I Really Hated Your Book…

Some of us have been raised to always be nice, to not say anything at all if you can’t say something nice. Gosh, I have a hard time with this. I’m a horrible liar and if someone asks for my honest opinion I give it to them. No, I don’t like your boyfriend. Yes, I think it’s stupid that you quit your job. OMG, you look like a hussy in that dress.

My mother tells me I’m too honest. Honest to a fault. I’m in good company. George Washington could not tell a lie. Abe Lincoln wasn’t called honest for nothing.But now I’m facing a dilemma where I might have to lie through my teeth.

A few months ago I met a woman at a function. She was one of those friendly talkative people and a few minutes into our conversation we discovered we both are writers. I always love meeting people who do what I do and was glad to make her acquaintance. We shared what we were working on and she mentioned that she would like it if I read her one of her books and gave my opinion on her writing. “Um, sure,” I answered, not knowing what else to say.

I thought at most she was going to send a few pages of her manuscript but no. Out of her bag came a book, a real book with a cover and everything. “Don’t you like the cover?” she asked me. “Isn’t he a real hottie?”

I nodded dumbly. It was all I could do to stop myself from saying, your hero looks like a homeless drug addict.

“That will be 24.99.” she said, as I gazed at the ugly cover art. It took a full moment for her words to hit my brain.

“I don’t have any cash on me,” I told her, hoping that would get me out of buying a book I had no interest in buying.

It didn’t.”I take checks,” she replied. “Just make it out to cash.”

GRRR! I should have lied and said that I didn’t have my checkbook on me. But I did and I’m such a horrible liar that most of the time it doesn’t occur to me to lie. So out it came, along with my reluctant signature. Tada! I was the owner of a book that I did not want.

I left the book in the back of my car for a month. Hey, I was disgruntled. I could have bought three book by authors I like with that money. I had a mental block on reading it. But then I ran into the woman at the mall of all places and she asked me if I liked her book. I had to tell her that I didn’t get around to reading it yet. She looked slightly disappointed and of course I felt guilty. That night I took it out of my car.

It took another month for me to read it and when I did I was sorry I opened it. It was awful. My pet peeve is writers who write in dialect. A little is fine but every other word out of hero’s mouth was y’all or lookie here now and I found myself gagging. The hero was really unlikable. I read and read hoping he would redeem himself but that redemption never came. Plus it was long, like 427 pages long. I wanted to put the book down, to shove it the pile that getting donated but I couldn’t. I wanted to be able to truthfully say that I finished the woman’s book the next time I saw her.

I can say that. I did finish it. Every painful word. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe the writing is brilliant and I have no idea what I am talking about, but I doubt it. The book was just plain bad and now I am faced with the daunting prospect of having to tell big fat lies next time I run into her.

As a writer I know how much work goes into to churning out a manuscript and the even greater task of self publishing.


This woman was so proud of her work, so proud of her ugly cover and her endless prose that I can’t bring myself to tell her that I hated her book. I know I would have a hard time taking it if I were in her shoes.

Maybe honesty isn’t  always the best policy.

What would you have done in that situation? Have you ever told a lie to spare someone’s feelings? Are you a good liar? A bad one? Got a story to tell?

27 thoughts on “I Really Hated Your Book…”

  1. Oh, man! What a hilarious story! Hilarious because it didn’t happen to me, that is…I’d do the diplomatic thing and tell her what you did like about it (the setting, maybe?). At this point, the book is out, and there’s nothing she can do. If she were looking for a critique, that’d be different. But it’s a done deal. Case closed. Alas.

  2. Funny post Jamie. I’m glad that wasn’t me. But, as a writer, I do appreciate honesty. It’s nice to know I can rely on you for the truth.

    I’ve been in a similar position numerous times (not with anyone in our group). Often times, I can tell that the person is really not interested in honesty but wants validation. That is trickier and I do my best to say what I liked (and there’s been times it’s been a big stretch).

  3. I have a personal policy against lying. Not because I’m morally opposed to lying, but because I’m terrible at it. I always get caught. My ADD-ness means that I usually do not think about what I’m going to say before the words find their way out of my mouth. I also have a lousy memory for many things, including what I’ve said to someone previously. This is a terribly combination for a liar. Hence, I don’t lie. Of course, I’ve done the odd, “Your new haircut looks great!” type of lie, but if the person was my friend who asked my opinion about a haircut I didn’t like, I’d try to tell the truth as gently as possible.

