesn’t exist in the realm as we know it to? I had one recently tell me because a girl wearing a short dress on a light breezed day it was unrealistic or even that the killer didn’t meet the psychological box that he should be in that the whole thing is fake. I don’t know about you, but the last time I read fiction, I wasn’t making sure the writer had every square inch covered in idealistic truths. It is a book, one of fantasy, let the author dictate your imagination not the other way around.

3. Don’t be someone you are not

If you love reviewing that is great, there is nothing wrong with that. We need more critiques in my opinion. What I don’t enjoy though, stems from my time working as a chef. A foodie is not a chef, no if’s or buts’ you may love to eat food, but without the qualification, you are nothing short of a home cook. Even if you make some fancy dishes at home from time to time, stand against a chef in a professional environment, and I am sure you will crumble under all the pressure. So what do I mean, if you are going to review something, make sure you can stand on your own two feet first. Show us that you can string a few words together before you say “your work is a pathetic mess.” Having pages upon pages of other shared work does not make you a writer. And please, oh please do not put down the word ‘smart’ on your profile, it makes you look like the opposite.

4. Don’t be a know-it-all

You may be an expert on a subject, but most of the time you are nothing more than a self-appointed expert. Some writers may not have friends in industries to help with Characters. Google isn’t always filled with the best research either, so the author is left to improvise, leaning on to what they are seeing in their own mind rather than an in-depth detail of a characters day to day life. So if you see a story that is lacking in an area you are more profound in then offer some insight into that field, I am not saying write the book for them. But instead, offer ideas on how they can gain more knowledge.

5. Don’t, not give valuable feedback

There you are reading through a book, a short story even a poem. If you have been asked to look at someone’s pride and joy, don’t ignore it if it stretches below your standards of commenting. The harsh truths to life are that not everyone will like what you do, but through the experience of hearing what people did or didn’t like a person can get a better understanding for what is needed the next time they put pen to paper. It is always better to get a 1 star and a critique explaining why the article didn’t touch with you than a blank space. If you are worried about the person’s ability to write again after a seemingly negative review, don’t. You are more likely to end the person’s writing career by not giving a helping hand.


Just like the blogging community, we need to be there for those writers. A helping hand in the journey through artistic freedom can be the difference between keeping people expressing themselves and locking themselves behind closed doors. The next time you go to write a critical review of a book, poem or story remember these five don’ts, and everything will be a lot better for both parties.


Till next time, keep smiling

The Stubborn Australian


38 thoughts on “What Not To Do When Reviewing

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  1. That’s a great post and article Stubby, some very relevant and useful as well as specific on point information. i have done a lot with my life, trialed, sampled, tested, experimented and followed many paths, the point that l found quite poignant [and they all are] is that 3. Don’t be someone you are not … the one thing that pisses me off no end is people who have never sampled anything and yet feel that they are right to judge on what they don’t effing know.

    If l don’t know, l shut the F up about a subject – we all have a cake hole, it doesn’t mean we have to keep opening it all the time 🙂


    Liked by 2 people

      1. No problem, how long were you cheffing for? Do you miss it? I don’t think l do, it was great for that time in my life, but l don’t think l could go back to whites and standing in hot kitchens whaever the weather. I have a post dated poem coming out at 1.35pm with you in mind 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. As a proper chef not as long as it feels but have been in and out of kitchens since 13 as a kitchen hand, prephand, etc etc until I worked as a chef then got an apprenticeship. So yeah it feels like a lifetime.

        Now I work in a factory bakery so my skills working all through the kitchens (larder, pans, frier, grill and pastry/desserts) mean nothing lol.

        I had thought of going back, starting up my restaurant or food truck but even now in my job I hate doing long hours or weekends.yet the younger generation complain if they have to work 1 saturday. So I probably will stand clear of kitchens from now on plus my rheumatoid arthritis in my hand means my grip is worsening. So i probably couldnt if i wanted to.
        I’ll be in bed soon a early start tomorrow

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello Stubborn Australian,

    Telling reviewers, especially serious reviewers who also write a lot, what to write is not nice and also counter-productive. That’s why most of the Amazon top reviewers (including me who I have reviewed 386 indie author books) have gone invisible.

