I recently finished a self-published travelogue/memoir by Tony James Slater, titled That Bear Ate My Pants: the adventures of a real idiot abroad. (Link to Book at Amazon)
Verdict: Big Big Win.
This book made me laugh out loud several times. It’s about a Brit who ends up volunteering at an Animal Rescue center in Ecuador. Despite a few complaints, I highly recommend this book. I know the author was rejected by many many publishers who seem to have said, in the main, that they didn’t know how to market it. Well, true, the man has no platform. He’s not famous. The Rescue center is run on a shoestring and is not world famous. He’s a nobody (in the publishing world) and I enjoyed the hell out of his book. I stayed up too late 3 nights running.
Slater has a way with words and a charming world view (in the main) and his adventures are funny. His story about the Galapagos turtle escape had me howling with laughter.
Sadly, I think if the book had been traditionally published, it’s likely to have died an ignoble death from the neglect that happens to lots of really good books that aren’t massively pushed in traditional channels. In the current environment, he’s probably better off with his charming, funny and heart warming story selling to readers for $2.99. You should read it.
First a Few Cons
Slater needs a copy-editor. He is consistently unclear on the difference between its and it’s and frequently wrong about I vs. me. He misused words just often enough to bug me. (As a writer, of course, I notice these things.)
An editor would not have been amiss, but not for structure or writing. In the main (spelling and word use aside) he’s an excellent writer. But for this reader, I was quite bothered whenever he seemed equate a woman’s appearance with her worth. A good editor would have challenged him on that. There are ways he could have written certain scenes without coming across as thoughtlessly sexist and yet still have conveyed the fact that a certain woman was a dark cloud to be around.
This book was funny. I loved it. Halfway through I bought a copy for my mom because I know she’ll enjoy it. I’ll probably buy one for my sister, too. The turtle escape was hilarious. His commentary on machismo was revelatory and quite deft as his adventures continued. It made for one of many thought-provoking themes. The arrival (and departure) of El Lobos was also snicker inducing. Despite the humor, Slater makes it plain, without ever saying it, that what humans do to animals is often disgraceful.
Some Other Thoughts
This book represents what’s fantastic about the New Publishing. Traditional publishing wouldn’t buy this book because it doesn’t fit the mold. But what does this say about all those rejections?
Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,301 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > Travel > Latin America > South America
#1 in Books > Travel > Latin America > South America > Ecuador & Galapagos Islands
(emphasis added, captured Friday, March 9, 2012 about 8:00 pm Pacific.)
Yesterday it was in the low 2,000′s. The 4,000′s is a very decent ranking, and that’s without a NY marketing push. The book is outselling a LOT of NY published books. Lots. Based on my reading of the book, I’m not at all surprised by the number of 5 star reviews. I’d give it 5 myself.
So, yeah. What’s wrong in traditional publishing that they felt they couldn’t make a profit off a book that’s out-selling their titles? A title, I should point out, that is #1 in two categories. Would it have been unprofitable in print?
It seems to me there needs to be a shift in how NY approaches what it decides to sell and how it decides to sell it.