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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Alain Gomez: The Eclectic Mix


Author: Alain Gomez
Genre: Short Story Collection
How long it's been on sale: 6 months
Current price: $.99
Total sold so far: 0 (Only gifts given.)
Link to book on Amazon: Alain Gomez: The Eclectic Mix (3 complete short stories)

Product Description:

A collection of three complete short stories written by Alain Gomez.

Titles include:

A Model Railway Man - Working on his model railroad set is more than just a hobby for John Wilson, it's his desperate attempt to fix the ghosts of his childhood. But his obsession with his creation may have an unexpected side-effect...

The Sacrifice - Set during the Spanish Civil War. The Captain of a naval vessel is sent away on a secret mission to destroy an enemy fort. Before he leaves, his fiancée begs him not to go. But he tells her he would give his life to protect Spain....

Celebrity Space (Part 1 of the Space Hotel Series) - Set in the not too distant future, a worker hopes that his new job at the spaceport will allow him to get his life back on track. While taking passengers to the space hotel "Moonwalk", a collision with an unknown object brings his dreams... and possibly his life... to a screeching halt.

Short Stories, approx. 6,500 words total

First 300 Words:

“Don’t go!”  the young woman begged.

“I must” said the Captain.

“Why?” she demanded.

He looked at her resolutely.

“Spain needs me.”

His resolution made her back down a little.

“I need you” she said weakly.

“I would sacrifice my life to protect Spain.  So that I know you are safe.”

He took her in his arms and bent his head to kiss her.  After a pause he released her and left.

****

“It is a perfect day to sail, Captain.”

The Captain turned and acknowledged his first mate.

“Indeed it is” he said.

“God has blessed our voyage.  The enemies of King Ferdinand must die!”

The Captain smiled.  His first mate was young; perhaps too young to be on a mission such as this.  But the Captain knew that men on this ship were handpicked for their zealous loyalty to Spain rather than skill.

“It is a suicide mission” the Captain thought.  One ship assigned to destroy an entire enemy fort.  Their only possible hope was the element of surprise.  The King knew that even rumors of a Spanish fleet setting sail would put the enemy on guard.  He wanted this fort destroyed as quickly and as bloodlessly as possible.

“One ship” he had told the Captain.  “One battle in one night.  If you do this you will earn the gratitude of Spain and be compensated accordingly.”


Vicki's Comments: The author did tell me that there are three stories in this collection, and each story sells individually, but the collection isn't selling. I'll do my best to give my opinion as to why.

Cover: The cover doesn't appeal to me. Since this is the first thing people see, the first thing that draws them in, it's one of the most important things. I would definitely try a redesign.

Description: The way this is done, with short descriptions of the stories in this collection, I think is fine. I would tweak the description for The Sacrifice, to me the description doesn't have any draw. I would want to know what the major conflict of the story is. With some tweaking, I think it could be much better.

First 300 Words: There were quite a few things that jumped out at me while I was reading the sample. I highly suggest joining a critique group to help tighten up the writing. I'm a huge fan of critiquecircle.com. I think running these stories through a crit group a few times would greatly improve them. Also, this needs an editor.

My best assessment on this is the writing needs to be tightened first, and then the cover needs to be changed. With a few minor adjustments, I think this collection can start selling.

What do you guys think?

28 comments:

  1. Thanks for your insight, Vicki.

    Per a suggestion you made on someone else's book a while back, I did rearrange the order of the stories in the collection. So it now starts out with a stronger story.

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  2. I agree with Victorine about the description for "The Sacrifice." It basically summarizes what the reader quickly discovers for themselves about the story within the first 300 words.

    Also, if the worker from Celebrity Space has a name, you might consider using it in the description rather than "a worker." You could also just use a more detailed description of his job, like "A shuttle driver," and you could use a few action words in the description describing the collision, such as: "A collision with an unknown object *threatens* to bring his dreams, and possibly his life, to a *tragic* end."

