Monday, July 25, 2011


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?


  1. Here's the first thing I noticed. The title on Amazon reads:

    "Anomaly (a novel of bias and acceptance)"

    I'm not a fan of what you have between the parens. How many people out there are shopping for books about "bias?" And "bias and acceptance" sounds odd, like it could be preachy. If you put anything in parens, I'd pick words that say "buy me," whether it's "psychological thriller" or "paranormal" or something that highlights something more popular and targeted.

    It sounds like the MC is a transgender. That's a tough sell, so I understand why you don't have that info in the product description. Not sure how to fix that, other than trying to get good book reviewers to talk it up.

    Big Al's review says:

    "I find it hard to picture this book attracting a contract with a traditional publisher. Not because the writing or the story isn't good enough, they are. But because of marketing reasons. How would we position it? Who's the audience? Can we sell enough? This book deserves an audience and you owe it to yourself to read it."

    I think he highlights the issues. Who is the audience and how can you position it to them? Fwiw, I like the cover, but I wonder if it's a good one for your audience. However, I'm not sure how to define who your audience is. I'm not saying there isn't one. I just don't know the answer.

  2. I agree with Moses, regarding the subtitle. I would punch that up. And, from the cover, I would think the story has something to do with an angel.

    I disagree with Moses about mentioning the transgender thing in the description. That's a targeted niche market--and people will want to know that the protagonist is transgender.

    The description just doesn't sell me. It sounds almost like a self-help book.

    Something like: A night at the pub turns vicious, sending J into a downward spiral. His world cracks, then shatters and J finds himself lost in the dark recesses of his mind. Everything and everyone J depends on for his sanity slips out of his grasp, and he alone must face his demons...or die.

    I don't know. A bit melodramatic there, but it needs to be punched up.

  3. Interesting point about mentioning transgender in the product description, Suzanne.

    I think it's better not to mention it if she's going for a wider audience. If she's going for that niche, then it would make sense to mention it in the product description and maybe in the title, too.

  4. I really like the voice in the sample, and I considered buying the book, but ultimately, I feel like it would be too much of a risk at this point, because I still have no idea what this book is about.

    So, that would be my advice. Tell your potential readers what the book is about. What is the plot? (A basic formula to follow is: Desire, obstacle, stakes. What does your protag want? What's in his way? What happens if he doesn't get it?) A journey of self-discovery is very vague and doesn't tell me much. Similarly, I don't know why someone would decide to become a good Samaritan because he got beat up, nor does it make sense to me that being a good Samaritan would pit him against his family and friends. The right kind of blanks are good in a summary, because they make me want to read the book to find out. Too many blanks, however, just leave me confused, and I move on.

    Good luck with this!!

  5. I don't see much of a point in not mentioning it. To me, it's like saying, "My book is religious fiction, but I won't mention it in my description because I want a wider audience." Well, you're just going to make some people mad after they read the whole book and in the end the main character finds Jesus and becomes saved. If it's religious, label it. If the MC is transgender, I think it's important to tell people what they're getting.

  6. I have always heard that anything in the first 3 chapters or so is fair game for the blurb. So if we know in the first 300 words that our protagonist is transgendered, I personally find that interesting, especially in a story about duality. It would make the blurb more appealing for me, as would a more concrete idea of the plot itself. I have read a LOT of lit fic in my time, though I read primarily genre fic now.

    Either way, since the blurb is so easy to change...why not try it?

    Oh, and if there's no paranormal element, though, I wouldn't go with the angel cover.

  7. I agree about the cover. I thought it was going to be about an angel too. There are so many paranormal books out there with this type of cover that it may cause buyer confusion.

    I would also mention that this is about a transgender person. The only reason being, that it will be seen as deceptive if you don't.

    There are many people who would not want to read a book about a TG character, and will be upset when they buy it and find out that is what it is, and your reviews may suffer becauce of it.

    Conversely, there are many people who would love to read a book of this nature, but they would never know that is what it is as it isn't mentioned.

    I would include this info in the blurb and then focus marketing to that segment of the reading public. With focused marketing, I'll bet it will do very well. Good luck with it.

