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Friday, December 30, 2011

The New Death and others


Author: James Hutchings
Genre: Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: September 27 2011
Current price: $.99
Marketing: I've contacted around 1000 blogs asking for reviews, interviews, guest posts and/or giveaways. I've also promoted it on my own blog.
Total sold so far: 24
Link to book on Amazon: The New Death and others

Product Description:

Death gets a roommate...

An electronic Pope faces a difficult theological question...

A wicked vizier makes a terrible bargain...

44 stories. 19 poems. No sparkly vampires. There's a thin line between genius and insanity, and James Hutchings has just crossed it - but from which direction?

First 300 Words:

The God of the Poor

In the beginning of the world the gods considered all those things which did not have their own gods, to decide who would have responsibility and rulership.
"I will rule all flowers that are sky-blue in colour," said the Sky-Father.
"I will listen to the prayers of migratory birds, and you all other birds," the goddess Travel said to him. And so it went.
At last all had been divided, save for one thing.
"Who," asked the Sky-Father, "shall have dominion over the poor?"
There was an awkward silence, until the Sky-Father said,
"Come - someone must. Those with no gods will grow restless and cunning, and in time will cast us down, and we shall be gods no more."
"Not I," said blind Justice, and her stony face flashed a momentary smirk at the thought. "Why not Fame or Fortune?"
"Darling I don't think so," said the sister goddesses together.
There was a long pause. The gods shuffled their feet and avoided one another's gaze. At last a voice broke the silence.
"I will," said Death.


How the Isle of Cats Got Its Name

Death stalked the cats of Telelee.
Throughout the city there was much hiding under couches, and a yowling fear of shadows who came in the night. These shadows gathered squint-eyed kittens and cats trembling with age. Starving alley cats like leather bags filled with bones and pampered house-cats more spherical than cat-shaped, alike were taken. The shadows asked not whether a cat was tom or queen. White cats and black, tabby and orange, grey and tortoiseshell, cats that looked like their owners and cats that looked like nothing but cats, the shadows hungered for all.

Vicki's Comments: I like the cover art. I do. But I like ink drawings from the early 1900's, and this is what this book cover art reminds me of. The style makes me think this was public domain art that the author took and used for cover art. Which is great if the book was written in the early 1900's. But not so good if you're trying to sell it to people looking for new stuff. I usually advise people to stay away from public domain art. It makes people think they are looking at something written a long time ago. I would highly recommend getting a new cover.

The description is pretty anemic, however I like the end paragraph. I'd keep that. The short descriptions of the stories don't hook me. I would get help reworking those hooks, because you want those bits to really make the reader want to buy the book. You want to give enough information about the stories that the reader knows what they are getting. Death getting a roommate isn't a story. What's the hook? Where's the conflict? Is the story humorous? I want to know these things before investing my time. (Because, I throw away 99 cents all the time on crap. It's my time that really is more precious to me.)

After reading the sample, I think this collection should be selling better than it is. I liked the quirky nature of the writing. I do think this book needs some editing. For instance: "Starving alley cats like leather bags filled with bones and pampered house-cats more spherical than cat-shaped, alike were taken." This sentence reads like the leather bags were filled with bones and pampered house-cats.

The title could use some tweaking. It could be a regional thing, but I would expect to read: The New Death and Other Stories.

I would suggest a new cover, reworking the blurb, and having an editor correct the little things in the book. Now, short stories and poems don't sell like best sellers, but I do think this book should be selling better than it is. The writing is good and the ideas in the book are interesting, at least in my opinion. In fact, I just bought a copy because I want to read more. What do you guys think?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Not Fit For Human Consumption: A Comedic Farce


Author: Elmore Hammes
Genre: Humor with elements of science fiction and fantasy
How long it's been on sale: 2 years
Current price: $1.00
Marketing: When it was first released, posts in Amazon discussion boards and a couple other online forums such as Kindleboards. Participated in some local author book fairs, which is where most of the print copies were sold. Sent out a few review copies, the one reviewer who posted on Amazon gave it 5 stars. I also traded a few Amazon tags with some other independent authors. I set a low price ($1 Kindle, $7.95 paperback) hoping that would help but I don't think it has.
Total sold so far: A little over 100, with 25 print copies and the
rest Kindle sales.
Link to book on Amazon: Not Fit For Human Consumption: A Comedic Farce

Product Description:

A tale not to be taken too seriously, featuring cockroaches, genetically enhanced rats, foosball table destruction, rabbits, high school science clubs, hedgehog conspiracy theorists, military coups, adolescent bomb shelter romance and cosmic entities bent on annihilation.

Sadly, not enough beer was drunk during creation of this novel to include an airplane lavatory sex scene. Oh wait, there is one of those. But don't get your hopes up - all the good parts are left out.

The novel contains suggestive language (the PG-rated variety), and those seeking enriching literature are best served by looking elsewhere. However, if you are in the mood for a farcical comedy step right in, and meet:

Arax the Annihilator, an entity bent on destroying the earth;

Henry Stewart, member of the Hedgehog Surveillance Network, who hopes to be part of the New World Order after the government topples;

Loretta the rabbit, who just wants to hop free in a meadow after a lifetime of captivity;

Omar Sharteen, who wants to bomb his own Parliament building so the US will build a nice shiny new one;

Mortimer Johnson, president of the Mount Carmel Junior High Science Club, who fears he has betrayed Science by having a crush on Alicia Fleppe;

Peter the Cockroach, a prophet who sees cockroaches as the final survivors;

Alice Walters, widow of a fallen soldier, who discovers her husband's secret life;

June and Robert, a happy couple who might find more happiness than they can handle;

Mark Andrews, who is in an underground bunker and is afraid to push the button when nuclear war is imminent;

and a host of others, including but not limited to strippers, teachers, t-shirt vendors, bookstore clerks, football players, moths, prime ministers and cats.

The author regrets immensely not having any zombies in this book. Or monkeys. Or zombie monkeys. 

First 300 Words:

BREAKING NEWS.

People across the city of Kanapolis, Indiana, cursed as their TV programs were interrupted by the dynamic tones of channel KAN’s news bulletin alert. The camera zoomed in to an impeccably-groomed man in his late thirties, wearing a grim expression but one that still let them all know that whatever the crisis, he was more than prepared to deliver the news without a single lapse of decorum or misplaced hair.

“Good evening, this is Peter Wellington, KAN News, with a special report from the Middle East. A coup has occurred in the small territory of Jartanzia. Located at a crucial juncture of three area powers, the territory had been controlled by Iranian forces since 2003.”

The picture changed from a close up of the middle aged anchorman to a map of the Middle East, with Jartanzia outlined in bright yellow, with Iran, Iraq and Sudan labeled in large red type, showing how Jartanzia met in between the three countries.

–––––––♦–––––––

“Oh, so that’s the Middle East,” Georgia Stewart said, smiling at her son Henry who sat next to her on their living room couch. “I always thought it was somewhere near Maryland.”

“Hush, Mother, I want to hear this.”

The report continued. “Communication had been cut off from Jartanzia since yesterday afternoon, and forces from each surrounding nation had begun to gather, as previously reported. The United Nations was urging caution on all sides, hoping to prevent war. A declaration of independence from all foreign territories was issued just moments ago.

We do not have any details as to who is behind the coup or who is now in charge. Let’s go to World News Correspondent Melissa Rivers.”

“Are we on?”

“Melissa, Peter Wellington here, and yes, we are broadcasting live.”

“Oh, hello, Peter.”

Vicki's Comments: I think the cover looks like a non-fiction book. To me, it looks like a kid's encyclopedia. The words at the top are very hard to read. I think this is a major issue for your book. Anyone browsing for a humorous book will probably speed right past yours, as it doesn't give me the feeling that this is a humorous novel. I would suggest a new cover.

The description is humorous, but I'm afraid that the huge wall of text made me not want to read any of it. I highly suggest reworking the description totally. When I read a description I want to know the basic storyline in a summary fashion. I'm still not sure exactly what this book is about after reading your description. It doesn't make me want to read the book. Don't feel bad, descriptions are the hardest part, IMHO.

The story itself kind of confused me. It could just be me. I would get some more opinions on it to see if it's just me, or if the story needs some work. I would suggest getting some beta readers to give you some opinions on it.

