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Friday, March 30, 2012

All The Colors: a novel about Thailand and the search for life beyond Corporate America


Author: Eric Fisher
Genre: Literary Fiction
How long it's been on sale: Dec 2011
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Facebook, Twitter, KDP Select Free, banner ad on Thai themed website
Total sold so far: 40
Link to book on Amazon: All The Colors: a novel about Thailand and the search for life beyond Corporate America

Product Description:

 Charlie works for a San Francisco money management outfit that's got billion dollar accounts and a penthouse suite, but he's nowhere near the top. Long hours, big egos, and a skimpy entry level wage... It's him against the big shots who want to keep him down so they can climb the company ladder. Surely there's more to life than this.

When a friend who plays by his own set of rules suggests a trip to Thailand Charlie suspects that this is just the opportunity that he's been waiting for, but if he thought office politics were hard to understand, just wait until he throws Bangkok and Pattaya into the mix. Now he's got to reconcile points of view from Thai prostitutes, expats, high society debutantes, capitalists, socialists, and overbearing bosses. Everyone warns him not to fall in love, not to lose the plot and stick to his corporate career if he wants to succeed, but after he's seen Siam, there's no going back to the life he knew before.

First 300 Words:

What Charlie wanted to do was pass the test. Jam those calculations in his head and climb up a rung or two on the corporate ladder. The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exam was no joke. Less than half who take the test pass all three levels and this was only the first. There was a ton of information to remember. Entire books that you needed to read about statistics, ethics, quantitative formulas, corporate finance and a bunch of other stuff. This all had to be recalled during the limited time they gave you to sit for the exam. Everyone at his work was “strongly encouraged” to take these tests, which increased the pressure. But if you passed all three levels you could break from the crowd. You could get a better job, one that paid well like managing money. Perhaps best of all, you could tell the guys sitting up on the throne to flush their own shit for a change. It was a worthy pursuit.

He could hear his neighbor singing in stiletto spiked bursts of incompetence through the paper thin walls. The chair kept rolling into his desk due to the slant in his apartment’s uneven floor, and his leg felt numb from the way he had to sit scrunched up against it as he read the book. Most of its pages were crisp and glossy from having never been thumbed through. He put in earplugs, placed a pillow under his butt and continued reading. He’d memorized the formula for Standard Deviation, but the Sharpe Ratio kept coming out wrong. The quantitative stuff was not sticking. Could it be a problem with his sciatic nerve? He palpitated his gluteus and felt a shock shoot down his leg. He stopped doing that. The tingling sensation, right above his right knee, was one of the first things he noticed when the doctors took him off the pain meds. Neuropathy, they called it. They’d done an EMG and when that didn’t point to the cause they did an MRI, that awful… walled-in machine with its jarring knocking sounds. The result was inconclusive, so he lived with it.

Vicki's Comments: First, a cavat. I don't often read literary fiction. I might be totally off base with my assessment here, so take this with that in mind.

The title is the first thing that caught my attention, and not in a good way I'm afraid. In my opinion, the title should not explain what the novel is about. The title should stand on its own, and be able to hook the reader into wanting to know more about the book. The description should then make it clear what the book is about. Having to say: "a novel about Thailand and the search for life beyond Corporate America" in the title is an immediate turn off for me. It also isn't capitalized correctly, so that gave me a bad feeling about the book as well. I would take that part out and just title it "All the Colors."

I would probably redesign the cover. I think it needs a more professional look. At the very least, I would put a new font on it.

The description isn't bad, but I think it could be tightened up. I am not seeing the conflict. I don't see why he is pulled toward Thailand. What's listed in the description - prostitutes, expats, high society debutantes, capitalists, socialists, and overbearing bosses don't make me think good things. This doesn't explain why he is wanting to leave corporate America. Give the reader more conflict.

