I've got no problem with indie and self-published books...
10 June 2013
...but come on, authors, you've got to try harder than this.
For me, "book discoverability" (discussion about "book discoverability," and how to help people discover books, is all the rage right now in publishing and library circles) has never really been all that much of a problem. I discover books wherever I go; for me the problem is getting through even one-tenth or so of all the books I want to read or have lying around at any one time. A large part of how I find nonfiction books, for instance, is that I merely browse the list of all new nonfiction that my local public library system publishes every month. Whatever title piques my interest, I request.
I tell you that long-winded story because that is how I stumbled across the title Mad City Eats: Food Adventures in Madison, Wisconsin, by Adam Vincent Powell. That is a title that is certain to grab my interest on many levels: I like food, and foodie books. I'm always interested in local subjects and authors. And I'm always vaguely curious who these local authors are (if they are truly "local") and what they're out there doing.
But when I brought this book home, I was disappointed. I have no idea who this Adam Vincent Powell* is, and the book includes no introduction, preface, or really any kind of clue to enlighten me. The book literally just launches into its subject matter, which is a compendium of short chapters on restaurant reviews, thoughts on local food production, and topics like "where to hunker down in Madison if the zombie apocalypse comes." As far as I can tell, there is no organizing principle here--the restaurant reviews are not listed alphabetically or geographically, and they are just all mixed in with related chapters like the zombie apocalypse one. At the end of the book and on the back cover, there isn't even any sort of "About the Author" blurb! I'm a believer in modesty, but come on, Mr. Powell, that's ridiculous.
I read through the book over the course of several mornings while CRjr lovingly took his time over his breakfast, and I actually did enjoy it. The reviews are engagingly written and even the more esoteric chapters are not without their charm (where to hide during aforementioned zombie attack: "Jenifer St. Market: This neighborhood grocery standby would be a pretty good place to hole up in the event of a zombie outbreak, as it's small enough to defend but also has loads of beer, wine, and food, all key to dealing with Armageddon."). But in the end I never could get past the disconcerting nature of just being launched into a series of disparate chapters without any understanding of who was writing or publishing this book, and why.
*Evidently he's written a lot of food articles in local newspapers and The Onion.