Stop Posting Spoilers — and Other Tips for Writing An On-Line Review

The last time I wrote a blog post about how to write and on line reviews was nearly nine years ago.  Back then, I was really explaining to visitors to my site how to post a review on Goodreads or Amazon.

I realize that, these days, most people (or at least most people who read my books) know how to do this.  But it has come to my attention that there are several things many people do in writing their reviews that annoy other people.  So I figured I would write a new post, trying to correct some of these problems.


There is not a single person on earth who appreciates having a review spoil a surprise in a book that they want to read.  NO ONE!  And writing ‘Warning: Spoilers Ahead’ does not mitigate the damage.

It is very very easy to not put a spoiler in your review.  Simply don’t share anything from the book that you were surprised to find out.  Of course, this not only applies to writing reviews on websites, but also comments on this webpage — or any other.

And, for the record, I am not only talking to amateur reviewers here.  There are plenty of professional — or at least seasoned — reviewers who spoil things in their reviews all the time.  Don’t do it.  Or random people will hate you.


Just about every site only gives you five options for reviews: 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 stars.  Admittedly,  having only five options lacks nuance.  That said, it is staggering to see how many times someone will give a four star review and say, ‘I really think this should be 4.5 stars.’  If you ever feel like this, round up!  That’s just basic math, people.  And do you know what it costs you to give something 5 stars instead of 4?  NOTHING.


If you don’t like the subject matter that a book veers into, that doesn’t mean it deserves a one star review.   Because that isn’t really a review of the book at all; it’s your own personal issues coming through.

If you don’t believe in evolution and a book mentions it, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad book. If you are uneasy with the concept of homosexuality and a book has a gay character, that doesn’t make it a bad book.  If you feel that a book shouldn’t use a synonym for ‘buttocks’ and it does, that doesn’t make it a bad book.  (In that case, try reviewing the book for the 69,999 words in it that didn’t offend you, rather than the 1 that did.)  A bad review based on your own personal issues says more about you than it does about the book.


Recently, I have had issues with people purposefully posting spoilers — or even fake spoilers — simply to upset people.  That’s not cool.

That said, if you really didn’t like a book of mine, you should feel free to write a review saying that you didn’t like it.  Personally, I find well-written reviews explaining what a person’s problems with my book were to be very helpful.  (Although I certainly like reading 5-star reviews more.)


You’re probably thinking to yourself ‘Why is Stuart even writing this?  What kind of knucklehead would post a bad review as a joke?’

This one, for starters:

And that’s not the only time i have found a review like this.  I can’t believe I have to say this, but: Don’t do this!  Most people don’t read every single review a book has.  They just look at the cumulative ratings.  A once star review doesn’t get counted as a joke.  It gets counted as the worst possible review.

Also… This isn’t even remotely funny.  Would you think it was funny if a teacher gave you an F on a test and then said, “I was just joking!”  I am guessing that you would not.  So please, folks, if you’re going to make a joke on-line, don’t do it at someone else’s expense — and also, try to be funny.

Okay.  I’ve said my piece.  Thanks for reading this.

90 thoughts on “Stop Posting Spoilers — and Other Tips for Writing An On-Line Review

  1. Spy school at sea-

    I do not think that is the case. Because all of us have been rude at one point and Mr. Gibbs did not erase all the comments. ( if he even did this)

  2. Spy school at sea-

    I just emailed Mr. Gibbs. And he said that he was removing all the old comments that were taking up space on his server. But accidentally deleted the newer ones too.

  3. To everyone –

    The site has not been hacked. Instead, it is getting overwhelmed by the number of comments. I was trying to delete some of the thousands of older comments and accidentally deleted newer ones.

    Don’t panic.

    But, that said… The more random comments people post on my site, the worse the site runs. So if there are going to be enormous discussions about what languages everyone speaks and what instruments everyone plays, that is going to affect the site’s performance.

  4. Erica hale –

    There is a whole discord where people can have discussions about my books, as well as a wiki site as well, I think.

    I’m not saying that everyone can’t have discussions here, but my primary aim for this comments section is for people to be able to ask questions and respond to them, and when there are discussions about random topics, it makes it hard for people to find the answers to their questions — and it eventually overhwlems my site.

