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?


  1. I don't mind the cover too much. I kind of like it. I also like the concept of the book. Even the blurb isn't bad, but I do think it can be improved. I don't like the use of the word unnerves in the blurb. I don't think it gives the right tone. Now about the first 300 words. I honestly think you use the word "had" too much which could indicate that you're using the wrong tense. I prefer simple past personally.

  2. I think you're spot on, Vicki--the cover feels a bit too Photoshopped, with several images pasted together, and the opening takes to long to get to the story. (When it starts, it starts well--but it's a couple hundred words in.)

    I think a few editing issues might be holding things up too. The very first line uses a semicolon incorrectly, for example. There are a few other things like that which could potentially turn off readers.

  3. I agree that the cover definitely needs help, particularly the bottom half, with the gun and the titling. It just doesn't match the top half at all.

  4. The cover works for me, except the vertical lines of the bridge conflicting with the vertical lines in the letters of the author's name. Some minor work on that text could resolve that. Given the highly-stylized title text, I would not expect the title and author name to use the same typeface. OTOH, using a serif typeface for the author name might improve consistency. (Take this all with a grain of salt, of course -- my covers are no great works of art...)

    The blurb interested me, although I agree that the "unnerves" part didn't really work for me; rewording that should help. The first 300 words also interested me, but I agree also that some editing issues caught my attention.

    Overall, it looks pretty interesting to me, and 60+ copies in the first three months is not too shabby. Some minor changes and persistent and creative marketing should allow it to continue building an audience.

  5. Thank you all for your comments and ideas, they are much appreciated. Thank you also, Vickie, for posting.

  6. It all looks good to me. As others have said, the cover could use some polish, but after three months, I don't know if this is your first novel or not, but those sales numbers don't seem to bad to me.

  7. I really don't like the cover at all. The gun seems to be just stuck on and not connect with the rest of it and the bridge doesn't have any "feel". It's just a bridge. I get what you were going for, but you didn't get there and the two elements don't connect at all. And the fonts don't work for me.

    I agree with the rest of what Vicki said. Tighten the blurb and get rid of the backstory at the beginning of the novel. I'd rather pick that up by reading rather than be told.

    Good luck with it.

  8. Cover: I like the BG colors and the bridge alot. Although I have no idea what the bridge stands for, regarding the story. I agree with the others about the fonts, and the hidden gun.

    Blurb: In the first paragraph you introduce five characters. That's way too many. In the second, you concentrate on the detective, who I assume is a major player. That works for me, although the "fears" sounds a bit strong for a homicide cop. Also, "tangled web of deceit" is a cliche.

    First 300: the writing is good, and the story catches my interest. But I agree with others that the first graf is backstory that can be put elsewhere. Let's get into that bar!

    Good luck with the book. Your sales aren't bad at all ;)

  9. I like the colors on the cover a lot, but otherwise it doesn't work for me. I had to squint to tell that was a gun hidden under that text, and your name doesn't stand out particularly well. The fog under the title/gun makes the two images look too separated.

    I'm 100% agreed with Victorine on the start of the story. The first paragraph turns me off, but if you could change where you start the story, I think it would draw me in. This is my sort of book, so I WANT to like it. Take me right into the story and hook me, and I think you'd probably keep me.

    Best of luck!

  10. Very good comments. Thank you all for taking the time.


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