I always go with the truth. But maybe not the whole truth. New mothers don't like hearing that their babies are ugly. So when I remark on how exquisitely formed dear little Zachary's head is, I resist the urge to add that it's as smooth and round as a cue ball.
Yes, this is still a blog about writing, so I will now segue to the subject of ugly books. What do you say to the author of a book you didn't care for?
Some of you may be surprised to learn that I didn't carefully vet the people who signed up for my Free Books for Bloggers promotion. Many of the bloggers who are participating don't read inspirational romance as a rule, and some have never read one. Would I have been smarter to send books only to bloggers who are huge inspirational-romance fans who happen to adore me (or who at the very least owe me some huge favor)? I don't think so. My intention was to generate interest in the book by provoking conversation about it. If all I had wanted was to blanket the internet with glowing testimonials of my genius, I'd have placed a single phone call to my favorite sister, who would have taken out ads everywhere. But I sent books to strangers instead.
Tucked into each of the books I mailed was a letter that concluded as follows:
And now to answer the question you're too polite to ask: What if I hate the book?
Simple. You don't have to love the book, but you did agree to help me promote it. Even if you don't like the book, you can help make people aware of it. If you want to post a frank review and tell your readers you didn't like A Family Forever, that's fair. I'm a grownup, and I realize we don't all share the same tastes. I'm strongly against the designated hitter, strawberry ice cream, TV shows, and suspense novels, among other things; but I bet you like some of that stuff. See what I mean? So if you just can't get into the book, don't sweat it. There's no such thing as bad publicity.
That said, I realize there may be some tenderhearted bloggers out there who took seriously their mothers' teaching that if we can't say anything nice, we shouldn't say anything at all. But don't worry, my friends. Take it from someone who has seen a lot of ugly babies in her day; there is always something you can say to please the child's (or the book's) mother without lying your head off. Here are some examples:
"If you love romance novels, be sure to read A Family Forever."
(It will serve you right. This one is by far the sappiest of them all. What was I thinking when I signed up to blog about a romance novel? Why couldn't Lisa Scottoline have offered me a free book in exchange for a blog post?)
"A Family Forever is a truly unforgettable book. The characters will stick in your mind."
(Just like those awful commercial jingles on the radio. Make it stop!)
"A Family Forever is a real page-turner!"
(I turned the pages as fast as I could, desperate to find something worth reading. Thank goodness it was a short book!)
"A Family Forever kept me up all night long!"
(Retching. But the doctor says I'm going to be okay, as long as I stay away from books like this one.)
And then of course you can always talk about the author:
"Brenda Coulter is truly amazing!"
(I can hardly believe she managed to trick an editor into buying this book.)
"Brenda Coulter had me laughing on one page and crying on the next."
(And in between, I was beating my head against the wall. How could anyone write such an awful book?)
"I am truly indebted to Brenda Coulter for sending me this book."
(And if I ever catch her in a dark alley, I am so going to pay her back!)
There. See how easy this is? Not liking a book shouldn't prevent even the sweetest of bloggers from reviewing it.