ABNA, seven months later
My novel, Wrecking Civilization Before Lunch, made it to the Top 10 in the 2008 inaugural version. I neglected to mention that in my blog earlier this year because I spent all my blog time updating my blog on Amazon. And then I was so wiped out from the whole experience that I just haven't wanted to write anything until now.
I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. Sure it was great to be in the Top 10. It was absolutely fabulous to get such a great review from none other than Elizabeth Gilbert herself, who said my book was "a wonderful pileup of fun and good-time reading, the most improbable success story of the Amazon contest".
It was an incredible experience being on television twice and having newspapers write about me. It scared me to death, but it was still incredible. But would I do it all again?
Well, okay, yes I would. But if I knew what I know now, I would have invested a lot less emotion and self-esteem on it. I would suggest that to all the contestants for this year's event. Don't let the opinions of people, who more than likely didn't even read your stuff, get to you.
The reviews were mostly by fellow contestants, and most of those were either making deals with each other or exacting revenge for getting bad reviews. The rest of the reviewers seemed to be family and friends of the authors. Can you guess what kind of reviews they would give? My family and friends were no different and I would have throttled them if they had done otherwise.
I got five times as many great reviews (and I absolutely loved them all) as bad ones, but when the bad ones are by people who seem to be just out to hurt you and not even attempt to read your stuff, that's what you remember. Of my bad reviews, only one actually made an attempt to review my book, and she had given me a good review earlier in the contest (another one with sour grapes, I guess). The rest either just said I copied Douglas Adams or that they didn't like humor or they just made up things. One guy complained about my character named Joe. I don't have a character named Joe.
I really ended up thinking the contest was not so much about who everyone thought wrote the best book, but instead about who survived the review frenzy and had enough friends who were Amazon buyers to win in the end. No offense intended to the winner, who got several positive comments from the experts and I'm sure has written a great book. In fact, since it was Penguin editors who selected the Top 10, all of them are likely worthy of publication.
Lastly, I have to say I'm a bit surprised not to hear from the Penguin editor one expert reviewer said was so gung-ho about my book that he was the main support for getting it into the Top 10. Josh something? (Got that from the videos the Penguin Editors put together) Does he not like it so much now? Has he got a new job elsewhere? Has he fallen into a hole and can't get out?
Well anyway. I'm feeling better now and once again resuming my usual dedicated level of procrastination. I'll be sending queries out to agents and publishers any minute now. And I hereby declare that if I ever do get published, I will not read ANY reviews by ANYONE!
Unless its a good one. Who could resist reading that?? Of course I wouldn't know whether its good or not until I read it. Hmmmmm....this is going to take some thought.
Here is Elizabeth Gilbert's full review, just because I like reading it:
"What you have to love is when an author really puts it out there. I mean, there are tried and true clichéd themes for novels that will be with us till the end of time (star-crossed lovers, man against nature, hard-boiled detectives, awkward coming of age). And then there’s something like this: a lovable absent-minded scientist has invented some sort of eternally hovering machine-device, which 'might possibly remake society as it exists,' so of course an evil corporation wants to steal the device and use it for evil ends. And so – with the help of his loyal sweetheart (who happens to work for the evil corporation) and his somewhat loyal teenage stoner assistant (who prepares himself for a job interview by putting on 'a more business-like slouch') our hapless scientist goes on the lam, into the wilderness, chased the whole while by ruthless characters, having all sorts of adventures along the way. I know, I know – you’ve read it all before, right? Actually, of course – you haven’t, and if anyone had pitched this novel to me, I would have expressed serious doubts about what the author was up to – and why. But this book is actually a wonderful pileup of fun and good-time reading, the most improbable success story of the Amazon contest. This is a geeky and rewarding tale, filled with all sorts of stretches of imagination and unlikely characters. It feels something like a madcap, fast-paced Carl Hiaasen novel, but with a sort of Frankenstein-ian air about the thing. John Ring is a natural storyteller, and that’s a rare thing, indeed. His writing is fluid and confident, and you get the feeling he could spin a yarn for a few thousand more pages and still not run out of inventive ideas and snappy dialogue and the kind of romping cartoon violence that nobody (not even the victims) really seems to mind. I wasn’t crazy about the ending (the author killed his own appealing voice by turning over the final chapter to a 'newspaper article' –which was both unnecessary and anticlimactic) but when there was so much to enjoy before that point, there’s no reason to get fussy about the last words. One sharp edit, anyway, and that problem can be fixed – and then we’ll all be left with a mightily enjoyable story, indeed."
I wish I could send her an email to let her know how much I appreciate all she said. I really, really do appreciate it.