I would change the cover and the description and you'll be leaps ahead of where you are now. What do you guys think?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Volumes of the Silver Leaf


Author: E.W. Saloka
Genre: YA Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: 8/2011
Current price: $2.99
Marketing:The first two months I read posts from KB and other forums. Last moth I set up our author profile on Goodreads and  joined a few groups. I found a few book blogs and set up twitter and facebook profiles.
Total sold so far: Less than 10
Link to book on Amazon: Volumes of the Silver Leaf

Product Description:

Fifteen-year-old Zach Wellington has lived with his grandfather Thomas since his archaeologist father disappeared years before. Now his dad has turned up dead. A letter in his pocket says he was trapped all these years in a parallel world where magic is real--hard for Zach to believe, until a winged horse appears out of nowhere and whisks both Wellingtons away to Brandiss-Dor, the land where Zach's father died.

Zach wants to discover who murdered his father. Instead, he's pulled into a tug of war between wizards over a powerful medallion that will decide the fate of two worlds: Brandiss-Dor, and our own.

"The Far Kingdom" is the first volume of the new epic fantasy series "Volumes of the Silver Leaf." 

First 300 Words:

The sky was darkening and the clouds looked angry as they changed to deep and soulless gray.  Thunderous hoof beats echoed towards him as he raced through the forest. He was soaked down to his skin, first from sweat and then from the heavy rain which came at him in torrential sheets. The ground was thick with mud, and he almost slid into it waist deep. There was a ringing sound of clanking metal and shouts heard throughout, as he tried to stay one-step ahead of his pursuers. They were close on his heels and determined to cut him down. It had been apparent from the past months that his life was in danger. He really could not say why.

However the witch of Blackshire warned him and the wizard too, advising him to leave this place and soon. Those awful recurring dreams that kept him tormented in his sleeping hours and avoiding his would -be assassins in the waking hours, well ,it just kept him busy trying to stay alive. Several months ago, he found a tunnel, a passage hall, to pass from one realm into another. This would lead him back home and that simply was the only way. On one occasion he found the entrance and it slowly opened up, however when he moved towards it the boy had followed him. When he turned, it closed up and vanished.

Therefore, each time he tried, someone or something would stop him. Philip Wellington was determined the next time he would make it through and finally leave.

He stopped quickly, seeing several large rocks that would be easy to crawl into and take cover. Here he would secure a place to hide, if only for a little while. At least he could stay dry he thought. He felt bad wanting to leave the child behind, but was eager to go home. It had been too long already and he grew more anxious each passing day. He sometimes wished he could take the boy back with him; however, it was best this way. Someday he hoped the child would understand.

Vicki's Comments: I like the cover, but I think it can be improved. The people blend into the background, I had to look hard to figure out what exactly was depicted in the scene. I think the typography could be improved as well. The words don't seem to stand out as much as I usually see. I do think the cover gives me a "fantasy" feeling, so that's good. Showing the genre is very important on the cover.

I like the description. I might be a bit more specific at the end, what exactly are the stakes? A tug-of-war isn't very compelling. I'd like to know what might happen to our world, and what the MC can do about it.

After reading the first 300 words, I would suggest putting the novel through a critique group. The story itself is good, but some of the wording is confusing and clunky, and I think it would greatly benefit from a critique group. I also found mistakes that could be fixed by hiring an editor, such as "would -be assassins" and "well ,it just kept."

I did get curious about a few of the things I saw, so I downloaded a sample to my kindle. The book itself is rife with formatting errors. I would highly suggest hiring someone to help format the book. There are paragraphs with two spaces in between, followed by multiple paragraphs smashed together without any spaces. There are no indents, so it's hard to read without spaces between paragraphs. There are some strange things, like in the first sentence part of the word 'looked' is bold. This book is in desperate need of formatting help.

I would run the book through a critique group or find a few beta readers, hire an editor, and tweak the cover to see more sales. What do you guys think?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thieves at Heart


Author: Tristan J. Tarwater
Genre: Fantasy / Gray Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: October 1, 2011
Current price: .99
Marketing: We had a booth (and spoke on a panel) at Seattle's GeekGirlCon in October.  We've paid for 2 online ads for Oct-Dec (1 webcomic site, 1 fantasy RPG site).  We maintain a presence on Mobile Read forums, Createspace forums, Kindle Board forums, and link to our site in the signature of all of the various forums we frequent.  We participated in a free paperback book give away on Goodreads.  We have sent out free copies to reviewers.  We're currently working on optimizing the SEO of our website.
Total sold so far: Less than 75.
Link to book on Amazon: Thieves at Heart

Product Description:

Tavera has grown up an outsider. A half-elf in a land of humans, she finds herself dragged through various jobs for other people’s benefit and used for their gain. When a thief named Derk plucks her from her latest job she expects more of the same from the cunning rogue, but instead finds direction, guidance and protection for the first time in her life. Her pa belongs to a group called The Cup of Cream, a group of elite thieves, scoundrels and other sorts who seek not only personal gain but to keep balance in the Valley. To join their ranks would please her father and give Tavera the acceptance she’s been seeking all her life. When the unthinkable happens, she is forced to wonder if the Cup sees her as just another tool their sleeve, or if they under-stand she is an individual with her own desires, whose heart beats faster with every take. When she needs them most, with they be there for her? She’s about to find out.

First 300 Words:

Chapter 1
Out of the Dregs

“Tavi, I really wish you weighed more, girl. You can never pull these things tight enough!” Prisca the Tart stood up from the bed, examining the ties of the wide belt she wore under her bust in the full length mirror. A look of disappointment came over the woman’s highly painted face as she looked over the leather cords crisscrossing her back, brown threaded through pale pink matching the dress she was wearing. Her light eyes lit upon the tiny bit of the girl reflected in the mirror, a small brown hand crawling away once it was noticed. The woman sighed and laughed, brushing out her skirts as she walked back to the bed and sat in front of the little girl, the hay and feathers settling with a rustle under her weight. “Come now, sweets, use those tiny fingers of yours and fix what you’ve done.”

“Yes, mam,” came the quiet voice, the girl’s head bowed as she went to work. Skinny legs shifted under the girl’s small frame and she scratched at her greasy dark hair, what remained of her locks barely long enough to cover one slightly pointed ear. Her hand brushed against the other ear as her hands went to Prisca’s laces. Where there was supposed to be a point was instead a straight line, pink and tender where a knife had cut the cartilage away. It still sent a shiver through Tavi when she touched it. The loss of her hair meant she couldn’t hide the telltale signs of her blood or her past and her face grew hot even now, recalling Prisca’s announcement and remedy. Lice and a shave. “Can’t have bugs hopping about when I’m on business,” Prisca had said as she shaved off the girl’s knotty black locks. 

Vicki's Comments: I like the cover. It does look like a fantasy novel to me, however the girl on the front looks very young, so I automatically assume the book is middle grade. This is probably not correct, so it might be something to look into. If most people who see the cover assume this book is for kids, it might be hindering sales. Maybe see what others say about the cover.

I found the description too wordy and confusing. I'm not sure what 'just another tool their sleeve' means. I think the description definitely needs help. I also can't tell from the description if Tavera is a child, a teenager, or a young adult. That would help pin down an audience. Most of the time if a protagonist is a child, the book is aimed toward a middle grade audience.

I might run the first part of the book through a critique group, I found some places where the wording was awkward. I think it could be improved. I also prefer a definite point of view character, and this is written in omniscient, which is an older style, and not very popular these days. It could be off-putting to readers.

My suggestion would be to rework the blurb, and get some outside opinions of the novel itself to see if a bit of tightening up could help. This might be a hard sell if it is written as an adult novel but the protagonist is a child. I might be more clear who the target audience is. What do you guys think?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Forgotten Gods


Author: S.B. Stewart-Laing & Michael J. Chernicoff
Genre: Historical fantasy
How long it's been on sale: Since 17/09/2011
Current price: $4.99
Marketing: Promotion on my personal blog (and group blog), word of mouth, Twitter, blog interviews
Total sold so far: 7
Link to book on Amazon: Name Your Link

Product Description:

Winter, 1745. Scotland is losing a war for independence. Robert Maxwell and his fellow soldiers beg for supernatural aid from the daione sìdhe, magical inhabitants of Scotland exiled in ancient times to a parallel plane of existence. The sìdhe ask to negotiate with the Scottish leaders, who rashly enter into a magical contract promising the sìdhe a permanent return to Britain in exchange for their help in the war.

