Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Unexpected Applause

One of my daughter's best friends had a birthday over the weekend. The family in question tends to throw large parties, so our whole family was invited, but we ended up not being able to go. As a family, I mean. My daughter and younger son still went. I hate the whole birthday machine, and I tend to not be in favor of giving presents to other peoples' kids. Yes, I have reasons:
1. We don't have a lot of money for frivolous expenditures. If I'm going to buy a kid a toy, I want it to be one of my kids, and that doesn't happen often enough to make me (and, especially, them) happy. Seriously, the times they get something that's not with money they've earned somehow (other than their birthdays and Christmas) are rare indeed.
2. I don't like buying cheap crap for people even kids. Birthday presents for other kids (because it really upsets my daughter to not take something) tend to be budgeted at about $10, and you can't get anything worthwhile for $10. I don't appreciate the cheap crap my kids get for their birthdays (although, they do, which is, I suppose, what matters) and how it clutters up the house and is never touched again after the first day, and I can't imagine other parents appreciate it any more than I do. (Although, honestly, we've done a pretty good job of being clear as to what our kids want (will actually use) the last few years (Lego's for the younger son and clothes for the daughter (the older son is not actually an issue with this stuff at this point, because presents for him are not obligatory anymore.))
3. I'd rather give books or something else that is actually beneficial, but I hated getting books for my birthday/Christmas when I was a kid, because it was never anything I ever wanted to read. Basically, book buying for kids you don't know is like trying to thread a needle with your eyes closed.

Having my own book, now, has changed the whole gift-giving landscape. The kids at my younger kids' school are pretty much constantly telling me how much they want a copy of my book. These don't often turn into sales, though. I'm sure there are a multitude of reasons for this (good reasons, even), but it doesn't change the fact that I could have sold 100 copies of my book last month if the kids at the school had the money to buy it themselves. At any rate, giving copies of The House on the Corner has become a great gift-giving solution (at least for this year -- next year will be a completely different story). It's a unique gift since you can't pick it up in stores. The kids have already expressed their interest in owning it. It's a book! It falls within the gift budget. It's not a piece of crap toy that will end up on the floor the day after. Heck, even one of the kids at school (my biggest non-relation fan) bought one for a friend that doesn't go to the school as a birthday present and had me sign it to the boy. That was pretty cool.

The girl in question had told me at least 3 times that she "wished she had a copy," and her mother had told me they wanted to buy a copy as soon as they had the money for it. I figured making it a gift for her birthday was a good plan.

I happened to walk in to pick my kids up from the party during the gift opening period. And I happened to walk in just as she was opening the gift from my daughter. I heard from the back of the house, "[my daughter]'s dad wrote it," as I was making my way through the front room. As I entered the doorway to the gathering, a parent turned to me and said, "You wrote that?" [Now, honestly, it still surprises me that not everyone at the school already knows this, not that they should, but, often, it feels like everyone does, but, really, it's just the people I actually know that know (and although I've seen this particular mom on campus, I have no idea what child she belongs to).] I nodded just about the time that everyone in the room looked over at me, and the birthday girl's mom announced, "Oh, there he is. He wrote that book." There was a burst of unexpected applause to which I tried not to blush, but I couldn't keep the cheesy grin off of my face. Then the follow up question, "Did you sign it?" Affirmative from me and another burst of applause. And, then, the best part, the girl shouted in glee, "Mom! It has my name in it!" And that was awesome.

Needless to say, it was a very gratifying experience. Unexpected but gratifying.

Which brings me to my point:
I think everyone should have moments of unexpected applause in their lives. It's good to know that people appreciate the effort you've put into something.

