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Monday, December 3, 2012

1/1 Jihad Britain


Author: Jack Everett & David Coles
Genre: Political/Crime Thriller
How long it's been on sale: Jan 2011
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Twitter constantly to nearly 1700 followers which carries through to Face Book. Had it reviewed by Natasha Harding head book reviewer for The Sun daily newspaper, circulation 4 million (UK)who published her review and gave it 4* Paid for a video and listed it on every site possible including Independent Authors Network.
Total sold so far: 270+
Link to book on Amazon: 1/1 Jihad Britain

Product Description: 

New Years' Eve: the world parties on unaware as a toll of death far beyond 9/11 and 7/7 spreads across Britain. The UK makes its own rules as 1/1 dawns and they don't include fair play. A global-warming fuelled disaster engulfs the country. Can its citizens pull together despite differing skin colour and culture? Years later and still at large, the New Year bomber has a private agenda and a nuclear bomb.

First 300 Words:

2006 AD

The summer of 2006 and people cowered in the ruins of their towns and villages while the Israeli planes screamed over Southern Lebanon. The bombs were targeted on the power plant in Zahrani on July 15th and only one bomb actually hit the western suburbs; most of the smaller munitions were scattered across the farms and holdings to the east, where it was thought that Hezbollah military were using the fruit orchards for cover.

From his vantage point in the hills above Zarit, Fahkri watched the F-161’s as they first screamed overhead forcing him to clap hands to ears and his charges - a mixed flock of goats and sheep - to leap and jump around in total disarray. He saw the Hezbollah running and hiding in the fields and saw the jets return much more slowly. He watched open-mouthed as one F-161 dropped its load, a single CBU-58 which split in half releasing six hundred and fifty bomblets onto the fields and town below.

Hundreds of explosions ripped trees and houses to shreds, thousands of titanium pellets tore through masonry as easily as flesh, snuffing out life everywhere, all in an instant.

When the raid was over Fahkri went home, or to the place where his home had been. It was difficult to tell which was Fahkri’s home and which was the chemist’s shop next door. The place where his family had been living only minutes before was now a low mound of rubble. Somewhere beneath the stones and broken concrete were his parents, his two brothers and his sister.

He and his neighbours tore at the ruins for the rest of the afternoon. At about five o’clock they found the lifeless body of Latif, his elder brother and shortly afterwards that of his sister. 

Comments: The cover isn't bad, however I do have some nit picks. The overall image seems a bit dated. Maybe it's because so many covers these days are done with photomanipulation, and this looks more like a painting. The title font looks stretched and it's hard to read. The author names are even harder to read.

I don't think I like the title. It was not obvious to me it was a date when I first looked at it. I was thinking it was one divided by one, which is one, so wasn't sure how to say the title in my head. I didn't get it at first, and you have to make that connection right away or people will go on to the next book. Maybe I'm alone in the confusion, so I would get the opinion of others on the title.

Just a small note about marketing. When someone says they "twitter constantly" that makes me very nervous. What are you tweeting? If it's book posts, you're not marketing, you're annoying people. Try conversation with others. Just retweeting others isn't good enough. You've got to interact. Have real conversations. Twitter is not a good way to sell books. It's a good way to be social. It's a social network. It's supposed to be a good way to be social. It's not a platform for selling. You'd be better off spending your time finding book review blogs to submit your book to...and writing another book.

The book description is lacking. Who is the main character? The hero? Who will I be spending my time with if I buy this novel? Sure, the threat is good to know, but I want to know the characters, not just the boiled down plot. Introduce your main character, let us know the stakes. I also don't like the 'years later' part. Is this story about the first disaster, or is the main story about stopping the New Year bomber in doing something even worse than what happened on 1/1? The entire description is talking about 1/1, but then the last sentence makes me think the book isn't about that. It's about stopping something worse. Talk about that. And the main character.

