Sunday, July 31, 2011

Priscilla the Great

Author: Sybil Nelson
Genre: Middle Grade
How long it's been on sale: 6 months
Current price: Free
Marketing: 2 blog tours, twitter account, facebook fanpage, newsletter, speaking engagements at schools and libraries, contests, giveaways, Kindle Nation Daily, Pixel of Ink, Daily Cheapreads
Total sold so far: 172
Link to book on Amazon: Priscilla the Great

Product Description:

Meet Priscilla Sumner, an ordinary seventh grader with extraordinary gifts. As if middle school isn’t hard enough, not only does Priscilla have to fight pimples and bullies, but genetically enhanced assassins trying to kill her and her family. Armed with wit, strength, and a genius best friend, Priscilla must defeat the Selliwood Institute, an organization dead set on turning children into killing machines.

Add an older brother annoyingly obsessed with Christina Aguilera, mischievous baby twin brothers who could scare the sin off of Satan, and parents more puzzling than a Rubik’s cube in the Bermuda triangle and expect a smoking page-turner!

This award-winning novel is currently being pitched to Disney, ABC Family, and Nickelodeon as a major motion picture. 

First 300 Words:

Chapter 1


I awoke tied to a chair. My eyes felt glued shut. I struggled to pry my eyelids apart. Once open, I shut them again as quickly as possible. A ridiculously bright and obnoxious light glared in my eyes, totally super-sizing my already painful headache.

“Holy hot dogs!” I said, borrowing my best friend’s catch phrase.

“Good morning, Priscilla. Welcome back,” an eerie voice said from … from everywhere. The deep, sinister voice surrounded me as if it poured out of the walls. I recognized that voice. I knew that man was evil!

“Good morning? I don’t see what’s so good about it. My head is killing me and that light you’re shining in my face makes me want to dig my eyes out with a spoon!” I yelled into space.

“Sorry about that, Priscilla. We were trying to revive you. You’ve been out for a number of hours.” The light faded away, allowing me to open my eyes fully without performing spoon surgery. There wasn’t much to see. I sat in a stainless steel chair in the center of an otherwise empty stainless steel room.

The walls were smooth and cold-looking. Even the chair felt cold. I shifted in my seat, trying to warm up my butt cheeks.

“What do you want from me?” I asked, trying to hide the desperation in my voice. I mean, I was really scared. I’d been kidnapped. Really kidnapped. I wondered if they’d done that Amber Alert thing for me.

“You’ll find out soon enough.”

And then silence.

A few minutes later, a huge dude with an even huger gun walked into the room from a door I hadn’t even noticed was there. It was almost like he’d melted through the wall.

Vicki's Comments: Even though this is free and "selling" quite well right now, I'll go ahead and leave my comments on this as if it weren't free.

I like the cover. I think it works well for middle grade. There are a few things going on with the notebook paper behind her that might be distracting, but I don't think it's an issue. I'd give this cover an A.

I like the description, but I think it can be improved. The description implies that Priscilla has magical powers but they aren't explained. That's one of the biggest selling points, IMHO, so I would make it clear if she can in fact make fire come out of her fingers, as the picture on the book implies. I also would make it more clear what the story is about. When Priscilla does X, then Y and Z happens, rather than tell what her family life is like, if that makes sense. I want to know what the conflict of this book is, and what happens.

The actual writing is good, although it's a bit dramatic, but I honestly haven't read middle grade books since I was in middle grade so it might be in line with that genre. I think the story starts with a bang and it does hook me and make me want to read more.

I did notice this book shows that it normally is priced $3.99. That might be an issue for a middle grade book which is generally shorter than full length novels. Once it's not free, I suggest pricing a bit lower, and then making sure the description tells what Priscilla can do that is magical.

What do you guys think?


  1. First of all, I am not a middle-grade writer or reader and don't have kids, so take my comments with ten pounds of salt.

    I also read somewhere that it's tougher to sell middle-grade ebooks than other ebooks -- kids tend to play video games instead.

    The product description says the institute is trying to turn kids into killing machines -- why? I feel you need to add a sentence or two to connect this with the rest of the info you give us.

    Also, in the product description, you give some terms that older people might relate to, like sin off Satan and Rubik's cube.

