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How Honest Should We Be With Each Other?

In the writing community, most of us want to support each other. One way to generously show support is to buy each other’s books. We can’t discount fellow writers as a segment of our readership. (See this post: The New Growing Segment of the Reading Population: Writers)

But in buying and reading each other’s books, we’ll inevitably come across books we don’t like. That’s just a fact of life. We won’t like all books all the time.

We might not like the subject, the writing style, the plot, the development of the story, the typos, the characters. There could be a hundred and one reasons why we don’t like a book. And that’s okay.

But what should we do about the negative reaction we have to a book? Particularly when the book was written by an author who happens to be an acquaintance or friend? What should we do when that particular author knows we read his or her book (and is perhaps waiting for word on how we liked it)?

Let’s face it, as more of us publish our books (either traditionally or self-pub), we’ll continually have more writer friends’ books to read. How are we going to handle the books that don’t resonate for one reason or another? How can we offer our support to our fellow writers when we don’t like the book? How do we tell them our true feelings without hurting their feelings and/or our relationship?

When we read a book we don’t like, here are several possible scenarios:

  • We lie totally and completely. We tell our friend we liked her book and think she’s a good writer, when in reality we couldn’t finish the book.
  • We tell a half-lie (if that’s possible!) We fudge just slightly. We think of the positive aspects we liked about the story and tell the author those things (like how well they used commas), but refrain from telling her how much we disliked the rest.
  • We’re politely honest. We give truthful but tactful feedback. We figure from one writer to another, our friend will want to know her weaknesses so she can improve. However, we make sure to point out the positives too.
  • We’re brutally and painfully honest. We decide if the author thought it was good enough to publish then they need to get a backbone and be able to take criticism.
  • We find ways to support the author, even if we can’t support her book. We praise and uplift the person, but don’t say anything about the book in particular. We reason that writing is subjective, and just because the book didn’t resonate with us doesn’t mean others will dislike it.
  • We don’t say anything at all. We opt for silence. We live by the mantra, if we can’t say anything nice, then we won’t say anything at all.

I’m quite positive fellow writers have used all of the above scenarios on my debut book. I have no doubt friends have lied to me so that they wouldn’t hurt my feelings. And I’ve also received outright negativity to complete silence, and everything in between.

But what is the best way to handle sharing our feedback with writer friends? Which of the above scenarios is the best? Which is the most supportive? After all, we truly do want to support fellow authors—at least that’s my goal.

I’m not a personal advocate of lying, but neither do I believe in being brutally and painfully honest. I like to think I fall somewhere in the middle.

In deciding what and how to share with fellow writers, it’s important to keep in mind one key fact: Writers tend to READ more critically than non-writers. The more we grow in our writing skill the more faults we begin to see in the books we’re reading.

In fact, if you’re like me, you may have a difficult time turning off your pesky internal editor when you’re reading. It’s the writer’s curse—being unable to enjoy a pleasurable reading experience without stopping to analyze the writing technique or plot development or the dialog tags or whatever.

But we need to remember most readers don’t view books with the critical mindset we writers do. Most readers will enjoy the story, skim through our mistakes, and are often much more forgiving than fellow writers.

Writer friend Naomi Rawlings said it well, “Do you remember being a regular, normal reader who didn't write and just liked to read? I do. Once in a while I found errors, but they DIDN'T pull me out of the story, though they do now . . . Writing a publishable novel takes a lot of hard work, and I refuse to be publicly critical of someone's effort."

So how honest should we be with one another in our feedback on each other’s books?

1. Decide upon the level of your relationship. The closer we are, the more trust we have, the more right we have to share our feedback.

2. Refrain from passing judgment too quickly and too publicly. As writers our reviews and feedback will likely be more critical than the average reader.

3. Remember no writer is perfect. Not me. Not you. No one. Show some grace.

What’s your philosophy when it comes to giving reviews of books and sharing feedback with fellow writers?

*Photo credit: flickr kxlly

57 comments:

  1. I do NOT like lying...but I also don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.
    It's my firm belief that there is always something good to be found in any book, whether I liked it or not. I find that strength and if I'm supposed to comment or the friend asks for feedback, I roll with the truth about what I did like and be silent about the rest (unless specifically asked).

