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?


  1. I'd add that while the cover is okay, the way the author's name is flush-left and in a generic font cheapens the overall look of the cover.

  2. I've seen your cover before and it's always caught my eye. But I agree with Vicki that it says mystery/thriller more than fantasy and witches. That could be because MT is my genre....

    The blurb pretty much worked for me. Again, because it set up a mysterious theme--what's up with the soil?--and that drew me in, much as the cover did. I really want to know why the soil is blue. Some chemical change? Anyway, the blurb sounded like mystery/thriller, like my cup of tea, until the final "earth wants her dead," which then kicked it into the fantasy or SF genre. I'm okay with not knowing why the earth wants to kill her, which I assume is the main plot.

    The first 300 were both interesting and confusing to me. At first I wasn't sure which baby was hers, which baby was on the ground, etc. I think that needs some editing.

    Overall, if I were a fantasy reader I'd want to take a look at the book. Good luck.

  3. Needs a little editing polish. I particularly didn't like that I had no idea why a baby would make them react this way until eight paragraphs in.

    Blurb needs a little work, its already been mentioned about the earth wanting to kill her when only she can hear its needs. Also why would a government guy sent to California risk everything for her? That part just struck me as odd is all.

  4. Even if the baby is trapped underground, the guy going to use a knife on it does not compute for me.

    Also, from the blurb and cover I really couldn't quite tell what the genre is. It's listed as a fantasy but is just enough confusing that I'd probably move on rather than looking closer.

  5. I'm not so hot on the cover. If the blue soil is bad for the crops, why does that plant look so healthy? I also don't like the background. It feels like separate unrelated elements. I agree that your name should be centered.

    The words "a novel" are kind of crushed by the title. I like the font you used for the title and the light blue color. It doesn't say fantasy to me, but leans more toward the thriller side.

    From the blurb and the first 300 words, I get fantasy thriller. It doesn't necessarily have to be one or the other.

    The opening is a little confusing and when I get confused, I really don't want to read any further.

    Overall, I think it's an interesting premise and should appeal to WW II buffs, as well as people who read fantasy and thrillers.

  6. It's funny, when I was querying this, I got a lot of "I don't know what genre it is" kind of comments.

    And here I am now, getting much the same.

    Believe me, the issue is not resolved in the book. It is a melding of all the genres that you mention above.

    I'm wondering if this is just one of those times when the agents were right? The unsurety of genre really can have a negative impact on sales.

  7. Maybe instead of saying "A Novel" on the cover, you could put "A Fantasy Thriller" instead...? *ponders more*

  8. I think this sounds AWESOME!!! It's going on my to-buy list now.

    (In my opinion, everything worked perfectly. I liked the cover, thought the blurb sounded intriguing, and was completely drawn into the story in the sample.)

  9. Oh, the curse of the cross-genre! I so, so, SO feel your pain. Almost nothing I write fits neatly in a cubbyhole. It's maddening, innit?

    I'm kinda with V.J.: I liked the blurb, though I can see why others had issues; I liked the cover, though it read as YA to me what with the whole "hands holding object" meme; and I liked the sample, though Vickie's right, it's got a few mistakes you need to correct. It's going on my "to buy" list.

    Why this isn't selling, I don't know. I think it might be a matter of "not selling...yet." :) Get a line edit, maybe change the font on the cover, and give it some time.

    Cross-genre is hard to sell. Ask me how I know. :) The cool thing is that when you find your audience it's *yours.* They know what to expect from your work and will seek it out. At least that's been my experience. Good luck!

  10. I know paranormal/fantasy when I see it, and that's what this is. It does have other genres, but in order to find a buying audience, it needs to be paraded around as ONE thing, mainly, with those other elements as side dishes.

    You're lucky it's fantasy, about witches, no less, because that genre sells very well. I would suggest using genre categories like "paranormal", "witches, "fantasy" as the stand-outs.

    Polish this MS up, give it an appropriate cover (beautiful woman in a flowing dress if you have a scene in the story to match), and I'd really LOVE to read it!

  11. Cover typography could use a tweak. Like the title, but author name should probably be in a serif font. I'd drop "A Novel" ... it's pretty clearly fiction.