  8. I think Vicki hit the nail on the head with her comment about the dissonance between the cover and the content.

    The cover is attractive and well designed (we all know how seldom I say that) but it does not telegraph at all the more literary content of the book.

    A novel with these themes can be a good thing, but the cover just doesn't match the content and can be potentially misleading.

    I'm sure you wouldn't want that. So I'd suggest seeking out a cover that matches the theme of the content more closely.

  9. As others have said, the cover depicts an angel, which is what I would expect to find in the book. If there isn't an angel, and it's being used as a metaphor for something else, then it doesn't work so well. Also, the book description doesn't grab me at all and it doesn't really tell me much about what goes on in the book. A man gets beaten up and then becomes a good Samaritan seems to be the gist of it, but that doesn't really tell me much about the story.

  10. Lose the subtitle.

    Some readers might be pushed away by a transgender MC, but you're going to find a strong audience among those who are not. I'm thinking specifically of "Middlesex," which was a best seller; though in that book the MC was hermaphroditic not trans, gender issues are of interest to more people than one might think--perhaps to more people than might be repulsed. Either way it's something you should mention right off the top. I mean, the "alsos" on your book are almost all trans-related, so it's obvious *something* is up, especially since a lot of the "alsos" are a little wanna be clear about what this book is about in that company.

    OK, I just went and read the sample at Smashwords since I don't have my Trusty Kindle to hand. The fluidity of the MC's gender is such an important part of the book that you HAVE to rewrite your blurb to encompass it. The last line in the current blurb is the weakest.

    Good luck!

  11. "It sounds like the MC is a transgender. That's a tough sell.,."

    Actually. MANY novels with LGBT main characters sell very well.

    I would re-write the blurb to be more honest and re-do the cover to better reflect it actual genre.

  12. great points everyone. the dichotomy of the comments kind of explains why I'm having troubles. I tried putting Trans-gender in the description. Got pretty much zero sales. Took it out, it sold a bit better. It's not really a novel about transgenderism. It's about well, bias and self acceptance using a TG person to explore it. Still not sure if I should put it in or leave it out. grin.

    I've never been good at synopses and it shows in my description. I know. Just don't know how to fix that. will work on it based on suggestions. much appreciated!

    will consider all these comments very closely. I appreciate every comment as it's truly helpful.

    thanks again!

  13. Why would you say that he is "transgendered" in the blurb? That is a clinical description. I can see why that would be off-putting.

    But isn't what happens that he is gay bashed? So describe that. What you want in a blurb is to make the story sound interesting. Transgendered is clinical but someone being beat bloody because he is what? Effeminate appearance? Different?

    By the way, why doesn't 'J' have a name?

    Is this listed in gay & lesbian which is where someone who is interested in that will look? Don't be afraid of the subject matter which is what it sounds like you are.

    Why be afraid of the fact that this is a topic that will attract LGBT readership if it is well-handled. Yes, it can attract others, but that is the main market for that story.

    I don't understand your fear. Having a LGBT protagonist very RARELY means it is ABOUT that. but it is mainly people who have an interest in LGBT who will want to buy your novel and there ARE a lot out there.

    Being LGBT is nothing to be ashamed of and neither is targeting that market.

  14. Sorry, I got sidetracked. If it were me, I'd really work on that blurb and stop dancing around (and your protag not having a name really bothers me).

    What is the inciting action? 'J' being gay bashed is what it sounds like.

    I have no idea what "good Samaritanism" means in this context or in this story either. What is it he does

    I kind of disagree with Vicki that the blurb just needs a little tightening. I actually have no idea what the story is or what it's about. This kid (is it a kid?) is gay bashed and then what? Give me a hint what it is about and not just fairly meaningless generalisations.

    By the way, about 75% of the stories I buy have a gay MC or characters who are gay. And I make NO apologies for it.

  15. I see what you mean, Thea, about struggling with the blurb. The blurb does need a bit of work to punch up the strengths of the story.

