Monday, October 31, 2011


Author: JC Miller
Genre: Science Fiction; Short Story
How long it's been on sale: June 2011
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Unknown
Total sold so far: 9
Link to book on Amazon: Dual

Product Description:

Imagine you live in a world torn by war and poverty. A world fueled by hate and despair. Then imagine one day you find a portal to a parallel universe, one where your world could be filled with riches, love and safety. What would you do to make it yours? More importantly, what wouldn't you do to make it yours?

Dual is the story of Betty, a woman who in one short day, will have to answer these questions.

Dual is a short story and runs 5,787 words.

First 300 Words:

Betty looked down to her feet at the pumps she had stolen from a corpse. Their bright red color and faded toes pegged them as being vintage. All forms and methods of dyeing had been banned soon after the Seven Wars and only the older generation now owned anything of color.

She grabbed a seat as close to the stage as she could get. The lecture hall was filling up fast and the constant chatter and chair scraping was grating on her nerves. The recent government ban on public gatherings would go into effect the next day, and this would be the last of them. Betty suspected the overwhelming turnout was due more to that fact than any real interest in the subject matter. But she was interested. Very interested.

She leaned forward as she saw an older gentleman shuffle quietly across the stage to the microphone. “Ladies and Gentlemen, I’d like to welcome you to today’s seminar: Parallel Universes: Parallel Lives. I’m Professor Ben Whitley.”

She smoothed her dark hair back and poised pen over paper, leaning closer so as not to miss a word. She’d waited a long time for this. As the professor spoke, it became clear to her that most of the audience had been unable to suspend their disbelief for any length of time. For the next two hours, there was a lot of squirming, coughing, and foot shuffling going on around her.  But Betty sat still, leaned forward in rapt attention, only breaking her concentration once to shush a couple of people who had come only to socialize.

There was only one moment where all eyes were directed to the stage.  It was the same moment that had Betty frozen in place with an excitement coursing through her. 

The professor had saved his bombshell for the end.

Vicki's Comments: I really like the cover for this book. I think it fits the genre and storyline well. I find it eye-catching, and I like the concept. I don't think the cover is hurting this story.

I like the description too, but I think I'd like it better if it were more personal. I would like to know more about Betty, and have the blurb focus more on her problems and conflicts. A description overhaul would be my recommendation.

I like how we get to see a bit of Betty's character right away, with the stolen shoes. It also shows us the world in which she is living. I think the concept is fantastic. I might suggest joining a critique group, just to tighten things up just a bit, but I do think the story grabs and holds on.

Honestly, I like the cover, the blurb, and the story. If I had to pin down one reason this short story isn't selling, I would guess it's because no one knows about it. The author didn't give me any marketing information, so I'm guessing there's not a lot of marketing going on. I might try to give away some copies to gain some interest.

What do you guys think?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Driving to BelAir

Author: William G. Jones
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
How long it's been on sale: Aug 28th
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Given away 125+ review copies, scheduled blog reviews, took out ad with Frugal eBook Reader, multiple tweets per week to nearly 4000 Twitter followers, posted in Kindle Boards Book Bazaar, repeated announcements through Authors on the Cheap, Kindle on the Cheap, and other Facebook eBook pages.
Total sold so far: 14
Link to book on Amazon: Driving to BelAir: A Novella

Product Description:

Dale had everything—dream job, dream girl, dream life. When he moved to New York to chase his dreams, he never planned on returning to the Indiana farm where he grew up. Yet, one phone call from his ex-fiance brings him back to face the brothers he abandoned and the consequences of the choices he made in pursuit of those dreams. Will a father's last wish be the key to reuniting a family torn apart by tragedy? Or will Dale lose everything while driving to BelAir.

First 300 Words:

Growing up is hard on anyone. But it’s especially hard when you can’t shake the feeling you were switched at birth.

That was me, the kid who never fit in, always off sync and out of place. I spent most of my childhood feeling like a broken toy, missing some important piece, and I’m pretty sure I’m the only kid in the history of kiddom to break down and cry when he found out he wasn’t adopted.

Come to think of it, I was sixteen when that happened.

Growing up without a mother didn’t help. I was five—almost six—when she died. I remember her only vaguely, just ghost-like impressions stitched together by an artful imagination.

In a way, I’m lucky. My brothers don’t remember her at all.

It’s mostly little things I can recall, like how her smile could make any bad thing okay again. In the twenty-five years she’s been gone, I’ve never seen another woman whose smile was anything like that. If I did, I’d probably marry her on the spot. I remember mom’s long, lightly curled hair and how she’d sometimes put it in a ponytail but mostly let it flow free, how she always wore jeans, even to church, and how she had this way of greeting people that made them laugh.

My favorite memory is how she’d sit on the couch and read books while I played with my toys and watched cartoons. I don’t know what kind of books she read because after she died, dad got rid of them. The only one he kept was an old Bible. I use to sneak into his bedroom as a teenager and look through its dog-eared pages at the margin notes she’d scrawled and the little squares of paper she stuck in different places with prayers written on them.

Vicki's Comments: The cover doesn't say "Contemporary Fiction" to me at all. It looks like it's set in the 50's. And I was pretty surprised by the description. The cover seems fun to me, almost like a comedy. I don't get a serious feeling from it at all. I would suggest a total redesign of the cover.

