Review Round-Up

Well, Currency‘s been officially out for a little over six weeks now. I’ve read from it maybe a dozen times in a half-dozen different towns. I’ve gotten some reviews and done some interviews. I’ve been absolutely drunk on the kindness and enthusiasm of friends and acquaintances, and, despite attempts to keep my focus on my many book-related blessings, I’ve also succumbed to moments of despondency over the rest of the world’s utter indifference. (I know, I know, I shouldn’t be comparing myself to anyone. I shouldn’t be checking the Amazon ranking. But, um, I can tell you Currency is at #559,688 as I type. Anyone want to boost my number? From what I can discern, a single purchase vaults it above 100,00 for a day or so.)

Anyway, I thought I’d round up a list of links to some of the press I’ve received, so I have it all in one place.

Gina and I were in the fantastic courtyard of Austin’s boho chic Hotel San Jose when she looked up from her iPhone to tell me that all-round indie-lit star Jonathon Messenger wanted to interview me for TimeOut Chicago, and with the way the sun was hitting the garden’s huge yucca plants, or whatever they were, this probably constitutes my most glamorous author moment yet. I thought the interview turned out well. Here’s a link to it.

And remember when I was so happy when The Chicago Reader ran a good review? Well, I just about cried for joy when I read this one in NewPages, a site that celebrates all things independent in literature. “What follows is a tour de force portrayal by a serious author of the realities of modern-day smuggling and those involved in these activities. Currency not only succeeds in its scope and in-depth research, but also in in its fluid, energetic, and intriguing prose.” I think I’ve discovered my next tattoo. (You have to scroll down to find Currency, but along the way there are lots of intriguing reviews along the way.)

I was also very excited by this review on A Traveler’s Library, because I’ve admired that site for awhile as one of the few that combines a literary aesthetic with a focus on travel. Writer Vera Marie Badertscher says, “I would call it a good summer/beach read, but don’t want to diminish it. I also predict that it will be standard fare in every backpacker hostel in Southeast Asia before very long.” Ah, that is one of my fondest wishes! This enthusiastic review by Danielle E. Alvarez on GoBackpacking, a site for independent travelers, would seem to head the book in the right direction.

But, man, it’s mostly looking to be a hard slog. I wanted to give away some copies of Currency to readers about to embark on trips, with the request that they would in turn leave the book where another traveler would find it. When Jeannie Mark from the well-designed, well-written travel blog Nomadic Chick contacted me about doing an interview,  I thought her site would be a great place to launch the traveling book idea. She loved it, and we designed a contest. Jeannie did a great job with the interview (which is here) and the promotion for it, but we received fewer entries than I had prizes to give away.  (Here’s what she had to say about that.) So, if it’s that hard to give-away a novel to an audience that it’s pretty much written for… sigh. (By the way, I’m still trying to get this idea off the ground. If you’re going on a trip soon and want a free copy of Currency to read and then leave somewhere, click here.)

Still, even if it’s an uphill climb, the internet makes networking with traveler-types easier than it would have been ten years ago. Emily Gerson at the site Maiden Voyage Travel just did a nice interview with me. I talked about publishing with small presses on travel writer Alexis Grant’s super-useful and professional writing blog. And I identified another site that hits my target audiences,  The Lost Girls, which is run by three women who quit their NYC media jobs to travel and blog around the world. (Their book by the same title came out around when Currency did. It’s at #3,382 on Amazon. Not that I’m counting. Not that I’ve noticed they have a list of national reviews on their Amazon page that’s as long as my arm.) I was grateful to see Currency‘s pretty cover and a good review on their homepage last week, right here. The reviewer is the only one so far who didn’t love Piv’s voice, but she was nice about it.

Not so nice was this review in Chicago’s NewCity Lit. I stumbled upon it just the other day, but I reckon some of my friends might have seen it and not told me about it.

Well, actually, I just reread it to post it here, and it’s not terrible. And, you know, I used to be the first to say that if reviewers give everything a sunny two thumbs up, then what’s the point. But I think I’ve changed my mind. It’s so hard to complete a full-length work. It’s so hard to get it published. To find an audience. And then you’re going to dismiss it in a couple of sentences? It might be preferable to say nothing.

On the other hand, today I learned that a review of Currency that was supposed to run in a national print publication got pulled. I can’t help but wonder if it got pulled because the reviewer couldn’t be entirely positive. Better no national press at all than that?

Whatever. Better this—a book in hand, people reading it—than nothing, of that I’m sure. The good reviews I received before the not-good one did help inure me, and I was fairly well steeled for the indifference of the majority: I knew a book by a first-time author from a small press wouldn’t be met with trumpets. I knew having a platform was important, and that I didn’t have much of one beyond my supportive friends (whose numbers, thanks in part to the book, are growing). It’s been a journey, a real journey, in the best sense of word. No matter how much you read about a place, it’s different when you visit it. No matter how much you prepare, you’ll be swept along on some currents you can’t control. I always feel lucky when I get to go on a trip. And if you liked the book and spread the word, that would make me happy, too.

9 Comments on “Review Round-Up

  1. Just for the record, the review was NOT pulled because the reviewer could not be positive about it. It was pulled because the publishing industry is like a burning oil field right now, economically, and indie authors and presses are often the casualties of that.

    The up side about indie titles is that they can take awhile to get their legs, but the publisher will not give up after 6 weeks! So whereas if a title at a big house doesn’t get immediate widescale reception or, like, become a Target breakout book or something, it may be out of print in less than half a year, indie titles are always able to suddenly meet with an explosion of interest. Travel bloggers may still yet propel this book into being in “every backpacker hotel in southeast Asia” yet . . .

    • Thanks for letting me know that today, Gina. I think my awareness of how crucial the first six weeks are for books by the commercial houses is why I felt like taking stock today. I’m glad I’m not running in that race.

  2. Zoe–even if it never gets above #559,688, I think you have something MAJOR to be proud of! Not just anyone can write a novel. You’re made a huge accomplishment, and regardless of what anyone else thinks, your kids are going to be so proud and happy to have it when they’re older.

    • Thanks, Emily. My son is nine, and he’s already so proud that I published a novel. I am too! For years, I thought the book would never see the light of day, and now that it’s out, most of the time it’s very easy to walk in the sunshine. But, you know, the shadows always tempt. Or at least they do me. Let’s just say I like variety. 😉

    • Emily, your comment reminded me that I forgot to mention the review that’s made me happiest. This one, from my dad. He’s a great writer himself. He’s written academic books, but he recently self-published a novel he wrote 50 years ago that had many near-misses with publishers like mine did, without the white knight swooping in at the end. But it’s always remained close to his heart. It’s a great read about the Korean War, and it’s on Amazon.

  3. Hang in there, Zoe. Publishing a book is a bit like encouraging your daughter to enter a beauty pageant and then having to handle all the attention, both positive and negative, that draws from people. But she’s still your daughter, and you know what she’s worth.

    • That’s a good analogy, Gray. Putting anything out there is going to illicit some good attention, some bad attention, and some lack of attention. You probably have experienced that with your blog.

  4. Congratulations on your book — if it’s any consolation a friend of mine published and had an Amazon rating similar to yours in the book’s infancy. Three years later that book is still going strong. Give it time, keep the faith. I found you on, btw. My best to you, Beth

    • Thanks for telling me how you found the blog and for your comment, which does indeed help me keep hope alive! I love SheWrites.

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