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?


  1. The cover is clever but doesn't tell me anything about the book or the genre. The title is difficult to read.

    The first sentence of the blurb is overly complicated and needs to be broken up. I agree with Vicki that the self-praise should either have an attribution or be eliminated.

    I also noticed the mixed tenses within a sentence. The writing style ranged from overly long sentences to short and choppy.

    51 copies sold in five weeks isn't bad.

  2. Agree with V -- the wit in the cover doesn't mesh that well with the blurb or the voice in the passage. Also agree that, without an attribution, the self-referential second paragraph in the blurb doesn't fit as well as it could otherwise.

    If the book's funny, I'd love to see some of that come out in the blurb or the sample. That would definitely draw me like the cover does.

  3. The blurb needs serious help. The cover is witty but I'd need to know more about the story; is this a comedy? The sample isn't bad at all--I rather liked it--but could probably be tightened in a couple of spots. Fifty-one copies in five weeks is not bad at all; you should be proud of yourself for such a good start. A better blurb, some reviews and a bit of polishing of your opening, and you should do well. Good luck!

  4. 51 copies in five weeks?

    Sorry, but that's selling... and pretty well, I'd say.

  5. Concur with what others have said about sales.

    I like the cover. It got my attention, but as a customer, I don't think I'd get past the blurb. It didn't tell me enough about the story.

    For me, the story opened fine but then got bogged down in the minutia of the flight and its passengers coming back to life.

  6. The cover didn't really grab me, and neither did the description, as it seemed very vague. I read the beginning, but felt that it started in the wrong place. Many authors can delete the first chapter, and start with the second. I had a quick read of the second chapter via Amazon and think that's the case here as it has more punch - except for the 'She clenched her jaw and opened and closed her ears over and over etc,' as how does someone open and close their ears? Sorry for being picky but these sort of things would make me stop reading.

  7. I agree with Vicki on all points, except one.

    I don't like the cover. It reminds me too much of these covers on literary novels that are trying to be clever but fall flat. It tells me nothing about the story and it's actually a little creepy.

    The blurb definitely needs reworking and I agree about the editing. A substantive editor would be good.

  8. I actively dislike the cover. Like Shea, I find it creepy and off-putting. It wouldn't tempt me look closer.

    Other than that, I pretty much agree with Vicki's comments. The point-of-view of the opening is shaky and slips a few times and the blurb comes across too much as the author praising his(?) own work without telling showing anything about the story.

  9. The author name and the cover seem very masculine to me, yet the blurb of the book sounds more like women's fiction--friendships/etc.

    It looks a bit more like something a literary publishing house would put out, but from what I can gather, the successful kindle sellers embrace their genres and use cute covers, unafraid of being labelled chick-lit.

    Congrats to you on your 51 book sales! That's an epic start, I think. And a pat on the back for being open to public critique like this. It takes guts and you'll be the better for it.

  10. @Craig:

    I was going to say the same thing. Isn't 10 copies a week actually pretty good?

  11. 10 copies a week is VERY good. Especially for the first month.


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