I've had a lot of fun and learned a lot with this blog. Unfortunately, my life has taken a busy turn and I am no longer in the position to keep up with this blog. I will leave it up for people to read the old submissions. Maybe one of those critiques will help you figure out what you need to do in order to sell more books.
When someone submits a book, I look at:
1. Cover - If the cover doesn't look professional or communicate the correct genre, it needs to be replaced. Look at your cover with an objective eye. Or better yet, show it to your critique group. Get some feedback. (If you don't have a critique group, find one!)
2. Blurb - The blurb needs to communicate genre as well. It needs to say who the main character is, and what they need to overcome. Don't be too vague. That's annoying and won't work.
3. Title - Make sure the title is communicating the correct genre as well. Make sure it is snappy and catchy and not hard to understand.
4. Text - The opening of the book must be well written, and have some sort of conflict. If you don't have a critique group, join one, and see what they think about your opening.
I hope at some future point to be able to return to this blog, but for the mean time I'm going to put it on hold. If you have any questions, feel free to email me.
Monday, December 3, 2012
Author: Jack Everett & David Coles
Genre: Political/Crime Thriller
How long it's been on sale: Jan 2011
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Twitter constantly to nearly 1700 followers which carries through to Face Book. Had it reviewed by Natasha Harding head book reviewer for The Sun daily newspaper, circulation 4 million (UK)who published her review and gave it 4* Paid for a video and listed it on every site possible including Independent Authors Network.
Total sold so far: 270+
Link to book on Amazon: 1/1 Jihad Britain
New Years' Eve: the world parties on unaware as a toll of death far beyond 9/11 and 7/7 spreads across Britain. The UK makes its own rules as 1/1 dawns and they don't include fair play. A global-warming fuelled disaster engulfs the country. Can its citizens pull together despite differing skin colour and culture? Years later and still at large, the New Year bomber has a private agenda and a nuclear bomb.
First 300 Words:
The summer of 2006 and people cowered in the ruins of their towns and villages while the Israeli planes screamed over Southern Lebanon. The bombs were targeted on the power plant in Zahrani on July 15th and only one bomb actually hit the western suburbs; most of the smaller munitions were scattered across the farms and holdings to the east, where it was thought that Hezbollah military were using the fruit orchards for cover.
From his vantage point in the hills above Zarit, Fahkri watched the F-161’s as they first screamed overhead forcing him to clap hands to ears and his charges - a mixed flock of goats and sheep - to leap and jump around in total disarray. He saw the Hezbollah running and hiding in the fields and saw the jets return much more slowly. He watched open-mouthed as one F-161 dropped its load, a single CBU-58 which split in half releasing six hundred and fifty bomblets onto the fields and town below.
Hundreds of explosions ripped trees and houses to shreds, thousands of titanium pellets tore through masonry as easily as flesh, snuffing out life everywhere, all in an instant.
When the raid was over Fahkri went home, or to the place where his home had been. It was difficult to tell which was Fahkri’s home and which was the chemist’s shop next door. The place where his family had been living only minutes before was now a low mound of rubble. Somewhere beneath the stones and broken concrete were his parents, his two brothers and his sister.
He and his neighbours tore at the ruins for the rest of the afternoon. At about five o’clock they found the lifeless body of Latif, his elder brother and shortly afterwards that of his sister.
Comments: The cover isn't bad, however I do have some nit picks. The overall image seems a bit dated. Maybe it's because so many covers these days are done with photomanipulation, and this looks more like a painting. The title font looks stretched and it's hard to read. The author names are even harder to read.
I don't think I like the title. It was not obvious to me it was a date when I first looked at it. I was thinking it was one divided by one, which is one, so wasn't sure how to say the title in my head. I didn't get it at first, and you have to make that connection right away or people will go on to the next book. Maybe I'm alone in the confusion, so I would get the opinion of others on the title.
Just a small note about marketing. When someone says they "twitter constantly" that makes me very nervous. What are you tweeting? If it's book posts, you're not marketing, you're annoying people. Try conversation with others. Just retweeting others isn't good enough. You've got to interact. Have real conversations. Twitter is not a good way to sell books. It's a good way to be social. It's a social network. It's supposed to be a good way to be social. It's not a platform for selling. You'd be better off spending your time finding book review blogs to submit your book to...and writing another book.
