Monday, August 29, 2011

The New Homemaker Big Book of Crockpot Cookery

Author: Lynn Siprelle
Genre: Non-Fiction Cookbook
How long it's been on sale: 4 months
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: linked on my website, giveaways
Total sold so far: 28
Link to book on Amazon: The New Homemaker Big Book of Crockpot Cookery

Product Description:

At The New Homemaker, I've provided practical homemaking advice for the last twelve years. My readers ask three questions over and over:

* How can I save money on food?
* How can I save time on cooking?
* ...And how can I do either of these and still feed my family decent food that they'll love?

The answer lies with an appliance your mom probably had in the '70s--one that may be lurking in the back of your kitchen cabinet right now, in fact--the crockpot! Your crockpot can save you both time and money, and makes family-pleasing meals at the same time.

Maybe you came here hoping to find inspiration beyond a pot of beans. After all, how many crocks of beans can you cook up before your family cries, "Enough!" That's why I've put together this collection of 250 crockpot recipes, recipes for every kind of meal you can imagine, including:

* Breakfast
* Drinks
* Appetizers and Dips
* Hearty Soups and Stews
* Roasts and Chops
* ...Even Dessert!

Did you know you can actually bake a cake in a crockpot? Yes, and I'll tell you exactly how to do it with your favorite recipe.

SAVE TIME: Crockpot cooking is easy to plan ahead, and you're free to do other things instead of standing over the stove tapping your toes.

SAVE MONEY: Cheap cuts of meat are actually BETTER for crockpot cooking than expensive ones! Buy an inexpensive brisket, use one of the brisket recipes and you may find out you prefer brisket to steak! Long, slow cooking can turn even the toughest chicken into a meal to be remembered. Leftovers are easily frozen, saving even MORE time and money. And they're sometimes better than the original meal!

SAVE DINNER! With a crockpot and this guide, your family will eat better than they ever have! You'll be serving them hot, nutritious meals that they will positively GOBBLE down! 

First 300 Words:


Thank you for buying The New Homemaker Big Book of Crockpot Cookery! Crockpot, or slow cooker, cooking doesn't just save time. It saves money! You can use cheaper cuts of meat, for example. These cuts--briskets, flank steaks, stew meats, stewing chickens--are actually meant to be cooked for a long time over low heat. It brings out their best flavors and makes them fork-tender as well.

You may note that many of these recipes call for canned creamed condensed soups and powdered soups. I myself don't like these products. They contain a lot of chemicals, too much sodium and MSG, and other dubious additives. You can make your own creamed condensed soup quickly and easily, and then you'll know exactly what's in it.

Condensed Cream Soup Substitute I:

1 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour until smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat, add the chicken broth and milk a little at a time, stirring to keep smooth. Return to heat. Bring sauce to a gentle boil. Stir constantly until it thickens. Taste and add salt and pepper, as needed. Add saute'd chopped celery, celery seed, leftover chopped chicken or saute'd chopped mushrooms to make various creamed soups. Substitutes for one can of condensed soup.

Condensed Cream Soup Substitute II:

2 cups nonfat dry milk powder
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup instant reduced sodium chicken or beef bouillon granules
1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. dried basil leaves
1/4 tsp. pepper

I don't care for this as much because of all the gunk that's in the bouillion, but it does work and it is quick. Put everything into an airtight container, give it a good whisk, and store. To use, stir together 1/3 cup dry mix and 1-1/4 cup water in a saucepan. Cook and stir until thickened. Add whatever you need to get the soup you're going for (chicken, mushrooms, celery, etc). This mix is equivalent to nine cans of condensed soup.

Vicki's Comments: I'm not fond of the cover, it looks like a painting and most cookbooks have photographs on them. I think a professional photo would do this book a world of good. I went to and typed in "crock pot" in the search box and found quite a few great photos that would work well for this book.

The description is too long, and I get lost in it. Most people know what a crock pot is, I don't think you need to introduce them to one. It also doesn't tell me how many recipes I get with this book. That is one of the *most* important things you need to tell a potential buyer. I do like the list of things you can make in your crock pot. I think the description can be trimmed down to just the essentials, which should help with sales.

I didn't find anything wrong with the recipes in the sample, and I think this recipe book would appeal to a lot of people. My guess is the cover needs to be redone, and trim up the sample a bit.

What do you guys think?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Covert War

Author: Michael Parker
Genre: Thriller
How long it's been on sale: Three Months
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Social Networking (Twitter; Facebook; Digg; Linkedin; Goodreads; Kindle and local publicity here in Spain where I live).
Total sold so far: 24
Link to book on Amazon: A Covert War

Product Description:

Marcus Blake's ramshackle security agency has no clients to speak of until Susan Ellis walks into his office and asks him to help find her brother who has gone missing in Afghanistan. In that moment, Marcus' world is turned upside down and he is plunged into a covert war where arms and drugs are traded by renegades within the CIA. Now, in his quest to find Susan's brother, Marcus faces terror and betrayal in a murky world where one cannot easily tell a friend from a foe.

First 300 Words:




I think that was the moment I realised that I was in love with Shakira. I had known her barely three weeks. It probably happened within days of our first meeting at the Mission. Shakira was such a lively, extroverted character; so full of humour and yet with warm simplicity. I felt a connection with her that is difficult to describe, but one I believe was reciprocated. I knew without doubt that Shakira had warmed to me as soon as we met. There was something in her manner; the way she spoke and reacted to me. I can remember how her face would light up as soon as she saw me and how the atmosphere in a room seemed to change when she walked in; such was the effect she had. I felt the change in me and could see it in others. I loved the way she would throw her head back and laugh out loud at my terrible jokes, showing her beautiful, white teeth. And then she would stop laughing and look directly at me, her lovely eyes softening. And as her laughter died away, so her mouth would change into that wonderful, disarming smile of hers.

I had been working at the Mission for a number of weeks, each day writing up my report for The Chapter on the work that the centre was undertaking. Shakira was the senior administrator there. Because of my project I often found myself in Shakira’s company. In the evenings we would walk up to the high point above the Mission and talk over the highs and lows of the day. We would sit on a fallen tree trunk that had been there for many years. It was divested now of its foliage. It had no branches; they had been lopped off so that it could be used to sit and look over the lovely countryside. 

Vicki's Comments: The cover is a little dark so it's hard for me to see what is pictured. I do think having a gun on the front is a good idea, but I probably wouldn't suggest a flower or a note pad. Those things don't make me think of a thriller.

The blurb could use some work. I don't want to know that the security agency didn't have any clients. That's not a gripping story. And then there's vague things like 'turned his world upside down' and 'faces terror and betrayal.' What turns his world upside down? What is the terror he faces? The answers are what will make me want to read the story.

