Join me every Saturday as I ask a Fun Question that’s been on my mind. I’ll give you my take, but I really hope you’ll jump in with your answers too, since I’m really curious to know what my fellow readers and bloggers think! So today’s question is…
How do you break the bad news?
This is a question I’m asking because I genuinely need help figuring out how to do this. I like to think of myself as a nice person. I do not like to hurt people’s feelings. But I’m also an honest person. When I say that receiving a book for free will not alter my opinion of the book, I mean it. When I’m reviewing books that I’ve purchased or even received from NetGalley or tours I don’t feel as bad saying that I didn’t like it, because I’m not in direct contact with the author. There’s some person or medium that’s going to work as a middle-man for me and the bad news. But when an author asked me to read for them and I accept, the bad news has to go to them directly. And that sucks.
This is why I take great pains to read book summaries, reviews, and, if possible, excerpts, before accepting a review request. I feel bad saying no to a book review request – and honestly, I kind of chicken out and just don’t respond when I know a book isn’t for me… sorry, I just suck at saying no. And one time I wrote out this very considerate response explaining that I appreciated them thinking of me, but I could tell that it wasn’t a book I would like, so it was better for both of us if I declined. Well, I was basically told I didn’t know what I liked, because I would most definitely like that book. They wouldn’t take no for answer. So now, I just give no answer.
But that’s not the bad news I’m talking about. I’m talking about when my careful consideration failed me. I’m thinking of a very specific circumstance right now, but I won’t name the book – as I haven’t told the author yet and don’t want to give it bad publicity. I really loved the concept and setting for the book when I read about it. But I got 30% in and realized that I was bored out of my mind. Everything was just taking too long to unfold, I didn’t like the characters (at best I was ambivalent to them), and I was incredibly frustrated by the fact that the element that had been hinted at way back in chapter 2 still hadn’t reappeared. I had pushed through longer than I normally would because it was a review book and I didn’t want to admit that I was going to have to tell the author that I had to DNF their book. But it happened. I couldn’t do it any longer.
So now what? I feel that my avoidance strategy for review requests (which I’m not particularly proud of, but I’m being honest) would be really inconsiderate here. An author gave me their book for free, hoping that I would be able to give them some good publicity. They deserve a response. Do I take the constructive criticism route and tell them why I didn’t like it? Or do I try to spare them as much as possible and simply say that it wasn’t for me, but I appreciate them considering me for a review? I’m afraid of the second option because of the response I received to using that same kind of strategy with review requests. But I also don’t want to be unkind – which I’m afraid the first response could be. As a writer myself, I know that what you write is personal and a labor of love. I also know that when I ask someone to read, I want their honest opinion. I want them to tear it apart – but it’s also not published yet. If I could no longer go back to the drawing board, how would I feel?
So my plea: How do you break the bad news?