The book description is lacking. Who is the main character? The hero? Who will I be spending my time with if I buy this novel? Sure, the threat is good to know, but I want to know the characters, not just the boiled down plot. Introduce your main character, let us know the stakes. I also don't like the 'years later' part. Is this story about the first disaster, or is the main story about stopping the New Year bomber in doing something even worse than what happened on 1/1? The entire description is talking about 1/1, but then the last sentence makes me think the book isn't about that. It's about stopping something worse. Talk about that. And the main character.
The beginning of the novel should be very emotional, but I get no emotion from the main character. The events are told almost in a matter-of-fact way. I feel very distanced from what is going on, from the character, and from the story. People are dead, and I don't care. I feel like the character doesn't care, so why should I? And I didn't have any time to get to know the character before the bomb hit. I feel like the beginning of the novel needs a lot of work, and this makes me think the entire novel might need work. I know I say this a lot, but I would suggest joining a critique group and trying to learn more about point of view, how to get a closer point of view and make the reader care about the characters.
Out of everything here, I think the cover is the least of the problems. (I would still suggest using a photo and tweaking the text.) The bigger issues are the description and the beginning of the book itself. Get these things tightened up, and I do think this book will sell.
What do you guys think?
Sunday, December 2, 2012
Author: Josh Handrich
Genre: Political Thriller
How long it's been on sale: Dec. 2011
Current price: $1.29
Marketing: Blog updated every 2-3 weeks, Facebook, Twitter, business cards, union website (over 2,000 pilots), Goodreads, was reviewed by Eric Swett at mywriterscramp.com (the other three reviewers never responded to inquiries), I redid the blurb and cover.
Total sold so far: Approx. 50
Link to book on Amazon: Raw Vengeance (The Rich Fordham Series)
A reporter bent on making a name for himself...
A plot to kill a candidate running for President...
A teenage boy betrayed by his own mother and bullied by thugs...
Is it all worth the sacrifice?
Rookie Chicago television reporter, Rich Fordham, is determined to become a war correspondent. To do so, he must prove himself. When his coverage of a school shooting has racial and political implications, his decision to get involved could cost him his career and his life.
Set in 2001, the events of 9/11 have a profound impact on Rich. He wants to make a name for himself and needs to be distinguishable from fierce competition. The only person that stands in his way is veteran reporter, Wayne Vale.
Chicago mayor Shantell Cogan is planning to run for President on the republican ticket. Her problem child, Tyler, is entering high school. He is confronted the first day of class because he is different--and later for being gay.
The story takes a provocative look at bullying, racism, homosexuality, and the media.
A Political Thriller. A Novella
First 300 Words:
Sweltering, sticky, Guam-like heat and humidity—just another September heat wave in Chicago—made it impossible to get comfortable. During the bitter cold winter months of snow, ice, and wind, people tended to behave and tough it out. People helped each other. But when the heat rose, so did their tempers. During the summer of 2001, the violent crime rate had grown exponentially in the south side and showed no signs of abating. To Patrol Officer Wes Kines, that meant nothing good ever happened.
In the Chicago Police Department’s Sixty-Fourth Precinct, it wasn’t even Monday at noon, but the drab four-level building had filled with its usual offenders: A bleached-blond woman in her forties, dressed in a pink tube top and fish net stockings, put up a fuss over being charged with reckless driving and resisting arrest. A twenty-something white male sporting a Bulls jersey and an assortment of religious tattoos was led off in cuffs for beating his girlfriend unconscious. Most were repeat offenders.
A mix of detective and patrol officers tended to arrest warrants and jail bookings. Two officers were in a heated discussion about rumors circulating over the mayor’s proposed budget cuts.
Wes kept himself busy by filling out paperwork on a DUI arrest of a heavy-set sixty-year-old blonde with coffee-stained teeth and nappy hair who kept making coffee and donut jokes thinking they were clever and original. It was difficult to focus on work when his mind was preoccupied with the rumors.
After eighteen years on the force, Wes doubted the long-term sustainability of his career. His annual pay had already been slashed twenty-five percent. His 401K was almost worthless. His alimony and child support drained what little he had left after drinking. Every week he had to pull doubles and work weekends with no days off, and he was still unable to make ends meet.
