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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Priscilla the Great


Author: Sybil Nelson
Genre: Middle Grade
How long it's been on sale: 6 months
Current price: Free
Marketing: 2 blog tours, twitter account, facebook fanpage, newsletter, speaking engagements at schools and libraries, contests, giveaways, Kindle Nation Daily, Pixel of Ink, Daily Cheapreads
Total sold so far: 172
Link to book on Amazon: Priscilla the Great

Product Description:

Meet Priscilla Sumner, an ordinary seventh grader with extraordinary gifts. As if middle school isn’t hard enough, not only does Priscilla have to fight pimples and bullies, but genetically enhanced assassins trying to kill her and her family. Armed with wit, strength, and a genius best friend, Priscilla must defeat the Selliwood Institute, an organization dead set on turning children into killing machines.

Add an older brother annoyingly obsessed with Christina Aguilera, mischievous baby twin brothers who could scare the sin off of Satan, and parents more puzzling than a Rubik’s cube in the Bermuda triangle and expect a smoking page-turner!

This award-winning novel is currently being pitched to Disney, ABC Family, and Nickelodeon as a major motion picture. 

First 300 Words:

Chapter 1

Captured!

I awoke tied to a chair. My eyes felt glued shut. I struggled to pry my eyelids apart. Once open, I shut them again as quickly as possible. A ridiculously bright and obnoxious light glared in my eyes, totally super-sizing my already painful headache.

“Holy hot dogs!” I said, borrowing my best friend’s catch phrase.

“Good morning, Priscilla. Welcome back,” an eerie voice said from … from everywhere. The deep, sinister voice surrounded me as if it poured out of the walls. I recognized that voice. I knew that man was evil!

“Good morning? I don’t see what’s so good about it. My head is killing me and that light you’re shining in my face makes me want to dig my eyes out with a spoon!” I yelled into space.

“Sorry about that, Priscilla. We were trying to revive you. You’ve been out for a number of hours.” The light faded away, allowing me to open my eyes fully without performing spoon surgery. There wasn’t much to see. I sat in a stainless steel chair in the center of an otherwise empty stainless steel room.

The walls were smooth and cold-looking. Even the chair felt cold. I shifted in my seat, trying to warm up my butt cheeks.

“What do you want from me?” I asked, trying to hide the desperation in my voice. I mean, I was really scared. I’d been kidnapped. Really kidnapped. I wondered if they’d done that Amber Alert thing for me.

“You’ll find out soon enough.”

And then silence.

A few minutes later, a huge dude with an even huger gun walked into the room from a door I hadn’t even noticed was there. It was almost like he’d melted through the wall.


Vicki's Comments: Even though this is free and "selling" quite well right now, I'll go ahead and leave my comments on this as if it weren't free.

I like the cover. I think it works well for middle grade. There are a few things going on with the notebook paper behind her that might be distracting, but I don't think it's an issue. I'd give this cover an A.

I like the description, but I think it can be improved. The description implies that Priscilla has magical powers but they aren't explained. That's one of the biggest selling points, IMHO, so I would make it clear if she can in fact make fire come out of her fingers, as the picture on the book implies. I also would make it more clear what the story is about. When Priscilla does X, then Y and Z happens, rather than tell what her family life is like, if that makes sense. I want to know what the conflict of this book is, and what happens.

The actual writing is good, although it's a bit dramatic, but I honestly haven't read middle grade books since I was in middle grade so it might be in line with that genre. I think the story starts with a bang and it does hook me and make me want to read more.

I did notice this book shows that it normally is priced $3.99. That might be an issue for a middle grade book which is generally shorter than full length novels. Once it's not free, I suggest pricing a bit lower, and then making sure the description tells what Priscilla can do that is magical.

What do you guys think?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Misguided Souls of Magnolia Springs


Author: Olivia Darnell
Genre: Paranormal Romance/Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: 2 years
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Facebook and Kindleboards a little
Total sold so far: about 400
Link to book on Amazon: The Misguided Souls of Magnolia Springs (Volume 1)

Product Description:

A small town in Southeast Texas undergoes a remarkable series of changes when a couple of out-of-towners move in and open a tea shop in a rundown building. Everyone in Magnolia Springs is soon abuzz about the proprietors of the New Castle Gift Shop as it becomes apparent that something is unsettling about Mr. and Mrs. Aliger. A power company lineman, a police sergeant and a number of otherwise mild-mannered, country-fried characters try their hands at interpreting the strange actions and unusual behavior of their new neighbors.

Things become curiouser and curiouser as the Aligers set up shop and begin making their rounds amongst the locals. Just why have they come to Magnolia Springs and what is on their hidden agenda? Could it be that the fate of the entire world might lie in the hands of a few unsuspecting souls in a sleepy little Texas Town?

First 300 Words:

“You are a hateful bitch, Mary McDaniels. From now on, when I see you in town, I’m going to cross the street to keep from speaking to you!”

A loud clunk indicated that the conversation, if it could be called that, had ended. The hum of the dial tone affirmed the fact. Mary Catherine McDaniels had never been so insulted in her entire life. She held the heavy, black receiver out in front of her, frowning at it as if the instrument itself had turned on her. She gently placed the offending item on the cradle of the antiquated phone, pushed her gold-rimmed glasses up a long nose and raised both white brows in consternation.

“Hmmmph!”  She grumped and pursed her puckered, pink lips and drew in a deep breath, placing one hand over her rapidly beating heart.

“Who was that?” her nephew, Tyler McDaniels, asked from his perch on the edge of her green Formica dinette table. He had just finished pouring up two cups of steaming water from a white porcelain teakettle.

Aunt Mary took on her favorite long-suffering expression as she perused his face momentarily before answering.

“Mildred Morris,” she spoke the name as if it would cause her to have to soak her dentures an extra hour just for having said it aloud.

“Again?” Tyler asked and turned to begin unwrapping the Earl Grey tea bags. He placed one in each cup, dunking them until they sank to the bottom amid brown swirls.

“Again!” Mary nodded.

“Same old story, huh?” Tyler asked and pushed one of the cups across the table in front of her as she lowered her fragile body into one of the heavy chrome chairs.

“The very same.” She toyed with the little paper tag on the tea bag, raising and lowering the tea leaves in the hot water absently as she stared out the window. 


Vicki's Comments: The cover is definitely giving me a different message than it should. I don't get Paranormal Romance or Fantasy from it at all. The title doesn't even suggest the genre, which might be part of the problem as well. I would suggest a redesign of the cover and a possible revisit on the title. I know it's kind of messy to change the title after it's been out for so long, but Lee Goldberg did it on several of his books and the sales improved quite a bit. (Heck, if Lee can do it, that pretty much gives us all a free pass to, right?)

The description did make me wonder what the book is about, but not in the way it should. Right now I wouldn't buy it because I don't know enough about the characters or what they are doing. I know something isn't right about the Aligers, but I would like to know more before investing in the time to read the book. What strange actions? Are they preforming magic? Are they trolls? What is up with them? And if this is a romance, I don't get any sense of it at all in the blurb. A romance between who? What's the conflict in the romance? If the romance isn't central to the plot don't market the book as a paranormal romance.

I could see some areas in the writing where it could be tightened up just a bit. The point of view strayed a bit here and there, and personally I like a story to have a firm point of view character. I also felt like some of the details could be trimmed down a little. All in all I don't see a huge problem with the writing.

I'm guessing the major issue here is the cover art. I would also suggest a different font. With a different cover I think this book could do very well.

What do you guys think?

