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  1. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Should I be nice?

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by deadrats, Jul 9, 2019.

    A friend of sorts sent me his recently self published novel. It's not very good, but it's already published and out there. Is this when honesty should take a backseat? I'm not even really sure what to say. This guy has been trying for many years to be a writer without much luck. Still, this book was published prematurely at best. I know he's dropping a lot of money on advertising and such. But this book isn't doing his writing career any favors. Should I just be polite? Has the window of honesty closed now that he self published it? There are a million things wrong in addition to a poorly written and weak story. The layout and such were not handled in a professional way. He's putting a lot of effort into getting this noticed, but, again, that's really not doing him any favors. And honest or not I don't think anything I say at this point will either. How would you guys handle a situation like this?
     
  2. HeathBar

    HeathBar Member

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    Sort of? Did he send it to you with a request for feedback? I wouldn't offer any unsolicited feedback (and if he wanted that, I think he would have asked before publishing). Sending it to you after-the-fact suggests to me that he wants to say hey look! i published! and then you can comment on that with whatever you're comfortable with (e.g., something like I'm impressed by your faith in your book and how much you're going after this. I hope it works out for you and am eager to hear about what you learn in the process). If he ends up falling on his face and then asks what you think he did wrong, I think you provide your honest opinion. I can't imagine he'd be receptive to substantive feedback while in the throes of marketing his book. If you say something now he'll just always remember you raining on his parade.
     
  3. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    You probably need to tell him the truth ... but at the same time be aware that its just your opinion and you could be wrong. I'd suggest he join some self publishing facebook groups like the self publishing formula group, or the indie author minds
     
  4. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    I would advise to just be 'nice.' I [myself] have tried to offer guidance in this area on many occasions and it never works well, to your/or my interests - and, and some other duff reader/writer might enjoy the crap/contributions.

    ...Unless you're a tutor, or leading coursework?

    Saying 'It is a very good start,' or 'This is an excellent first draft...' only leaves the [idiot] crestfallen. Anyway, why would you want them to be a good writer: more competition, another rival, best they remain ignorant in the swamp, eh [snort, pig]?

    ...
     
  5. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    I advise - 'Wow, this is amazing!' with a double-wink over, from behind their shoulder.
     
  6. badgerjelly

    badgerjelly Contributor Contributor

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    Friends are people who tell each other what they might not want to hear. If you’re scared honest critique would end the friendship it probably isn’t much of a friendship in the first place.

    If you’re being cagey due to this person’s temperament then just say ‘I like what you’re doing ...’, ‘It’s nice first step’ etc., and then follow up with useful critique. If a writer can’t take critique and they’re expecting commercial success they’re just deluded. Everyone has there own little ‘delusions’ but they don’t tend to rule over their lives.

    At the end of the day complete silence isn’t going to help them move toward where they want to get to. Maybe suggest non-fiction writing? Getting a job or two writing articles for some e-zine? Basically don’t feed the delusion AND, more importantly, don’t shatter the dream.
     
  7. RobinLC

    RobinLC Member

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    This. If he really is your friend then be supportive, even if you think/know it's crap. If it really is, the reviews he gets from strangers will show him that without you being the bad guy.
     
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  8. jannert

    jannert Super Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think a lot boils down to what the arrangement was. If he's just sent you the book (paper copy, I presume?) you should acknowledge that you've received it, of course. But let his response guide you. If he doesn't expect feedback, just don't give any.

    If he does ask for feedback, you can do anything from:

    a) you haven't yet been able to start reading it (you have a few good reasons for that)
    b) it's really not your kind of book (thing, subject matter, style), so you can't pass judgement on it
    c) you think it could be improved in x number of ways (be kind or brutally honest—whatever you think he'll take on board and benefit from)
    d) list reasons why it's wonderful and can't possibly be improved (lie like a rug, in other words)

    I've always believed that rushing straight from a cursory edit to self-publication is just about the worst thing a writer can do. Self publication is an excellent way to get a book 'out there,' but it's a terrible idea to do it prematurely.

    Once the book is out there the writer is stuck with it forever—or has to withdraw it (with some loss to the writing reputation) or has to keep editing it and uploading the new versions. That's fairly easy to do with an eBook, but it still means early buyers will have read the previous awful versions. And it's certainly not a good idea to have bad versions making the rounds as a Print On Demand.

    Writers should never rush to publication. Even though they 'can.'
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2019 at 10:13 AM
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  9. badgerjelly

    badgerjelly Contributor Contributor

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    I just noticed you said “friend of sorts” not “friend”. If that is that case then don’t go too deep. I don’t see the harm with giving some feedback (perhaps just what you deem to be the biggest problem neatly tucked in between some more generous words? It does really depend on how much of s delicate flower you are of this person is really.

    I don’t advice making out it is a masterpiece in any way shape or form. That is irresponsible and will do far more harm than good in the long run.

    Remember criticism is mostly useless if you cannot offer any hint of a possible solution; that said just pointing out a problem can be immensely helpful.
     
  10. AndieBoDandy

    AndieBoDandy Member

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    Wow. You are asking some hard questions as of late...
    I like Jannerts idea here. A lot of what you say depends on what they are expecting. Perhaps a nice "Congratulations on publishing. I hope it does well..." But if they want anything more, I'd be inclined to be "gently honest". Probably not the easiest thing to do without "raining on their parade" that was previously mentioned. However, I would want to know the truth... and the truth could be as simple as: you like the idea/concept but perhaps would have refined it more before sending it to print. Don't offer any more than they ask for. That would be my advice.
     
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  11. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Loved by a Sweet lady. :) Supporter Contributor

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    IDK, cause even in group I am the worst of the three of us. :p
    But if I were asked to give feed back, in your spot, I would be
    gentle and honest. And if it is really truly as awful as you say
    it is, then it might be wise to talk with them privately about it.
    Kinda a no win sitch, when it is for someone close to you in some
    way.

    So take a bit of time to think about your options before jumping
    down a rabbit hole. :)
     
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  12. Tomb1302

    Tomb1302 Senior Member

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    I'd respect the fact that he's published it, and find the boundary between 'What do you think, I need it published' (In which case an honest, harsh response would obviously have been correct), and 'What do you think, I have it published', where you can just respectfully share opinions, and maybe some aspects of criticism.

    Hope that helps some!
     
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