Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Misguided Souls of Magnolia Springs

Author: Olivia Darnell
Genre: Paranormal Romance/Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: 2 years
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Facebook and Kindleboards a little
Total sold so far: about 400
Link to book on Amazon: The Misguided Souls of Magnolia Springs (Volume 1)

Product Description:

A small town in Southeast Texas undergoes a remarkable series of changes when a couple of out-of-towners move in and open a tea shop in a rundown building. Everyone in Magnolia Springs is soon abuzz about the proprietors of the New Castle Gift Shop as it becomes apparent that something is unsettling about Mr. and Mrs. Aliger. A power company lineman, a police sergeant and a number of otherwise mild-mannered, country-fried characters try their hands at interpreting the strange actions and unusual behavior of their new neighbors.

Things become curiouser and curiouser as the Aligers set up shop and begin making their rounds amongst the locals. Just why have they come to Magnolia Springs and what is on their hidden agenda? Could it be that the fate of the entire world might lie in the hands of a few unsuspecting souls in a sleepy little Texas Town?

First 300 Words:

“You are a hateful bitch, Mary McDaniels. From now on, when I see you in town, I’m going to cross the street to keep from speaking to you!”

A loud clunk indicated that the conversation, if it could be called that, had ended. The hum of the dial tone affirmed the fact. Mary Catherine McDaniels had never been so insulted in her entire life. She held the heavy, black receiver out in front of her, frowning at it as if the instrument itself had turned on her. She gently placed the offending item on the cradle of the antiquated phone, pushed her gold-rimmed glasses up a long nose and raised both white brows in consternation.

“Hmmmph!”  She grumped and pursed her puckered, pink lips and drew in a deep breath, placing one hand over her rapidly beating heart.

“Who was that?” her nephew, Tyler McDaniels, asked from his perch on the edge of her green Formica dinette table. He had just finished pouring up two cups of steaming water from a white porcelain teakettle.

Aunt Mary took on her favorite long-suffering expression as she perused his face momentarily before answering.

“Mildred Morris,” she spoke the name as if it would cause her to have to soak her dentures an extra hour just for having said it aloud.

“Again?” Tyler asked and turned to begin unwrapping the Earl Grey tea bags. He placed one in each cup, dunking them until they sank to the bottom amid brown swirls.

“Again!” Mary nodded.

“Same old story, huh?” Tyler asked and pushed one of the cups across the table in front of her as she lowered her fragile body into one of the heavy chrome chairs.

“The very same.” She toyed with the little paper tag on the tea bag, raising and lowering the tea leaves in the hot water absently as she stared out the window. 

Vicki's Comments: The cover is definitely giving me a different message than it should. I don't get Paranormal Romance or Fantasy from it at all. The title doesn't even suggest the genre, which might be part of the problem as well. I would suggest a redesign of the cover and a possible revisit on the title. I know it's kind of messy to change the title after it's been out for so long, but Lee Goldberg did it on several of his books and the sales improved quite a bit. (Heck, if Lee can do it, that pretty much gives us all a free pass to, right?)

The description did make me wonder what the book is about, but not in the way it should. Right now I wouldn't buy it because I don't know enough about the characters or what they are doing. I know something isn't right about the Aligers, but I would like to know more before investing in the time to read the book. What strange actions? Are they preforming magic? Are they trolls? What is up with them? And if this is a romance, I don't get any sense of it at all in the blurb. A romance between who? What's the conflict in the romance? If the romance isn't central to the plot don't market the book as a paranormal romance.

I could see some areas in the writing where it could be tightened up just a bit. The point of view strayed a bit here and there, and personally I like a story to have a firm point of view character. I also felt like some of the details could be trimmed down a little. All in all I don't see a huge problem with the writing.

I'm guessing the major issue here is the cover art. I would also suggest a different font. With a different cover I think this book could do very well.

What do you guys think?


  1. I don't really have a problem with the cover, other than that I might reduce the font size of "The" and "of" and reduce the inter-line height to make the title more compact. I know I'm far less POV-sensitive than some, so I'm not surprised that I'm not finding any obvious POV problems in this. The description was enough to interest me, and -- although it didn't tie in directly with the description -- there was nothing about the first 300 that would throw me off from continuing to read it.

    If you're averaging 15+ sales a month, you're doing much better than me (15 or fewer sales in the first year), so that affects how I'm analyzing this. I see this as something that is getting slower-than-desired sales, but with not much "oomph" behind the marketing of it. I think what you have here is solid enough that you should be able to substantially improve your sales with more comprehensive marketing. There are a lot of solid ideas floating around on KB for guerrilla marketing of books, so I recommend "tuning in" to some of those ideas and seeing what you can do (i.e., what is comfortable for you and you think will be worthwhile). There is a vastly bigger market than your Facebook and KB connections. :)

    Best of luck with it!