I would also tighten up the writing. I think the story starts at the wrong point. The book is listed as a thriller, and yet this starts off reading like a love story. And it is all telling. I want to be pulled into the story, but I'm not. I would suggest joining a critique group and getting some outside opinions on the text. Maybe they will have some suggestions on how to hook the reader early on.

What do you guys think?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

No Alibi

Author: J F Hilborne
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
How long it's been on sale: 3 months
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: website, blog, twitter, facebook, Goodreads, Shelfari, reviews
Total sold so far: 62
Link to book on Amazon: No Alibi

Product Description:

Isabelle Kingsley didn’t think her husband would ever cheat. Her husband didn’t think she would ever find out. Now he is missing, and his mistress is dead. Suspected of killing her, Isabelle turns to her best friend, only to discover another betrayal. Is there no one she can trust?

Homicide cop, John Doucette, is on the case. Something about Isabelle unnerves him. Could she be innocent? If she is, how did the murder weapon come to be in her possession? Someone from her past connects them; someone that Doucette does not want to face.

Doucette must set aside his personal feelings and fears to work through the tangled web of deceit before the case goes cold and a killer goes free. 

First 300 Words:

Through thick and thin. That had always been their motto; until Isabelle Kingsley suspected Darius had betrayed her. He’d been acting strangely for a while. Pre-occupied. Distant.  Reticent.  Isabelle had denied the change in his behavior because acknowledging it forced her to admit to the truth, which was possibly more than she could handle.  For the past few weeks, she’d let it lie there between them, festering away, a cancer that was destroying their friendship.  Until she could stand it no longer.

A rush of wind blew down Lombard Street, awakening fallen leaves and little bits of trash that lay in the gutter.  Isabelle tightened her jacket against the bracing October evening and shivered outside The Candy Bar, a raucous hook-up joint frequented mostly by licentious singles.  Psyching herself up to go inside and confront her best friend, she ran a hand over her short blonde hair to smooth it down, and glanced at her watch, surprised to see it was seven-forty-five.  Damn.  She hadn’t realized it was so late.

An irritated voice came from behind her.  “Hey, lady. Ya going in or not? It’s kinda cold out here.”

Isabelle turned to see a heavy-set man with a crew cut, scowling at her. She forced a tight smile.

“Sorry, no.”

He gave her a curt nod, and she stepped aside to let him enter the bar.  The door swung shut behind him, and Isabelle groaned. I can’t do this. She considered the idea of heading back home, forgetting what she suspected and leaving well alone. Maybe it would be better not to know. She stamped her feet to keep the circulation going, thought about why she’d asked Darius to meet her, and gritted her teeth. Damn it, I have a right to know.

Vicki's Comments: I like the concept of the cover, but I don't like the execution. The dusk skyline is too calm for me. The gun hides behind the title, and I'm not a big fan of the two different fonts used. I do like the idea of the bridge, but maybe find a photo a little later at night where it's lit up. I'd make the gun more prominent.

I found it a little odd that the description starts by saying Isabelle never thought her husband would cheat, but then the book starts with her suspecting her husband. I think I would cut that first part off the description, and just start with something like, "When Isabelle suspects her husband of cheating, she does a little digging. But when he goes missing and his mistress shows up dead, she's the prime suspect." But I'm the kind of person that likes to get right down to the nitty gritty of the book.

The part about Isabelle unnerving John makes me think he's creeped out by her. I might change that to a phrase similar to: Something about Isabelle makes him think she's innocent. Are there sparks between these two characters? If so, I would hint to that in the description.

The book starts out with back story. I would suggest cutting the first part and starting with: Isabelle tightened her jacket against the bracing October evening...this gets me right into the story and we'll soon find out the part about her cheating husband and such.

Overall, I think this book can do well. I like the plot and if I read this first bit I would go on to see what happens when she enters the bar. I'm guessing the main issue with sales is the cover image. I would try a redesign and see if sales don't pick up.

What do you guys think?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Jonathan Rush and the Star Academy: Part 1

Author: Gregory Blackman
Genre: Science Fiction
How long it's been on sale: A week when submitted to this blog
Current price: Free
Total sold so far: 7 before it went free
Link to book on Amazon: Jonathan Rush and the Star Academy: Part One (The Star Master Trilogy)

Product Description:

The Dark Prince has emerged from behind the shadows, bringing forth an invasion of terrifying scale. The Star Academy’s only hope for salvation rests in the hands of an anxious, fourteen year old boy named Jonathan Rush and his companions.

Jonathan Rush and the Star Academy is the coming of age story about a cautious young teen, thrown into the science-fiction adventure of a lifetime. The stakes are high and time is running out. If the Star Academy is going to have any chance for survival, Johnny needs to find a way to believe in himself before all hope is lost.

The Star Master Trilogy:
Jonathan Rush and the Star Academy: Part One - FREE
Jonathan Rush and the Star Academy: Parts One and Two - 2.99!

Review Excerpts:
"Through uncomplicated storytelling we watch Jonathan Rush grow up a little more with each page turn...and growing up can be quite a roller coaster ride at The Star Academy." - WornPages,

"This is a very interesting science fiction for youth that tends to show them how to stand up for themselves." - Miss Lynn's Books and More, 

First 300 Words:

Jonathan Rush, or Johnny, as he liked to be called, was not like the heroes in most stories.  He was a relatively small boy, with messy, dusty blond hair.  Often he would get picked on because of his small stature.  He was not a strong boy, nor was he a confident boy.  He was prone to panic attacks, and carried about his daily life with a general sense of shyness.

What Johnny did have was a wild imagination that protected him from the world around him.  Often, this imagination would extend into his dreams, where he could be the hero he never believed he could be.  In fact, he was having one such dream right now.

Johnny tossed and turned in his bed.  This time, it was not a dream however, but a terrifying nightmare unlike any the young boy had ever had before.

He was somewhere not of this Earth, that much was clear.  He walked the hallway of a futuristic structure.  Black metal walls stood high in the air, creating the daunting feeling that made him feel much smaller than he really was.  So weird and wondrous, he thought, as he walked down the hallways of his surreal surroundings.

“We are ready to begin the invasion,” a ghostly voice boomed from around the hallway.

Hesitantly, Johnny rounded the hallway, eventually coming to an opening of a large room.  The room was a throne room by the looks of it.  Soldiers stood at attention, all the way down to a large golden throne; set above everything else, a dozen steps above. 

The warriors wore the armor of knights, only there was nothing holy or honorable about them. They wore jet black armor with blood red engravings carved on their breastplates.

Vicki's Comments: Although this is free, I'm going to put this up anyway. These suggestions might help for when it's not free, or help determine why the second book isn't selling as well.

Now, let's talk about Jonathan Rush and the Star Academy: Part 1. The image is good, but I'm put off by the white background. Most science fiction books have black or dark blue backgrounds, probably to give the "space" feeling to it.

