Friday, September 30, 2011

Lodestone Book One: The Sea of Storms

Author: Mark Whiteway
Genre: Science Fiction
How long it's been on sale: July 22, 2011
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: All my books are listed on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords premium catalog. I am featured on Facebook and Twitter, (although I only have a following of three or four people!). I have my own website with regular news updates relating to the series. The website has two videos, one a short book trailer, the other a youtube video made by a reviewer who designated Book One their "Book of the Month". A more sophisticated, movie style trailer is currently being made.

I have done extensive research on Blog sites and made numerous pitches, as a result of which I now have over sixty reviews, all either four or five star. Most of these are posted on Amazon. I have entered a number of awards programs and now have some 16 awards to my name. I have done four blog interviews. I have done one library book signing and sold 16 paperbook copies of the first two volumes there. I have definite plans to do at least two more.

Total sold so far: Paperback 17; ebook 28
Link to book on Amazon: Lodestone Book One: The Sea of Storms

Product Description:

Ail-Kar, a white-hole portal from another universe, rains meteoroids onto the surface of the planet Kelanni. But the so-called "lodestones" behave according to different physical laws, transforming Kelanni's society. With the aid of the fearsome Keltar in their flying cloaks, the Kelanni are being put to forced labor to mine the lodestones.

Shann, an orphan with a fiery disposition, witnesses a battle between a Keltar and a stranger bearing a similar flying cloak. She tracks down the stranger, and learns of the technology behind the Keltars' power, joining him on a mission to free the slaves and cut off their supply of lodestones.

Meanwhile Keris, a Keltar, is sent on a mission to track down the rebels. She is attacked by a flying creature and saved by the enigmatic Chandara. At their Great Tree, she learns that a mysterious "Prophet" is out to destroy the Kelanni people. Their only hope is a powerful instrument hidden in the distant past.

Pursued by Keltar, the party will encounter bizarre creatures, ancient technologies and terrifying dangers. Finally, they must seek to cross a massive storm barrier in order to reach the other side of their world, where a world-shaking revelation awaits.

First 300 Words:

“He comes!”

A knot of a dozen or so Kelanni villagers stood in the market courtyard, eyes raised skyward. Dark clouds roiled overhead, and the rain was persistent, running down their faces and into their eyes, making it difficult to see. At the edges of the courtyard, almost melted into the shadows, were many others, pulled by curiosity and repelled by apprehension. In the centre, four downcast youths stood at either side of two laden wooden carts.

As they watched, a shadow moved across the expanse, growing silently, rapidly. It resolved into the shape of a Kelanni, dark cloak flared outwards like a bird with a single great wing. He dropped from the sky with a terrible grace and landed in the space before the knot of villagers, with the cart to his back, the cloak settling about his shoulders. He stood erect, raindrops trickling down his dark olive cheeks like false tears. Close cropped dark hair bristled on his scalp and down the back of his neck. His right hand grasped a dark wooden staff, diamond blades at each of its ends. His tail flicked from side to side.

He walked forward and cast the fold of his cloak to one side, lifting his left hand. The first three fingers were raised; the other two were bent downwards.

“Fealty and service to the Three,” he announced. His voice was hard, confident.

“Fealty and service,” chorused the group, raggedly.

“Which of you is headman?”

A middle-aged villager dressed in plain tan jerkin and breeches stepped forward. He was balding, with a thin, lean face and a thin, lean voice. “I am called Boran. May I know the name of Prophet’s Keltar?”

Vicki's Comments: When I look at the cover of this book my first impression is that this is a fantasy novel. I'm not sure why, maybe the colors. When I look closer, I see the picture is a ship and the name of the book indicates sailing. It almost looks like a middle grade novel when I examine it. I'm guessing by the cover alone this book is about being out at sea. But then I see it's labeled as Science Fiction. I'm wondering if the cover isn't giving readers the wrong impression. I'd also like to see a different font.

The description is bogged down with the unknown words. I'm wondering if some of these unfamiliar words can't be reworded. I mean, in the book I assume these words are introduced naturally and with space in between, whereas putting them close together in the description confuses me. Maybe leaving out a few of them would be better.

