Saturday, July 9, 2011

Gladiator Girl: An Alternate Reality Action-sports Love Story

Author: R. H. Watson
Genre: Science Fiction
How long it's been on sale: Nov. 2010
Current price: $4.99
Total sold so far: 56 Kindle, 49 Paperback
Amazon Link: Gladiator Girl: An Alternate Reality Action-sports Love Story

Product Description:

Lucy Star is a hot, up and coming rookie guardian in the sport of Blood Battle. A sport built around a new genetic procedure that allows girls, and only girls, to survive extraordinary injuries up until the age of 25, when they stop growing.

Her budding fame catches the eye of Jayzen, favored son of the wealthiest family in the city, entangling her in his and his sister Francine’s fortunes. She struggles with career and relationships, and doesn’t recognize the spark of love growing under her nose.

But she has a dark past: a family history and childhood she had escaped from when she was 14. With the help of her best friend Charlotte—the only person who ever knew her secret—she had successfully put that life behind her. It was all but forgotten.

Then her younger brother, who she hadn’t seen since he was 10 years old, walks back into her life, harboring a dark secret of his own, one that threatens to suck her into the past she thought she had escaped, and destroy her and everyone she loves.

First 300 Words:

There were thirty-seven buns in the oven and one was about ready to drop. Mary sat at the console in the Monitor Room. She pulled a card from her deck and was making a play when the birth alarm went off. The monitor showed that the womb with the bun named Lucy Star had broken its water and was chugging away with contractions. The girl’s head was emerging.

A gurney was parked outside the Monitor Room that Mary had prepared when she came on duty for the night shift. She picked up the big, fluffy towel from its mattress and hung it around her neck. Vesper, one of her matron’s aids, came out of the Recovery Ward. “I got it,” she said to Mary and headed to the Memory Vault to collect the girl’s placenta jar. Mary pushed the gurney into the Womb Room.

Rows of bulky, mostly organic contraptions stood down both sides of the room. They were big, corpulent, fleshy things with fittings at the top to feed in nutrients. Other tubes lower in the back removed waste. In the lower front, each had a vulva big enough to pass a grown woman. About two-thirds of the way down the room, one had done just that. A limp, naked girl, wet with amniotic fluid, was lying in a soft, squishy birth basin. Her umbilical cord trailed back into the womb where her foot was caught in the birth canal.

Mary pulled the girl’s foot out, cleared her mouth, and listened to her take her first gargling breath in over two weeks. It sounded healthy.

She cut the girl’s umbilical cord, and sealed the ends, then lifted the girl onto the gurney, swaddled her in the big fluffy towel, and pressed a rubber teat into her mouth. . . .

Vicki's Comments: The premise of this book is interesting to me, and reading the first 300 words sucked me in. However, the cover is a huge turn-off to me. I'm a science fiction fan. I never would have taken a second look at this book from glancing at the cover. Why? It doesn't portray the genre at all. Maybe if I knew more about the book I could see the symbolism in the cover image, but that's not what it's there for. It's to give the reader a sense of the book at a glance. I think the cover really needs an overhaul.

The description could use some work also, but it's not bad in my opinion. I'd like to know more about the conflicts that Lucy faces in this book. Eluding to secrets is okay, but I'd like to know what they are. And how can she have secrets in her past if she was born a grown woman, as the first 300 words indicate?

And that brings me to more questions about the first 300 words. I did get confused at the "her first gargling breath in over two weeks" part. I thought she was just born. Did she live before? If this is a re-birth, I would make that a little more clear. To me, it reads as if these people were all born fully grown, and that's the science of the day. I'd also like to know more about how fully grown these people are. The description makes me think that teenagers are battling in this sport, so I would make the age of Lucy when she was born, or re-born, more clear.

Now, after nit-picking this, I will say I think the main issue is the cover. I really do like the premise of the book and from what I read the writing is tight and draws me in. I am not concerned with the price. Science fiction ebooks are priced a little on the higher end, and with a different cover I can see this book doing very well.

What do you guys think?


  1. I'm another who thinks the cover isn't strong enough. It tells us nothing about this story - I would never have guessed it was sci-fi. The title made me think it was a historical book. I think the description is good (but could possibly be tightened up a little to tell more about the action of the story because it sounds like this will be an action intensive book). I'm not too hung up on the questions in the beginning because that should be the point - you should have questions as a reader because that will make you keep reading to find out what's going on!

    Price wise the author may want to experiment (one a new cover is obtained) to see if they can raise sales. $4.99 is high on the indie spectrum.

  2. I think the cover is your biggest problem here.

    The #1 priority of the cover is to grab a potential readers interest, and communicate the genre of the book.

    That cover says murder mystery with a strong female protagonist.

    So the readers than will be drawn in to look at it based on the cover will probably be turned off by the content, and YOUR audience, the ones that would love the content, are probably passing right over this because they think it's something else.

  3. I agree about the cover and the price, but given the blurb I think you could maybe start the story in a better place.

    Lucy Star is a hot, up and coming rookie guardian in the sport of Blood Battle interests me; it's exciting and sounds a bit like The Hunger Games, and look how successful that is. For me, all that information about fake organic wombs on the first page is a turn-off.

  4. I agree on the title and cover.

    Some of the writing could be tighter and cleaner (both in the sample and the description). One example: the first paragraph has 5 instances of were/was, which tend to be weak verb forms.