For a while now, I've been planning on doing this review challenge thing. It's not a blog hop or a blogfest, just a challenge. See, here's the thing, authors need reviews. I think, even, bad reviews. Which is not to say that good reviews aren't better, but people need to see that the work in question is being read even if it's not receiving stellar reviews. I mean, when I look at a book by an author I've never read, what I want to know is "is it any good?" More specifically, "have you tried it?" It's like the food at a potluck, you're giving some of that stuff uneasy glances and trying to find someone else that's already tried it before you put some on your plate. And just because someone else didn't like it doesn't mean I won't try it. I make that judgement based on  the other foods they like and don't like. Did they hate something else I thought was awesome? If so, I may try the other questionable food they didn't like.

What I'm saying is if there's some food sitting there that no one is trying (for whatever reason) it becomes more and more unlikely that anyone will try it. My goal here is to start trying some of the books that people haven't much gotten around to, yet, and, whether I liked it or not, give you some data so that you can decide if you should try it.

And I'm going to call this whole idea "Unexpected Applause." Because, like I said, everyone should have that some time or other.

This doesn't mean I'm going to be showering praises on every book I read. That's not the applause part. The applause part is that I picked it up and read it and am taking the time to let other people know what I thought about it so they will have better information at hand to decide whether they should take a bite, too. I hope to get in at least one of these a month. The first one will be coming up later this week. I intend to be as objective as possible about a very subjective subject. Not just did I like it but why I did or did not like it. Maybe it had too much salt for me (I'm  not big on lots of salt). Maybe it wasn't spicy enough (I like spicy). Maybe it was too much like half a dozen other dishes out there (I mean, come on, I don't care what you put in it, jello salad is still jello).

Of course, I'd love for some other people to review my book, too, but that's not a prerequisite for me to read yours. I'm looking at books that have been independently published or that have come from a small publisher. That's the only criteria I'm using. If you decide to review my book, that's great! But I won't hold it against you if you don't. Just sayin'.

That being said, I'm going to be adding some links and stuff to reviews of The House on the Corner on the House tab up top. After all, you should know what other people have thought about my book in order to make a more informed decision.

On a completely different note, I mentioned that I will be doing weekly updates on my Tiberius tab. The first update will happen on Thursday. Since I posted that last Thursday, the tab has had only one view (and it didn't have that many to begin with), so this is just a warning that "The Tunnel" will be replaced in two days with "The Kitchen Table," so, if you want to read it, now's the time to do that.


  1. "I think everyone should have moments of unexpected applause in their lives"

    I completely agree.

  2. As much as I try to appreciate honesty, when I only have 8 reviews, I don't need someone coming along giving it 3 stars being "honest" and skewing the score lower on Amazon. So I suggest giving everything at least 4 stars even if it sucks. Actually 4 is a good number because then it appears like you're not showing complete favoritism by giving 5 stars and you're not pulling down a score on Amazon (or B&N or whatever) with a lower score.

    Unless you really think it deserves 5 stars.

  3. fairbetty: I agree with your agreement :)

    Mr. Grumpy: Maybe, I should have said this in the post, but I'm certainly not out to sabotage anyone's career by slamming them on Amazon. The reviews are really only for my blog; however, when I have really good ones to give, I will probably transfer them over to Amazon or wherever they need to be. What I want is to make people aware of these books being out there and, hopefully, getting discussions going about them.

  4. I got an unexpected applause when I went to the priemere of the Batman movie in high school (the one with Jack Nicholson). I accidentaly went into the ladies restroom, and I don't mean that I just walked in and walked out. I went, did my thing, groomed myself in the mirror, and thought nothing of the fact that it was full of women. I still don't know what I was thinking.

    Anyway, 50 or so people were standing outside waiting for me to exit. I was pretty embarassed, but at that point all I could do was take a bow and rejoin my friends.

    I'm with you on the presents thing. I hated that about birthday parties when my son was little.

  5. This has got to be one of my favorite posts by you thus far, Andrew. When I read this: "Mom! It has my name in it!" ... I literally got tears in my eyes. Now, that could very well be because I've got a bun in the oven, or it could be the simple fact that a real hero--an author, someone our kids can actually look up to--made a little girl's birthday just because he personalized a book to her. That's incredible.

    Great job, Andrew. :) And, yes, I am totally with the Unexpected Applause movement.