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  2. Excellent post! It's so true - everything we read comes down to a matter of opinion. For writers, I believe the first thing we should remember is we're not going to please everyone. There will be people that don't like our book, while at the same time others will praise it.

    As for the internal editor who shouts when you read, I think it's hard for a writer to shut that feature off. Anyway, how do I handle it if I don't like a book a friend wrote? Always focus on the positives, or don't say anything at all.

    I've witnessed tweets where other writers have made negative comments about a book, and I shake my head. To do so tells me a lot about them. In fact, they don't take the craft seriously, or professionally. And when it comes time for them to publish their book, I won't be the first in line.

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  3. I think grace is always needed. And after a book is published is not the time to say anything negative about a friend's book. It's just not. Unless the author asks and then it should be mostly positive with maybe one area you didn't care for.

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  4. I think that there a lot of reviewers out there that start to read with a red pen in there hands trying very hard to year things apart. As writers we know how hard this is. I stay positive write about what I like. If there is something I really feel like saying I do it privately.
    Great blog as always!
    Elizabeth Loraine
    Http:/:royalbloodchronicles.com

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  5. Wow! My quote made it onto your blog post, Jody. I feel so cool!

    I fall somewhere between half lying and being politely honest when it comes to public reviews on places like Amazon. If I knew the writer well or the writer asked for advice, I'd go the politely honest route.

    Writers need to be very careful when they post reviews. I talked to an author last week who has an "only five star review" policy. Her publisher once asked her to endorse a writer who gave her book a critical, two star review. Even worse, one of her friends has had to work with a reviewer who once called the friend's writing "smut."

    We can't be too careful with our words.

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  6. I've been in this situation a few times. Technique and errors and blah blah blah used to pull me out, and I would feel irritated and frustrated that I couldn't just email them and say, 'look. This and this and this is wrong with it'.

    But I don't.

    And now, that I've learned how to read like a 'reader' again, it's not lying. The stories themselves have been great. What bothered me was the execution. But that SHOULDn't bother me 'as a reader'. So I've trained myself to ignore the execution and imagine I'm being narrated a story by a physical voice: a grandma, an aunt a mother. It helps. It helps for me to 'let go' of the writer brain and enjoy a piece of work for what it is: a story.

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  7. An interesting and wonderful thing happened to me on the way to having my own books pub'd . . . instead of becoming more critical, I became less critical. I'm much kindler and gentler.

    I'm an editor, too, and before I was published, I was very hard on books and authors and their writing - but now I am much more empathetic and understanding. It has opened up my world to books I may not have read before, and/or may not have enjoyed. I love this!

    If I read a book I didn't enjoy so much, I find something positive to say. I think writers should support each other, we have enough stresses and potential critique as it is out there!

    :D

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  8. This can get super-awkward as a book blogger with many author friends. Unless I'm completely swept away by a book, I try not to tell other authors if I'm reading their books at the time in case I have to abandon the book. My review policy on my blog is NOT to review any book I don't love or wouldn't recommend widely, so if I don't like an author pal's book, I keep quiet about it.

    There have been situations where I've been asked and I had to be honest and it was awful. I was able to find some positive points, but it doesn't lessen the blow. It's especially difficult because I've been in their shoes and it stinks.

    I have to be true to my blog readers, though, so if I wouldn't recommend it, I can't review it.

    Tough stuff. Great post!

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  9. It is a bit hurtful when people read your work and say it's got a lot of mistakes in a hurtful way, it's hard to understand that they are trying to help.

    I think, you should help other writers improve their writing in a nice way like how they can imrove on what they have done wrong instead of jsut saying "this is wrong"


    Great post though xxx

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  10. I learned some of this when reviewing clinical papers for professional journals during my medical career. I had to get completely away from "I wouldn't write it that way," and focus on "Is the information presented accurately and appropriately."

    In reviewing books, I try to keep in mind that I'm not the "average" reader, and be as gentle in my criticism and as honest in my praise as possible. And it's tough.

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  11. I tend to go for the "politely honest" tactic for my fiction reviews - after all, fiction is an extremely subjective matter, and a book that I, as a critical reader, may find flawed can strike another type of reader as the Best Book Ever Written. Who am I to put them off reading the book, just because it's not my favorite?