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Book of the Nine Ides


Author: Benjamin Goshko
Genre: Occult, Science Fiction, Short Story
How long it's been on sale: 1 Month
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: I have marketed the book through my twitter page, by posting links to it in author/writing related forums, and I have posted several free short stories and fan fiction novels/novellas on fanfic.net and other forums with links to my e-book. I always use the penname SentientSurfer.
Total sold so far: 12
Link to book on Amazon: The Book of the Nine Ides

Product Description:

After spending four years in a juvenile psychiatric facility, Ashley Minden, a sixteen-year-old gender dysphoric, has been released back into her family's custody. While the transition to home life and high school would be difficult for any teenager, Ashley has the added burden of being a conduit of Qualkhoikhom, a mad god, who gives her the eyes to see a terrifying, hidden world. Now, Ashley must either find a way to escape Qualkhoikhom and live a normal life, or succumb to her delirium, becoming the mad god's final sacrifice. 

First 300 Words:

I am Ashna, final conduit of Qualkhoikhom. I feel him flow through me like water, yet I do not drown. My body shakes, vision blurring with each passing breath, and I cannot breathe. These white walls close in but cannot contain me. Nothing can contain me. When I shift, all barriers cease to be.

Ashley twitched. A muscle spasm, somewhere deep in her lower back. The impulse made her curl her toes. She placed her foot against the wall and straightened them out, feeling the cool of the concrete radiate through her sock.

A two foot long, green centipede slithered across the floor, next to her cot, shimmering. It quickly disappeared into a tiny triangular gap between the wall and the floor.
Ashley rolled over on top of her blanket, trying to find a position that would relieve her headache. Her skull throbbed with built up pressure and the sudden movement made her feel like she was about to vomit. She dry heaved. Her body tingled for a moment and then went cold.

Qualkhoikhom is coming. I'm going to shift soon. . .

"Minden. Number 1050." A guard peered into Ashley's cell through the narrow slot used to feed her. His voice echoed loudly in the cramped, concrete cube. "Come over and cuff up. You have a visitor."

Ashley glanced at the guard through the little door slit. Officer Cole. He was just a pair of navy blue eyes and a wiry, grey mustache. She sat up slowly, buttoned her yellow jumpsuit, and slipped on sandals. She then backed up against the door, putting both hands through the slot.

Cole fastened handcuffs around her wrists. Ashley was used to the feeling and didn't react. Once he let go, she stepped away from the door and scanned her cell. She noticed a brief flicker of movement on the floor; the feelers of the centipede. It was still hiding in the crack.

The door whined loudly as Cole pulled it open, a grating screech of metal on metal.

Ashley took a step out, onto the tier.

Vicki's Comments: There are a lot of things about this book that are confusing to me. First, the author named on Amazon is "Benjamin Goshko" but the name on the cover of the book is "Sentient Surfer." The author admits to advertising under the pen name of SentientSurfer, but since the book isn't searchable by that name on Amazon it might be confusing people. Also, I prefer pen names that read like actual names. The Sentient Surfer might be putting people off.


Second, the title confuses me. When I think of Ides, I think of The Ides of March and the ancient Roman calendar. This doesn't make me think of the occult or science fiction.


Third, throwing in the occult with the science fiction might be confusing the genre too much. People who like the occult might not necessarily like science fiction, and visa versa.


Fourth, I don't see anything in the description about this being a short story, and yet it's submitted to me with that as one of the genres listed. (It's also been tagged short story.) If this is indeed a short story, it needs to be clear in the description. I would also strongly suggest the price be lower than $2.99, but without knowing the word count I can't say for sure. I would put the word count and number of pages in the description no matter what the length, but especially for a short story.


The cover isn't horrible, but it is kind of plain, and I would change the font. It's too hard to read. With the cross genre, it's going to be hard to find a graphic that suits both.


I actually liked the description. To me it gave the right amount of information with a hook to draw the reader in. I don't think I would mess with it too much, other than to reveal the word count and page count.


The writing was good. It drew me into the story and made me want to read more. I probably would cut both instances of 'loudly' but that's just the adverb Nazi in me coming out. I'm much more brutal with other people's adverbs than I am with my own. Ha.


In my opinion this book needs a lower price and a new cover. I think with those two tweaks this could do much better. I would also suggest making the author name match what's on the cover, and if at all possible use a pen name that looks like someone's real name.


What do you guys think?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

FOR EVERY ACTION There Are Consequences


Author: Gail M Baugniet
Genre: Mystery
How long it's been on sale: 3 months
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Daily/Weekly Mentions on Twitter, Facebook, and personal blog; one library appearance; hand out business cards;
Total sold so far: 12
Link to book on Amazon: FOR EVERY ACTION There Are Consequences

Product Description:

Pepper Bibeau's insurance investigations for a Wisconsin-based company sometimes involve a murder, but she never thought she would cause one.

Days before the 1968 Democratic Convention, Pepper arrives in Chicago to settle questionable medical claims for an elusive doctor. Her assignment also includes a background check on a life insurance beneficiary who admits to stabbing his wife.

When a close friend is killed, and Pepper is hospitalized after an unprovoked attack, a homicide detective decides someone wants to put a stop to her investigations. For her safety, he suggests she return to Wisconsin, but Pepper is determined to learn why her insurance investigation has stirred up a tragic chain of events. What she discovers are the devastating consequences of one person's greed that she must expose before someone stops her, permanently.

**Book printed in 12-font size for easy reading**

First 300 Words:

Friday, August 2, 1968 Wisconsin
 
Our office coordinator handed me the life insurance claim at noon on Friday. Then she leaned against my desk and popped the cover on a jar of Li Hing Mui dried mango, helping herself to a couple of slices while I skimmed the file.
 
The coroner’s report of the death scene described numerous knife wounds inflicted on the female and copious amounts of blood sprayed across a bathroom mirror. The fine hairs on my neck bristled as I imagined the victim watching her attacker approach. Had the woman seen the knife arch over her shoulder before she felt the first impact? Or had fortune allowed her to lose consciousness without ever realizing the horror of her imminent death?
 
I looked up and gave Liz a squint-eyed stare for dropping the case on me this late in the week. She brushed Li Hing Mui powder off her hands and flashed me a raised-palms “don’t shoot the messenger” sign.
 
“Sorry, Pepper. You know Mr. Sullivan always has the last word.” She picked up a business card that had fallen to the floor and set it on my desk. As she exited my office, she fingered the dried maile lei draped over the doorframe.
 
The maile lei and the mango were souvenirs from my twenty-sixth birthday party last December. I’d celebrated in Hawaii with family who resided on the Big Island near the small town of Hawi. The occasion remained bittersweet in my memory. I’d resigned my army nurse corps commission in October and had flown straight to the Islands. My mother had returned several months earlier. She died quietly within weeks of my arrival. My son, Nate, continued to live there with relatives.
 
I glanced back at the life insurance file on my desk and canceled any

Vicki's Comments: Looking at the cover, there are a lot of good things going for it. A lot of mystery/suspense/thriller books have city landscapes on them. I also like the blood. It's not your usual book cover design, but I don't know that it's hurting the book. I think it's well designed and I don't think I would change it right away. Now, if you get a lot of people saying they didn't think it was a mystery, or the cover wasn't attractive to them, maybe think about changing it. But my gut tells me it's a good cover.

The description could use a little tweaking, but honestly I like it too. I think it ends stronger than it starts, though. I think some of the details that are in the beginning can be cut down to the important stuff. Maybe start with something like: When insurance investigator Pepper Bibeau is sent to Chicago to examine questionable medical claims, she finds out the hard way someone wants to put a stop to her inquiry.

In reading the first 300 words, I'm getting the feeling that this novel will have a lot of details included that might not be very important. Is it necessary that we know it's noon on Friday? We can tell it's late in the week when she gives Liz the squint-eyed stare. I'd cut the noon on Friday. Is it important that she's eating Li Hing Mui dried mango? It seems like it's forced. I also don't like the back story that comes out so soon in the beginning. I don't know the character yet, so I really don't care that she had celebrated her twenty-sixth birthday in Hawii. And that paragraph seemed all over the place starting with the birthday, going on to the army nurse corps, and then her mother's death, and ending with her son living with relatives.

Since this is the beginning of the book, it needs to hook the reader right away. I think there's a great premise to this book, and I like the style of the writing. I think the beginning can be stronger, maybe with the help of a critique group. Once there's a strong hook I think this novel can really take off.

