Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Scryer's Gulch Episodes 1-10

Author: MeiLin Miranda
Genre: Western Paranormal Soap Opera
How long it's been on sale: 2-2010
Current price: $.99
Total sold so far: 41 in the last 5 months.
Link to book on Amazon: Scryer's Gulch: Magic in the Wild, Wild West - Episodes 1-10 Annabelle Arrives

Product Description:

Brave and beautiful young Treasury agent Annabelle Duniway is sent undercover to the wide-open mining town of Scryer's Gulch to track down the villain poisoning the magic-boosting ore known as hermetauxite. If she doesn't succeed, this unscrupulous evildoer may take over the world!

Is it the brilliant and handsome son of the mayor? Or the ruthless mine owner? How about his gold-digging wife? Or worse, could it be the rugged sheriff Annabelle yearns to trust with her mission--and maybe, her heart? The only one she can trust is her demon cat, Misi, even though he threatens to kill her at least once a day.

First 300 Words:

With all the money pouring in and out of it, you’d think Scryer’s Gulch would be more scenic. It’s still no looker, but in the early days it hunkered down and at the same time sprawled in its valley like a cold sore, crouching near a gaping, toothless mouth that swallowed up men and spit out the ore that gave the town both its name and its fortune. I’m speaking, of course, of hermetauxite, without which little that we call modern life would be possible.

So much of it veins the Big Blavatsky Mine that, for example, anyone with any scrying talent at all can look into a glass of water, a mirror, a candle flame, the odd crystal ball, a shiny window, and catch a glimpse of the future. Anyone with a measure of telekinetic power can bend a spoon a little. That sorta thing. The original inhabitants of this land of ours were strangely absent from the area, odd considering its rich supply of wildlife, but they were wiser than we are, or perhaps just less greedy: living so close to that much hermetauxite eventually drives folks crazy.

But I digress.

Perhaps I’m not being fair when I say Scryer’s Gulch in those days was a cold sore, a carbuncle on the surface of the earth, a muck pit lined with hastily thrown-up buildings of questionable architectural provenance filled with humans of questionable parentage. There were a few beauties: the arrestingly ostentatious bulk of Jedediah Bonham’s mansion, built with the proceeds of the mine; the spun sugar and gilt Hotel LeFay, with all the most modern conveniences Bonham’s son Anthony could provide his guests; and the opulent Mamzelle’s Palace, whose beauties were on the inside--a good thing, considering they were barely dressed and likely to cause riots were they actually on the outside

Vicki's Comments: The first thing I do with a book is look at the cover. This cover confused me. I think that's a moon on it, but I can't tell what else is on the cover. I think there's a picture in the moon, but I can't see exactly what it is. It looks like rocks and grass at the bottom, but it was hard to see and probably wouldn't be legible in thumbnail form. I would suggest a redesign.

Description: I felt the description could use some work. How does a person poison ore? It's a rock. I also think some of the phrasing is a bit over the top. I think with some tweaking, it could work much better.

The first 300 words weren't very interesting to me, but I tend to like a story to start without buildup. I'm not a fan of back story in the first chapter. I'd rather the back story come out organically as the story progresses. But I do realize I'm probably not the target audience for this book.

I also think this might have a bit of a genre issue. It seems like it crosses some lines that readers just might not be willing to cross. When looking at the tags and the description to try to come up with the genre I saw that it's a western soap opera with paranormal and fantasy elements, and a mystery thrown in too. As someone who puts together a few different genres in my own work, I totally sympathize with this. However, I think this might be one of the major reasons this isn't selling. I would focus on the core genre of this book and cut out some of the other aspects in the description in order to appeal to an audience.

What do you guys think?


  1. Gah! Dang it, that's the wrong blurb. I have been fighting and fighting with Amazon over that thing. Here's the current one:

    1875: The dawn of a magical new age of seriously, the technology's based on magic.

    Wide-open, hard-scrabble mining town Scryer's Gulch is the greatest known deposit of hermetauxite, the ore that runs everything from clocks to trains to the new ethergraph system. But an unscrupulous spellcoder is poisoning the ore--twisting it for an unknown but undoubtedly evil purpose.

    Beautiful magic wielder and secret Treasury Agent Annabelle Duniway and her captive demon servant Misi have come to the Gulch undercover--she as the new schoolteacher, he as her mean black cat. Their assignment: Find out who's corrupting the ore that increasingly runs the world, and why.

    The first ten episodes of this fantasy western serial that's one part "Deadwood," one part "Wild, Wild West," one part "Dark Shadows" and altogether silly.


    I haven't even read Vicki's comments yet, just wanted to get that settled first. Thanks, folks!

  2. OK, read Vickie's comments. The cover is a miner panning for gold. The moon! huh! I totally see how you could get that from it, especially in thumbnail. The blurb--well, it's the wrong dang blurb. *readies YET ANOTHER EMAIL to KDP customer service...*


  3. I agree that the cover didn't grab me, and then the product description needs a little work to make it more enticing.

    One point: 'Or worse, could it be the rugged sheriff Annabelle yearns to trust with her mission--and maybe, her heart? The only one she can trust is her demon cat' This seems awkward to me, because in the first sentence she's looking for someone to trust, and then in the next the only thing she can trust is her cat who threatens to kill her everyday, so she already has 'something/someone' to trust.

    As for the start of the story, with it being all telling it slows the story down for me. My personal preference is to meet the characters and get into the plot as soon as possible, but I might be alone on that score.