    A couple of emotional things strike me about your beginning. We don't get to know your main character at all before the kidnapping scene. You tell us in the product description that she's an ordinary seventh-grader, but we don't get to see that in the story. Sometimes you need to give the reader a scene or two, or even just a page, to get to know the character, so when something awful happens we've come to care about her and want to turn the page to see what happens.

    The second thing is the "ka-pow" emotional tone. The character seems to react to these people who could harm her in the same way she would yell at her brother or the puppy that ate her socks. I would feel more invested in the story if you went a little deeper, dropped some of the "ka-pow" tone, and showed me some real fear. I don't mean take out the humor, just add a little more depth. My two cents.

    I enjoyed your writing and the vibrant cover. Good luck!

  2. It's hard for me to say much about PtG because I've read it and enjoyed it (as well as PtG2) quite a bit.

    Looking forward to PtG3, even.

  3. Two more quick thoughts about the product description:

    "This award-winning novel is currently being pitched to Disney, ABC Family, and Nickelodeon as a major motion picture."

    I would list the award and drop the rest.

    Pitching is pitching. We all pitch as best we can. Unless these places have offered you a contract, I wouldn't mention it because it looks like you are trying to stretch for a credential (but good luck to you -- I hope they are interested).

  4. Just like to add that I disagree about giving a build-up establish-the-character scene in fiction for young people. I definitely think starting in the thick of the action is the way to go.

    In some ways, I think writing for younger readers is kind of writing in shorthand. You are, as pointed out, competing with video games. Anything not vitally necessary to the plot shouldn't be included.

    But I do agree that stating the book is being pitched to Disney says essentially nothing.

  5. I really like the cover artwork. It seems pretty eye-catching to me. I would look at some wording changes in the blurb, such as: As if middle school isn't hard enough, Priscilla not only fights pimples and bullies but also genetically-enhanced assassins trying to kill her and her family. Maybe just look at tightening it up a bit. I think the first 300 words is good and it seems to me that it should get a reader into the story quite effectively.

    The pricing (after it's free) could be a concern at $3.99, although I really don't know what the middle grade market is like for Kindle books. I also agree about not having the description mention pitching it for a movie. If you have luck with that, then you should mention that. Or shout it. ;) But for now, it doesn't pull the same weight.

  6. Thanks for the comments guys. The price is actually $.99 because that's what I have it as at B&N. Amazon price matches it. I leave the $3.99 there so that people think they're getting a discount. I think I might leave this book free as it has been increasing sales for PtG2 and 3.

  7. I have a friend who is having the same problem with mid-grade.
    Is there a different way to market mid-grade? some rule?

    I like the cover, and the writing.

    interested to see what other feedback you get.
    good luck!

  8. I don't know enough about middle grade books to offer anything helpful, but I like the cover and the premise just fine. Maybe check into SCBWI and see if you can find some middle grade writers/readers who could offer insight?? To me the voice is more YA than middle grade, but that could be my market-ignorance talking!

  9. The only thing I would suggest changing is giving a bit more about the conflict in the blurb as Vicki mentioned. I think the opening is a good way to draw in kids who are looking for something exciting. You don't even mention her kidnapping in the blurb. You could really pump that up some.

  10. Sybil, I read "Ain't No Sunshine" so I'm a fan of your writing. Amazing how you can change your voice from this adult book to a MG book. Well done.

    The cover is good. I agree with Vicki that you need a little more explanation in the blurb. The cover tells me Priscilla is magical but the blurb doesn't carry that through. Does she have trouble controlling her powers? Does she get in trouble for using them? Do these kidnappers know she's magical (if she is)?

    I like the opening, too. Dragged me right in, but then I like that kind of thing.

    I think your problem is that it's middle grade and they just don't sell well. When kids start getting kindles or smartphones to read on, I think it will sell very well.


  11. My daughter *loved* this book and the sequel. She laughed so hard people kept yelling at her to leave the room. I have little doubt this book will eventually sell thousands of copies, by word of mouth, if nothing else.

    My own MG novel sells poorly compared to my other stuff. I think we're just a year or so from the time when every kid has an ereader. That would be my main guess as to why the book isn't selling well yet.

  12. Thanks everyone. I'm going to continue tweaking the blurb to reveal a little more. The free offering has really increased sales of books 2 and 3. So maybe I just need to give it time.


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