The next book doesn't look at all like this. In fact, it's not the next book at all, it's part 1 and part 2 which confuses me. I will place it here so the readers of this blog can see:

They don't seem to go together. I would pick which style fits the book more and stick with one style, otherwise you'll confuse the readers. (Since the main character is a teen, I would go for the younger feeling character, just make the background darker.)

The description is quite vague, I'd like to know what I'm going to be reading about before I pick up a book. Things like "thrown into the science-fiction adventure of a lifetime" and "the stakes are high and time is running out" and also "before all hope is lost" don't tell me what the plot is about. All I know about the book is there's a star academy and it's being invaded by some bad guy named The Dark Prince. Sorry, but there's no hook here for me. I want to know exactly what the stakes are, what this boy must do, and why he's the one that must do it.

I'm also concerned about this:
Jonathan Rush and the Star Academy: Part One - FREE
Jonathan Rush and the Star Academy: Parts One and Two - 2.99!

The one review on this mentions it ends with a cliff hanger. This, and the fact that parts 1 and 2 are sold together makes me unsure of what I'm getting with this book. Is this a novel that was split up into two or three parts and are being sold separately? Most of the time with a trilogy all three books are complete in and of themselves and are sold separately. Why put books 1 and 2 together? And why call them "parts" instead of books? I think this is hindering sales. If they are complete novels, sell them like that. Sure, if you want book 1 to be free, that's fine, but sell book 2 as one complete book.

If this is just a part of a book, you're going to have a lot harder time selling it. Episodic novels don't sell as well, people don't like buying a part of a story. Whichever way it goes, I would be clear about it so your readers will know exactly what they are getting.

I'm not a huge fan of putting review snips in descriptions. I ignore the reviews that are in descriptions for the most part. Unless it's a quote from Stephen King, I wouldn't put it in there. You could ask the reviewers to post their reviews on Amazon, many times they will do this for the author.

Judging by the first 300 words the writing needs to be tightened up. The story starts with telling. I'm much more prone to pick up a book if the author can show me these things rather then tell them to me. For instance, "Often he would get picked on because of his small stature." I don't want to be told this, I want to have a scene in the book with bigger kids picking on the little guy. I want to be in the moment. How does he get picked on? Are the bigger kids playing "keep away" with his hat? Or is it more sinister? Are they beating him up? How does this make Jonathan feel?

I don't want to be told that he prefers Johnny, I want to see it. I want his mother to call him Jonathan and see him roll his eyes and say, "It's Johnny, mom." These things show us his personality. We can get to know him through these scenes that show instead of a paragraph dump at the beginning that just tells us this kid is small and gets picked on and prefers to be called Johnny.

There are also a lot of phrases in here that make me think this book has not been through a critique group. I found some repeated words that made this read clunky, like "daunting feeling that made him feel" and "...large room. The room was a throne room by the looks of it." The word "hallway" is also repeated four times in three short paragraphs. I feel like this could be tightened up quite a bit through joining and getting some outside eyes on the work.

Honestly, I feel like the main reason this isn't selling is because of the writing. I would highly suggest joining and jumping in with both feet. With some tightening up I think this book can do much better.

What do you guys think?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Kult

Author: Shaun Jeffrey
Genre: The author didn't list a genre, but I'm guessing it's horror or crime fiction.
How long it's been on sale: Previously published, but publisher went bankrupt. Re-released by me in March.
Current price: $3.45
Total sold so far: 59
Link to book on Amazon: The Kult

Product Description:

People are predictable. That’s what makes them easy to kill.

Detective Chief Inspector Prosper Snow is in charge of an investigation into a serial killer called The Oracle who turns his victims into macabre works of art. But Prosper harbours a dark secret of his own. He and his old school friends were members of a group called The Kult who made a pact to dish out their own form of vengeance on bullies. Now a member of the group puts their friendship to the test when he makes a far darker request: that they murder someone that raped his wife.

To get away with murder, the friends decide to blame it on The Oracle, but events take a chilling turn when the instigator turns up dead, his body fashioned into a disturbing work of art. Now, one by one, the members of The Kult are being hunted down.

Just when Prosper thinks things can’t get any worse, his wife is kidnapped and he knows that if he goes to his colleagues for help, he risks his dark deeds being unearthed. If he doesn't, he risks losing all that he holds dear. 

First 300 Words:

People are predictable. That’s what makes them easy to kill.

At least that’s what the Oracle hoped. He had studied and plotted Jane Numan’s routine over the weeks. Watched without her seeing, making note of every nuance, every step of her schedule until he had a complete diary of her movements, probably knowing more about her than she did about herself.

He crouched in the recessed doorway of the kebab shop opposite where she lived and gripped the handle of the knife in the sheath inside his jacket. His weapon of choice, he hoped the mere sight of the blade would instil terror in his prey, making it more personal, and putting him close enough that he could smell his quarry and see the fear in her eyes.

He looked at his watch; 6:29 a.m. and counting.

Any second now…

Like clockwork, the front door of what to anyone else would be a nondescript house opened and Jane walked out. The Oracle sank back into the shadows as he stared at the facial disfigurement that made it appear half her face was melting. Although only 23 years of age, she probably hadn’t had the easiest of lives, which made her all the more desirable as a victim as the more public sympathy his kill received, the more publicity he would generate, and as people were fond of saying, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, especially not for what he had planned.

The Oracle watched her check that the door was locked, pushing once, twice, then a third time, as she always did when she left the house. His pulse increased, a volcano waiting to erupt within his chest. He rubbed the sweat coated fingers of his free hand down his trousers. Everything was going according to schedule.

Vicki's Comments: The image on the cover is fantastic for a horror novel. If that's the genre, it fits perfectly. I'm not sure I love the font, it doesn't go with the tone of the book to me. I would try to find one that is more of a clean font. I would switch it and see if that makes a difference.

I like the description except for the first two lines. Starting with those first two lines makes me think the description is written in the killer's point of view, but then we switch right away into the detective's point of view and it confuses me. If I ignore the first two sentences I feel like it flows better. Could it be improved? Sure, I think it could be tightened up just a little bit. I would ask my critique group for suggestions to tighten it up. But really, it hooks me, so I think it's good!

The writing is tight, and it starts in a great place. I think this book can do very well. It's possible the higher price is holding it back. Maybe try a sale for a while, just to get some eyeballs on the book. There's really not a lot holding this book back, in my opinion. Once it gets some publicity I think it will become a hit!

What do you guys think?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Garrick’s Landing

Author: Rita Wheeler
Genre: Literary
How long it's been on sale: 4 months
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Facebook appeal, increased tag words, repeated mentions on Kindle boards, paid for ten additional reviews.
Total sold so far: 24
Link to book on Amazon: Garrick's Landing

Product Description:

In the frenzied days after the start of WWII, seventeen-year-old Lainey Marston, daughter of a prominent Nashville banker, lets her newly-enlisted boyfriend convince her to elope even though she knows her father disapproves of the young man and of his fanatically religious family. Within hours after promising to love, honor and obey, Lainey knows that her father was right—she has made a terrible mistake. What she doesn’t know is that the marriage has set in motion a series of events that will bring her face to face with her own death.

