May 10 2013

How to Write a Bad Review

The following is by our fantastic author (of “The Forecast Fatale”), Brian Schlosser.  A bit of funny for your Friday! One Star Review


Remember fourth grade book reports? You read the book and then carefully summarized it.  You described the parts you liked and the parts you didn’t like. You considered what the author was trying to say and carefully explained who might enjoy the book or learn from it.

Yeah, this isn’t about that.

This is about you. This is about making sure that you can do the maximum damage with the minimum effort.  This is about getting attention. This is about your greasy pony tail and your uncontrolled anger and your mom nagging you about doing something with your life.  This is about the really great book you never found the time to write. This is about retribution for the “C” you got on that fourth grade book report.  Go you!

Some reviews are pretty useful.  We won’t discuss those too much. They are written by people that seem to want to help other readers (whatever!). Some are positive and some are not but, they tend to have information in them and they tend to have a pretty reasonable approach. They also tend to not be written by you.

We are going to talk about how to really slam a book and its writer.  When you are done, the evil author will be reduced to tears. Or, better yet, they will fly into an impotent rage. It is really hard to respond to a review. They will be helpless and at your mercy because everybody likes a scandal and a bad review is a scandal with nasty, vindictive empty stars above it. Those stars are yours!

First, pick a target. Hey, let’s face it, you’ll know it when you see it. That said, everybody needs motivation and there are plenty of ways to get motivated, if the memory of that book report won’t get the job done. Here are just a few:

  • Authors are rich.  Its true, all of them. Don’t you hate that? That lady that wrote the wizard books that they made into movies actually bought the United Kingdom. I know that because I went there and the place looks exactly like the movies.  I also think it is in Wikipedia. Anyway; it’s not just her.  They are all a bunch of wealthy elitist freaks.  Eating hand-peeled grapes and cashing royalty checks.  They even call their checks “royalty” – the nerve! (OK, full disclosure.  I wrote a book. It sold tens of copies and made bazillions. I’m pretty sure the royalty check will show up this week.)
  • Publishers are rich too. Not just the big ones, the small ones are rolling in dough.  Every one of them owns an office building and stuff.  I know this because I regularly meet my publisher in a coffee shop in an office building and I don’t think he would go there if he didn’t own the property.  This is true but, it isn’t in Wikipedia. One of us should put it in. You can do it.
  • Authors are lazy. It is super easy to write a book. It doesn’t take thousands of hours sweating out every word alone.  They don’t risk their egos and repeated rejection. Mostly, they go to coffee shops where the hot young baristas drool all over them because they are creative. (Yeah, they seem to drink a lot of coffee. I noticed it too.  I’ll bet some take soy milk. I hate that. It really isn’t milk, you know?) Wouldn’t you like to meet baristas?
  • They are showing off. None of them are trying to entertain or educate.  They are just snooty, rich, lazy people who get more attention than you for doing practically nothing. Which brings us back to you.

All of this stuff makes you angry and you have to do something about it. You could write your own book and it would be way better than anything these creepy authors could write.  It would have killer robots, or heaving bosoms. Maybe it would have killer robots WITH heaving bosoms.  And, take it from me; it is a huge amount of fun just typing bosoms.  But, let’s face it, you have to chat online and update Facebook tonight. You need to find a faster outlet for that anger. You need to review somebody else’s book.

Really any book will do. That lady with the wizard books got millions of kids and adults to read the 87 books in the series (they took her about a week to write, total), and there are hundreds of scathing reviews about them. I’d like to note here that very few things are “scathing” besides reviews. If someone calls your review scathing, you are da bomb! The point is you can rip anything regardless of what is really in it. In fact, if it is really good and you slam it, you might look so smart that you can see flaws that average people can’t. And you, my friend, are soon to be average no more! My personal recommendation is that you pick a book that is just released with very few reviews. Your brutal attack will be sure to be read by the author and cause them great embarrassment and pain.  That’s how you roll, dog.