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  3. I think the first 300 words are in the shaky range. There are a couple of easy fixes, like absent commas, overuse of adverbs, and talking heads, but I think the story has larger issues as well. I second Victorine's advice for a critique circle. Getting a really in depth line edit is a brutal kind of experience, but if it's done thoroughly, it's also enlightening as well. Additionally, critiquing other people's work really is one of the best ways to strengthen your own writing. I feel like it's helped me, anyway. :)

    That said, I imagine selling short story collections is an uphill battle in any case. Best of luck, Alain, and keep at it!

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  4. Thanks, guys. I completely agree that it needs some editing. The Sacrifice was my first short story. I have just be negligent in that regard.

    Still, what I find confusing (and Vicki mentioned this)is that all of the stories in this collection are available as 99 cent standalones. And they all sell. In fact, I have only sold copies of The Sacrifice thus far this month.

    The descriptions you see are the same descriptions that are on each standalone (I agree The Sacrifice one could use some polishing). You would think that people would go for the option to get 3 for the price of 1...?

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  5. The first 300 words are weak, to be frank.

    There are other problems. I would be put off by the cover, but the sample would be a deal breaker for me.

    Begged and demanded as speech tags and the missing comma after "I must" would send me immediately on to something else, I'm afraid. We all have slip ups, as a reader I wouldn't look further. It is serious need of a line edit. As VJ said, this can be a brutal experience but a necessary experience.

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  6. I'm guessing the cover of The Sacrifice is what is catching the eye of people. Also, once a book sells a few copies, it gets on the "also bought" lists of other books, and it gets more attention than the book that hasn't sold.

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  7. If you can find a way to tie the stories together in some sort of colorful way for the cover, I think that would definitely help.

    I question the connection between the stories, though. Is there a connection? It looks like a somewhat-random set of three very different stories. If that's true, then readers may not be interested in the collection, since the odds may be high that only one story will appeal to them. (Whether they then find that story and buy just that one, or dismiss everything and move on, is impossible to say.) I think successful collections have some relevant aspect that ties them together -- all about cats, or following a certain character, or at least all being within a certain genre (and ideally a niche within a genre). (For what it's worth, this is probably why I haven't sold a single copy of my collection of short stories either.)

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  8. All three have twilight zone type twists to them. Hence the cover. Perhaps I should explain that more clearly in the description?

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  9. Ah, now that's an important detail!! Definitely explain that better. And if you do keep the Twilight Zone swirl, change the font to make it more like the Twilight Zone font because the current one doesn't say TZ at all to me. Now, I don't know if you can reference TZ by name, that's something to look into.

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  10. Oh! I wasn't getting that at all. The cover makes sense in retrospect, but I didn't make the connection before. I think this definitely needs to be highlighted.

    I'm sure there are trademark/copyright issues regarding the Twilight Zone name, but if you can think of a quick connecting hook that can be worded the same way for each of your stories (much like "Next stop, the Twilight Zone!"), that would help the potential reader "connect the dots" and have some confidence that if they like one story they may like all of them.

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  11. I was worried about that too which is why I did not originally put that in the description. I was hoping the cover would help convey that...? Lol. Fail.

    I'll play around with the font. Good idea.

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  12. Between the title, cover image and descriptions, I did wonder if you were going for something TZ-ish. But I don't think any of the elements are working hard enough. I felt that the descriptions were too vague, and I agree that the writing can be tighter.

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  13. Agree--would be interesting to see the links between the stories detailed in the blurbs to show how the collection IS a collection. It's also kind of simplistic, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but to some readers "simplistic" might look amateurish. At least, I've seen people say that about simple covers before.

    With excerpt, check for missing commas, talking heads, unnecessary speech tags, etc, as everyone else already mentioned. Good luck with any tweaks you decide to make!

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  14. I totally missed the Twilight Zone connection. I don't think the phrase "The next stop..." shouldn't be included in any copyright/trademark. I'd consider that as a title (and double check with someone more knowledgeable to be sure I'm right)

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  15. ... would be included in any copyright/trademark is what I meant to say.

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  16. I like that! I looked it up and it's not copyrighted.

    In the description, I'm going to add something about "interesting twists." Hopefully that will complete the twilight zone train of thought.

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  17. Redo the cover as everyone has suggested. Maybe split the cover into three equal sections that contain parts of the other covers and maybe raise the price to $1.99 and advertise on the pages of the others that there is an anthology available. That might give the look of value to purchase it as you can get all three stories for the price of two.