    I also stick to the reviewer's convention that you should always go easier on a first book. An author's first book is, almost by definition, not going to be the best that they can achieve over the length of their careers. It is not right to discourage at this stage; I want to give the author room to grow and mature.

    The only time my reviews get a little, um, unkind, is when I'm reviewing self-help books by self-pronounced gurus and revealers of secrets. I can't help reacting against the combination of arrogance and faulty logic that these books tend to reveal.

    I can also be a bit brisk when reviewing books by established bestselling authors, but that's because I want them to keep trying hard, and will pounce on any sign that they're phoning it in. Or because I simply don't like the book, and can say so in the knowledge that their legions of fans will keep buying anyhow.

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  12. I would probably be brutally honest - it's a curse. I am not sure I would want one to be brutally honest with me though. Like I said, it's a curse. I say things how I see them and view them. I have very little ability in lying, whether it be completely or half way. A lie is a lie and I am horrible at it. Therefore, I tend to be a bit harsh. I am not very good at sugar coating things. Either I love it, like it, or I don't. Brutal honesty is painful and I do try very hard not to crush someone, but I can not lie to them. I would hope and pray that they would not lie to me either. I also pray I would able to handle it. It's a tough balance to find, I do believe.

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  13. You pose a relevant question especially for the growing writer community on Twitter. Lately I have been scanning a LOT of CBA books simply to improve my understanding of the market my own books will release into next year. Sometimes I know what I need to know with just a couple chapters. Most writers don't know I'm reading so no harm done. But when the goal is to support someone, it's a different question. Love and respect must guide. I must remember that the goal is not to prove I am a better writer by showing how much I know in comments, but to acknowledge what the writer has accomplished.

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  14. I think I would use a combination of the strategies you've outlined above. First and foremost, if I really didn't like the book, I'd just keep quiet. I very much follow the 'if you can't say something nice...' strategy. As authors, we're here to help each other, so if a book doesn't strike a chord with me, I'll just stay silent. If I liked some parts of the book and not others, I'd talk up what I did like. If I like the whole book, I'll write a review on Amazon! ;) If I was going to write feedback for the author's eyes only because I thought I could offer constructive criticism, I'd do it through private contact because that's not for the eyes of the whole blogosphere. But you're right - writers definitely read with a totally different eye than most readers, so what grates on us often won't even be noticed by the average reader.

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  15. I'm leaning towards the "Find ways to support the author, even if we can't support her book." I totally agree that writing is subjective, and just because I didn't like it, doesn't mean it's bad.
    If there's a glaring error that I just couldn't take then I'd have to be brutally honest with her, but that rarely ever happen.
    I make sure that whatever I say or do, the author knows I love and trust her talent. Also, I need to make sure I didn't do anything on the base of jealousy.

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  16. Thanks for tackling this topic. It IS hard to know what to do. I've always had the philosophy that my blog isn't a review site--it's an author site--so I only post positive reviews.

    Also, I point out the positives and leave out the negatives. Like you said, writers read more critically than readers. I do like to leave reviews on Goodreads (I rarely leave one on Amazon, although I may change that) and I maintain the same philosophy there. The only difference is if I gave the book a lower star rating, I give a reason--in a kind way--why.

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  17. I like what Jen said about offering feedback through private contact rather than the whole blogosphere.

    Sometimes, though, when I know someone has read my novel and says nothing to me...that speaks volumes.

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  18. This is such an important issue, Jody and one I haven't seen addressed before. I am not an advocate for lying, but I have to admit I have not told the truth in a few cases because, being writers, we know what goes into getting a book published, and I don't want to hurt anyone that way. THe closest I've come to truth is telling someone I couldn't write a review because I couldn't read the book. Great post.
    Karen

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  19. I think your point that as writers we do read with a more critical eye--oh to go back to the way I used to read!! Something to remember!

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  20. Good question! Once the book is actually published, there may not be any real value in criticism, but it's also hard to be dishonest. I supposed for me, it would depend largely on how well I knew the author and what exactly my issue was with the book.