The description needs work also. If Dale has his dream job, dream girl and dream live, why in the world would he need to go in search of his dreams? That doesn't make sense to me. I think what you mean is his life seemed perfect to others, but he felt unsettled, so he left in search of his dreams. I do like the implication that his father is dying, but I think you need to be more clear of the plot in the description. I would also get rid of the questions at the end.

I like the beginning of the book. It's got a personable feel to it, even though there's not a lot going on. Sometimes that bothers me, but I like the conversational feel to this. It doesn't match the cover at all, though, so I think that's your biggest issue. I would change the cover first, and then work on the description. Maybe get some opinions from other writers on how to make the description stronger.

What do you guys think?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Escapades of Glamour Grannies

Author: Micki Street
Genre: Comedy
How long it's been on sale: Since July
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: At the moment nothing – I am in the process of setting up a blog.
Total sold so far: 1
Link to book on Amazon: Escapades of Glamour Grannies

Product Description:

Toss the bloomers, get a bikini wax and slip into a thong: life begins at sixty!

Dotty, Nora, and Wilma are enthralled by the charismatic Lucas, who dupes them to holiday on the island of Brazzina, blissfully unaware he’s a drug baron with an ulterior motive.

Enter Major Ramsay Milestone, whose green eyes and cookie-duster moustache has Dotty’s hormones do the tango. Milestone, an undercover agent for the Drug Eradication Unit, rebuffs her amorous advances: he's focused only on catching Lucas, the drug baron – while clandestinely preventing Dotty and her friends from getting themselves killed. Will Milestone nab Lucas after Dotty and her friends unwittingly obstruct his covert military operation? Will Milestone forgive Dotty and allow her to toss the thong and rev his libido?

The escapades of the glamour grannies’ innuendos cause havoc like a ticking time bomb.

First 300 Words:

It was a cold February lunchtime; Dotty Crowdy sat next to the roaring fire and moodily watched the brown liquid of her sherry coruscate as she twirled the stem of the crystal glass. Mozart’s musical masterpieces played softly in the background. She looked at the £90 Timeless piece she bought, impulsively, which ticked at an irritating slow pace.

“Bollocks to this boring lifestyle,” she said, and leaped to her feet to get her mobile phone from her handbag on the hallway table. She grimaced at the mirror above; sixty-five years old and she still had a lot of living to do.

“Age is a state of mind,” she reminded herself. She dug deep into her handbag, retrieved her mobile phone, and sent a message to her two dear friends: Meeting at my house this afternoon at three o’clock – don’t be late.

* * * *

“This freaks me out,” Wilma Christie stomped, impatiently pushing long strands of dyed blonde hair out of her face. Every word hissed steam. “Fifteen months ago we led a peaceful, normal life with Dotty living in Scotland. Since Sydney died and she moved here, she’s become irrational and demanding.”

Her life-long friend Nora Worthington, her coat pulled tight around her slightly chubby figure, ignored her as she negotiated the slippery path.

“For heaven’s sake, answer me.”

Nora stopped in her tracks. “Why are you complaining? You know peace doesn’t last forever. She’s probably invented a rocket to fly us to the moon and needs our important opinion.”

“No way am I flying to the moon – that would be hell!” Wilma kicked a patch of ice out of her path and lost her balance. Nora caught her before she fell.

“You must be careful, Wilma; falling at our age is dangerous.”

“Aw shucks, Nora, we aren’t that old. I’m pissed off my hair is damp and a mess.”

Nora looked up at Wilma’s frizzy perm. Such a minor issue compared to breaking a leg, she thought.

“If you had worn sensible shoes instead of those ridiculous heeled boots, you’d have more traction,” her reply, dogmatic.

In silence, they completed the short distance to Dotty’s house.

Vicki's Comments: I think the cover could definitely be improved. The font doesn't look professional, and I'm not fond of the picture. I don't get a good feel for the genre from the cover. I would suggest getting a graphic designer to help out. (Which, by the way, isn't always expensive. Mark, who was featured on here, said there are designers on who will design a book cover for $15 or $20.)

I actually like the description. With some minor tweaks, I think it can be fantastic. I would see if you can workshop the blurb on a critique group, or get some opinions from other writers. (For instance, I would cut the questions, and rephrase them as statements.)

The story starts at a good place, I think, but I would suggest joining a critique group to tighten up the writing. It's got good bones, but there are some issues that need to be smoothed out. For instance, "stomped" is used as a dialogue tag. People can't stomp words. They can shout, whisper, or say words. Stomped should be used as an action after the dialogue. It's a minor thing, and can be easily fixed, but I found several issues within this first bit that makes me think this book needs a little more work.

What do you guys think?

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Author: V. J. Chambers
Genre: YA/New Adult Contemporary Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: 18 Months
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Sent messages to my email list, put a blurb for it in the back of my better selling books, facebooked, twittered, blogged.
Total sold so far: 62
Link to book on Amazon: Invoke

Product Description:

I invoke Morgana of the nine circuits of time.

A routine exercise in the spirit realm goes wrong, leaving the students of the Academy, a haven for Sensitives who can communicate with spirits, assailed by dreams of wind-tossed fields, dully glinting armor, and galloping horses.

May the wheel spin again! May the clock wind backwards! May the old world live again!