The beginning starts with back story and explanation. This immediately makes me want to put the book down. Sorry. I would definitely cut the first paragraph. The second isn't terrible, but still gives me the feeling that it could be tightened up. I might try submitting the first chapter to a critique group to get some other eyes on it.

What do you guys think?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Christmas Inc: What Happens When Wall Street Takes on Christmas?


Author: Ed O'Connell
Genre: Humour - Short Story
How long it's been on sale: Dec. 2011
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Started a blog, opted into the kdp select program and used free promo days to boost exposure, offered free copies to friends/acquaintances who might review (just one review so far - 4 stars).
Total sold so far: 5
Link to book on Amazon: Christmas Inc: What Happens When Wall Street Takes on Christmas?

Product Description:

What happens when Christmas is acquired by a notorious Wall Street private equity firm?

Corporate restructuring and micro-management come to the North Pole: with hilarious results!

This is a short story of approximately 24 pages.

Excerpt:

The four-storey Christmas building was centred around a vast atrium, in which grew an almost-as-vast fir tree, sparkling with candles that never seemed to burn out, and toys, bows and baubles of every colour imaginable. Around the periphery of the building, workshops of different sizes bustled with a moving rainbow of workers dressed in blues and greens, yellows and reds, purples and gold. At first, the Scruge Group contingent had though this a clever way of distinguishing workers of different departments for performance management purposes. When they found out that no such policy existed they were simply confused.

First 300 Words:

Santa packed the last of his things into the flimsy cardboard box the HR consultant had provided to him. Two thousand one hundred and eleven years on the job, and they wouldn’t even let him keep the sack, never mind the red suit. He looked down sadly, pulling at the pockets of the tailor-made Italian wool suit that the third Mrs Claus had ordered for him; no doubt she’d foreseen this moment, while the others had swallowed the promise that there’d be no changes to key personnel.

“Ho, ho, ho indeed,” he muttered to himself, drawing an exasperated “what?” from the new Head of Company Security, who’d been posted at his door to escort him from the premises.

He ignored the thick-necked man leaning in the doorway and sat in his chair for one last time. He leaned back and surveyed his office for the last time, shaking his head. It was so peaceful in here; he felt as if he was sitting outside, with all the space in the world. Two thousand one hundred and eleven years, he thought. It was a lifetime really. What would he do now? Help Mrs. Claus with her charity luncheons? Golf? He didn’t have to worry about money, at least; his ten percent stake in the business meant that he’d netted a small fortune from the sale. For him, the money just gave rise to another question: what would he do with it?

No one had thought for a moment that they’d get rid of Santa, and so unceremoniously at that. He’d been summoned to that sharp woman’s office, a lively workshop until so recently, now just another dull grey bastion of corporate tedium. He had looked incredulously at the empty walls, with a sense that the life had started to seep from the place. 

Vicki's Comments: I'm not in love with the cover. I understand the bull with the hat, and the concept is kind of cute, but I don't like the gradient background. I think that's hurting the cover. If you want to stick with the bull/hat idea, I would find a picture and not crop around the bull. Just put the hat on him. The manufactured background isn't good. The font isn't horrible, but I think it could be better. I'd work on that too.

The description isn't bad, but I'm not connecting to anyone. Is there a main character? I'd probably mention them in the description. Is this from Santa's POV? That would be good to know.

I don't like the excerpt in the description. I would cut it. It also doesn't help that there is a typo. (Though - Thought)

The writing could be tightened up. For instance, "...doorway and sat in his chair for one last time. He leaned back and surveyed his office for the last time..." The repeat of 'last time' jars me as I'm reading. I don't think there's a lot to tighten up, though, so maybe just giving it to a few beta readers (other writers) would tighten it up enough.

