Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Laying the Odds

Author: J. R. Tomlin and C. R. Daems
Genre: Fantasy Adventure
How long it's been on sale: 6 weeks
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Blogged a few samples, sent out review copies
Total sold so far: 6
Link to book on Amazon: Laying the Odds

Product Description:

No gambler in all the Dukedoms is more cunning than Wrai. Forced to earn his living in taverns and gambling dens, he plays to win, even when it means loading the dice. He's put his life in jeopardy countless times, but now he faces a chance that may make his luck run out.

But some risks are too good to refuse. Determined to gain an inheritance, Wrai steals a pendant from the father who rejected him, unaware of the deadly magick locked within. Soon the pendant is out his hands, and Wrai finds himself in a race against time. Can he put things right? Or will his actions destroy the Dukedoms and mean the end of freedom?

First 300 Words:

Wrai propped his boots on the rungs of the chair opposite him and took a deep drink of his ale, mentally cursing being stuck in this cesspit of a town. Why Krelton of all town in the four dukedoms of Ardalak?

The storm seemed to have kept most of the locals at home. Two workmen in homespun slumped wearily at a table. A merchant with a sword-carrying guard at this elbow stood at the bar talking to the innkeeper. Outside, the inn’s sign banged in the wind.

The horse fair at Rystar started in two days and he wouldn’t make it in time. A storm had left ruts and potholes deep enough to swallow a horse. The post-coach he was traveling in had hit one full tilt. When the axle shattered, it threw the coach tumbling. Wrai and the driver had walked away with only a few bruises, but the smith would take days to repair the damage.

Wrai wouldn’t make the profit he’d expected. Bollocks, he’d counted on that gold. He couldn't take care of Amalie when he was traveling all the time, having to duck out when someone decided he'd won a little too often. A gambling house he’d been eyeing would be perfect, if he could find the money. His stomach coiled at the thought of something happening to his daughter while he was gone as it had to her mother.

Wrai banged his mug down on the table. The innkeeper lifted his head to stare, so Wrai nodded to the man and leaned back again. No one else paid him any mind.

He slipped his fingers under his shirt and into his money pouch to slide over the ten silver pfennigs and, reassuringly heavy, five gold marks.

Vicki's Comments: I think the cover on this book looks more science fiction than fantasy to me. The blue with the grid seems to suggest technical instead of magical. I would also take out the dice. I know the protagonist uses dice in the book, but to me this wouldn't give the right feeling on a fantasy cover. I would try going for something that looks magical. Maybe go onto and do a search for magic? Just a thought.

The blurb does need work as well. The first paragraph seems like back story to me. You could say this in one "when" sentence. "When Wrai, a gambler and a cheat, steals his estranged father's pendant, X Y and Z happen." This might be regional, but "out his hands" reads funny to me. I would have said "out of his hands." I also don't know what needs putting right. What does the pendant do? With some work I think it could be much better.

The writing also needs a little attention. "Why Krelton of all town in the four dukedoms..." I think this should be "towns." "Slumped wearily" is redundant to me, if they're slumping I'm not picturing them energetic. "The horse fair at Rystar started in two days and he wouldn’t make it in time." Since you had just talked about a merchant and his guard, it took me a second to realize "he" meant Wrai again.

I'll admit I'm being very nit-picky here. All in all, I think the writing is good. Maybe an editor would help with the little things? My biggest concern in the cover, followed by the blurb. I think this book can do a lot better with a few changes.

What do you guys think?


  1. Cover: Definitely feels more Sci-fi than Fantasy. I think it's the blue grid that's causing that. It makes the image look more 'digital.' The font used for the title seems a bit bland, also. This could be spruced up a bit, and maybe the dice can be incorporated with the title to make it more dynamic and eye-catching.

    Blurb: The first paragraph doesn't really justify the second one. Wrai's a gambler, but how does that benefit the story? There are dice on the cover and the title suggests gambling, yet when I read the blurb, the first paragraph seems like it was just stuck there, whereas the actual story is the second paragraph. Because of this, the blurb really doesn't grab me.

    Excerpt: I immediately spotted multiple grammatical errors in the first two sentences of the very first paragraph. I like the overall imagery and first-hand impression the author gives us of the main character. I would be inclined to read more based on the small excerpt given. However, some editing and polishing is definitely needed.

  2. "but" twice in two lines of blurb is a problem. BUT is a great word, almost as good as SO for letting us know the conflicts and thrust of the story. but when you put it too many times and too close together in a blurb you're asking my brain to flip the story twice.

    The grammatical errors and typos were an issue. It's already been said.

    The cover. I like the vortexy thing. The dice don't seem to be visually "of a piece." You might want to stylize those so they go with the abstraction in the background.

    The story is interesting and i hope you keep on with it.

  3. I agree on the sci-fi feel about the cover. That would definitely turn me of. I love fantasy, dislike sci-fi.

    I'm also somewhat bothered by the spelling of magic with a k, and dukedoms instead of duchies.