    I saw this title a while back and remember grabbing a sample .. it worked up to that point for me including the blurb. That I didn't buy it means there was something in the sample that stopped me but I can't remember what it was. Sorry.

  12. I like the cover. Maybe the author name could be tweaked, but I'm not sure. I'd probably look at a sample of this book. The sample could use a little polishing, but the content is kind of suspenseful in how it's set up. I kind of like this one. Cross-genre's hard. I don't think you should pick a genre unless you're comfortable doing so. Maybe more time?

  13. I liked it. I thought the writing was strong, although more editing is always good.

    I would redo the cover. It's not a bad cover, but I don't think it's competitive for the genre (which seems to be primarily fantasy).

    I aim for 'oooo pretty' or 'ooooo cool' covers. Think of an iconic image that is more gripping that what you have thus far.

    If the romance is a significant subplot, I would attempt to market it as a fantasy romance as that is a large reading demographic. Which would mean incorporating a hot guy and girl on the cover.

    What other marketing have you done?


  14. My marketing has been getting a couple of blog reviews and blog interviews. Being active on KB (though not lately) and facebook (very).

    Did a giveaway on Goodreads and got between four and seven takers (can't remember) but the reviews haven't posted yet (if they ever will). I did get some great reviews on Amazon from strangers (yay!) but those have dried up lately.

    I'm kind of lost outside that.

    Oh also, I had a previous version with some formatting issues (ignorance was NOT bliss) and that earned me a 2 star review on smashwords, which is fine, I deserved that, but for a while it was my ONLY review there.

    I think people who read romance are looking for something much more specific to their genre. I feel like if I marketed to them it would be a misfire.

  15. Okay, so you have good reviews from strangers so it's not a story issue, purely marketing.

    1. Again,change the cover. Something more viscerally evocative. Add a tag line to hook the reader.

    2. Lower the price for a while and get on the 99 cent lists.

    3.Give something else away for free (short story, novella etc) and put an excerpt of the book inside.

    4.Continue to give away books. Have you given any away on Shelfari?

    5. Contact a few other indies and create a cross promotion campaign (guest blog posts, tweet each other's books, interviews etc...)

    6.Work on your blurb copy.

    7.Get more reviews.

    8.Consider running an ad on a book blog (they are sometimes inexpensive).

    9.Consider going free for a while too.

    10.Where are your readers? If there's science in the book or magic, where else might they hang out? Promote your book in those places too.

    Hope that helps.


  16. Thanks M!

    I've copied and pasted your suggestions as a "to-do" list!

    Given away some - I could give away more. It was 99c for awhile. I only changed it to 2.99 last week because if 99c ain't gonna sell it, I'm not selling it for 99c.

    I am going to keep plugging away, and my next book is coming out in a couple of months - maybe I'll get a boost there :)

  17. I could have sworn I commented on this book, but I don't see what I said :(. It was something about how the combination of elements makes me think "environmental thriller" like Darwin's Radio by Greg Bear instead of fantasy?

  18. I looked at the cover and thought: YA paranormal. (And I agree with those that said the author name font should be different)

    I looked at the title listing and thought: historical fantasy

    I read the blurb and thought: adult historical paranormal romantic thriller (a mouthful, eh?).

    So there's a disconnect there. Those you draw in with the cover might be disappointed by the blurb, and those who might buy based on the blurb might never click because of the cover.

    I'd go with the primary genre test: what is most prominent in the story? What's instinctive first label when someone asks? What's taking the lead? At the most I think it can be two. That's your cover. The blurb can then reflect as many genres as your book encompasses. Because the purpose is to have readers click on your book b/c they see the cover and/or title and think, "I like to read X [or Historical Fantasy for example]" and then when they read the blurb they think, "Hey, I like a little romance and action with my historical thrillers." Right?

    Figure out exactly what labels describe your book and in what proportion, because I think that will make it much easier when refining both cover and blurb.

    And the sample definitely needs a good edit, so as a reader I'd assume the rest of the book is like that and probably not spend my money despite the interesting premise.


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