The beginning of the novel should be very emotional, but I get no emotion from the main character. The events are told almost in a matter-of-fact way. I feel very distanced from what is going on, from the character, and from the story. People are dead, and I don't care. I feel like the character doesn't care, so why should I? And I didn't have any time to get to know the character before the bomb hit. I feel like the beginning of the novel needs a lot of work, and this makes me think the entire novel might need work. I know I say this a lot, but I would suggest joining a critique group and trying to learn more about point of view, how to get a closer point of view and make the reader care about the characters.

Out of everything here, I think the cover is the least of the problems. (I would still suggest using a photo and tweaking the text.) The bigger issues are the description and the beginning of the book itself. Get these things tightened up, and I do think this book will sell.

What do you guys think?

25 comments:

  1. Too many numbers, with all the dates at the beginning.

    Who's it about? What does s/he want to do?

    And it is totally affectless, emotionless, flat.

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  2. I mostly agree with Victorine.

    Cover: something is off with the font. It's too stretched and looks weird and home-made. I can't parse the title. What is 1/1? (OK, I presume the first of January, but urgh). The title says Britain, but has a picture of the Capitol?

    Blurb: rather random collection of sentences. Who is the main character and what is the story?

    Sample: this looks like scene notes as I would write them in what I call my "design" draft, which is the very first time I put a scene down. There are no visual cues, no emotion, no fleshed-out images or dialogue, and little POV-specific information. During later drafts, I would enhance the scene on all those fronts, but never publish as-is.

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  3. I agree about the 1/1 confusion, it's a confusing way to begin the title. My mind actually just skipped it to "jihad" (although perhaps that's just an eye/mind-catching word these days). I also agree that the text on the cover could use work; as Victorine pointed out, the names are difficult to read. Something more to draw the text out of the background would help.

    The blurb didn't draw me in much, it seemed like a mish-mash of ideas with some hint of the story but not enough to make me think, "ah, this is one I want." As a reader shopping for a book, I probably wouldn't have gone beyond the cover and blurb to actually read the book sample. However, the actual beginning did make me interested to read more. Part of that might be my military background, part of it could be my familiarity with conflict in that region. Anyway, if I managed to go beyond the cover and blurb, I might consider getting a copy of this (and, since I've read it here, I am considering it).

    I will second everything Victorine says about Twitter. If you just tweet constant book promos, people will unfollow you, and those who haven't yet are probably "tuned out" anyway. I don't think the occasional book promo is out of line, but the word "constantly" makes me concerned.

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  4. Also - it is an F-16I (upper-case i), a variant of the F-16, not an F-161. This is a research issue and something that people familiar with modern military aircraft will have a problem with if they read the book sample.

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  5. The title says political thriller, but as others have said, the mention of 1/1 is confusing. when I deciphered 9/11 and 7/7, I knew it had to be a date. We all know what 9/11 is, but what is 7/7? Am I just ignorant or is this a date of international significance that I missed?

    Is that the US Capitol Building on the cover?

    The blurb is disjointed. Is the book about 1/1, global warming or "years later?"

    Is Fahkri the main character? How old is he? Usually, a young boy would be out tending the flock while the others maybe work the farm or have other jobs. It's not a bad beginning, but I do need to know a little more about Fahkri to picture his place in the story.

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  6. @Margaret - 7/7 was the London bombings in 2005.

    I think pretty much everything has been covered...but why specify "AD" when writing 2006 - unless we're also going to flipping to BC, it seems a strange addition (and you'll have people arguing for the use of CE instead of AD).

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  7. As one of the authors, I'm happy to see these comments and to see what different things mean to different people.
    * F16I is bad - a typo I suspect.
    *7/7 somebody mentioned - terrorist action in London.
    *The cover picture is St. Paul's Cathedral in London - predates the Capitol by a couple of hundred years!

    Those last two comments show a distinct lack of knowledge beyond beyond the shores of America.