    Despite that, this sounds like a good read and I would consider buying this.

  4. The glyph and dice are ok and look like gambling magic. The grid in the background though is all Sci-Fi. The font also is Sci-Fi looking as well.

    I am guessing the reason it hasn't sold might be more on the promotion and marketing end. What have you done to let people know that this book exists? The only thing that jumped at me was the word magick vs magic. Its a weird spelling of it.

  5. Thanks for the comments.

    This novel has had an editor, by the way. All of my novels do which doesn't mean that errors don't slip through. Those last minute changes especially can be a bad idea when they include typos. :-)

    On the blurb, I'm very willing to change it, but the fact that Wrai is a gambler and thief is essential to the story, so I don't want to take that out. You would, I'm afraid, get a very wrong idea of the story from only the second paragraph. That doesn't mean it doesn't need work, I'm just not sure of how to fix it.

    I want to redo the cover but haven't been sure what to do with it. I've looked at a lot of medieval-style photos of men, but none of them are "gambler-ish" and sneaky, but handsome. Maybe just taking out the grid would work although I'm a bit afraid it might still be on the bland side. (I think that may be a lot of the problem with this cover--being just plain bland as well as apparently looking like science fiction)

    I've done less marketing for "Talon of the Unnamed Goddess" which has been out a month less and it has gotten 10 times the sales. So while I probably should work on my marketing strategies in general, this novel definitely has a problem beyond that.

    I'm very open to suggestions on the cover and on the blurb. They're tough, but I am convinced that the blurb has to indicate that Wrai is a gambler and thief.

    By the way, here is a snippet from a review that might give some feel for the novel:

    "Wrai isn't a typical young, naive fantasy hero. He's fully grown with a daughter being raised by a friend. He's jaded, a gambler and a thief. He doesn't really care about the "good of mankind," he only wants to do what is good for himself and his daughter. Yet he's pulled into the fray when he steals a pendant that is full of powerful magick from his father. Wrai slowly matures into a true fantasy hero through this story, yet his edges are still rough which keeps him interesting to read about."

    So any suggestions are very much appreciated. Thanks!

  6. Ditto on a lot of things that have already been said. I do think you're right that the audience will want to know right off in the blurb he's a gambler, but more specifics could be interesting. Agree on the cover looking very scifi. One thing that hasn't been mentioned yet is what's going on in the opening. We have a guy in a tavern thinking about his hard luck, being kind of explainy about his status and motivations. What if we can SEE the guy trying to hunt down a dice game because he's in dire need of money or a horse or in the middle of a tense situation instead of thinking about what he's going to do? Would that be compelling for readers?

  7. Originally the blurb said: "He's put his life in jeopardy countless times. Now he faces a chance that may make his luck run out, but some chances are too good to refuse."

    My problem with that was repeating the word 'chance'. Besides having both paragraphs as one (which they were at first) seemed like too long a paragraph. Maybe I should go back to that though.

    *head desk* I hate blurbs.

  8. The cover made me think Matrix.

    @J.R Tomlin: the fact that he is a gambler and a thief may be relevant to the story but it is irrelevant to the blurb. Your story itself must reveal the gambler/thief aspect of your character, but the sole purpose of the blurb is to get people to buy your book.

    I'm not saying it's a bad blurb, but revealing the thief/gambler aspect in the blurb may not be
    the best sales pitch for the book. Other ideas may work better for sales.

    The first 300 words were ok, but the errors are not excusable. The fact you say it was edited makes it worse. I can see slips in the interior of the book being missed, but the opening needs to be flawless without exception. If someone downloads a sample and reads an opening paragraph with mistakes they may just delete it because of the errors.

    Good luck with everything.

  9. I may go with just tightening up the blurb some like this:

    No gambler in all the Dukedoms is more cunning than Wrai. Forced to earn his living in taverns and gambling dens, he plays to win, even when it means loading the dice. Stealing a pendant from the father who rejected him is a gamble that may make his luck run out. Soon the pendant and the powerful magick it contains is out of his hands, and Wrai finds himself in a race against time. Can he put things right? Or will his actions destroy the dukedoms and mean the end of freedom?

    Another possibility is to forgo a blurb completely, use the review snippet I quoted earlier and just go with that.

    The cover, I still have no idea what I'm going to do with. It needs a drastic overhaul, but I have NO ideas for it.

  10. The cover definitely gives off the sci-fi vibe. I, like another poster, am a HUGE fantasy fan, but I dislike sci-fi. Without even reading the blurb, I would assume this is sci-fi and move on. I know that sounds awful, but it's honest.

    The story itself seems like it might be interesting. I really like the main character already, but I'm with everyone else: there are quite a few errors that need attention. They were jarring and took me out of the story when I read them.

  11. I agree that the cover is a bit misleading. When I read the sample for you, I was a bit surprised to find a fantasy novel as opposed to a Matrix / sci-fi novel.