Access to sìdhe soldiers and magical weapons gives the Scots a temporary advantage, but their agreement lacks stipulations to prevent lone sìdhe creatures from hunting humans, stealing children, or riddling the countryside with hidden portals that can whisk passers-by into parallel dimensions. Worse, the sìdhe leaders seem unable to stop the chaos.

The Scottish leadership work to understand the sidhe and find a way to coexist. But they find sìdhe are not as disorganized as they appear, and harbor a sinister goal: to end the war on their own terms and secure their claim on Britain, no matter what the cost to their human allies.

First 300 Words:

Light from the full moon sliced the landscape into sharp white highlights and dark blue shadows. Robert Wardlaw-Maxwell stood knee-deep in frostbitten weeds, hands clamped around his musket, his every muscle tensed and ready to respond to the first hint of movement. Even though he had fired the gun many times, it still felt foreign in his hands. Besides, he did not know if any of the balls had ever reached their marks, so he could tell himself he had never actually killed anyone.

“They’re no’ comin’ this way,” Hugh MacBain whispered from beside him.

Robert nodded. He hoped Hugh was right, and the prolonged silence meant that the government men had run in another direction. The last time he fought someone at close range was months ago at Gladmuir, and that wasn’t even a proper battle: just him flailing with a pitchfork, more in self-defense than in any serious attempt to kill one of the English soldiers.

A muffled crack of gunfire was followed by shouts and the crunch of breaking branches. Robert flinched, and took a quick, involuntary step backwards.

Another round of gunfire, this time more distant. It sounded as though the English had indeed fled south, into the open moors. Robert allowed himself to relax.

Racing footsteps on the road, followed by shouting.

Before he could fully register the figures sprinting towards them, he heard another gunshot, this time close enough to feel the sound in his bones. Hugh collapsed forward.

Robert first thought was to help his friend. Then he saw the dark patch spreading quickly across Hugh’s back, and realized it was too late. Robert raised his gun to his shoulder and took aim. The English soldier had just begun to run again, a musket still smoking in his hand, as he dodged between his comrades. 

Vicki's Comments: Book cover. I like it, it does give me a professional feeling, but it looks like a middle grade book. If I were browsing Amazon's shelves for a fantasy novel for my 12 year old, this one would attract me. However, you would lose me at the description.

When I read a description, I do it to find out the plot of the book, but I also am looking for the main characters and if they are interesting to me. This description is completely void of a main character, or any characters for that matter. I highly suggest rewriting the description and give the readers a character, their major conflict, and why we should care. I want to know why this character (or set of characters) is going to keep me turning the pages wanting to know what happens to them next.

The opening to the book is good. I think that's right on the money. My guess as to why this book isn't selling is the cover looks too "young" and the description needs a main character to focus on.

What do you guys think?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Lovers and Beloveds


Author: MeiLin Miranda
Genre: Fantasy with a strong erotic component (à la the Kushiel series)
How long it's been on sale: 9/2010
Current price: $4.95
Marketing: Multiple successful submissions to book reviewers, Blogtalk Radio interviews, guest blogs, ads, serialization on website, etc etc etc
Total sold so far: Didn't start keeping strict track till 3/11, but since then 232 across all outlets
Link to book on Amazon: Name Your Link

Product Description:

Sheltered Prince Temmin arrives at the intrigue-filled court of his father and finds his world turned upside down. Suddenly he's the target of assassins sent by enemies he didn't even know he had. His family's immortal advisor immerses him in a magic book filled with the forgotten stories of the Kingdom's women. And he's falling for the beautiful twins Allis and Issak.

But the twins are the human avatars of the Gods of love and desire. To be with them, Temmin must fulfill a prophecy so old it's moved into folklore--a prophecy that may signal the end of the monarchy--and his father does everything he can to stop him.

Temmin must choose a path: one leads to ultimate glory for Tremont, the other to its end.

The first book in the fantasy saga "An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom.

First 300 Words:

Whithorse Estate, Whithorse Province
Ammaday, the 5th Day of Spring’s Beginning, 990 KY

In the stable yards of Whithorse Estate, two lanterns burned. They shone up at their owners, who sat on a straw bale against a brick wall. The low light transformed the rangy, blue-eyed one’s fair hair into a burnished bronze, and turned the shorter, stockier one’s eyes near-black. Both wore battered old tweed caps, and coats just heavy enough for the early spring night. The shorter one held a flask of wuisc, full at the start of the evening, and as its level dropped, they listed into one another more and more.

“Say, d’you plan on drinking that whole thing yourself?” said the tall one.

The shorter one passed the flask over. “Be careful, Tem, you’re not used to this stuff.”

“And you are?” said Temmin. “If I’m going to the Keep, I have to learn to drink.” He took a choking swallow, and pulled a face. “Where did you get this stuff? Besides, it’s our last night to do this sort of thing. Any sort of thing.” Temmin sighed and bumped his head against the bricks. “Why do I have to go, Alvy? Why can’t I stay here in Whithorse? Breed horses for the family or something?”

“Don’t gulp it, sip it,” said Alvo. “The King needs just so many horses, and you’re his only son.”

“Sedra should be the Heir. She’s smarter, and she’s the oldest.”

Alvo took the flask back, sipped, and snorted. “A woman will rule when Nerr gets the Heir. For that matter,” he added, “this wuisc will be drinkable when Nerr gets the Heir. I told you I couldn’t get the good stuff. Crokker would’ve given you some if you’d just asked.”

“And let Mama find out? I don’t think so.” Temmin sat up straighter. “Here’s a thought. You go to the Keep and be the Heir and I’ll take your job.”

Vicki's Comments: I'll preface this by saying I know nothing about this genre, so please forgive me if I say silly things!

This cover is very "Art Nouveau" to me. It gives it an artsy feeling, but I'm not sure it gives me a genre. When I look up the book covers from Kushiel, I get a much different image. I would highly suggest a re-design of the cover, making them look and feel much more like Kushiel's covers. (Not that you want to blatantly copy them, but if you could design a cover that might be used as a Kushiel cover, you'll be much better off, IMHO.) What you want to do is appeal to the same audience as Kushiel's audience, so making a cover that looks similar would right away tell the fans that they probably will be getting something similar in your book.

The description could use some tweaking. I would at least cut 'suddenly' from it, but maybe that's just because I have an aversion to the word. ;) The rest isn't bad, but I think it could be better. Outside opinions might help.

The beginning of the book doesn't have a tight POV, which does bother me, but might not bother other people. I'm the kind of reader that likes to know whose head we are in right away. The 'let's start with omniscient POV and move in' beginnings get under my skin. But I totally admit this is a personal preference. I'm just wondering how many other people don't like that sort of thing. I'd ask for other opinions on the beginning of the book as well.

Honestly, I think if the cover were changed, it would do much better. What do you guys think?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gods


Author: Justin Dillon-Shallard
Genre: Near Future Thriller / Techno Thriller
How long it's been on sale: July 2011
Current price: $3.99
Marketing: Facebook fan page and webpage
Total sold so far: Less than 10, UK only
Link to book on Amazon: Gods

Product Description:

Gods

The world has come out of Global Depression a very different place. With startling power shifts on the world stage and game changing technology advances, warfare has matured into the Information Age and the Third Realm is the latest battleground.

The virtual game environment of Third Realm is a rich and deadly fantasy setting, where ultimate power rests with a competitive pantheon of player controlled gods. However, a shadowy cult with a mysterious agenda have begun to resort to real world violence to rip control from even the most powerful of gods.

Stephanie Kane is the newest recruit to the Information Warfare department of Omega Division; Europe's elite armed service. When the Elder God of the Third Realm is brutally murdered in real life, she is given the task of infiltrating the game to investigate.

The Third Realm and reality quickly collide and the edges between them begin to blur.

Who are the mysterious Order of Aurele? How do they exert so much power in the real world and why are they so determined to use their power to rule a virtual game world?

Events cause Stephanie to enlist the help of two young teenagers. Lara, a deadly assassin in the Third Realm, in reality a Dance student with her own secrets. James, an academy student with a bright future and a powerful Mage in the game, is enjoying the adventure of his life time, until his family come under threat.

