I have a thing about advice columns. You may know this about me. They’re like crack. I can’t avoid them. And Dear Prudie dropped this on me today:
Q. I Don’t Like My Friend’s Book: My friend recently self-published his first novel. I bought a copy to support him. I really, really hate to admit it but I didn’t care for it. In fact, I didn’t even finish. I got through half of it before I gave up, read the last couple of pages, and put it down. He needs an editor badly and overall, it just wasn’t well-researched or plotted. In fact, he self-designed the cover in Photoshop. He wants to know if I liked the book, and honestly, I don’t know what to say. On one hand, I don’t want to tear him down because I know how proud he was of writing the book. On the other hand, I feel like he needs to know that he needs to improve on a few things. Is there a way to broach the subject without hurting feelings? Or do I just drop the issue and lie to him?
First things first, actually: don’t buy my book to support me. Buy my book because you think you might enjoy it.
That said: If you have bought my book to support me, and if upon attempting to read my book you discover you don’t like it, and if I enquire as to your opinion of said book at some point subsequent to your reading it, tell me the truth. I write science fiction and fantasy. I am fully aware that my writing is not the preferred genre of any number of my friends even before we get to issues of the quality of my prose. I need y’all to understand that I live in fear of being an impostor, a fear most writers share. I would absolutely one hundred percent prefer to know that you didn’t like my writing than to have smoke blown up my butt, and I am more than smart enough to figure it out if you’re trying to be sneaky with your word choices with me.
It will be fine. I will be fine. You will be fine. The phrase you want is “I couldn’t get through it,” or “I couldn’t finish it.” Say it fast, if you need to; rip the damn Band-Aid off. I might ask you why, but I probably won’t. If I do, tell me. It will be okay. I have yet to drop a friend because of their opinions on my writing. It won’t happen with this book, either.
(And go buy my stupid little book because you will like it, dammit.)