Review of Reviews
Review of Reviews
Having written a book called Train I Ride, having found an agent who believes in it, and her subsequently finding a publisher who wanted to pay good money for it, I still wondered whether it wasn’t all a big mistake, a hoax, a conspiracy of kindness. Maybe my mother had paid some people to pretend to like my writing? I mean, the book features a chain-smoking Chihuahua and an invisible monkey, is named for a song sung by Elvis, and kisses the hand of Alan Ginsberg. And is drenched in sadness but is being marketed to children. How can this work?
Fortunately there are reviewers to sort things out, and when HarperCollins began sending out galleys, or Advance Review Copies, as well as making the novel available to librarians, booksellers and reviewers electronically, I anxiously awaited their reactions.
One of the first reviews was a very kind one from a woman in New Hampshire. On Goodreads, a website that allows users to share their thoughts about books, she gave it five stars and compared it to a book named Dicey’s Song, which I had never heard of but which sounded very nice and like the sort of book I might have read in grade school if I had not been too girl-crazy and basketball-obsessed to do any pleasure reading during my formative years.
Goodreads also allows authors and publishers to do giveaways of galley copies to promote a book in advance of its release. I did a couple of giveaways of galley copies beginning in summer, six months before the release. Each time, as many as 1400 people from around the world entered for a chance to win the four copies I gave away. Unfortunately two of the winners were in China, which, as it turns out, is not a cheap place to send a book. I do hope the recipients enjoyed it. HarperCollins limited eligible entrants to people living in the US and Canada, which may have been wise of them, even though they have deeper pockets than I do, and even though they have a presence in many countries around the world, and acquired the book’s rights for the entire world.
I wonder if the moon would count as part of World territory, too? The moon would probably say no.
One of the recipients of a giveaway galley, a man in Wisconsin, was not a reader but rather a seller who immediately put it for sale on Amazon. Though this was annoying and disappointing, at least he pretended to think it was a nice book when describing it in the sales pitch he used.
Looking at the people who have entered the giveaways is fascinating, as is looking at the people who have added the book on their “to read” list on Goodreads. For the 1045 people who currently have it listed as “to read,” two weeks and two days before the book is released, it appears that my strategy of writing in an attempt to win the favor of women– a pathetic bent of mine since my days as a junior high-schooler, when I didn’t read much myself but did write to try to please girls– is working out well. I have always felt that I was writing to a female audience, and the majority of the people requesting galley copies or indicating interest in reading are women and girls. This may be because I have written several novels without any guns, violent deaths or monster trucks, which is my primitive view of the ingredients for a successful bropus, which is a word I have just now made up, combining the popular “bro” with the heavier and more dignified “opus.”
More surprising are the other assorted beings and objects that have expressed interest in Train I Ride. Looking at the profile pictures on Goodreads, those who are lining up to read the book and then tell me I’m okay include 61% females, 16% menfolk, 7% multiple people sharing one name, 6% buildings or landscapes, 5% dogs of unspecified gender, 4% cats, 3% hamsters or gerbils, 3% birds, 3% mixed-species associations, 3% inanimate objects, 2% sports franchises, 2% cartoon characters, 1% disturbing images of darkness, and 14% other, including one mushroom cloud and two varieties of edible mushrooms. The preceding accounting may not add up to precisely 100 percent, but you get the idea.
Equally surprising is that a gerbil is able to read a novel and then write a review. Though judging by his or her assessment I think it’s clear that he or she is not my intended audience. In my thoughtful response I told him or her that he or she should stick to eating alfalfa pellets and reading the newspaper scraps lining his or her little prison.
Happily, aside from the gerbil the early reviews have been nice, especially the six that matter most. Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, School Library Journal, The Horn Book Review and The Center for Children’s Books have all given Train I Ride positive reviews. The first three of the above gave it a starred review, which caused HarperCollins to decide to spend some money on advertising the book, something that isn’t normally done for an unknown author who has written a sad book for children which includes a chain-smoking Chihuahua, an invisible monkey, and lots of people who were dead before the story started, including a poet and a singer/member of the royalty who sung a song which names the novel.
Now I just need to know what you think of it.
Actually, I don’t really care. I’m asking for the protagnist, Rydr. She’s really insecure.