DNF or Scathing One-Star Review?

-Berthold Gambrel

H.R.R. Gorman and Peter Martuneac were discussing this the other day, and I thought it was an interesting question for writers. Would you rather a reader:

  1. Give up on your book only a little way in (say around 5%) and never say anything about it…
  2. Or, they read the whole book, but give it a scathing one-star review?

Personally, I’d prefer the latter, especially if the review can be thorough and document what the reader didn’t like. Reviews that consist of nothing more than “I hate this,” or similar are useless. But if somebody really tore into it, and explained in detail why they didn’t like this character or that plot element… well, that could actually be useful in future writing projects.

What do you think?


  1. I also would prefer the scathing review, as long as it wasn’t malicious. No reviews at all is discouraging.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. chucklitka says:

    I can go either way. On one hand, it is always better to know what people think about your work than not to know. And yet, I DNF books quite regularly, so I can’t complain if people DNF mine and quietly move on. Really, it is simply that the author wrote a book that did not suit my tastes, or me, theirs, no malice intended, so moving on seems the natural thing to do. (Though in the reviews I post on my blog, I will say why I DNF’ed a book. But nobody reads them anyways, so it’s almost like moving on.)

    The best reviews are the ones which have a lot of stars and criticism as well. They point to things you can work on, without being discouraging.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Good point about reviews that point out problems but give the book a decent star rating. However, when a book has a lot of reviews (like hundreds or thousands), I tend to read the 3 stars or less ones that are critical without being nasty.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. kingmidget says:

        I tend to read the lower-star reviews too because I think they might be more informative about the book as compared to the glowing five-star reviews that say “Loved it!” I’ve turned away from a lot of books based on the one-star reviews.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. chucklitka says:

        Like you guys, it’s the 3 star ratings that I go to. They are usually the most honest since they are saying that the books is okay, but has flaws. And what book doesn’t?

        Liked by 3 people

  3. kingmidget says:

    If somebody turns away at 5%, I’d like to know why. (And based on the data on Kindle with the Kindle Unlimited pages info, it’s clear that people have done that.) What bothers me the most are the low ratings without any review at all. Please, if you give a three-star, two-star, or one-star review, tell me why. I don’t expect four and five-star reviews from every reader. Far from it. No book is loved by every reader. I’d just like a little honest feedback from those who didn’t like it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. chucklitka says:

      I DNF a lot of popular books simply because they do not suit my rather narrow tastes. It may have nothing to with the quality of the writing or the story, it just doesn’t suit me. And there is nothing an author can do about that. It’s me, not them. I can understand 2 & 3 star ratings — how many books are really masterpieces. It’s the 1 star ratings that have me wondering. Does that mean that the DNF’ed it? Or did they read the whole thing and hate it? Who knows?

      Liked by 3 people

      1. kingmidget says:

        I don’t think somebody who didn’t finish a book should rate or review it. Years ago, when I read The Kite Runner, I was about to give up on it after the first 20-30 pages. But I kept on and that book is one of my favorites ever. I just don’t understand how a reader can rate a story they didn’t finish. That said … I read a book once where I got to about the last ten pages and I didn’t finish it because I realized I just didn’t care how it ended. I’ve written about that on my blog, but I don’t believe I identified what book it was. (I could be wrong about that though.)

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Marina Costa says:

    I finish all books I start. It is a discipline rule. Do not start something if you are not ready to finish it – be it in reading, writing or doing anything else. And I would not give any rate below 3 stars, I think. I would highlight both what I did not like and what I liked. There are no good books and bad books – there are simply different tastes. Let us keep to English-language controversed books – some liked Twilight series, some hated it with the same passion. (And yes, in my country there are similar book wars). I simply say that if I did not resonate with a book, it does not mean others might not. I just say what I liked and why I did not like other things.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I like your approach!

      Liked by 1 person

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