Reviews that Writers find ANNOYING!

A short while ago, I ran a post about things writers like to see in reviews (read it here), so I thought it was only fair to show you the other side of the coin, the things people say in reviews that make writers groan, moan, and bang their heads on their keyboards in frustration. I tried to stay away from anything that could be seen as justifiable criticism or reader opinion and stick with things that are either a major breach of courtesy or common sense or just plain unhelpful. 

As with the last post, I asked for input from writer friends and acquaintances and have provided some author links to the sources.

I didn't actually read this book . . .

Then why are you reviewing it? It seems like such a no brainer but you get various versions of "I haven't had time to read it yet." I think what happens in most of these cases is Amazon sends out that, "Do you want to review your purchase?" email and the person somehow assumes they have to review right that second even though they haven't had a chance to crack the cover. It is often accompanied by a "three star" review because people assume this is a "neutral" rating. (Newsflash. There's no such thing as a "neutral" rating.)

Image courtesy of Melissa Miles

It wouldn't download right!

Deborah GarnerProbably my favorite one star is from a reader whose Kindle wouldn't download correctly. Though it's a close tie with the one that looks like a cat walked across the keyboard.
Believe it or not, Amazon will actually replace the ebook if it doesn't download correctly the first time. Also, if the paperback is damaged in the mail, it isn't the author's fault. Email Amazon, get the refund, and don't review. 
Caveat: if the problem is that the author incorrectly formatted the ebook, then, yeah, justifiable complaint, but if other people have left reviews having actually read the book and not mentioned anything about wonky formatting, chances are, that's not the problem. 

This short story was too short!

Here's a little secret: short stories are short. Here's another: if you go to Amazon and scroll down to the bottom of a short story listing (here's mine, The Baby and the Bacon as an example), it actually lists the number of pages. Therefore, when you buy a short story, read it, and then give it a low rating for being 'too short,' or a novella for the same reason, it just shows you don't know how to read. If you don't like to spend money on fiction that won't take you very long to read, don't buy it. Especially don't buy it and then complain because they are exactly what they told you they were!

Spoilers, Sweetie!

As my good friend, Professor Song will attest, no one likes a spoiler. Yes, maybe your favorite part of the story was the twist. Or maybe you didn't like the ending because, "The butler did it it, so cliche!" But come on! Find a way to review it without giving away the entire plot. Occasionally you read reviews from people who apparently think reviews are like 2nd grade book reports where you basically are supposed to tell the teacher back the story to prove that you actually read it. People shouldn't read your review and feel like they skimmed the whole book.


These can be personal attacks against the writers, the writer's fans, or other reviewers. Writers are probably most keenly aware of attacks against the writer where instead of focusing on the book's content, the reviewer takes a swing at a personality trait or perceived personality trait of the writer. Usually against their intelligence. Sometimes at their religious beliefs or supposed lack of morals. Now I say writers are most aware of the attacks against writers because sometimes we do forget it goes both ways.
Google responding to reviews, and you're going to find that almost everybody out there says, "No, bad idea. Don't do it!" However, I have seen some writers go to the mattresses (I actually haven't seen the Godfather. I only know that quote because of You've Got Mail.) against reviewers, commenting on reviews, arguing, making accusations. 
And sometimes even if the writer avoids the fray, his/her fans take it upon themselves to "defend" him, commenting meanly on negative reviews. Alternately, sometimes a reviewer will argue with positive reviews or reference them cruelly ("Unlike what that idiot said, this book has no character development and the fact that it has so many reader speaks volumes about the idiocy of the average reader.").
I don't think there is anything wrong with addressing other reviewers in a polite manner within your review. An opposing viewpoint can help readers make up their mind about a book. What is bad is insulting or attacking someone for having a difference of opinion with you. 

I hate this book for being what it is!

Now if a book has been mislabeled or deceptively marketed, this complaint can be justified. It can be incredibly annoying to buy a book expecting one thing and find out a couple chapters in that it is something else. If writers are getting a lot of these sorts of reviews, check out their listing. Is their marketing clear enough? Is the work correctly categorized? Does the cover art represent the genre? What about the blurb? Is it specific or vague?
If the writer has covered all these bases, though, and someone still reviews with, "I was expecting a murder mystery, and it was just a love story" or "Why wasn't this sweet romance steamier? I wanted more sex!" it really isn't a very useful review.
I've seen this on both sides of moral and religious issues: Christian readers getting upset because they "stumbled" on an erotic novel and atheists upset because they read a Christian book and disliked the references to God and religion. 
Please, if you really dislike a certain sort of book, make sure that this isn't that sort of book before you buy, and definitely before you review. 

Vague Criticism/Praise

Specific criticism/praise made it onto the list of what readers want in a review, so it makes sense to see the opposite here. 
And vague praise isn't "annoying" per say. I think more of us would rather see a five star "I liked it a lot!" than a detailed one-star rant on why a book sucks. That's just human nature.
However, "I liked it!" does not help shoppers decide whether or not they want to read a book, so those reviews are just sugar coated dross.
Similarly, "I didn't like it" or "I hated it" or "meh, it was okay, I guess," are all just throw away reviews, and if that's all you have to say about a book, do you really need to review it at all?
"I didn't like it" gives me nothing to work with as an author.
And yes, "I found the characters to be too shallow and the world building too simplistic," might sting a little bit, at least it gives real reasons. 

More Horror Stories from Authors:

An annoying one to me is when they seem to be thinking of a totally different book while reviewing mine, referencing a character I didn't have or a plot point that didn't happen in my book. Tristi Pinkston

 It is particularly annoying when the review is written by another author and reads more like a not-so-cleverly-disguised ad for their own books. Bruce A Borders

"3.0 out of 5 stars Bored
I didn't like it too much. I think more of who Abraham Lincoln really was should have been emphasized more."
The book is about writing and avoiding scams in the publishing industry. There is NOTHING about Abraham Lincoln.  
Sabrina Sumsion

I had some friends have another author leave a review stating that their new release contained graphic rape scenes. The book, of course in this case, didn't. Luckily they had enough people report it that it was removed. So, I guess I'm trying to say completely false reviews that are trying to get readers not to buy the book.
Paige at Electively Page