There are some awkward phrasing in the description. For example, "...are being put to forced labor to mine the lodestones." I would just say, "...are being forced to mine the lodestones." I think there are some instances like this that can be trimmed.

Also, after reading the description, I feel like too much information is trying to be portrayed here. I want to know the main conflict. What's the reason I should read this book? Give it to me straight, without all the extra stuff that isn't needed. But I readily admit I'm in the "less is more" camp when it comes to blurbs. Others might like longer descriptions with more of the plot disclosed.

Now, I didn't post the From the Author section here because I don't normally do that, but I would like to bring this up. The large number of obscure awards is a turn-off for me. When I research these awards I've never heard of, I find many of them are tied into vanity publishers or places that offer paid services like reviews for authors. This does not give me confidence in the book. I would take the awards off. I am also put off by the excerpt. I would much rather grab a sample of the book if I'm so inclined. The "wall of text" makes me not want to read any of it, which is definitely NOT what you want a potential customer to feel. 

The beginning of the novel doesn't have a point of view character, which makes me feel distanced from what is going on. I'd much rather start in the perspective of one of the main characters. I'm also not a fan of adverbs in dialogue tags. I'd get rid of the 'raggedly' and maybe show this.

I think with a little tweaking the beginning could grab the reader more. What do you guys think?


  1. Looking at the cover my first thought was Christian Fiction. It doesn't say Science Fiction to me at all.

    "Lodestone" calls up images of minerals, mining and compasses. So, I can see how that might tie into sailing, but it's a bit of a reach.

    I'd suggest a different, more techy, image to convey that this in fact Science Fiction, perhaps something with a compass? Although that might also give the wrong implications.

    The description is too long. My eyes glaze over when I see that much text in a blurb. I don't trust the author to be succinct. Give me about half that much text, and just the most pertinent details, and I'm more likely to look at it.

    The beginning is somewhat abstract in that there's no one there for us to really care about or identify with. It might be better cut the description of his sudden appearance down, and get right to the dialog and conflict.

  2. I'm not ashamed to say it, I judge books by their cover. Unless the book has a bunch of reviews that say it's a great read, if I don't like the cover I will pass on to another book. I don't like this cover. It looks amateurish & I can't read the title or the author's name.

    Now, Lodestone has a many great 4 & 5 star reviews. Usually I would stop and rethink my position on the cover. But like you, Vicki, "the large number of obscure awards is a turn-off for me."

    I also agree to the giant wall of text. I'm not sure if I'm the only one but I never sample. I look at the cover, read the blurb, check out the reviews and make a judgement call. If I like all three, purchase the book. If I don't, I will pass on the book until something else changes my mind (i.e. word of mouth, etc.)

    I would recommend trimming all the extra info in the product description and keeping it lean. If people want to read an excerpt, let them sample the book. Redo all covers for the series by researching covers of other books in the same genre so you can market them to the same audience.

    Good luck with your writing & wish you all success!

  3. I looked at the cover before seeing it was sci-fi. My immediate thought was fantasy and maybe even MG fantasy.

    Tighten up the blurb. It's too long and very awkward in places.

    On your product page, you list all these awards that mean nothing to readers. They are very distracting and even more so because they are in bold.

    You also don't need the excerpt. My eyes glaze over when I see that much going on.

    The beginning needs to be more concrete. I don't know what's happening and because there is no main character to focus on, I don't care.

  4. Cover - As a whole, the cover looks under-designed and unimpressive. The artwork is fair-ish, but it gives me the impression that this is for young children, and is possibly fantasy. It does not convey epic fantasy, science fiction, or older audiences.

    Description - Too long, too vague, too wordy. This is more of a synopsis than it should be, and it fails to get me engaged with your MC, whoever that is.

    Opening - Too vague, too wordy. Every sentence or phrase seems to have an extra word or three, and feels like it could easily be tightened as Vicki suggests. And the lack of a protagonists keeps me from getting engaged.

  5. Not loving the cover, I suspect the size may be a factor, but I feel like I'm being assaulted by a barrage of color. I thought it might look better larger, so I checked the "look inside" version of the print copy on amazon and it does to an extent, but there I'm put off by the visible canvas look which just makes me think of cheap mall paintings.