Together they will face dangers in multiple realities and uncover a secret nations will kill for, a secret that could change the course of humanity itself.

From Special Forces raids, gun battles and airstrikes, to melee battles, magic duels and a struggle between Gods, Angels and humans...

Relevant, engaging and thought provoking, GODS is a must read. 

First 300 Words:

The Holy City of Elesta, Third Realm

The jewelled eyes of the ornate gold statue opened and the Elder God looked out, surveying his richly adorned High Temple.

The God rose amorphously, stretching to fill the Temple like an invisible mist. He briefly admired the twelve-foot high statue created in his image, before focusing his attention on the hundreds of worshippers who were kneeling around his High Altar. He felt each of their prayers as a warm hum in the back of his mind.

As he watched, a slight golden glow emanated from those who were praying to him.

This was the Elder Mass, a weekly ritual to honour the Elder God. Similar scenes were currently being performed at his Temples throughout the Third Realm. He couldn’t imagine any God feeling more powerful than he did now, basking in the concentrated faith of his followers.

Silvana, his High Priestess, stood at the Temple’s High Altar. Dressed in pale blue robes, she smoothed her long silver hair away from her face, before beginning a ritual of blessing. As she spoke the Holy words, a light formed around her hands.

The glow from the worshippers rose into the air above their heads. It formed a rippling wave that filled the God, before it fell and settled back on the worshippers again. The God savoured the resulting momentary sensation of power and bliss.

The worshippers also felt a sense of euphoria and looked up from their prayers in wonder.

The High Priestess smiled and raised her arms theatrically as she spoke:

‘Praise be to El, Lord of the two rivers and Elder of the Gods.’

‘Praise be,’ the congregation murmured in reply.

The God allowed his form to rise through the high vaulted ceiling and out into the world.  The bright sunlight warmed him as he stretched and expanded again, floating above his prosperous domain.

Vicki's Comments: I think the cover needs work. I think it lacks a professional feeling, which might only be the words because I like the picture of the person. That does give me a techno image. I might get some other opinions on the cover. If the genral consensus is that it needs work, I would hire a graphic designer to give it that final polish.

The description should be shorter and get right to the main character and their conflict. The back story can be left out, or summed up in a short sentence. We don't need to know the entire world this book is set in, just enough of the plot to know if we would be interested in buying the book.

I would have liked the story to begin with the protagonist. The God's point of view didn't capture me. I also was wondering about the single quote marks for dialogue. Is that a regional thing? I wasn't aware that any countries used this punctuation. I might hire an editor.

What do you guys think?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Unleashed (A Sydney Rye Novel)


Author: Emily Kimelman
Genre: Mystery
How long it's been on sale: 6 months
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Blog tour, email blast, KND, Twitter and FB
Total sold so far: 160
Link to book on Amazon: Unleashed: A Sydney Rye Novel (Volume 1)

Product Description:

"Emily Kimelman is witty and insightful, and writes with wisdom, care, and diligence."

-Mark Bowden, best selling author of "Black Hawk Down".

"[Unleashed is] for readers who like well written and well constructed novels... including the ending that caught me off-guard (something that rarely happens)."

-And Tyson Adams, author of the blog "Right What You No"

When Joy Humbolt loses her job and breaks up with her boyfriend she impulsively adopts a giant mutt named Blue. Soon a dog walking business on the exclusive Upper East Side of Manhattan is thrown in her lap. On her first day, Joy discovers a dead body and is quickly sucked into a hidden world of political power, wealth, and secrets.

While Joy tries to expose the murderer, she will learn just how far some people will go for money and how far she is willing to go to protect her family. 

First 300 Words:

My dog died today. He once took a bullet that was intended for me. A bullet that ripped through his chest, narrowly missing his heart, and exited through his shoulder blade, effectively shattering it. This left him unconscious on the floor of my home. Amazingly, this bullet did not kill him. It was a bar of chocolate that I accidentally left where he could reach it, which he did. It gave him diabetes, which killed him.

Ten years ago I adopted Blue as a present to myself after I broke up with my boyfriend one hot, early summer night with the windows open and the neighborhood listening. The next morning I went straight to the pound in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Articles on buying your first dog tell you never to buy a dog on impulse. They want you to be prepared for this new member of your family, to understand the responsibilities and challenges of owning a dog. Going to the pound because you need something in your life that's worth holding onto is rarely, if ever, mentioned.

I asked the man at the pound to show me the biggest dogs they had. He showed me some seven-week-old Rottweiler- German shepherd puppies that he said would grow to be quite large. Then he showed me a six-month old shepherd that would get pretty big. Then he showed me Blue, the largest dog they had. The man called him a Collie mix and he was stuffed into the biggest cage they had, but he didnt fit. He was as tall as a Great Dane but much skinner, with the snout of a collie, the markings of a Siberian husky, the ears and tail of a shepherd and the body of a wolf, with one blue eye and one brown. Crouched in a sitting position, unable to lie down, unable to sit all the way up, he looked at me from between the bars, and I fell in love.

Vicki's Comments: I like the cover, but my first impression was that the book was a children's book. Maybe a middle grade book about a dog? When I look closer, I see the shadow of a face. That makes me think it's a book about a person who changes into a dog. Reading the description, I realize that my first impression is way off. I would get more opinions on it, but I think a new cover would really help.

The description is pretty good, but I don't like the reviews stuck in there. When I go look at a description I want to know what the book is about. I also feel like the description gets a slow start. To me, the murder is the important part, not the dog walking business. I might work on the description too.

The beginning didn't feel like a murder mystery to me. It didn't grab me and not let go, but I was mildly interested. I did get the feeling from the opening that this woman is alone in the world. It seemed at odds with 'how far she is willing to go to protect her family' that was in the description. I don't get the feeling that she's a family girl.

I would change the cover first, and work on the description next. What do you guys think?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Crowded (Deep River High)


Author: Shaina Cilimberg
Genre: Christian Teen
How long it's been on sale: 2 months
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Twitter, Facebook, Blog
Total sold so far: 2
Link to book on Amazon: Crowded (Deep River High)

Product Description:

Cole Martin is trying to live for God, even though he made a mistake that costs Emily Davis and her parents' trust in him. Now, he is making every attempt he can to win her back. Josh Summers, the new boy with a dark past, also has his sights set on Emily who seems to enjoy the flirtation for a while until things get ugly. 

First 300 Words:

Cole was ignoring the chatter of his classmates before history class started, when the cell phone beeped.  Everything inside said to turn the phone off, but the unwillingness to wait until lunch period took over. A sext from Tanya.  The prettiest cheerleader in the school. That wasn’t really nice, considering one of Cole’s friends was a cheerleader. Still, it was the truth.

When Cole was baptized last month, he became a Christian and truly wanted to to change everything for Christ. The moment Cole typed a message about wanting sex with her and pressed “Send”, he realized it was a mistake. This would ruin his relationship with God and with his new girlfriend. Things had been going so well between him and Emily Davis.

Last night

A candle flickered in the small, dimly lit Italian restaurant. Cole Martin inhaled the final slice of pizza and waited for Emily to finish chewing her last bite. Then, he got a wad of wrinkled money out of his stained jeans, which Emily always had compliments on.
 

Putting it on the table, he said, “I’ll pay for it.”
 

Emily asked, “You sure?”
 

Cole fingered the checkered table cloth. “Yeah. I had a job at the guitar shop this summer. My treat.”

A smile lit up her brown eyes. “Thanks.”

Then, Emily groaned, “I hate that summer’s over.”

Cole chuckled in agreement.. “Yeah. Maybe we should protest the start of school.”


The next day, Cole rested his head into skinny arms on the desk before class started. He made sure the cell phone was turned off, just in case anyone else tried to sext him. That way, there wouldn’t be a temptation to once again fall into and lose another night of sleep over.

Emily walked up to Cole’s desk.   “We should go 

Vicki's Comments: The cover needs work. The photo of the teen at his desk doesn't feel like a book cover image. It doesn't give me the genre at a glance, although I do assume this is a book for teens, so you've got that going for you. I would try to make the cover look more like other book covers. I would also change the font, and the font color.

The description isn't bad, I think it could explain a little more about what's going on. It's a bit vague, and when I'm trying to decide on what to read, vague descriptions aren't that helpful. What mistake did he make? Did he cheat on Emily? Did he get drunk at a party and do drugs? What does 'things get ugly' really mean? I'd like to know a bit more.