I think with a new cover and improved description this could be selling better. What do you guys think?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Zombie Love: The Outbreak


Author: Eric J. Sobolik
Genre: Young adult/supernatural/comedy
How long it's been on sale: 08-08-2011
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Marketing so far has been family and friends, reviews on Amazon, and sending book review requests to many independent book review blogs.
Total sold so far: 63
Link to book on Amazon: Zombie Love: The Outbreak (Book 1)

Product Description: 

Zombie Love is the story of a widespread virus, in a way that has never been done before. As people lose loved ones, some decide that sometimes the people you love are the only ones worth fighting for. As factions form, and the world crumbles, people must choose sides. Help or destroy.

When a virus is developed as the ultimate cure all by reversing death itself, the world is plunged into a crisis of faith, dedication, and love.

In book one we meet Summer Strom, a normal high school teenager who is thrown cruelly into a set of circumstances that nobody should have to deal with. She has to fight back against everybody she knows as she battles for the only thing worth fighting for. Love.

First 300 Words:

Prologue

Sam Eckhart was alone in his office, enjoying a fine single malt scotch. A little liquid pat on the back for a job well done or, as his superiors put it, “a scientific breakthrough of biblical proportions” when there was a knock on his door.

“Come in.”

In his head, Sam was comparing himself to Jesus. What he had accomplished was nothing short of a miracle and he knew that there would be a religion someday that praised him. Eckhartism or something like that. His new assistant cleared his throat, interrupting Sam’s fantasy. The boy was an acne covered little brat, and not only on the face. Sam had seen the kid in a t-shirt before and judging by the horrible red pustules covering his arms and neck, Sam could just imagine what the rest of him looked like, as hard as he tried not to. He had not liked what he had imagined. Now though, the bright red bumps were extra crimson, contrasting brightly against an almost translucent skin.

The boy opened his mouth and said something. Sam just shuddered, thinking about the kid naked. He almost felt sorry for him, but was more so disgusted by him. The kid spoke again.

“Sir, are you okay?”

Am I okay, thought Sam. This pre-pubescent punk did not have the faintest idea of what Sam had accomplished this night. Sure, it had taken him almost thirty-five years, in addition to the failed relationships and the deep self-loathing, but it would be worth it for this.

“Sir?”

Sam snapped back to reality. He realized he had better respond or the kid would just keep blinding him with his pale skin and his pimples glaring like burning spots of teen awkwardness.

"What?"

"Sir, I just asked if you were ok?"

Vicki's Comments: The photo on the cover is very fun! I wish it were in color, but I am willing to overlook that because the picture is so clever. I'm not fond of the box with the title and author in it. I would re-do that part. But I do like the eye-catching photo. It suggests to me that this book is funny, maybe even a parody, and that the story is light and whimsical.

The description needs help. I would start with Summer Storm, and what her problems are. Be more specific. Language like, "thrown cruelly into a set of circumstances that nobody should have to deal with," doesn't give me an idea of what her challenges are. I want to know the plot, to figure out if I want to read it. What circumstances does she have to deal with? What does love have to do with it? Who does she love, and what stops her from loving him? (I assume by the picture on the cover that she falls in love with a zombie. Make that clear in the description.)

I like the beginning of the book. If I were to nit-pick, I'd have to say that it might need a little trimming. For example, "He had not liked what he had imagined." This is implied in the previous sentences, and therefore isn't needed. If I were to tell you I could just imagine what donky hair icecream would taste like, I wouldn't have to say that what I imagined isn't pleasant. There are a few other instances of this in the first 300 words. You don't have to hit the reader over the head with what you're trying to say. However, I did enjoy the beginning of the book and I probably would read on if it were sitting on my Kindle. If the entire book were repetitive like this, though, I would put it down.

I would suggest tweaking the cover, making the title and author name look a bit more professional, probably directly on the photo. If you can, I'd put the photo in color. I'd also tighten up the blurb. I think those two things will help you sell more books.