My only other suggestion would be to submit the book to book bloggers, and become active over at Kindleboards.com if you're not already.

What do you guys think?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Laying the Odds


Author: J. R. Tomlin and C. R. Daems
Genre: Fantasy Adventure
How long it's been on sale: 6 weeks
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Blogged a few samples, sent out review copies
Total sold so far: 6
Link to book on Amazon: Laying the Odds

Product Description:

No gambler in all the Dukedoms is more cunning than Wrai. Forced to earn his living in taverns and gambling dens, he plays to win, even when it means loading the dice. He's put his life in jeopardy countless times, but now he faces a chance that may make his luck run out.

But some risks are too good to refuse. Determined to gain an inheritance, Wrai steals a pendant from the father who rejected him, unaware of the deadly magick locked within. Soon the pendant is out his hands, and Wrai finds himself in a race against time. Can he put things right? Or will his actions destroy the Dukedoms and mean the end of freedom?

First 300 Words:

Wrai propped his boots on the rungs of the chair opposite him and took a deep drink of his ale, mentally cursing being stuck in this cesspit of a town. Why Krelton of all town in the four dukedoms of Ardalak?

The storm seemed to have kept most of the locals at home. Two workmen in homespun slumped wearily at a table. A merchant with a sword-carrying guard at this elbow stood at the bar talking to the innkeeper. Outside, the inn’s sign banged in the wind.

The horse fair at Rystar started in two days and he wouldn’t make it in time. A storm had left ruts and potholes deep enough to swallow a horse. The post-coach he was traveling in had hit one full tilt. When the axle shattered, it threw the coach tumbling. Wrai and the driver had walked away with only a few bruises, but the smith would take days to repair the damage.

Wrai wouldn’t make the profit he’d expected. Bollocks, he’d counted on that gold. He couldn't take care of Amalie when he was traveling all the time, having to duck out when someone decided he'd won a little too often. A gambling house he’d been eyeing would be perfect, if he could find the money. His stomach coiled at the thought of something happening to his daughter while he was gone as it had to her mother.

Wrai banged his mug down on the table. The innkeeper lifted his head to stare, so Wrai nodded to the man and leaned back again. No one else paid him any mind.

He slipped his fingers under his shirt and into his money pouch to slide over the ten silver pfennigs and, reassuringly heavy, five gold marks.


Vicki's Comments: I think the cover on this book looks more science fiction than fantasy to me. The blue with the grid seems to suggest technical instead of magical. I would also take out the dice. I know the protagonist uses dice in the book, but to me this wouldn't give the right feeling on a fantasy cover. I would try going for something that looks magical. Maybe go onto istockphoto.com and do a search for magic? Just a thought.

The blurb does need work as well. The first paragraph seems like back story to me. You could say this in one "when" sentence. "When Wrai, a gambler and a cheat, steals his estranged father's pendant, X Y and Z happen." This might be regional, but "out his hands" reads funny to me. I would have said "out of his hands." I also don't know what needs putting right. What does the pendant do? With some work I think it could be much better.

The writing also needs a little attention. "Why Krelton of all town in the four dukedoms..." I think this should be "towns." "Slumped wearily" is redundant to me, if they're slumping I'm not picturing them energetic. "The horse fair at Rystar started in two days and he wouldn’t make it in time." Since you had just talked about a merchant and his guard, it took me a second to realize "he" meant Wrai again.

I'll admit I'm being very nit-picky here. All in all, I think the writing is good. Maybe an editor would help with the little things? My biggest concern in the cover, followed by the blurb. I think this book can do a lot better with a few changes.

What do you guys think?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Anomaly


Author: Thea Atkinson
Genre: Psychological thriller/literary fiction
How long it's been on sale: 8 months
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Twitter mainly. book reviews, interviews. Added excerpts of it and sales links to the end of other books, added excerpt and sales link to free short stories.
Total sold so far: 63
Link to book on Amazon: Anomaly (a novel of bias and acceptance)

Product Description:

When a bunch of thugs turn J's pleasurable pub night into a trip to the Emergency room, they also set in motion a series of events that threaten J's sobriety and well-being. It is his penchant for self-destruction and self-medication, that propel J into the stormy waters of good Samaritanism and onto a journey of self-discovery that pits him against his friends, his family, and ultimately himself.

Anomaly is a psychological tale of hope that explores the duality in all of us. See how one week can change a person for a lifetime.

First 300 Words:

I'm terribly sorry, but I'm not going to post the first 300 words here because of the graphic nature. (I know in my instructions I said no erotica, and maybe I need to change that to include no graphic language will be posted. Sorry if that offends anyone, I want to keep this blog family-friendly.) If anyone wants to read the beginning of this, please download a sample.

Vicki's Comments: My first thought when looking at the cover is this is going to be a paranormal story about an angel. From the description and the reviews I'm guessing this is not the case. Even though it's a nice cover, I would probably change it to something that fits the genre better.

I think the blurb can be improved, although it's pretty good as it is right now. Maybe tighten it up just a bit. Emergency room...did J get beat up? Why is good Samaritianism described as stormy waters? You don't mention the character is transgender, which I think is a big part of this story. I might mention that in the blurb.

Even though I didn't post the writing, I didn't see any issues with it. (Personally I like a story to start with something going on, rather than the musings of the character, but I do realize that's just my tastes.) The fact that this is literary fiction is going to make it a harder sell, but I think the largest issue is the cover is portraying the paranormal genre. With a new cover and a few tweaks to the blurb I'm guessing it will sell better.

What do you guys think?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

25 Delicious Meals in Under 30 Minutes


Author: Megan Sara Jones
Genre: Non-Fiction Cookbook
How long it's been on sale: March 29th, 2011
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Facebook, Kindle Writers Cafe, Contact list
Total sold so far: 17
Link to book on Amazon: 25 Delicious Meals in Under 30 Minutes

Product Description:

Non Fiction by Megan Sara Jones. A little book of 25 delicious recipes that are easily prepared in 30 minutes or less. Great meals in no time at all, using ingredients that are readily available.Good ideas for busy people.

First 300 Words:

This is a collection of 25 recipes which are easily prepared in 30 minutes or less. They are all delicious as well as being ready in no time!

All of them serve four and all of them can be made using ingredients that are readily available.

Some of them require preparation beforehand and I have made a note of this. This can either be done before you leave for work or prepared the night before and refrigerated.

I have compiled these because whilst I like to cook, sometimes I just don't have the time or inclination to stand in the kitchen!


Vicki's Comments: I think the cover design is holding this book back. The black doesn't say "Cookbook" at all to me, and most of the time cook book covers are bright and cheery. I'd go looking at different cookbook covers to get some ideas. Sometimes they tile different photos too, so you can get more ideas of what is inside the book.

I've never done this, but here are two covers for cookbooks that I found appealing. Maybe they will give some inspiration.


The description could be better too. I would like to know at least some of the names of the recipes in the book. In fact, I downloaded the sample just to see what kinds of things I would get and the first recipe sounded like something my kids would really love, and it's such a quick and easy thing. I might put the first recipe in the description to give potential buyers a "taste" so to speak of what is in the book.

Judging from what I found in the sample, I think these recipes are good and I don't think the issue is in the quality of what you're giving. (With the one possible exception being the number of recipes, you're competing with other low priced books with more recipes. The fact that you get 25 here might be hurting a little bit when other books have 101 recipes, or 500 in them.)

All in all, I think a new cover and more description of what you get in the blurb will help this book tremendously. And some word of mouth, once people start making these and enjoying them.

In fact, I just bought the book and will let everyone know if my picky eaters love them!

