Saturday, July 23, 2011

Silver Snakes

Author: Christian Dabnor
Genre: Short Story, including sci-fi, satire and drama
How long it's been on sale: 4 Days (It's been about a month now, but 4 days when submitted)
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Twitter and Facebook, Goodreads, designing an email signature (see below), leaving flyers in pubs, my blog, changing signatures on forums, and two review websites.
Total sold so far: 7
Link to book on Amazon: Silver Snakes

Product Description:

Silver Snakes is an anthology of four short stories by Christian Dabnor:

Silver Snakes, a slipstream love story, appears in three distinct narrative forms, each exploring the key theme of the story - memory.
Captain Smith and the Numbers Game - The marketing department are unsatisfied with sales of ace fighter pilot Captain Smith's merchandise and take drastic action.
The Folly - A shy, unextraordinary woman finds herself unexpectedly the focus of a charming young man, who extends to her a terrifying, but inevitable sounding proposition.
The Expendable Mr.Skimble - Unknowingly, Mr.Skimble has been living a lie, victim of a gross, and politically embarassing, bureaucratic error. 

First 300 Words:

I follow one of the droplets of rain as it traces its shaky silver serpentine path across the carriage window to where it disappears into the flickering pool at the rubber seal.  As the train draws to a halt, the remaining droplets cease their horizontal journey and slide downwards.  With a pneumatic hiss, the doors open.  I look towards the door and that’s when I see her.  Her brown hair frames a sylvan, unblemished face.  As she walks towards where I sit, I look at the other seats, hoping that they are all taken.  They are.  As she sits next to me, she brushes her hair behind her ear with long delicate fingers and smiles, her eyes closing momentarily.  It seems as if she slips, for the briefest time, into slow motion.  I don’t notice the train starting again.

She points at the wriggling droplets of rain and tells me that they look like silver snakes.

I smile because I think they look like silver snakes too.

She introduces herself with a shrug and a tilt of her head.  Her name is Emma and she is returning to the city from seeing her parents.  It’s something she does daily.  I find myself telling her things that I’ve never told anyone else.  It feels comfortable... natural, like I’ve known her for an age.

She gestures at a man sitting down the carriage and proposes a bet.  If he gets off before the terminus, she tells me I have to buy her dinner.  I ask her what I get if I win.  With a grin she tells me we each buy our own – her company will be enough of a prize.  I can tell that this confidence is not natural to her, that it is a joke on her part, but she’s right.

Vicki's Comments: I think the cover needs some work. Is that DNA on the cover? I wasn't sure, and if I'm not sure, you can bet others aren't sure what they're looking at either. I think the type on the book is too small and there's nothing to indicate it's a short story collection. I'd love for it to say "Silver Snake and Other Stories" or something like that. If it were me, I would pick a different image. I think there's too much white space that the cover just disappears into the background.

The descriptions of each story don't draw me in, probably because they are too vague. What merchandise is the Captain selling? What drastic measures do they take? What is the proposition the man gives the woman? What error are you talking about? The questions I'm left with don't make me want to buy the book to find out. They are key in helping me decide if these stories are going to be worth me spending my time and money on. (And really, 99 cents is nothing, so I want to know if my time is going to be well-spent more than my money.)

I also don't know what length these stories are, which is very important me. I always add word count and page count at the end of my descriptions, mostly because I like to know what I'm getting before I purchase and that information is so helpful to me. I would add total word count and page count.

The writing could use some polishing up too, in my opinion. I'd much rather read a conversation than be told about it. There's no dialogue at all in this snip, and yet I'm being told about what was being said. I feel very distanced from these characters, in a bad way. But I think the author has talent, and with the help from a critique group I think this can be greatly improved.

Lastly, this is a short story collection and therefore won't be selling like gangbusters. Make sure you have realistic goals for sales. I think with some minor adjustments, this can do well for a short story collection.

What do you guys think?


  1. Obviously this is blog is about selling a book, and that's a different matter than strictly writing a good book, but whether or not it's marketable, I liked the writing here. Maybe it's just my taste, but the lack of dialogue seems more like a style choice than a gaffe to me. The language and description are evocative, and with the lack of dialogue it all adds up to a kind of a dreamy feel that I like. I'd read more.