    Also, some of the action confused me. I didn't get that she'd been born full-grown. Had to go back and reread to catch that after reading Vicki's commentary.

  5. The paperback to eBook ratio is crazy good.

    Cover could be better. A feisty girl in dark leathers, a mask, and a weapon might work.

    The blurb could be punchier, it has some exciting elements. But the themes are jarring. The cover looks historical (the cream and the rose), the blurb reads like fantasy, the first 300 words read SciFi, and the subtitles on the Amazon link reads romance. Color me confused. I would suggest more cohesion in these themes to bring it together. Other themes can be nice surprises for the reader, but you don't need to throw them all out there.

    'Gargling' is the right word, but it reads ugly. 'Gurgling' might work better, but I totally understand what the writer was trying to convey, so that is not too big an issue for me personally.

    The book has great Kindle US reviews, so yes, with a rework to some elements I think the Author could be onto a winner.


  6. The cover looks like a romantic suspense novel from the late 90's/early 00's. I actually like it and think it looks very professional, but like others have said it doesn't say "sci fi." It's something to think about. Personally, I'd try playing with the description first before spending the $$ to change it.

    Your description reads a bit too much like a synopsis or query letter (in my opinion). I think you've done a fantastic job of describing the story, but the description at this point seems like it was made for an agent/editor instead of made to hook a reader. I've noticed that a lot of successful descriptions are fairly short, and focus on hinting at conflict rather then spelling everything out. Some of your descriptions and the name-dropping detracts from the "essence" of your story, which is really all you need to give the reader. I took a shot at pairing down your description, and you're welcome to use it, add to it, or ignore it. Hope it helps!

    Lucy is an up and coming guardian in Blood Battle--a sport built around a genetic procedure that allows young girls to survive extraordinary injuries until the age of 25, when they stop growing.

    (In the arena? After seeing her fight? Or does he not know she's a contestant in Blood Battle?) she catches the eye of Jayzen, favored son of the wealthiest family in the city. (I'd scrap the next couple of lines and make a new sentence about THEIR conflict--I think something more than she's oblivious to his love would be good. OR if that is their main obstacle, talk about how her dark past starts affecting their relationship).

    She thought she had escaped the dangers of her dark past when she was 14...until the brother she hasn't seen in 10 years walks into her life, harboring a secret that threatens to suck her back into the world she thought she'd escaped, and destroy everyone she loves.

    I thought the writing itself was nice, which is the most important part :)

    What I think is interesting is that you've sold almost as many paperback copies and kindle copies. Maybe it's because your kindle price is a little high? It seems like most indie authors sell more ebooks than paperbacks, so the fact that hose numbers are so close makes me think that there's something going on with the price instead of the cover/description/book. Lowering it to $2.99 or even $0.99 might be an interesting experiment.

    I have only one more suggestion--scrap the subtitle (an alternate reality action-sports love story). It sounds a little clunky, and I don't think it adds anything that you don't already get across with your description.

    Good luck!

  7. I'll only comment on the cover. Blood dripping across a rose says serial killer of women to me.

    Congrats on selling nearly as many paperbacks as ebooks.

  8. I think the book sounds intriguing but I agree with Margaret. I thought stalking or woman in jeopardy when I saw it. A reworking of the cover would be great. Best of luck with it.

  9. Thanks for the comments so far. I appreciate your sincere thoughts and ideas.

    I've been rethinking the cover for a while. I'm not sure yet how to go with it. I don't want a salacious illustration, although that would probably improve sales.

    I maybe shouldn't have mentioned the paperback numbers, except for five or six books, they're mostly the friends and family sales. The Kindle sales are more significant since they're the ones strangers are buying.

  10. I would also suggest rethinking the blurb. It almost reads romancy with very little emphasis on the science fiction. As for the cover, it's all been said. I'm iffy on the opening. It's interesting but it doesn't really introduce a character to latch onto.

  11. The cover doesn't say anything about the genre. The price is a wee bit too high, in my opinion. If a book is not selling, lower the price. First thing you do. Lastly, the blurb needs work. Giving the hook in the first sentence, that which will make me want to read this book over all over sci-fi books, usually makes good copy.

  12. Chiming in with the cover comments. It's not strong enough. I think this book is good enough to warrant the expense of a professional cover design. I know they can be pricey, but some affordable mid-to-low cover designers have cropped up as of late.

  13. The cover screams "grocery store mass-market aisle" to me. Not a bad thing, but selling e-books is different. It needs to work as a thumbnail, something visually "sticky" which makes a reading want to click. Cathy's comment about the hook is apt, too. Good luck.

  14. You're probably tired of hearing that the cover doesn't fit the story, aren't you? :) But when I think about the story you're describing, I'm thinking blacks and electric blues and, like someone said above, a fierce looking young woman in leather and a mask. Yes, there are lots of urban fantasy covers with the ubiquitous leather clad gal, but it really seems like it would work for this story too. Unless the story itself DOES read more suspense/woman in danger instead of action adventure?

    With the text itself, there's a combination of playful slang "buns in the oven" and straight up, less playful description that doesn't totally come together for me. It's hard to judge based on 300 words.

    Good luck with anything you decide to change!

  15. Yeah, nothing about the cover leads me to expect SF...


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