First 300 Words:

Lainey hadn’t intended to marry Brice Garrick.

That was the honest truth, but how she was going to explain that to her daddy she didn’t know since it barely made any sense at all, even to her.

They were on their way back to Nashville late Sunday morning, she and Brice, and Kenny and Joelle, after two quickie marriages in Corinth, Mississippi—no blood tests required there to slow things down—followed by two nights in adjoining rooms at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis.

The noon sun was high in a cloudless sky and the temperature way higher, Lainey thought, than it had any right to be so early in June.  Lainey was driving.  She was the only one drinking Coca-Cola instead of highballs these last three days, and besides, it was her car.  She hadn’t even let Brice drive when he wanted the keys and threw a fit when she wouldn’t give them to him after they came out of the courthouse married and with her still in a state of shock.

She glanced at him now and again, slouched down and snoring with his mouth open and his head resting against the window frame.  His uniform was a wrinkled mess and with the way the Army had nearly shaved him bald, she’d barely recognized him when he got home on furlough. 

She had a picture in her billfold of the Brice Garrick she knew before he joined the Army, and that Brice Garrick, the one of him in his football uniform holding his helmet down at his side, that Brice with his thick, black hair and strong jaw and that little indention in his chin she’d always loved—that Brice barely looked anything like the one next to her with the little nicks all over his face where he cut himself shaving just before they left this morning. 

Vicki's Comments: I kind of like the picture on the cover, but I'm not sure. It's dark and a little blurry but that makes it look old and almost depressing which might fit the book. The font doesn't go with it, though, and it's hard to read so I would change the font. I'm on the fence about the photo. I think it gives the message that this is a sad book. If that fits I might suggest leaving it. If the book isn't sad, I would change the photo.

The description isn't bad, although it could be tightened up a little bit. I want to know more about why marrying this guy would threaten her life. Is he abusive? Is the religion a cult and they're going to sacrifice her in some ritual? If I can get a little peek at what is threatening her life I think that would help the description.

I'm not a huge fan of the writing, I think it can be tightened up a bit too. Some of the sentences seemed long and clunky to me. I think some of the passive language can be reworked. I also prefer to start a novel right in the scene rather than starting with back story. I might cut some of the front matter off and start the novel without the back story.

What do you guys think?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Where Dreams are Born

Author: Joyce DeBacco
Genre: Romantic Suspense
How long it's been on sale: Jan. 26, 2011
Current price: $3.99
Total sold so far: 23
Link to book on Amazon: Where Dreams are Born

Product Description:

Fate brings Vicky to the home of Jack Hazlett, a harried widower in need of domestic help. She never expected to find a safe haven for her son—and the man of her dreams.

It was supposed to be a win-win situation—a safe environment in which to raise a son for single mom Vicky, housekeeping and childcare for widowed Jack. Believing they’ve had their shot at happiness, neither is looking to complicate their lives with a romantic entanglement. At first Jack sees Vicky as skinny and plain, guarded with him, but openly warm with his children, an important quality for a man who grew up in the foster care system. However, his growing attraction to the woman who scrubs his toilets and washes his underwear complicates their working relationship. Vicky, too, is reluctant to get involved, having been down that road before with disastrous results.

When Jack learns his friend fathered Vicky’s son and now wants partial custody, he feels threatened. He’s come to care deeply for both, and doesn’t want to lose the family they’ve become. In desperation he offers a radical solution—marriage. Vicky knows she can do worse than marry Jack, but wonders how successful their marriage would be when its only reason for being was to keep from losing her son. Add to this a troubled child keeping a secret about her dead mother, and a vindictive ex bent on revenge…

First 300 Words:

Vicky Lowell cleared her throat and rang the doorbell. When no one answered her first ring, she rang the bell again. This time a baby howled and heavy footsteps approached. The door swung open.

“Mr. Hazlett?” she asked.

“It’s about time you got here,” the harried man shouted over the din.

“Excuse me?”

Taking care not to muss his shirt and tie, the man handed the fussy baby into her arms. Two little girls in their underwear clung to each of his pant legs. “You’re late,” he said. “That means I’ll be late. But I’m willing to overlook that if you can start right away.”

“Mr. Hazlett, I think there’s been some mis—”

“Look, if it’s all right with you we can discuss the details later. I have a very important presentation this morning so I have to hurry. I promise I’ll make it worth your while if you can start immediately.”


“Damn it.” He shook off the clinging children. “Look at that, I’m wrinkled already.”

The man strode into the kitchen and she followed. “But, Mr. Hazlett—”

“I left important phone numbers for you on the desk.” He took a last slurp from a coffee mug on the table, grimaced, and then rushed for the door. “If you need anything else, ask the kids,” he shouted over his shoulder.

Mouth still open, Vicky took note of her surroundings: a kitchen table littered with pizza crusts and cereal bowls, remnants, no doubt, of its occupants’ last two meals, counters piled high with dirty pots and pans, and microwaveable plastic overflowing from the trash can. Clearly, Tuesday must be the cleaning lady’s day off. Though from the overall condition of the room, the woman must have been AWOL far longer than a day.

Surprised people of obvious means could live so haphazardly she turned her attention to the whimpering baby in her arms and the two children staring up at her. The younger one hid behind her sister, a thumb in her mouth and one tiny finger hooked around a button nose.

The baby, suddenly aware of the stranger whose hip she straddled, began to cry in earnest. Vicky bounced the child on her hip.

“Jodie thgared,” Thumb sucker said.

“Jodie—is that her name? And what’s yours, sweetie?”

The child released her wrinkled thumb. “Soo-soo,” she said, before latching onto it again.

“Soo-soo?” Vicky repeated.

“Suzy.” The older girl yanked her sister’s thumb from her mouth with a pop. The indignant thumb sucker did an angry jig before re-plugging her mouth.

Vicki's Comments: I want to like the cover, I really do, however there's something about a picture framed in a heart that screams amateur. I think I would re-do the cover. I would try to portray the romance and the suspense. The hands do a good job of showing the romance but I don't get suspense at all from it, and after reading the description and the reviews I think that's an important part of the book.

I like the premise of this book, but the premise is getting lost in all of the stuff in the description. I feel like it can be boiled down to the nitty gritty. We don't need to know that at first Jack sees Vicky as skinny and plain, or that Jack grew up in a foster care system. Don't add back story into the description. Pare down to the basics - girl gets hired by guy - girl's son is threatened - they marry to solve problem - ex comes after her. This is the basic story from what I can gather, so the description needs to be short and sweet to say that.

