What to Do When Your Friend’s Book Sucks

A writing acquaintance and I exchanged info earlier, plus did a little shameless self promotion for our books. Why waste an opportunity, right? Later that day, I swung by Amazon to pick up a copy of one of their* works. So, I picked up and started reading.

A sinking feeling piled in my gut as I read. It was horrible. Unbelievably pretentious, flat, and read like a rough draft. And yet, I have no idea where to go from here.


Actual photo of me having to make decisions.

This person and I have been chatting on and off now for a while, and they’d most certainly notice if I gave them a bad rating. (I’d wondered if maybe I could stretch the review up to 2.5, and therefore let it be rounded up to 3 stars, but I just can’t do that. It’s dishonest, plus is a higher rating than I’d feel comfortable giving.)

I know most people would say to suck it up and just review the book. However, I’ve had bad experiences with reviewing indie authors work before where they come back and trash my books. (See my post about Perpetual Five-Year Olds.)

No option seems particularly great here. I could:

1.) Finish the book but never review it, thereby being dishonest to other readers by not speaking up. (I typically ALWAYS review the books I read.)

2.) Finish the book, give it an honest review, and risking ruining a relationship with a new writer friend and/or risking my books getting trashed.

3.) Not finish the book at all. This one is also strange to me because. . . well, I don’t really ever abandon books. In my entire life, with the hundreds of books I’ve read, I’ve abandoned maybe 5. Plus, I feel like this is dishonest too because I should still let other potential readers know. Silly as it may sound, I’m a book reviewer dang it, and it’s my self-appointed job to let others know if I think something is worth a darn or not.

So, what do you all do when a friend’s published book sucks? Do you review it? Or do you not say anything at all? Why/why not? Have you every experienced negative backlash because of it? 

Comment below! 



(*Yes, I’m using “their” for just one person in order to mask their gender. Don’t be pedantic!)


7 thoughts on “What to Do When Your Friend’s Book Sucks

  1. The only other option I can think of is one that I experienced–I got in touch with a reviewer and, after trading lots of e-mails and becoming quite friendly, she reviewed my book. It got a glowing review (yay!) but she only posted it to her blog and GoodReads, and neither had a star rating. When I asked her about it, she said that she has a policy not to give star ratings to books whose authors she knows. And I really respected that. It does leave it up to the reader to draw their own conclusions, but you’re still being pretty honest about the book.

    Other than that…yeah. I was in a similar situation where I was gifted a whole series for review. I wrote a somewhat generous (if undetailed) review for the first book, but even though I read the second, I couldn’t bring myself to write a review, nor could I get far into the third book. I still feel guilty about that. Since then, I almost always read Amazon previews before agreeing to review a book now. Or even cross-promote. Because I do think we each have a trust relationship with our readers that we don’t want to betray.

    Hope you find a path that feels right and works well for you!

    • I respect the idea of no-star reviews if it works for the individual, but I also feel like an author shouldn’t get a freebie on a low-star rating just because they know the reviewer, y’know? Still, I probably should’ve read the preview..

      P.S. Congrats on the great review! I’m not surprised. ;)

      • Well, I think it cuts both ways–so the key is to be consistent. No star reviews no matter how good / bad the book means every author who’s a friend gets the review only, and that’s that. It doesn’t hurt or help anyone on ratings, but it does give readers the chance to further assess the book. All that said, I haven’t instituted this policy myself, though I should perhaps think some more about it! :D

        And thank you! :)

  2. I think the best thing to do would to be honest. As a writer, you have to expect criticism. Good writers can accept the criticism and work to make their story better. It would be unfortunate if someone unjustly retaliated against you, but I think that if you were honest with them, and ultimately yourself, at least you’d be able to sleep soundly at night, knowing you did the right thing. You may be doing them a favor by telling them how bad it is. Maybe the next book they write will be a lot better because of your honesty. Be tactful, but straightforward.

  3. Oh, good lord. This is one of many reasons I don’t exchange reviews.

    I faced this situation just the other day. There’s this young writer who posted some of her work online and I’ve really enjoyed her Pinterest boards, but when I went and read her work had some great ideas, it was just…awful otherwise. I feel terrible, but her heroine was basically this invincible warrior who surrenders to her enemies for no reason, has a total lack of insecurities, and basically things I did in my stories once upon a time when I was 11-12.

    What did I do? Nothing. It hardly seemed appropriate to give a scathing critique, which is what it would have been if I was being honest.

    On the other hand, I have read work by a thirteen year old that was so good it was depressing. She writes at thirteen better than plenty of adults.

    In general I try to be as honest as possible in my reviews. I want people to be honest when they review my work and I think I owe it to my blog followers as well as the author. I don’t ever trash books, I can usually spot something good in each one, but I can’t say I thought a book was original or well written when it wasn’t.

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