When You Ask Someone How They Liked Your Book, and You Get the Silent Answer

After I published my first book, Devil’s Blood, my coworkers graciously took turns borrowing it from the library. After the first one had finished and brought it back, I asked the dreaded question:

“How was it?”

She didn’t answer immediately. She shifted her gaze away from me, tapped her nails on the desk, and made that squeaky sound when your vocals aren’t ready for the pitch of the words you’re about to say, “Well…”

I think her exact words were along the lines of, “It was okay, just not my cup of tea.”

Looking back, yeah, those quickly written, revised first chapters had some problems. Major flow and clarity problems. It read like a poorly edited self-published book. (I rushed to meet a deadline that I’d set for myself. I’ve since revised the entire book. Twice.)

What do you do when you ask someone how they liked your book and they give you the hesitant, I’m-trying-to-think-of-something-nice-to-say look?

Do what I did: throw things.

No, I’m kidding – that’ll get you fired. I took the review. I digested that review. It’s okay. I knew not everyone would like what I wrote. Not everyone will like what I write. It’s a fact of the trade. Everyone has different tastes.

I’m also been in that awkward situation where the creator of something is expecting a review of whatever it is they’ve created, and I’m nervous because I don’t want to hurt their feelings or dampen their creative spirit.

So… what to do? Do we tell them it’s good when it’s not? Is that falsifying a talent that’s not “there” yet? It it reinforcing that “good enough” is okay? Or do we tell them the truth, “It’s okay, but it could be better,” and help them to grow their talent and become better?

I think it depends on the person. Some sensitive people need a lot of tact when they receive feedback, with a lot of sugar to coat the horse pill, especially if they’re not used to feedback. I’ve been on the receiving end of feedback enough that it doesn’t hurt when people dislike what I write. I know it’s not personal; it’s subjective.

I’ve since stopped asking people what they thought. I don’t want to put them into that awkward situation. Because books are subjective, each person will have a different answer.

I feel weird about telling people about my books. It feels like I’m trying to push them to buy, and I don’t like that. It makes me feel weird inside, pushy and rude like a greasy salesmen. (Buy this book, one-time deal, no money down, 0% APR! But wait, there’s more – act now and receive the ebook for half price!)

One thought on “When You Ask Someone How They Liked Your Book, and You Get the Silent Answer

  1. Hmmm, sounds familiar – maybe this is part of the journey every writer takes? My first (I can say it now) was a bomb and has been retired. It took six completions (of novel-length stories) before I felt things were better, maybe even ‘good enough’ – but I still have more to learn.
    And if we don’t learn to see the responses (through the hidden message between the lack of words), we won’t learn, we’ll just keep making the same mistakes over and over.
    So, short story long – I think it’s better to get the dirt than to have people avoid me for months or years. I think people should learn to say (without having to squirm) ‘I didn’t get it’ or similar. I like going to the older readers for the ARC because they always say it like it is.
    Which is what I need.
    I almost wrote: silence is a lie, but I’m a writer, and writers must learn (and do) how to discern the lie even when not spoken, otherwise, how would we ever figure out subtext?

    Liked by 1 person

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