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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Explorers of the Unknown


Author: Jason Krombine
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
How long it's been on sale: April 1, 2009
Current price: $.99
Total sold so far: 32

Product Description:

Comic Fiction/Romance/Family/Comic books Family can be rough some times. It can be even worse when you work together. Brothers Matt and Nathan Roman are the crack creative team behind the comic book sensation: Explorers of the Unknown. Matthew writes the words. Nathan draws the pictures. It was the perfect combination, until Matt came back from his honeymoon to find Nathan transformed into a comic book creator diva and sleeping with half the town's female population. 

First 300 Words:

“I’m going to kill him. I’m going to rip him to shreds. No, wait, I’ve got something better. I’m going to pull his entrails out through his nose and then wrap them around his neck, choking out whatever little life might be left in him. That’s what I’m going to do. I want you to imagine the most painful death possible and you may come close to imagining what I’m going to do to him,” Matthew Roman stormed into the offices of Awesome Comics. He was oblivious to the presence of the three people sitting in the lobby, one of whom was the new intern by the name of Sam Donavon. But even if he had been aware of the people, it was unlikely that Matt would have tempered his rage-filled monologue.

Jillian Fields effortlessly slipped out from behind her front desk and into Matt’s path blocking his entrance into the bullpen. She held up “While You Were Out” messages. “You have messages.”

Matt looked at Jillian and then at the messages. “I’m on a warpath here, I have no time for messages.”

“First,” Jillian continued, ignoring him completely. “Joe Turner called, said he had that ‘thing’ for you. He wouldn’t elaborate, so therefore I was forced to imagine the most absurd and potentially disgusting thing possible. Does your wife know that you’ve ordered a life-size photo of Princess Leia? In the metal bikini?”

Matt peeked around Jillian at the empty hallway. Then he looked at Jillian. Then back at the width of the hallway. Jillian was by no means a fat woman, and Matthew himself was equally lacking in girth, but there was no way he could get past her without some kind of physical contact, which, of course, would lead to all sorts of awkward and potentially legally

Vicki's Comments: First, I really like the cover. I think the graphics are great. The problem for me is the cover makes me think I'm buying a comic book, and not a book about men who create comic books. I had hard time figuring out the genre on this book, and I think the cover might be adding to that genre confusion. Sometimes people tag their books with the genre, so I checked out the tags. "Christian Fiction" and "Chick Lit" didn't seem to fit your description, so I would probably tweak your description to match the genre.

And I also noticed you start your description with a few words that look like tags. I would take that out. You only have a few seconds to grab the attention of the reader, so make your description hook the reader and pull them in, wanting to read more.

I liked your first 300 words, but I think you could benefit from an editor. (You don't need a coma after dialogue unless you have a dialogue tag.) I'd also do a check on all adverbs. If it's repetitive, cut it. (ex. Effortlessly slipped. The word 'slipped' tells us she got up effortlessly, so you can cut the weak adverb.) I might run this through a critique group just to tighten it up because I think it can be a very good story.

Overall, I think your worst problem is genre confusion. I think I would try a different cover to indicate the genre better. If this is christian fiction, I would look at other christian fiction covers and try to emulate them to communicate the genre better. If that tag is wrong, I would try to get it removed or have people down vote it, and then make the correct genre clear in the description and cover art.

Now your turn. Why do you think this book isn't selling?

17 comments:

  1. I agree about the cover, Vicki. I automatically assumed this was a comic book and probably wouldn't have even bothered reading the description or a sample (I'm not into comics).

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  2. Personally I like the cover. As a comic book person I can tell that it's vintage art and not likely to be a comic on the inside.

    The main problems I can see are the blurb and the sample. Vickie's right, you need an editor. It's not tragic, it's just not as tight and polished as it could be.

    From the blurb I don't understand exactly why Matt is upset at his brother. Is Nathan cheating on someone? Is their comic a Christian inspirational that will suffer if it becomes known Nathan can't keep it zipped? What's really at stake here? And what is a comics creator diva exactly? :)

    Good luck!

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  3. (First-timer here.)

    I feel like there's a lot of repetition in the first 300 words. At one point, the word "messages" comes up 4 times in 4 consecutive sentences.

    I'm a little confused about the genre as well. Is it supposed to be Christian Fiction? Based on the product description I wouldn't say so. I like the cover, but I can see where it might confuse someone.

    The wording in the product description gets me too. "Matthew writes the words. Nathan draws the pictures." It sounds callow. "Matthew writes the script/dialog and Nathan illustrates" would sound better to me.

