Did You Like My Book?

So, I’m not THAT brave. I never ask the “Did you like my book?” question when someone mentions having read my book.

Do I hope they enjoyed it?

Do I hope they became emotional involved in the lives of the Burbidges?

Absolutely.

I can say without reservation that without the reader having the book published would have been pointless.

See how important you all are?

I did have one author ask me this  question once and I’ve thought about it quite a little bit especially now that Bitter, Sweet is in the bookstores. I still marvel at what a brave question it was to ask.

Luckily, I did enjoy the book but I’ve wondered what my reaction would have been had I not liked it. Would I have been brave enough to say if I hadn’t? It’s a tough question any way you look at it.

A lot of people who know me have bought the book and of course they’re going to form opinions one way or the other. It’s only natural.  And although I may be as curious as all get out as to what their opinion is they’ll NEVER hear me utter those five little words.

So I’m curious about the rest of you.  Just how brave are you?

To the writers out there—- Do you think you’d ever ask someone if they enjoyed your book? And to the readers— If you disliked a book and the author asked you if you enjoyed it would you be brave enough to say you didn’t, would you lie and say you loved it or would you dodge the question by saying something like, “I found it quite interesting?”

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27 Comments

  1. I love this because it’s exactly what I ask myself before I post any negative reviews on my Goodreads site. I want to make sure I don’t get carried away and get overly negative. I try to say what I would say to their faces. It helps me to be gentler in my criticisms. But even with that self-restraint I think I’d be less opinionated in person. If I hated it, I’d likely say I would have liked to have seen such and such happen or something to deflect the actual question to spare hurt feelings.

    As for me, I would never ask the question. I’d be too afraid someone wouldn’t bother to spare my feelings. Plus, I’d read Goodreads about me and get the truth there, like it or not.

    Reply
    • For myself, I wouldn’t like the awkwardness of putting someone on the spot like that by asking them if they liked my book and, I while I like to think I can take criticism, I wouldn’t be prepared for a horribly negative comment like…”Man, did your book ever suck big time!” Ouch!

      I honestly think that particular author was extremely brave to have asked me this, either brave or overly confident. I don’t expect everyone will like my book. We all have such different tastes.

      I think you’re wise in being mindful of what you post on your Goodreads site. It would probably be much easier to write a scathing review and post it than it would be to say it in person. “I try to say what I would say to their faces” is an excellent approach, Tricia!

      Reply
  2. What a great question!

    I think for me it would depend upon whether I knew the person or not, and what degree of bravery I was feeling that day. I tend to be very curious so would probably ask without thinking, just because I want to know. If I don’t ask it is likely because I don’t want to put the person on the spot like that. It could be quite awkward – for both parties.

    If an author I have read asked me that question and I didn’t like their book, I would try to find a way to be honest and not hurt feelings. Besides, one thing is for sure .. we do not all have the same taste for, nor understanding of, all the same things. “Interesting” is a safe answer, and “but I am not like most people, I have discovered” may work, too. :)

    Reply
    • I agree it could definitely be awkward for both parties. I can’t imagine that I would tell someone I didn’t like their book, I think you can find something positive in most anything–perhaps their writing is wonderful but the story didn’t do much for you, or there might have been one character who stood out ..Surely there is something worthwhile in any book, something for everyone if they look closely enough. I would hope that I would concentrate on those positive aspects instead of simply pointing out what I didn’t like.

      Reply
  3. “For myself, I wouldn’t like the awkwardness of putting someone on the spot”

    Good point & an interesting post. I would agree with your comment. There’s no way, knowing how much goes into writing a book in the 1st place, that I could say I disliked someone’s work. There’s the matter of taste, topic & tyle. (I would have said style – but I liked the “t” thing I had goin’ there.) My opinion is meaningless & I don’t believe in meanness. I have also never asked nor have I been asked that question. Maybe I scare people!

    The stuff I write is for kids (even worse – it’s geared toward boys) so I’m in a different world anyway, one that gets very little attention – which is okay with me.

