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Book Review: Dog Eared

Dog Eared. W. Nikola-Lisa. Chicago, IL: Gyroscope Books, June 15, 2017, Trade Paperback and E-book, 336 pages.

Reviewed by Terrell Isselhard.

Nikola-Lisa uses his yearlong project of sorting and cleaning all the books in his office as a launching pad for an exploration of the joys and challenges of being a self-published author. Cleaning and organizing books may not seem like the noblest of endeavors, but five pages into Dog Eared, you will be dedicated to the project. In another author’s hands, this subject matter could easily stagnate, but thanks to Nikola-Lisa’s humor and wonderfully quirky style, the book is a true delight to read.

Written in short, funny chapters, Dog Eared is at once personal and light. Broken into four sections, each corresponding to a season, the book presents itself as a tour through the self-publishing world, offering insights such as the challenges of marketing one’s own books while also designing and writing them. The real joy of Dog Eared, however, is getting to know its author, W. Nikola-Lisa. Whether he’s sharing the story of how he ended up with his unique name or explaining why he and his wife get mistaken for parking meter patrolmen in their matching yellow bike helmets, Nikola-Lisa’s openness and subtle humor are a pleasure. He shares not only the trials and tribulations of the DIY, entrepreneurial self-publishing world, but also personal anecdotes that create intimacy and familiarity. Dog Eared is laugh-out-loud funny, but Nikola-Lisa doesn’t achieve his humor through cheap gags.

Part of what makes Dog Eared fun to read is that it seems like it was fun to write. A book on the subject of self-publishing could easily devolve into a dry how-to structure, but Dog Eared is far more nuanced. As much as this is a book about self-publishing, it is also a book about what it means to be a writer today. With the consolidation of major publishers and a growing world of indie presses and self-published authors, W. Nikola-Lisa shares how he’s managed to live as a writer. And while the book may take a glib approach to the struggles he faces as a writer, it also celebrates the joy of writing itself, which might be why the book is such fun to read.

Dog Eared is a vicarious adventure for readers, not a how-to guide, even though it’s described as a “romp through the self-publishing world.” If you’re looking to learn how to become a self-published author, there’s very little step-by-step guidance. I found the focus on entertaining a pleasant surprise. And even though this isn’t a comprehensive guide to self-publishing, anyone with an interest in self-publishing will find plenty of useful tips and tricks of the trade.

Ideal for readers with an interest in self-publishing, books on writing, or just folks looking for a good laugh, Dog Eared is a fun and thoughtful book filled with laughs and the joy of writing. Don’t miss out on this delightful, humorous, and heartfelt book.


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