Why I can’t help you: I’m a wimp.

writerOccasionally, I’ll receive an email from an aspiring author asking me to read his/her manuscript and give honest feedback. Normally, I respectfully decline. Not because I don’t want to help the other writer—but because I’m a wimp.

If the writer sincerely wants honest feedback—which means the bad with the good—then I’m not the one to ask. Why? Because as I mentioned in the previous paragraph, I’m a wimp. I simply don’t have the heart to tell another writer his/her work sucks if I think it sucks.

When reading a book by an author friend, I never tell him/her I’m reading the book. After I finish it, I will let the author know if I loved it. But if I hated it? He/she will never know I read it.

There have been a few times I’ve read an author friend’s work and noticed an issue that might be a problem down the road, and I will privately message them, expressing my opinion. Yet generally, that’s when I feel good about the work overall. Telling them in private gives them the opportunity to ignore me, or consider my suggestions. Typically, I have only done this when the author expressed he/she would welcome suggestions.

These days when I do leave a book review, I normally leave them on books I sincerely enjoyed.

Does this mean I think readers who give harsh truths to an author is wrong? Absolutely not, providing the reviewer is sincere in his/her opinion and is not one of those people who gets a perverse thrill telling a writer his/her work sucks.

(Image: Sneak peek at window in The Ghost and the Mystery Writer, Book 9, book cover.)

Why I can’t be a book reviewer…


The first obvious reason—I’m not very good at it. I suppose that’s not something I should admit, considering I write for a living. Although, most book reviews I’ve read—even from other authors—aren’t that terrific either.

Writers have varying skillsets—which may or may not include review writing. However, every once in a while I will stumble across a beautifully written book review and I long to stretch those writer’s muscles—but then I remember the other reason I can’t be a book reviewer: I won’t critique a book I dislike—because then I’d have to leave less than four stars.

These days I find it harder and harder to leave a bad book review—I just don’t have the heart to rip out another writer’s heart. This doesn’t mean I’ll blow sunshine under an author’s bloomers. I’ll simply pass on writing a review if I dislike a book.

Plus, I have little free time, and I’ll only finish a book I enjoy. Unless I’ve read the entire book I don’t think I should leave a review. So if you think about it, even if I was willing to leave one or two stars, I don’t have the time to read bad books.

If I aspired to be a book reviewer I’d have to be willing to leave a negative review when necessary—because if I didn’t, readers probably wouldn’t trust me. Of course, there might be a niche out there for a reviewer focusing solely on books to read as opposed to books to avoid.

My book is my baby…or how to inflame reviewers.

babybookSome authors refer to their books as their babies. Apparently this particular metaphor really pisses off some reviewers, who then take it upon themselves to swoop down on the authors and punish them for making the comparison.

Of course, this is not the first time people have found a metaphor inappropriate. Take the term Nazi, for instance. Maybe Seinfeld got away with the “Soup Nazi” – but others who’ve applied that term have often been bashed, with their critics insisting using the term carelessly minimizes the horror of the Holocaust.

While I’ve never considered the books I write to be my “babies” – I understand why some authors choose that term.

On the flip side, I understand why some reviewers find the term inappropriate – although I don’t get the rage it incites with some reviewers (I mean really folks, get a life).

The thing is – it is never a good idea to criticize a person’s baby. That is a quick way to make an enemy. Imagine telling your friend, “Gosh that is one ugly baby,” or “Your baby isn’t very smart,” or “Your baby is pretty boring.”

If we want to grow as writers, we need to accept honest criticism. I’m not talking about those nasty troll reviews – and believe me, there are plenty of those out there – but even those we need to consider, if even for a moment.

When we seriously see our books as our babies, then we miss an opportunity to learn from honest, yet negative reviews.

As for me, if you trash my babies – meaning my son or daughter – then buddy, you really are in for a fight. It doesn’t matter if what you are saying is true or false – that typically doesn’t matter to a protective mother bear.