    Meanwhile, indie authors pay to get reviews from Netgalley. Which really isn’t a good deal when one considers that as recently as Mid 2016, around 5,000 top reviewers reviewed indie author books for free.

    But, seriously, who can cope with these lists of demands, especially when one “works” for free?

    You know what they say- don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

    You might enjoy reading my blog “Whistle blowing – Why it’s so hard to find book reviewers + 7 hints.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Gisela,

      It isn’t so much as telling the reviewer what to write, but more so a better way to communicate with clients. Whether or not a job is paid for or not, does not mean that the reviewer can act all high and mighty. Now that isn’t to say that is you, or a lot of other reviewers, but many fail in this regard often acting, as a king to us peasants.

      You say who can cope with these demands? There are five, and that is if you can call them demand’s rather than helpful hints or tips.

      When I worked as a chef, I started before most of these so-called dietary fads and allergies, even became common knowledge, if we could adjust to those demands, can’t others? Nothing is hard about, being nicer, applying more understanding and giving a helping hand, in the end, you may end up with more clients that produce better work.

      If you feel that you should be paid for your time, wouldn’t it be better working for a company that pays its reviewers? Or are these companies rare and seldom-seen?

      This article wasn’t set out to be an attack on reviewers as a whole, it was merely stating that a little community love would be more beneficial to the creative world than watching talented people leave the industry because of critics and publishers harshly declining work usually slandering authors stories, with no valuable feedback.

      You mention that many reviewers are going into hiding, that is sad, it should never be like that. I believe many writers are too scared to share their stories as well. Hopefully, things change and we, can see a better balance for both parties.

      I would like to thank you for taking the time to comment, even if you do disagree with what has been said, it shows the kind of person you are and in that a valuable one. I shall read your blog 🙂

      Thank you.


  3. Dear Stubborn Australian,

    First and foremost: What “clients”? If I purchase a book, I spent MY money on it and the author gets a share but does not pay me. So, how can the author be my or any reviewer’s client?

    Your response also seems to indicate that you don’t have much experience with top reviewers, so let me fill you in on a few secrets.

    a) about 50% of indie authors are NOT receptive to any kind of critique. Here is a good example: Most recently, I reviewed a paperback edition of a technical book which is a very good book, only the author failed to mention in his blurb that readers need to own a certain computer program to be able to do the things the author suggests.
    You probably already guess that I don’t own the program but even if I purchased it I’d have to learn it first, which would take another three to six months. In short: my purchase of $9.99 was wasted money. In retrospect, I might have been better off trying to find somebody who’d do the job for $20, on Fiverr, and spend the $9.99 there, instead of supporting an indie author.
    Still, being a friendly person, I gave the author 4 stars and mentioned the flaw in my review. Certainly, I could have also smacked the book with 1-star review and argued convincingly that the author’s failure to disclose that one needs a specific computer program made me waste $9.99.
    This author did not react, e.g. “find my review helpful” or comment, or whatever. The author knows who I am. If s/he would have wanted to find me s/he could have done so, easily.
    At the same time, I reviewed the book from a celebrity author which garnered immediately half a dozen “found helpful”-votes. Obviously, that’s easier because this book gets more exposure since its author is a celebrity author.

    b) These “found helpful”-votes are what drives my ranking, hence, if I focus only on my ranking, clearly, I am better off reviewing celebrity authors’ books.

    c) It’s similar with products. E.g. last year, I purchased a draft stopper for a metal door at Lowes (the physical store, not at Amazon). The draft stopper worked fine, it was magnetic. Only, since I wanted to mount it on an old door, I would have had to attach it with (manufacturer provided) clips which did not fit my door. I shot a picture of the draft stopper, penned a review about why this draft stopper did not work on my door, and RETURNED it to Lowes, for a full refund. My review garnered 29 “likes” in one month.