    Does it need to say it's about a transgendered person? I'm not sure it does or it doesn't. What it does need is just a bit more "punch." In terms of helping get across the interesting aspects of the story so that the blurb clearly says, "Buy me. This is an interesting story!"

    I think the elements are there in the blurb. If I could suggest a way to rearrange them, I would, but I'm drawing a blank at the moment, probably because I just don't know the whole novel the way you do as the author.

    I will say one thing that distances me from the blurb is that you have a main character whose name appears to be just an initial: J. Is that the case throughout the novel? If so, there's nothing to be done about it, I guess. If not, then I'd suggest using the character's full name in the blurb, too.

    I guess I could at least try to point out some aspects of the blurb that seem weak to me, even if I'm not 100 percent sure how to fix them.

    Here's an example: "J's pleasurable pub night"

    That seems overwritten and almost British. If your story is set in Britain, great! But if it's set in the US, very few people refer to bars as pubs. "pleasurable" seems there just for alliteration and makes that bit seem overwritten.


  16. PART TWO:

    Here's some more analysis:

    You wrote:

    "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."

    The same sort of overwriting is evident here. The term "story waters" just doesn't seem to match it with "good Samaratinism" as a concept... and yet the sentence tells me it's his "penchant for self-destruction and self-medication" that ... what, make him a good Samaritan? That stops me cold.

    Perhaps it's because the blurb is written using a lot of abstractions that I struggle with how to recommend re-shaping it. See, I learn very little about the story elements actually found in the novel... elements that would lead me to OneClick... from the current blurb as written.

    And because of that, it's also hard to rearrange them, because those tantalizing details aren't there to play with.

    After the abstraction in place of specifics, the blurb then devolves into cliche... "pitting him against his family, his friends, and ultimately himself." That describes lots of novels. I want to read something that makes me want to read this particular novel.

    You finish out like so: "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."

    That first sentence attempts to make this a story about everyone instead of a particular character. Had there been more specifics about J and his/her story, that might work better, but as the current description lacks specifics, it just continues the distancing process.

    And the "one week can change a person for a lifetime" could be a good concept to build a blurb around, but doesn't match how the rest of the blurb is written. Although I wouldn't use the inferred second-person voice that pops up in that last sentence "[You] See..." but would keep it in a more third-person voice.

    END PART 2


    While I'm not sure how to fix it because I don't know your story in this book well enough, I can point you to a novel not completely UN-like yours that you could look to.

    Have you ever read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides? It's a former Oprah's Book Club selection and never uses clinic words like transgendered, but is quite specific and full of detail that draws a reader in whether they would typically be interested in gender issues or not.

    I can't find the book's actual blurb, but here's something from a review of the book that acts a bit LIKE a blurb:

    "I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974." And so begins Middlesex, the mesmerizing saga of a near-mythic Greek American family and the "roller-coaster ride of a single gene through time." The odd but utterly believable story of Cal Stephanides, and how this 41-year-old hermaphrodite was raised as Calliope, is at the tender heart of this long-awaited second novel from Jeffrey Eugenides, whose elegant and haunting 1993 debut, The Virgin Suicides, remains one of the finest first novels of recent memory.

    See how many details are used here? Details that tantalize someone into reading the book, without the loaded clinic word like "transgendered" but that clearly telegraph the idea that the novel will, at least in part, be about gender identity issues.

    I read and enjoyed Middlesex, largely off the blurb of the book. (Actually, I experienced it on as a listen, more than a read.)

    I think if you can punch up the description of Anomaly in a similar way to Middlesex, you can help yourself a lot.

    That, and a more appropriate cover; like I said earlier, agreeing with Vicki, that cover leads me to expect a paranormal book on angels, not a book in the vein of Middlesex.

  18. The last book I read with an angel on the cover and not in the interior was David Eddings'"The Losers". It has the dubious honor of being one of his few novels that doesn't have its own wikipedia article.

  19. thanks again everyone, and especially Craig for your thoroughness. I know the blurb needs mucho work. it has been the worst job for me as an indie. I might pull out my query to my agent and see what I did.

    all very helpful and much appreciated


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