Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Neagtive book review turns book packager into optimist

Text by Albert Walton, Seattle Washington

Be careful what you wish for. When I set out last year to produce a sci fi novel

about climate chaos in the future and was lucky enough online to find a writer

to pen the book, I expected a big advance and huge royalty payments

later on, not for me, but for the writer whose name appears on

the book's cover.

But there was no big advance, not even a small advance, and with only

21 copies of the novel sold on Amazon in 6 months, there have

been precious few royalty payments for the man who spent a year

researching and writing the book.

When I say ''be careful what you wish for'' (scare quotes intended), I must confess that I had no idea what kind of

negative, malicious, cruel book review would come in for the book -- from a newspaper critic no less -- and I was not

prepared at all. And I, of course, did not share the review with the book's author, nor do I intend to. (I hope he is not

reading this online.)

So let this be a cautionary tale for would-be novelists and book packagers: if you get involved

in the book business as either an agent or a writer, be prepared for a

negative review like this:

Dear Sir,,

"I have read the climate novel you sent me and which you want my newspaper to review, and to be honest, I must tell you, it is one

of the worst books I've come

across this year. I get over 20 books a week in the mail from would be novelists and authors. Your book takes the cake.

The characters are one-dimensional, the dialogue is stilted and often

unintentionally hilarious, the situations are merely a series of cliches derived from any number of other 'end of the world'stories. There is

little about the book that appears to be truly original, or is presented with any sort of literary skill beyond the most rudimentary -- the book's preface rant is so ham-fisted and clumsy that it's almost funny."

There was more: "I understand your personal stake in this book, as the book packager who seems to be emotionally invested in the 'ideas' in it. But that is all that it is

-- a single vague idea, and not a terribly original nor a very carefully considered at that, about a single eventuality that might be extrapolated from the science and speculation that surrounds the topic of global climate change, that has been churned into a slapdash series of anecdotes about uninteresting characters and their unimaginative


After all that, the "critic" eased off a bit and added: "Perhaps there is a decent work of fiction that could be crafted from

this little idea of yours. And if you and your author are pleased with

the results of your novel, and releasing it to the world, then, really,

that's all that matters.''

Small comfort, that last sentence. But yes, both the author of the book and I are pleased with the results of his book, and even though sales

are few and far between, and the critical reaction has been, at best, lukewarm, even damning, it's true that what mostly matters is that we took an idea and turned out a readable novel around it, even if we haven't found many readers yet. With a review like the one above, I must say, I am quite

taken aback. But producing a book, and for the author who wrote the book, releasing it as an ebook to the world via Amazon was worthwhile for us, despite the cold hard complaints of the sole newspaper review to come in so far.

Funny, since I have not told the author about this negative reaction to his novel, he is already hard at work writing both a prequel and a sequel, he told me the other day in an email, with his eyes set on a sci fi trilogy.

Did the review hurt? You bet it did. Do I plan to soldier on with books two and three? You bet I do. Am I stupid? Maybe.

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