Comments: The cover looks good to me, but it does not say political thriller. To me, it says it's a regular thriller. I'd look at some other political thrillers to get an idea of some symbols you can have on here that would indicate it's a political thriller. The White House, a flag, red white and blue, those kinds of things will tell the reader right away this is a political thriller. This is a must, if you are to draw in the right audience.
The description seems disjointed to me. A plot to kill a candidate running for President...yes, that says "Political Thriller" to me. A reporter that knows, and must stop it? Yes, political thriller. A teen that goes on a shooting spree in school? Wait, what? What does that have to do with the political thriller? And we've got 9/11, racism, bullying and gay bashing thrown in there too. This seems like quite the melting pots of storylines. And then we find out it's a novella. Really? Novellas are not just short novels. They have fewer characters, fewer plot lines, less intricate stories. This does not sound like a novella to me. It sounds like a mess. Sorry, but the description isn't working at all for me. And it makes me wonder if the whole novella needs to be revamped.
The beginning of the book only further confuses me, because we are now introduced to yet another character, one that isn't even in the description. I would assume the main character would be in the description, so this officer must not be a main character. Again, I'm confused as to how he fits in with the story of a political thriller, and how it all works into a novella length book.
My advice would be first to figure out if this story is a political thriller. It's looking like maybe that's not what this is. I would next find a cover that fits the story. Then I would rewrite the description, focusing on the main character and his or her struggles. If the story has major structure issues, I would go back to the drawing board and work through those before trying to sell it. Maybe join a critique group to see if the story itself needs to be reworked. As it looks to me, just with what has been presented here, it looks like the story itself needs a lot of work. But I would definitely get the opinion of a critique group that knows story structure and how to fix issues like this.
What do you guys think?
Saturday, October 27, 2012
Author: Jamie Pierce
How long it's been on sale: April 12, 2012
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Free promos through KDP, badgering family & friends
Total sold so far: 3
Link to book on Amazon: Catch My Drift
In the beginning Jamie says, "They beg you not to kill yourself, but they don't tell you what will happen if you live. This is how they trap you." Defensive and devious in her dealings with psychologist Al Foxworthy, Jamie maintains the psychogenic amnesia that has caused her insupportable depression. She infuriates Al. She makes him laugh, she makes him cry, and she makes him ache to restore the hardy spirit that has nearly been extinguished.
Privy to their intimate, turbulent hours together, the reader experiences the struggle between a woman determined to die and the therapist fighting to save her.
Judges from the Pacific Northwest Writers' Conference Contest said, "Fabulous writing—immediately involves the reader." "Compelling, emotional, so beautifully written, the reader can easily empathize with the main character and understand her pain, despair and convoluted logic." "This is powerful writing, absolutely gut wrenching . . . "
First 300 Words:
I've got the pills, I've got the determination, I'm at the end of a long January slide, and all that's left is a glass of water and a long, long sleep.
Except I decide I have to say goodbye to my best friend Robyn. I put the quilt I've been working on into the chest and lower the lid, closing it away. I lock my front door behind me, give the carved sunflower on its central panel a pat. "Good-bye," I say. Shouldn't I be leaving a note? I wonder as I drive down our mountain road fast, faster than I ever have before, no longer slowed by the thought of neighbors' complaints.
By the time I hit the freeway, I'm going ninety and the needle's climbing.
I've always driven fast, ten to fifteen, maybe twenty miles over the limit, but I've never dared push the gas pedal to the floor. I love it, I love it. The freedom. What's the worst that can happen? I won't be around to pay the ticket. I laugh.
I meet Robyn at this new Italian place. The food is terrible, too much garlic, not enough body to the sauces. We comment endlessly. Well, I do, I can't think of anything else to say. I certainly can't tell her what I'm going to do as soon as I leave the restaurant. But I do.
And she says, "Jamie, you're going to feel better. This is only temporary."
It's been my whole life and that doesn't seem very temporary, but she goes on about what'll she do without me? Who'll be fairy godmother to her children when she has them?
The last thing I can tell her is that I don't care anymore.