    d) Compare that with spending $9.99 for said book, ALSO not being able to do what I wanted to do (stop the draft or solve my issue by following the technical book), BUT getting ignored by an indie author who probably was peeved that I told the world what’s wrong with his/her book. A more mature author would have replied with a thank-you note and fixed the book.
    So, these are some of disadvantages of reviewing indie author books. Every time one does, one gives up an opportunity to score better with a different book or a product.
    And, please, do not come back and tell me that this is an unfortunate, unique situation. Like I said, I reviewed hundreds of books, and turned down approximately the same number. You can trust me that I know more about this subject than most people.
    Most certainly, I am not disputing your right to publish your ideas and suggestions.
    I am merely giving you the CONSTRUCTIVE INPUT you are asking for,
    when one offers too many suggestions what OTHERS are supposed to do IN THEIR PRECIOUS FREE TIME, “these others” may very well decide that things are getting too complicated. Especially, since, like I just explained, reviewing celebrity authors’ books and products is much more rewarding for an Amazon top reviewer, anyway.
    Like I always say, “Nobody mows my lawn or does my dishes or my laundry while I read a book.”
    Of course, up till mid-2016, there was a whole bunch of retirees reviewing books, mostly top-100 reviewers. After all, they had the time. FYI: these guys review about 10-30 books depending on length, per week, just to keep their ranking. They still do, only now they don’t want to be found anymore so they made their profiles invisible.
    For retirees reviewing is a hobby. And, who wants to be told how to do their hobby?

    (Please note: the following and all previous statements do not refer to troll reviews, because trolls should not be allowed to roam anywhere.)
    e) What’s most funny about making suggestions is that many authors become authors because they hope to quit their job where a boss tells them what to do and HOW TO DO IT. That boss also pays them. But, once these employees become authors, many of them want to tell reviewers who review for free how to write their reviews. Hmm…

    Lastly: Keep one thing in mind: When you write a blog about what reviewers are supposed to do (like at least 500 other bloggers did too), reviewers too read these blogs, as it is intended. And, many of them think, “OK, we supposed to buy the book, read it (instead of reading a classic or watching a movie), and also follow this laundry list of suggestions? Hmm…
    Hopefully, this information helps in some way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Gisela,
      In the case of the first question, it was more aimed towards publishers rather than the reviewer.

      All very good points and helpful to gain more insight into the reviewers’ world.

      I am sure you and others would get rude messages or have good advice ignored. It does run both ways in this world, unfortunately. It does sound quite childish that no response was given to you seeing that you gave a fair review. It is something that I want to write about on Sunday.

      I agree about trolls, those who wish to troll anywhere should be banished from anywhere on the internet (will never happen though)

      Thanks again for commenting 🙂


  4. By the way, it seems that your general misunderstanding is that reviewers writes the review for the author.

    That is not so, absolutely NOT. Reviewers review for other potential buyers and readers.

    Authors who want to have their work examined and critiqued need to join author groups, beta reader groups etc, instead of thinking they are the “clients” of reviewers.

    Even if you pay Kirkus $425, you can’t tell Kirkus how their reviewer should review your work. The prep work needs to be done BEFORE the book is published.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I understand there is a market for that kind of thing, I personally am less likely to read a review about a product, book or movie. I have found in the past that some reviews were based solely on their own personal preferences rather than storyline, usability etc.

      With a company like Kirkus I think if you can afford to have them review your work you would be happy to receive any feedback. But that is for unpublished or self-published authors who want to garner more attention, would it be the same with a manuscript to a publishing firm? Where they are notorious for cutting down dreams.


  5. And, that’s how it should be.

    In case you haven’t figured it out, I am a foremost expert on reviews who has written books about this topic and was a guest on Bloomberg’s podcast speaking about getting reviews on Amazon.

    Here is why reviews need to be personal:
    Let’s say, three people read above mentioned book. (This actually happened.) Two of them own the program, follow the manual and write a 5-star review.

    Bam, here I come along and I don’t have the program, like probably 50% of authors also don’t have the program. And, I write my personal opinion, namely, that this book has a major flaw. I can also rest assure you that, had I given this book a 1 or 2-star review my review would garner “likes” like crazy.

    Because that’s how people are. If they feel that information, either very good or very bad, helps them in whatever they want to do, they are more likely “to like” that information, whereas they overlook “objective information.”

    In reality, my 4-star review was objective because the book was good, but considering the flaw it wasn’t 5-stars. I could have also sent back the book and collected my money.

    If you doubt, what I am saying look at the responses your blog is collecting.

    You are saying, “reviewers should do all this and that” and blog readers “like it.”

    An objective view would be to say, “And, what about the reviewers? They buy the item, spend their money, and then they aren’t free to say how they feel abut the product? They are supposed coach the “producer”?

