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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?

16 comments:

  1. I like the beginning and the blurb isn't bad. It could be tightened a bit as Vicki said. I agree with her comments on the cover. If the cityscape were futuristic looking, it would work but it doesn't strike me as that at all. You really need something that says science fiction.

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  2. Cover - Says "contemporary thriller" to me. The new one is better than the old one, but still broadcasts the wrong genre, and is pretty generic.

    Description - Decent, but again it's a little generic. I'd like some more plot details about the world or the hero.

    First 300 - Decent. Feels like an old noir detective novel more than a sci-fi thriller, but that's just a knee-jerk impression.

    I was also thrown by the 180-page length. Sounds very short for a novel.

    Also, it's been out for a year and only has 2 reviews. If you've given away 350 copies, I would think you would have at least a dozen or two reviews.

    Recommend a more appropriate cover, a more detailed description, and more reviews (somehow!).

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  3. I agree about the cover suggesting thriller. I prefer the second cover (although I'd lose the shadow man) but not for this particular book.

    The synopsis sounds quite intriguing and the first 300 words drew me in.

    I'm guessing if you've been focusing on writing there's another book in the pipeline? Maybe rejig your cover and drop the price a little to entice people to try that book and hopefully the next one as well?

    Good luck :)

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  4. Blurb needs tightening but not much--not really fond of the "much more to lose and much farther to fall." I'd like a little more detail myself.

    The main problem with both covers is that the silhouette is too low contrast to its background. I know you're getting "more sci-fi-ish" as the main comment, but it sounds like the main genre isn't sci-fi so much as thriller so the original cover might still be reworked. I don't care for the alternate cover at all.

    The excerpt is quite good.

    And Joseph is right, you really need more reviews. Have you submitted to book blogs? Usually those folks will cross-post to Amazon and Goodreads.

    Good luck, this book even as-is should be doing better than it is.

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  5. I think the biggest problem is that there's no overall hook. If you had to describe the central conflict of the story in one or two lines, what would they be? Like, how is the external conflict mirrored or complimented by the internal conflict? In this case I'm not even sure what the internal conflict is here, so it's not a must read, or even a must sample.

    Probably an example might be helpful here...The most immediate parallel that comes up for me is Minority Report. They catch killers by using precogs to tell the future, and he's one of them (or something), and foresees himself committing murder.

    In other words, why is your hero, in particular, framed? Why him? Why not some other dude? What's special about your MC? Why is the worst possible thing that can happen to him, specifically?

    Tell us that, and I think you have a more compelling pitch.

    Hope that helps.

    Genevieve

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  6. I like the concept of the story, but I never would have guessed what it was from the cover, so I'll add my "vote" for a revised cover. If you stick with the original cover, try shifting the source of the rays to be behind the figure's head and shift the color scheme to blue/cool rather than the current warm colors. (Just an idea to play with...)

    Given the length, you might consider lowering the price, although the KDP breakpoint for the 70% royalty being $2.99 does weigh on that decision. If you have a follow-on book, though, I agree that lowering the price of this one could help sales of both. In any event I think the book should be doing better than it is, so keep up -- and diversify -- your marketing, or find a marketing student to help you out at a reasonable cost.

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  7. The new cover is approximately one-million-trillion times better than the old cover.

    The blurb and excerpt don't really appeal to me, the "caster" job seems really corny to me, and the opening reads kind of corny as well. But hey, you don't have to appeal to everyone.

    Title: Okay, here's a possible problem. Your blurb is SF-thriller, but your title screams christian fiction to me. "Grace" on its own is heavily loaded with religious connotations, and the entire phrase could be lifted right out of a sermon. Maybe it is christian fiction and that's just not coming across in the blurb, but the mismatch may be costing you potential readers.

    On the length/pages thing, I don't think it's a problem. While there are some people who do seem to want to buy their entertainment by the pound, there are plenty of us who wonder where the hell he editor was and why he wasn't doing his job whenever we see a new 1000 page doorstop issued.

    As for this 250 word per page standard that Vicki mentions, I've seen this often repeated online, and I don't buy it. It might be an approximation of a double spaced manuscript page in courier, but I don't buy it as representation of a printed page. 350 seems closer, but word-per-page density can vary hugely between even mass market paperbacks, much less trade and hardcover books. These days, with epublishing I tend to favor including a wordcount in addition to or instead of a page count estimate in the product description.

    ~200 page books used to be quite common, and sub-300 pagers still are in some genres. They were the norm when I was younger. It's more recent that longer works seem to have become the norm particularly in SF/F, and again, I blame this largely on publishers cutting back on the editing staff who used to tell the authors to cut the boring crap out.

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  8. The cover says mystery/suspense to me. The second cover is only better because it's more eye catching. I know the shadow figure is supposed to be the guy falling from grace, but I don't think it adds at all to the cover.

    The blurb is okay. However, when you say "his agent is killed," I have no idea what an agent would be to a broadcaster. That throws me out of the blurb.

    Again, in the first 300 words, you mention an agent and I still don't know what that is. I think the beginning just needs a little clarity.

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  9. Lone voice of dissent: I didn't think the first 300 words was strong to keep readers. It had some good moments and I enjoyed the humor, but it was choppy and did not flow.

    I was intrigued by the premise, but thought the blurb had some weak points as well.

    Cover on this one is tough. New one is better but it still may not be evocative enough to sell books. What are the covers like for the top sellers in your genre?

    This part here is where the excerpt fell apart for me:

    “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."

    1.Lack of details on the job. I don't understand the character's motivation to tune out details of something that is so important to him. Further, it is a great opportunity to build the world, adding little tidbits to hook and orient readers to the casting thing. You could also establish Tyler's voice and humor here so readers get to know the protagonist.