Taken over by spirits of the legend of King Arthur, they struggle with loathsome romantic pairings, as their teacher beds one of her students, and a strong romance is ripped apart by magic.

Three deaths and then the charm is wound up.

When students begin to die, and their bodies disappear, the remaining Sensitives know they must fight against whatever evil has been unleashed in the Academy. But how can they fight when they are tangled up in swords, mists, and castles, and when their very essences are being ripped away from them by ancient spirits? 

First 300 Words:

Wyn squished her forehead against the window pane in her bedroom. It was raining outside and the droplets of water were running in rivulets down the glass. Outside, it was gray and wet. She was watching Madame Braith lead a guy up the driveway and into the old mansion Wyn called home. Madame Braith and the guy splashed across the muddy pathway to the porch. Madame Braith held a magazine over her head. The guy just trudged forward with his head down.

Wyn couldn't really see what he looked like, but he had dark hair. It was long, at least to his shoulders. In the rain, it was pasted against his forehead. He looked pissed off, but that might have been because he was walking in a downpour.

The door to Wyn's bedroom flew open. Her best friend Meaghan burst inside. "He's here," Meaghan said.

Meaghan was excited. That was because Meaghan was beyond sexually frustrated, or so she said. She had been waiting for some new blood to come into the academy, and here it was. Reese Laird. Meaghan had been pretty obsessed with the idea of him ever since she heard his name.

"Did you get a good look at him?" Meaghan asked, wedging herself next to Wyn so that she could also look out the window.

"No," said Wyn. Reese and Madame Braith were already inside the house, so there was nothing else to see. Wyn moved away from the window and settled on her bed.

"How old do you think he is?" Meaghan asked, still peering through the glass as if she hoped he'd walk back outside.

Wyn shrugged. "No idea."

Vicki's Comments: I like the people on the cover because it shows the romance, but they look to old for a YA book. (I'm not sure what New Adult means.) They also don't look contemporary, so it gives me a 'historical romance' feeling. The lightning and the eyes do give me a paranormal feeling, but since this is fantasy I'm thinking the cover isn't working. I'm also not a fan of the font. I would suggest a re-design of the cover.

I confess the description totally confused me. I think I get what you're trying to do, but for me it didn't work. In descriptions I like to find out who the main character is, and what is at stake for them. I think a major reworking of the description would help this book tremendously.

The beginning of the book isn't bad, but I do see some places where the writing could be tightened up. I counted 11 times you used the word 'was.' Some of them really stood out. There were also instances of telling instead of showing, for example: Meaghan was excited. I'd much rather come to that conclusion on my own, after observing her actions and words. Overall, I think the writing can be tightened up, but I think the book begins at a good place, and there were some things about the writing that I liked. I would put this through a critique group.

I'm guessing the main issue is the cover, but the description and writing both need a little love too. What do you guys think?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Author: Robin Morris
Genre: Horror
How long it's been on sale: Five Months
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Submitted to a lot of review sites, but only a few reviews have come out. I have put it on Facebook and Twitter a lot.
Total sold so far: ~20
Link to book on Amazon: Mama

Product Description:


As the Conover family drives from L.A. to Chicago, increasingly strange things begin to happen. Nine year old Michael sees a face form in the glass of the car's window. Fourteen year old Alison sees two creepy children outside the family's motel room. A car follows them, then purposely hits them and speeds away.

Mama has found the Conovers and is using them as a lesson for her children. Mama is relentless, Mama is powerful, and Mama will not stop until the Conovers are dead. 

First 300 Words:

Paul Hilch’s Mazda minivan pulled a little ahead of the Winnebago. On the hill, the weight of the big vehicle held it back. It was a very slender lead. Paul knew it wouldn’t last long. He also knew he was going to die. The woman and her children were monsters. Worse, they didn't exist, according to the sheriff he talked to in Barstow. Get some rest, the sheriff said. Don’t drive such long hours.

Papers flew around the cabin of the minivan. His briefcase fell open, letting its contents loose. A sales chart hit Paul in the face. He swatted it away.

The minivan crested the top of the hill. Paul saw his death in the down slope. He looked desperately for any hope. The brutal sun blasted the desert landscape. There were no other cars. The only witnesses were cactus.

Another paper hit Paul in the face. He pulled it away. It wasn’t a sales chart, or any other business paper. It was the picture Jimmy gave him just before he left L.A.

Daddy and Mommy and Jimmy, in the five year old's wavering crayon line, stood together on a boat. Maybe Jimmy was thinking of the boat ride they took to Catalina a few months ago.

The Winnebago crashed into the back of the minivan.

There had to be a way out. A truck driver would come to the rescue. A state trooper would pull the RV over and arrest the hideous woman. He would wake up in a hospital and someone in authority would explain everything.

Paul heard a giggle. He turned his head and saw the baby. The fat, naked, horrible baby sat in his passenger seat. He jerked his head to scan the back seat, horrified that the woman was also in his car. Nothing there.

Vicki's Comments: I really like this cover. It shows the horror genre very well. If I were to nit pick about one thing it would be that the shadowy figure doesn't look like a woman. But that's a very picky thing, and I don't think that is why this book isn't selling. The cover is a win for me.