Comments: The cover is very cute, but it looks like a children's book. It's simple and clever, but I don't think it portrays the genre at all. The description gives us a troubled woman. This is not portrayed on the cover at all. I would look at this book if I were looking for something for my children. The description would make me go on to something else. I would definitely look at changing the cover. It needs to look more grown-up and darker.
The description is confusing and doesn't give me much information at all about the storyline. I know there's a woman who is in therapy, and she struggles with wanting to die, but the description doesn't give me enough information about it for me to care about the character. It's devoid of personality. The best sentence would be the second paragraph, I think. I'd take out the quotes from the judges. It doesn't look good, IMHO. Let the description pull the reader in, not someone else's opinion of the book.
The writing itself is pretty good. There are some tense changes that kind of tripped me up, and places where I'd like to get more into the main character's head, but it really isn't bad. I think this book could sell if it had the right cover and a better description. Try writing the description in the character's voice. Or try the 'when' formula. When (insert your character’s name and some title or small description) + (pivotal moment in your story that starts the action) main character must (something they must do) + (consequence if they don’t do it). The example I use in my book, How to Find Success Selling Ebooks, is this: “When detective Lars Jansen finds a dead body stuffed into his trunk, he must find the killer before he goes to jail for a murder he didn’t commit.”
What do you guys think?
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Author: Low Kay Hwa
Genre: YA Romance
How long it's been on sale: June 2012
Current price: $.99
Marketing: KDP Select Free Promo, Requesting reviews from readers on Goodreads
Total sold so far: 31
Link to book on Amazon: A Singapore Love Story
Listed as a national bestseller in Singapore for about half a year, A Singapore Love Story charts the tragic relationship of a couple trying to be together, ignoring the harsh knocks of reality. Can they bend reality for love, or will reality bend their lives?
Since the beginning of time, people have wondered how powerful love could be. Can love transcend beyond the necessities? Can the melody of love be louder than the noise of reality?
The novel seeks to ask a question: Is money one of the requirements in a marriage, or is it just one of the options?
Price of book will be increased after 10,000 downloads.
First 300 Words:
Changi South Avenue 3
On 7 August 2008, I slipped while I was showering. And I died.
I was supposed to be married on 8 August 2008. We had planned to see snow in Japan for our honeymoon. Everything had been prepared; we were just waiting for the big day. But I had to die one day before the wedding dinner.
I was reaching for the shampoo. It was placed, somehow on that day, farther than usual. I tiptoed forward, my eyes half-opened as the water from the shower head rained on me.
I had heard stories about what drivers felt during a car accident. Slow, yet uncontrollable. My death was almost identical. Once I lost my footing, time moved in slow motion. I fell forward. My hands swung around to grab something but found nothing. Before I could do anything, I saw the white blameless wall just inches in front of me. My hands tried to push the wall away. But my head hit the wall—and the crack of the skull was like a cue that told time to resume its normal course.
It was a precise hit.
There was a sharp pain. When I bounced off the wall, I anticipated another impact. The next crack struck the back of my head. The pain abated, a ray shimmered, and finally, darkness took over.
Hours later, I woke up and realized that I had died.
Yet, not quite.
The colours of kismet are just black, and white. Or white, and black.
Let’s experience the growth of the two hearts caged by winter acquiescing to the warmth of summer—from different points of view.
I was molested when I was seven years old.
It was the first day of school. As Daddy drove across…
Comments: The cover looks paranormal to me. It makes me think the girl is a ghost. The design itself isn't horrible, but I do think it could look more professional. I think it's the photo treatment. The fonts look fine to me. I don't like the yellow sticker on the front. Take the sticker off, and just put the type directly on the cover. I think with a few tweaks, the cover could look more professional.
The blurb is confusing. You can mention the best seller status, but keep it short and sweet. "A national best seller in Singapore!" Then move on to the book description, which is sadly lacking here. There are words, but they don't tell me anything about the characters, and what they need to overcome. What starts the story in motion? When they meet? What obstacles are in their way? Family who doesn't think they belong together? Or do they get in their own way? (She won't look at him because he doesn't make enough money.) The blurb that is here is way too vague. Give the readers details, or they won't know if they want to read the book or not. If they don't know, they'll move on to something else.