    This reminds me of a situation my mom and her friend encountered some years ago: A neighbor invited them over to see the stained-glass piece that she had made herself, which had been installed in their front door. It was quite garish, and my mom found herself at a loss for what to say. Then the other friend said, "Wow--you worked so hard on this. You must be really proud of it." Perfect!

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  21. Goodmorning everyone! I just have to say WOW! This is a great disucssion this morning! I'm loving hearing all of your thoughts on this issue! Thank you all for chiming in!

    Christa, I agree. When friends don't say anything, that also speaks volumes! I can't help but think it means they didn't like the book and just don't want to say anything negative to me.

    And Julie, what an AWESOME thing to say: "Wow--you worked so hard on this. You must be really proud of it." THAT IS PERFECT! Thank you for sharing that with us all! :-)

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  22. I don't think I'd be able to outright lie, so I'd probably just opt for some polite silence with possibly some construction criticism only if I thought it would really HELP. I would however want people to be brutally honest with ME because I want to learn as much as possible. But again, nothing like "You suck, get a new job", but something HELPFUL.

    I do think reading as writer is both a blessing and a curse. Yes we notice mistakes, but I appreciate great books on a whole new level now.

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  23. GREAT stuff today Jody (more like everyday)

    I'm a big, big advocate of focusing on the positive. Every book (just like every person) has something positive about it. If it seriously doesn't, then silence is the best option.

    Maybe the story wasn't a page-turner. Heck, maybe you had a hard time finishing the story. But what about the characterization? The voice? The setting? The unique plot? There has to be something that worked, otherwise it wouldn't be published.

    So I focus on the positive aspects and let the others go.

    It's one thing if I'm somebody's critique partner. Then it's my job to be honest (yet gracefully so). But if I'm reading a book that is already published, then saying something negative at this point - even if I do so in a tactful way - isn't going to be helpful at all. It will only increase the writer's anxiety/angst and we writers have enough of that on our own.

    When I do this, I'm remaining honest and uplifting. That's who I want to be. :)

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  24. This is such a tricky thing! I've had the experience recently of reading a friend's book and really not liking it (it wasn't your book though--I honestly did love THE PREACHER'S BRIDE). I tried to pick out some things I liked about it and focus on those, but I still felt a little dishonest. Oy. It's tough.

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  25. Good point Jody. I'm glad I only do the odd book review on my blog, and because there are bound to be books from friends that you don't like, I would never put a bad review up. I'm glad I haven't had the problem yet, but have no clue how I'd go about it. Would never outright lie though and definitely not do anything in public. Yikes!

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  26. Jody, I really like your point about remembering that as a writer I'm likely to expect much more from a book than a non-writing reader. They focus on story and not on craft.

    If the author has told a great story, that's what's important. Even though I might not like the additional POVs, use of flashbacks, etc. and would have done things differently, readers aren't likely to care as long as it works.

    When I post my reviews I try to think like a reader. If I liked the story, it gets a good review. If I don't care for the story itself and can't honestly give it a four or five-star review, I don't post one because I feel doing so could hurt the writer, who might well be a friend or future friend. Others might love the story, and I wouldn't want to discourage them.

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  27. Great post!!!! Such a touchy subject. I tend to lean more toward the "if I can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" mantra. It is so hard to turn off the internal editor....I miss the days of being able to read and just immerse myself in the story...nothing pulling me out. Sometimes I can do it now, but it's gotta be a fantastic book that sucks me right in, giving me such an intriguing plot that the little things don't pull me out.

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  28. This is a great post, Jody. For myself, I believe in honesty first. People that are my friends know I'm not going to sugarcoat things (wherever possible and appropriate anyway). But even though I don't mind brutal honesty directed towards my writing, I try to take the brutal portion out when talking about my friends' works. I'm still honest, but my intention is never to hurt a person's feelings. Sometimes it happens anyway, but hopefully my friends know I would never intend that on purpose. I can even say that with people whom I don't yet call friends (i.e. acquaintances, strangers, etc), I either try to be honest or don't say anything at all. It might be a bit chicken to not say anything at all, but I figure we beat ourselves up enough as it is. There's no need for us to beat each other up too. I suppose the argument could be made that omitting is the same as lying. Call me hypocritical then. I'd rather be putting out a positive vibe (or none at all) than being responsible for increasing the negativity we all experience at some point during the writing process.

