Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Future, Imperfect: Short Stories

Author: Ruth Nestvold
Genre: Science Fiction
How long it's been on sale: March 12, 2012
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Blogging, free days via KDP Select
Total sold so far: 7
Link to book on Amazon: The Future, Imperfect: Short Stories

Product Description:

"The Future, Imperfect" is a collection of near future, dystopian short stories by Ruth Nestvold. Environmental changes -- slow in some regions, catastrophic in others -- have had a major effect on our world, not for the better. While water wars and pandemics have devastated the Mediterrean region, and a major earthquake and the resulting destruction of nuclear power plants and sensitive research facilities have made much of California a wasteland, corporate-sponsored enclaves defend themselves from the have-nots. What can any one individual do to make a difference is such a world? These are the stories both of those who tried and those who failed.

Five of the short stories in this collection were previously published in such venues as Asimov's and Futurismic. "Exit Without Saving" also appeared in Rich Horton's "Science Fiction 2007: The Best of the Year." "Killfile" is an original publication.

"The Future, Imperfect," is a story collection of approximately 40,000 words. 

First 300 Words:

Latency Time

"You don't remember anything else from the first epidemic?" Alis asked the old woman, and Mihailo translated it into the local dialect. The woman shook her head.

Alis got up from the shaky chair and extended her hand to their hostess. "Hvala, Gospodja Milovanovic."

"Molim, Gospodja Petrovich," Mrs. Milovanovic said, smiling and taking Alis's hand in two thin, dry ones. She then broke out into a string of vowels and consonants that unfortunately meant nothing to Alis. Her company, Bioco, had sent her here because she at least knew a little Serbo-Croatian, but it wasn't doing her much good here in Montenegro. The dialects they spoke in the small towns were far beyond her capabilities, even beyond the capabilities of the translation program she had installed in her AI before leaving Seattle. It left her dependent on her guide and human translator Mihailo.

"She says she's sorry she can't help you more," Mihailo murmured with the slight accent she found so charming. He raised his eyebrows and continued, looking at her with a smile. "But she says she knows you will save them."

Alis barely refrained from shaking her head in disbelief. "The people here know the decision isn't mine to make, don't they?"

The warmth of unvoiced laughter still had not left Mihailo's eyes. "But you are a Petrovic."

"Petrovic," the old woman repeated, nodding, and squeezed Alis's hand.

"You can tell her I'll do what I can," Alis said, her lips pursed. From what she had seen of the region, it would be worth the time and energy Bioco would need to clean it up. Several decades ago, Bioco built its reputation on neurochemiologic products, but now they had expanded to one of the biggest biotech companies in the world, with their fingers in all kinds of profit-making pies. 

Comments: The cover looks like a photo from a mall that has been color treated to look green. It does not give me a science fiction vibe. I wasn't sure what the photo was at first, I had to stare at it for a while. A book cover should give you a message right when you look at it. This one was hard to decipher and isn't giving me a good impression of what the book will be like. The words are also hard to read. I'm going to suggest a re-design.

The description is good, in my opinion. I found it interesting and I do think it's a good idea to point out that some of the stories have made it into magazines. This does help me feel that the stories will have good quality writing.

I liked the sample. I think the major reason this isn't selling is because of the cover. I would re-design the cover and make it look more dystopian. It looks too much like a mall shot to me. I'd try to make it look like destroyed landscaping or something a bit more bleak. Also, I would make sure the type is legible.

What do you guys think?


  1. The cover does nothing for me and I love dystopian fiction. Show this imperfect future. Pick an iconic landmark and show it devastated. The pyramids half under water, the Golden Gate bridge broke, the Eiffel tower fallen.

    I love the description and the writing was fine. I bet most people aren't getting past the cover.

  2. At first glimpse, I liked the cover, though it feels more "literary" to me than sci-fi. I came across an illustrator the other day, , and there's a gorgeous one of a robot lady. I saw it and wanted to write a dozen sci-fi stories to go with it. Of course, you may not have lady robots in the short stories, and this specific image wouldn't be right, but my point is the image alone made me excited about stories behind it. The cover for this story collection is striking, and I love the green, but it doesn't make me curious.

    The blurb sounds good. Short stories are difficult to package, because the blurbs lack everything we'd get in the blurb for a novel. There's no main character, no taste of story conflict. I wonder if it might be good to draw out the longest or most popular or first story in the collection and mention the main character to make us fall in love with that story.

    That being said, I don't think this book's packaging is a failure at all. I'd consider picking it up right now, if I didn't have a zillion other things on my Kindle.