The beginning is confusing too. We start at chapter five? Why? Is that a typo? It's probably not a great idea to start the reader off wondering where the first four chapters went. Ignoring that part, I do see that the main character has died. This is probably why the girl on the cover is a ghost image. I would definitely not forget the "Paranormal" in there when you market the book. YA Paranormal Romance is a popular genre. Don't forget to mention the part about the paranormal or you're shooting yourself in the foot.
The writing sometimes feels choppy, like a translation, or as if it was written by someone whose first language isn't English. It's not horrible, but there are a few times where I got a bit confused as to what was meant. I would hire a native English speaking editor to go over it once more. The story itself is interesting, and I do think this book has potential. It's just not quite there yet, in my opinion.
I would suggest hiring a cover artist to really make the cover look YA Paranormal Romance, it needs more of a dreamy feeling to it. I would also get help with the blurb and one final edit to make the sentences flow in English. What do you guys think?
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Author: Paula K Perrin
Genre: YA Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: March 2, 2012
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: I've contacted friends & relatives, distributed bookmarks & posters, requested (not yet received) reviews on blogs
Total sold so far: 59
Link to book on Amazon: Starwinger Prophecy
The telepathic winged horses known as Starwingers are losing their battle against extinction. They have one hope, the prophecy that a girl will fly along the full moon's track and sacrifice herself for them. However, that girl knows nothing about them.
Dia A'Dianais lives a countless distance away over the sea. She is a young princess of the Five Families. Her small, rich valley is under attack. The Family counts on her talent in the legendary Mysteries to save them, but she fails.
Searching for another solution, Dia learns of the Starwingers. She believes the answer to her dilemma is their strategic help. Unaware of the prophecy, she sets out to find them.
Kidnapped and dragged aboard a pirated ship, she meets another captive, the Starwinger Mercelyon. He is near death from brutal treatment. Dia saves him. Bonded now, they agree to help each other. They fly to Attyria, but the Starwingers view them as traitors, not as saviors.
Caught between Hrapthor the Death-bringer, the hostile Starwingers, and the guerilla forces of Attyria, can Dia and Mer make allies of enemies? Can they survive the deadly tests set for them? Can they persuade the Starwingers to rescue Dia’s family? With strong wings and valiant hearts, they strive to fulfill and survive the prophecy of the Starwingers.
First 300 Words:
Princess Dia A'Dianais padded toward the stable in her bare feet, the sun sparking glints of red from her long black hair. She wore a loose white robe with no binding, nothing that would have constrained her in any way, nothing that should have prevented her from working the Mystery.
She had failed anyway. Now she must marry Basphas, an enemy. She kicked a pebble, then sucked in her breath at the sting in her toe.
She did not have to look up from the paving stones to know that the mares and their foals had been brought in from the fields. She did not have to glance behind her to know that the ladies of the Family gathered in the shade of her father's palace colonnade to work their embroidery and to gossip. She did not have to peer at the distant northern wall of the valley to see the miners bringing forth their treasure. The rhythms of the valley were as much a part of her as her heart's beat. Never had she thought she would have to leave it.
A stableboy appeared in the dark arch of the stable doorway. He started to grin at her, but his smile faded when he saw her expression. He glanced at her bare feet. It was expressly forbidden to go into the stable unshod. His mouth opened, then he turned aside and hurried away to find a chore far from the mares' barn.
As Dia crossed from the sun-warmed path into the cool shadows of the stable, Merche's head poked out above her stall door. The black mare nickered a greeting.
Dia hurried to the stall and unlatched the door, pulling it open. She flung her arms around Merche's neck and clung to her.
Comments: The title and author's name are both very hard to read. Maybe it's the color. I would try to re-do the type to make it easier to read. I don't mind the artwork, but it does make the book seem young, like maybe it's a middle grade story. YA books these days have more grown up looking covers.
The description isn't bad, but I would definitely get rid of the questions at the end. (For example: Can Dia and Mer make allies of enemies? Well, obviously they do, otherwise the book would suck. Can they survive the deadly tests set for them? Of course they do. Otherwise the book would suck. Can they persuade the Starwingers to rescue Dia’s family? And the answer is, again, yes, otherwise the book would suck.) Questions only work if the answer isn't: Yes, otherwise the book would suck.