What do you guys think?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Spaces Between


Author: Martin Gibbs
Genre: Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: Over a year
Current price: $3.29
Marketing: I have posted on Kindleboards, Amazon MOA, blogged, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads
Total sold so far: 5
Link to book on Amazon: The Spaces Between

Product Description:

An exiled warlock sits fuming in his confinement. A not-so-secret holy Order can't keep its "elite" members alive. An idiot man-child talks to a dead man who leads him nearly to his death. A Holy Temple sits waiting for new tenants as the others were slaughtered by a demonic abomination. And a bull-headed mercenary is convinced he can trek off into the great north and learn magic.

Fantasy clich├ęs are put to the test in this off-beat and dark fantasy story. There is an adventure, a journey, a quest if you will. But the heroes, if you dare call them that, will not even come close to saving the world.

First 300 Words:

Prologue

Snow burst into the icy air in a great cloud of frozen flakes. The boot that set forth the torrent was worn, but sturdy, and constructed for the harsh climate. The cloud of snow caught a light breeze and whirled up and over the ramparts—quickly the individual flakes were scattered to oblivion. Large snowflakes fell lazily from the leaden sky, but many were carried away by the breeze. The boot swept once more at the stone rampart, and its owner looked down with a critical eye. No damage. Every inch he examined was as pristine as the day it was built those hundreds of years ago. He continued his slow trek across the rampart, pausing every few feet to sweep snow away from the stone.

The steady stream of enormous snowflakes gave the atmosphere a sense of calm that was as devastating as it was serene. He shuddered underneath his thick fur coat. With a curse, he flipped the hood over his head—at any moment the light snow could turn into a driving blizzard. Calm weather in the Spires was always short-lived and too often followed by a fierce snowstorm.

There was work to be done regardless of the elements.

He glanced at the snow and sky for brief intervals; his gaze was locked on every inch of the snow-covered ramparts—black eyes darted, looking for cracks or fissures. Giving a final grunt of satisfaction, he walked swiftly back to the eastern rampart and descended a stone ladder that had been set into the wall. This section, like the others, showed little sign of wear. The castle had been pounded by wind and blizzards for nine out of twelve months over the years, and yet it still showed the glow of first building. The castle had stood for hundreds of years, and he swore he could still see the marks left by the builders. Something, or someone, had worked very hard to ensure that the building remained strong. Regardless, he had to check. He descended the ladder, finally landing in the courtyard with a soft thud. Another tuft of snow rose into the icy air.

Vicki's Comments: I like the cover. It looks very other-worldly. It's well designed, and draws my attention. The only thing that makes me pause is it really looks like a sci-fi novel instead of a fantasy novel. Now, sometimes sci-fi and fantasy mingle a bit, but in reading your blurb I'm not getting a sci-fi feeling at all. I think that's a major issue. Your cover should be enticing science fiction lovers, but when they read the blurb they probably don't want to read it because they're looking for science fiction. I would suggest re-doing the cover to catch those looking for fantasy.

The product description really needs help, in my opinion. When I pick up a book and read the description, I want a general idea of the main character and what their struggles are in the book. This description gives me several situations, but not really a plot idea or a character that I want to read more about. I'd look at getting other author's opinions on the blurb.

The first 300 words did not catch my interest. There seemed to be too much focus on the snow. There wasn't much to draw me in with the snow. The only time snow really is interesting to me is if people are stuck in a blizzard and they're going to drive off the road, freeze to death, or other such grave danger. But even then talking too much about the snow itself would take away the tension. I want to know more about the people. Which brings me to another issue. When I start reading a book, I want to know the name of the person I'm reading about. Unless there's a very good reason for withholding the name of the character, I want to know the name. (A good reason to withhold the name would be it's a mystery and the unknown character is the murderer and we can't know the name because it would give the ending away.)

I would suggest trying a different cover - one that emphasizes the fantasy genre. I would also try a different blurb. Focus more on the main character. I'd also get some advice on starting the book with a hook. It could be as easy as trimming off the first few paragraphs.

What do you guys think?