    (I would give an opinion if asked something specific about a phrase, paragraph or chapter – “Does this sound clunky or redundant etc?” but my response would include what I would hope would be a constructive suggestion.)

    Cool being able to click on blogs from FaceBook. I could get used to this. Thanks for the invitation. DE

    Reply
    • I agree with you Dave, it would be far easier to give an opinion on an smaller portion of the book ie: a chapter, paragraph or phrase, rather than a general opinion of the book in its entirety. No problem if you really liked the book but let’s face it we don’t like everything we read. When this particular author asked me the question I was certainly surprised by her braveness.

      You write for Kids? Hey I write for kids!!! I like that your writing is geared toward boys because I’m not so sure that this is a market that gets the attention it should.

      yup! Facebook is a wonderful thing!

      Reply
  4. It’s not a question I would ask unless I had previously requested a critique. If it were asked of me, I would have to consider my relationship to the author before answering because a writer asking me as a writing friend is probably someone looking for a more specific response than whether I did or didn’t like it.

    As Laura has said to Lynn, it’s usually possible to find something positive to say. Mind you, I also think it’s desirable to offer a tactful gently negative comment rather than an outright lie if you aren’t enthusiastic. I could be comfortable saying something like, “I loved the setting. Victoria is one of my all time favourite cities and I liked being able to visualize the location of scenes. It didn’t turn out to be my kind of story, however. I just didn’t find myself caring much about [the main character]. What’s your next book about?”

    I hoped I’m spared the question! ;)

    Reply
    • I think a critique is totally different. Someone asking for a critique is hopefully looking for constructive criticism.

      Your comment made me realize, Carol, that I would feel differently about giving an opinion on a piece if it was unpublished. A published work has been obviously polished and perfected to the writer’s and editor’s satisfaction. There really is no going back at that point. However, a story in manuscript form is still being worked on and you assume the author is in a position to want to make changes or else they wouldn’t ask your opinion. That I’m sure I would find much easier to do..Interesting.

      I’m not sure I could be as honest as you with a published book, however. I’m sure I would wimp out and mention some positive aspect and leave it at that.

      This awkwardness is exactly why I would never ask the question and hopefully I’ll never be asked it again!

      Reply
  5. I think boys get ignored because (a) most don’t read unless it’s required for an assignment (b) they have so many things competing for time & attention – especially if they’re active (c) they’re not encouraged or challenged at home – it’s left up to the schools. Publishers add up parts a, b, c & come up with (d) – not commercially viable / or worth the investment of time & resources – so the book choices for boys remain slim & the boys retreat to (a).

    My grandfather was an old-school storyteller. I became a storyteller when my kids were little. (It was a game – gimme a topic & 30 seconds to come up with a 20 minute bedtime story.) They finally grew up (I think) & now I have grandkids & thinner grayer hair. Writing became my way of continuing the tradition – “telling” stories to my grandson (Jack) who lives 1000 miles away. A story became a book & now there’s a sequel (almost finished) & a 3rd in the works. Never gave much thought to sales or reviews. Those things are slightly more important to me now – but only slightly. (smiles) That’s how I “got into” writing for kids.

    Reply
    • Your story is great. I’ve known story teller who were just too scared to take it to another level. But you did and now a sequel..Wow! Hopefully you’ll be able to encourage this new generation of boys to become readers. What age is your sequel geared toward?

      I think if we’re honest we’d like our books to be read by as many people as possible. After all it’s our way of communicating our thoughts and we wouldn’t have bothered to try and have our stories published if we didn’t want to share our ideas. That being the case, sales and reviews are all part of it. But I know what you mean, I like to think my book will do well but I also know that this whole thing is much bigger than book sales.

      Reply
  6. I don’t think I would ever ask the question. I haven’t so far with the few who have read my as yet unpublished book (not counting fellow critique group members, of course.) I hate to be put on the spot, so I wouldn’t do that to someone else.