I didn't find the beginning necessarily gripping, but I didn't think it was bad either. This isn't my normal genre, so it's possible it would catch someone else's attention. I do think being forced to marry someone you don't love is always a plot trope that will hook some readers.
My guess is the cover is appealing to a younger audience than the author is targeting, and I would suggest trying to find a more adult looking cover, with the font clear and readable. What do you guys think?
Monday, September 24, 2012
Author: Amy Croall
Genre: Historical Romance
How long it's been on sale: June 1, 2012
Current price: $4.99
Marketing: Blog tours, Twitter updates, Facebook Campaigns.
Total sold so far: 10 - 15
Link to book on Amazon: A Cure For The Condition
When seventeen-year-old Catherine assumes the throne as Queen of Cannary following her mother’s murder, she is forced to punish the man she loves, but when she develops a serious heart disease, the only cure for her condition may be the truth.
“Romance, adventure, danger and passion—A Cure For The Condition is a terrific debut novel from an exciting new author. Readers will love Amy Croall.”
—Leigh Bridger, author of Soul Catcher.
First 300 Words:
A forlorn, soft piano melody enveloped her as the book lay at an awkward angle in her lap. As her eyes remained closed, absorbing the musician’s brilliant performance, she had no idea her step-brother was watching her.
“Ah, Princess Catherine – there you are!” he said, barging into the room as he had many times over the previous two years.
Princess Catherine inhaled before his gravelly voice could release her daydreams. Sitting straight on the stiff sofa in the parlor, she placed the book next to her.
“Yes, good afternoon, Malcolm,” she replied.
Malcolm supplied her with a half-smirk and proceeded to lean against the sofa at which she sat. Princess Catherine couldn’t help but experience an ever-so-slight tingle when she peered into his crystal blue eyes.
Although her step-brother’s nose was somewhat too large, his lips thin, and his face angular, Malcolm had a strong jaw, well-groomed silver hair, and a smile that could draw women from countries away. At times, his boyish half-smirk made it difficult for Princess Catherine to recall he was seven years her senior.
“I heard about your meeting with the suitor this afternoon, and I must say I am intrigued,” he said.
Catherine donned an immediate scowl. “Malcolm, is this going to be another instance such as when you barged into this room as I was learning that piano and tell me I am causing a ruckus, or will it be reminiscent of when I returned home wearing rouge and you mocked me endlessly?” she demanded.
Malcolm feigned ignorance, putting a hand to his heart. “Why, dear step-sister, I am saddened by your accusations! I merely wished to extend my… condolences that the meeting did not go as hoped.” He suppressed a half-hearted chuckle.
“Of course,” Catherine replied, clearing her throat. “I’ll have you know our feelings were requited.
Comments: I would not have guessed that this book was historical romance looking at the cover. I saw the castle and the forest, and thought "fantasy." I think that is a major problem. Now, the book is published through a publisher. I'm not sure the author has much say in the cover design, so I don't know how much my assessment will help. If I were in charge, I'd change the cover. Most historical romance covers have a woman and a man on the cover, in a pose that makes it obvious there's a love story in the book. That's what I would recommend.
I'm not sure why that title was chosen. It seems to focus more on the disease than the love story. I might think about a different title as well.
The price is also kind of high, but I don't know that the author has a say in that either. (It's not extraordinarily high, but it still is a deterrent for people trying out a new author.)
The description needs some work. Why would the girl assuming the throne force her to punish the man she loves? That part doesn't make any sense. I'm also not sure how the truth can cure a disease. The "when" formula works well, but only if it's a logical progression. The "When" part needs to lead to the "Must do" part, which leads us to the conflict of the story.
I'd cut the quote from the description too, it doesn't add anything about the story. It's pretty generic, and could be said about any book. It gives no information. When I read a description, I want information about the plot.
The first paragraph starts in omniscient point of view, which is very difficult to pull off successfully. I don't think it's working here, as it feels like the character herself making observations about things she can't see.
The writing isn't horrible, but I might try tightening up the first bit. Usually that's the hardest to write anyway. You've got to hook the reader, while introducing the main character and making the reader care about them.
My recommendation is to get a new cover, try reworking the blurb, and tightening up the beginning, and possibly looking at a different title.
What do you guys think?