Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Like the author…but

Sharon Wildwind

Two years ago I met a writer-hopeful through mutual friends. The person had a strong background in technical writing and hoped to branch out into fiction. We kept in touch with occasional, “Hi, how’s it going?” e-mails. I found the person charming and witty.

Last week I had a chance to read their first book. Reading it was a classic case of like the author, couldn’t make it through the book. In a word, boring.

I am such a coward. Right now I have anonymity because they don’t know I’ve read the book, but I cringe at the thought of another, “Hi, how’s it going?” message, or even worse a “Will you review my book?” message.

I hate the cop-out of I have this, that, and the other thing going on, so I can’t review your book. I mean, how much time does a book review take?

When I was younger, I wished for the acerbic wit of the humorist who wrote in a recommendation, “If you can get this person to work for you, you will be truly fortunate.”

Now I know that a person’s feelings are far too important for off-the-cuff humor. I wish there was a kind and generous way to say, “You’re a terrific person; the book sucks.”

So far, I haven’t found it.
Quote for the week
It is a great thing to know the season for speech and the season for silence.
~Seneca, Roman philosopher, statesman, dramatist


Sandra Parshall said...

I've sometimes wondered how often well-known writers face this problem. They know a lot of other authors, and they're constantly asked to give blurbs for books because their endorsements carry weight with readers. Endorsing a bad book would not be a wise move, for several reasons. It has to be hard to find the right response when they hate the book.

Sheila Kindellan-Sheehan said...

How about - "I'm too honest for first books - I'm better with the second." - hoping the first goes nowhere...

Laura K. Curtis said...

I honestly think this is the worst feeling in the world. Knowing that a friend has worked hard and long on something but being unable to think of anything good to say about it.

Sara Hoklotubbe said...

I agree with you, Sandra. This is a tough one. I attended a Tony Hillerman Writing Conference several years ago where one of the guest speakers teased Tony by saying, "If you don't have a blurb by Tony Hillerman, it's because you didn't ask." Tony was such a gracious and supportive author, I've often wondered how many he did indeed turn down.

E. B. Davis said...

Have them read my blog on "Publishing Before Your Time," Sandra. Hopefully, they won't ask you for anything so you won't have to say anything. But their sales will say it for you. Honesty versus tact. Alternatively, instead of giving your opinion, give suggestions to make it better. "Have you thought about..."
That's my take-good luck!

Anonymous said...

Good suggestions, all. I think we're very fortunate that mystery writers do consider other writers' feelings. I've heard that there are parts of the literary world where authors feel if you can't stand the heat, you don't belong in the kitchen. What a scary way to live.

Sheila Connolly said...

It's painful. I get a number of requests to blurb first books of new Berkley series, usually throught the editor rather than the writer. Often I know the writer from conferences or loops, or I blog with her (hmm, never been asked by a guy). I've never said "no," but some were more difficult to praise than others. But there's always something nice you can say, if you look hard enough. Do you think it's obvious if you don't really mean it?

Along the lines of Tony Hillerman, I've heard an editor say that Lee Child is a blurb-whore (apologies if that offends you, but that's the term that was used) and will blurb anything (not that I've asked).

Jeffrey Penn May said...

"You're a terrific person but your book sucks." -- Thank should be your response. If you are feeling kind, then you could try to explain why it sucks. I tell people up front that they are under no obligation to "like" my work, and I encourage blunt replies. (At the same time, I don't appreciate one star reviews based on "skimming.") While I've written about this topic already in my blog "Are We All Great Writers?" you've inspired my to write another... working on it now. By the way, if you'd like to leave a great reveiw of one of my books "Where the River Splits" let me know and I'll send you a copy:) In the Author's Note, I let you off the hook if you don't like it.

Jeffrey Penn May said...

Seldom do I post without proofreading, but it's early and haven't finished my coffee. Sorry.
Thank = That my = me You're smart enough to have figured that out already, but still... probably others. Where the hell is my coffee?