    Also, the very first two sentences seem at odds with each other: 'With all the money pouring in and out of it, you’d think Scryer’s Gulch would be more scenic. It’s still no looker ...' You say you'd think it would be more scenic, and then say it's still no looker, but we already know that when you say you'd think it would be more scenic.

  4. I thought the same thing about the cover. I don't read much of this genre, but I thought the opening sounded well written. I totally agee with Victorine though. When I saw the cover I also thought it was supposed to be a moon or plant of some sort. I totally think the cover needs attention, sorry.

  5. In the new description: 'Wide-open, hard-scrabble mining town Scryer's Gulch is the greatest known deposit of hermetauxite ...' Using 'is' seems like the wrong word choice to me. I think 'contains' or something similar to be a better word to use.

  6. As a reader, this is a genre I would seek out, so there's an audience for it, though I do have oddball tastes--no getting around that. I can't make any predictions about the genre's mass appeal. However, I might recommend making the opening pages more "in medias res" instead of a description of the town and some worldbuilding. While I enjoy the voice, that opening might not be the honey that catches as many flies :).

  7. I think the reviews might be hurting you. They read like friends and family reviews, almost like commercials. If you do know the people, you might want to nicely ask them to take the reviews down because I really think they're hurting you. Then you could submit the book to some book bloggers.

  8. I actually saw a moon too when I first looked at your cover. Which is really interesting because now that you've explained that it's a man panning for gold that is what I see. The idea of the cover is good, but if you have that picture you might try pulling back a bit and maybe brightening the parts around the pan (they looked like the top of a mountain and a starry night sky to my eyes. Seriously).

    The idea for your book is very intriguing and I'm interested in reading it purely out of a love for fantasy and the old west. The writing in the first 300 words felt really dense to me, though. Maybe if it had started with a shorter sentence that introduced the narrative as first person? It took me a little too long to realize that the 'voice' of the book was a person narrating the story to me.

  9. Forgot to add -- I wondered if the "parts 1-10" might put readers off if they prefer to purchase a complete story and are avoiding it because they perceive that it probably has a cliffie or "to be continued" ending?

  10. Very good point, Jody, I was going to mention that but forgot. I do think that readers shy away from serials, they do want a complete novel. That might be an issue with some people.

  11. The reviews are from fans--known to me but not family or friends. They're a little enthusiastic, aren't they? :)

    First thing to know about this book: It's a collection of episodes of an ongoing serial. The opening is the way it is to establish the presence of the Narrator, an old duffer who's a Western history buff in a world where magic is real. He is in "our" time looking back to the 1870s. He's old, he's grumpy, he has a certain style of talking and a habit of digression.

    It's written in something of a 19th century style because the Narrator is something of a 19th century guy in a 21st century world; people who like that style are who I'm appealing to. I know that limits me right off the top, but I figger it's the long tail. ;)

    Thanks for the comments, everyone.

  12. Yes, I know its being a serial is going to limit it as well. I will say that when this has gone up for free at Smashwords (it's in the coupon sale right now) it's gotten the heck downloaded out of it, as has the next set of eps. It's made more for serial enjoyment, but I collect the episodes for people who want a bunch at once.

    I'm workin' a teeny niche here, ain't I? ;) Oh well, I still want to make it as sale-able for that niche as possible.

  13. I agree that the cover is unclear, and I was going to say that I could see it working better in physical form for hands-on browsing (rather than online), but I see the paperback uses a different cover. You're getting better sales than I've managed to get, so maybe I'm not in a position to offer specific advice on this, but I would think that for "branding" purposes you would want to use the same cover on both. I think the paperback version of the cover is workable, although it doesn't say "magic" to me, which is definitely more apparent from the ebook cover.

    I also agree about the reviews, several are over the top promotionally. I know that can be a tricky thing to manage. I was happy to get my first non-5-star review from someone "at random." If you can get some more impartial reviews, and maybe have one or two of the most-promotional ones removed, that could help credibility-wise.

    The story itself does sound interesting. Not a genre I would probably read, but intriguing anyway. It looks like you've had some good input here so far. Good luck with it!

  14. Yes, the cover definitely needs work. Except for the title and the font that says "western" to me, it doesn't indicate anything else. Western is a hard niche to sell. That may be your biggest problem.

    Other than that ... I bought it.

  15. It took me a while to work out the cover, then as a jeweller I thought, "Huh, gold doesn't shine like that." But if it's hermetauxite, maybe it does...

    I like the opening, though you are maybe overdoing it with the metaphors. I'd carry on reading.

    The proper blurb is way better than the wrong one, if only because people who keep disagreeable cats and boast about how awful they are annoy me. "Ah, he's so sweet! He just tried to kill me again..."

  16. Once I read what it was about, I thought it sounded interesting, but I would never have gone on to read the description because of the cover. I really couldn't tell what was going on in it. I couldn't tell it was a Wild West story at all. But I think my biggest problem is the big S. I know it sound's weird, but it looks like Scryer's Sgulch. Like the S is the first letter in both words. Or S Cryer's Gulch. I don't know, the big S just doesn't work for me.

  17. Even knowing what that is supposed to be on the cover, it doesn't look like someone panning to me. I really suggest re-working the cover and get rid of the dropped 'S' which I also had trouble figuring out. At first glance, as Sybil said, it looks like it belongs to both words.

    I like the correct blurb much better and I think with a better cover, you might gradually garner a following for this. It rather looks like fun.

  18. Thanks, everyone. I've got a new cover idea, Amazon working on the blurb problem (they say it's an actual tech glitch) and here's hopin':).


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