  2. The cover and font are so lovely! But I agree that it doesn't really portray paranormal. I think changing it to reflect the genre more would help.

    I would like a little more information in the blurb too.

    I love your writing style. It really engaged me and I was dying to know why this seemingly genteel tea drinker would engender such anger towards her.

    The only thing that pulled me up short is that I expected her to hang the phone up with a bit more force. Loved the soak her dentures line. :) If I knew a bit more from the blurb, this is totally a book I would like to read.

  3. From the blurb - 'fate of the entire world' - I thought it was a thriller.

    I would suggest being more specific in the blurb. What 'strange actions and unusual behaviors'?

    I think the 'Mildred Morris' line would be better off as two sentences.

    “Mildred Morris.” She spoke the name as if it would cause her to have to soak her dentures an extra hour just for having said it aloud.

  4. Thoughts about the cover:

    I would come with a new cover, even though I do like the flower. This one doesn't say paranormal romance or fantasy. I would also make the typeface MUCH larger. Look at bookcovers on Amazon and Barnes & Noble -- the typeface has to be big in order to catch your eye when the cover is reduced to a thumbnail.

    Red doesn't show up well in tiny sizes. Also, the flower and the background would be hard to tell apart in a thumbnail because the colors are so close -- it needs more contrast.

    The lovely magnolia flower reminds me of antiques or a perfume box. Now, if a person's face/eyes were looking over the flower, that would add some intrigue. Mostly, I suggest browsing the bookcovers for this genre and add some intrigue.

    The product description:

    You tell us "... strange actions and unusual behavior of their new neighbors," but you don't give specifics. You're telling us to care. SHOW us an example of strange behavior and that will hook us.

    The beginning of the story is well-written, but I found myself bogged down in the details. I would trim quite of few of them to make the story move along faster.

    I enjoyed reading your excerpt and hope some of these comments were helpful. Good luck to you!

  5. The cover threw me off as well. While the image did make me think romance, I didn't get paranormal or fantasy from it at all. I think a more legible font, particularly at thumbnail size, would be helpful as well. The light green color used on your name is pretty faint against the yellow background.

    If I read this genre, I don't think the description would get me to pick up this book. It's too vague and doesn't give me enough sense of what the story is about. It seems like the open-ended statements (e.g., "...something is unsettling..." "Things become curioser and curioser...") are meant to pique interest, but for me they do the opposite.

  6. The blurb felt a little too omniscient and self-conscious for me, calling its own characters "country-fried" without really giving us a viewpoint character to latch onto. In a way, the first 300 words were the same. Very omnisicent instead of the deep 3rd POV that's so popular right now. However, it's not like you can't go against the popular grain and still write a wonderful book, but that might be one thing that puts off some readers. I would normally pick up a Southern-set fantasy pretty automatically, but I would waffle based on the blurb and first 300 words since I do like a stronger sense of perspective and narrator.

    Good luck if you decide to make any changes! Looks like it could be a really fun book.

  7. Thanks a million, guys! These suggestions are certainly worth taking another look at the cover. I did struggle when deciding on the genre. Seems I 'chose poorly' in the end as the old Knight in the Indiana Jones movie said AFTER the guy had drunk from the wrong cup and disintegrated. At least I won't disintegrate. LOL. I love the compliments and will work on the cover and the genre. The blurb should be easy enough to expand and then we'll see what happens. Thanks again, Vickie and friends.

  8. Hi Olivia,
    One more note on the cover-
    To add the paranormal element, you could try to place a mystical pattern on the petals of the flowers-- sort of a magical tattoo, if that makes any sense.
    (you might have to use a different/ larger magnolia image)

    Not terribly difficult depending on the software you (or your designer) uses.
    and make the text larger as well.

    Good luck!

  9. To be honest, I found the beginning of the book incredibly overwritten. I would not choose to buy based on what I've read here. Sorry. :( This is certainly an objective criticism--some people love abundant description. I don't.

    I used to be a terrible over-writer. I had an editor who beat it out of me. I'm grateful that she did.

  10. Er.. a SUBJECTIVE criticism. Is what I meant to say.


  11. I won't comment on the cover or blurb, as you've received good feedback on those already. What concerns me most is the opening. The idea of someone calling our POV character a bitch and hanging up on her is good -- conflict! We readers love conflict. The problem is that what follows isn't interesting enough. What I want to know is what prompted Mildred to say those hurtful things? How does Mary feel about it? She purses her lips and puts a hand to her chest, but that doesn't tell me how she feels. Is she the kind of person who plots to seeks Mildred out, just to aggravate her? Or is she on the verge of tears because she adores Mildred? What if she called Mildred back just to hang up in HER ear? :) In other words, increase the conflict -- don't let it fizzle just when it's getting started.

    Hope this helps!


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