One of the most popular blog posts I’ve written to date was a post I wrote in 2010 asking Does Twitter sell books? I posted a picture of my Twitter Towers (all the books I’d heard about through the social networking site) and categorised them, and generally thought that Twitter was pretty good at selling books. To me, at any rate!
Three years on and I am still getting book recommendations through the social networking site, while also sharing my own favourite reads and joining in conversations about books I’ve read, am reading or want to read. Some of the discussions I enjoy the most are those where Twitter or a book blogger gets excited about a book.
But by its very nature, social networking wouldn’t be social if all I did was scour Twitter for book recommendations and run away to read them. You follow people and they follow you and you chat and connect. Sometimes you even become friends and not just people chatting on virtual coffee-breaks in 140 characters. And because some of those people on Twitter are authors, you may get friendly with one or more of them and want to read one of their books or they might even ask you to read one.
And this is where I run the risk of crossing over to what I see as the dark side of those lovely Twitter Towers and entering Bookish Mordor.
It doesn’t matter how open-minded a Frodo you are when you start out on that new book, you can be a veritable Samwise Gamgee in your outlook, but there will always be some books that you simply will not get on with/like/enjoy/be able to restrain yourself from wanting to fling across the room.
Because, sadly, and I really wish this didn’t happen, even when you like the person, you won’t always like the book(s) they write. And when you don’t, you basically feel lousier than Gollum on a bad day without his precious or like the lowest form of Orc-life.
The question then is: what do you do about that?
Do you quietly give up on the book and not mention it again but continue to chat to the author and try and support them in whatever way you can without endorsing that book? That’s what I try to do. It takes a lot of time, hard work and energy to write a book and I don’t really want to publicly knock anyone who manages to finish one. Just because I didn’t enjoy this particular book doesn’t mean that I won’t like their future books, anyway. And besides, I see book reviews as recommendations, and why would I want to review a book I didn’t enjoy? That may mean my book reviews are all skewed towards the 3*, 4* and 5* end of the scale but I don’t have time to review all the books I read as it is. (57 so far this year at the time of writing this.) In her post about reading as part of a book group Have you ever thrown a book across the room? literary agent Rachelle Gardner also seems to favour keeping quiet, and that’s in circumstances where the author presumably isn’t a member of or taking part in the book group meeting.
Where it gets trickier, of course, is when the author either knows that you’re reading their book and they’re keen to know what you think of it or worse yet, they’re waiting for you to review it, either as a stand-alone review or as part of a book blog tour? What then? Do you say it’s not for you and ask to be excused from writing the review or withdraw from the tour? Or do you tell them that the book wasn’t for you and offer them the choice of still having you write an honest and fair review of it or withdrawing, or do you go ahead and post a review, saying what you thought of it, because the author asked for a review and they ought to accept whatever you write (even if it’s part of a book promotion tour) without automatically expecting it to be a glowing 5* review?
What would you do? Or what do you do, when this happens to you?
Image courtesy of marin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net