  5. Mr. Gibbs, I have an interesting idea (I know you don’t take readers idea’s, but I wanna share it because it’s pretty interesting even though it’s kind a confusing). I came up with this idea when I was trying to guess what could Project X could be;

    Some mysterious people gets the upper hand and finds pretty much enough classified information about the academy and most of the agent-in-trainings identify in order to threatens the CIA because of how many times they have destroyed and thwarted many plans and organizations.

    Seeing all this, the CIA try to find who these people are, but sadly, will fail with two options; Shut down the whole academy and just pray they don’t now reveal anything or kicks Ben out of the academy since they believe that this has to do something with him AND if it actually does something to do with him which, of course, the only way to prove this is to kick him out, they could also use him once again to find who these people are and to get their first lead and a way to destroy them before they become more of a problem to them. Or even kick him out because they want him to get killed purposely for the sake of their security and so the lives of other agents don’t be in danger because of him since Ben has become a center attention to bad guys.

    So, they would choose the second option first and kick Ben and try not to look weak.

    And frankly, its hard to imagine Erica’s role.

  6. Stuart-
    I am a huge fan of your books. Especially the spy school series. Idea/question: Is trixie going to stay in the boarding school or is she going to move to spy school or a place like that?
    Also, when will the storyline for the next one come out?
    I would like to thank you for all the work you have done making books. You have given me so many hours of amazing reading!

  7. Phew, thats a relief. I was on the website when all the comments got deleted and I thought I did something. Also, Mr. Gibbs sorry about all those discussions, I had no idea that it was causing a problem. One question: Some people (including me) post questions to everybody. For example, someone might ask ‘what is your favorite SS book?’ It kinda like a poll. Can we still do that, or is that no longer allowed?

    Thx and sorry again,

    Alexander Zverev

  8. Mr Gibbs-

    Why do most of the one star reviews on Goodreads say Alexander is going to die in the next book? Why do people think this?

  9. Rando –

    While I appreciate your enthusiasm for sharing your ideas, I already have a plot for Project X as well as ideas for many future books in the series. So it is very hard to accept ideas from readers.

  10. Finley –

    I probably won’t reveal the storyline for several more months. And I am going to keep Trixie’s role in it a secret.

  11. Alexander –

    You are free to have discussions. I am not disallowing anything. I’m just saying that when there are lots of comments, I have to eventually start deleting them.

  12. James –

    The reviewers claiming that Alexander dies are, frankly, just being jerks. They know that is just a lie, but they are doing it, probably because they think it’s funny to upset readers like you.

    I have been trying to get Goodreads to remove those reviews, but it turns out that Goodreads doesn’t seem to be a very responsive company to authors like me. Feel free to flag all those reviews for containing spoilers (even though the spoilers aren;t true.)

  13. Erica Hale-

    If I recall correctly, Trixie is around the same age as Ben. Actually, I think she’s a year younger.

  14. Hi, I reported all of the troll comments in the 1 star section of Spy School at Sea since two weeks ago; however, the only response I have received is the same form from someone named Kelly. I hope that good reads fixes the problem soon because it is messed up that someone would put false claims just to lower a books rating. Thanks for making amazing books!

  15. Trixie Hale –

    Thanks for reporting the trolls. I have received emails from Kelly as well. Unfortunately, Kelly doesn’t seem to do anything except say that someone is going to fix the problem, which never happens.

  16. Yeah, I’ve received emails from Kelly too. I’m mean what’s the point of being able to flag reviews if no one is going to do anything about it? I know they probably are really busy, but it’s been two weeks since I reported some of them (there are some new ones that appeared around last week which is just great).

  17. Mr. Gibbs-

    How do you organize your day from writing and doing other activities. Also, on average how much time do you spend writing.

  18. A big fan –

    After my children go to school, I take a walk to organize my thoughts and then come home to write. Can really don’t keep track of how much i write every day. It can vary wildly depending on where I am in the process and whether or not I have school visits or other work-related things.

  19. Erica Hale –

    I doubt that you could survive only eating ice cream, unless the ice cream was spinach flavored.

  20. “I doubt that you could survive only eating ice cream, unless the ice cream was spinach flavored.”
    Possibly the single best Stuart Gibbs quote ever.

  21. Stu—
    Are you planning on doing a crossover between Charlie Thorne, Spy School, and Funjungle at some point?

  22. Ben Ripley –

    I think the SS10 cover & title release will be posted in early January of 2022, and FJ8 will be posted in late 2022.

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