What do you guys think?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Silver Snakes


Author: Christian Dabnor
Genre: Short Story, including sci-fi, satire and drama
How long it's been on sale: 4 Days (It's been about a month now, but 4 days when submitted)
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Twitter and Facebook, Goodreads, designing an email signature (see below), leaving flyers in pubs, my blog, changing signatures on forums, and two review websites.
Total sold so far: 7
Link to book on Amazon: Silver Snakes

Product Description:

Silver Snakes is an anthology of four short stories by Christian Dabnor:

Silver Snakes, a slipstream love story, appears in three distinct narrative forms, each exploring the key theme of the story - memory.
Captain Smith and the Numbers Game - The marketing department are unsatisfied with sales of ace fighter pilot Captain Smith's merchandise and take drastic action.
The Folly - A shy, unextraordinary woman finds herself unexpectedly the focus of a charming young man, who extends to her a terrifying, but inevitable sounding proposition.
The Expendable Mr.Skimble - Unknowingly, Mr.Skimble has been living a lie, victim of a gross, and politically embarassing, bureaucratic error. 

First 300 Words:

I follow one of the droplets of rain as it traces its shaky silver serpentine path across the carriage window to where it disappears into the flickering pool at the rubber seal.  As the train draws to a halt, the remaining droplets cease their horizontal journey and slide downwards.  With a pneumatic hiss, the doors open.  I look towards the door and that’s when I see her.  Her brown hair frames a sylvan, unblemished face.  As she walks towards where I sit, I look at the other seats, hoping that they are all taken.  They are.  As she sits next to me, she brushes her hair behind her ear with long delicate fingers and smiles, her eyes closing momentarily.  It seems as if she slips, for the briefest time, into slow motion.  I don’t notice the train starting again.

She points at the wriggling droplets of rain and tells me that they look like silver snakes.

I smile because I think they look like silver snakes too.

She introduces herself with a shrug and a tilt of her head.  Her name is Emma and she is returning to the city from seeing her parents.  It’s something she does daily.  I find myself telling her things that I’ve never told anyone else.  It feels comfortable... natural, like I’ve known her for an age.

She gestures at a man sitting down the carriage and proposes a bet.  If he gets off before the terminus, she tells me I have to buy her dinner.  I ask her what I get if I win.  With a grin she tells me we each buy our own – her company will be enough of a prize.  I can tell that this confidence is not natural to her, that it is a joke on her part, but she’s right.
 

Vicki's Comments: I think the cover needs some work. Is that DNA on the cover? I wasn't sure, and if I'm not sure, you can bet others aren't sure what they're looking at either. I think the type on the book is too small and there's nothing to indicate it's a short story collection. I'd love for it to say "Silver Snake and Other Stories" or something like that. If it were me, I would pick a different image. I think there's too much white space that the cover just disappears into the background.

The descriptions of each story don't draw me in, probably because they are too vague. What merchandise is the Captain selling? What drastic measures do they take? What is the proposition the man gives the woman? What error are you talking about? The questions I'm left with don't make me want to buy the book to find out. They are key in helping me decide if these stories are going to be worth me spending my time and money on. (And really, 99 cents is nothing, so I want to know if my time is going to be well-spent more than my money.)

I also don't know what length these stories are, which is very important me. I always add word count and page count at the end of my descriptions, mostly because I like to know what I'm getting before I purchase and that information is so helpful to me. I would add total word count and page count.

The writing could use some polishing up too, in my opinion. I'd much rather read a conversation than be told about it. There's no dialogue at all in this snip, and yet I'm being told about what was being said. I feel very distanced from these characters, in a bad way. But I think the author has talent, and with the help from a critique group I think this can be greatly improved.

Lastly, this is a short story collection and therefore won't be selling like gangbusters. Make sure you have realistic goals for sales. I think with some minor adjustments, this can do well for a short story collection.

What do you guys think?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Bloom's Desk


Author: Jeffrey Littorno
Genre: Horror
How long it's been on sale: 3 months
Current price: $6.99
Marketing: I have started a website/blog, Tweeted about book and links, used Book Buzzer, gotten  reviews, and sent out press releases.
Total sold so far: 16
Link to book on Amazon: Bloom's Desk

Product Description:

Following several years of teaching abroad, Glen Davis and his wife Christine have settled into a comfortable life in Northern California. Glen enjoys teaching at a local high school. Christine is studying at community college.
Then the voices start in Glen's head...
A long-dead serial killer named Robert Bloom has chosen Glen as the one to continue his deadly hobby. Now the young teacher must choose between saving himself or those around him.

First 300 Words:

Glen Davis didn’t believe in ghosts. But ghosts believed in him.

However, at this moment, such profound philosophical issues had no place within his mind. With his eyes clinched tightly closed, Glen was focused upon the banging of the MRI machine. The dull thuds did nothing but kick off a new round of the tooth-rattling throbs in his forehead. These headaches were part of the reason he had come to the doctor’s office and then to the MRI machine. Next came the loud blaring of what sounded like a truck horn and the machine gun clack-clack-clack seemingly designed to twist his spine.

At thirty-seven, Glen had enjoyed relatively good health with only the scattered bouts with the cold and flu. Most of the other teachers at Theodore Roosevelt High School suffered more from the constant stream of ailments students brought into the classrooms. He had been teaching sophomore and junior English at the high school for six years and had no plans to leave.

Finally, the slab under him slid out of the machine, and the nurse came back. “Looks like we’re all done.” She said trying to force cheerfulness into her voice that only sounded like forced cheerfulness. She was a fifty-ish, tall, unattractive woman who brought with her perfume that had a slight vanilla smell. Rather than having a pleasant effect on Glen’s senses, it only made him aware of the room’s other odors.


There was the usual medical facility tinge of disinfectant and medication. Alongside those, Glen detected another odor. This one seemed to be the product of the fear and anxiety caused by the MRI machine. Whether in his mind or elsewhere, Glen heard the thoughts of a middle-aged man worrying about a newly-discovered lump in the left side of his throat.


Vicki's Comments: The first thing people see is the cover. It should be cropped to just show the front, so that's the first thing I recommend. Second, the apple and books do not suggest horror at all. I would put something on the cover to indicate there's a killer in this book. A gun, a knife, some blood...something to show it's horror.

In the description, I would start with the part about the dead killer who wants Glen to continue his hobby for him. That's the hook in your story. No one is going to care that Glen had been teaching abroad, or that he's settled in Northern California. That's back story, and not very exciting. There's a murderer talking to him in his head, for heaven's sake. That's the part that should be highlighted. With a few tweaks, I think the description can read much better and give the reader that "I must buy this" feeling.

The writing could be tightened up a bit. I would cut any back story from the first chapter. I would suggest a critique group to help get rid of some weird words or redundant phrasing, and start with a bang. (Example: Eyes clinched tightly closed. Do you mean clenched? And how do you clench loosely? You don't need to clarify it was tightly closed if you say clenched.) The first few paragraphs are the most important in a book, and you want to suck the reader in right from the beginning. I think the premise for this book is good, but it needs some work to really shine.

One last thing. I think the price is too high. I would lower it. Granted, some people find that 99 cents is too low for them, so play around with price a little. Maybe yours sells better at $2.99. But $6.99 is very high for a self-published book, and will be an instant turn-off for many people.

What do you guys think?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dead Men Don't Cry


Author: Nancy Fulda
Genre: Science Fiction Anthology
How long it's been on sale: March 2, 2011
Current price: $2.99
Total sold so far: Approx. 30
Link to book on Amazon: Dead Men Don't Cry

Product Description:

A desperate band of anti-terrorists risk their sanity to avert a catastrophe.

A mother confronts her past to save her child from aliens.

A sentient computer must choose between loyalty to humans and justice for her own kind.

From electronic ghosts to minds that travel through time, this collection is a fascinating exploration of an endless universe. Dead Men Don't Cry contains ten short stories from award winning author Nancy Fulda.

48,000 words or about 211 pages

First 300 Words:

It's said that writer's stories are like a mother's children. She loves them, not merely despite their flaws, but also because of them.