    2.The transition from where Tyler isn't listening to the attack is abrupt and jarring. It needs to be smoother. A few more details in the setting, better integration of dialogue and setting and an overall better flow of events would help.

    3.The gun. I don't follow. Is it something Tyler has or hasn't seen before. Is it a known of the world? I'm confused on its place in the world and its context.

    4.Don't give too many details. Pick Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers, not both. It's not vital for both to be included and it distracts readers with extra info they don't need. Excess detail bogs the story down and can kill an action scene.

    I thought the story sounded interesting and I liked your voice, but I think there are some craft issues that may be holding the novel back.

    M

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  10. In the blurb, you say:

    "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."

    But right up front in the story, you say:

    "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."

    So he's already lost his job and been black-listed, it's not something that happens at the first of the story, as the blurb leads me to believe because of the tense it's stated in.

    Reword that part of the blurb would be my suggestion. I think the first cover has a more sci-fi feel than the second, but the second one is more eye-catching.

    Also, you might do another run through looking for mistakes.

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

    A) That just reads awkwardly (to me).
    B) That should be a period, not a comma.

    Manny probably knew what the answer would be, but Tyler nodded. "They're fine."

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  11. TBH I didn't get past the cover or the blurb. Nothing about either cover says "sci-fi" to me. Event the title doesn't put me in the right genre. I see the word Grace and a body in a halo of light and my first thought is, "Oh, another fallen angel story. Moving on!" That sub-genre is popular right now (usually filed under paranormal) and it doesn't grab my attention.

    For the blurb, don't start with Caster. For me that word is a fantasy/paranormal word and it means "spellcaster" - My eyes glazed over right there and I found I didn't care. I couldn't get past the fallen angel cover and "Caster" on curiosity alone.

    My list of fixes:
    - find a copy editor and get the typos fixed

    - find a good cyberpunk cover and get your cover inline with what the genre expects

    - start the blurb with the character's name and a description, and then define him as a caster

    Nit-picky Nonsense:
    - Because I write I think of everything in terms of word count. Page number has little meaning for me, word count means everything. I would like to know what this word count is because 180 pages... is that single-spaced or double? TNR 12-point font, or Arial Black 18-point font? Including something like 180pages/45000 words might attract a few more readers.

    - Nowhere does the author mention a web presence, social networking, or anything like that. Self-publication is all about promotion and getting people to talk about your work. If you're hiding in a corner, no one will know the book exists. It will flounder without word-of-mouth. So get on the social networking, meet people, maybe take the new cover and freshly edited copy out for a blog tour. Get people talking (in a good way).

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  12. The second cover is only better because it's more eye catching.

    I don't agree with Margaret on this. The new cover looks professional. The original cover, to be blunt, looks amateurish, the sort of thing I'd expect to find on a badly written .99 cent book.

    Now whether the cover is appropriate to the content is another matter. The consensus seems to be no, and I can't really disagree. The image of the falling man on the cover seems to have more to do with the title than anything described in the blurb, and see my own earlier comment and Liana's as to the appropriateness of the title.

    I don't have the same problem with "caster" as Liana does, but that may be because I don't read much UF, and I recognized the description immediately as an old cyberpunk trope. Raphael Carter's The Fortunate Fall is one example where it's used. I'm too lazy to think of others at the moment.

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  13. Anonymous caught the most glaring error in the excerpt and gave the fix. As Liana recommends, have a professional copyedit the book for you.

    But this isn't a science fiction book. This is is a thriller, a murder mystery, maybe -- depending on later developments -- a detective story. It has that kind of blurb, that kind of storyline, and that kind of feel in the first 300 words. It's a thriller/murder mystery/detective story that happens to have some sci fi elements. So that's your main genre.

    One other nitpick: "The invader filling the doorway was trouble." No shit, sherlock. I seriously doubt Tyler is thinking this right after the glass doorway has been shattered. On the other hand, the line does have a classic noir detective feel; still, I'd lose it, unless you go back to word one and build Tyler to be a cool-as-ice balls-of-steel guy who can stand there, unfazed, and think "that guy looks like trouble, but I think I can take him" when someone shatters a glass door and points a gun at him.

    But I think your absolute main problem is that you've miscategorized this book. I'm a sci fi lover, and this book doesn't grok as sci fi to me.

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  14. I'm with Michelle. For me, the writing needs more energy, both in the blurb and in the excerpt. Forgive my bluntness, but I don't think this works: "“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."
    If you start a book with a quotation, I like it to be something far from pedestrian. Why do I care if a character I don't know has been offered a job? If you start with a quotation, I think the idea must be surprising or interesting. Next, 'dancing a jig' is a cliché. My sense is that you should try to come up with something more fresh. Just some suggestions. Good luck.

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  15. I have read and enjoyed the book. I would describe it as "sci-fi noir." I'm a fan of the old cover, but actually NOT of the proposed new.

    I'm surprised to hear that sales are so low. I had no idea! I do agree that the cover does not give the right impression of the genre. Also, Richard has written several books about these characters and yet does nothing in the title or cover to tell you that this is a series. I think that's a mistake.

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  16. I'll agree on the cover - not Science Fiction. It DOES feel noir to me, I would guess I crime thriller based solely on the cover. I think both covers are decent, the second one looks more professional, but the sparse nature of the first one is not uncommon for noir.

    The first 300 words, however, make it clear that this is science fiction. So I would say you gotta go with a science fiction cover. 99% of the people who saw the cover and were looking for noir, would stop after that 300 words. I don't think the reverse would be true if you had a more science fiction cover.

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