May I tell you a little story, Gentle Reader?
Once upon a time (OK several years ago now) there was an author who also liked to read, but she was picky.
She liked specific things in her books, very specific things. However, quite apart from matters of taste, one consequence of editing is an eye for mistakes. (Not necessarily her own, and certainly not spelling, but other kinds of mistakes.) She has her little areas of expertise (food, fashion, Victorian London) and she has an ex-academic’s horror when she spots an error. (Yes, I know of the bad copy edit in Prudence. I promise: not my fault. Ask me about it in person over drinks someday…)
This author has an active social media base, some dedicated fans, and several loyal readers.
She feels like she owes them a great deal for their support of her work. She doesn’t want to suggest that they read a book she doesn’t herself adore. That would be a betrayal of trust. She doesn’t want to “just find one nice thing to say” about a book she wouldn’t ordinarily recommend ~ because that would cheapen her honor and feel disingenuous.
She has author friends.
Most of these friends do not write the kind of books she likes to read. Most of them understand this. Most of them don’t really like her books all that much either (if they bother to read them). Reading is a matter of taste. Most authors get this. It’s how we coexist. It’s how we survive bad reviews.
One day one of these dear author friends hands over their latest book.
She hates it. Not just a little, but a lot. It isn’t to her taste, it’s insulting in its lack of research, and it’s pat in plot and character.
She struggles. She comes up with a few modest compliments but she declines to blurb on the basis of being unable to finish. (Assumption, she doesn’t have the time… actuality, she screamed and threw the manuscript across the room.) She doesn’t say anything negative.
The other author does not take this well. There were lashings out, recriminations, snarky remarks. There was even a bit of trolling. The friendship was no more. Tears were shed.
You want to know why I don’t blurb books as a rule?
That’s why. It burned me very very badly.
Insert the snarky comments:
“Oh, boohoo, poor little Gail.”
A comment like this makes me think you actually haven’t read my books. However, if you have read my books, I hope you know two things about me: loyalty and integrity are super important. Being asked to choose between the two: integrity to my readers or loyalty to my friends, puts me in the WORST possible position. Frankly, I don’t want to be put there ever again. And guess what? I get to make the decision to protect myself.
“I’m going to ask you anyway.”
That is your prerogative, of course, and I might read your book. But the most likely response you’ll get is: sorry, I didn’t have time. Sometimes, I don’t have time. (Like right now ~ ARGH.) Sometimes this is code for “I don’t want to hurt your feelings.” Often, when I do have time, I want to read something I WANT to read. I know, call me crazy. I don’t have much reading time, I’m going to spend it on books I love. Be a professional, accept “I don’t have time.”
“Well, so nice for you that your fellow authors didn’t feel like that at the beginning of your career.”
Yeah, it really is. And I am so very grateful to people like Angie Fox who blurbed Soulless. I have struggled for a way to give back while keeping my integrity intact and my friendships safe. So…
Here’s what I will do:
- Talk and post a lot about books I like and encourage others to read them. Partly to support my fellow authors, but also so that I have an ongoing answer to the perennial questions: “What is Gail reading?” and “What do you suggest I read while you are busy writing?” and “What are some of your favorite books?“
- Review the books that I love and have discovered on my own. I try to pick debut novels. I try to pick lesser known authors. I try to find old favorites being given new life in the digital age. I post my reviews on Goodreads and Bookbub. You can follow me in either venue.
- If they are easy to contact, I reach out to the author to let them know I have reviewed them. They may choose to use a quote if they like.
- Offer author interviews here on the blog. Because I’m an author too, I ask them silly questions they don’t normally get.
Here’s what I won’t do:
- Interface with publicists. They make me sign nasty agreements that display a complete lack of social media savvy. They don’t know anything about me except my sales figures. They send me canned queries. I deal with enough of that in my career already, thank you very much. If you want me to read your book treat me like a fellow author and human creature, with feelings.
- Say I like something, when I don’t. Ever, for any reason.
- Publicly slag a book I didn’t like. Yes, I like being warned off bad books myself, but I don’t feel that’s my role to fill.
Other People’s Thoughts
- Here’s Chuck: Why I Don’t Like To Negatively Review Other Authors’ Books
- How Scalzi addressed this concern: On Book Reviews at Whatever
- Four Ways to Answer a Blurb Request
Dez of Rock N Rococo says of Etiquette & Espionage:
“It’s a fantastic YA Steampunk novel that I highly recommend. As always, Gail Carriger’s writing style is clever and charming, as are her characters. I hope you’ll take the time to read it if you get the chance!”
Quote of the Day:
“Locking myself in my childhood room, I pile my chestnut hair and pull them into a tight ponytail.”
[Hair is an it, not a them.]
“I’d barely gotten through many practices, only to let my shattered tears out in the shower right after.”
[Shattered tears? Really? REALLY?]
~ Author name redacted to protect the guilty.
… Bookbub has a lot to answer for.
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