    What about if the item is a 500 dollar air condition unit? Are the buyers supposed to advise the manufacturer what’s wrong with the unit? Or, can they simply write how they feel abut the unit?”

    Of course, that’s the reason why every manufacturer does product testing, in order to avoid that people tear apart their products and mention possible flaws.

    Equally, had the author of previously mentioned book, taken his/her book to an author group or beta reader group and asked others to test the book, certainly, a few of the “test-readers” would have noticed the same thing as I did.

    In short: The concept of customer reviews can only be successful, if people are free to share their personal opinions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am quite surprised by the response on this post, I didn’t think I would get the likes that I had expected a more negative response.

      I agree people should be free to express their personal opinions, to me, it is fine for people not to enjoy the very thing they are reviewing. as long as the review was done fairly and not a negative whitewashing of a product. Do you know what I mean? Like I couldn’t see you going and saying nasty things about a book that you didn’t like, your responses like here, would be more constructive and informative. But there are others, not just trolls that enjoy tearing down peoples’ work more so than a review.


  6. LOL,
    What is correct, what’s fair or unfair?

    Once, an author/reviewer wrote me a personal email telling me that she liked one of my books a lot but that she could not possibly review it. Given the fact that I mentioned “50 shades” a few times throughout the book she’d have to write a “negative review.” She felt I wrote “almost an endorsement” of “50 shades” which was “unacceptable” to her.

    If she would have written a review, would this review have been judged as mean? Fair? Unfair? Absurd?

    Now, keep in mind, we are talking about one of my nonfiction books and most certainly I did not write, “Go to the next porn shop and buy some chains.” No, I mentioned “50 shades” because how can one look at self-publishing with an objective eye without seeing and analyzing this book’s success?

    (Clearly, the mentioned author/reviewer did not do that.)

    In the same book, for the same reason, I also mentioned fiction, namely “Harry Potter,” but this author/reviewer did not object to me mentioning that book series. However, I am sure you are aware that certain religious groups hate the series’ concept of a wizards’ world.


    The truth is – in the ideal sense, reviewing is “democracy in action.” In contrast to: ONE IMMENSELY FAMOUS BOOK CRITIC WRITES ONE REVIEW THAT AFFECTS AN AUTHOR’S SUCCESS FOR YEARS TO COME (or ignores the book, forever).

    Hence, we must accept that even people who have the most absurd views about a certain topic are allowed to articulate their opinion just like Americans are allowed to burn their flag.


    And, if you are really honest, you see that your blog is pretty much the same thing – a review of other people’s review practices combined with suggestions what they can do to do a better job. Though, apparently, you have not reviewed 386 indie books like I did, never surveyed the Hall-of-Reviewers like I did, or studied reviewing like I did, since 1989. Still, you are giving advice about how to write reviews to make them better reviews.

    Isn’t that what the reviewers you criticize are doing? (because they are telling authors how they could do a better job even though they may not have written books themselves.)


    Certainly, I am not objecting to your blog but I am giving you objective expert’s advice.

    This is the 21st century. At no time in history, people craved so much “having an opinion and saying their piece.” (which includes your blog).

    So, if enough bloggers and authors criticize reviewers, the reviewers are just going to head on to review celebrity authors’ books and draft stoppers which helps them become an Amazon top reviewer (star) faster.

    Which is in fact what happened. As late as mid-2016, about 5,000 Amazon top reviewers reviewed indie author books (for free). But, the blogging efforts of people who don’t review books destroyed that system, and then they blamed Amazon.”

    Everybody has only the free time they have. And, everybody wants to enjoy what they do during that time, as much as possible. Plus, there is no shortage of opportunities to make your mark so everybody does what get them the best results.

    In reality, the only way how an author can influence the review process in a positive way is to (a) thoroughly examine the book BEFORE it gets published by having it beta read and so on and (b) get starter reviews from fans and followers which will “cancel out” any negative reviews that might be given at a later time.

    And, now I have to leave. If you need more info please read my books. I swear you’ll learn a lot.

    Sending “a Howdy” to Australia.


    1. Thank you for our conversation, Gisela, it has been an informative one. I did read the piece you mentioned earlier, it was an interesting read. If ever I get the chance I will check out your books. Thank you again, it has been a pleasure talking to you.

      Liked by 1 person

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