I loved the writing. This is the kind of book I would pick up. It starts with a bang, which is how I prefer a book to start. I can see this hooking a potential reader right away. I would buy this book right now if I knew the heat level of the romance. (That might be something to include in the description. There are some who will pick up any romance no matter the heat level, but I'm strictly a sweet romance/closed door girl, so I don't buy romances unless they specify this in the description.)

Over all, I think the description is the biggest thing holding this back, with the cover being the second.

What do you guys think?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Place Beyond the Map

Author: Samuel Thews
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: This book was submitted on July 12 and was only for sale 1 day when submitted.
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: None listed.
Total sold so far: 1
Link to book on Amazon: A Place Beyond The Map

Product Description:

Phinnegan Qwyk thought he knew everything there was to know about fairy tales. But when the notorious Faë Periwinkle Lark snatches him from his cozy home in Ireland to a Place-Beyond-the-Map, Phinnegan discovers that reading a fairy tale and living in one are two altogether different things.

When Phinnegan escapes from the mountain prison of Féradoon, he must travel a treacherous path riddled with dangers both fair and foul - where the wild hounds of the Faolchú await a single misstep and gholems stalk their quarries unseen from the shadows. Forced into a daring match of wits with a beautiful troll, Phinnegan may find the way home if he wins – but if he loses, he will be her pet. Forever.

First 300 Words:

Phinnegan Qwyk drummed his fingertips on his desk, oblivious to the hair-raising screech of chalk grating across an old blackboard as Mr. Rowlands scribbled arithmetical figures. Phinnegan had always disliked the cold, unforgiving nature of numbers, even on an ordinary day - and today was anything but ordinary.

No, today was special – or at least it would be once the final grains of sand trickled from top-to-bottom in the large hourglass seated on Mr. Rowlands’s desk. Phinnegan had never understood why it was called an hourglass. The ornate timepiece held three hours of sand, not a moment less or more. At home, Phinnegan’s mother used a similar glass to time her baking, but it ran through in a neat half-hour. The term “hourglass” wasn’t appropriate for either.

But whatever it was called, Mr. Rowlands began each morning with one “run of the sand” before allowing the children a break for lunch and recess. The afternoon likewise consisted of a single run of the sand, which, much to Phinnegan’s pleasure, was at an end.

As the final grain slipped through the narrow waist of the glass, Phinnegan sat straighter, anticipating the dismissal of the class. Mr. Rowlands was always prompt in ending his classes, reasoning that he had once been young and knowing full well that such restless minds would ignore him once his time had run its course).

Today, however, Mr. Rowlands seemed not to notice.

Phinnegan waited a minute, then another, and then a third.

Any moment now.

But the screeching continued, as did the drone of Mr. Rowlands’s mundane voice. On an ordinary day, Phinnegan would not have cared in the least. He did not mind school as much as many of the other pupils.  But as the moments passed, not a single schoolmate sought to inform the teacher of the time.

Vicki's Comments: Okay, it's kind of silly to submit a book when it's only been selling one day. I probably should put in the rules some kind of time limit on how long a book needs to be out before I'll critique why it isn't selling. But since this doesn't seem to be going like gangbusters from the current rank, I'll give it a whirl.

I love the cover of this book. I think it's perfect. It tells me the genre at a glance, it draws me in and I think it's well designed. Great job!

The description can definitely be improved. This probably is hurting sales the most. The first paragraph tells me that fairy tales aren't that great to live in. It also tells me the main character gets snatched and taken to a land beyond the map. Out of those two things, the snatching is most interesting, but not the first thing mentioned. I would cut the fairy tale stuff and focus more on the hook of the story, the kid being snatched, taken to prison and escaping only to find himself on a treacherous journey.

I'm also put off by the hard to pronounce words. If I'm put off by it, the target audience might be too. Phinnegan is okay, but how do you pronounce Qwyk? Faolchú is a mouth full too. I might suggest changing some of the hard to pronounce words, or at least keeping them out of the blurb.

The writing was good but the book starts a little slow. There's nothing going on. But if I were reading this I probably would keep going to see if something happens soon. I did enjoy the writing. Just a couple nit-picks. If the main character is oblivious to the screeching, don't put it in. He's oblivious to it. Just a minor point of view violation. The other nit-pick is that there's a stray end parenthesis after course. There's no starting parenthesis. This makes me think this might need an editor. (I know, mistakes happen even with an editor, but if this wasn't edited by someone else I might suggest hiring someone.)

And, lastly, middle grade is probably a tough sell for an ebook. I would suspect middle grade will sell better in the future as more kids get ereaders, but right now I think it's mostly adults who own them, and while I know adults who read young adult books, I don't know a lot of adults reading middle grade books.

What do you guys think?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Formula Rx:17

Author: Rebecca Carlton
Genre: Thriller
How long it's been on sale: 3 months
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Amazon posting, blog tour, facebook, twitter social networking.
Total sold so far: 23
Link to book on Amazon: Formula Rx:17

Product Description:

Geric is lured by Dalis to a remote island to practice medicine until his license is reinstated. Upon arrival, Dalis reveals that Geric must erase memories and personal identities from abducted women or face his own demise. While Geric bides his time until an opportunity arises to escape, he is presented with a patient that is resistant to treatment but manages to catch Dalis’ eye.
Livia’s life is spared with the mindset that her immunity is the key to developing an alternate therapy for other resistant women. She serves as Geric’s medical assistant while enduring the aggressive advances of Dalis. The stress of their living conditions proves to be too difficult when the consequence of their reckless behavior triggers a deadline to escape. A deadline that will expose their transgressions…and cost them their lives.

First 300 Words:

Geric pulled the final photograph off the wall and dropped it into the trash box. He sighed as he leaned down to label the box. After taking another moment to inspect the contents, he turned to the stone paperweight sitting on his desk. The stone still had the stain of the red clay dirt from his parents’ backyard. It had graced every college dorm book shelf and office desk for the last fifteen years and now that he would be forced to return home, it seemed meaningful to bring it along full circle. As he clenched the stone in his hand, its weight reminded him of the burdens his poor decisions had placed on his shoulders.

Geric had no clue what he would be walking into when the young lady came by to request a house visit. She brought him to a bedridden old woman with pain filled eyes suffering from stomach cancer. The young woman explained that over the years her grandmother’s tolerance had heightened to levels that no doctor felt comfortable prescribing. She gathered all their belongings and moved them from town to town in search of a doctor willing to give the old woman relief during her final time. Geric became a doctor to help people who had no means to help themselves. His own homeland was riddled with old women just like the one lying in the bed staring back at him, in need of help with no one willing to assist them. He came to this country because he could not make a living off of kind gestures and saw the situation before him as an opportunity to give back to those who were less fortunate.

The old woman never spoke. She only stared at the ceiling as if she were begging for a release sooner than it came to her. 

