Friday, November 11, 2011

Crowded (Deep River High)

Author: Shaina Cilimberg
Genre: Christian Teen
How long it's been on sale: 2 months
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Twitter, Facebook, Blog
Total sold so far: 2
Link to book on Amazon: Crowded (Deep River High)

Product Description:

Cole Martin is trying to live for God, even though he made a mistake that costs Emily Davis and her parents' trust in him. Now, he is making every attempt he can to win her back. Josh Summers, the new boy with a dark past, also has his sights set on Emily who seems to enjoy the flirtation for a while until things get ugly. 

First 300 Words:

Cole was ignoring the chatter of his classmates before history class started, when the cell phone beeped.  Everything inside said to turn the phone off, but the unwillingness to wait until lunch period took over. A sext from Tanya.  The prettiest cheerleader in the school. That wasn’t really nice, considering one of Cole’s friends was a cheerleader. Still, it was the truth.

When Cole was baptized last month, he became a Christian and truly wanted to to change everything for Christ. The moment Cole typed a message about wanting sex with her and pressed “Send”, he realized it was a mistake. This would ruin his relationship with God and with his new girlfriend. Things had been going so well between him and Emily Davis.

Last night

A candle flickered in the small, dimly lit Italian restaurant. Cole Martin inhaled the final slice of pizza and waited for Emily to finish chewing her last bite. Then, he got a wad of wrinkled money out of his stained jeans, which Emily always had compliments on.

Putting it on the table, he said, “I’ll pay for it.”

Emily asked, “You sure?”

Cole fingered the checkered table cloth. “Yeah. I had a job at the guitar shop this summer. My treat.”

A smile lit up her brown eyes. “Thanks.”

Then, Emily groaned, “I hate that summer’s over.”

Cole chuckled in agreement.. “Yeah. Maybe we should protest the start of school.”

The next day, Cole rested his head into skinny arms on the desk before class started. He made sure the cell phone was turned off, just in case anyone else tried to sext him. That way, there wouldn’t be a temptation to once again fall into and lose another night of sleep over.

Emily walked up to Cole’s desk.   “We should go 

Vicki's Comments: The cover needs work. The photo of the teen at his desk doesn't feel like a book cover image. It doesn't give me the genre at a glance, although I do assume this is a book for teens, so you've got that going for you. I would try to make the cover look more like other book covers. I would also change the font, and the font color.

The description isn't bad, I think it could explain a little more about what's going on. It's a bit vague, and when I'm trying to decide on what to read, vague descriptions aren't that helpful. What mistake did he make? Did he cheat on Emily? Did he get drunk at a party and do drugs? What does 'things get ugly' really mean? I'd like to know a bit more.

There are some good things in the beginning, however I think it needs some work. I would join a critique group and run at least the first few chapters through to tighten up some of the prose. There's a story here, I like the premise of it, but I do think it needs some polishing up.

What do you guys think?


  1. The cover need work. If I saw that, I'd pass right over it. Even the author's last name is barely visible. Second note is--it's a Christian book, which makes it a niche genre. Nothing wrong with that, but don't expect the same sales as a hotter/broader genre.

    The wording in the pitch is a bit jumbled. the author may want to consider putting out a second edition after having an editor go over it. (And by that, I'm not talking about a proofreader who just comments on grammar and punctuation)

    The opening is packed with a lot of internal and not a lot going on. The writing is awkward and the POV could be deeper and the writing style more active.

  2. I try to decide what genre the cover is trying to portray before I look at anything else. With a teenage boy on the cover, I knew it had to be YA. However, the author's name blends into the photo and the title is bland.

    The blurb needs to be punched up. It's too generic. Nothing in the cover or the blurb says that this is a Christian story and that should be made clear.

    There were some errors in the opening and I would also like to see a tighter focus. I was confused when Cole said Emily always complimented him on his stained jeans and that caused me to fall right out of the story.

  3. The cover needs help. The photo might stay if it were worked a little differently, but the font and its color must go. As others have said, I can't even read the author's name. I don't get Christian out of the picture at all, either; I get "Ferris Buehler's Day Off." Which, for all I know, may be the point. :)

    The blurb isn't specific enough. I don't know enough about the story to want to continue.

    The opening needs a much tighter focus and, to be honest, is a little heavy-handed on his conversion--that's the part that stood out the most to me in the Showing Not Telling Sweepstakes. :) Rather than to state baldly that he has been baptized and wants to live his life in a Christian manner, I'd rather see his struggles to do that; that sounds like the meat of the story right there, so let's get to it. There is a lot of telling here, and the flashback is jarring. I'd workshop this or hire a development editor.

    I'm sorry, I don't think this book is ready yet. You've got something, and a series about teens facing contemporary stresses in a Christian context will probably do well for you, but this book shouldn't lead your series off as it stands now.

  4. I agree that the cover needs work. It could pass for a non-fiction self-help book for high schoolers as much as a novel. And I can't make out the author's last name at all with the green and blue.

    There's one big typo in the description. "Sights" should be "sites" (someone is in your "sites" like a gun site).

    If the audience is Christian teens, I think the story is opening up in a way that doesn't create sympathy. I immediately dislike him. He's freshly baptized, and almost immediately turns his back on that? And on his girlfriend? He's not the kind of MC I want to hang out with for an entire book.

    That said, I believe his struggles are ones a lot of teens face. If you can find a way to make Cole truly sympathetic--and show us his struggle rather than having it come across that his commitments really don't mean anything--then you''ll hook your readers. The first page is not the place to turn them away.