There are some good things in the beginning, however I think it needs some work. I would join a critique group and run at least the first few chapters through to tighten up some of the prose. There's a story here, I like the premise of it, but I do think it needs some polishing up.

What do you guys think?

Katheryn's Secret


Author: Linda Hall
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Inspirational
How long it's been on sale: 7/4/2011
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Facebok, Twitter, Web Page, Kindle Forums
Total sold so far: 49
Link to book on Amazon: Katheryn's Secret (Coast of Maine Series)

Product Description:

This novel interweaves elements of mystery and suspense with a message of hope. The novel brings healing to those wounded by legalism in the church. Mystery writer Sharon Colebrook finds herself the unexpected recipient of her deceased Aunt Katie's papers, and hopes to learn about a murder Katie had hinted at years before. But as Sharon and her husband Jeff begin to investigate, the carefully kept facade of her strict religious family begins to crumble. Secrets, long buried, begin to surface, and only God's grace can put this family back together again. 

First 300 Words:

The flashlight dimmed. I looked down at it in surprise. Didn't I just put new batteries in? I cursed out loud a couple of times and then rammed the thing against the cement wall. Hard. All I succeeded in doing was cracking the plastic casing. The quality and quantity of light did not change, but remained a dull trickle of pale yellow. I muttered to myself and kept picking my way down the basement steps. When I reached the bottom I held onto the wall with my left hand and used the pinpoint of light to look around. This is where she said she'd be, that mysterious middle-of-the-night caller who had awakened me from a sound, albeit short, sleep a little more than half an hour ago. "Underneath the barn," she had said.

"Underneath the barn?" I didn't know barns had an underneath."

"Just take the steps down at the side of the building. I'll be waiting."

I poked through bits of straw and hay and dried manure and wondered if this whole thing were a practical joke concocted for my birthday. Except my birthday was seven months ago. Well, the joke was on me. Here I was up to my sneakers in manure with a weak flashlight, looking for what? I shook my head realizing that I should have had it examined long ago.

The weird middle-of-the-night muffled voice had talked about life and death and how I was the only one on the face of the earth who could help. Yeah, I bet you say that to all the girls.

But there was something about that whispery voice, something familiar when she woke me with,
"Summer? Summer Whitney? I need to see you."

I'm naturally curious. That's what makes me a good private investigator. I knew I'd never sleep anyway, not after a call like that, so I got up.

Vicki's Comments: The cover could use some work. I think the photo of the ocean isn't working. I don't know why, but sunsets, skies and oceans just don't do it for me as book cover images. There's probably a reason. Maybe because it doesn't show a clear genre? I don't know. However, I do think a new cover would greatly improve the sales of this book. I'd also change the font. I would look at other books in the Mystery/Suspense/Inspirational genre and see what fonts they use. (That's not stealing...it's research.)

I would cut the first two sentences of the book description. The first sentence doesn't say anything about the plot. People read descriptions to get the plot of the novel. The second sentence is subjective. The novel might not bring healing to someone. The third sentence is where the description actually starts. The rest is actually not bad for a description. It's a little vague, what secrets come forth? I'd like to know if the book is dealing with an unwed mother in the family, or an ancestor who robbed a bank. Depending on what the secrets are, it could change the story dramatically. Be more direct with your description.

I liked the beginning of the book. It hooked me. I'd keep reading to find out what happens. I don't think the issues with this book are in the prose. I would change the cover, maybe pay a graphic designer, and get some help polishing up the blurb. This book has potential.

What do you guys think?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Perception of Evil


Author: Budo von Stahl
Genre: Epic Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: 14 Months
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Facebook, KB, Goodreads, multiple forums
Total sold so far: unknown
Link to book on Amazon: Perception of Evil (The Eastendland Saga)

Product Description:

Unexpectedly turned out of his home by his aged master, armed with little but an insatiable curiosity, a vast education, and a marvelous sword, Valkane the apprentice sets out in search of many things, among them his ancestry, the meaning of a vision, and knowledge. He stands a good chance of finding all of this and more, if he somehow manages to survive. His journey brings him into contact with Elves, Dwarves, monsters, evil magicians, howling Barbarians, and more. With a penchant for getting lost, he finds himself caught in the middle of innumerable plots, secret locations, and possible war. The greatest danger he will face, however, is the mysterious pursuit by The Hand of Doom. Join him and experience these many things with him, meet his friends, and share his...doom? 

First 300 Words:

Though hours remained before dawn on this cool, rainy spring morning, Valkane could not sleep.  In truth, he had not slept well for nearly a week.  He had tossed fitfully the last few nights, reliving the same dream, searching for any meaning in it, perplexed by the sense of urgency the vision left in its wake.

The dream troubling him appeared to have been triggered during a session with his scrying bowl.  While researching some interesting events of the distant past (his favorite subject), he had come upon an image of a large, black-clad man sitting on a great throne in a dark, dank room.  Valkane had absolutely no knowledge of who this man was or what he was doing, or even why he should appear in the place Valkane was examining.  The dark man’s attendants were as intriguing as the man himself; actually, even more so.

Just as Valkane was beginning to admire these attendants closely, he became aware that the figure on the throne was aware of him.  Horrified, Valkane had wrenched himself away from his bowl to discover he was breathing hard and had an awful headache.  By all of the laws of nature, science, and magic, what had transpired that day was impossible.  Not even a friend on the other side of the same table would be aware of a scrying session, to say nothing of a long-dead stranger.

That very night was when this recurring nightmare had begun.  In this vision, Valkane sees himself in the lab, bent over the scrying bowl again.  Looking over his own shoulder, so to speak, he sees himself in the bowl, walking through a twilight mist, as if strolling along the edge of a marsh at moonrise.  No sound or color comes to him at this point, only white mist, black sky, and pale light.  

Vicki's Comments: The cover doesn't say "High Fantasy" to me. In fact, the background looked like a stained glass window at first glance. The font didn't look professional, which gave the entire cover an unprofessional look. I would suggest a re-design of the cover. Maybe check out some other covers in the high fantasy genre and see which ones catch your eye, then try to put into words what you like about it.

The blurb isn't specific enough for me. It could be any number of novels where the protagonist goes in search of something. I want to know why this book is the one I should be reading, instead of hundreds of other novels that have a main character going on a journey. I would re-work the blurb as well, trying to be more specific to the protagonist and plot of this novel.

The novel starts with narrative summery instead of a scene. I think this is hurting your book. I also found a few awkward sentences, like: he became aware that the figure on the throne was aware of him. And some tense issues. I would join a critique group to polish up the piece, or at least run the first chapter through critiquecircle.com to get some outside eyes on the prose. The beginning is often the hardest part to get just right.

What do you guys think?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Dual


Author: JC Miller
Genre: Science Fiction; Short Story
How long it's been on sale: June 2011
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Unknown
Total sold so far: 9
Link to book on Amazon: Dual

Product Description:

Imagine you live in a world torn by war and poverty. A world fueled by hate and despair. Then imagine one day you find a portal to a parallel universe, one where your world could be filled with riches, love and safety. What would you do to make it yours? More importantly, what wouldn't you do to make it yours?

Dual is the story of Betty, a woman who in one short day, will have to answer these questions.

Dual is a short story and runs 5,787 words.

First 300 Words:

Betty looked down to her feet at the pumps she had stolen from a corpse. Their bright red color and faded toes pegged them as being vintage. All forms and methods of dyeing had been banned soon after the Seven Wars and only the older generation now owned anything of color.

She grabbed a seat as close to the stage as she could get. The lecture hall was filling up fast and the constant chatter and chair scraping was grating on her nerves. The recent government ban on public gatherings would go into effect the next day, and this would be the last of them. Betty suspected the overwhelming turnout was due more to that fact than any real interest in the subject matter. But she was interested. Very interested.

She leaned forward as she saw an older gentleman shuffle quietly across the stage to the microphone. “Ladies and Gentlemen, I’d like to welcome you to today’s seminar: Parallel Universes: Parallel Lives. I’m Professor Ben Whitley.”

She smoothed her dark hair back and poised pen over paper, leaning closer so as not to miss a word. She’d waited a long time for this. As the professor spoke, it became clear to her that most of the audience had been unable to suspend their disbelief for any length of time. For the next two hours, there was a lot of squirming, coughing, and foot shuffling going on around her.  But Betty sat still, leaned forward in rapt attention, only breaking her concentration once to shush a couple of people who had come only to socialize.