    As it stands it just looks like another book and unless you really look hard you wouldn't know that its those three in one.

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  18. I wanted to see many more setting details in those first 300 words. Where are they? What's around them? Also I'd like to see sensory details - smell and sound - and see some point-of-view thought and reaction.

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  19. Yes, the Twilight Zone is known for those sharp twists at the end, so going in the "twist" direction sounds like a good idea. And if you can make the cover convey that, and the blurbs embellish, you'd establish a strong connection.

    I agree that the first 300 need some editing.

    You say your standalone stories are selling well--have you gotten any reviews or feedback that you can analyze? Perhaps there's some element that will translate to the collection.

    Best of luck!

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  20. Alain, If you go to the image site Dreamstime, they have a free section with lots of cool spirals. Some are fractal spirals as well. You might find just what would work well for your cover. Best of luck to you. I love twist ending stories!

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  21. Alain, I have the same problem with my collection. It has three stories that sell alone a lot better, but I also included four new stories. The first story in the collection is flash fiction and I used the cover from that.

    While it doesn't break any records, it sells pretty steadily. It's got 63K words and sells for $1.99.

    Besides changing the cover and tightening up the writing, you might think about adding a few stories that aren't available separately.

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  22. The cover is indeed not good at all. It's just dull. Please change it up, and if you keep the spiral concept, add something more than just black and white. It works on a black and white TV show, not so much on a cover image without much other interest to it.

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  23. I'm going to stray a bit from what others have said and say that I kinda like the cover, at least the spiral image but the stark white on black font is not to my liking.

    I also agree about the first 300 words. The blurbs were interesting, but then the actual writing fell a bit flat. As others have said, just needs some tightening up.

    I find it interesting that the standalones are selling but people are not buying the collection. That seems kinda strange, particularly zero sales in 6 months.

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  24. I understood the TW zone cover right away but I don't think most people would. You should probably replace it.

    The blurbs were fine but if you're going for a TZ type story then maybe the blurbs could be improved to convey a twist ending better.

    The writing needs a lot of work. If this was your first story then hopefully you've gotten better with time, but this should never have been published before being edited.

    Besides having numerous grammatical errors the dialogue was very wooden. I was unimpressed.

    You shouldn't ever publish something that is not ready. People can say they didn't like your story, that's fine, you can't please everyone. But no one should ever say they didn't like your work because it was shoddy and filled with grammar errors. Based on what I actually read, I'd be reluctant to buy anything from the author.

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  25. The Twilight Zone cover is going to be most effective with people age sity or older. I'm not sure how many of them Kindle. I'd think about going with something colorful to catch the younger generations.

    As to the title, it doen't tell me anything about the book other than that it's a mix. If you're gonna stick with the "mix" at least tell the reader what theme he can expect like "The ceepy mix" or whatever fits.

    The only one of the blurbs I find effective is the last one. The first two don't tell me anything about the story, just the setting. I know Rod Serling used to say stuff like that, but thise were lead ins to the programs. That's much different from a blurb.

    As for the prose:

    “Don’t go!” the young woman begged.


    You've got a battle of dialogue tags at the beginnig here. I get that you need to indicate whether the "Don't go!" is a plea or a command, but you're wasting the word "begged" structuring the sentence the way you did. It does't convey anything beyond clarifying the dialogue. I'd think about giving the reader something visual that does the same thing which pushes the reader's senses into fray right off the bat. Something like:

    The young woman put her palms together. "Don't go!"

    Or brown eyes welled up, or anything that starts building the scene in the readers mind and still identifies the dialogue as a plea and the woman as young.

    “I must” said the Captain.

    comma after "must"

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  26. Part 2:

    “Why?” she demanded.

    No need to indentify the "Why?" as a demand, the begging in the first line and the question mark are sufficient, and since you haven't introduced any other characters, the reader assumes she is the one talking. That makes the dialogue tab superfulous and intrusive. Slows the story.

    He looked at her resolutely.

    “Spain needs me.”

