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?


  1. The cover reminds me of a "linoleum sampler" catalog... that sort of thing you look at where different colors and designs of linoleum tiles are included in the book and you have to imagine, "How would my entire kitchen floor look like covered with tiles like these?"

    So yeah, it comes off as very generic and linear and unappealing, in terms of the cover. Browsing on Amazon, my eye would skip right over it. Especially since my eyes can't make out anything but the title in that scripty font, and when I'm in casual book-browsing mode, I'm just not going to work that hard to figure it out... especially when the cover looks like a pair of linoleum tiles and doesn't capture my eye to begin with...

    As for the writing, we're 300 words into a short story and nothing has happened yet... no scene, no dialog, all telling.

    I think there's work to be done here. I'm not sure I'd One-Click even after sampling. Sorry.

  2. The product description does nothing for me. I wouldn't be saying the stories are 'always insightful' - that's for the reader to decide not the author.

    Also, what's the theme of the stories? What happens in them? I don't need to know if something's a cerebral musing on death - I just want to know what happens. Tease me, dammit! :)

    The title isn't great either. Making up words isn't the best way of telling an audience you're a good writer.

    The cover looks like an academical periodical to me. Needs a major overhaul.

  3. Needs some editing work. Try reading out loud to someone. You use the same words over and over like 'thin' and 'blue'.

    Cover is ok, but make the font larger or different. I can't read your name or the word "nine" at all and this picture is larger than the thumbnail most people see.

    Also is "Envolvement" the theme of all the stories or just a word you liked? Also my spell checker says it's misspelled. doesn't even list it as an alternate UK spelling for Involvement.

    Unless you sold a bunch today, an amazon rank of 150k is more than just a single book sold. More around 1-2 a week.

  4. The blurb sounds a bit more academic than a lot of blurbs I see on Amazon, like someone has done a report on the book instead of someone is trying to sell the book, if that makes sense. And if the stories are literary, the cover doesn't bother me, but I'd love to see larger and easier to read lettering on it for when it gets thumbnailed?

    With the sample, I'm assuming we're looking at lit fic here and not genre fiction, which tends to reduce the audience since there are more readers of genre fic than literary. However, it does do a lot of telling instead of showing which doesn't allow readers to relate to the protagonist as much as we might like.

    Good luck with any changes you decide to make!

  5. From your blurb, I understand how you came up with the title, but it doesn't work. It leaves me puzzled. Evolution might be less confusing.

    The cover doesn't draw me in and doesn't say anything about what I'm going to find inside.

    Your blurb is very generic and also doesn't tell me much about the stories. Try a tagline for each story instead. Check out the blurb for my anthology, A Walk in the Woods. I'm not saying it's better, but it's an example of what you can do.

    The first 300 words isn't bad. I got a feeling of tension like that long, rambling walk was going to lead Slim into danger. I definitely wanted to find out more.

  6. I'm sorry, I wish I could find something to like about this but so far I'm not finding it. :( Please don't take this personally:

    1. The title. "Evolvement" is not a real word. I don't know if that's intentional, but I would never click through on something that looks like the writer doesn't know proper English from the get-go.

    2. The cover. Not really an enticing image. Not really an image at all.

    3. The blurb. I want a better idea what these nine stories are about. Titles and a one-sentence blurb about each one might do much better. I want to know what the stories are about. And it's up to me to decide if the writing is "always insightful" and the characters are "intriguing."

    4. The writing. It's really not bad. But it needs a lot more polish than what we're seeing here.

    Boy, I hate writing harsh stuff like that, but I wouldn't be doing you any favors, Isaac, if I pulled punches. When I got my first hard critique on a piece of writing, it was deservedly scathing--far, far harsher than this, and this is aimed primarily at your packaging, not at the writing. But it wasn't personal; the critiquer had only my best interests at heart. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. It woke me up and made me take my writing seriously. I thought I was serious before, but I knew what serious was after that.

    I wish you nothing but luck and success...and I'm sorry, but you're not going to get it with this as it stands.

  7. I read Hard Creek Bridge and liked it very much. It isn't the type of story I normally read, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

    I think you are more of a literary writer and that usually gives you more latitude to take time to "set the scene" more or less. Whereas a popular fiction writer would start a story off in the middle of an action. I think the problem might be that you haven't yet hit your target audience. It wouldn't be people like me :) but a more literary crowd.

    I would try target marketing more to that kind of audience and you might see better results.

    I'm afraid I don't care for the cover either and think you can come up with something else that is still classy, but draws attention.

    As I said, I liked the story very much and wish you the very best with your writing.

  8. Thanks for all the suggestions. Truly helpful stuff. I did sell about 3 last weekend, which explains the jump in rank that someone mentioned.

    One other thing. Hard Creek Bridge is free on Amazon. So a lot of people read it ... or at least "buy" it. So far, people seem to like it. I'm hoping they will try this out after HCB.

    Love this site!

    PS: Evolvement is a word. It's a noun. I'm still rethinking it though.

  9. Isaac: Interesting! My desktop dictionary said "Buh?" when I asked it, and I have never heard "evolve" used as a noun other than as "evolution." Learn somethin' every day! My apologies.

    Even so, I am betting that there is a better name for the book that is more descriptive.

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  11. Let's try this again without the typo's LOL.

    Personally I don't have any problem with the cover, it doesn't 'grab' me but it doesn't put me off either. I may be in the minority on this one but I rather like the title. It actually does make me curious and gives me a desire to look a little deeper.

    But then I get to the content. I like short story collections, but I do like them to have some thread that really holds them together--like genre or theme, and I'm not getting much sense of that here. Also with 9 short stories at approximately 15k words total, that averages just under 1,700 words/ story. (I realize some are probably shorter and some are longer.) But still that's a pretty short average length, although that isn't necessarily a bad thing, it does put me in the frame of mind that these stories are going to be fast paced and to-the-point.

    That's why, when 300 words into the first story (approx 18% of the average length)and nothing much has happened...I lose confidence in what I'll find through the rest.

    Now I realize of course, that the story I'm sampling could be the longest out of all of them, but I don't know for sure so that's the straw that would keep me from 1-clicking.

    I hope this helps and isn't too harsh, it certainly isn't my intention to be mean, and take my opinion with a grain of salt since my short story collection isn't selling that great either :)

  12. I updated the blurb. Not sure. I think it's better though. What do you think? Again, thanks for all the comments. Here it is:

    A college student faces a supernatural battle on a bridge. A man sees the dark side of humanity after his car breaks down. A writer obsesses over a fictional woman, sometimes forgetting about real life. A strange cat reveals much about a young couple. An elderly man experiences new loves and losses ...

    ... watch these characters evolve!


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