  6. I thought the unexpected applaus might have come because some girls saw you naked :P

    Seriously though, it's awesome you are getting feedback from your target audience. Too bad they don't have money but it shows you are talented.

  7. Isn't it great to get that applause from an unexpected source? I really enjoyed this post. As for the books you read, are you taking recommendations or will you choose them yourself?

  8. I think this is a fantastic idea. I'll have to remember to give you a nudge when I finally get something published. ;)

    Personally, I'd be happy for any reviews on Amazon. I don't think the score matters nearly as much as the number of reviews. People tend to be more willing to try something that they can see lots of others have tried.

  9. Excellent idea, Andrew -- as I noted recently with Rusty, lots of people are reading, but nobody's reading indie books. I've done a similar thing on my blog, The Best Of Everything


    Under "Indie Book Reviews."

    I'll add your book to the list of reviews I do -- I assume you're interested -- and look forward to reading more of your reviews.

    As for negative reviews: my policy is that if I read a book and can't say anything positive about it, I simply won't post the review, but will contact the author directly. For that reason, I'm not always going to announce what my next book is, because I don't want to give a negative review.

    As for gifts: I've always in my mind said "It's stupid to give gifts because then people just have to give me gifts and we're essentially exchanging money, so we should just NOT and instead we'll all go buy ourselves a gift on whatever day we feel we are owed a gift."

    But then I remembered that there's a social contract at play here, and so I still give gifts. But I just ask the person "What does he/she/you want?" and then I get them something that I can afford from that list.

  10. Such a wonderful story. And what a great idea to give the book....your book as a gift! Thats the kind of approach I like to take when reading a review. Just was it any good? Sometimes thats all I want to know. I look forward to reading your reviews....Our taste in film is not always the same so I will be interested in learning how our taste in novels compares. And if blogger does not post this comment I am going to lose my mind!

  11. Unexpected applause is a lot better than unexpected laughter. (sigh)

  12. Rusty: I had one of those moments, too, only I was around 10, and it was a grocery store bathroom. No applause for me, though.

    When my younger son was 5, he had a Star Wars themed birthday party. He got 4 or 5 lightsabers as gifts. Needless to say, we still have too many lightsabers in our house, if there is such a thing.

    Alyssia: It would be really great if it became a movement. If I was capable and stuff, I'd design a button thingy, but that's not my area.

    Michael: So far, I've managed to avoid getting caught naked. Except this one time when I was 10ish and a (female) houseguest walked in on me in the bathroom.

    Sarah P: I'll take recommendations, although I'm always going to give preference to actual physical books. I have the kindle app on my computer, but I can't take my computer to bed with me at night when I like to do most of my reading.

    Sarah McC: Yes, please do! I haven't read any good epic fantasy in a while.

    And I agree with you about the number of readers vs the scores, but I don't have the data to back that up.

    Briane P: Oh, yeah, I'm interested! I'd love to hear what you think about it.

    I don't plan to announce what books I'm reading, but only because I don't always read at a steady rate. Often, it depends on how much I like the book.

    I plan to do my best to highlight the positives on any book I read. I think it would be kind of unfair to just not mention books I don't like, because saying why I don't like something might be the thing that prompts someone else to pick it up.

    I agree with you on the whole gift thing. I'd really just rather not get anything than get something that has nothing to do with me, which is what most gifts are. If I have to give a gift, I really try to figure the person out and give them something that suits their personality. If I can't get a good answer from "what do you want?" It's surprising how often people will have no idea.

    Jennifer: It looks like you get to keep your mind. This time. :)
    Mine's long gone...

    And you mention something I'm talking about here: our tastes don't match up perfectly, so I could well mention something in a book that I'm not crazy about that would make you say, "Hey! I want to read that!"

    Martin: That sounds like a comment from personal experience?

  13. Unexpected applause certainly is wonderful. I'm so glad the little girl was so excited about the book! And congrats on your unexpected applause.