  12. I don't even necessarily get sci fi from the cover; it looks almost like a techno thriller, but for the dice, which really stand out (not in the good way). The review instead of your own blurb seems like a good idea; I like the review quite a bit, and it seems to tell me just what I would need to know. I, for one, am not bothered by Dukedoms, or by magick with a k. Slight quirks can work well to distinguish one work from another. But another round of edits for the beginning is a must.

  13. I'll definite do another edit (or have it done) when I'm fixing the cover. That's a given.

    Dukedome is a legitimate synonym of duchy, but the way; its just less used.

    I am still debating WHAT to do with the cover. I can't find anything I like. What if I isolated that rune thingie and eliminated the background? I'm not sure what I'd replace it with. (When I say I, I mean someone else. I don't do graphics) If I do that I will probably keep the dice which I rather like. I know some people don't.

    Any thoughts on that?

    And thanks for all the comments. They have helped a lot!

  14. The writing seems choppy because of the short, declarative sentences. You could fill out the descriptions a bit, enrich them with clauses.

    Your paragraphs might also need work. A paragraph deals with a single subject/topic. Yours include more than one, each sentence bouncing between issues instead of relating to a single, main idea. The fair, the storm, the holes the axle breaking. It could be hard for some to follow.

    "Threw the coach tumbling" is non standard English, probably not in a good way.

    You might consider getting a different editor, since you clearly have a story to tell and the gumption to finish the book.

    What if you put ruins on the dice? I'm not a graphics person, but you'd get to keep them and maybe they'd look more fantasy???

    I like Dukedom.

    Good luck!

  15. Some people don't like my writing style. After eight novels, I've learned to live with that. :)

    Ii appreciate your comments, none the less.

  16. Some people don't like my writing style either! :)

  17. It's something we have to get used to in this business. *grin*

  18. The cover reminds me of my HS science book. :( Maybe something a little more eye-catching?

  19. I'd agree that the first 300 hundred words suffer from some grammatical errors that are a put off. For instance:

    "Why Krelton of all town in the four dukedoms of Ardalak?"

    Town should should be towns. A fairly glaring error early on that may put a lot of people off.

    "Two workmen in homespun slumped wearily at a table"

    Homespun what? It is not a noun. Needs 'wool' or 'clothing' or similar after it.

    There are more. The story itself sounds good, but the errors would cause me to stop reading.

    Cover is definitely more sci-fi than fantasy, but it's a nice simple design which I like.

  20. home·spun (hmspn)
    1. Spun or woven in the home: homespun linen.
    2. Made of a homespun fabric: a homespun tablecloth.
    3. Simple and homely; unpretentious: "Most small towns would have gladly forfeited some of their homespun values if it meant luring a firm there" (William Mueller).
    1. A plain, coarse, usually woolen cloth made of homespun yarn.
    2. A similar sturdy fabric made on a power loom.

  21. I have someone working on a new cover design for this. I don't know if it will be finished before a new novel is published. If I at least have a rough in time, I'll post it.

    Thanks to everyone who has posted suggestions. They are all appreciated.

  22. I know what homespun is, so that was no issue for me, but I'm not sure about putting ruins on the dice. Although ruins ARE a traditional location in fantasy novels, I'm not sure a picture of a crumbled castle or cathedral or city would FIT on the dice. Maybe a ruin as a backdrop instead?

    Alternately, runes are kind of cool. :)

  23. I wanted to once again say thanks for all the suggestions. I am re-working the cover although a cover for this novel has been hard for some reason and also doing another quick copyedit.


  24. Just a quick comment here because the cover really is one of the biggest issues. (IMHO)

    Fantasy is tricky. there's a tendency to overdo the elements of the story and make a muddle of things.
    A good book cover should clearly convey the genre, concept etc and be visually inciting. (and easy to read)

    I would not put any images that confuse the reader. Runes say magic, but you have to be careful with the addition of castles and whatnot. It might say "this is a medieval story" rather than fantasy.

    I have all my authors fill out a questionare that gives details about the ms. It seems from the blurb that the pendant is important. A magical amulet would work as a visual element.

    The chances of you finding a stock photo of a man with the "look" you're going for is almost nonexistent. trust me.

    When I look for characters for a book cover, sometimes I have to go with the less is more concept and not have the face or full features visible.

    Something as simple as a hand holding an object can express volumes (just look at Twilight!)

    good luck!

  25. Late to the game - and you said you have someone working on a new cover.

    But... what about a table with cards, which look of the time period - and then layed on top of them, a glowing pendant, which could have a rune :) on it.
    (All of this fills the book cover.)

    Is this set in a fantasy version of the old west? That's what the description makes me think of - so maybe the font could be a little more old west-y without being too Tombstone-like.
    I just did a google image search for "old west font" and quite a few contenders came up.

    Good luck!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.