    I think putting it through a workshop group is a good idea.

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  4. I agree with much of what's been said so far. I think workshopping the book would be a great place to start.

    The cover doesn't work for me, I'm afraid. I love the art, but it not only looks like you're selling a comic book, but one from the 1940s or so. You can use elements of a comic, a la Kavalier and Clay, but the current cover doesn't signal fiction clearly enough and definitely says retro.

    I'm with the others on the blurb confusion. It's not clear to me who the audience is or what the actual story is. From the retro cover art I was expecting a period piece.

    I'm big comic book fan, and there are lots of us, so you have a large potential audience if you can shore up the issues.

    Good luck!

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  5. It looks like a great book! I might just change the cover. I thought it was a comic book the second I laid eyes on it. I think if you change the cover and tighten everything up, you're going to get lots of sales. This looks like a interesting read! : )

    Chrissy

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  6. I have a suggestion for the cover. Why not go the same route as "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" The brother who is going to be in the transported into the comic can be depicted in this classic comic art style while the rest of the cover is more photo-realistic.

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  7. Editing is definitely needed. Commas are missing everywhere. However, I don't think that explains why the author has only sold 32 copies in 2 years.

    I agree that there is a mixed message coming from the book. The cover, the blurb and the sample send three very different messages to me. This is a shopping turn off. I at least want to know what genre I'm investing in.

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  8. The 1940's vibe came through to me loud and clear from the cover. I didn't think it was a comic book, but I definitely didn't think I'd find Contemporary Fiction inside.

    The blurb needs a clear hook.

    I agree with the other commenters that this book would benefit from a critique group.

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  9. I also think the cover might be detrimental in reaching a wider audience.

    I would have passed right by it, as I thought it was an illustrated comic novel.

    But I loved the first lines of the blurb. I could just picture the way this guy said it and it made me chuckle. It reminded me of Dennis Leary in The Ref threatening his dull witted partner in crime. It pulled me in and generated interest for me.

    Many more here are better suited to helping with the blub so I won't speak to that, but I would definitely do something different with the cover.

    Maybe put the pics in very small blocks around the edges of the cover and put a more comtemporary image in the middle.

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  10. While I'm a huge comics fan. (and I love the cover). I think your cover might not be the best it could. There's a bit too much going on and I think it's confusing potential readers.

    Perhaps focus on one very strong image instead. Also the blurb is ok, but maybe could be more exciting. Are the brothers competing for a the attentions of the same girl? If so, make that the main focus of the blurb. That's the kind of tension people look for in a book!!

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  11. I'll admit I was confused by the cover and the description. I went back and forth a few times before getting to the 300-word sample, trying to understand what I was looking at. Admittedly I'm doing this at the end of the day so maybe it would have been more obvious if my mind was sharper. Anyway, the very same cover could work if you made it obviously a work in progress -- for example, remove the color from all but one frame, show a pencil or something like that laying on it, or a hand drawing it, maybe rotate it so its corners run off and have a table surface under it. I think it's eye-catching artwork, but the fact that it's about creating comics (or people who create them) rather than a comic itself needs to be instantly obvious.

    As for the story idea and the sample, it looks pretty interesting to me. I have to question why there was such an abrupt change in the brother who is suddenly sleeping with half the women in town, and not necessarily in a want-to-read-more way but more of a that-seems-unrealistic way. I think following the suggestions already posted before my comment would help quite a bit for letting potential readers know more about what to expect from the book. Best of luck with it!

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  12. In addition to the cover looking like a comic book, which makes me think the book is for kids, I see several problems with the prose. This isn't the most effective place for critique, but I'll try some on here.

    “I’m going to kill him. I’m going to rip him to shreds. No, wait, I’ve got something better. I’m going to pull his entrails out through his nose and then wrap them around his neck, choking out whatever little life might be left in him. That’s what I’m going to do. I want you to imagine the most painful death possible and you may come close to imagining what I’m going to do to him,” Matthew Roman stormed into the offices of Awesome Comics.

    In that section above, there are 5 repetitions of "going to." I can understand some for emphasis, but it gets distracting.

    Also, the dialogue occurs before the narrative, so as far as the reader is concerned, he says all those things, and THEN storms into the offices, leaving the reader to wonder who he was talking to in the first place.

    He was oblivious to the presence of the three people sitting in the lobby, one of whom was the new intern by the name of Sam Donavon.