Presented here is a collection of my writings over the past ten years. Within these pages you will find tales of computers that invent God, minds that travel through time, electronic ghosts, and deceased extraterrestrials. Some of these stories have received more professional acclaim than others, but in my eyes, all are beloved.

"Pastry Run" was written in a single afternoon while trailing my then-two-year-old son around the house. It was so thoroughly disliked by my critique group that I nearly shelved it. I'm now glad I didn't, because it became my second professional-level sale.

"Dead Men Don't Cry", the title story of this anthology, was written with an eye toward plot. I sought to keep the action lively and the tension high. For the most part I succeeded, but if I were rewriting it today I'd get rid of the white-room staff meeting in the opening.

"Blue Ink" was written for a high school writing contest, and won. I expanded the story a few years later. I still love it even though the subject matter is hopelessly cliche.

"Backlash" grew out of my experience watching a friend struggle with post-traumatic stress syndrome. I feel a bit sorry for everything I put Eugene through during this story. He's a good guy, and deserves better.

"Monument" may be my most jaded creation. It asks the question: "How would humanity really react to extraterrestrial visitors?"

“Tammi’s Garden” came into existence somewhat by accident.  My sister had started a writing contest and I wanted to show my support by entering a piece of fiction.  I hope no one thought the contest was rigged when the story won second place!


Vicki's Comments: I'll start with the cover. The one thing it has going for it is I could tell this was a science fiction book right away. Good job with that. The bad part is I couldn't quite tell that was a space ship at first. I thought it was some kind of mechanical bird. I also wouldn't put the focal point of the cover down so far on the book, it looks like it's falling off the page and makes me uncomfortable. If you don't change the graphic, at least move it up and over so the planet is off the page on the left side and the ship is higher up on the page. (However, I do suggest a different graphic.)

The font might be a bit plain, and the title seems to be swimming in the black. I'd increase the font size, and perhaps find a more science fiction type font.

The description didn't grab me, but I think concept of one liners that describe each story is good. It's hard to take a story and boil it down to one sentence that makes you want to read it, but I've found bouncing ideas off other authors to be helpful. I do think the blurbs can be improved.

I was disappointed that the book stared with explanation about the stories. It's interesting, so I wouldn't cut it, but I would definitely suggest putting that at the end and starting right away with the strongest story. I can't comment on the quality of the writing, since I didn't read any, but a critique group was mentioned so I'm clapping my hands. Plus Maria gave it four stars, and I trust Maria.

Overall, my final verdict for this book is tweak the cover and blurb, I think both are holding this book back. Also realize that science fiction anthology might be a harder sell than some of the more popular genres. However, I think it can do better than it has been.

What do you guys think?

Scryer's Gulch Episodes 1-10


Author: MeiLin Miranda
Genre: Western Paranormal Soap Opera
How long it's been on sale: 2-2010
Current price: $.99
Total sold so far: 41 in the last 5 months.
Link to book on Amazon: Scryer's Gulch: Magic in the Wild, Wild West - Episodes 1-10 Annabelle Arrives

Product Description:

Brave and beautiful young Treasury agent Annabelle Duniway is sent undercover to the wide-open mining town of Scryer's Gulch to track down the villain poisoning the magic-boosting ore known as hermetauxite. If she doesn't succeed, this unscrupulous evildoer may take over the world!

Is it the brilliant and handsome son of the mayor? Or the ruthless mine owner? How about his gold-digging wife? Or worse, could it be the rugged sheriff Annabelle yearns to trust with her mission--and maybe, her heart? The only one she can trust is her demon cat, Misi, even though he threatens to kill her at least once a day.

First 300 Words:

With all the money pouring in and out of it, you’d think Scryer’s Gulch would be more scenic. It’s still no looker, but in the early days it hunkered down and at the same time sprawled in its valley like a cold sore, crouching near a gaping, toothless mouth that swallowed up men and spit out the ore that gave the town both its name and its fortune. I’m speaking, of course, of hermetauxite, without which little that we call modern life would be possible.

So much of it veins the Big Blavatsky Mine that, for example, anyone with any scrying talent at all can look into a glass of water, a mirror, a candle flame, the odd crystal ball, a shiny window, and catch a glimpse of the future. Anyone with a measure of telekinetic power can bend a spoon a little. That sorta thing. The original inhabitants of this land of ours were strangely absent from the area, odd considering its rich supply of wildlife, but they were wiser than we are, or perhaps just less greedy: living so close to that much hermetauxite eventually drives folks crazy.

But I digress.

Perhaps I’m not being fair when I say Scryer’s Gulch in those days was a cold sore, a carbuncle on the surface of the earth, a muck pit lined with hastily thrown-up buildings of questionable architectural provenance filled with humans of questionable parentage. There were a few beauties: the arrestingly ostentatious bulk of Jedediah Bonham’s mansion, built with the proceeds of the mine; the spun sugar and gilt Hotel LeFay, with all the most modern conveniences Bonham’s son Anthony could provide his guests; and the opulent Mamzelle’s Palace, whose beauties were on the inside--a good thing, considering they were barely dressed and likely to cause riots were they actually on the outside
.

Vicki's Comments: The first thing I do with a book is look at the cover. This cover confused me. I think that's a moon on it, but I can't tell what else is on the cover. I think there's a picture in the moon, but I can't see exactly what it is. It looks like rocks and grass at the bottom, but it was hard to see and probably wouldn't be legible in thumbnail form. I would suggest a redesign.

Description: I felt the description could use some work. How does a person poison ore? It's a rock. I also think some of the phrasing is a bit over the top. I think with some tweaking, it could work much better.

The first 300 words weren't very interesting to me, but I tend to like a story to start without buildup. I'm not a fan of back story in the first chapter. I'd rather the back story come out organically as the story progresses. But I do realize I'm probably not the target audience for this book.

I also think this might have a bit of a genre issue. It seems like it crosses some lines that readers just might not be willing to cross. When looking at the tags and the description to try to come up with the genre I saw that it's a western soap opera with paranormal and fantasy elements, and a mystery thrown in too. As someone who puts together a few different genres in my own work, I totally sympathize with this. However, I think this might be one of the major reasons this isn't selling. I would focus on the core genre of this book and cut out some of the other aspects in the description in order to appeal to an audience.

What do you guys think?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dangerous Bedfellows


Author: Debra Lee
Genre: Psychological Thriller
How long it's been on sale: 2-4-11
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Twitter, Facebook, Blog
Total sold so far: 40
Link to book on Amazon: Dangerous Bedfellows

Product Description:

Damaged goods. That's one way to describe Jackie Bertoni. Survivor is another after the traumatic childhood she endured at the hands of her father in Italy. With the help of the American filmmaker her boyfriend sold her to for a week of sexual pleasure, she is able to fulfill her lifelong dream to escape to America. Life is good to her in the land of the free. She becomes a successful movie producer. Sixteen years slip by before the big betrayal when Jackie knows she'll never be free-never whole-able to trust another man until she gets even. 

First 300 Words:

Jackie’s gaze wandered from headstones to somber faces. But not to the casket that held the body of her only true friend Desmond Sinclair. She recognized the people standing around her. Except for…

Now she knew she hadn’t worn the black net veil because it matched her black suit. She’d worn the veil to hide her eyes. She continued to stare at the man. The handsome stranger looked familiar even though she was positive she’d never met him. She searched her memory until it came to her. Andrew Michaels. His picture appeared in her Los Angeles newspaper a lot. The last time he’d posed on the courthouse steps, relief radiated from his eyes as he smiled for the cameras after achieving a guilty verdict on a high profile murder case.

How dare he show up here? Thanks to her Desmond couldn’t harm anyone anymore. A cold chill rolled through her. Perhaps the district attorney had come for her. Undecided if she should bolt or approach the man, Jackie was suddenly frozen in a time past when Marcus DeMario stepped into view.

The sight of him took her breath away just like the first time she saw him all those years ago. He stepped away from the limousine and weaved around headstones in her direction. As he neared, she saw his features had changed little. What had changed was the hardness in his composure, a coldness that sent another chill through her.