    Not for nothin', but I think sometimes unique voice gets lost in trying to do what you're "supposed" to do, or critiqued out by people who are hung up on rules. Taken too far, everything ends up being written the same way. I'm really not trying to rail against editing or critique, it's good, but there can also a subjective element to it, and not everything should be written like a mainstream thriller, which is what a lot of the rules seem to favor. Not necessarily relevant to the selling of books, 'cause readers like what they like, and if they don't like your style it won't sell whether or not it has artistic merit. But worth thinking about.

    I do agree the cover and the blurb could be punched up. The blurb is especially dull, there needs to be more of a hook to the descriptions of the stories. Also, honestly, short stories probably aren't going to ever sell like gangbusters.

  2. Ditto on larger words on the cover, adding some more definition so it doesn't blend into the white as much. While it may represent the slipstream nature of the first story artistically, it's still a sales device.

    I suspect the style choice in the story probably suits the story as well, but I'd have to see the other stories to compare. As sales are a concern (why else send it to Vicki for the blog!), maybe try it with the initial story as one with a more traditionally "catchy" opening? Unless this particular style is representative of the whole collection, I don't know. In which case the more literary style will possibly reduce your audience. That's not a criticism, it just is what it is.

  3. Do I get to disagree with the lovely Victorine?

    This is a stylistic genre in itself. I don't know what you call it but I call it Hipster Writing.

    The cover does need bigger type, but I like the fact that I don't know what I'm looking at and I think it goes with the tone of the writing.

    Which does need tightening "shaky silver serpentine path" is overly alliterative and has a redundancy in it. Mostly, I'd slip past it but it's in the first line and it might keep people from buying.

    As far as the telling not showing, this is a convention of this literary style that does go with the cover and the subject matter. But be careful. Because it must be consistent and to pull it off you'd better be a rock and roller of a writer.

    I also don't think this has been up long enough to be a "poor seller." Give it time, my goodness? You know....marathon not sprint etc etc....

  4. Yes, you can definitely disagree with me! I totally admit I'm a genre fiction lover, so my opinion might be trying to mold this more to my tastes. :)

  5. Seven copies in four days? I sold less than that in May, the month my book debuted. It's too early to call it into question.

    The cover doesn't grab me in it's current form. The title is too small, the author's name microscopic and what I'm all in favor of creative white space, this cover just sort of "floats there."

    I would venture into more detail on the blurb and sample, but with at least one person already saying, in effect, "It's a style so you can't say it's wrong," well... I'm just not going to get into that debate. :) But it makes me wonder, "why ask for feedback and then set boundaries around what can be critiqued?"

  6. I liked the blurb and I liked the sample, but the cover would never lead me to click. At the least you need to raise the font size and add "and other stories," or "Four short stories" to the cover.
    And yeah, seven sales in four days ain't bad, kid! :) Early days, early days. Good luck!

  7. Well, Vicki didn't say it was "wrong". She said in her opinion, it needs work. Such things can only opinion. Opinion is something that the author can agree with or not.

    This is, to me, recognizably an attempt at a literary style. It's at best difficult to pull off. From this snippet, it is difficult to tell whether this author does or not. The excessive alliteration in the first line would put me off and make me wonder if the author has the chops for it, but that little slip up might not put off someone looking for slipstream.

    The cover... I have no idea what that is supposed to be. It wouldn't catch my attention and I wouldn't even look at the blurb. The blurb, honestly, I think for this particular type of collection, it may work all right and that number of sales isn't bad for the length of time it's been out.

  8. Thank you all very much for your feedback, especially Victorine for putting it up. The choice of telling rather than showing, as well as the use of the tenses was a very deliberate one for the 3 versions of Silver Snakes. I wanted to give it a feeling of disconnection, and with the second and third versions, wanted to play with the idea of memory and recollection, as memory is a vital part of the story. Whether or not I've 'got the chops to pull it off'? I really don't know, but I like to think so... The cover, I have to admit, I know there's something not quite right, but I'm trying to think what. I don't know whether a thin frame might be necessary. The blurb, I'm certainly aware of being problematic, but I have to profess to being entirely inexperienced with. After reading comments here, I have some ideas about how to improve it though.

    Again, thank you all.

  9. I never meant to say you couldn't question it.
    I mean to say that there are different criterion at work for just about every aspect of this.

    As another poster said, it's all about the chops. And the fact that I know this instinctively from the cover, blurb, and sample says the author got it at least PART right.


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