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Masks of Our Fathers


Author: Barry Napier
Genre: Horror/Thriller
How long it's been on sale: 11 months
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Twitter, Facebook, blogging, contacted reviewers to minor success
Total sold so far: 46
Link to book on Amazon: The Masks of Our Fathers

Product Description:

There is a powerful secret waiting in the forests of Moore’s Hollow. Buried in myths and ignored by history, there are dark things in the woods that laid claim to the land many years ago.

Jason Melhor heard about this secret around summer campfires as a boy. As a child, he came to know the legends well. But as he grew older, these fables disappeared with other childhood things.

Now, as a man unable to escape a past marred by an alcoholic father and his mother’s suicide, Jason has returned to Moore’s Hollow to bring his sordid family tragedy to a close. He has packed only a pistol and a single bullet.

But the secrets of Moore’s Hollow that Jason passed off as myths over the years are still lurking in the forests.

Something knows Jason has returned...and he has returned at the worst possible time.

First 300 Words:

Jason Melhor drove to his father’s old fishing cabin to kill himself.
The drive from Philadelphia to the back roads of central Virginia had taken almost seven hours, but Jason hadn’t been aware of the time. He had watched the scenery roll by as if he were only a bystander. The radio had been on but served only as reduced background noise, as insignificant as the wheels of his Honda Civic against the road. The only noises he had been aware of at all during the course of the trip were the shifting and clinking sounds that came from the glove compartment. The pistol that he had stored inside it tapped against the interior of the compartment from time to time, as if urging Jason to speed up, to get there already, to get this over with.
At some point, he had left the interstates and four-lane roads behind him. These had eventually become the single lane roads that wound around, and often through, the gradual elevation of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was the familiarity of these roads that had him pressing harder on the accelerator. He knew most of these roads from his teenage years, but the curves and the rise and fall of the terrain still evoked a sense of excitement in him; maybe he’d hit a curb too hard and flip his car over a guard rail, plummeting down the side of the mountain in a blur of trees, glass, and metal. It would certainly be more exciting than the firing of a single bullet.
As he made his way through the Shenandoah Valley, he knew that it would be almost unjust to die in such a way, though. If he were to die by sending his car off of one of these mountain roads, he’d be neglecting the inherited irony that would come by committing suicide in his father’s fishing cabin.

Gina's Comments:

Cover: The first impression of the cover is good. I like the dark eerie feeling. I imagine the horned thing to be a demon or evil presence. I like the red...also a sign of evil things to come. I like the lettering very much. All in all, this cover works for me.

Price: It's a fine price. If it's not selling, you might want to put it lower, but it's certainly not too expensive.

Product Description: Oh. I really like the product description. Spooky! I'd read this book based on that description!

First 300: I like the first paragraph but I am catching some little writing issues that might make fluidity of reading less comforting as it could be. I'm noticing a trend of "had taken" had been" "had watched". I think this puts the reader out of the story. To say it all in more of an active voice would work better for me. For example:
The drive from Philadelphia to the back roads of central Virginia took almost seven hours, but Jason wasn't aware of the time. He watched the scenery roll by as if he were only a bystander. The radio served only as background noise, as insignificant as the wheels of his Honda Civic against the road. The only noises he was aware of at all during the course of the trip were the shifting and clinking sounds that came from the glove compartment. The pistol stored inside it tapped against the interior of the compartment from time to time, as if urging Jason to speed up, to get there already, to get this over with.

It's a very subliminal thing, but it helps the reader feel like they're riding in the car with Jason instead of hearing about it later.

I believe this is the reason the book isn't selling. The plot sounds awesome. The cover rocks. The book description it solid. But...the writing isn't tight. You have extra words...watch those "that's". The average reader doesn't even know why they don't like it, they just know it isn't a fluid read.

I'd go through the book and do a search and destroy for the word that. Very seldom is the word actually required in a sentence. Plus, get this story in an active voice. I really think it has the ability to sell...at least by this beginning. But I personally would struggle with it as I'd be constantly wanting to tighten up your sentences.