The awesome Dear Abby has a letter up that, I think, a lot of people could have written nowadays. And, quite frankly, this exact letter is why I'm writing this series on editing your own stuff. The full text of the letter (and Abby's response) is below, though the link back to the actual letter is above, so I'm not plagiarizing, I promise.
DEAR ABBY: My friend's husband has been writing a novel for several years. He just self-published it, and it's available on Amazon. He gave me a copy, asked me to read it and enter a great review on the Amazon page. The problem is the book is filled with misused and misspelled words, and there is missing punctuation. He even switched the names of two characters. (His wife, who is a "perfectionist," was his editor.)
One thing I noticed that Abby's otherwise good response lacks (actually, the whole letter in general) is the knowledge that, yes, you can re-upload a new copy to Amazon. So, if the author of said bad book does come to his senses and have someone who knows what they're doing look at his work and fix it, he can upload a revised copy. And, as I've seen before on Amazon, reviews will reflect that his book is cleaned up.
I feel that I must add that though I don't think there's anything wrong with asking friends or family to read and review, to give a person a copy of a book and request that they "enter a great review on the Amazon page" is far from fair to the reader. It doesn't give the reader any chance to be honest, and immediately tells me that the author will be far too sensitive to any criticism. If that's the case, he (the author mentioned in the article) is in the wrong business. If you can't handle the heat, get out of the kitchen. Just like when you're applying for a new job and asking people if they'd be okay with giving you a reference, never assume someone will be able to give a positive review. But there's nothing wrong with asking for an "honest, and hopefully positive" review. That seems more fair. Or be prepared to take what you get--professional bloggers and reviewers even put something like "An ARC [ARC=Advance Reader Copy] was received in exchange for an honest review" to make sure that people reading their reviews know they were unbiased--and unbought--by the author.
You're probably wondering what tactic I'd take in this situation. That's a tricky one. I trust most of my writer friends to be completely honest about my work and I'd be honest with theirs. We also understand that there's a big difference between someone being a bad writer, and someone's writing not being your cup of tea. Example: I don't read much inspirational romance, but I'd be able to figure out upon reading one if it was well-written or not. And I know my writer friends can handle feedback. Also, when I say "honest" I mean I try to be tactful but clear if something isn't working. If someone told me I had errors in a completed book, I'd bust my butt to fix them--a few can be forgivable; I see them in completed published works all the time, but a few always slip through the cracks (a few being the key words). Any more than a few, and you need to fix it. Otherwise, the reviewers will tell you, and they won't hesitate. Trust me on this.
|"Just keep talkin', Bob. Just keep talkin'."|
But what if I just go ahead and write the review and don't say anything? I'd take Abby's tactic--short and sweet. Find something, anything, about the book that I liked, even if it was a small side character or his overall writing style, and write a very short review based on that. Like, a sentence or two. Hey, he didn't ask for a long review, just a "great" one. And maybe give it four stars instead of five (three, and he'd see it and we'd be doing the BBQ scenario all over again). Your relatively neutral review will likely be fine with him, and it will allow other readers and reviewers to fill in the gaps you so conveniently left in your own. And they will. Oh, they will.
Does this mean that every book I rate on Goodreads or Amazon with a four-star/short review is because of this? Absolutely not. I'm lucky to be able to squeeze out a few minutes to write this blog, much less review everything I've read lately. I do my best to, but something has to give. And, like I said above, I'm honest in my reviews. So, if you're looking for something new to read, do what I do--read ALL the reviews (or at least the "most helpful" or "most recent"ones) and make a judgement call for yourself. What someone loved, you may not; the reverse is just as often true.
Oh, and here are the rest of the posts in this series. If I'm able to help one person with their editing, then I've done a good job.
What do you think of Abby's answer? What would you do in this situation? I'm curious!