A Question for SPFBO Folks

I mostly ask this of any authors participating in the challenge, rather than the bloggers, but my question to you is this:

Do you want me to post about why certain books don’t make it past my initial 3-chapter chance?

I ask because last year, some authors expressed a wish to know why their books didn’t get further than they did. Most of us didn’t post anything about why we stopped reading a book, or why it didn’t advance further, which is a perfectly valid question. Were I in that position, I’d probably want to know what problems a reader had with my book too.

On the flip side of that, being open and honest about it might result in some hurt feelings, which is something I also encountered last year. Some people didn’t take too kindly to the fact that I thought their book needed a lot of work.

Hence, my question. Do you want to know? Do you want me to say it here, in public, on this blog?

I have no intention to be deliberately cruel. My comments aren’t going to consist of, “Holy crap, this book sucked balls and it shouldn’t have seen the light of day!” But they might consist of comments like, “The plot was uninspired,” “I was given no reason to care about any of the characters,” or, “Stylistically, this book reads like it was written by your average junior high school student for a creative writing class, despite being targeted to an audience of adult grimdark fans.”

I’d argue that even if you don’t want to know someone said that about the book you worked hard on, negative reviews are just part of the publishing game. They have to come alongside the good reviews; that’s just life when you choose to put your work out there for public consumption. But I also figure it’s fair to give people a chance to say nah, they don’t want this.

If general consensus is that people would rather see the problems I saw than not, then I’ll make posts every now and again about just why a book didn’t pass my first criteria, why I couldn’t find a reason to read beyond the initial 3 chapters (or prologue and 2 chapters, in the case of some books). If not, then I won’t. Simple as that.

Additional – Before anyone asks, I’m not going to do a halfway thing of sending emails to every authors whose books doesn’t make it, to mention the problems privately. I don’t really have the time or energy to spend getting into what might turn into an emotional battle if people rightfully feel like I’m shoving issues right in their face; I don’t send emails to every traditionally-published author to talk about why I didn’t read their books, so I won’t do it in this either. That does feel cruel, and I have other things I’d prefer to work on than a set of individualized emails that may or may not escalate into something painful. So no, doing that isn’t an option.

10 comments on “A Question for SPFBO Folks

  1. I saw one of the blogs last year do a post where they listed in point form some of the more common issues they encountered while doing their 3-5 chapter read. They didn’t link them to any specific books, just stated why they didn’t make it past the initial process. They also didn’t say they were going to email every author, but they did offer to send more detailed notes to anyone who specifically asks. I thought that was a pretty fair and we’re actually considering adopting something similar.

  2. As one of the participating authors, I can’t say I feel inclined toward either option. Writers should be used to criticism (constructive or otherwise) and the sound of crickets. In my experience silence is more common than comments. I think either approach will be accepted by us. However, I wouldn’t allow the possibility of hurt feelings to be the reason not to post critiques. As you said, criticism is part of the business.

  3. I’m not part of this batch but there is never anything wrong with well thought criticism. I’ve noticed it in a writing group I attend that the best writers there are the ones who regularly bring in work, nod quietly along to the feedback and take notes. Each time they come back their work improves. Everyone needs to learn to hone their critique filter. It’s often a matter of opinion but if enough people have a similar comment then usually there is an aspect to work on. No one will get better with comments such as ‘2 stars – it was a struggle’ any more than ‘5 stars – it was totsamazeballs’, even if we secretly want the latter most of the time.

  4. I prefer to have the honest opinion of readers. It helps me grow as an author when I know what my shortcomings are. I also try to learn from reviews of other authors’ books so I know what readers like. I’d prefer to hear your thoughts on what you read.

  5. One of the wonderful aspects of the whole #SPFBO2 idea is the fusion of indie authors with bloggers who typically read mostly trad-published books, and are therefore in a position to make strong comparisons between indie and trad. Please, review the books exactly as you would review any other book you read. We authors have chosen to enter the public arena, and honest feedback is part of the deal.

  6. I would be interested, especially because of your positive reaction to the general presentation of my book, to know what you thought of the beginning. But then, I’m always interested in critique and feedback (even for a five year old book–yikes, has it been that long?!). Of course, I don’t want authors who Don’t want feedback to end up in the chopping block, so to speak . . . so take that for what it’s worth. :D I think it’s generous of you to offer the time it would take.

  7. I’m a little late to the party here. Sorry, I’d honestly kind of forgotten about this contest as I’m deep into writing my next novel.

    If my book doesn’t make the cut, I’d love to know your thoughts. Trust me, you’re not going to hurt my feelings at all. Truthfully, it’s my first novel, and I’ve learned a ton by going through the process. Anything you tell me will either reinforce something another reader has already tell me or give me new information about how I can improve.

    Thank you so much, btw, for doing this.


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