My wife is a data analyst. It's a job that requires some math skills. Not a lot. Not like calculus or trig or, even, all that much algebra, but it does require some maths. There's a lot of working with percentages and fractions. There are a few months each year when her job is really busy and requires lots of overtime. Last year, not long before the rush, one of the people in her department retired. Like any good company, to get through the busy time, they hired a temp. A temp with the potential to stay on. That was rather than hire someone permanent for the position at the point when they still had time to do that and provide adequate training, but that's another story entirely.
Now, the temp they hired seemed qualified for the job, which was not the full job, just some of the lower level routine stuff that required a lot of time. She looked qualified on paper, anyway, and got through all of the interviews and stuff. However, when it came time to do the job, she couldn't math. At all. It was almost immediately apparent that she wasn't going to work out, and there was still time to hire someone else. But, guess what, that's not what happened.
What happened is that they kept her on. The initial hope, I think, was that if they kept working with her that maybe she would "get it" and be able to do the job they hired her to do. But, no, that didn't happen. She never "got it" and, in fact, for a while, she made more work for everyone as she continued to not get it, because she would spend time doing a task (more time than it should have taken) and, then, someone else (usually my wife) would have to go back and re-do the task because it hadn't been done correctly. Eventually, after weeks of this, she became a kind of glorified filing clerk, because that's the only thing she could do.
I want to point out at this point that she was, as my wife put it, "a perfectly nice person, very sweet." She liked her. Everyone liked her. There was no one that thought she was a bad person or a dumb person or anything like that. But she couldn't do the job. And, yet, the people who should have told her that she couldn't do the job were unwilling to do their job of letting her know that she wasn't working out. Nothing positive came out of the situation.
1. It created more work for everyone involved.
2. It caused the marginalization of the temp as they looked for tasks to keep her busy because they couldn't give her any real work.
3. It created a false sense of hope in the temp as the message she received was, "you're doing fine," even though everyone knew that wasn't the case. But, you know, they kept her on, so she must have been doing something right, right? No...
4. It caused resentment toward the people who should have stepped in and said, "Hey, you're not ready for this work, yet. We need to let you go and find someone else." And, maybe, she never would be ready for it or, maybe, she just needed to get reacquainted with her math skills. No one will ever know, because no one ever told her that she wasn't doing the job. They just kept decreasing the level of the tasks given to her.
5. She was never told in what way she failed at the job. When the time was up on the job, they just didn't retain her. There was never any feedback on what she could have done to be kept on.
And, see, that's the real issue. No one ever told her what she was "failing" at, so she never knew what to get better at. Well, other than my wife explaining the same errors to her everyday, to which she would always reply, "Got it!" in a way that seemed the first few times that she really had gotten it. But that, having a coworker try to show you what you're doing incorrectly, is not quite the same as having your superior, the person who has the ability to tell you they need to let you go, sit you down and explain to you where you're not meeting expectations.
See, no one wanted to be the one to hurt her feelings.
So I'm just going to say this:
Screw your feelings.
And, yes, that sounds more harsh than I really mean it, but, still, screw your feelings.
The problem is twofold:
1. Indie writers who hold their friendship for you hostage in order to get good reviews.
And, man, have I run into this one. I've lost count of the number of "friends" I've lost over negative reviews, but I'll just say this: If our "friendship" is conditional upon me saying that I like what you write, then we have no friendship. If I can't say to you, "You know, I don't like this one," without you yelling, "Well, you're not my friend," then we're already not friends. Or, likewise, if I can't say that about something some friend of yours wrote. It's the same thing. All I have for you is this:
It's time for you to grow up.2. Indie authors who are unwilling to give honest reviews to their friends because they are scared of losing their friendships.
I know you "think" you're supporting your "friends" by giving them positive reviews of their not-better-than-average books, but, really, you're just making it harder on everyone, yourselves included. Every 5-star rating you throw out there that should have been a 3 or a 2 or, even, a 1 is destroying the credibility of the indie book market in general. You know how I know? Because I see it said repeatedly by book reviewers who refuse to review indie books and by readers who will not buy indie books (sure, they'll download free stuff because who cares if it's free). They see all the false positive reviews out there and have learned that you can't trust indie authors. I'm sorry, but the fact that you are out there lying (because you are lying) about the quality of your "friends'" books is making my job more difficult. And, you know, it's encouraging them to continue to write the same crappy stuff rather than working on getting better. What I have for you is this:
It's time for you to grow up.Here's the thing, people say it all the time, "If you want to be a writer, you better develop some thick skin," and that's true. Except it's not about having "thick skin." It's about learning separation. The things people say about your work are not things they are saying about you, and someone can very validly say, "I don't like this thing you made, but I like you." When you flip out about that and do the virtual equivalent of yelling, "Then, I'm not your friend," you're acting like a first grader. At best. And, well, if that's where you are developmentally, then you need to go find something else to do with your time, because, frankly, writing is not for you. Or, at least, writing for anyone other than yourself. You need to do what Dickinson did and store it all in a trunk and leave it for someone else to sort out after you're dead.
But here's the other thing about being a grown up, and maybe this comes from having spent so much of my life as a teacher, you have to be able to tell people when they haven't done a good job. If the only thing you can do is tell people "good job" because you're worried about hurting someone's feelings, you need to grow up, too. This is not a dinner party where you nod politely and tell the host that the substandard food is "wonderful" and "delicious." In fact, that behavior at a dinner party will lead people not to come back and leave the host wondering why. You know, since everyone said they loved the food the previous time. The problem here is that in this "dinner party," we're all responsible for the food and, when we go around telling each other "oh, I love that" when you actually want to spit it out then that's the food that gets served. But, see, we're not the guests. Readers are the guests and, when they keep coming to the indie writers' banquet only to find a bunch of crap food that the all the "cooks" are saying is wonderful, well, then, those readers will decide that ALL indie food is crap.
Basically, if you are unwilling to give a negative review, you shouldn't be giving any reviews at all. The whole thing where you opt out of reviewing the books you don't like and only giving reviews to books you do like would be like me only giving As and, maybe, Bs in my classroom and leaving all of the other kids gradeless. It doesn't help the situation.
So, no, when I read a book that I don't like, for whatever reason, I get to say I don't like it and, even better, I get to explain why I didn't like it. Other people can then come along and figure out if they want to try it. So, if I say, "This one is too sweet," someone who likes sweet things will go, "Oh! I like sweets! I'll try this one." Or, if I say, "This one was too salty for me," someone else has the option of saying, "Oh, yeah, I don't like lots of salt; I'll stay away from this one."
Honesty is important in reviews. Period. It's not about treating my "friends" like they're five and saying, "Oh, it's beautiful!" and hanging it on the refrigerator. So sorry if you think that's what this is all about. There comes a point when even parents quit hanging those things up. Usually right about the time the kid realizes the drawings are actually pretty crappy.
So, just to reiterate, if you're approaching this whole indie writing thing as if it's some weird support system of giving good reviews to your buddies so that they won't feel bad, well, just grow up. Actually, and excuse the language (or not, I don't really care), it's time for you to grow the fuck up.
[This post has been brought to you in part by Alex Cavanaugh and the IWSG.(But, mostly, this one is just me.)]