With her chin tucked into her chest, she watched him step up to the casket to pay last respects. Once or twice his steely eyes glanced her way. He showed no signs of recognizing her.

Of course he wouldn’t recognize you, she reminded herself. You were a disposable piece of property to the man.


Vicki's Comments: First, the cover. I'm not in love with it, although it's not horrible. I think what's hurting the cover is the drawing. I probably would try to find a photograph to use instead. Also, putting the victim on the cover might not be as striking as putting the antagonist. But that's just what came to mind, it's possible with the right photo you could make the woman work.

The blurb needs work also. I got a little confused and wasn't sure what the major conflict was. I think with a few tweaks it could pull the reader in more.

After reading the first 300 words I would suggest joining a critique group. www.critiquecircle.com is a great website. I think the book isn't quite ready yet. Again, with a few tweaks, I do think you can find a market for this.

What do you guys think?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Not Everything Brainless is Dead


Author: Joshua Price
Genre: Comedy
How long it's been on sale: Feb 28, 2011
Current price: $.99
Total sold so far: 60
Link to book on Amazon: Not Everything Brainless is Dead (Book One of The Absurd Misadventures of Captain Rescue)

Product Description:

When Captain Rescue's city is overrun by man-eating zombies, he and his arch nemesis must band together to thwart mankind's undealiest threat!

The adventure begins after Dr. Malevolent knocks off the most prominent bank in the city. The super villain gets far more than she bargained for, and over the course of the ensuing shenanigans, zombies are inadvertently unleashed. The outbreak spreads like crazy, and arch enemies embark on a journey to discover who, in this universe or the next, would commit such a dastardly act.

Will Captain Rescue and Dr. Malevolent find a way to put a stop to this apocalypse, or will the undead eat them alive?

"Not Everything Brainless is Dead" is the hilarious entry to Captain Rescue's absurd misadventures, and the first book of a series that is meant to feel like a novelized comic book. A second adventure, "Past, Future, & Present Danger", is also available.

54,000 words, or over 220 pages.

Recommended for fans of humor and the literary stylings of the late, great Douglas Adams as well as the great, but not late, Terry Pratchett.

Mostly recently updated 5/24/11. A butt load of grammatical issues and typos have been squashed!

First 300 Words:

The only thing standing between Dr. Malevolent and her salary was the large brick wall of the bank that held it. This bank, however, went by quite the ostentatious name: The Bank. Despite such an intimidating title, it was nothing more than a clever marketing ploy—one that worked perfectly. Everyone and their mothers flocked to The Bank. Regular Joes put their money in while criminals took it right back out. In retrospect, the founders would have had better luck naming their bank Cletus’s Farm Depot, but then of course nobody but hillbillies would flock to it.


The story of how The Bank got its name was one of adventure and deceit. Before settling on its current and exceedingly successful moniker, much deliberation transpired of possible other names. To settle this deadlock, board members submitted their suggestions so everyone could vote on it. Dozens upon dozens of names found their way into the top hat and most of which were quite terrible. After a lengthy process, they had their winner. Shortly thereafter, they threw the winner out and The Bank was chosen. The other suggestions, like making the B backwards or stylizing the name like Banque or Baynk, were collectively deemed lame; not a term the well-dressed businessmen used lightly.


That, among many other reasons, was why Dr. Malevolent chose to knock off this bank, but it was not just a heist with the sole goal of getting rich. She did have her own criminal organization to manage. One that employed dozens of hardened criminals, liars, cheats, and a few flat out crazies. That money had a noble purpose. As everyone knew, all major criminals needed to eat; pay their employees; take their dog to the vet when he eats those things he shouldn’t; spend ridiculous amounts of money trying to figure out how to blow up the world; replace all their DVDs with their Blu-ray counterparts; so on, and so forth. She had to make ends meet somehow. Sure, that meant sometimes robbing banks or ripping candy from the hands of shrieking babies, but that was just how these things worked.

Vicki's Comments: I really like the cover. I think the graphics are top notch and the design catches your attention. My only concern is the cover doesn't exactly say 'comedy' to me, but it does have that graphic novel feeling. For now, I wouldn't change the cover, but if a lot of advertising doesn't get this book off the ground I would go ahead and look for a different image.

The description could use some work, in my opinion. I got a bit confused when the bank was mentioned. What does knocking off a bank have to do with zombies? I might focus more on the comedy of the piece in the description. Also, I don't think I would mention you've had some editing errors in past versions. That didn't give me much confidence in the book. I'd rather have you give away some copies to get more current reviews that (hopefully) don't mention the grammatical errors.

The sample was pretty good, I found some things humorous, although the subject matter doesn't appeal to me. I'm guessing your target audience is going to be young, which might be hindering your sales.

Overall, I think tweaking the blurb will help the most. And getting some buzz going about the book, maybe with sending it to some book bloggers.

What do you guys think?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Pet Psychic Diaries

 
Author: Jeanne Miller
Genre: Paranormal Memoir
How long it's been on sale: Late Jan 2011
Current price: $2.99
Total sold so far: 68
Link to book on Amazon: The Pet Psychic Diaries

Product Description:

Pet Psychic readings from the first year of working Pet Psychic Medium, Jeanne Miller.

Read about Moosie, the horse who hated his name.
Zak, the kitty who was being terrorized by a Civil War ghost.
Krebs, the blackmailing Sun Conure.
Mariah Bayou, a rescued Raccoon and so many more.

These readings with our furred and feathered friends illustrate what we have long suspected; Animals have rich and emotional lives that are much like our own. After reading this book, you will never look at your pet in the same way again.

First 300 Words:

The dream was a pleasant one.  I was sitting on a red and white checkered picnic blanket which rested on a vibrant green hillside.   I seemed to be having some kind of tea party as I saw toy cups and dishes set out along the sides of the blanket.  I looked up and to my delight and surprise; all of my guests were animals.  Dogs and cats all sat comfortably in place looking expectantly at me.  I caught a movement to my left and saw my cat Jessie escorting an orange striped cat up the hill to the blanket.  Leaving the cat, Jessie turned and started walking back down the hill.  I called out to her and said, “Jessie, come back and sit with us.”  She looked at back at me and said: “No.  It is my job to bring the animals to you.”


My cat Jessie was eighteen years old at the time of this dream and was close to transitioning.  From the moment I got her as a kitten, there was an incredibly strong bond between us.  She followed me everywhere I went and hardly ever let me out of her sight.  The thought of her not being by my side was a heartbreak that I knew I couldn’t stop from happening.  I had just recently lost my brother who had passed over unexpectedly and was still reeling from the shock of it. A few months later, my beautiful Jessie passed on and within a year after that loss, my mother became ill and she also passed.  She was my best friend.  To say I was inconsolable is a vast understatement.   All of these losses coming so closely together left me hollow inside.  I was empty and spent most of my days sleepwalking through a life that had become unbearably painful.

Vicki's Comments: First, the cover. I think it can be improved. I like the pretty colors, but it doesn't look like a professional book cover to me. I think the rainbow color scheme is what is holding it back the most. I went to Amazon and searched "memoir" just to get a feel for some of the other book covers out there. My favorites were full photographs with type on top. I think this could be done nicely with the photo of an animal. It might be fun to play with making the photograph a negative image, or black and white, to represent the paranormal aspect. I'm not a fan of the font used either, but that's an easy fix.

The description is all right, but I think it could have a bit more punch. It seems to take the emotion out of it, and from the reviews I gather the book evokes a lot of emotion in the readers who have enjoyed it. I would try to see if I could evoke some of that emotion in the description.

The first 300 words were interesting to me, but I felt as if it could be improved. The dream didn't seem to have a lot to do with the next paragraph, which was about loss. (Maybe the dream does get tied in later, and I just didn't get that far.) But I'm not sure if starting with a dream has the impact it should. In fiction, starting with a dream is very cliched. I don't know if it works here either. I also found a few errors and would suggest an editor.