There was only one moment where all eyes were directed to the stage.  It was the same moment that had Betty frozen in place with an excitement coursing through her. 

The professor had saved his bombshell for the end.

Vicki's Comments: I really like the cover for this book. I think it fits the genre and storyline well. I find it eye-catching, and I like the concept. I don't think the cover is hurting this story.

I like the description too, but I think I'd like it better if it were more personal. I would like to know more about Betty, and have the blurb focus more on her problems and conflicts. A description overhaul would be my recommendation.

I like how we get to see a bit of Betty's character right away, with the stolen shoes. It also shows us the world in which she is living. I think the concept is fantastic. I might suggest joining a critique group, just to tighten things up just a bit, but I do think the story grabs and holds on.

Honestly, I like the cover, the blurb, and the story. If I had to pin down one reason this short story isn't selling, I would guess it's because no one knows about it. The author didn't give me any marketing information, so I'm guessing there's not a lot of marketing going on. I might try to give away some copies to gain some interest.

What do you guys think?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Driving to BelAir

Author: William G. Jones
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
How long it's been on sale: Aug 28th
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Given away 125+ review copies, scheduled blog reviews, took out ad with Frugal eBook Reader, multiple tweets per week to nearly 4000 Twitter followers, posted in Kindle Boards Book Bazaar, repeated announcements through Authors on the Cheap, Kindle on the Cheap, and other Facebook eBook pages.
Total sold so far: 14
Link to book on Amazon: Driving to BelAir: A Novella

Product Description:

Dale had everything—dream job, dream girl, dream life. When he moved to New York to chase his dreams, he never planned on returning to the Indiana farm where he grew up. Yet, one phone call from his ex-fiance brings him back to face the brothers he abandoned and the consequences of the choices he made in pursuit of those dreams. Will a father's last wish be the key to reuniting a family torn apart by tragedy? Or will Dale lose everything while driving to BelAir.

First 300 Words:

Growing up is hard on anyone. But it’s especially hard when you can’t shake the feeling you were switched at birth.

That was me, the kid who never fit in, always off sync and out of place. I spent most of my childhood feeling like a broken toy, missing some important piece, and I’m pretty sure I’m the only kid in the history of kiddom to break down and cry when he found out he wasn’t adopted.

Come to think of it, I was sixteen when that happened.

Growing up without a mother didn’t help. I was five—almost six—when she died. I remember her only vaguely, just ghost-like impressions stitched together by an artful imagination.

In a way, I’m lucky. My brothers don’t remember her at all.

It’s mostly little things I can recall, like how her smile could make any bad thing okay again. In the twenty-five years she’s been gone, I’ve never seen another woman whose smile was anything like that. If I did, I’d probably marry her on the spot. I remember mom’s long, lightly curled hair and how she’d sometimes put it in a ponytail but mostly let it flow free, how she always wore jeans, even to church, and how she had this way of greeting people that made them laugh.

My favorite memory is how she’d sit on the couch and read books while I played with my toys and watched cartoons. I don’t know what kind of books she read because after she died, dad got rid of them. The only one he kept was an old Bible. I use to sneak into his bedroom as a teenager and look through its dog-eared pages at the margin notes she’d scrawled and the little squares of paper she stuck in different places with prayers written on them.

Vicki's Comments: The cover doesn't say "Contemporary Fiction" to me at all. It looks like it's set in the 50's. And I was pretty surprised by the description. The cover seems fun to me, almost like a comedy. I don't get a serious feeling from it at all. I would suggest a total redesign of the cover.

The description needs work also. If Dale has his dream job, dream girl and dream live, why in the world would he need to go in search of his dreams? That doesn't make sense to me. I think what you mean is his life seemed perfect to others, but he felt unsettled, so he left in search of his dreams. I do like the implication that his father is dying, but I think you need to be more clear of the plot in the description. I would also get rid of the questions at the end.

I like the beginning of the book. It's got a personable feel to it, even though there's not a lot going on. Sometimes that bothers me, but I like the conversational feel to this. It doesn't match the cover at all, though, so I think that's your biggest issue. I would change the cover first, and then work on the description. Maybe get some opinions from other writers on how to make the description stronger.

What do you guys think?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Escapades of Glamour Grannies


Author: Micki Street
Genre: Comedy
How long it's been on sale: Since July
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: At the moment nothing – I am in the process of setting up a blog.
Total sold so far: 1
Link to book on Amazon: Escapades of Glamour Grannies

Product Description:

Toss the bloomers, get a bikini wax and slip into a thong: life begins at sixty!

Dotty, Nora, and Wilma are enthralled by the charismatic Lucas, who dupes them to holiday on the island of Brazzina, blissfully unaware he’s a drug baron with an ulterior motive.

Enter Major Ramsay Milestone, whose green eyes and cookie-duster moustache has Dotty’s hormones do the tango. Milestone, an undercover agent for the Drug Eradication Unit, rebuffs her amorous advances: he's focused only on catching Lucas, the drug baron – while clandestinely preventing Dotty and her friends from getting themselves killed. Will Milestone nab Lucas after Dotty and her friends unwittingly obstruct his covert military operation? Will Milestone forgive Dotty and allow her to toss the thong and rev his libido?

The escapades of the glamour grannies’ innuendos cause havoc like a ticking time bomb.

First 300 Words:

It was a cold February lunchtime; Dotty Crowdy sat next to the roaring fire and moodily watched the brown liquid of her sherry coruscate as she twirled the stem of the crystal glass. Mozart’s musical masterpieces played softly in the background. She looked at the £90 Timeless piece she bought, impulsively, which ticked at an irritating slow pace.

“Bollocks to this boring lifestyle,” she said, and leaped to her feet to get her mobile phone from her handbag on the hallway table. She grimaced at the mirror above; sixty-five years old and she still had a lot of living to do.

“Age is a state of mind,” she reminded herself. She dug deep into her handbag, retrieved her mobile phone, and sent a message to her two dear friends: Meeting at my house this afternoon at three o’clock – don’t be late.

* * * *

“This freaks me out,” Wilma Christie stomped, impatiently pushing long strands of dyed blonde hair out of her face. Every word hissed steam. “Fifteen months ago we led a peaceful, normal life with Dotty living in Scotland. Since Sydney died and she moved here, she’s become irrational and demanding.”

Her life-long friend Nora Worthington, her coat pulled tight around her slightly chubby figure, ignored her as she negotiated the slippery path.

“For heaven’s sake, answer me.”

Nora stopped in her tracks. “Why are you complaining? You know peace doesn’t last forever. She’s probably invented a rocket to fly us to the moon and needs our important opinion.”

“No way am I flying to the moon – that would be hell!” Wilma kicked a patch of ice out of her path and lost her balance. Nora caught her before she fell.

“You must be careful, Wilma; falling at our age is dangerous.”

“Aw shucks, Nora, we aren’t that old. I’m pissed off my hair is damp and a mess.”

Nora looked up at Wilma’s frizzy perm. Such a minor issue compared to breaking a leg, she thought.

“If you had worn sensible shoes instead of those ridiculous heeled boots, you’d have more traction,” her reply, dogmatic.

In silence, they completed the short distance to Dotty’s house.

Vicki's Comments: I think the cover could definitely be improved. The font doesn't look professional, and I'm not fond of the picture. I don't get a good feel for the genre from the cover. I would suggest getting a graphic designer to help out. (Which, by the way, isn't always expensive. Mark, who was featured on here, said there are designers on oDesk.com who will design a book cover for $15 or $20.)

I actually like the description. With some minor tweaks, I think it can be fantastic. I would see if you can workshop the blurb on a critique group, or get some opinions from other writers. (For instance, I would cut the questions, and rephrase them as statements.)

The story starts at a good place, I think, but I would suggest joining a critique group to tighten up the writing. It's got good bones, but there are some issues that need to be smoothed out. For instance, "stomped" is used as a dialogue tag. People can't stomp words. They can shout, whisper, or say words. Stomped should be used as an action after the dialogue. It's a minor thing, and can be easily fixed, but I found several issues within this first bit that makes me think this book needs a little more work.