  5. @Annette - The author is correct, it is "gun sight" and "set your sights" because it refers to visual sight, not a location "site".

    Cover - I also think the photo could be salvaged with some photo editing, but that the text is very poor. Need a better font, color, and layout. But it might need something to indicate the Christian focus as well.

    Description - Way too vague. He made "a mistake" and now he will make "every attempt"... tell us what is really happening in this book. What is the major conflict? What are some major plot points? How is this book unique compared to every other teen romance?

    Opening - I think the writing needs some polish. Such as:

    "A sext from Tanya. The prettiest cheerleader in the school. That wasn’t really nice, considering one of Cole’s friends was a cheerleader. Still, it was the truth."

    This is a very awkward way to say that Cole was ashamed of himself for saying that Tanya was prettier than his friend on the squad.

    You have a duplication typo:

    "truly wanted to to change"

    Strange line:

    "his stained jeans, which Emily always had compliments on."

    It's been a few years since I was a teenager, but I don't remember any girls frequently "complimenting" any boy's "stained" pants.


    "Cole rested his head into skinny arms on the desk"

    How about, "Cole rested his head on his arms on his desk."

    Other - I recommend trying to get some reader reviews posted.

    Good luck!

  6. I think there might be one additional problem here. This is clearly a book targeted at a Christian market, but I am wondering if the parents of Christian teens (who are often very involved in the media choices of their children) will want their kids to read a book that has references to "wanting to have sex with her" and "sexting" on the first page. I am sure it is a dilemma that Christian youth struggle with, but you are going to have to be very careful at how you present this. I would focus first on his beliefs, and then add in the struggle later. This might be one exception to the "start things off with a hook" rule.

  7. I would be hard pressed to know what would appeal to a Christian audience although such an audience absolutely exists. I agree that this cover just doesn't do it.

    Well, I pretty much find myself agreeing with Vicki and the others down the line. I think the first 300 is particularly problematic. Not only does it start with a huge info dump, it contains several typos. While frequently slipping in one's beliefs might be sympathetic, you haven't even shown that they are very sincere or deeply held. Perhaps if you had shown his conversion and his struggle NOT to fall, it would have built a more sympathetic character.

    I'm afraid that I would suggest withdrawing the novel, get some good critique partners to work out the problems and then re-publish it. On the other hand, congratulations on having the courage to put it out there in the first place. It does take courage and no one should fault that.

  8. Can't read the author's last name at all, that's not good!

  9. I agree with the others on the cover. The photo is too generic and offers no mood. Maybe find a photo with an expression that suggests the angst, anger or whatever emotion the mc is experiencing. Set a tone for the book. And watch your fonts and colors. Not good if they can't read your name or the title.

    I also think the blurb needs tweaking. I understand it is a faith based book, and we need more faith based books, but what does God have to do with getting Emily back? If you are going to use faith, make it specific to his struggle. Maybe because of Cole's choices he loses the trust of his parents and Emily and finds himself struggling to find the narrow road back to faith and redemption.

    Good luck with it.

  10. Hi Shaina,

    COVER: I don’t get the relationship between the image on the cover and the story, mostly because the kid is wearing dark sunglasses indoors. That suggests he has something to hide or that he’s a social outcast.

    PD: It’s a little confusing. I get that Cole is a convert who made a mistake that he’s trying to make up and that he has a competitor for his beloved’s affections (i.e., Josh). But then you drop a bomb about Josh doing “something ugly,” which tells me that Cole wins because the new guy turns out to be a bad seed. That doesn’t help the tension: you should probably just say Josh has a shady past and leave it at that.

    FIRST 300: It needs work. You’ve got “class” and “classmates” in the very first sentence, for example, and it should be “his” cell phone, not “the” cell phone. Like others, I had to read some lines a second time to figure out what you meant.

    Good luck.

  11. My first thought on the cover was that I couldn't see the author's last name. And sometimes there is a disadvantage of showing too much of a character's face. Overall, it just looks like a regular snapshot, not a book cover.

    With the blurb, I'm not sure if the main character is Cole (which I assume) but then when you put Josh in there, I wonder if he's going to be the main character. If you write if from Cole's perspective, it might work better.

    In the first 300 words, I thought: What in the world did the sext say? Even if you don't want to spell it out completely, maybe you can do enough that we understand what's going on and what the cheerleader is really like.

    Best of luck!

  12. There was a good article on recently about 'sexting' and all the other terrible things that teens are doing. Spoilers: they're probably not.


    On the one hand, yes, there are probably many parents out there who are terrified by sexting. But on the other hand, these things tend to be replaced very quickly, so your novel runs the risk of looking very dated in a year or two.

  13. Maybe you could try and find a font for the front cover that looks like a text message.

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  15. Plato, thanks for the blurb suggestion. Cole is embarrased and a social outcast. They all are.

  16. I think you pretty much got it right. I would definitely go with a critique group, the first paragraphs didn't do enough to keep my attention, though the story is intriguing.

    I just stumbled onto this blog, and I love the idea of it! Such a great idea, very helpful.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  17. The first thing I noticed was that I can't see the author's last name because it blends into the chair. You should also made the title larger and a different font.

    The image of the boy really isn't working. It looks too much like a candid photo. Perhaps you should have a closeup of a hand holding a cellphone since that seems to be the main source of drama in the story. Perhaps with cheerleaders at a locker in the background.


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