Have you ever had a comment that someone made stick with you and make you think? I had one this week, it made a very negative impression on me.
The comment was “Not to insult your book, but it is not a very high end publication.”
Fitted Knits: 25 Projects for the Fashionable Knitter was the book in question.
It is not a secret to my knitting group that writing books is a goal of mine. I am currently laying out an Art and Literary book, and doing a lot of product photography for our Gallery’s on line shop. I was looking at the book in terms of what I liked and what I did not like. I was being a critic. If the author, Stefanie Japel, had been in the room, I certainly would have been a lot more candid in my opinions. One of the women mentioned that the author was currently putting pictures of how she would have shown the garments on her blog. I was thrilled to hear that the creator of the patterns and author agreed with me. That is when we were graced with the comment, “Not to insult your book, but it is not a very high end publication.”
It is a book of knitting patterns, and while I would have taken the product shots differently, I can see why took them the way they did. They were going for the fashion shot look, which is not terribly surprising in a book that is for the “Fashionable Knitter.” I certainly did not feel that the book was badly done, or of an inferior quality deserving of this criticism.
Why say it? and How is it different than my being a critic?
I think that the how it is different is answered by the why say it. My critique of the book was in terms of what I liked and did not like along with how I would do it differently. My purpose was to learn something from the process, I threw it out to the group to see if my opinion is shared by anyone else.
I do not know the why for the person who said it. I am not sure how the comment it is not a very high end publication can be anything but an insult, and the not to insult your book makes me feel like they knew that. There had to be a better way to make their point. If the point they were trying to make was that they might have had a limited budget that led to less than perfect photography, it would have been much clearer to say that.
There is a very fine line between criticism and critique. One helps you to learn and grow. the other tends to leave bad feelings.
So when making critical comments on something, it is best to think about the meaning you want to convey, lest your comment be perceived as an insult.