What do you guys think?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Invoke


Author: V. J. Chambers
Genre: YA/New Adult Contemporary Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: 18 Months
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Sent messages to my email list, put a blurb for it in the back of my better selling books, facebooked, twittered, blogged.
Total sold so far: 62
Link to book on Amazon: Invoke

Product Description:

I invoke Morgana of the nine circuits of time.

A routine exercise in the spirit realm goes wrong, leaving the students of the Academy, a haven for Sensitives who can communicate with spirits, assailed by dreams of wind-tossed fields, dully glinting armor, and galloping horses.

May the wheel spin again! May the clock wind backwards! May the old world live again!

Taken over by spirits of the legend of King Arthur, they struggle with loathsome romantic pairings, as their teacher beds one of her students, and a strong romance is ripped apart by magic.

Three deaths and then the charm is wound up.

When students begin to die, and their bodies disappear, the remaining Sensitives know they must fight against whatever evil has been unleashed in the Academy. But how can they fight when they are tangled up in swords, mists, and castles, and when their very essences are being ripped away from them by ancient spirits? 

First 300 Words:

Wyn squished her forehead against the window pane in her bedroom. It was raining outside and the droplets of water were running in rivulets down the glass. Outside, it was gray and wet. She was watching Madame Braith lead a guy up the driveway and into the old mansion Wyn called home. Madame Braith and the guy splashed across the muddy pathway to the porch. Madame Braith held a magazine over her head. The guy just trudged forward with his head down.

Wyn couldn't really see what he looked like, but he had dark hair. It was long, at least to his shoulders. In the rain, it was pasted against his forehead. He looked pissed off, but that might have been because he was walking in a downpour.

The door to Wyn's bedroom flew open. Her best friend Meaghan burst inside. "He's here," Meaghan said.

Meaghan was excited. That was because Meaghan was beyond sexually frustrated, or so she said. She had been waiting for some new blood to come into the academy, and here it was. Reese Laird. Meaghan had been pretty obsessed with the idea of him ever since she heard his name.

"Did you get a good look at him?" Meaghan asked, wedging herself next to Wyn so that she could also look out the window.

"No," said Wyn. Reese and Madame Braith were already inside the house, so there was nothing else to see. Wyn moved away from the window and settled on her bed.

"How old do you think he is?" Meaghan asked, still peering through the glass as if she hoped he'd walk back outside.

Wyn shrugged. "No idea."

Vicki's Comments: I like the people on the cover because it shows the romance, but they look to old for a YA book. (I'm not sure what New Adult means.) They also don't look contemporary, so it gives me a 'historical romance' feeling. The lightning and the eyes do give me a paranormal feeling, but since this is fantasy I'm thinking the cover isn't working. I'm also not a fan of the font. I would suggest a re-design of the cover.

I confess the description totally confused me. I think I get what you're trying to do, but for me it didn't work. In descriptions I like to find out who the main character is, and what is at stake for them. I think a major reworking of the description would help this book tremendously.

The beginning of the book isn't bad, but I do see some places where the writing could be tightened up. I counted 11 times you used the word 'was.' Some of them really stood out. There were also instances of telling instead of showing, for example: Meaghan was excited. I'd much rather come to that conclusion on my own, after observing her actions and words. Overall, I think the writing can be tightened up, but I think the book begins at a good place, and there were some things about the writing that I liked. I would put this through a critique group.

I'm guessing the main issue is the cover, but the description and writing both need a little love too. What do you guys think?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mama


Author: Robin Morris
Genre: Horror
How long it's been on sale: Five Months
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Submitted to a lot of review sites, but only a few reviews have come out. I have put it on Facebook and Twitter a lot.
Total sold so far: ~20
Link to book on Amazon: Mama

Product Description:

ONE SCARY MOTHER.

As the Conover family drives from L.A. to Chicago, increasingly strange things begin to happen. Nine year old Michael sees a face form in the glass of the car's window. Fourteen year old Alison sees two creepy children outside the family's motel room. A car follows them, then purposely hits them and speeds away.

Mama has found the Conovers and is using them as a lesson for her children. Mama is relentless, Mama is powerful, and Mama will not stop until the Conovers are dead. 

First 300 Words:

Paul Hilch’s Mazda minivan pulled a little ahead of the Winnebago. On the hill, the weight of the big vehicle held it back. It was a very slender lead. Paul knew it wouldn’t last long. He also knew he was going to die. The woman and her children were monsters. Worse, they didn't exist, according to the sheriff he talked to in Barstow. Get some rest, the sheriff said. Don’t drive such long hours.

Papers flew around the cabin of the minivan. His briefcase fell open, letting its contents loose. A sales chart hit Paul in the face. He swatted it away.

The minivan crested the top of the hill. Paul saw his death in the down slope. He looked desperately for any hope. The brutal sun blasted the desert landscape. There were no other cars. The only witnesses were cactus.

Another paper hit Paul in the face. He pulled it away. It wasn’t a sales chart, or any other business paper. It was the picture Jimmy gave him just before he left L.A.

Daddy and Mommy and Jimmy, in the five year old's wavering crayon line, stood together on a boat. Maybe Jimmy was thinking of the boat ride they took to Catalina a few months ago.

The Winnebago crashed into the back of the minivan.

There had to be a way out. A truck driver would come to the rescue. A state trooper would pull the RV over and arrest the hideous woman. He would wake up in a hospital and someone in authority would explain everything.

Paul heard a giggle. He turned his head and saw the baby. The fat, naked, horrible baby sat in his passenger seat. He jerked his head to scan the back seat, horrified that the woman was also in his car. Nothing there.

Vicki's Comments: I really like this cover. It shows the horror genre very well. If I were to nit pick about one thing it would be that the shadowy figure doesn't look like a woman. But that's a very picky thing, and I don't think that is why this book isn't selling. The cover is a win for me.

The description is pretty good, although I think it can be better. The stakes don't feel high enough for me. And I'm confused as to why this paranormal "Mama" is after this family. What did they do?

The book starts with action, which is good, but I feel like it fell a bit short for me, maybe because I didn't have any investment into the character. I don't know Paul, and I didn't get any sense of him in this snip. I also felt a bit removed from the action. I should be on the edge of my seat, but something was holding it back for me. The first few lines were confusing. I can't tell that he's in a life and death situation, I thought maybe he was joking around with another car on the road. I also didn't feel any emotion from Paul.

I might workshop this book through a critique group to get that final polish. I think it just needs to emotionally connect with people, and I didn't get that.

What do you guys think?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fall from Grace



Author: Richard Jackson
Genre: Science Fiction
How long it's been on sale: Over a year
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: A giveaway, two paid sponsorships, and a few guest blog posts. Not much else. I've been focusing on writing.
Total sold so far: Around 40 copies, given away close to 350
Link to book on Amazon: Fall from Grace

Product Description:

As a Caster, Tyler uses cybernetic implants to broadcast his emotions and experiences to the viewers at home. He is living a life of action and adventure--until he loses his job. Now he must hustle illegal broadcasts and take odd jobs to survive.

When his agent is killed, Tyler is framed for the crime. With his only allies--an ex-cop turned criminal and a bartending medical student--Tyler is plunged into the middle of a mystery and comes face to face with the darker side of the broadcasting industry. Tyler soon learns there is much more for him to lose...and much farther to fall.

This book is approximately 180 pages.

First 300 Words:

“I have a job you might be interested in,” Manny said.

It took all of Tyler’s willpower to stop himself from dancing a jig.

Manny offered Tyler a smile, one reserved only for someone who could make him money. “I know it’s been a while since you last worked. How are your implants?” the agent asked.

Tyler nodded. “They’re fine,” Manny probably knew what the answer to that question would be.

“And your training?” he asked.

“I’ve been sticking to my diet and exercise plan. I also keep busy so my skills don’t get rusty.”

“Good,” Manny said. The agent reached into his suit pocket for his notebook. He turned the page in the journal and started to rattle off details about the job as he jotted down some notes.

Tyler only half heard what his agent was saying. He had waited a long time to get back into the business after his show was cancelled and he was blacklisted. He could finally have his life back. No more busting his ass as a bar back or hustling quasi-legal castings.

Tyler’s moment of happiness was shattered along with the frosted glass door to Manny’s office. The invader filling the doorway was trouble. He held a strange looking device that resembled something out of an old Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon movie serial. Tyler threw himself down and to the side just as the dig man pulled the trigger of his ray gun.