    And like the others said, my response if asked would depend on my relationship to the author, though I would never be flippant or mean-spirited. So far in critique groups, I’ve always been able to find at least one good thing to say about a work, so surely I could find something good to say about a published work.

    Reply
    • Like you, Linda,I wouldn’t want to put people on the spot but I know a small part of me would be frightened of the answer I might get. When you ask questions you need to be prepared for the answers and you can’t simple assume that everyone’s going to rave on about your book just because it was published. A lot of so so books are published but obviously someone was enthusiastic enough about them to publish them.

      Reply
  7. Jaxpop – this is what I like to see, and what I think is smart. You are so right about not much for boys to read, and that will hold their interest. Boys seem to be a hard crowd to please. My nephew does not often enjoy reading. What are the titles of your books? Would they suit a 13 yr old boy?

    My mother was a great story teller. In her very young days she would put her cousin to bed and tell her a story every night (so I was told). Her cousin loved Mum’s stories, they were funny and enjoyable, thought up right in the moment, but Mum never wrote them down. They are long lost now. And I don’t remember her doing that with her own children.

    So, now I wonder … how much of our make believe becomes words on paper? How often do we even realize we have a story in the making? And in reference to Laura’s Q … how much do we think about who will like it as we are writing it? Just pondering here tonight.

    Reply
    • Those are good questions to ponder, Lynn. As I’m writing I don’t concern myself with who is going to like it once it’s completed. The truth being, just because it’s written doesn’t mean any one else is going to see it.

      However, I certainly hope now that my story is a book, that it will be well received but when I’m writing I don’t worry about it at all. My concern is getting the story down in a way that pleases me. I’m the first audience. If I write something I’m not crazy about I wouldn’t assume anyone else would care for it either.

      Reply
  8. newtowritinggirl

     /  January 12, 2010

    As much as I’d like to say I wouldn’t want to put someone on the spot to ask them what they thought, and as scared as I would be to ask, I have a horrible feeling ‘Did you like it?’ would just spurt out. I wouldn’t want it to, but I think it would. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have someone you didn’t know tell you they read your book; it must be an awesome feeling. Let’s hope one day…

    As other people have said if an author asked me if I like their book, and I didn’t, I’d try to find something I did like about it, a character, scene, something to avoid the question about the book as a whole.

    Reply
    • I’ve been thinking about my original question and I could possibly see it spurting out when I’m talking to family members because I have been anxious to hear what they have to say..(At least the ones who have read my book.) But knowing my family, I wouldn’t get an honest answer anyway and in some respects I’m not even sure it would make a difference. I really wouldn’t be looking toward someone else to validate my work.

      Perhaps the author who asked me this question is totally fine where she is as a writer and if someone where to say something negative she knows it wouldn’t crush her. In fact, maybe she’s so confident that she honestly wants to know what others think about it.. Still brave as far as I’m concerned.

      Reply
  9. I think I would try to find something positive about it, I mean there always is, right? I hope I would anyway.

    When I received an award some time ago and had to read, all the judges, editors, publishers congratulated me. It was a first for me, so I began talking about how I thought this could be better, and wasn’t this confusing, and what about this – you really liked that when you read it? They all shook their heads no, and I realized they don’t want to hear this. Keep my mouth shut, and say thank you. Same thing to be reciprocated I think.

    Reply
    • One would hope there is something positive to say especially with a published book. Right? I mean think of all the hurtles that book had to make it through to be published.

      Say thank you and keep your mouth shut…..Exactly what I like to hear.. That reminds me of a friend who crafts such beautiful items but then proceeds to point out all the mistakes. when you compliment her. I tell her to just say thank you!

      I think that’s really awesome that you won an award, Jennifer! I’ve entered very few contests over the years. I never took myself to be one of those writers who would ever win an award. I don’t know why.

      Reply
      • I never thought so either, Laura. Still don’t in fact. The only reason I entered was because it forced me to write with a deadline. To tell the truth, when they called I thought it was to tell me that I didn’t qualify for whatever reason. You just never know, Laura.
        I notice I am thinking/ talking of that instance often lately, perhaps because I am preparing some stuff for submission.
        All the best.

