When your best friends are your worst enemies…

Hey folks… I had a delicate situation the other day. Those of you who follow me on Goodreads are probably aware that I reached out to other indie authors: I’ll do you, if you do me… I proposed a book and review trade…

But what do you do if you receive a book so awful that it’s basically unreadable? Do you go ahead give an honest review and publicly rip it to shreds, hoping your trade buddy doesn’t return the favor out of spite? It would be spite because you know what you wrote is totally awesome right?

How do you know? Because all the friends that read your book told you how totally awesome it was, right? Wrong! Your friends are big fat liars. How do I know? Remember about a week or so ago my book was nowhere to be found? Well, that was because I had to un-publish all that awesomeness and fix it (and I probably still missed some things.) Lesson learned…Friends lie. (Well, maybe not the ones with Asperger’s, but I wasn’t really comfortable asking my eighteen-year-old son to critique the sexy novel I wrote.)

So back to my dilemma…

Another very nice author whom I’ll call Writer-X…(what, so I use to be a Speed Racer fan,) sent me two published works… The first thing that became obvious was that even though the works were published in English, Writer-X was not a native English speaker, nor was Writer-X around a lot of native English speakers. Almost every sentence had problems. There were so many problems with syntax, punctuation and context that it was unreadable.

But how do tell someone that? Especially someone you’ve never met? When you criticize their work, they can’t see your face or hear the tone of your voice in an email. Below is our email exchange (sanitized to protect the innocent):

Hi Candace, Here comes my book. I also have a novella up on the net, I am sending that one too, I hope you have time to review either or both of them. Looking forward to your text! I review here on GR, and I started to put my reviews on Tumblr just a few weeks ago. I can put it on Amazon US, too. How does it sound? 🙂 Take care, Writer-X.

Thanks Writer-X, I just downloaded the attachments. I’ll post a rating and review on GR and Amazon as soon as I’m done reading them. I will also promote them on my blog, Candace Vianna Writes if I find them to be a good fit and would like your permission to possibly post some exerts to promote them. https://www.facebook.com/candaceviannawrites

Regards Candace

Hey Writer-X, I just read several pages of “God, I Hope This Isn’t Published Yet” (you can tell that’s not the real title right?) Was this book translated from another language? The reason I’m asking is because there are so many syntax, grammar and punctuation irregularities—even taking into account the differences between Standard American English and UK English—I’m not trying to be mean or critical; the story seems interesting, but if you have followed some of the reviews on GR you know how critical they can be. I’m afraid if you put this out there, not only won’t they finish reading it, they will tear it to shreds.

Regards Candace.

Hi Candace, no, I wrote it in English and I’ve run it through a sw plus it was proofread by a born US girl, so I’m surprised. Could you give me an example?

I can give you several, starting with the email you just sent me. “..a born US girl” should be ” … a girl born in the US”

Opening paragraph:
xxxxxxx. xxxxxxxxx, xxxxxx….. (you get the idea)

Second sentence has one independent clause, and two dependent clauses starting with the same word “xxxxxx” and is a run-on sentence…
Next sentence uses an improper word form in introductory clause. ‘xxxxxxly’ is an adverb—adverbs are created by adding -ly to root words—so should be used to describe a verb, not the subject—in this case the xxxxxxx— Additionally, that is not a complete sentence since it is missing a subject….. this goes on and on and on…..

Second paragraph:

First sentence: xxxxxxx……. Second sentence: xxxxxxxx…. Third sentence: xxxxxxxx….. Fourth sentence, second clause: xxxxxxx….. make it stop….

Both books have these errors in almost every other sentence. I’m guessing your beta reader is a friend? She probably didn’t want to hurt your feelings. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to write in a second language. I’ve tried and failed several times to learn other languages, so I give you props. That said, most reviewers will not be kind.

I had a friend read my book and love it (hey friend, love ya, don’t take this personally if you see this post…just sayin’.) When I downloaded the file as if I were the customer, and started reading it, I had a heart attack. I ended up un-publishing it and re-editing it. I hope this helps. I’m not trying to be mean, but I also don’t want to see you get blindsided by bad reviews.

Regards Candace

Thanks, Candace, I know now what you mean. And I guess this is why you asked whether the text is translated, because most things you write seem stylistic changes to me, indicating our thought of line is different. Which probably is 🙂 For example I used “born US” in the sense that the girl is American and was born in US, not just someone who lives in the US, or someone who was born in the US, as these two latter things do not equal the meaning I had behind these words. So I used it like “born hypocrite” if you see what I mean. Yes, this girl is a friend. I had a dozen of international friends, who said they’d read the book, but only one whose mother tongue is English, so I relied on her opinion more than others’. Anyway, I’ll talk to a professional editor/proofreader and thanks for taking the time and answering!

No problem. I wish you the best of luck. Send me a copy after you finish your edits and I’ll let you know if I see any additional problems.

Regards Candace….

What would you do?

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Ellen Hawley says:

    Well, here I am, two years too late to be any help and I don’t know what to do anyway. Develop a serious case of carpal tunnel syndrome that keeps you from reviewing any books? Lose your reading glasses so permanently that you’ll never be able to read again?

    You could, of course, always say, “As it turns out this really isn’t the kind of thing I read, so I’ve decided not to review it.” Or “I’m terribly sorry, but I’ve decided to slit my wrists instead.”


    1. Unfortunately, I’m not the self-sacrificing type, and tactful ‘white lies” wouldn’t have saved Writer-x from the slings and arrows of outraged readers (which, speaking from experience, can be brutal.) My final takeaway from this experience was to never put myself in that position again. If someone wants a private critique, knowing they’ll get my unvarnished opinion, I’m happy to help.


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