The description is pretty good, although I think it can be better. The stakes don't feel high enough for me. And I'm confused as to why this paranormal "Mama" is after this family. What did they do?

The book starts with action, which is good, but I feel like it fell a bit short for me, maybe because I didn't have any investment into the character. I don't know Paul, and I didn't get any sense of him in this snip. I also felt a bit removed from the action. I should be on the edge of my seat, but something was holding it back for me. The first few lines were confusing. I can't tell that he's in a life and death situation, I thought maybe he was joking around with another car on the road. I also didn't feel any emotion from Paul.

I might workshop this book through a critique group to get that final polish. I think it just needs to emotionally connect with people, and I didn't get that.

What do you guys think?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fall from Grace

Author: Richard Jackson
Genre: Science Fiction
How long it's been on sale: Over a year
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: A giveaway, two paid sponsorships, and a few guest blog posts. Not much else. I've been focusing on writing.
Total sold so far: Around 40 copies, given away close to 350
Link to book on Amazon: Fall from Grace

Product Description:

As a Caster, Tyler uses cybernetic implants to broadcast his emotions and experiences to the viewers at home. He is living a life of action and adventure--until he loses his job. Now he must hustle illegal broadcasts and take odd jobs to survive.

When his agent is killed, Tyler is framed for the crime. With his only allies--an ex-cop turned criminal and a bartending medical student--Tyler is plunged into the middle of a mystery and comes face to face with the darker side of the broadcasting industry. Tyler soon learns there is much more for him to lose...and much farther to fall.

This book is approximately 180 pages.

First 300 Words:

“I have a job you might be interested in,” Manny said.

It took all of Tyler’s willpower to stop himself from dancing a jig.

Manny offered Tyler a smile, one reserved only for someone who could make him money. “I know it’s been a while since you last worked. How are your implants?” the agent asked.

Tyler nodded. “They’re fine,” Manny probably knew what the answer to that question would be.

“And your training?” he asked.

“I’ve been sticking to my diet and exercise plan. I also keep busy so my skills don’t get rusty.”

“Good,” Manny said. The agent reached into his suit pocket for his notebook. He turned the page in the journal and started to rattle off details about the job as he jotted down some notes.

Tyler only half heard what his agent was saying. He had waited a long time to get back into the business after his show was cancelled and he was blacklisted. He could finally have his life back. No more busting his ass as a bar back or hustling quasi-legal castings.

Tyler’s moment of happiness was shattered along with the frosted glass door to Manny’s office. The invader filling the doorway was trouble. He held a strange looking device that resembled something out of an old Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon movie serial. Tyler threw himself down and to the side just as the dig man pulled the trigger of his ray gun.

There was no beam of light or anything Tyler could see. He felt the wave of heat and intolerable pain during the brief time he was in the thing’s line of fire.

Manny didn’t have the benefit of Tyler’s reflexes. The beam caught him full on. He shrieked like a lobster being dumped into a pot of boiling water.

Vicki's Comments: The author sent a possible replacement cover, so I thought I would post it here and get all of your reactions on it:

I kind of like the current cover, but when I try to guess the genre I don't get "Science Fiction." It feels more like a thriller to me, which actually gets stronger when I look at the proposed new cover. The city scape is definitely a common thriller icon. Between the two covers, I do like the new one the best, but again, I don't think it necessarily fits this book. I would look at something with a little more science flair to it. It doesn't have to be a planet, maybe something that looks computer generated. KC May's Venom of Vipers comes to mind. That says Sci-Fi to me, without being about space travel.

I actually like the description, although parts of it are vague. Maybe try to give the reader a little bit more, which I know is hard. For example: 'comes face to face with the darker side of the broadcasting industry' doesn't give me much to go on. What specifically happens here? I'm also confused at the last sentence...what can he lose? We already know he's framed for a crime, I assume in this time he can still lose his freedom (ie. go to jail) or even his life for that. What else can he lose? I want to know the stakes.

I think the beginning is pretty solid. The action comes right away, which is a plus in my book. I did notice one typo - dig instead of big - which might be putting people off the book if they think it hasn't been edited. But, like I said, I feel like it's a solid beginning and I would read on to see what happens.

I am wondering about the 'about 180 pages' part. If I go by the standard 250 words per page, that turns out to be roughly 45,000 words. That's borderline novella territory. I'm glad you do state the page count because people do like to know if they're getting a shorter book. I might put the word count on it, just to be clear, but I personally like to know word count so that could just be me.

I'm guessing a cover change would be the most helpful thing for this book. What do you guys think?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Death Before Swine

Author: V.K. Scott
Genre: Mystery
How long it's been on sale: July-9-2011
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Twitter, KindleBoards, LibraryThing Giveaway, Blogging, Submission to book bloggers, price drop from $2.99 to 99 cents
Total sold so far: 25
Link to book on Amazon: Death Before Swine

Product Description:

Greed. Betrayal. Murder. Just another week in Diamond Alley, Arizona...

Ben Hart is a high school chemistry teacher who thought his biggest problems were test scores and lunchroom politics. That was before he lost his job, discovered his colleague murdered, and found himself with a new assignment—catch the killer. Now, as he navigates Diamond Alley’s backstreets, his questions are no longer multiple choice: Who can he trust? Will he ever get back to a simple life of worksheets and lab reports? And will he uncover the truth before the killer slips away?