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  29. In no circumstances should lying ever be a viable option and likewise, silence is only more annoying than nothing at all. I think if we hold to professionalism then we should be able to tactfully find a way of addressing it in public. If it's a private conversation find the positives and the negatives and tell them. Honest feedback is critical to growing as a writer.

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  30. Excellent post and discussion. One author I know said she will not post anything below a 4 star review for any author because we are all struggling writers. That made me think.

    As a writer and reviewer, I feel it is my duty to be objective and honest (hard to do sometimes when the book is written by a friend). However, honesty without grace is brutality. When a friend asks me to review I refuse to be silent. I know what that feels like.

    My guideline is not to lie nor to be brutally honest. I can find something positive in a book if I try. I have been fortunate that books written by author friends of mine have deserved praise - and I give it. However, I don't hesitate to put a note of criticism in a review because it keeps the review sounding objective rather than writing something like, "You must read my best friend's book. It is the best ever..."

    Honest feedback helps writers grow.

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  31. What a wonderful post, and just when I needed it most. Several of my friends have books coming out this summer, both traditionally published and self-published. And in fact, my own book is debuting this fall! With all that going on this definitely comes up.

    Thank you for reminding me to read like a reader, not a writer. I think that will help a lot!

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  32. Your comment about the writer's curse really resonated with me. Often I will analyze a book I'm supposed to be reading for enjoyment and then keep track of the plot elements. This annoys my non-writer friends who just want to know whether I liked the book or not. They don't want a 10-page explanation :-)

    Thanks for the suggestions on how to give an author feedback. I haven't given a review yet on my blog, but I'll be sure to use your tips in the future.

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  33. This was an insightful post, and has given me a few things to think about. I dislike writing reviews of friend's books, exactly for the reasons you outlined. I'm afraid anything other than glowing praise will be a problem.

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  34. This is a difficult post to comment on.

    You brought up a lot of good points and great tips ~ thank you!

    I keep to the positive aspects. How deep I go, does depend on my relationship with the author.

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  35. I have stopped doing any book reviews for whom the author is living. My one exception to this is that I will occasionally refer to a book which I am currently using if is helping me with my life or my writing.

    In case you are wondering why...

    I got myself into a sticky situation over a year ago, where I had to (in honesty, as a matter of integrity) post a negative book review for BookSneeze. I did it, but not without a good deal of angst. I thought about how I might later be seeking support from other Christian writers and how a negative PUBLIC review could discourage potential readers away from another author's book -- one that they might like. Was that fair to another author? I realized, too, that it was counterproductive -- really negative networking for me as a future author...and I said,"Never again!"

    I have stopped doing all book reviews. I now support authors as my friends, instead. I know blogby book reviews are a very popular way to promote books, but I just can't do it. I think part of the issue is that my private opinion is one thing. To put it out there in a PUBLIC forum is a different matter -- with far-reaching consequences.

    Once you start saying "Yes" , how do you say "NO"? What happens with Bertha XYZ who is your blog reader approaches you for a friendly review for her self-pubbed baby? What about the book which Thomas Nelson sent you which you believe is actually destructive in some way? How do you address honestly the quality of the writing and the trueness of ideas -- in fairness to your readers who have come to trust your judgement?

    I think we have to be very selective, very careful with criticism in public forums.

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  36. Jody, this was a very good, thorough post on how honest one should be from a reader's point of view. On the flip side...how honest do you as a writer WANT your readers to be, of your own work? And of the scenarios you mentioned, are there any that particularly bother you?

    ~ Betsy

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  37. It can be difficult. As you said, writers read more critically. Have to know your relationship with the author.

    For writers who specifically request a review from me, I warn them in advance that I can't promise a great review. I will be fair and honest, but I won't critique the book nor will I denigrate it.

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  38. Besty of @7 Eagles asked: "How honest do you as a writer WANT your readers to be, of your own work? And of the scenarios you mentioned, are there any that particularly bother you?"

    My response: As I mentioned, I've gotten a variety of the responses, everything from brutal honesty to absolute silence.