Now, after saying all of that, I think the target audience for this book is very niche. It's going to be a harder book to sell just because the audience is going to be smaller. I probably would suggest visiting blogs dealing with mediums and pet ownership and get to know the people who would be most interested in this subject matter.

What do you guys think?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Lesson One: Revolution!


Author: Stuart J. Whitmore
Genre: Psychological Thriller
How long it's been on sale: 11 Months
Current price: $.99
Total sold so far: 10
Link to book on Amazon: Lesson One: Revolution!

Product Description:

Your country is sinking into tyranny but your neighbors don't seem to notice, or care. What can you do to save the freedoms you value? How can you honor the many who died in centuries past to create and defend your nation as a global icon of liberty? If you're Dan Starney, you don't just sit and watch.

Other teachers might think of Dan as a quiet, mild-mannered history teacher who fits in nicely with their small town views. However, a sudden local controversy involving one of the school's art teachers begins to erode Dan's mundane facade when he, along with math teacher Karena Walsh, are drawn into the fray by the school's administration. When Karena gets a peek behind that facade, she is disturbed by what she learns and decides she needs to secretly investigate his activities, setting the stage for explosive results that extend far beyond their quiet town.

(Previously sold for $7.99, on sale during July 2011.)

First 300 Words:

"Political bias." Dan Starney paused for effect. Actually, his
students thought he paused for effect, but instead he paused to
survey his class and choose some slackers to pick on. He was a
slender, but not particularly fit, man in his early fifties. Although
his hair was starting to thin, he didn't look thirty years older than
his high school students. They were mostly seniors, generally
seventeen or eighteen, although some advanced juniors were in the
class as well, along with one sophomore who was one of the most
bookish students he had met in many years.

    "What is it," Mr. Starney questioned, "and should teachers teach
with it, about it, both, or neither?" As he expected, most of the
teenagers either looked dazed or else shifted uncomfortably in their
seats. It was that kind of question, the kind few would want to take
a stab at, especially on a Monday.

    Mr. Starney knew five students would raise their hands -- four
male, one female -- and he already knew he would ignore them. They
probably knew it too, but slowly their hands went up as the silence
of the unanswered question became uncomfortable. Mr. Starney glanced
minimally at the five who could give him a good answer, then focused
on another student who was not looking dazed nor shifting
uncomfortably in her seat. "Katie, should we call the coroner, or the
corner espresso stand?"

    A murmur of suppressed giggles rolled across the classroom as
Katie's fellow students saw that she was clearly dozing behind her
now-drooping textbook. The young man seated behind Katie kicked her
chair gently, then again with more force since the first kick had no
effect. Katie's eyelids and book rose abruptly and she looked around
to see her classmates looking at her.


Vicki's Comments: Here are my impressions. First, I think the cover needs reworking. I don't get "Psychological Thriller" at all from the cover. The bright color of the pencils, and the texture created with them lined up like that overpower the bullets. When I think of psychological thriller, I think of a face on the front of a book. I would go take a peek at some of the covers out there and selling in that genre. See what about them tells you it's a psychological thriller.

I'm not crazy about the title either. I'm not sure what else to suggest, because I haven't read the book, but maybe get some ideas from your beta readers, or see what others say about it.

I think the description could use some tweaking as well. I get a little hint of the conflict with the line that begins "When Karena gets a peek behind that facade," but I don't get a real sense of what this guy is about. Is he a murderer? Does he just incite rebellion? Where's the "thriller" part of this? I'd love to get more of a sense of the danger here.

The first 300 words are good, they do draw me into the story, they just don't say "psychological thriller" in them. I'm not a huge fan of the kind of pulled back point of view that this is written in, but I would keep reading to see if I can get wrapped up in the story. I think the writing itself is tight, and I am interested to keep reading, but I'm afraid that people looking for the genre might not keep reading because the tone isn't one that would be a thriller, if that makes sense. It could be something simple, like starting the story in the wrong place. Or I could be way off in left base here, so I would get some other opinions.

In short, I think the cover is the main problem, with the blurb second. I would put more "thriller" in them so you're appealing to the right audience. One other comment, and that's the $7.99 price. (I know it's on sale, but it looks like you intend to put it back to $7.99 after July.) In my opinion, that's just too high for an unknown author, unless you want to spend a lot of hours and money marketing the book. I wouldn't go any higher than $4.99, and with that price you'll need to create your own buzz about the book.

What do you guys think?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Alain Gomez: The Eclectic Mix


Author: Alain Gomez
Genre: Short Story Collection
How long it's been on sale: 6 months
Current price: $.99
Total sold so far: 0 (Only gifts given.)
Link to book on Amazon: Alain Gomez: The Eclectic Mix (3 complete short stories)

Product Description:

A collection of three complete short stories written by Alain Gomez.

Titles include:

A Model Railway Man - Working on his model railroad set is more than just a hobby for John Wilson, it's his desperate attempt to fix the ghosts of his childhood. But his obsession with his creation may have an unexpected side-effect...

The Sacrifice - Set during the Spanish Civil War. The Captain of a naval vessel is sent away on a secret mission to destroy an enemy fort. Before he leaves, his fiancée begs him not to go. But he tells her he would give his life to protect Spain....

Celebrity Space (Part 1 of the Space Hotel Series) - Set in the not too distant future, a worker hopes that his new job at the spaceport will allow him to get his life back on track. While taking passengers to the space hotel "Moonwalk", a collision with an unknown object brings his dreams... and possibly his life... to a screeching halt.

Short Stories, approx. 6,500 words total

First 300 Words:

“Don’t go!”  the young woman begged.

“I must” said the Captain.

“Why?” she demanded.

He looked at her resolutely.

“Spain needs me.”

His resolution made her back down a little.

“I need you” she said weakly.

“I would sacrifice my life to protect Spain.  So that I know you are safe.”

He took her in his arms and bent his head to kiss her.  After a pause he released her and left.

****

“It is a perfect day to sail, Captain.”

The Captain turned and acknowledged his first mate.

“Indeed it is” he said.

“God has blessed our voyage.  The enemies of King Ferdinand must die!”

The Captain smiled.  His first mate was young; perhaps too young to be on a mission such as this.  But the Captain knew that men on this ship were handpicked for their zealous loyalty to Spain rather than skill.

“It is a suicide mission” the Captain thought.  One ship assigned to destroy an entire enemy fort.  Their only possible hope was the element of surprise.  The King knew that even rumors of a Spanish fleet setting sail would put the enemy on guard.  He wanted this fort destroyed as quickly and as bloodlessly as possible.

“One ship” he had told the Captain.  “One battle in one night.  If you do this you will earn the gratitude of Spain and be compensated accordingly.”


Vicki's Comments: The author did tell me that there are three stories in this collection, and each story sells individually, but the collection isn't selling. I'll do my best to give my opinion as to why.

Cover: The cover doesn't appeal to me. Since this is the first thing people see, the first thing that draws them in, it's one of the most important things. I would definitely try a redesign.

Description: The way this is done, with short descriptions of the stories in this collection, I think is fine. I would tweak the description for The Sacrifice, to me the description doesn't have any draw. I would want to know what the major conflict of the story is. With some tweaking, I think it could be much better.

First 300 Words: There were quite a few things that jumped out at me while I was reading the sample. I highly suggest joining a critique group to help tighten up the writing. I'm a huge fan of critiquecircle.com. I think running these stories through a crit group a few times would greatly improve them. Also, this needs an editor.

My best assessment on this is the writing needs to be tightened first, and then the cover needs to be changed. With a few minor adjustments, I think this collection can start selling.

What do you guys think?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Badwater


Author: Toni Dwiggins
Genre: Thriller
How long it's been on sale: June 4, 2011
Current price: $2.99
Total sold so far: 38
Link to book on Amazon: BADWATER (The Forensic Geology Series)

Product Description:

"Fans of
Nevada Barr will love this book..."
   
