Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Place Beyond the Map

Author: Samuel Thews
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: This book was submitted on July 12 and was only for sale 1 day when submitted.
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: None listed.
Total sold so far: 1
Link to book on Amazon: A Place Beyond The Map

Product Description:

Phinnegan Qwyk thought he knew everything there was to know about fairy tales. But when the notorious Faë Periwinkle Lark snatches him from his cozy home in Ireland to a Place-Beyond-the-Map, Phinnegan discovers that reading a fairy tale and living in one are two altogether different things.

When Phinnegan escapes from the mountain prison of Féradoon, he must travel a treacherous path riddled with dangers both fair and foul - where the wild hounds of the Faolchú await a single misstep and gholems stalk their quarries unseen from the shadows. Forced into a daring match of wits with a beautiful troll, Phinnegan may find the way home if he wins – but if he loses, he will be her pet. Forever.

First 300 Words:

Phinnegan Qwyk drummed his fingertips on his desk, oblivious to the hair-raising screech of chalk grating across an old blackboard as Mr. Rowlands scribbled arithmetical figures. Phinnegan had always disliked the cold, unforgiving nature of numbers, even on an ordinary day - and today was anything but ordinary.

No, today was special – or at least it would be once the final grains of sand trickled from top-to-bottom in the large hourglass seated on Mr. Rowlands’s desk. Phinnegan had never understood why it was called an hourglass. The ornate timepiece held three hours of sand, not a moment less or more. At home, Phinnegan’s mother used a similar glass to time her baking, but it ran through in a neat half-hour. The term “hourglass” wasn’t appropriate for either.

But whatever it was called, Mr. Rowlands began each morning with one “run of the sand” before allowing the children a break for lunch and recess. The afternoon likewise consisted of a single run of the sand, which, much to Phinnegan’s pleasure, was at an end.

As the final grain slipped through the narrow waist of the glass, Phinnegan sat straighter, anticipating the dismissal of the class. Mr. Rowlands was always prompt in ending his classes, reasoning that he had once been young and knowing full well that such restless minds would ignore him once his time had run its course).

Today, however, Mr. Rowlands seemed not to notice.

Phinnegan waited a minute, then another, and then a third.

Any moment now.

But the screeching continued, as did the drone of Mr. Rowlands’s mundane voice. On an ordinary day, Phinnegan would not have cared in the least. He did not mind school as much as many of the other pupils.  But as the moments passed, not a single schoolmate sought to inform the teacher of the time.

Vicki's Comments: Okay, it's kind of silly to submit a book when it's only been selling one day. I probably should put in the rules some kind of time limit on how long a book needs to be out before I'll critique why it isn't selling. But since this doesn't seem to be going like gangbusters from the current rank, I'll give it a whirl.

I love the cover of this book. I think it's perfect. It tells me the genre at a glance, it draws me in and I think it's well designed. Great job!

The description can definitely be improved. This probably is hurting sales the most. The first paragraph tells me that fairy tales aren't that great to live in. It also tells me the main character gets snatched and taken to a land beyond the map. Out of those two things, the snatching is most interesting, but not the first thing mentioned. I would cut the fairy tale stuff and focus more on the hook of the story, the kid being snatched, taken to prison and escaping only to find himself on a treacherous journey.

I'm also put off by the hard to pronounce words. If I'm put off by it, the target audience might be too. Phinnegan is okay, but how do you pronounce Qwyk? Faolchú is a mouth full too. I might suggest changing some of the hard to pronounce words, or at least keeping them out of the blurb.

The writing was good but the book starts a little slow. There's nothing going on. But if I were reading this I probably would keep going to see if something happens soon. I did enjoy the writing. Just a couple nit-picks. If the main character is oblivious to the screeching, don't put it in. He's oblivious to it. Just a minor point of view violation. The other nit-pick is that there's a stray end parenthesis after course. There's no starting parenthesis. This makes me think this might need an editor. (I know, mistakes happen even with an editor, but if this wasn't edited by someone else I might suggest hiring someone.)

And, lastly, middle grade is probably a tough sell for an ebook. I would suspect middle grade will sell better in the future as more kids get ereaders, but right now I think it's mostly adults who own them, and while I know adults who read young adult books, I don't know a lot of adults reading middle grade books.

What do you guys think?


  1. Alright first off, I can't say this enough: I'm in ABSOLUTE LOVELOVELOVE with that cover!!! It's like everything I heart about the MG genre and Tim Burton, all rolled into perfection. :D

    The story sounds like a classic faerietale. The author obviously is comfortable with Welsh and northern English spellings (hence the, erm, lack of vowels lol), but that goes along with the genre. It's worked for decades now with the Chronicles of Prydain (anybody remember Fflewddur Fflam?), but I do think perhaps you should tone it down a wee bit for your international audience.