Vicki's Comments: The first thing I notice here is the author lists this book as a thriller, and yet the description adds in some science fiction to the mix. That's fine, but it needs to portray that on the cover and the marketing needs to be to people who like science fiction thrillers, if this is indeed a sci-fi thriller.

The cover needs work. I suggest the cover be the standard size so it doesn't stand out (in a bad way) compared to the other covers on Amazon. The type blends in, and is barely legible. I would use a different picture, one that portrays the genre better, and make sure the type is clear.

The description could use some more punch too. Someone being lured to an island to practice medicine isn't very exciting, and that's the first sentence. I'd make the first sentence the best you can make it, something that will grab the reader and make them want to read the book. It doesn't have to be a synopsis of the book, just enough information so the reader knows what kind of book it will be, and a good hook.

The writing was good but it was all back story. I try not to put any back story into the first chapter, and even after that I try to sneak it in rather than have large paragraphs of back story. The scene starts with a man packing up his stuff. I'm confused by the first two sentences. He throws a picture from the wall in the trash box, but then leans down to label the box? Why would you label a box of trash? Why not throw it out?

I would suggest a new cover, tighten up the blurb, and maybe cut the first scene so the book opens at a more exciting part.

What do you guys think?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Edgy Hours

Author: Ederyn Khushrenada
Genre: Dark Fiction
How long it's been on sale: Feb 2011
Current price: $.99
Marketing: I mention it now and then at the MOA forum on Amazon; listed it on the blog of Mistress of the Dark Path and 1500 Authors; have a page for it on Goodreads; created a thread for it at Kindleboards
Total sold so far: 18
Link to book on Amazon: Edgy Hours

Product Description:

Horror doesn't need zombies or vampires; the most frightening animal in the universe is man. This anthology of five short stories explores the disturbing side of human nature:

Wire: A terrorist questions the ethics of his cause as he wires a small child with explosives for a suicide mission.

Always Mine: A secretary finds herself in an awkward position when her employer confesses his romantic interest.

Canvas: A farm boy from a close-knit family suffers nightmares while away from home for the first time.

The Kiss: After watching two friends kiss, a gay soldier seeks therapy.

Six Minutes: A condemned prisoner reviews the events that brought him here as he awaits execution for an accidental murder.

Not intended for young readers, some of these stories contain homosexual themes and possible triggering material if you're a trauma survivor. Reader discretion is advised.

840 pages
15k words

This complete collection is also included in the anthology 'Blue Forest'

First 300 Words:

The last one had gone off without a hitch. Why did things have to f*** up today of all days, when the new so-called commander was here? Commander my ass. He's nothing but a squat walrus with a mustache and a power fixation. How much longer before they'd have to genuflect before this poor man's Kommissar? This was a small separatist faction, not a military superpower. They didn't need a damn commander. Commander or no, the bastard was the one who now claimed the title and no one was arguing with him, so Bodin wasn't about to make waves. He'd been trying for years to impress the people who mattered, so why the hell did everything have to go wrong the day his first opportunity for advancement came along?

Not that it'll make any difference, he reflected as he stripped the rubber coating from the tips of the wires and rolled the ends together. The only real advancement around here was a better bed to sleep in and a little more respect from the grunts than you'd normally get. Still, a decent bed was worth dying for, and lately he'd been waking up every morning with a backache from Hell. How did they expect him to do his job without mistakes when his back was killing him like this?

Camp commander. Ha! Talk about a Napoleonic complex. What was it Korać used to say? "Don't step on the runts; they go off." Yeah, that was it. Korać knew the lay of the land, which was more than he could say for this pinheaded dictator from Sarajevo. He was going to miss Korać. Korać had never called himself commander of anything, but everyone knew he was the boss. He simply commanded respect, and Bodin hadn't lost any respect for him when he died, unlike some of the guys. Anyone could have been ambushed like that—anyone. They all had to bite the bullet in the end, and Korać had died heroically as far as he was concerned.

Vicki's Comments: I think the cover is a real problem. It doesn't define the book for me, and I can't read the word "dark" at the bottom. I don't see an author's name on it, which is odd to me. The gradient of color makes the cover appear home made, which is definitely not the look you want to go for when trying to sell a book. I would suggest an overhaul of the cover.

Since this is a short story collection, I think boiling down the stories into succinct one liners is a good idea. The descriptions right now don't hook me, so I might suggest working on the descriptions. Let's just take the first one for example. "A terrorist questions the ethics of his cause as he wires a small child with explosives for a suicide mission." The main conflict in this story is the terrorist questioning the ethics of his cause. That's not very exciting for me. Someone questioning the ethics of something probably means a lot of internal dialogue. Does this stop him from his task? Does he let the boy go? The description doesn't say either, it just says he questions the ethics. So I'm thinking the story will be a bunch of monologue from one character thinking about ethics. If this accurately describes the story, then that's fine, but the problem might be in the story then rather than just the description. It doesn't grab me as a must read.

The writing in itself I think was fine, but I couldn't get a sense of the setting at all, and if this guy is strapping a bomb to a young kid, I would want to know this from the start. Unless that's the big reveal at the end. But for me, this story isn't hooking my interest. It's pretty much what I figured when I read the description. It's a monologue of a terrorist. I'm probably not the target audience for this book, though, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

My only other concern is in the description it lists "840 pages, 15K words."  If you have 200 words per page, 15K words should be in the 75 page range. If you list that it's 840 pages, that means you've got about 17.8 words on each page. There's a major error in here somewhere, and I would hate for someone to think they're getting a 840 page book when it's only 15,000 words. Maybe it's supposed to say 84 pages?

What do you guys think?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Field Trip

Author: Jody Wallace
Genre: Light SF
How long it's been on sale: May 30, 2011
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Professional cover, lots of tweets & FB comments, posts to my author website, copies or queries sent out for reviews (2 reviews received), current offer of a code to get the book free at Smashwords, posts on a couple of loops and forums I frequent (no driveby's!), author newsletter, updated website, a couple blog posts
Total sold so far: 16
Link to book on Amazon: Field Trip

Product Description:

Can a slightly cynical school teacher survive a field trip, an interdimensional incident and a handsome tour guide all at the same time?

A futuristic comedy of (little) terrors

Third grade teacher Hazel James has been escorting her students to the Space Station Freedom Museum and Amusement park on their annual field trip for years. Slightly dull years, all things considered, but well within the budget of the Integrated Public School System of Earth so she doesn't have to pay for the extras. This year, however, starts out with an ominous fizzle almost as soon as she and her batch of darling troublemakers enter the front door. The museum's shabby equipment malfunctions during the shuttle simulation. The children are having some issues with the whole paying attention business. And their usual tour guide has been replaced by a good-looking Zhie male--who's completely incompetent at his job.