Death Before Swine is 65,000 words long, or about 260 printed pages. 

First 300 Words:

The woman screamed at me. There was no way her son, her precious darling snowflake, could have done it.

It didn’t matter that I had the proof laid out right in front of her. I’d even highlighted the appropriate sections to make it easier for her to read. It still didn’t matter. It almost never did with parents like this.

“There’s no way in hell that my son cheated,” she said. Her gold earrings shook on the sides of her dark face. The woman’s hair, trimmed down almost to her scalp, made her look like a drill sergeant. “How dare you accuse him!”

It was a fair question. She wanted evidence, and evidence was what I had. I paused for a second, making sure that I didn’t show any more emotion than necessary. It gave me some pleasure to see her sweat a little. Abrasive parents were one of the few things I disliked about teaching high school chemistry.

Robert Byrd, my principal, cocked his head to one side, compressing the rolls of fat in his neck. His folded hairy arms rose and fell on top of his stomach. He was waiting for my answer, too.

A lone window about the size of a brick let the only natural light into the room. The light glinted off the well-dusted frames of nearly a dozen awards and certificates nailed to the wall, as well as several inspirational posters. Byrd had closed the door when the meeting started, and the air grew more stagnant by the second as he and the woman stared me down.

I didn’t address either of them, though. Instead, I focused my attention on the sixteen-year-old in front of me. Duntai Kennedy hung his head and ran a hand through his black cornrows. Apparently, the logo on his T-shirt was more interesting than the charges of plagiarism I had just leveled against him.

Vicki's Comments: I kind of like the cover for the artistic value, but as a book cover I don't think it is doing it's job. I get no sense of genre at all from the cover. It does not look like a mystery to me. I think a new cover would really help this book. The title also makes me think it's a funny book, which might not be the way you want to portray it.

There are things I like about the description. I like these two lines: Ben Hart is a high school chemistry teacher who thought his biggest problems were test scores and lunchroom politics. That was before he lost his job, discovered his colleague murdered, and found himself with a new assignment—catch the killer. I would suggest reworking the rest. I would like a bit more information about the book. How does a high school teacher become the person to catch a killer? Is the killer after him? Did he witness the murder? Is he a suspect and has to clear his name? With a bit more explanation I think this description can work.

I like the beginning of the book. I think it's well written. If it were me, I would cut the first two paragraphs and start with the woman's dialogue. I kind of feel like there's too much telling in the first bit, and I can infer from the rest what's going on. But that's a little nit pick. I would read on.

My best guess as to why this book isn't selling is the cover. A redesign would probably help this tremendously. What do you guys think?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Conflict of Interest

Author: VH Holland
Genre: Crime
How long it's been on sale: Since August
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Blog, twitter, website, advert in efictionmag, review copies out, mentioned on Forums and Goodreads, banner ads, Independant Authors Network etc.
Total sold so far: 0
Link to book on Amazon: Conflict of Interest

Product Description:

Work can be murder...

A new job, a fresh start, and things are looking up for Harry. Maybe going straight isn't so hard.

He didn't expect to stumble over a job aimed at his new employer, for the kind of money a crook could retire on. It should be simple enough: tell the police, let them arrest the criminals, claim a reward. Sorted.

Except Harry's not a snitch - and it's being organised by his mate... 

First 300 Words:

Climbing out of the small window was harder than climbing in had been, but then I now had the cash box under my fleece. Watching carefully through the small gap, I checked the alley was empty as best I could. Once the security camera was pointed the other way I slid my legs out, breathing in and forcing myself through the gap. The cash box dug painfully into my ribs, then went through. As my feet hit the tarmac I looked up at the back of the camera and grinned. Quickly I headed towards it, planning to wait while it panned passed the side of the alley and walk out in the blind spot. Then I just needed to turn the corner, walk to the little cash–let office I was working from and drop off the proceeds of my second break-in of the night. Simple.

"Gimme your money." OK, it should have been simple, but things so rarely go as planned. I stopped and looked at them. One of the risks of a job like mine - wandering around at night in dark alleys - was running into idiots like this. There were two this time, all designer clothes and attitude, waving these pathetic little penknives like they thought I'd faint. Usually I'd either have gone along with it or thrown a empty wallet in the street and given them a thumping for their trouble. Right now I wasn't just carrying my money though and, after all the fun this evening, I wasn't handing my haul off to anyone.

"Make me." I grinned, curling my hands into fists. Any excuse for a rumble. They actually took me up on it, I'll give them that. Too bad they weren't very good.

They both attacked together, but a step to the side put them in each others' way. 

Vicki's Comments: The cover isn't bad, however it does look like kids at school, so I get the impression that this book is about school gangs fighting or something. Since that doesn't jive with the description, I might find a different photo to use on the cover.

The description is pretty good, but I'm not sure what 'a job aimed at his new employer' means. How do you aim a job at someone? Does this mean the main character was mistaken for the boss? If his mate is organizing this, though, he wouldn't be mistaken, so I'd like clarification on this.

I also think the description should mention the length of this book. I believe it's a novella? It's very important to put this in the description, as people will be upset if they buy the book thinking it's a full length piece and it comes up short.