    I took a gander over at the Amazon web page and it shows you have two pretty good reviews, lots of Likes and a decent number of tags. I do not, however, see a print edition of this book and that may be hurting your sales.

    MG on Kindle (or any ereader) is a tough sell, mainly because very few parents would trust a rambunctious adolescent with an expensive toy like that. Get it out through at least CreateSpace; parents buy print books for their kids online and this cover would attract more than your fair share of them. :)

    Otherwise, I think you've got a great thing here! Look into the print option, perhaps tone down the spellings a tad (that's up to you however), and keep up the great work. Hope this works out for you!!!

  2. Personally I think this is going to do just fine. Give it a little time to find an audience and do some marketing for it and with any luck sales will come.

    I'm scratching my head though, wondering why this would be submitted after a day. Unless this was part of a marketing strategy, which really isn't what I believe Vicki had in mind for this site (sorry I'm not trying to put words in your mouth), it just boggles me a bit.

  3. Agree that the cover is spectacular. I also love the title, which is full of mystery and promised adventure.

    The blurb worked for me, but I think Vicki made some good comments about that.

    The first 300, though, need some serious editing. EG: you could cut "hair-raising screech" because "chalk grating" says it all. Don't need "old" to modify blackboard, unless it's an important point. "scribbled arithmetical figures" is needlessly unwieldy. Don't need "fingertips" because fingers will do (how else do you drum them?).

    I think you overuse adjectives, diluting the effect. EG: "Phinnegan had always disliked the cold, unforgiving nature of numbers..." I'd ditch the "cold" because "unforgiving" is such an unexpected and great modifier here and "cold" just gets in the way. Also, perhaps look at excesses like "had always liked." How about: Pinnegan hated the unforgiving nature of numbers....? BTW, that really intrigues me--why does he hate them, and what does that portend?

    I think this kind of tightening will help the pace--especially for middle graders.

  4. Submitting a book for a site like this after it's bee on sale for one day makes me wonder about the author's motives. Are they just looking for publicity and not feedback?

    I think there definitely needs to be a time limit before submission. 4-6 weeks at least.

  5. The writing needs work, especially for the age group. Over wordy, over descriptive, too flowery, meant more for adults than the middle grade audience.

    The names didn't bother me. Sound pretty standard for Irish fantasy, though I suspect significant push-back from American audiences (not that names should be changed for that).

    Outstanding cover. Perfect for doing print as well.

    Blurb paragraph #1 is good, lost my interest in paragraph #2.

    Overall, feel like this submission was an attempt to draw interest to the book, as opposed to addressing an underlying issue for the book selling/not selling.

  6. The first thing that jumped out at me even before I read Vicki's comments were the names. Now they are obvious and unique so you wont confuse Angela from Alyssa, but I would hate to be the parent trying to read this to a child or have them bug me every other page with questions.

    The book cover and the content say this is a grade/middle school book, but the language used is far far beyond that.

    The cover alone will sell copies of this book. Clean up the blurb and edit out the mistakes like the stray ) at the end there.

  7. The cover is absolutely perfect and the blurb isn't bad. Maybe a little tightening up especially if you're hoping to reach MG readers. They don't have a huge attention span and you need to grab them right away.

    I found it intriguing enough to send a sample to my MG grandson. I don't know when he'll read it, but I'll let you know what he thought.

    Overall, MG is a tough sell on kindle. I agree that you should put out a print version.

  8. Good cover, very reminiscent of Nightmare Before Christmas. I thought the description could flow better. When I got to the second paragraph, it felt as though the description was starting over. The writing in the first 300 words is good, though I tend to agree with Krista that the kid sounds older than a mid-grader.

  9. One day after going on sale. Please. That's a request for publicity or a request for a critique that should have been done in editing.

    Still, it's here.

    The cover is AMAZING. I love it.

    The blurb is ok. The writing is good too. I even checked my children's word lists and all the words the author uses are within the MG reading levels.

    The biggest problem I see with this book is that it's an ebook. I just don't see MG books doing that well in an ebook format. Until ereaders become so cheap that parents buy them for younger kids on a regular basis then I really believe that MG books must be distributed in paperback/hardcover to be really successful.

    Maybe I'm wrong, but I just haven't seen any really successful indie MG ebooks. YA books are the earliest age ebooks have been really successful, but that's because teens have superior access to ereaders than their younger siblings.

    P.S. I'd make a minimum three month rule for submissions. Anything less is just not long enough and even three months is too short imo.

  10. Love the cover. And the title is enticing. I did find the title a little hard to read, and almost thought the font was elementary. I did like the unusual names but like Vicki, wasn't sure how you would pronounce them. I would definitely read on to find out what happens. Hopefully you will have a print version forthcoming and that will help sales. I too, wish MG sold as well in e-book form. Good luck!


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