    I suppose my preferred method is for readers to find the specific things that they liked. But then if something didn't resonate, to mention that as well (in a tactful way!). In other words, start with the positive, and then give the concerns. It's always easier to swallow the bitter pill when it's given with some sugar! :-)

    I also appreciate when readers recognize that their experience is subjective and make a point of saying that not all readers are going to feel the same way they do.

    As I've mentioned before, I had one reader claim that my book was completely inappropriate due to too much sensual content. And another reader believed that it was refreshingly sweet and free of the sensual content. The point is that readers will have varying experiences and they need to be sensitive to that when tempted to get too critical.

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  39. I agree with you about "striking a happy medium." Due to the wide mix of authors I am in contact with, it would be difficult to objectively judge all of their work. If I did, it would be the Dunning-Kruger Effect at its best. As a reader, sometimes I don't know what I don't know. As a writer, if it's not my genre it would be in my best interest to keep my mouth shut.

    Therefore, I usually stick to the good things. If I were asked for negative commentary I would only mention something that was glaring and could easily be fixed and not something that is subjective.

    Further, if I can't leave a five star review, I opt for silence. I would send a private note with comments for anything else.

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  40. Somewhere I once learned that you can open with a negative, but follow up with the positives. So, if there is something negative I think I really have to say I will make sure to follow with at least 2 or 3 positives. I don't like to lie, but I really don't like hurting someones feelings. You brought up good points, and ones we should think about when looking at others works.
    Oh, and I've been gone so long that I now see your new book is cover up. I can't wait to read it!

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  41. Been in this pickle before when pressed to comment on a few self-pubbed books that, in my opinion, lacked an editor's polish. I handled it by praising the accomplishment and focused on the parts I liked, and directed the (private) conversation and suggestions towards the next project. If it's not something I could recommend, then I don't.

    I do agree that an honest evaluation is helpful for a writer's growth, but prefer to offer comments that might help a current project than point out weaknesses on something the writer can't change.

    All in all, for me, friendship trumps feedback so being supportive is the path I usually take.

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  42. I have to echo what Richard said. I've had to tell a writer friend that I thought the manuscript fell below her usual standards. She took it well and made some changes and I then tried to be generous with the praise.

    Thanks for the reminder that as a writer, I read with different eyes.

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  43. You did a magnificent job of tackling a tough subject, Jody. Writers are readers, too, and as readers, we will read books we don't like, even from friends. We don't all write the same thing, therefore we obviously have different tastes. That's what makes this world so amazing - our differences. I do think we can always find something positive to say about a friend's book, but unfortunately, like Christa pointed out above, silence sometimes screames volumes. But that's part of this writing world.

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  45. Great topic Jody!

    I have experienced quite a few of these feelings mentioned. I've done quite a few book reviews on my site. Only one that I recall was difficult to write. The book was flat out boring, to me anyway. I didn't share that because I may have had a hard time with it since it wasn't a topic I was struggling with.

    I read all nonfiction with my internal editor on! I can't turn it off. I'm the absolute worst with the things I've written. I read through my work and want to make changes, cut words, move around sentences. It's writer OCD!

    As a new-author, I have to admit, when I receive a compliment from another writer I'm quite the cynic. I wonder if they really enjoyed my piece or felt obligated to be kind.

    When it comes to fiction, I can read it and review much more objectively because I don't understand POV and plot structure, etc.

    My heart is to encourage my writer-friends. I have a loyalty to those with my literary agency, and the people in my critique group. I want them to succeed.

    Thankfully, I can almost always find something I love, and will accentuate the positive. It's up to the reader to ultimately make the choice to get their book or not.

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  46. I struggle with this as a reviewer, but even if I didn't love a book, I try to accentuate the positive. For example, romantic suspense is not my favorite, but that's because it's a slower read for me compared to a straight suspense, so I let the reader know it's not my cup of tea (to use a cliche) but romantic suspense lovers would really enjoy it!

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  47. First, I look at the book itself. Is it in a genre I normally like? Would I have picked it up off the shelf? If not, then I'm probably not a part of the book's primary audience. So I'll mention that, that the book is probably great for the genre and audience, but it's personally not my kind of story. Then I point out the things that they did well, and encourage them to get a fan of the genre to read it.
    If I didn't like it because it was just not good, most likely the problem is that the beginning didn't hook me. I'll point that out, then follow up with things they did well.