        Reply
  10. Gah, interesting question! I think I’d be more intimidated being asked it by an author of something I’d just read, than to ask it of a reader about one of my own books/stories.

    I’d be honest, but gentle and would also say what I _did_ like. If anything, ha ha. Not every book is for every reader and that’s okay.
    :) Ev

    p.s. Since you’re on the awkward topic . . .:D Did you enjoy “My Mom is a Freak,” Laura? ;D (It’s _really_ okay if you didn’t.)

    Reply
    • Well since you asked that awkward question, Ev…

      I had planned on letting you know what I thought after I read it but my reading kept getting sidetracked…It wasn’t intentional, and I wasn’t avoiding you..lol! So thanks for mentioning it. This way I did get it read, and I really liked it a lot!

      First off I like first person. I like writing it. I like reading it! Savvy made me laugh at times and I kept thinking how clever you are and how I’m really glad I enjoyed it since you were putting me on the spot..lol! I really liked the mom, too. Pretty cool woman! But also the message that yes it’s good to be who YOU are not some one else’s idea of who that might be..

      Also, one last thing, your author photo is really, really nice (not that it makes any difference in the story–just thought you might like to know!)

      Reply
  11. Jennifer,

    “Just say thank you” is the best advice ever. I will remember it!

    It’s so hard to not constantly try to explain yourself and your process, to not focus on your perceived writing gaffs and how you’re improving craft-wise . . . I always want to say, “Yeah, about that (insert mistake/flaw/awkward phrase, etc). I know it was all wrong. I write better now.” ;)

    And you’re so right: no one wants to hear it. They enjoyed the story for what it was, as it was. A good lesson, since (hopefully), we’ll always be improving our craft, thus making all earlier works a bit cringe-worthy at times! :)

    Reply
  12. Dear Laura,

    LOL–I’m really, really glad you liked the story, but after I posted I realized I should have told you didn’t have to respond. I hope you’ll forgive me for putting you on the spot. I was only teasing you. ;-)

    And about your comments–it was fun to write in first person. It’s not something I usually do, but Savannah was so loud in my head that I pretty much just acted as her scribe.

    p.s. Thanks for the kind words about my author photo too–my friend is the photographer. She took it in her backyard.

    Reply
  13. Laura, it’s fascinating that this discussion continues to evoke responses. It says something about how strongly we feel about criticism and validation, whether we like to admit it or not.

    Jennifer’s comment reminded me of what frequently happens at my writers’ group gatherings. It’s a large group (20+) and we now have one member who moderates readings and critiques. He requested that in the interest of time the author listen to the comments, accept them or not as desired, but don’t jump in to explain or defend the writing. But it seems most find that impossible. Negative comments have the authors quickly injecting the reason behind the writing, etc. Just saying “thank you” (or “I appreciate your input/suggestions”) and then shutting one’s mouth is harder to do than one would think. Knowing how defensive writers can be about their work makes it difficult to give an honest critique or opinion, even when it’s requested.

    Reply
    • You’re right, Carol. I think it would be difficult to listen to someone critique your work, especially knowing that there were others listening in. Since I’ve never been in that situation (I guess I’m a solo act partly because of geography) I don’t know for sure what my reaction would be. I like to think that if I was really hoping for constructive criticism that I would be tough enough to take it but one can only imagine what they might do in that instance and sometimes we surprise even ourselves.

      So now you’ve got me curious. Do you find yourself on the defensive or do you generally accept the comments with even the smallest twinge?

      Reply
      • There’s always an occasional comment that makes me wish I could jump in and explain the reason behind a scene or particular wording but I can usually withstand the temptation. If I have to explain something it probably isn’t working very well. I figure if several people agree with the comment it’s likely in need of some revision. If it’s one person’s opinion I can choose to incorporate it or ignore it. Either way it doesn’t bother me. From a group of fellow writers whose opinion you value a critique can be very useful.

        Reply

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