“Your book is trash,” a Reader Says. Your reaction? – Courtesy of Guest Blogger June H.

Yes, yes, it’s true! Another guest blogging day! Below is a post from my dear friend June H. who is not only a talented writer (as evidenced by the below article and the sample chapter of her novel found at her blog) but a great person for a boost in self-esteem via blog comments who offers very good constructive criticism … oh but that is discussed in her article. I’ll not exhaust the topic.

Enjoy all, and thank you, June!

“Your book is trash,” a reader says. Your reaction?

I was wondering to myself how I’d feel if I received a criticism—not a constructive one–but a comment that went something like this: Sorry, but your story has no redeeming qualities to it. I’ve struggled through the whole book and nearly died of boredom. I thought it would be an interesting read after all the glowing reviews I read, but I was sadly disappointed, and can’t believe this trash was published. Now this was just a comment I composed after reading some really scalding reviews from readers on Amazon.com. Fortunately for me I have yet to receive something this harsh (it’s probably because I’m not published yet). But I can imagine that I would probably be somewhat devastated to receive one. I should have a strong backbone and ignore these blatant comments. But it’ll be exceedingly hard for me.

My story embodies almost all that I am, for it contains many of my beliefs, opinions, thoughts, life experiences, and emotions. I spend hours pouring myself into my writing. I know that fiction is fiction, that everything I write has been spun up from my imagination, but it’s started from somewhere. As I always like to say: Nothing can come from nothing. Everything I write is based on something true in me. For example, Amanda Hollingworth, my heroine, is a prostitute (well, she was, until an agent requested me to change her into a brothel maid) who is ashamed of herself, who doesn’t feel like she belongs to this world. She is an outcast. Now, I’ve never experienced anything to this extreme, of being hated and shunned by society. But I’ve felt and observed enough to spark that imagination of mine to experience the extreme inside my imaginary world. Then there’s my hero, Lord Candover, who cannot help but change from one lover to the next, easily tiring of them. In my story, I do not condemn him for his philandering, but pity him, because I understand him. I’ve never had a “lover” and probably am too soft-hearted to switch partners so readily. But I know how transient emotions are. I know I can love my family one day and resent them the next. I know I can be so eager to befriend a person but, upon seeing a flaw in them, quickly wish to distance myself. It is a universal truth that human beings can be very fickle.

There you see: everything I write comes from somewhere inside of me, be it from my mind or heart. It then takes hours after hours after hours to transcribe everything into words. Therefore, if someone were to read my story and say to me that it had no redeeming qualities, that it was stupid, that was is trash—this becomes a very personal affront I can’t easily wave off. This person is criticizing who I am. After years of writing and having my work critiqued, I have a somewhat strong backbone (I think…it has yet to be really tested), so a cruel criticism will not break me…but it will hurt and haunt me.

For this reason, I decided to make it one of my goals not to criticize writers if I don’t plan on being constructive and polite about it. By all means, if you hate a book, express your views–but back up WHY you disliked the book with solid evidences, be professional about it (i.e. Don’t say: “I HATE the DAMN book!!!!!” But be eloquent. Say: “I was disappointed with this book. But this is my subjective opinion”), and if you’re really nice, point out some redeeming qualities. Always remember: You may not like their writing, you might not like their theme, you might not agree with many of their values, you might think their book should never have been published—but even these writers deserve my respect. I, for one, know how much of themselves they’ve put into their work. I know how difficult it is to write and revise a novel. And I know how difficult it is to get published. So whenever I plan on writing a review for a book I hated, I try to remember the story behind the story, the person behind the words. And the fact that I’m an unpublished author. It is therefore not a wise idea for me to go about flaming published books publicly–especially on blogs–because it doesn’t look professional. Anything unprofessional is a turn-off to agents, I hear. And yes, agents you query to do search you up. I speak from first-hand experience.

June H. is the author of The Runaway Courtesan. She is currently awaiting the response of an agent who requested her full manuscript…twice (the original and then the rewritten version). When she is not working on her next book, she can usually be found at a book shop, searching for a Great Love Story to read and analyze. You can follow her on Twitter or through her blog.

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About Miss Rosemary

is a recent college graduate from NY hoping to complete her novel of ten years. Stop by her blog, Miss Rosemary's Novel Ideas at http://missrosemary.net or contact her at MissRosemarysNovelIdeas@gmail.com with comments, questions and suggestions. She'd love to hear from you! View all posts by Miss Rosemary

20 responses to ““Your book is trash,” a Reader Says. Your reaction? – Courtesy of Guest Blogger June H.

  • brownpaperbaggirl

    Even constructive criticism can sting at times. Which is why in the early stages of writing something or other, I like to keep it to myself and nurture it along. Then, when it is complete and ready for revisions, I happily invite trusted eyes to share their thoughts on it.

    I couldn’t agree more with you on the point that its important to respect all writers, even if you disliked the story. Treat others as you’d like to be treated, right?

    Great post, June!