    I also noticed where the smaller thumbnails for books 2 and 3 show up in the "customers also bought" the title font is difficult to read.

    The description is very confusing as to the genre. Is it fantasy is it science fiction? (Yes the elements can be combined but this description does not do do a good job of it.)

    This sentence: But the so-called "lodestones" behave according to different physical laws, transforming Kelanni's society.

    Makes me immediately ask HOW? What do they do? But not in a I want to read the book to find out way, more of a you tell me right now or I'm not reading any further way. I think a reworked description which drops some of the detail (weird names, etc.) and focuses more on the essence would be more effective.

  6. It's SF? *blink* If so, neither the blurb nor the cover nor the excerpt would tell me that. The cover is very hard to read, I'm afraid. I can barely make out the author's name at this size; at thumbnail I don't know if I could make out the title.

    The writing needs tightening.

    The blurb is confusing. There are too many "fintoozlers" in it, if you know what I mean, words that YOU know what they mean, but we don't yet. :) Too much plot, not enough basic set-up and stakes, and far too long.

    Your sales are not bad for as short a time as it's been out there. That tells me that with some tweaking you've got something here. Good luck!

  7. Not only does the cover scream fantasy, it sounds, from reading the blurb and first 300 words, like it IS fantasy. I'd have a rethink about your category.

    I don't mind the cover. It works okay for fantasy. I would definitely change the font. It looks homemade and is hard to read.

    The blurb ... totally agree with Victorine. It's awkward, wordy, and with so many strange words it's just plain confusing.

    I would agree the writing needs tightened, but with 60 four and five star reviews, there are obviously many out there who enjoy it as it is.

    As for the awards? Unless your aim is to have a trophy wall of awards, forget wasting your time obtaining any more of them. The traditional publishing industry cares about awards (sort of). Certain circles of writers care about awards. Readers don't give a toss about awards. They really, really don't. They just want to read a good book.

  8. The cover is really cool and I like it as artwork, but for an Amazon thumbnail it doesn't work. The title needs to be larger than the series and the author name should be more readable.

    The book is listed as sci-fi but everything I see so far indicates it is fantasy or contemporary mixed sci-fi/fantasy. Even some of the reviews say it is fantasy.

    Which goes into my next point. The reviews are not credible. Most, if not all, of them probably never even read the book.

    Once you get into dozens of reviews, you will inevitably get some bad ones. They won't all be good. Unless you've paid for them. Since VL called the author out on the vanity press awards I'm inclined to believe most of the reviews are paid.

    Best suggestions are to keep sending it to book review sites. Change the cover font.

    I'd also change the price of book one to .99 and leave the other two at 2.99.

    If the book really is good then even trying to get amazon to make it free might not be a bad idea and letting fans buy books two and three.

    I'd also like to say that 28 ebook sales is not really that bad for a new author trying to find an audience. If it's good than sales will improve over time.

  9. The cover is awful. Does look like Noah's Ark story as Carl intimated in the first post. Also, the omniscient point of view is distancing. No immediate connection with any of the characters.

    The description itself makes it sounds like a very confusing story with a lot of different terms and peoples. I'd rewrite it to focus on the main characters of the story (there are main characters right?)

    "The world of Kelanni changed from free to slave when the lodestones fell from Ail-Kar, allowing the invading people to subjugate the Kelannis.

    The orphan Shann and a mysterious cloaked stranger band together to begin a resistance while Kelatarian Keris is sent out to subdue the rebels. "

    I feel like you have to give the reader recognizable concepts when you are trying to sell them on unfamiliar fantasy elements.

  10. Sadly many judge a book by it's cover. I did and almost didn't check out the book (though I am VERY glad I did). I made sure teo tell everyone I know about the books and when they saw the book cover it took A LOT of pursuading by me to get them to look past the cover and check out the actual story itself.

    I think some others have said the same thing...the cover should look more techy. Not super high-tech...but appropriate for the story.

    Thinking about it for a moment...maybe a picture of a desert enviroment and one of the towers with the sphere on top raised in the air and glowing. Down below it a battle raging between Keltar and soldiers. And then a few images of Lyrall, Shann and one or two others more up close. Maybe starlight near the top.


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