Or is he? Miss James knows something is up at Space Station Freedom--whether due to budget cuts, poor management or one too many unruly student groups--but she has no idea what an unusual turn their annual field trip is about to take.

Length: short story (11,000 words) 

First 300 Words:

Geiger, the little piss-ant, sat behind me during the shuttle simulation and relentlessly kicked the back of my seat. He'd picked that seat because it was beside Clarice, not because it was behind me, his teacher, but that didn't stop him from kicking.

"This is how astronauts used to travel between planets," droned the Zhie tour guide. He was obviously not used to holding the attention of twenty Human and Zhie third graders from the Integrated Public School System of Earth on their annual field trip. We were only ten minutes into our day-long visit to The Space Station Freedom Museum and Amusement Park, and already the kids were restless.

"The early Humans didn't know about dimensional cross points." The guide, who'd introduced himself as Sergeant Chamblin, flicked his eyes from left to right, as if he were reading cues. His posture was as rigid as a post. "They used huge spacecrafts powered by dangerous fossil and nuclear fuels to propel themselves beyond Earth's orbit. The ships were nothing like the sleek hep...hep...oh, hoppers. Hoppers of contemporary times."

So maybe he was reading cues. Great. A newb. I resisted the urge to check the back of the room for any writing on the wall...of the cue or the ominous variety.

"Trips between planets took months instead of seconds," our newb explained, "and travelers were hindered by cramped living conditions, faulty gravity emitters, radiation, and, horror of, uh, horrors, space rations."

The folks in charge of writing the speech presumably thought they'd get a response out of the kids with that worn-out joke. And they did. A wad of gum flew across the room and stuck to the guide's podium, an incongruous green blip on the black and white logo of Galaxy Prime.

Behind me, Geiger snickered.

Vicki's Comments: Okay, first the cover. Just looking at the cover without reading the description it makes me think this is a middle grade book. It reminds me of The Magic School Bus. I think it's the cartoony type people combined with the young kids. I like the cover, I'm just afraid it's giving people the wrong impression.

The description is too wordy for me. I think it can be boiled down to a more succinct hook. From the whole long description here's what I got out of it: When third grade teacher, Hazel James, escorts her children to the Space Station Freedom something malfunctions during the shuttle simulation.

That's pretty much all I know happens. I would mention what unusual turn the field trip takes, unless that's a total spoiler.

The writing itself was good, although starting with a boring class might be a bit boring for the readers. If the field trip doesn't take a wrong turn soon, I might put the book down. But I haven't read on so I can't say if it gets exciting soon after the 300 words end.

I'm guessing the biggest issue with this is the description, followed by the cover giving the impression that it's a story geared toward kids. Although the reviews said they liked the cover, so I could be way off base with my assessment. Also, I noticed that there is some romance in the book but the cover doesn't portray that at all. Maybe putting the guy/girl on the cover might help?

11,000 words is a bit long to call it a short story, it's technically a novelette. Maybe labeling it a novelette will give it a little more appeal? My novelette is selling better than I thought it would.

What do you guys think?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Consumption: A Novel

Author: GS Johnston
Genre: General Fiction
How long it's been on sale: 5 weeks
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Approached blogs for interviews - links on my website - tried to engaged in other discussion boards - organized some reviews coming up.
Total sold so far: 51
Link to book on Amazon: Consumption: A Novel

Product Description:

In the dying days of British Hong Kong, Sara Sexton, upon breaking up with a Greek lover, visits her old friend Martin Blake, a high-profile, high-dollar interior designer. This suspenseful story shows the effects of a lifetime friendship going toxic as modern life pulls the once quasi-siblings in opposite directions. As Sara embarks on a simpler life, Martin becomes increasingly complex and erratic. Eventually Sara is forced to a terrible choice in the name of self-preservation.

In its witty dissection of middle class ideals and aspirations, G. S. Johnston's CONSUMPTION is a heart-rending, provoking novel about the nature of long term friendships. With beautiful prose, arresting characters, and intriguing setting, Johnston evokes the cities of Hong Kong and Sydney and immerses the reader in a world that is as beautiful as it is painful.

First 300 Words:

The plane’s interior was a false night created by closed haloed shades and dim lights, time skewed and suspended.  In the final leg of its flight from London to Hong Kong, the 747 flew high above the meandering rivers and fertile deltas of China’s Hunan province, wings exposed to the blistering sun.

Sara Sexton shifted her feet around in the cramped space in front of her, just a step to the left and then to the right, squelching up and relaxing her toes, pivoting her heels.  She hoped not to wake the German man who spilled over their shared armrest into her seat, but she needed some relief from the pins and needles of what her friend Martin called cattle-class seats.  Passengers in aisle seats stand and walk the corridors when they needed to move.  Although Sara was only five feet two and a half, her petite frame felt restricted.

The long line of ceiling lights began to flicker on, one fully illuminated then the next stammering before lighting up.  Passengers stirred, yawning, hands and arms raised, stretching out their spines.  Velcro closures were ripped apart, plastic bags rustled, porthole window shades lifted to the sun.  The coffee a steward handed Sara smelled reasonable.  The German stirred back to life.

For the briefest moment, she caught the aroma of Stavros’s coffee, the strength of the day percolating through the dawning house, the first whiff of promise.  Caught off guard, for that moment she was on the myth-filled island of Ikaria, her jewel in the Greek archipelago, where she’d lived for the last year wringing every possible drop of joy out of her days and nights.
She looked down at her tray table.  Stavros wouldn’t call such a brew coffee.  She took a sip: bitter and burnt.  

Vicki's Comments: I like the cover. It's a witty cover, and it makes me think the book will be comical, which might be part of the problem because the description and sample didn't read comical to me. It's possible the comedy element on the cover is subconscious to me, since it makes me think of Monty Python, so it could just be me. Maybe others will share their opinions on it.

The description could use some work. Basically, boiled down, it's telling me this: Sara breaks up with her lover and goes to visit an old friend. They were once very close, but now have been pulled in different directions. Sarah likes a simple life, her friend's life is more complex. That's it. There has to be something that happens in the book if it's suspenseful as the description says. Where is the suspense? What happens that is suspenseful? I'd like to see that described.

And then the end of the description reads like it's a review or a comment from someone about the book, but there's no attribution so it looks like the author is saying this about his own novel which comes across poorly, in my opinion. I would cut that last paragraph.

The actual writing could use some editing. I saw many tense issues, like: "Passengers in aisle seats stand and walk the corridors when they needed to move." The first part is in present tense, and yet the last part is in the past tense. This was hard for me to get past as I read. I think an editor would be able to help with the tense issues and be able to polish up the manuscript.

The beginning of the novel didn't hook me as a reader. There's a girl on a plane. She's uncomfortable. The coffee tastes bad. Nothing much is happening. It's possible that this book needs to start at a different point in the story when something more is going on. But, as always, this is just my opinion.

