Genre Underground’s Note
(A version of this was originally posted on Reddit’s /r/fantasy by user /u/wifofoo. The Genre Underground requested a version to feature here, which the author very graciously offered to us, with our gratitude.)
I’m reading a book that I just don’t like so far. Ten chapters in and I’m really struggling to turn the page.
Now, the old me would have given up on this thing a long time ago. In fact, the old me would have wrapped it up in red paper and pawned it off as a Christmas present like a fruitcake or that label maker from Seinfeld.
Actually, I might still do that.
But, I’ll tell you what I won’t do. I won’t give this book a bad review. I won’t tell a friend to “save his money,” and I won’t vow to never read this author again.
You know why?
Well, there are two reasons:
1: I haven’t actually read the book, so… there’s that.
2: Other people REALLY enjoyed it.
You see, there’s this thing about art being subjective. Art is not about athing being good or bad. Well, it can be, but that’s up to the person experiencing it. (See? Subjective.)
And as I was reading the reviews for this book I don’t like, I started to grasp something that had never occurred to me before; this book isn’t bad… It’s just not for me.
I know this doesn’t sound like the epiphany I make it out to be, but I feel it deserves some recognition.
I mean, how many amazing stories get buried in a grave of one-star reviews by people who don’t understand them?
How many authors’ careers go stagnant because their audience isn’t being reached?
How many great books go unread because one or two people couldn’t appreciate them? And rather than say, “hey, this book wasn’t for me and here’s why…” those connoisseurs of story decided that this “atrocity” was totally and reprehensively bad and therefore should not exist? (Click here for emphatic fist pounding.)
Here’s a thought. How about the next time you write a review, don’t say something like, “it baaaaad. Me no likey. Dis author fat and stupid!!!..!” or “Dis book bad because I no like author’s political/personal opinionnnns!!”
Why not try something like, “Hey, this book is great for anyone who likes characters with dark pasts. There are plenty of solid action sequences, mostly with swordplay and some casting of spells. If you like creative magic systems and want something short, you might get into this book. Oh, and there is some graphic violence and language so be ready for that.”
Or, “I’m a huge fan of romance in fiction, and while this story does have a bit of romance here and there, it just doesn’t compare to my favorites (Twilight and Hunger Games). Still, if you like a good romp with a lot of creepy monsters and interesting locations, you might really like it.”
Or maybe, “After reading this book I discovered that the author opposes something very dear to me. For this reason, I will choose not to support the author financially despite the fact that I do enjoy his/her work.”
Look, I’m not saying to be dishonest, and I’m not saying to forego writing a review. I just want you to communicate in a way that’s beneficial to both readers and writers, be it positive, negative, or both.As someone who is reading your reviews, I want to know what the book’s strengths and weaknesses are. How does it compare to similar books? Does it end satisfactorily?
I’d also like to know where your interests lie. Saying you like romance is one thing, but saying you like Twilight romance is very different thansaying you like Wuthering Heights romance or Outlander romance.As for authors, give feedback that helps them be better authors. “The prose is okay, but a little heavy in places. There were many times while reading this book that I found myself skipping passages. I usually don’t mind longer narratives (Robert Jordan fan here!) but this one went a bit overboard.”Or, “I really wanted to like this. The idea is solid and very unique, but there were just too many technical errors. A think a good editor is in order for this author. Better luck next time!”
Your goal is not to end a career, here. Your goal is to inform.
Now, if you don’t mind, I have some reviews to attend to.