    In your situation, unless you actually want a friendship with this acquaintance, I’d gently give her a hint about how you feel if she asks again. And I don’t know how you kept a straight face at the $25 price! I’ve paid that for a hard cover Jude Deveraux back in the day…but WOW, I’m not sure I’d pay that for Stephenie Meyer’s Midnight Sun, a book I’m eagerly hoping she one day finishes!

    1. The only book I’ve ever paid over twenty bucks for was a text book and that wasn’t willingly either. Lying is too hard. My memory isn’t good enough either.

  4. Because I value honesty and because I do want people to tell me if my writing sucks, I would tell someone if I honestly did not enjoy their work, and why if they asked me. I’ve found that I can say almost anything to anyone if I say what I mean, mean what I say and don’t say it mean. I also agree that finding one positive thing to say is sometimes the kindest form of lying we can do. “You certainly have got that southern dialect down well, but I don’t think I’m really your target audience.” 🙂

  5. That price tag is a big flapping red flag for me. I would pay that price, maybe, for the last book in the Sookie Stackhouse series in a couple of years (or the Stephanie Plum series, if Janet Evanovich decides to end it) because I would be too impatient to wait for paperback or the library copy to become available. Any mere mortal author selling books out of her purse at that price is either delusional, or got hosed by a vanity publishing house and needs to recoup her investment (good luck!). The thing is, Jamie, if you’ve run into her twice, you’re probably going to run into her again. She also has your address if it was printed on your check and might just be contacting you when her next masterpiece comes out! So I think you need a plan. If you see her again and she presses you, I would try to find something good to say about the book (I’ll echo Kristan’s suggestion about the setting. That’s very neutral), but that you’re not buying any more books right now (true! you are NOT going to buy her book! And hopefully if you see her at the mall you don’t have a bagful with you!) because your bookshelves are overflowing (also, I suspect, true!). As Casey said, some people are looking for validation, not honesty. Personally, I’m at a point in my life where I honestly don’t care if people think my work sucks. I would like to know why, though, so I can decide whether it’s something I need to work to improve or something I can ignore.

  6. Ohhhhhh, have I ever been there. Now, I have read some self-published stuff that was fantastic, but I have also been the victim of several “gifts” of self-published work (at least I did not have to pay) from people who were eager to hear my reaction. I live in fear that I will run into these people and try to find something nice to say about their books. Which, unlike you, I did not finish–I’m just not that nice!

  7. All I can say is, I am so glad I don’t own a checkbook. And very rarely do I have $25 on me. 😉 I would not have been able to lie either and would have emptied my pockets. 😦

  8. Yikes! That’s a tough one. Like you, I am not a liar … way too much to remember. Anyway, I have to agree with the others, tell her something (if there was anything) you did like about it. Tell her you are not her target audience and wish her the best. Tough situation girl.

  9. Oh boy, this is a toughie.. Always tell folks what you liked about it. I love Gerri’s answer, I do not have a better one. It has been a dilemma for me. All these folks come out of the woodwork and want opinions. Thank you for doing this important post!

  10. Eek! She’d love you to read her book and give her an opinion – that’ll be $24.99? I actually think that is kind of rude. No, not kind of. It IS rude. It sounded like she was asking for a critique or a blurb, which implies a complimentary copy.
    I love some of the suggestions in the comments on how to handle her if you run into her again.
    If this type of thing happens again, tell her $25 is too steep and you’ve I’d already spent your book budget for the month, sorry.

  11. Oh Goodness. I can’t believe you actually purchased the book for that price. She actually asked you to “review” her book and then asked for $25? I’d have to tell her how I really felt about the book. But Casey’s right, you don’t have to do it “mean”, but boy, I’d have to do it!

  12. The GALL of her pulling a book from her purse and asking you to pay for it AND to ask you to make the check out to cash has left me speechless…and people who know me know I’m rarely without words.

    My advice…if you want nothing more to do with this person (and as someone pointed out above, it’s likely you will run into her again), then tell her the truth…You are not her market. Then you throw in how busy you are with your own writing and how you’ve had to limit your reading lately and you just don’t have time to add another book to your TBR pile.

    But I have been there and am still avoiding giving my opinion on a number of books!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s