    The narative and dialogue lines above belong in the same paragraph. Again, it's dry exposition. Resolutely could mean a million things. I think the "Spain needs me" conveys the sense that he's resolute sufficiently. Again, I'd think about going with someting that animates him. It doesn't have to be him putting his hand over his heart when he says it or anything, but maybe he can look out at the sea, or look at...okay, I was going to bring up something you mention in that first section and have him look at it, but there's nothing. It's a blank scene with no setting. We have no splash of color, no form, no clue as to where it happened. The only thing I'm wondering is why bother even showing the dialogue occurring if you're going to put it in a vacuum? If you're not going to paint the scene so the reader can see it, smell it, taste it, then you're better off summing that part up in the narrative with something like "Breaking up with her had been hard on the Captain." And give another line about the agony and the pain in here eyes or something and then jump right into the next scene. You're feeding the reader dry tastless toast. All the reader knows is that it's bread. They parted. That's it.

    His resolution made her back down a little.

    “I need you” she said weakly.

    Need a comma after "you." First "resolutely", and now "weakly", you're using adverbs as a crutch. Again, I'd think about giving the reader some sense of the sound. "The thin words ended in a whisper" You have to give the reader visuals, sounds, smells, the five senses, or it reads like assembly instructions to a lamp.

    “I would sacrifice my life to protect Spain. So that I know you are safe.”

    He took her in his arms and bent his head to kiss her. After a pause he released her and left.

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  27. Part 3:

    ****

    “It is a perfect day to sail, Captain.”

    Dialogue dangling in air. Even with the following narrative, it doesn't necessarily tell the reader that it was the first mate who spoke these words. You are leaving the reader to make assumptions, and assuming the reader will make the assumption you think he'll make. The more you leave up in the air, the more you leave vague, the greater chance that some reader will make the wrong assumption, or won't want to make an assumption, and will put the book down. It's not a big deal to say "Said the first mate" and then in the following narrative say "The Captain acknowledged him." That way there's no confusion.

    The Captain turned and acknowledged his first mate.

    Also, when you're talking about the captain, and mention the first mate in the next breath, you don't need to use "his" because the reader will assume its his first mate, you can use "the" and it will be less visible. The word "the" is far less noticible than the word "His"

    “Indeed it is” he said.

    Need a comma after "is"

    “God has blessed our voyage. The enemies of King Ferdinand must die!”

    The Captain smiled. His first mate was young; perhaps too young to be on a mission such as this. But the Captain knew that men on this ship were handpicked for their zealous loyalty to Spain rather than skill.

    “It is a suicide mission” the Captain thought. One ship assigned to destroy an entire enemy fort. Their only possible hope was the element of surprise. The King knew that even rumors of a Spanish fleet setting sail would put the enemy on guard. He wanted this fort destroyed as quickly and as bloodlessly as possible.

    You had a good thing going in those paragraphs above, they were good. Then you threw in the "bloodlessly" and the reader gets mixed messages. In one paragraph, he's telling the woman he loves that he'll do anything to save her, and in the next he's worried about how much blood he might be forced to spill to protect her? It feels like too much. Like the author is going out of his way too far to make the protagonist sympathetic because a sympathetic protagonist couldn't possible condone bloodshed of any kind even if it meant saving his beloved. If I was protecting the woman I loved, I wouldn't give a crap about the blood I spilled proecting her honor and life. And 99% of the readers will feel the same way. Now, wanting to avoid bloodshed of his pwn men is a different story. But that's not what's conveyed here.


    “One ship” he had told the Captain. “One battle in one night. If you do this you will earn the gratitude of Spain and be compensated accordingly.”

    Comma after "ship." Also, I'm getting tense confusion here. A second ago he was talking directly to the first mate, now all of the sudden the reader is thrown the "had told" which conveys a timeline that the words in the dialogue referenced happened prior to the events which are described in this scene. He "had told" him something a while back. Not "he told" him something. You barely gave the reader a glimpse of their conversation, then jumped right into a conversation that happened in the past. You're jumping all over the place here.

    Anyway, good luck with this, and take everything I say with a grain of salt. I am just another aspiring author, and no authority.

    I was excited to get to this because One of the trunked WIP's that I'm getting to immediately after finishing my current one has a heavy does on Spanish history. I think it's intriguing and I love finding someone with a similar interest.

    Take care.
    Fred

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