    The first part led us to believe that we are in Matthew's POV. If we are, then when you say that he is oblivious to the people sitting there, it is impossible for him to identify who is sitting there. He can look at them and choose to ignore them, but being oblivious implies that he doesn't notice them.

    But even if he had been aware of the people, it was unlikely that Matt would have tempered his rage-filled monologue.

    This sentence pulls the reader out of the POV character's head. It is inconsequential. The dialogue you opened with is sufficient to express what kind of a mood he's in, the reader alreany knows it's a rage-filled monologue from the rage-filled monologue, and telling the reader what he would do if something were different is at this point uninteresting to the reader. Id consider cutting that line altogether.

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  13. Part 2:

    Jillian Fields effortlessly slipped out from behind her front desk and into Matt’s path blocking his entrance into the bullpen. She held up “While You Were Out” messages. “You have messages.”

    In the above, the act of slipping is inherently "effortless" so putting in there that she slipped "effortlessly" is redundant. Describing her desk with the possessive "her front desk" implies she has a front and a back desk. That happens sometimes, but if you're going to go out of your way to identify the desk as her front desk, the reader will wonder why, and what's the difference between the front and back desks. I'm not sure you want the reader to be doing that. Maybe just "slipped out from behind her desk" would be more effective of a visual. Also, you need a coma after "path"


    Matt looked at Jillian and then at the messages. “I’m on a warpath here, I have no time for messages.”


    “First,” Jillian continued, ignoring him completely. “Joe Turner called, said he had that ‘thing’ for you. He wouldn’t elaborate, so therefore I was forced to imagine the most absurd and potentially disgusting thing possible. Does your wife know that you’ve ordered a life-size photo of Princess Leia? In the metal bikini?”

    In the paragraph above, you tell the reader that she ignored him completely, then you go on to show her talking to him, which is incompatible. She can ignore his words, but she is clearly not ignoring him completely. I love the last two lines. Very funny.


    Matt peeked around Jillian at the empty hallway. Then he looked at Jillian. Then back at the width of the hallway. Jillian was by no means a fat woman, and Matthew himself was equally lacking in girth, but there was no way he could get past her without some kind of physical contact, which, of course, would lead to all sorts of awkward and potentially legally

    And this leaves me with a strange sense of the setting. The first paragraph in which you indicated that he "stormed into the offices of" gave me a visual that he was already in a part of the building where there are offices and that he was trying to get into a specific office. Now the mind has to back up and it appears as though that phrase really meant that he stormed into the building, because there are corridors behind Jillian he wants to reach. But if that's the case, then I'd think about expounding on what effect her standing up and cutting him off has on his physical location by adding a brief one line setting to the line where she stands up. Something like "She slid out from behind her desk to put herself squarely in his path between the desk and the wall." Or however you're envisioning it.

    Anyway, I'd think about submitting your stuff to a critique site like CritiqueCircle.com or Scribophile, and it would help cut down on these kinds of nit picky problems that add up and make the reading experience less enjoyable for the reader.

    And, as a disclaimer, I'm just another slob who's an aspitiring author, so take my advice for what it's worth.

    Take care.

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  14. I too had the wrong impression from the cover and since I'm not a comic book or graphic novel reader, I would just assume it's not my cup of tea.

    However...I absolutely loved Michael Chabon's THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY. (Kavalier and Clay being the creators of superhero comics) Just checked those covers. The hardback has a cover with superhero artwork and the title/author in big font on top. If I recall correctly, I read the book because of the great reviews (the cover would not have enticed me). What's interesting is that the paperback cover is totally different. It let's the reader know this is a story about the creators of superhero comics.

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  15. The cover led me to expect a non-fiction treatise on the history of comic books...not a novel.

    Also, there are issues in the writing that need to be addressed, but I think others have covered them well and given some good suggestions (having the book critiqued, for instance). So...I'm not sure anything I'd add to the discussion would be of help.

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  16. I get the cover, and I like it, and I think since it's about comic creators, it works fine. Adding the words "A Novel" would probably help make it more clear that it's not a graphic novel or similar, and would be easy to do. But the blurb is awkward with the tags at the front, and I think the writing in the sample is a little rough still. Much of what is pointed out in Fred's comments is along the lines of what I would say. It's been a couple of years; now's a very good time, with some distance, to go over the book and look at it with fresh eyes, doing some edits and cleaning it up.

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  17. Thanks for everybody's comments. I agree that the cover's probably not the best for the book. My wife and I are brainstorming a few other ideas, but we're finding it's hard to come with something that's not going to seem misleading to the reader.

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