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The Book Signing

A mostly-fictional illustration of how reader feedback can be less than useful, and how we often get from a book mostly what we bring to it.
| Jan 17, 2012 | No comments |

A mostly-fictional illustration of how reader feedback can be less than useful, and how we often get from a book mostly what we bring to it.

Overheard between 3 and 4 p.m. at the Noble Barn Book-a-Palooza:

“It’s so romantic. I want a boyfriend just like Shane.”

“Shane was an insensitive jerk. I hated him. Louie knew what it took to win a girl’s heart.”

“Team Shane!”

“Team Louie!”

“Here you go, ladies. Enjoy.”

“The women in the story are all weak-willed stereotypes. I’d thought we were beyond that sort of blatant sexism. It seems I was mistaken.”

“Thank you for writing with so much understanding and respect for women.”

“It scared the living daylights out of me. I’m still checking under my bed for…you know…”

“It reads like a kids’ book.”

“I can’t keep this in my house. I have children.”

“This is a truly inspiring story. Everyone should read it.”

“You call yourself a Christian? That’s rich. I think you’re trying to fool people into buying this book. Everybody knows Christians will buy anything with a Christian label.”

“That’s not been my experience, ma’am, but it would certainly help.”

“I couldn’t stop reading…it moved so fast I could barely catch my breath. ”

“Drowsy by page 3, snoring by page 7. Your book is the cure for insomnia.”

“It was disgusting. I had to throw it in the garbage bin and put a couple bags of trash on top of it for good measure.”

“So, so, so, so sad. I cried for hours.”

“I’ve been depressed for three months. This book showed me how to smile again.”

“It changed my life. I mean it. 180-degree-about-face never-gonna-be-the-same-again changed.”

“Can you sign this ‘To My Friend Victoria?’”

“But…we only met a couple of minutes ago.”

“No problem! I just friended you on Facebook.”

“Unlike, unlike, unlike. -1, -1, -1. With a bullet. Three bullets.”

“Can I get this on e-book? Paper books kill trees.”

“I’d buy one, but I already have 200 e-books I haven’t read yet.”

“I counted 2 profanities, 1 obscenity, 7 rude expressions, 3 references to bodily functions, 15 euphemisms for profanities or obscenities, and an implied adulterous relationship. I hope you’re proud of yourself, you pornographer.”

“Your characters are two-dimensional.”

“You should have spent more time on world-building and less on character development. Bla-bla-bla.”

“There’s too much religion in the story.”

“You didn’t mention Jesus once.”

“Are you famous? I never heard of you.”



“Obsessively detailed.”


“Jaded and worldly.”

“Naive. A Pollyanna tale.”

“All man-made books are evil. I don’t need to tell you what that means for the destiny of your immortal soul.”

“Is this some kind of racket? You’re selling it for half this price on Amazon.”

Mom? What are you doing here?”

“The allegory is way obvious. Next time, just rip pages out of the Bible and write over the names with Sharpie, why don’tcha?”

“I don’t understand the allegory. Is Shane Jesus, or is he John the Baptist? And Louie…well, he makes no sense at all.”

“A bold political statement, my boy. Watch your back.”

“Where are the real-world problems? This is 300 pages of irrelevant fluff.”

“Dude, your story’s so gritty and intense. I can tell you spent some time on the mean streets.”

“You’ve never set foot outside your little pink house in the suburbs, have you?”

“So, what’s this book about, anyway?”

“It’s about a boy named Shane, and his dog, Louie. They take a backpacking trip along the Appalachian Trail.”

“Sounds boring. Is it about you?”

“No. There are some beautiful pictures, though.”

“Pictures? Cool. Hey, nice dog. Is he a German Shepherd?”

“Golden Retriever.”

“I love dogs. I’ll take a copy.”

“How do you want me to sign it?”

“Just say, ‘To Charlie’”

“That’s your name?”

“Nope, it’s my dog’s name. He loves books. They keep him from chewing on the furniture.”


Fred was born in Tacoma, Washington, but spent most of his formative years in California, where his parents pastored a couple of small churches. He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1983, and spent 24 years in the Air Force as a bomber navigator, flight-test navigator, and military educator. He retired from the Air Force in 2007, and now works as a government contractor in eastern Kansas, providing computer simulation support for Army training.Fred has been married for 25 years to the girl who should have been his high school sweetheart, and has three kids, three dogs, and a mortgage. When he's not writing or reading, he enjoys running, hiking, birdwatching, stargazing, and playing around with computers.Writing has always been a big part of his life, but he kept it mostly private until a few years ago, when it occurred to him that if he was ever going to get published, he needed to get serious about it. Since then, he's written more than twenty short stories that have been published in a variety of print and online magazines, and a novel, The Muse, that debuted in November 2009 from Splashdown Books, which was a finalist for the 2010 American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award for book of the year in the speculative genre. Speculative fiction is his first love, but he writes the occasional bit of non-fiction or poetry, just to keep things interesting.

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That is sadly appropriate.

Paul Lee

I’ve always thought authors loved to hear feedback.  I thought struggling self-published or small-press-published authors would especially crave some honest thoughts from readers.  I like to give feedback when I have a concrete and specific thought (otherwise, I don’t really like expressing hollow opinions, like the stereotyped quotes from the article).

I don’t write many reviews, mostly because I’m slow and don’t know how to manage my time, but when I do, I almost always read the book through twice, more carefully the second time, searching to bring to light a hidden aspect of the work.

So, how can I provide feedback to authors that actually is helpful, if thoughts and opinions are helpful at all? 

Kaci Hill

Writers do. But we like useful feedback. 0=)
Personally, I prefer to know what worked, what didn’t, and what I could do differently.   I know that sounds horribly vague, but it’s true. One other thing that’s always neat is, if you’re an expert in a field, and the writer clearly isn’t, then a friendly feed-back email is priceless. 
Course, I think on the writer’s end, it’s a tight-rope-walk to be clear enough without spoonfeeding the reader, and it’s also important to learn how to distinguish between the reviewer’s perspective (Ex: Maybe the one girl comes from a controlling background, so she’s more likely to be sensitive to something most people wouldn’t think twice about) and the actual problem. It’s always good, on the writer’s end, to explore criticisms like that further. And, you know, sometimes the character’s supposed to be a controlling jerk. 😉

Steve Taylor
Steve Taylor

As a fan of book reviews I found your post to be hilarious. The best humor is always closest to the truth. And you hit the nail on the head. Thanks


Writing is worth it; writing is worth it… This is the kind of material that makes a good story, so it’s all worth it…

Lelia Rose Foreman (@LeliaForeman)

Hee hee hee.

Maria Tatham

Fred, this is very funny!


Urbane and witty!