Recently, I came across a Dear Abby column titled: "Friend Has Hard Time Finding a Few Kind Words for Bad Book." To summarize the dilemma, the advice seeker's friend's husband self-published a book and he asked the advice seeker to write a positive review of his book on Amazon. Problem is, the advice seeker thought the book was terribly written. Dear Abby advised the advice seeker to find something nice to say on Amazon, nonetheless. I've enjoyed reading Dear Abby very much through the years. And I have something to add on to her response this time...
All writers, especially new writers, should be open to opportunities for developing their craft. It would be unfortunate if this author would continue to spend years of his life passionately laboring over more books after this one, and believing all of his books demonstrate "perfection" ...while those around him fear that their honesty would hurt him. Wouldn't this mirror the story about the emperor without clothes? Sometimes honesty can be a gift when it’s packaged with VERY EXTREME tact and sensitivity and consideration to the other person's feelings. (Being aware of some of the yucky stuff out there online, I want to emphasize that honesty and mean-spirited comments are two completely different things, and should NOT be regarded as synonyms.)
If I were Dear Abby, I would advise the advice seeker to honor her comfort zone. That is, if she is okay with leaving a positive review for this author, then she should do so. And vice versa. It should also be noted that it is possible to write a positive review about a book while weaving in a little teeny weeny bit of constructive criticism. Regardless of whether or not the advice seeker writes the review, she could also consider how she might help the author grow as a writer. For example, she doesn't have to be a literary critic to gently suggest that the author find a critique partner, someone who is not his spouse.
What would your advice to the advice seeker be?