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  48. Thanks for this, Jody. It's the first time I've seen it mentioned on a Blog site, and such an important issue.

    I'd been thinking the same thing as Katie, if you're a crit-partner, it's another ball game w/ different (and very personal) rules.

    Otherwise, there is ALWAYS something positive to be said. As was mentioned, writers know the hundreds of struggles on the path to getting a book "out there." That alone is a HUGE accomplishment.

    To the choice of "silence." I say, "Never." For me, silence is one of the most difficult things to accept, BECAUSE there are so many positive things to say that have nothing to do with I LIKED IT.

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  49. I prefer to be sensitive to the author's feelings and be as positive about the book as possible. If there is some glaring mistake in the book, I would be as tactful as possible and gently suggest a change. But as hard as it is to write a readable story, I treat others as I would want to be treated.

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  50. This is something I wonder about, especially now that I'm published. I like to be honest, but I don't like hurting anyone's feelings either. If I read a book that really isn't my cup of tea, whatever the reason, I will probably still review it and maybe try to explain the things that for me, didn't work so well. For instance, I really don't read historicals. So when I do, I'm probably not going to get as much out of that kind of book as an avid historical fan would. Now that I am in a position of receiving reviews for my own book, I know how it feels to hear not so nice comments, which thankfully have been few and far between. I have noticed though, that some people are very tough reviewers and do not give those five stars out - I always wonder what their reasons are for a 4* instead of a 5* review, but I'd never ask somebody who gave me a mediocre review to explain why it wasn't better!! It's all subjective I guess and you can't please everyone. Great topic!

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  51. My blog Amish Stories is having its first ever contest this week. The First prize winner will win 2 tickets to tour the farm where the 1985 move "Witness" staring Harrison Ford and Kelly Mcgillis was made in Strasburg,Pa . This farm is now Amish owned, and the family has given permission for folks to tour their farm. This may be the last time anyone will be able to walk and see the same things that Harrison Ford and the other actors saw during the making of "Witness". The Witness tour should last about 2.5 hours. In addition to the Witness farm tour tickets, 1st prize winner will also receive 2 tickets for Jacobs choice. There will also be a 2nd place prize, which will be 2 tickets for the Amish Homestead. Please go to My blog www.AmishStorys.com for contest details, and more information on the prizes. Richard from the Amish settlement of Lebanon county.

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  52. I don't review books that I don't like at least somewhat. You're right, books are so subjective and we can't possibly like all of them even when we like the authors.

    When asked if I've read one that didn't work for me I tell what I call the "gentle truth", ie. a positive, followed by why I couldn't connect with the story which so far has always been related to differing interests, not the writing itself.

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  53. I'm not exactly sure how I'd handle the situation, but I think I'd try to point out all the positives. And you're right, we do read with a more critical eye, which can be a blessing and a curse.

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  54. I think a gentle, impersonal honesty is always best. There are ways to say, "I think this part may need a little work and this is what I mean," versus "this part sucks, what did you think you were doing?" This is in the contexts of reviewing a friends unpublished manuscript. I always make it a policy to not really "review" friend's books. If I do, it's always sort of generic.

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  55. Thank you for posting this!

    As a children's book author (who has current aspirations of writing a big girl book), I really want to be told the truth. I don't want a pity review by any means BUT I would prefer that if someone doesn't like the content of my book, they provide constructive criticism. I have had 2 reviews where an off-the-wall comment was made where there was no purpose for it.
    There is such a thing as being constructively critical in a sensitive way. Right? :)

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  56. I normally try to be an honest person, but I fully lied to a friend about their book and I've felt horrible about it. It just makes things awkward whenever the subject comes up because I have to pretend to think it's wonderful even though it took all I had to get through it. I never should have lied. There was a better way to handle it. But now I've gone with the lie for so long that fessing up would do more harm now than it would have then.

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  57. Thomas Morgan - Tam

    When reading a book how do you interpret the way a writer feels at that particular time? Being involved in a story and expressing feelings can interpret inner expressions that sometimes come out false or seemingly wrong.

    It’s hard to judge I try to read between the lines and find the course of the book.

    There is a story in every one it some time hard to get it right.

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