There was no beam of light or anything Tyler could see. He felt the wave of heat and intolerable pain during the brief time he was in the thing’s line of fire.

Manny didn’t have the benefit of Tyler’s reflexes. The beam caught him full on. He shrieked like a lobster being dumped into a pot of boiling water.

Vicki's Comments: The author sent a possible replacement cover, so I thought I would post it here and get all of your reactions on it:


I kind of like the current cover, but when I try to guess the genre I don't get "Science Fiction." It feels more like a thriller to me, which actually gets stronger when I look at the proposed new cover. The city scape is definitely a common thriller icon. Between the two covers, I do like the new one the best, but again, I don't think it necessarily fits this book. I would look at something with a little more science flair to it. It doesn't have to be a planet, maybe something that looks computer generated. KC May's Venom of Vipers comes to mind. That says Sci-Fi to me, without being about space travel.

I actually like the description, although parts of it are vague. Maybe try to give the reader a little bit more, which I know is hard. For example: 'comes face to face with the darker side of the broadcasting industry' doesn't give me much to go on. What specifically happens here? I'm also confused at the last sentence...what can he lose? We already know he's framed for a crime, I assume in this time he can still lose his freedom (ie. go to jail) or even his life for that. What else can he lose? I want to know the stakes.

I think the beginning is pretty solid. The action comes right away, which is a plus in my book. I did notice one typo - dig instead of big - which might be putting people off the book if they think it hasn't been edited. But, like I said, I feel like it's a solid beginning and I would read on to see what happens.

I am wondering about the 'about 180 pages' part. If I go by the standard 250 words per page, that turns out to be roughly 45,000 words. That's borderline novella territory. I'm glad you do state the page count because people do like to know if they're getting a shorter book. I might put the word count on it, just to be clear, but I personally like to know word count so that could just be me.

I'm guessing a cover change would be the most helpful thing for this book. What do you guys think?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Death Before Swine


Author: V.K. Scott
Genre: Mystery
How long it's been on sale: July-9-2011
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Twitter, KindleBoards, LibraryThing Giveaway, Blogging, Submission to book bloggers, price drop from $2.99 to 99 cents
Total sold so far: 25
Link to book on Amazon: Death Before Swine

Product Description:

Greed. Betrayal. Murder. Just another week in Diamond Alley, Arizona...

Ben Hart is a high school chemistry teacher who thought his biggest problems were test scores and lunchroom politics. That was before he lost his job, discovered his colleague murdered, and found himself with a new assignment—catch the killer. Now, as he navigates Diamond Alley’s backstreets, his questions are no longer multiple choice: Who can he trust? Will he ever get back to a simple life of worksheets and lab reports? And will he uncover the truth before the killer slips away?

Death Before Swine is 65,000 words long, or about 260 printed pages. 

First 300 Words:

The woman screamed at me. There was no way her son, her precious darling snowflake, could have done it.

It didn’t matter that I had the proof laid out right in front of her. I’d even highlighted the appropriate sections to make it easier for her to read. It still didn’t matter. It almost never did with parents like this.

“There’s no way in hell that my son cheated,” she said. Her gold earrings shook on the sides of her dark face. The woman’s hair, trimmed down almost to her scalp, made her look like a drill sergeant. “How dare you accuse him!”

It was a fair question. She wanted evidence, and evidence was what I had. I paused for a second, making sure that I didn’t show any more emotion than necessary. It gave me some pleasure to see her sweat a little. Abrasive parents were one of the few things I disliked about teaching high school chemistry.

Robert Byrd, my principal, cocked his head to one side, compressing the rolls of fat in his neck. His folded hairy arms rose and fell on top of his stomach. He was waiting for my answer, too.

A lone window about the size of a brick let the only natural light into the room. The light glinted off the well-dusted frames of nearly a dozen awards and certificates nailed to the wall, as well as several inspirational posters. Byrd had closed the door when the meeting started, and the air grew more stagnant by the second as he and the woman stared me down.

I didn’t address either of them, though. Instead, I focused my attention on the sixteen-year-old in front of me. Duntai Kennedy hung his head and ran a hand through his black cornrows. Apparently, the logo on his T-shirt was more interesting than the charges of plagiarism I had just leveled against him.

Vicki's Comments: I kind of like the cover for the artistic value, but as a book cover I don't think it is doing it's job. I get no sense of genre at all from the cover. It does not look like a mystery to me. I think a new cover would really help this book. The title also makes me think it's a funny book, which might not be the way you want to portray it.

There are things I like about the description. I like these two lines: Ben Hart is a high school chemistry teacher who thought his biggest problems were test scores and lunchroom politics. That was before he lost his job, discovered his colleague murdered, and found himself with a new assignment—catch the killer. I would suggest reworking the rest. I would like a bit more information about the book. How does a high school teacher become the person to catch a killer? Is the killer after him? Did he witness the murder? Is he a suspect and has to clear his name? With a bit more explanation I think this description can work.

I like the beginning of the book. I think it's well written. If it were me, I would cut the first two paragraphs and start with the woman's dialogue. I kind of feel like there's too much telling in the first bit, and I can infer from the rest what's going on. But that's a little nit pick. I would read on.

My best guess as to why this book isn't selling is the cover. A redesign would probably help this tremendously. What do you guys think?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Conflict of Interest


Author: VH Holland
Genre: Crime
How long it's been on sale: Since August
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Blog, twitter, website, advert in efictionmag, review copies out, mentioned on Forums and Goodreads, banner ads, Independant Authors Network etc.
Total sold so far: 0
Link to book on Amazon: Conflict of Interest

Product Description:

Work can be murder...

A new job, a fresh start, and things are looking up for Harry. Maybe going straight isn't so hard.

He didn't expect to stumble over a job aimed at his new employer, for the kind of money a crook could retire on. It should be simple enough: tell the police, let them arrest the criminals, claim a reward. Sorted.

Except Harry's not a snitch - and it's being organised by his mate... 

First 300 Words:

Climbing out of the small window was harder than climbing in had been, but then I now had the cash box under my fleece. Watching carefully through the small gap, I checked the alley was empty as best I could. Once the security camera was pointed the other way I slid my legs out, breathing in and forcing myself through the gap. The cash box dug painfully into my ribs, then went through. As my feet hit the tarmac I looked up at the back of the camera and grinned. Quickly I headed towards it, planning to wait while it panned passed the side of the alley and walk out in the blind spot. Then I just needed to turn the corner, walk to the little cash–let office I was working from and drop off the proceeds of my second break-in of the night. Simple.

"Gimme your money." OK, it should have been simple, but things so rarely go as planned. I stopped and looked at them. One of the risks of a job like mine - wandering around at night in dark alleys - was running into idiots like this. There were two this time, all designer clothes and attitude, waving these pathetic little penknives like they thought I'd faint. Usually I'd either have gone along with it or thrown a empty wallet in the street and given them a thumping for their trouble. Right now I wasn't just carrying my money though and, after all the fun this evening, I wasn't handing my haul off to anyone.

"Make me." I grinned, curling my hands into fists. Any excuse for a rumble. They actually took me up on it, I'll give them that. Too bad they weren't very good.

They both attacked together, but a step to the side put them in each others' way. 

Vicki's Comments: The cover isn't bad, however it does look like kids at school, so I get the impression that this book is about school gangs fighting or something. Since that doesn't jive with the description, I might find a different photo to use on the cover.

The description is pretty good, but I'm not sure what 'a job aimed at his new employer' means. How do you aim a job at someone? Does this mean the main character was mistaken for the boss? If his mate is organizing this, though, he wouldn't be mistaken, so I'd like clarification on this.

I also think the description should mention the length of this book. I believe it's a novella? It's very important to put this in the description, as people will be upset if they buy the book thinking it's a full length piece and it comes up short.

I liked the story, but I think there were some awkward things that could be tightened up. For instance, "The cash box dug painfully into my ribs, then went through." This reads as if the cash box went through his ribs. I would get some more eyes on this, maybe get a few beta readers or an editor, and see if it can't be polished up. The story itself is good. It starts with action, which hooks me. I want to read more to find out what happens next. I'm kind of surprised this book hasn't sold at all. I would tweak the cover, description, and give the text one more polish and try again.

What do you guys think?