  3. For me, it's the cover. I was drawn in by the writing, but had I been shopping, I would never have gotten that far. The cover said to me, "Reading this book will be akin to staring into fluorescent lighting for a number of hours." For a dystopian theme, I would make use of a strategy employed by the bestselling books and films of that genre. Those of which I'm aware tend to have something retro and/or comforting to pair with the story's theme. There tends to be a sort of antique or historical tone to them that makes the rest of the story traversable. Sepia may be your friend here.

  4. I echo Dalya on the literary fiction point, that's what I thought when I looked at it. It's probably getting missed by its target market on that basis alone.

  5. I definitely thought literary fiction from both the cover and the title. The font is hard to read and the green hurt my eyes. I wanted to look away as fast as possible.

    The blurb is very good and the theme definitely drew me in. I especially liked that there were stories of both success and failure.

    My only problem with the first 300 was the difficult names. That's just a comment about my own inability to pronounce those types of names.

    I think the main problem is the cover and the second problem is the fact that it's a collection of stories. I find that's a hard sell. Can you repackage it as a novel from different points of view? Is the company, Bioco, part of all the stories? That can be your common thread.

  6. The cover is the big drawback; it might work for a print book, but not an ebook. "A collection of short stories" always says to me unrelated stories, and that's a hard sell. You may want to emphasize that all these stories are set in the same world--at least, that's what I'm gathering. That will make it a much easier sell, especially if some of the characters repeat. Emphasize the commonalities in the stories in your blurb, not that there are five different stories.

    Good luck! Sell lotsa books!

  7. Yup. Cover. Looks like Lit Fic.

    I might second think the title as well. "The Future, Imperfect : Short Stories" makes me think "ok.. imperfect short stories about the future." Not something that's all that appealing.

    Maybe pressing the point by dropping "the" and the comma. Something like "Future Imperfect : Stories From A Dystopian Tomorrow" (not that necessarily, but soemthing like it) so you get a clear "Title" "Subtitle" distinction.

    I'm spitballing. Feel free to ignore me :)

    But fix the cover.

  8. I agree the cover is the problem. I'm not even sure what I'm looking at. When I'm shopping for books, I don't want to have to work to understand the cover.

    I love end-of-the-world/dystopian stories, but the cover doesn't say that, so I would never even read the blurb and find out your book is about that.

    And I love the idea of repackaging this as a novel. World War Z is a good example of a book that does this. You have random stories from different characters and places, all talking about the same event. If you can do that with your book (it wouldn't take much, just organizing stories into chapters or sections), I bet it would sell much better.

  9. What can any one individual do to make a difference is such a world?

    Should that read...

    What can any one individual do to make a difference *in* such a world?

    The cover doesn't fit (as everyone said), and I also echo the opening is hard to follow with the names. It's good, but there might be a better story and/or place in the story to start. Good luck!

  10. Thank you all for the great feedback! A new cover it is. :)

    Several of the stories are related, but not all. I have two other short story collections which are selling fairly well, so it is possible. Making the related short stories into a novel might be a great idea, but I have so many other projects on my plate right now, I wouldn't have any time for that. A more descriptive subtitle is a very good idea too.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment!

  11. The cover needs some work. I read a good deal of sci-fi (and I've written some, too!), but this cover is not sci-fi to my eyes. The hook is problematic because there are too many points of disorientation. The foreign words are not a big issue for me, though I suspect they will be a problem for many readers. But the problem of foreign words is compounded by having the protag also confused, and confused over information that seems irrelevant to me as reader. The hook needs to GRAB me and this hook fails miserably in that regard. My recommendation is to read up on structuring the first chapter, with primary attention given to structuring of the hook.

  12. Hi Pearson, that first story of the collections was published originally in Asimov's. :)

    1. Your writing is superb, Ruth. The first sentence places the hook, I swallow at "her guide and human translator Mihailo" and you start reeling me in with: "But she says she knows you will save them." I'm now along for the ride until the very end. In fact, I just went to Amazon and purchased the collection based on that opening - and your bio!

      Which leads to an affirmation: Keep the tag to your byline. "Nebula Award Nominee" immediately lends credibility to this collection. You've been published by nearly all the top tier sf periodicals - obviously having read up on structuring a story while earning your PhD in literature - so let that fact shine. And keep up the great work. I look forward to reading your collection.

    2. Thank you so much, Lyn! I hope you enjoy it as much as you did the first couple of pages. :)


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