    • junebugger

      Agreed. Even contructive criticism can hurt :/ That’s why until I’m confident about my story I only share with a few. Like my sister. And I try to be a good sport when she critiques my work but do get all defensive…

  • erikamarks

    June, I’ve read Amazon reviews that were so over the top with their criticism that it was impossible to finish them. Over the years of writing and querying, I’ve learned to take constructive criticism well–and frankly, I crave it when it comes from a well-intentioned source. But as for how I’ll handle the reader reviews when they come in for my novel?…hmm. We’ll have to see. My skin may not be as tough as I think!

    • junebugger

      i think writers who have queried definately do get a thicker skin. I remember the first time I received a rejection I was depressed all day long. But after my twentieth rejection I was pretty much immune. It really depends on how much I hope.

  • Lua

    Thank you June and Rosemary- this was a great post!
    Whenever I hear someone trashing a book, saying how much it sucked and how stupid it was, my heart aches and before I know, I find myself defending this author I’ve never heard of or this books I’ve never even read. Yet I defend them, because I know…
    I know just how difficult it is to write a book and to put it out there. It feels like you’re displaying your soul, naked and vulnerable and I know how difficult it is to get published. Long story short I can guess the amount of time, effort, tears, blood and sweat given into that book and if for nothing else, I’ll respect the author just for that.
    I truly hope that you’ll never have to deal with criticism of this kind June, it is not easy to just let go of words like these ones but even if you do, I know you have a strong backbone to deal with them! 🙂

    • junebugger

      Well put! Yes, writing a book is like bearing our naked soul, and to be criticized is like walked through the battle field without any armor.

      i hope I don’t receive anything too harsh….. But I know this is highly unlikely. There will always be people who will hate and love your work 😦

      • Miss Rosemary

        So just concentrate on the ones who love it! And if, as you say, they don’t love it but tell you exactly why, you may use that knowledge to change your future writing. All will work out in the end.

  • slightlyignorant

    Oh. My. Gosh.

    I just realized something. You said, on my blog, that you’re twenty as well. And you’ve COMPLETED novels and are looking for agents. I am SO in awe of you, Miss Rosemary.

    (Yes, I know this doesn’t have much to do with the post above… But it’s an excellent point and definitely gave me some things to think about)

    • junebugger

      Querying is awesome! Emotionally exhausting, but it makes the journey to publication all the more fun. It fills it with thrill! have you started querying, Miss Rosemary? You should share your adventures with us too one day SOON!

      • Miss Rosemary

        Oh don’t worry June, I will keep every one posted! I contemplated creating a whole new blog about it … but now I’m thinking that would be far too much trouble and may just do a sort of time line like you have, but that is copying … One way or the other, you will know 🙂 I do hope to have the query letter written today and the synopsis tomorrow, we’ll see if work allows this.

      • junebugger

        Lady! Just have a time line thing! Don’t think it’s copying! For everyone’s sake, including mine, add one in (if you want) so we can follow your progress more easily.

      • Miss Rosemary

        Don’t worry I will. I just have to figure out how to display it properly. Did you just use a text widget? Whenever I try to begin a new line it just gets mushed together with no breaks and looks quite silly.

    • Miss Rosemary

      Haha! It doesn’t matter we all support each other here 🙂 And thank you for your admiration. I feel I don’t deserve it, but it still makes me happy 🙂

  • Rowenna

    So true–I try to be very balanced when discussing books I didn’t care for. It’s funny–all those agent rejections I’ve seen that say “it’s subjective”? It’s true! So I always remind myself that a book I hated could be someone’s favorite, and my dearly beloveds probably ended up chucked across someone’s room in readerly frustration. Different books for different people–how else could we have such an array to choose from? And having written one complete and one nearly complete novel, I know how hard it is–and I can’t even begin to imagine the process of submission and publication. At the same time, I think everyone is entitled to their opinion–I know that there are some books I’ve been harsher on as a wanna-be writer because I feel they took the easy way out or made really bad authorial choices. If I were to write a review or blog about them, I’d say so–politely and specifically (ie, “I was disappointed in the author’s choice to XYZ; I felt that the ABC would have worked better as a 123”). It just pays to be polite and, if you haven’t anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

    • junebugger

      It does indeed pay to be polite…. the lack thereof just might cost a writer an agent!… It’s always best to be as professional as one can be.

      I’ve also realized through querying how subjective the publishing business can be. That’s what I kept reminding myself as I got rejected. In the end, I’m sure it’s worth all the effort to find that one agent who fully believes in you.

  • Megs

    I’ve always been brought up with the mindset of ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all’ and I certainly don’t see what anyone would gain from simply attacking another’s work. It honestly doesn’t make sense but I do like the suggestion of saying why and also including something positive.
    Thank you for a post that made me think

  • Corra McFeydon

    I agree with everything said here. It’s far too easy, especially online, to forget that there is a living, feeling writer behind a book. I do believe in critiquing honestly, but honesty can still be kind – and as you say, professional.

    Thanks for sharing this post.

    – Corra

    The Victorian Heroine

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