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    1. While they may show a lack of knowledge beyond the shores of America, if you are intending to market to American audiences then that is something you truly need to consider.

      Delete
  8. Hate to say it, but I'd never make it past the blurb. It has quite a few errors that make me suspect of the authors' ability to write coherently.

    As posted above:

    New Years' Eve: the world parties on unaware as a toll of death far beyond 9/11 and 7/7 spreads across Britain. The UK makes its own rules as 1/1 dawns and they don't include fair play. A global-warming fuelled disaster engulfs the country. Can its citizens pull together despite differing skin colour and culture? Years later and still at large, the New Year bomber has a private agenda and a nuclear bomb.

    A better version, or at least more correct:

    It's New Year's Eve and the world parties on, unaware, as a death toll far beyond 9/11 and 7/7 spreads across Britain. As 1/1 dawns, the UK makes its own rules and they don't include fair play. A global-warming-fueled disaster engulfs the country. Can its citizens pull together? Years later and still at large, the New Year's bomber has a private agenda and a nuclear bomb.

    It's still messy and not a grabber... I get no sense of characters, only a general-concept set-up. But there's only so much that can be done here, given that I haven't read the novel to know better how to improve the blurb.

    But what I will say is this: That blurb is definitely hurting the book. And if it's an indication of the quality of writing inside the book (and most book-browsers will assume exactly that), then that's a big part of of what ails this novel.

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  9. I agree with everything Craig wrote. I did wonder though if the grammar issues may be British spelling? Such as colour, but do they spell fueled with an extra L?

    The cover is a main concern. The image is busy and the lettering gets lost.

    The opening paragraphs do not excite. They are too passive, too much telling, not enough showing. The combination of cover, blurb and opening words just didn't pull me in. I think there needs to be work on all.

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  10. The cover doesn't work for me. I know it's annoying that Americans don't recognize St. Paul's, but I'm afraid it's not an iconic London image for us over here (I've been to St. Paul's several time but still assumed I was looking at the U.S. Capitol). You'll probably have to decide whether you want to target an American readership (and keep in mind there are 300 million of us over here) and, if so, design a cover that crafted to appeal to an international audience. That is to say, bite the bullet and go with Big Ben. Cliches have their use. :)

    The typography is just not working. It's very hard to read and doesn't look professional.

    I'd just drop all the dates: it's cluttered. Perhaps the title might be something like: "New Year's Day: Jihad Britain."

    That said, the title, combined with the blurb, confuses me. The word "jihad" leads me to think that the book is about an Islamic attack on Britain, but the idea of a "global-warming-fueled disaster" and other elements of the blurb sound non-religious -- sort of the opposite idea, in fact (that people of all religions will have to pull together to deal with an environmental disaster). I'm assuming the idea is that there are two threats -- an Islamic bomber and environmental disaster -- and that England must overcome the threat of the first, as well as the animosity it provokes, in order to deal with the second. That's not really coming across, though. Something like this might work better:

    In the alternative history of Jihad Britain, a terrorist attack dwarfing all others consumes the nation on New Year's Day 2006. The government's violent reaction sows long-term dissension between the nation and its Islamic citizens, creating a society at war with itself.

    Years later, a looming environmental disaster demands that all Britons work together. But even as citizens of all cultures and creeds struggle to come together in spite of their divisions, the New Year's Day bomber is planning a new attack. And this time, he has a nuke.

    There are many punctuation errors in the 300-word sample. Not all readers are bother by that sort of thing, but enough are that having the book professionally line-edited would probably be wise.

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  11. At first glance, I thought it was the capital building in Washington, DC also. That's a natural assumption for American readers.

    I found the blurb confusing...

    It's New Year's Eve and the world parties on, unaware, as a death toll far beyond 9/11 and 7/7 spreads across Britain.

    (Ok, I'm thinking there's been another terrorist attack.)

    As 1/1 dawns, the UK makes its own rules and they don't include fair play.

