Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A 5-star industry review for "Use All The Crayons!"

(1,281 words)
Not many self-published authors would be displeased by 5-star (out of five) review for their book. They’d be thrilled the gushy publishing industry review would get their book flattering notice from every major book dealer in America.

But I’m not like other writers.

So when ForeWord Reviews gives “Use All The Crayons!” one of the year’s best reviews, I don’t humbly say, “Gee, thanks!” Nope, I say, “What? You couldn’t see fit to give my book two or three more bonus stars?”

See, I think my book deserves at least a 7 out of 5-star review.

Honestly, the following review is very helpful to my efforts to take over the world -- or at least earn a little scratch to clear my overdue bar tab.

ForeWord Reviews are very influential in helping elevate worthy independently published books in the eyes of every major book buyer in America. A 5-star review earns plenty of notice.

That’s why I’m chagrined I couldn’t score some bonus stars, something that’s never been offered, which is precisely why it’d be so darn cool.

Here’s the review along with my italicized comments reviewing a review that in all honesty is very satisfying.

So hang on: We’re turning it up to 11!

Use All the Crayons! The Colorful Guide to Simple Human Happiness
Chris Rodell iUniverse 978-1-938908-50-7
Five Stars (out of Five)
Follow Rodell’s quirky, colorful advice and, in no time at all, enjoy even the most mundane parts of life.

The thing I like best? That Five Stars (out of Five). So if you have me in your rotisserie author league, you owe me a beer. The kicker’s nice and concise, too. It’s all very professional looking, something that bestows class on what’s to follow.

Chris Rodell’s Use All the Crayons is a colorful, humorous, and well-written guide to making the most out of life. Rodell delivers 501 guideposts that may challenge the worldview of humdrum, set-in-their-ways individuals and those who need a bit of good cheer. Autobiographical vignettes, which Rodell refers to as the “Colorful Days Diary,” link the daily business of his own life as writer, father, husband, and friend to the wisdom and advice he offers in the guideposts.

The first line makes a perfect blurb. I like the way the reviewer here (and in what  follows) emphasizes that the book is keyed by the “autobiographical vignettes.” It’s a steak and sizzle sort of thing. My hope is that people are attracted to the book by the funny/thought-provoking items they read in the store, but then sort of fall in love with it by reading the Colorful Days Diaries. I’ve been told they add emotional heft and humor, which is exactly as I’d intended. To quote Col. Hannibal Smith, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

Use All the Crayons, which doesn’t take itself too seriously, will likely appeal to readers aware of their own quirkiness or who focus on self-perceived shortcomings. Rodell makes light of his own in-need-of-work status, his unquenchable optimism, and his desire to be in bed by 9:30 p.m. In fact, the persona Rodell creates for himself in the diary entries is compelling, humorous, and engaging, helping to hold together what would otherwise be a long list of entertaining but not necessarily practical advice. 

Bingo! The last line zeroes in on what I hope -- and hear -- is making the book so popular. Humility and grim experience have ingrained a self-deprecatory mindset in my “persona.” I’m very happy that comes through in the book. And to be described as compelling, humorous and engaging is very flattering and, I would think, a great way to sell books. Who wants to buy even a good book if the author’s described as a reclusive sourpuss. It may have worked for J.D. Salinger, but it won’t work for me.

At times, Rodell’s ideas are so zany and over the top that readers would probably find more joy in imagining Rodell taking his own advice than actually following through on it themselves. Take, for example, #286: “After residing in it for several months, ask the people who just sold you their old home or apartment if they used to hide bags of money in odd places. If they say no and ask why, just smile and say, ‘No reason.’” While not all readers will engage in pranks and jokes of this nature, one gets the feeling that Rodell certainly does—a trait that endears him to the reader.

How nice. She took two rather unheralded items -- ones of the 501 even I often overlook -- and used them as examples of why the book is what she describes as endearing. And she’s correct. You’d be crazy to try maybe 20 percent of the loonier items, but it’s fun to imagine me or someone else doing them. I really like the way she handled this paragraph.

However, Rodell’s advice is not all silly; among the jokes, wordplay, and puns, there is a compelling ethic of compassion and kindness regarding everything from marriage and parenting to how to treat strangers: “Make taking the high road such a habit that confused strangers along the way ask you for directions.” Most of his sage advice is offered with an ironic twist: “Be patient with your elderly parents ... Even when it seems their dying days will kill you, too.” Such comments serve the dual purpose of entertaining and inspiring readers.

I got to this part and thought, okay, so how come she’s only giving it 5 stars? I don’t think the Bible’s ever been as well reviewed. I love her line, “There is a compelling ethic of compassion and kindness regarding everything from marriage and parenting to how to treat strangers. This is also the point when I became fully certain the review was not written by my wife.

It’s possible that Use All the Crayons could lose the attention of younger readers, especially when Rodell waxes eloquent on the merits of vinyl records or lists many of the older and eclectic songs in his 7,627-item iTunes music collection. 

Damn. There goes the buying interest of youths prone to vapid oblivion. I think she must be contractually obligated to find at least one or two flaws -- and these aren’t bad. Many sophisticated readers will agree with my romance over old vinyl records -- even though I haven’t played one in probably 25 years. But if you take this paragraph out -- something I’ll surely do when I edit it down for crass promotional purposes -- this is a 7 out of 5-star review.

Regardless, Use All the Crayons promises to cheer and inspire readers to live more compassionate and colorful lives.

She took as much care with the last line as she did with the first. The reviewer then lists her name as “Heather Weber.” I’m going to send her a letter because I was raised to be both polite and grateful. Heck, I should probably send her a bouquet of flowers. I want to thank her for what I believe will become an important milepost in the book’s long, slow march to what I hope will be real success.

And I’m going to tell her how I’m vowing to become more like the wonderful guy she describes in the review.

At least through lunch.

Thanks, as always, for taking the time to read these indulgences about my book and I invite you to share far and wide if you agree with the review.

And thanks, all you friendly supporters and colorful individuals, for everyday helping to brighten the whole world. 

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