          What if your job is to find the thing you fear most?

     When a freight truck is hijacked, forensic geologists Cassie Oldfield and her partner Walter Shaws track the mineral trail into Death Valley. The stolen cargo they seek is hotter than the desert in August: radioactive waste.

     As scientists, Cassie and her partner Walter are familiar with background radiation in the rocks they study. But as a woman of child-bearing age and a man of advancing years, they become acutely aware of the risk of their hunt. How many exposures are too many? What's safe? More immediately, what's lethal?

     The geologists find out when the unstable radwaste thief unleashes the power of the unstable atom.

REVIEWS

"Fans of Nevada
Barr will love this suspenseful literary mystery, where the brutal
Death Valley landscape is as much a character as the renegade
radworkers, dangerously eccentric desert rats, and dogged geologists
trying to prevent a nuclear disaster."
          --Lisa Brackmann, author of the literary suspense novel ROCK PAPER
TIGER, an Amazon 2010 Top 10 Mystery & Thriller Pick

"In this superb, taut, action-packed
thriller set in the California desert, a highway hijacking turns
toxic and Cassie Oldfield, forensic geologist, is called in to help
the FBI and the EPA's Radiological Emergency Response Team track
down stolen casks of nuclear waste. Sophisticated soil analysis is
not normally a deadly occupation, yet before it's all over, Cassie
comes face to face with a sociopathic killer and with her own
mortality. Notice to criminals: Watch out for Cassie! She knows
where you've been. Fans of Nevada Barr are going to love this book
just as much as I did."
          --Marcia Talley, Agatha
and Anthony award-winning author of A QUIET DEATH and nine previous
Hannah Ives mysteries

"BADWATER is
superb. It has a great plot with many twists and surprises, featuring
real-life characters. The author did a very fine job of
characterizing the disconnect between all the measures intended to
assure safety and the reality of things sometimes being unsafe. Truly
well-written and engaging. A joy to read."
          --David
Lochbaum, head of the Nuclear Safety Project, Union of Concerned
Scientists

First 300 Words:

There was something odd about the figure coming down the dark road and I was not going to be happy until I could put my eyes on the details.

Walter, stowing the donut bag in his field pack, hadn’t yet noticed.

Uphill of the figure, spotlights cracked the deep night and more could be seen. Big vehicles clogged the road. Adjacent to the road, yellow rope zoned off a chunk of desert where a tractor-trailer lay on its side. Well uphill of the crash was another roped and spotlit area, occupied by a hulking crane. What was the crane doing off on its lonesome?

I refocused on the figure. “Somebody’s coming. A man, I think. But odd.”

Walter looked, straining to see. “You have young eyes.”

“It’s more a question of what jumps out at you.”

“Cassie, what jumps out at me in the dead of night belongs in the realm of bad poetry.”

I smiled. He would know.

“However,” he said, still peering, “that is an odd gait.”

That it was, perhaps due to the muddied condition of the road. I glanced at the sky, where a cloud roof glowed beneath a hidden moon. Summer thunderstorm—local, wherever precisely local was. It had been clear twenty minutes ago in Mammoth, our home base in the Sierra mountains. We run a two-person lab and what we do for a living is read earth evidence at the crime scene. We’d headed for this scene truly in the dark. The FBI sent a helicopter but provided few details. We’d flown east from the Sierra, crossing California into Nevada, then bellied down to the dark desert.

And here we waited, speculating. All too often, the geological evidence gets overlooked. This time, though, the FBI considered it urgent enough to bring us by chopper, and that impressed me deeply.


Vicki's Comments: I love the cover for this book. I think it depicts the book and genre well. I don't think I'd change a thing with it.

The description could use a little trimming. I would start with "When a freight truck..." and cut the stuff above. I'd also leave off the reviews, but that could just be me. I don't put a lot of stock in reviews put up by the author. If it was just one blurb from a famous author, maybe, but short and sweet is how I prefer that kind of thing. Other than a little trimming, I think the blurb is good. It's strong to me, and sells the book, in my opinion.

I also think the first 300 words are very strong. It draws me into the story, and I want to read more.

Honestly, this book has not been available for long, less than two months. The number sold is good for a book that just came out. Why is this book not selling? It's too new. Give it time and let the sales grow naturally as the book gets reviews from book bloggers and such. That's my best assessment. I think this book is very strong and will see powerful sales, especially with a second book out. Keep writing.

What do you guys think?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tugger's Down


Author: Tommie Lyn
Genre: Occult/Paranormal
How long it's been on sale: Jan 2010
Current price: $.99
Total sold so far: 52
Link to book on Amazon: Tugger's Down

Product Description:

Salem, Massachusetts: A pregnant teen dabbles in the occult with a Ouija board and unleashes an unspeakable family secret on her unborn son, Tucker.

Pensacola, Florida: Lacey Cochran, a university student, has her future all mapped out. Until Porter O'Brien drives the wrong way in a one-way parking lot to take the only available parking place. He gets to the Admissions Office ahead of her and signs up for the last seat in the class she needs most.

How will the lives of Tucker Farnsworth, Lacey Cochran and Porter O'Brien entwine? Can Lacey and Porter overcome the horrendous threat to little Tucker? 

First 300 Words:

A tiny skid. A jerk. And the planchette skittered across the Ouija board, came to an abrupt stop and pointed to the word “Yes.”

Olivia Farnsworth took her fingers from the small piece of wood that rested on the board and gave Tiffani Adams a skeptical glance from slitted eyes. “You did that. You made it move.”

“No, I didn’t.” Tiffani’s face darkened.

“Yes, you did. Even in this dim light, I can tell you’re blushing. You always blush when you lie.”

Tiffani ducked her head. “All right. So I lied. So I moved it. So sue me.”

“See, I knew this was fake.” Olivia crossed her arms and tilted her head back to look down her nose at Tiffani. “I told you these things don’t work.”

“Yes, they do! I’ve seen them work.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Well, it’s true. Heather and Joannie and I play with Ouija boards a lot. It’s fun.” Tiffani leaned forward and lowered her voice. “And this board was Grandma Tessie’s. I found it at her beach cottage last weekend and sneaked it home in my backpack. Since Grandma Tessie did lots of stuff, read tea leaves, even did tarot cards, this is bound to be a good board.”

“I don’t care,” Olivia said. “It didn’t actually move like you said it would. You made it move.”

“You were getting impatient. Like always. So, I was trying to keep you interested until, you know, until it started working.”

Neither girl said anything for a moment, each eyeing the other to see if she would give in. Usually, it was Tiffani who gave in first and allowed her cousin Olivia to win their frequent contests of wills.

“So, give it a little time. Okay? ’Cause it’s really lots of fun once it gets going. And spooky.”


Vicki's Comments: After looking at the cover, and studying it, I see the Ouiji board at the bottom. But it took a while for me to see that it was a Ouiji board, and since that is a major part of your book I might make it more obvious on the cover. I do like the dark face. I think the typography can be improved. I'm not a huge fan of the child handwriting look.

The product description kind of confused me. I like to be introduced to a character in the blurb. The pregnant teen isn't even named, so I would definitely name her. The idea of a pregnant teen playing with a Ouiji board is a strong one, IMHO. The driving down the wrong way of a street, not so much for me. It seems like a strange detail to put in a description where you're trying to give an overview of the major conflicts of the story.

I think  your first 300 words are good. It plops me in the middle of a scene, with some girls playing with a Ouiji board. They act a little young for one of them to be pregnant, but maybe this is a few years earlier. I think it is a good beginning, the only issue I might pick at would be I couldn't tell whose point of view we were in. I got the feeling we were in Olivia's point of view, but there were some slips that described Olivia from what would be Tiffani's point of view. That was the only thing that stood out to me.

So for me, the description is the weakest link here. I would definitely rework the description to give the reader more of a hook. Let the reader know right away the major conflict of the story.

What do you guys think?