Thursday, February 16, 2006

Talkin' about my baby

I don't care what anyone says, there is such a thing as an ugly baby. Yes, they're all remarkable, wonderful gifts from God, but let's be honest. We are talking about miniature people who frequently spit up and who often stink and who are usually wrinkled and red-faced and bald and toothless. So what do you say to the mother of an ugly baby when that mother looks at you expectantly, awaiting a compliment?

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.


ParkAvePirate said...

I am glad you didn't give a thought to only sending your book to traditional Christian Romance readers. Your book was the first of the kind for me.
How else are we going to try something new unless someone offers it to us?


Laura from Denver said...

When I find myself called upon to gush over a baby who won't make the cut at the Ivory Snow auditions, I say, "Oh, what a wonderful blessing for you and (insert spouse's name here.)"

Nienke said...

I've just started reading the book and it is my first inspirational romance. Unfortunately, I love it so far. It would have been a lot more fun not liking it and then post my review, especially after reading this post!
(PS - major problems trying to post this, so sorry if it shows up 5 times)

Brenda Coulter said...

Now that is almost a shame, Nienke. I have a feeling you could write a very entertaining bad review, even without my suggestions. ;-)

Laura, that's the spirit.

Pirate Jen, the pleasure was all mine. Thanks again for participating.

Chris said...

This book holds up well!
(the short leg of my dining room table).

I see what you mean, Brenda. Thanks for the reviewing tips.... (I kid because I love ... and am several thousand miles away.)

Julana said...

Ha ha.
Are there any wilted primroses on a desk, in the book?

Josie said...

Brenda, those are hilarious! Here's another one:

"If you like inspirational romances, you'll love this book."
It inspired me to throw it against the wall!

Whenever I see an ugly baby (like the one I saw the other day with tufts of stringy hair stuck between bald spots), I always say to the mom, "I'm so happy for you." (Happy for YOU because I'm not the mother of that baby!)

Gina Burgess said...

This is probably why God did not give me the gift of writing fiction because I doubt I could take the bad reviews... I'd want to poke them in the eye, figuratively not literally. Writing Bible studies, I can always point at the Bible and say, 'I didn't say it, God did.' He's big and can take it! Amen.

Julana said...

I couldn't wait to see the ending.

Mirtika said...

I dunno, Gina. I've read some really dorky Bible Studies in my day. Fortunately, they've been erased from my mind. :D

Brenda must surely know--as other of my pals do--that I'm a frank reviewer. I would give a heads up if I hated a book to give the author a chance to tell me to just shut up and not post about it. :)

In fact, if you see my review for MADE OF HONOR, I say full out that the first chapter (and part of the rest of the start) is really lousy. Fortunately I had a glowing review of the meat of the book. But yeah, if I think it's total dreck, and you don't stop me, I'll say exactly that.

And I can get to A FAMILY FOREVER now that my Genesis entry is gone (with all its typos intact), my blog (one of them, anyway) is updated, and I have some breathing room in the second half of February.


Mirtika said...

Well, if everyone is doing it, so am I:

"Jane Doe's NO FAMILY EVER is a real treasure."
(And you'll want to dig a hole ten feet deep in your backyard and shove it down there, then hide the map really well in some rotted tree stump.)

Mel said...

I just finished my review . . . drat! Too late to use any of those suggestions!

Julana said...

I read Mel's great review, Brenda. Mel is a smart cookie.

Pattie said...

I wrote an honest review on my blog, after I read this post. I think I point out good and not-so-good things, but I'm sure there will be something for you to poke fun at! ;-)

Bonnie Calhoun said... are such a hoot! I'd love to use one of these funny lines, but I truly loved the read.

I have to wait to post until the Blog Alliance does.

Brenda Coulter said...

All right, you clowns. Some of you are having way too much fun with this. What happened to my fangirls, hmm? I guess my sister is the only one who really loves me. ;-)

Pattie and Mel, I'm preparing a thank-you post for you ladies right now. I'm much indebted to you both.

Julana, I believe I will have something to say about the primrose tomorrow.

Camy Tang said...

ROFL!!!! You always crack me up, Brenda! No, I have nothing original to add to the Brenda-isms. I do not aspire to Mir's fertile brain.

Anonymous said...

I have just recently started reviewing books as a hobby at this point though it does make for a quick and easy start to a blog since I read so much. As for how to give a book you hate a positve spin thats half the fun. Of course only those who really know how a person's mind thinks will read between the lines and those who felt the same. However there is also another angle to consider as well - books that aren't your usual taste can still be very well written and I believe the author as the creator of that work deserves credit for a job well done even if it wasn't a favorite of mine - see my Aug 13, 2007 post at