Two questions I try never to ask my friends and family…
Have you picked up my book? And the natural follow-on, did you like it?
First of all, I never want to put anyone on the spot about whether they’ve purchased the book or not. Although I’m the type to readily support a family member or a friend in this way (whether the item or topic is in my wheel-house or not), I understand that not everyone is, for a thousand and one reasons. Money, time, interest. I can imagine some of my friends not buying a book, any book, even mine, just because reading is not their thing.
Similarly, my book – even for those friends and family who enjoy reading – still may prove not to be “their thing,” which is why I never, ever ask if they liked it. I always thank them for supporting me, and make sure to suggest other authors I’ve come to know and books I’ve read since getting involved in publishing, but unless they open the flood gates with an off-the-cuff review or opinion, I won’t solicit one.
I think it makes it more comfortable for both of us.
I’ve been lucky that The Far Empty has, by and large, been very warmly received.
But I learned right out of the gate that what you do creatively isn’t going to be everyone, and if you put it out there publicly, you have to accept that. Some folks REALLY didn’t like The Far Empty, and while it’s never fun to hear (no matter how creative and witty they are in their diatribes), that’s part of the whole artistic skin-thickening process. I respect everyone’s opinion, even if I don’t share it, and if someone has spent hard-earned money on something I wrote and isn’t happy about it, I support their right to say so.
That’s as easy stance to take, though, when that person is simply an avatar or a name attached to an email or a review; that’s just me getting rejected solely as a writer. It’s much harder to hear from someone you know and like; someone that you may see everyday and have a personal connection with. Then, I think, it feels more like a rejection of me as a person.
Family and friends can be a wonderful support network as you slog through the writing and publishing process. All of mine were for me, but I found that's the best role for them: cheerleaders, and not critics....
Always keep writing, JTS