Not all negative reviews are a bad thing…
Pick a book and look it up on goodreads.com. It can be one you liked, despised or were indifferent about, just make sure it has 100 ratings or more. Now go to the ratings details – notice anything?
This brings me to the example given below: War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells. A pretty well-known Sci-Fi classic that I found interesting, but a little out-dated when I read it recently, so I’d probably give it a 3/5.
Notice how there’s a mix of good and bad reviews. The red dotted line sketched over the bar chart is what math geeks would refer to as a gaussian distribution, or a bell-shaped curve. Do you see a trend? This general ‘bell-shape’ will crop up for any good distribution of reviews (with it’s peak centred on the average rating) and is a good indicator for potential readers about whether a book is legitimately good or not.
Potential readers can be wary of a new book especially one that has solely positive reviews. Would you trust the reviews of a book that has twenty 5 star ratings out of twenty? What about if the ratings were split 50:50 between 1 and 5 stars?
Although the first negative review can be a demoralising experience, it is essential for the credibility of a particular book especially in a growing sea of new material. Whether we think about it or not, our mind is geared to accept a mix of opinions such as the above and will be suspicious of potentially false information. If you want to know more about the benefits of a negative review check out the following blogs:
Now for the challenge – Can you find a book listed in Goodreads (with 100+ ratings) that doesn’t show this kind of ‘bell-shape’?