What do you guys think?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Blue Valley

Author: Christine Rice
Genre: Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: 3/7/11
Current price: $2.99
Total sold so far: 35
Link to book on Amazon: Blue Valley (A World War 2 Fantasy) (The Elementals)

Product Description:

At the outset of World War 2, Will Leary is sent to California to investigate an agricultural anomaly; the soil is turning blue.

The War Department suspects Japanese sabotage, but Will discovers the unwitting culprit is Sarah, the town "witch" who has the uncanny ability to read the Earth's needs.

As the destruction spreads, and the food supply is threatened, it's not long before the farming community and the government are after Sarah. Will gives up everything he knows and loves to save her, only to find the very earth beneath their feet wants her dead.

--There are books that you breeze through and those that make you think. Blue Valley  is one of those books that forces the gears in your mind to turn. A moving story with the perfect balance of details, descriptions, relationship and battle.  - Doubleshot Reviews

First 300 Words:

The baby was wrong. Wrong in ways that brought up words like “unnatural” and “abomination”. Wrong in ways that made Kat wonder if she knew anything about the world. So wrong that she touched the hugeness of her belly to make sure her own baby had not dropped out of her, inexplicably, without labor pains.

But she was both relieved and sad that the baby lying in the dirt was not hers, because as frightening as this child was to the farm’s proprietor and the twenty pickers surrounding her, she was beautiful, somehow older than a newborn, fat and well-nourished, yet coated with dirt from her birth.

Benito, elbowed through the crowd. “Get back to picking, unless you think the child can join the line.” He pointed to Kat, “You help me. You’re not much good on this line today anyways.” He pulled his knife from his pocket, and Kat knew what he meant to do.

She glanced at her husband, Alphonse, whose bin of strawberries was nearly full, such was the speed at which he picked. He stood to his full six-four, “If she was available I’d say so.”

“She’ll get her day’s pay,” Benito said, standing between Kat and Alphonse.

I don’t want her touching that thing. Not while she’s carrying my son.”

“It’s okay,” she whispered, though no one heard. They had been hearing nothing but the baby’s cries; delicate, not demanding, more for attention than nutrition, since they had dug her from the ground.

At first, they thought the cries in the distance were from coyotes in the hills, then perhaps a trick of the wind, until one of the pickers suddenly yelped, and pointed to the rows below. Peeking from the ground inside a perfect circle of soil, was a baby’s face. The rest of the its body was trapped underground.

Vicki's Comments: I like the cover. It looks professional and makes me want to know more about the book. Without reading the description or the start of the novel, the cover tells me this is a book about something wrong with an area of land, maybe something spilled there and poisoned the people. It looks like a thriller because of the typography. After reading the description I see I'm not *too* far off, but I didn't get the witch/fantasy feeling from the cover at all. I think tweaking the cover to match the genre more might be in order.

I like the description. I'm a little unsure why the earth would want Sarah dead if she's the only person who can read it's needs. (The blurb makes me think that Sarah is turning the earth blue because that's what the earth needs.) That part confuses me a little, but I'm not sure it needs to be explained in the blurb. In fact, in order to save confusion it might be best to take that part out. Other than that, I felt the description was good and hooked me into wanting to read.

The first 300 words shows me this manuscript needs editing. I saw several errors that an editor should have caught and fixed. The idea of this is interesting, why is a baby found buried in the soil? (And why wasn't that in the blurb? A live healthy and yet unnatural baby found in soil kind of trumps blue soil to me.)

In conclusion, I'm guessing the major reason this isn't selling would be the errors found in the manuscript, followed by the cover portraying a thriller aspect while the blurb tells the potential buyer it's fantasy. If these things are fixed, I would expect this book to be selling much better. It's an interesting premise.

What do you guys think?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Author: Isaac Sweeney
Genre: Short Stories
How long it's been on sale: June 19, 2011
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Twitter, Facebook, press release, blog. Not much else.
Total sold so far: 1
Link to book on Amazon: Evolvement

Product Description:

These nine stories are sometimes funny, sometimes sad, unusual when necessary, and always insightful. The collection displays a variety of topics and genres, from young adult paranormal, to women’s fiction, to more cerebral musings on death and loneliness. The individual stories all present intriguing characters who find sometimes-unexpected ways to grow. The collection as a whole has an inspirational theme of maturation and personal development.

Evolvement consists of stories from the previously released ebooks Hard Creek Bridge: a short story, Wouldn’t Last Forever, and Against Her Fading Hour, along with three new stories.

About 15,000 words total.

First 300 Words:

Hard Creek Bridge

Slim Jackson glided through Abe Lincoln University’s fall orientations and ‘Freshmen Only’ parties with ease and still managed to enter his second semester friendless and shy.  During his first college winter break, he did all of the things that made him miss his country home when he left for school.   He woke up every morning to Mom’s fresh bacon and eggs.  He helped Dad chop wood in the evenings.  Some afternoons, he would sit on the back porch and stare into the people-less forest.  Now, back at school, there was no wood or fresh food.  But there was especially no Mom and Dad.

Slim, a short, thin, young man, stepped off the bus to a crowded, unforgiving atmosphere, where socks matched every day, and peers cared about name brands.  His thin, orange backpack was nearly empty and he carried his clothes in a shiny, brown duffel bag.  He wore his late grandfather’s adjustable, blue, wordless cap over his shoulder-length brown hair.  He wore that cap every day since his grandfather died twelve years ago.  Slim always saw it as a bright blue symbol on his head, one that signified allegiance to another place and time.  The only time he took it off was when he showered.

The bus dropped Slim off in a different section of campus than it did the first semester.  He was never forced to walk this way to the dorm before.  It was early evening and getting dark.  Students would soon be tucked in their rooms to avoid the air’s chill.  The streets were already quieter than usual.  Slim walked beside a pothole-filled road.  There was no sidewalk, so he balanced on the thin section of asphalt past where the road lines ended.  He didn’t mind the stroll.  He liked to walk alone.  At least, that’s what he told himself.  The road twisted through campus like string through a knot.  Still new to campus, Slim just followed the arrowed signs to his dorm, but the road only seemed to lead him farther and farther away.

Vicki's Comments: The cover isn't bad, but I think it can be improved. My main issue with it is I can't get a feeling of genre from it. In fact, I'm not sure if the stories in this collection have a central genre, which is a problem.

I would prefer if the description took a story or two from the collection and tried to hook me into wanting to read them. Try to avoid subjective statements in the description. Some stories might be sad or funny to you, but maybe won't be sad or funny to someone else.

The writing could use some work also. The story starts with back story. Back story is boring to the reader. Most people prefer starting with a scene and then learning little details about the character as the scene progresses.

I would suggest joining a critique group, is my favorite. I see talent in the writing, but it needs some polish. If you can get the writing polished up, people will come back for more of your stories.

What do you guys think?