I liked the story, but I think there were some awkward things that could be tightened up. For instance, "The cash box dug painfully into my ribs, then went through." This reads as if the cash box went through his ribs. I would get some more eyes on this, maybe get a few beta readers or an editor, and see if it can't be polished up. The story itself is good. It starts with action, which hooks me. I want to read more to find out what happens next. I'm kind of surprised this book hasn't sold at all. I would tweak the cover, description, and give the text one more polish and try again.

What do you guys think?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Author: Katie W. Stewart
Genre: Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: 19th April 2011
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Guest blogs, Personal blog/website, Interviews, Facebook page, Reviews, Twitter, Kindleboard pages, flyer in local arts newsletter, article in local newspaper.
Total sold so far: 76
Link to book on Amazon: Treespeaker

Product Description:

Saving his people means leaving the forest. Leaving the forest means death.

Jakan, Treespeaker of the Fifth Tribe of Arrakesh, knows from the visions he received at the SpringSpeak, that the stranger who has just arrived in his village is not the innocent, interested visitor he claims to be. As the villagers succumb to the mind-bending sorcery of the man, Jakan becomes more and more desperate to be rid of him. But when he accuses the stranger of an act of sacrilege, events take a sinister turn and it is Jakan himself who is expelled from the forest.

Sent on a journey across the treeless land outside the forest, Jakan finds himself fighting for survival – for his people and himself. Somehow he must find a man he hasn’t seen for twenty years, but as a Treespeaker —bound in spirit to the forest — his life hangs by a tenuous thread which grows ever thinner.

Meanwhile, his son, Dovan, must find the strength to carry out the new role he has been given while his father is away, for who knows if the Treespeaker will ever return?

This is not a book about good versus evil. It is a book about belonging, balance and belief. It's an adult fantasy, but suitable for anyone 12+

First 300 Words:

The worried face of the moon, high in the branches of the great oak, mirrored the apprehension in Jakan’s mind.  He shuddered and pulled his deerskin cloak closer about his shoulders. It made no difference. The cold he felt had nothing to do with the night air.

Ahead of him, a column of men, women and children trod their way up the moonlit path in solemn silence. The only sound came from their soft shoes amongst the leaves and the scuffling of small animals hurrying away to hide in the darkness. A thin mist settled on the ground, swirling in the torchlight and the scent of damp earth wafted on the breeze.

Gritting his teeth, Jakan tried to centre his mind on the ritual to come. At the front of the procession, frail Kattanbek, Chief Elder of the Fifth Tribe of Arrakesh, swayed in a sedan chair. Beyond him, further up the hill, three fires burned in the glade in front of Padhag Klen, promising the villagers warmth and light as they attended the SpringSpeak.

Jakan fixed his gaze on the sedan chair and sighed to himself. He had little doubt that this would be the last Speak for Kattanbek. The old man’s poor, tired soul would not last another season. Who would succeed him? It was a question that had plagued Jakan for many months now. Amongst all the Elders, there was no one who he could discern had the strength, determination or leadership that had characterised Kattan. The tribe had run smoothly under his care, without ill will or strife. Jakan hoped that tonight Arrakesh would name a successor, for he alone could know the true heart of his people.

As the procession entered the glade, the sedan was set upon flat ground between two of the big fires. Jakan pushed back the hood of his cloak to rest on his shoulders and stood beside the Chief Elder. The other villagers edged around the fires and faced Padhag Klen, The Tree, a huge, dark shadow in the firelight. The moon peeked between the still-bare branches, lending a silver glow to one side of the gnarled trunk. 

Vicki's Comments: I'm felling like the cover is holding this book back. I do get a 'fantasy' feel from it, but when I compare it to some of the other covers out there I feel like it needs a little polish. I'd like to compare it to K.C. May's fantasy covers:

Let's look at the typography. The type on K.C.'s books are clear and clean looking. I think the font on Treespeaker isn't as professional. That's a pretty easy fix. I'd look for a font that is more like what you'd see on George R.R. Martin books. I think a serif font like that looks better.

Next, the background. In comparison, the Treespeaker background is very busy and almost screams 'look at me' more than anything else. In thumbnail, you hardly notice the background of K.C. May's books. When you examine them, however, you see the map. Maps are a very typical fantasy thing, so I think that's perfect for a background. And it's understated. Perfect.

Finally, the picture on the book. The tree symbol does give me the fantasy feeling, but I'm not sure what the blue thing at the bottom of the page is. The Kinshield pendant is something I see a lot on fantasy books. The sword is fantastic because it promises conflict and action right on the cover. I think the tree could work because of the stylistic way it's done, if it were done against a different background. I probably would take off the leaf and blue thing at the bottom. I also wouldn't rule out a different symbol or even a person on the front.

The description is pretty good, but I did get a little lost with the unfamiliar words. I might take out a few of the unknown words. For example, you could say: "Jakan knows from the visions he received that the stranger who has just arrived in his village is not the innocent, interested visitor he claims to be." I also think there are some things that can be trimmed in the description. For instance, "Sent on a journey across the treeless land outside the forest," - the 'outside the forest' isn't needed, as you already said he was expelled from the forest.

I found the story well written. It's a slow beginning, but it does catch my interest. The scene is well described and I am wondering who, if anyone, is going to be named the successor. I really don't think the writing itself is holding this book back.