    (Huh? There's been a major terrorist attack - what is this about the government making its own rules and playing fair?)

    A global-warming-fueled disaster engulfs the country.

    (Oh wait - it's not a terrorist attack, it's some disaster associated with global warming. Then why did the author compare it to 9/11 and 7/7 (terrorist attacks, not environmental disasters)?)

    Can its citizens pull together? Years later and still at large, the New Year's bomber has a private agenda and a nuclear bomb.

    (Oh wait - it IS a bombing. Huh?)

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  12. I couldn't interpret the title, the blurb is utterly disjointed and I didn't make it past the first paragraph of the sample.

    Nothing grabbed me what so ever and I had to try far too hard to try and understand what the book was about.

    The cover is also not really grabbing, though it is more polished than what is inside.

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  13. The blurb has me completely confused.

    What is this story about? Who is the bad guy? Who is the good guy? When is it taking place? (Not the month and day, but the year.)

    Is the scene of Fahkri's house being destroyed backstory? Are you telling us about him to explain why he becomes a bomber later? If so, he needs to exhibit some emotion. Now it's a dry newspaper accounting.

    The mention of environmental disaster suggests science thriller rather than political thriller. Which is it?

    Your query asking if the Brits can pull together during some disaster, despite differences in color and culture, is both sentimental and vague. You don't have time for generalities or cliche in a blurb. If someone is brave and unifies the country during the crisis, tell us who this person is. Make her a part of the blurb if the results are important.

    Also be careful in responding to these comments with anything less than graciousness. You don't want to seem insincere.

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  14. As one of the people who commented on the Capitol...

    I'm not even American. Yes, I know there is a "Americans are woefully ignorant about world geography" cliche going strong, but this is not the place to trot it out.

    Your cover is a shortcut for what the book is going to be about. Shortcuts are all about cliches. The image is presented in small format, and there is no way--without surrounding buildings--that someone can very clearly see that this is not the Capitol. I *have* been to St Paul's Cathedral. I have never set foot in Washington.

    A building shaped like that is shortcut for the Capitol, which is a shortcut for the US government, like it or not. As someone else said, use Big Ben. Nothing else says "London" quite as well. After all, if I'm going to put up a story about my home city, would I choose Town Hall (very pretty building) over the Sydney Opera House?

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  15. Since I use paintings on the covers of some of my own books, unlike Victorine, I have no objection to a painting as a cover but frankly I don't think it's a very good painting. It isn't a building that will be easily identified by Americans as has been mentioned a number of times.

    The description bothered me on a number of levels. Britain is a fairly large island mass. Beyond the fact that you don't give a main character, what part is being devastate and how? The idea that it is devastated from Scarfskerry to the south most point of Cornwall seems unlikely so I need something more than "A global-warming fuelled disaster".

    Part of the problem with a US audience is that the US is fairly parochial in its news knowledge and I would be willing to bet that 7/7 is something that 90% of Americans (maybe more) have absolutely no knowledge or memory of. The reference is not resonating.

    I also am not seeing how "A global-warming fuelled disaster" has anything to do with terrorism. So... your description is not cutting it in my opinion.

    The opening is very distanced emotionally. I don't end up with any real feeling for the character you're writing about so it hasn't drawn me into the story at all.

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  16. Anonymous said: " I did wonder though if the grammar issues may be British spelling? Such as colour, but do they spell fueled with an extra L?"

    Actually, it's that Americans drop an "l". ;-)

    Yes, that is British spelling.

