Why does one book sell and another not? Why does one book scream up the charts and another sink to the bottom and languish forever in the trenches? Marketing? PR efforts? Good dialogue? Better grammar? Unmixed metaphors? Number of reviews? If I knew the secret, I wouldn’t have to worry about stuff like dental insurance, but here I am, worrying over dental insurance, food on the table, and my daughter’s next month’s worth of really expensive dance lessons.
Between packing up and moving from Wyoming to New Hampshire, I went on a hunt for reviews. I have no idea how many emails I sent out, but there were a ton, and I ran into some really great, awesome people; one of them was Phil Wernig. Phil at first refused to review Banana Sandwich, but in this writing game you have to learn to respect “No.”
“No” is okay.
Phil and I carried on an email conversation for a long time actually. We talked about books and writing, and Phil’s “no” was the best “no” I had ever received, and come to find out he’s written a novel too—Liquid Avenue. I read it, and it was good, and I promised a review.
I am notorious about not giving reviews. I promise them, and then I never follow-through because they seem like such a horrible hassle when what I already do for a living is review writing all the time. Reviewing a book is like doing work pro-bono, and I already do a lot of pro-bono reviewing at work as well. I’m aware this is a lame excuse. So here it is, Phil, not quite a year later, and I am finally reviewing your novel.
Liquid Avenue is the name of a nightclub. Anthony Trapp is the nightclub’s accountant. It is not the best working conditions. I certainly wouldn’t want Trapp’s job, but the hours and pay fit Trapp’s lifestyle until he finds Lyss Nelson murdered. Trapp becomes the number one suspect, or at least in his own mind he becomes the number one suspect, and so he goes about solving the murder within a daze of marijuana and sex.
Wernig’s story drags like a good joint. Trapp drifts, wonders about his life’s purpose; his sense of urgency to clear his name is tempered with a languid need for good weed. As the reader, you’re never in a hurry to finish the novel, but then at the same time you turn the next page because the story is so damn good. Then the novel is over, and you look around for your next toke but the box is empty.
I don’t think Wernig plans on another Trapp novel, but he should seriously consider the possibility. I assume he hasn’t written another novel because of the lackluster response, and sadly, as of this writing, Liquid Avenue only has one review on Amazon. Well, two once I post mine.
It’s difficult to keep going. I try to be pretty honest with the royalty checks I receive on my novels—enough to buy Starbucks coffee once a month. But that’s an audience, people reading what I have to say. Phil has an audience too—albeit a small one, and I hope he returns to a public writing life. Over at I Miss You When I Blink, Tony Earley says “No one has ever been able to explain to me why, given two books of equal artistic merit published in exactly the same manner, one becomes a bestseller and the other simply vanishes. So I don’t take anything for granted.”
Sometimes, you just have to thank the universe.
You can check out what Phil’s up to at his blog Naked Express.