My best guess is that the cover is the major culprit. If you can change the cover, make it look more like some of the other well-selling fantasy novels, I think that will be a huge improvement. And maybe ask opinions on the blurb.

What do you guys think?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Henry Wood Detective Agency

Author: Brian Meeks
Genre: Mystery, Crime, hint of Sci-fi
How long it's been on sale: 7/30/2011
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Twitter, FB, Blog. I had the last 5 posts before the launch all about getting people excited.  Then I used Twitter, FB, and emails, to spread the word.
Total sold so far: 98
Link to book on Amazon: Henry Wood Detective Agency

Product Description:

Jan 1, 1955
Henry Wood is suffering greatly from a festive night of saying goodbye to 1954. His world is one of black and white, right and wrong, but his life is about to change and there will forever be shades of grey. An average detective, with a passion for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Henry is about to be hired by a beautiful woman, to find her father and his journal. It seems simple enough, but when a second woman appears, wanting his services, to find the same journal, he suspects he might be in over his head. He’s right. They are the least of his problems. The local mafia boss, Tommy ‘The Knife’, wants the journal too. As long as it is missing, he is vulnerable, and the other bosses smell blood in the water.
Who can Henry trust? Henry has a mysterious benefactor that he has never met, but seems to have his best interest at heart. Will Henry take the help that is offered? Does he have a choice?

First 300 Words:

It isn't the weather, or the city, or the cars passing that strike Henry. It is how, at 3 am, everything seems so black and white. It is 1955. His life is going to change and there will forever be shades of grey.

The city seems disinterested in the goings on of a single detective, wandering home after ringing in the New Year. All around there are people out, smiling, kissing, and more than a few stumbling. It is two more blocks until he reaches his apartment, alone. He has a house, but doesn't want to drive, which is why he keeps the tiny apartment. It is nice to be able to stay in the city if the need arises…or the drinks are flowing.

The life of a private detective isn't so glamorous. Most days are spent chasing deadbeats, or watching cheaters, or just sitting alone in an office wondering how one ended up here. Henry got to his place, and stumbled through the front door-not quite hitting the floor, but needing to put a hand down. He was several sheets to the wind and couldn't remember the blonde's name. The one at the bar, with the great smile and huge…

He tossed his hat in the direction of-but nowhere close to-the hat tree. He staggered to the kitchen table. There was a bottle of vodka sitting there, waiting for him. Being a thinker, Henry had placed it there before heading out to celebrate the New Year, knowing it would welcome him home if he made it back in one piece. He had forgotten a glass, so he took a small pull from the bottle. The warm glow of a New Year and the thought of the blonde's midnight kiss made him smile. He just wished he knew her name or where she had gone.

Vicki's Comments: I think the cover is really holding this book back, and I say that lovingly because this cover reminds me of the first cover I had for Not What She Seems. It was black and white too, and after comparing it with other book covers I had to admit it just didn't compare. And I wasn't getting many sales with it. I chucked it and tried again. (Which was hard to do because I designed it myself, and I liked it. But it's important to remember, our book covers aren't for ourselves. If they're not grabbing readers, it's time to move on.)

This description could be much better. I'm going to go through it and give you my opinions.

Jan 1, 1955 - You don't need this singled out, you say the year in the next sentence.

Henry Wood is suffering greatly from a festive night of saying goodbye to 1954. - This sentence doesn't seem to go with any of the rest of this. I'm not even sure what this has to do with the book. He suffers from a hangover. Why is this so important that it needs to be in the description of the entire book? The description should give the reader the main conflict and an overview of the plot. This seems disjointed and sort of stuck in here.

His world is one of black and white, right and wrong, but his life is about to change and there will forever be shades of grey. - This is too vague for a description. The reader doesn't know what this means. This sounds like someone asked to help with an assisted suicide. This doesn't give the reader a reason to read this book.

An average detective, with a passion for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Henry is about to be hired by a beautiful woman, to find her father and his journal. - I get the impression his passion for the Brooklyn Dodgers isn't important enough to be in the description. You only have a few characters to grab the reader's attention, so make them count. The fact that he's a detective is much more important to the plot than his love for the Dodgers. And I wouldn't say 'about to be,' it sounds funny in a description.

It seems simple enough, but when a second woman appears, wanting his services, to find the same journal, he suspects he might be in over his head. He’s right. They are the least of his problems. The local mafia boss, Tommy ‘The Knife’, wants the journal too. - This part is good. You're getting to the important stuff. Maybe a little tweaking and you're good.

As long as it is missing, he is vulnerable, and the other bosses smell blood in the water.
Who can Henry trust? Henry has a mysterious benefactor that he has never met, but seems to have his best interest at heart. Will Henry take the help that is offered? Does he have a choice?
- Personally, I don't think you need all of this stuff. The major conflict here is that several people want the journal, and Henry is in the middle of it. This stuff just draws the description out too long, IMHO. I think I would just end with something like: Henry must find the journal and figure out who to trust before it is too late.

The actual text of the book needs work. First we start in Henry's point of view, then we jump out of it and we're in an omniscient point of view, then we're in Henry's point of view in present tense, but then we jump into past tense. I would suggest hiring an editor or joining a critique group. As for the story, there's no real action going on right here. That isn't to say there isn't action coming soon, however, starting with an inebriated detective doesn't grab me. But I will admit it took me a few pages to get into Hunger Games and I really liked that book so a slow start isn't always the kiss of death.

