I had another post scheduled for today, but this question came in this morning and I had to bump it to the front of the line. (The line of questions, btw, which is getting shorter and needs to be pumped up by you dear readers…)
I have recently begun reading more LDS fiction, and I have found some works that I really enjoyed. I look forward to meeting the authors and sharing my appreciation in person.
However, I have also started several books that have been thrown across the room in frustration and then abandoned. I wonder just what I should do when given the chance to meet one of these authors. Do I avoid them? Pretend I’ve never read their book? Lie about my opinion? Or just present them with the brutal truth?
You must certainly find yourself in similar situations on occasion. How do YOU handle them?
You have no idea how often I find myself in these situations because I socialize with many authors and publishers, and I am really, really picky with fiction. Plus, being an editor by trade, my eye picks out all the mistakes. I can’t stop myself. Even in mostly perfect books, I find things I would do differently (ergo, “better”). So I try to avoid that conversation entirely and when a friend asks, I say, “Well, you know me. I don’t like anything…”
This is really tough. Especially if they are one of the better selling LDS authors who churn out title after title and actually make money for their publisher. Apparently someone (many someones) is reading and enjoying their work so they’re not going to listen to anything I say.
However, over the years I’ve found many diplomatic ways to say positive things without lying about my true opinions. Things like, “I’m so glad for you, that your books are selling well…” or “You’ve got a great cover on that book…” or “What an interesting concept. Books that address that topic are really needed in the market…” 99% of the time, that suffices. And it’s also true.
If pushed for an opinion, which I rarely am, I tell them that I can’t really offer an opinion on books published by my competition, as that is a conflict of interest. You may not have that as a out but there are any number of ways you can answer that question diplomatically. Simply smiling and nodding works well in a group situation. I never, ever, ever would give anything but superficial comments to an author in a public situation.
On the rare occasion, if an author approaches me privately and assures me they want my honest opinion, I will give it to them. I start small, with typos and things like that. If they respond maturely, then I move on to plot holes. If that goes well, then I give them the dirt, no holds barred—but I also point out the things they did well.
On the other hand, if I’m doing a book review, then I feel an obligation to the reader, the person who will be spending their cash on a book. Then I tell the honest truth, pulling no punches. But that, too, can be done in a kind and respectful way.