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  17. As the other author concerned with writing the book I have waited until now to comment. To start I would like to say that many of the comments left are valid however many of the questions asked would have been answered if one person had read the book and not just the free introduction.
    I agree that the title is wrong but only after the event, my partner and I never assumed there would be confusion over 1/1 being the 1st of the 1st. Also Jihad was the event being planned and the place was Britain; on reflection I wished we had entitled it "At the Stroke of Midnight."
    As to the confusion over the building we initially started the book with St Pauls getting blown up but a Random House affiliate wanted the choreography changed so we agreed to start it with one of the two main protagonists. The start thus outlined the boy's reasons for becoming a terrorist.
    The story itself covers eight years and although the main hero is the man who becomes the Prime Minister the story is multi-stranded thus making it difficult to write a blurb without becoming a spoiler.
    My back is broad enough to accept all comments but I would really appreciate someone reading the book as I have now accepted the other criticisms. If anyone can't afford $4 please contact me through ArchimedesPresse.co.uk and I will send them a copy for a reader.
    There may well be much more that I would like to say but I will leave that for another day or for one to one communications- After this book we employed an American editor to advise us, not because we were writing things wrongly but to prevent confusion between English usage and Americanisms. I trust that none of you have judged us on that.
    Finally, changes will be made but not before some of you have read the whole tome. Thanking you for your time.
    Jack Everett EverettColesWritings.com

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    1. Not as the blog owner but as someone who has participated from the early days, I'd say it should be clear from the title of the blog that it's about why a book isn't selling. It examines things from the viewpoint of the potential buyer. Potential buyers don't read the whole book and tell you why they won't pay for it. They look at the title, cover and price; then, the blurb (if you're lucky) and finally the first few paragraphs (if you're really lucky). They're also influenced -- or not -- by your marketing. Those are what this blog and the comments consistently discuss: Title, cover, price, blurb, beginning, and marketing. Whole-book critique? Not here. But what you will find here is key to the question of why the book isn't selling, which is how the book looks to potential buyers.

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  18. Hi Jack, I agree, getting detailed feedback on the entire book is certainly invaluable, and is definitely what I would suggest you need. Asking other authors on this website to do this probably won't get you anywhere. If you're not willing to put in the time and effort to learn how to give detailed critiques to other writers, they're not going to take the time and effort giving you detailed critiques. Join a critique group. I suggest www.critiquecircle.com. Post one chapter, then critique other writers. Give thoughtful and well articulated critiques to others. You will get the same in return. This is what you need. But put on your thick skin and really try to look at their critiques in a serious way. Getting defensive about your writing won't help.

    Also - It's not too late to change your title. Or your cover. Or anything else. It's never too late to improve your product, unless everyone in the world already owns a copy.

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  19. To which I would add that changing your title and cover and blurb is easy and cheap. Hiring an editor to advise on the US vs UK issues is not, and, if you don't think the book is selling well enough, does it justify that expense? I suggest your money is much better spent on your bestselling book.

    Patty (same as above, commenting anonymously because of GRRRRR stupid Blogger)

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  20. I'm chiming in very late, sorry, and frankly I'm surprised no one has yet mentioned the biggest mechanical problem evidenced in the first 300: sentence structure. Count the "was" "were" and "been"s. These verb forms force identical sentence formation that in turn forces rigid, confining meter.

    Worse, this repetitious sentence formation style is what's making the story world so inaccessible for your audience. There is no room for emotion or likability or attachment around those big "to be"-shaped bricks.

    I do not need to read the whole book to know that your competitors in this genre grab their audience more quickly and more irrevocably. Either rewrite, or invest the effort in future titles.

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    1. I think Meg nailed it. The first 300 words were bland enough that I was bored before the end. I want to feel a reason to cheer for the main character.

      It is rare that I've found a book enjoyable that wasn't intriguing within the first page. In every instance I can remember of plowing forward despite my misgivings, I've been disappointed. Take, for example, "A Farewell to Arms", by Earnest Hemingway.

      It was the first thing I'd read by E.H. I had heard he was a horrible writer, but I didn't believe it. I made it the whole way through the damn book before realizing the rumors were true. Now, I know better.

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  21. I miss this blog! Is it ever coming back?

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  22. I miss this blog too! Unfortunately, Real Life took over and has been keeping me too busy. I do hope to pick it up again when things settle down here.

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