I'm guessing the main reason for the slow sales is the cover image. That change alone should help. What do you guys think?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Brontosaurus Pluto Society: Magic Makes You Strange

Author: Noah K. Mullette-Gillman
Genre: Fantasy/Sci-fi
How long it's been on sale: July 23rd
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: I did a radio interview, a lot of posting on and other sites. The book has gotten 8 really strong reviews so far.
Total sold so far: 35
Link to book on Amazon: The Brontosaurus Pluto Society: Magic Makes You Strange

Product Description: 

A tale of dark science-fantasy.

In 1936 aliens from the planet Pluto descend upon London to learn the secret of stage magician Nevil Dever's latest trick.
They abduct the performer and his apprentice, Edward Whistman, on a flying saucer.
Once aboard the spaceship, Edward meets a devil
from the planet Venus. The two of them make their escape together
And Edward begins to learn about real magic.
He begins his journey into the strange...

56,000 words

First 300 Words:

Nineteen Thirty-Six, London.

“For my next trick, I will saw my hat in half and then pull a woman out of a rabbit.”

 The great and powerful Nevil Dever stood incandescent and solitary upon the stage. A phantom and a devil, his crisp black clothes faded into the shadows and smoke behind him. His white shirt, perfectly starched ivory gloves, and ghostly pale skin almost appeared to float disembodied in the supernatural darkness.

The audience laughed together nervously.

The mysterious magician, the thin tall man with the fiery eyes, the kind smile, the sharp and pointed eyebrows, and the long nimble fingers threw his hat in the air. He didn’t even watch as it slowly fell to the ground with a loud thunk, cleanly cut into two even pieces.

“Well, that’s one. I’ll need a volunteer from the audience for part two?”

The audience gasped. They applauded. There weren’t any immediate volunteers among the high society women.

“Oh come now, none of you want to experience birth again? To come into this world fresh and clean from the belly of an innocent animal? Imagine how everything might change… Imagine how liberated you would feel… Imagine what it could be to be truly and finally wild…”

As he spoke, the illusionist had walked out into the audience. Many of the spectators lowered their faces out of fear that if they caught his gaze he would choose them. They were, after all, good Christian men and women. No decent person would ever consent to be reborn from the belly of an animal, like some pagan monster.

But the timbre of his voice had them all enthralled. It was such a deep and rich sound. He held light and darkness in his mouth.

From behind the stage, young Edward Whistman watched.  

Vicki's Comments: When I critique a book I always look at the cover before anything else so I can get my first impressions of the book. I assume most people will be looking at your cover first. At first glance, this book cover looks well designed. I think it's the typography. However, I think there's too much going on with the picture and I quickly get a bit lost. I see demons first, then magic, and then what might be a robot. I can't quite tell. The elements don't seem to go together very well.

Book covers are hard because they do need to represent the book in a way, and yet their main purpose is to tell the reader at a glance what genre the book is. Unfortunately, this book cover doesn't give me a clue as to genre. The typography almost has a "Choose your own adventure" feel to it. The demons make me think of paranormal, the robot makes me think of science fiction. If the book crosses genres, that's fine, it's going to be a bit harder to sell, but I think you need to pick the main genre and do your best to portray that on the cover.

The description begins with: "A tale of dark science-fantasy." Here you're openly admitting you don't know which genre to put this in. I'd take this out. Honestly, since there are space ships and aliens, I would probably put this book into the science fiction realm, with paranormal as the sub-genre. But take that with a grain of salt because I haven't read the book.

I think the description needs to focus more on Edward Whistman. It seems like this is the main character. If this is the case, start with Edward and what key thing happens to him. Maybe: When Edward Whistman is kidnapped and taken on a spaceship, he (now describe the conflict and what Edward must do.)

The beginning of the novel was quite good, IMHO. It definitely caught my attention. You have a charismatic character that is doing something interesting, and I can feel the tension in the room as he is asking a high society lady to do something vulgar. However, I do feel distanced from the scene because there is no main character whose point of view we are in. The last sentence suggests we are in Edward's point of view. I would move that sentence up to the second sentence of the book. Then tell the scene from Edward's POV. Give us a little of his emotion as he's watching this. Is he laughing at the audience? Is he captivated by this magician? Or is he nervous because he has to go out on stage in a minute? See what I mean? I'd like to get to know the character, because ultimately the character is what is going to make me keep reading.

If this first scene is NOT from Edward's point of view, the scene needs to be rewritten. It would be interesting to do this from the magician's point of view, but as it reads right now it's in the narrator's point of view which distances me from the scene.

But as I said, I am intrigued by the snip, and if I had grabbed a sample I would read on to see how things progress.

I'm guessing this book is going to be a tough sell no matter what, just because it doesn't fit nicely in a genre package. The people who like reading about spaceships might want more science in the book. The demon thing might be a turn off for a lot of science fiction fans. The people who like paranormal might not necessarily like reading about spaceships. Fantasy fans might like some aspects, but prefer gnomes and elves.

Overall, I'd suggest a different cover and perhaps changing the name as someone else suggested on KB. The description can be tightened up, and hopefully those two things will help.

What do you guys think?