This isn’t actually a review, but an interview with some fun questions. Click on the link to connect! :^)
Months ago I sent two paperbacks, a cover letter, and a press release to Midwest Book Review, in hope that they would review The Jack of Souls. They get around 50 submissions a day, for 1500/month, and since they are non-profit, they don’t have time to reply to everyone; basically, if they don’t like what your wrote, you don’t hear from them. So I really had my fingers crossed for this one.
Who is Midwest Book Review?
MBR is probably the biggest non-profit small press reviewer that accepts indie books. It has a wide professional readership including book stores and librarians.
Today, while at a gas station in Winthrop, Washington (the first reliable cell reception on our week in the North Cascades), I saw an unfamiliar email in my inbox: MWREVW@aol.com.
It took a few seconds to recognize it. When I did, my breath stopped.
Good News Comes from Unfamiliar Senders
Stephen C. Merlino
Tortoise Rampant Press
9780986267413, $12.95 PB, 350pp, www.amazon.com
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI, 53575
Holy crap. Holy crap. Holy crap. Holy crap. Holy crap. Holy crap. Holy crap.
They liked it!
I know I’m not supposed to care. That I’m supposed to write no matter what anyone says good or bad. And I will. But seriously, I am so thrilled and stunned and so grateful for this review. It is so nice to see my stories aren’t just sung into a void–that sometimes someone actually shouts back, Hey, that’s pretty good! and the solitary act of writing becomes for a moment a dialogue between like-minded people.
Thanks for shouting back, MBR.
Author and Reviewer Barb Taub Wrote a Fun Review of The Jack of Souls
Here’s an excerpt:
“The Jack of Souls is a tribute to the Trickster, an exhilarating and funny and larger-than-life paean to the ones who might not be the strongest or bravest, but can out-think, outlast, or outplay their musclebound foes. It’s a lightning-paced roller coaster world built of humor, bravery, brains, and excellent writing. The villains are unequivocally evil. The heroes are flawed, hexed, unlucky, or just plain old. And sometimes they smell really bad.”
Read the full REVIEW AND INTERVIEW here.
What did I do for the month after I sent out all the Kickstarter rewards? I launched what I’m calling
THE WAR ON OBSCURITY!
For an indie author, obscurity is public enemy #1. Of course, the more reviews a book has, the easier it is for readers to make a decision about it, but there’s more: to be taken seriously by the best publicity engines out there, a book needs at least 25 reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.
So, January’s Target was to Acquire Book Blog Reviews
What the Heck is a Book Blog?
I didn’t know, either. But it turns out there are thousands of book bloggers–book lovers who’ve taken to posting their own reviews of books in a blog. They don’t get paid, and they don’t HAVE to review anyone. Authors contact them with an attractive pitch and request, and the bloggers accept or decline.
If they accept, the book goes in their To Be Read pile, and months later a review appears on the their blog, Amazon, and Goodreads.
In January, I Queried 127 Book Bloggers
These I found in The Book Reviewer Yellow Pages (exactly what it sounds like, in heft and content) and Indieview. I started with a base pitch email, but each had to be individualized to fit each bloggers requirement policy, preferred genres and formats, and flavor/tone of their blog site.
I Heard Back from 22!
Believe it or not, that’s really good results! The marketer who coached me submitted a book recently to 200 reviewers, landed 20 reviews, and was happy with that. She says 10% is standard, so I’m very pleased with my 17%!
Here’s a Sample Line from my Spreadsheet
Website Blogger Date Queried JOS Sent Est.Post
SFBook.com Vanessa Dec28/Jan28 (Pbk 1/13) Mar 15
You can see too that I queried Vanessa twice—that was b/c she didn’t respond to the first query. I figure, why not send again after a month? Reviewers get busy. Maybe she didn’t reply because she was over whelmed with requests and had to delete a bunch, unread; or maybe my pitch didn’t catch her attention and she deleted it. Who knows? In any case, I re-queried and made sure to re-target my pitch, and it worked! I’ll do the same for the other 100 who haven’t replied.
The Dispossessed was recommended to me by Mark Seidl and Rebecca Edwards, with whom I traveled last summer on a Vassar History tour through Yellowstone and the surrounding area.
I confess it took me a while to adjust to the pace of the book, which I want to describe as lyrical and reflective. But once I settled in to that rhythm, I adored this book. It felt like a long meditation on the dehumanizing affects of capitalism.
To give you a taste of what I mean, here’s a line or two that I underlined for later pondering:
(PHILOSOPHY SPOILER ALERT! If you want to read it and haven’t, stop now!)
“They think if people can possess enough things they will be content to live in prison” (138).
“…his anxieties as a property owner made him cling to rigid notions of law and order” (202).
“‘The law of evolution is that the strongest survives!’
‘Yes, and the strongest, in the existence of any social species, are those who are most social. In human terms, most ethical'” (220).
“The trouble with Odonianism (communal anarchy), you know, my dear fellow, is that it’s womanish. It simply doesn’t include the virile side of life. ‘Blood and steel, battle’s brightness,’ as the old poet says. It doesn’t understand courage–love of the flag” (286).
“We know that there is no help for us but from one another…You have nothing. you possess nothing. You own nothing. You are free. All you have is what you are, and what you give…We have no law but the single principle of mutual aid between individuals” (300).
“I think that’s why the old archisms used women as property. Why did the women let them? Because they were pregnant all the time–because they were already possessed, enslaved!” (332).
“There is nothing, nothing on Urras (capitalist/nationalist planet) that we Anarresti need! We left with empty hands, a hundred and seventy years ago, and we were right. We took nothing. Because there is nothing here but States and their weapons, the rich and their lies, and the poor and their misery. There is no way to act rightly, with a clear heart on Urras. There is nothing you can do that profit does not enter into, and fear of loss, and the wish for power. You cannot say good morning without knowing which of you is ‘superior’ to the other, or trying to prove it. You cannot act like a brother t0o other people, you must manipulate them, or command them, or obey them, or trick them. You cannot touch another person, yet they will not leave you alone. There is no freedom. It is a box–Urras is a box, a package, with all the beautiful wrapping of blue sky and meadows and forests and great cities. And you open the box, and what’s inside it? A black cellar full of dust, and a dead man. A man whose hand was shot off because he held it out to others” (346-7).
And of course this gorgeous simile:
“In a pen by himself the herd sire, ram or bull or stallion, heavy-necked, stood potent as a thundercloud, charged with generation” (206).
So many times I saw images of present day American capitalism reflected in these lines. Though written in 1974, it seems not much has changed, or if it has, it’s become more relevant, not less.
This is one I’ll put on the “keeper” shelf.