“Fine”, you say, “however, I don’t have the time to read any books just to find one to vent my spleen upon.”  Fear not, some of the worst reviews are done by people who have clearly never read the book.  This makes the process so much easier and imagine the authors distress! Imagine people following your advice and passing over a potential classic of literature on your say so. No reading required, spleen vented. Pretty cool?

You’re welcome.

OK, How? How can you obliterate someone else’s work and never bother to read it? It is easy and I’m going to help you because we are friends. I’ll give you sure-fire techniques to make you look sophisticated, erudite, intellectual and, above all, angry. Those hot young baristas are going to be all over you!

  • First, you have to commit.  If you say things like, “I didn’t care for this book, but you might.” you are going to remain barista-free  for a long time.  You have to get out front with this, “This is the worst book, ever!” Notice that you didn’t actually say that you read it. You can repeat it in every review because these books get worse and worse. Now, go further, “I couldn’t even finish it!” Actually, you didn’t even start it. We’re keeping that as our little secret.
  • Play the opposite game.  If the book is informational, claim that is overly simplistic. If it is clearly for beginners (don’t open it, I mean from the cover) then state that it glosses over the basics that beginners desperately need. If it is romantic, there was “No romance at all!” For detective stories try, “Hard-boiled? More like lightly poached!” Are you getting this? The opposite game can go on for ever and makes you look brilliant. You are brilliant and you are my new friend.
  • Price is fun.  This is your opportunity to let everyone know about the injustice done to you. Here are some examples:
    • “$12.99 is outrageous! A total rip-off! The author is a crook!”  I love this one for two reasons, the author, typically, has nothing to do with setting price and since you didn’t really read the book, you didn’t buy it in the first place. You just keep winning and winning!
    • “No wonder this piece-o-crap was just $.99, I’d say the author should be ashamed but, apparently she is!” here the big win is that the publisher is clearly trying to build a following for an on-line book by offering a great deal. Not while you are on the job! (Sorry about using the word “job.” I know that’s a sore subject with you.)
  • Every bad review must include some personal attack.  Nobody is going to know you did it because you use a pseudonym except for the baristas you are going to brag to. You’re probably pretty good at this one already, but remember, there are style points to be earned.  Consider going for a double, “This book was written for idiots, by an idiot!)
  • Criticize the technical elements and be vague. “The plot, if there was one, was unfathomable.”  “I have no idea how a person could have the gall to write a book if they don’t even know how to use the pluperfect subjunctive tense!”  I’m sure you get the idea and I don’t know what that tense thing means either. It doesn’t matter.

Bad review

Now you know some ways to write a bad review, but please remember what this is all about…You! Make sure “I” and “my” are all through the review.  Remember when the fourth grade teach got after you about using them too much? Well, she was wrong! And she’s old now. It serves her right.  You can sit at your computer in your underwear eating Beefaroni and Skittles and using personal pronouns all day and she can’t stop you! And it is none of your mom’s business either!

Here is one final example: “I hated this book so much that I felt ripped-off over the price that I paid and that I could easily afford.  In fact, I was so angry that I took my copy and put it on my driveway and ran over it with my Porsche that is red and I totally have, but is in the shop so you can’t see it right now.” The baristas will love it.

You’re welcome. Again.

Oh, hey…do you think that you could go online and do a quick review of this article? I’m trying to build a following for my writing and thanks.  I’m glad we’re friends and sorry again about mentioning the pony tail…it probably isn’t that greasy.


Now, obviously, the above is tongue in cheek and for your entertainment. :) However, I would say that it does represent how many authors feel reading a bad review that is clearly written by someone with a grudge against mankind in general. Can you imagine how one feels if that one star review is actually a full blown mistake? Yes, that happens.

I have written two pieces over at (where I am a contributor) which looks more specifically at the problems within the system. As a side note, we here at Booktrope are huge fans of Amazon, and know they are probably doing their best with a system that is inherently based on us flawed human beings.

First – in Amazon and the Amazing Variable Review Policy I look at the Amazon police policy on 5 star reviews, i.e. who can leave them and who can’t.

Second - Amazon Bogus Reviews Part 2 – is about the fact that while the 5 star arena is heavily policed, the 1 star venue seems ignored.

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