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?


  1. The cover is not too bad, but there's some small type that I can't read at all. The main figure doesn't look very menacing.

    The first two paragraphs of the blurb are fine. Then you lost me. I didn't understand anything after that.

    I'm just not sure what is going on here. One example of a confusing sentence is:

    "The cash box dug painfully into my ribs, then went through."

    That sounds like the cash box went through his ribs.

    I think an editor is needed here.

  2. Cover: I understand the distressed font as it relates to the book, but perhaps a slightly perturbed font might work better in thumbnail? :D

    I don't share Vicki's concern about the picture looking like a teen rumble, myself, but I'm not sure it's the best picture for the book. I get that the guy in the glasses is a badass, but I don't understand what's up with the guy in the hall.

    The size of the tag line makes it completely illegible. I'd consider either enlarging it or dropping it altogether.

    You may want to consider spelling "organise" "organize"; I know, they're both accurate, but the former is British usage (you sound British, yes?) and many Americans aren't aware that British usage is not just a typo. Very minor nitpick.

    "Work can be murder" might work as a tag line (as on your cover, though it's very hard to see in ebook size), but I wouldn't use it as the first sentence in your blurb. The main problem with the blurb is that it's not quite sorted itself; I agree with Vicki it needs to be clearer.

    Also reconsider ellipses. I know they're fashionable in some quarters, so that may just be a disliking of mine.

    Vicki's right that the writing needs some tightening but it's pretty compelling. Make some changes and you should do well. Good luck!

  3. Vicki's comments about the awkwardness of the box and ribs, and the job aimed at the boss echo my own thoughts. Both need cleaning up. I'm not at all keen on the cover - the guy at the front looks like he's loaded with teenage attitude, which I'm not fond of and puts me off wanting to read it, which is a shame b/c the story actually sounds pretty good.

  4. I like the description, but it made me think of a hitman, then in the story opening, he seems to be just a burglar/thief of some sort.

    I also like the cover, but the small text in the middle is completely illegible, and I'm not really sure what the hallway is supposed to signify. The guy in the foreground, and the guy in the back (his mate presumably) seems to go well with the description, so it's just a question of the hallway and losing the tiny text in the middle for me.

    Others have already commented on the story, I agree there seems to be a slight issue with the order of phrases in this sample. "They actually took me up on it, I'll give them that. Too bad they weren't very good." essentially summarizes the fight, as if you were going to skip over it, but then you begin to describe it. Seems a bit odd.

    I am surprised you haven't sold any though, that's kind of depressing. Maybe you'll need to make clear in the description it's not a hitman thing either, if people think that, but then the sample appears otherwise, they might be disappointed. Maybe it's only not clear to americans, I dunno. Definitely doesn't feel like american english, which is fine, just wondering if there might be a misread of the description on my part.

  5. I disagree on "organise". If you use British spelling throughout, you should be consistent. I think most readers are aware that there are other spelling conventions. Also mate is British sounding so that certainly wouldn't confuse me.

    However, I do agree with everyone that the cover doesn't work well for you. It doesn't look like it happens in a workplace and the tag line can't be read at all.

    Also I don't understand the blurb. What kind of thing is being organised by his mate? I don't really get what kind of story this is from the blurb and cover, which is pretty essential.

    I think that is your problem. The cover needs to give a strong hint to the genre and type of story as does the blurb.

    I like the start of the story a lot, but I wouldn't have gotten that far, I"m afraid.

  6. I agree with a lot the comments here.

    Cover - Not bad but not great. The image doesn't really grab me or communicate a clear idea of a crime story. The title also sounds more like a legal drama than a crime novel.

    Description - Sort of scattered. The description should give a clear sense of who the main character is and what the story is about. The job is to be a snitch, but Harry's not a snitch and he's gone straight, so right off the bat it sounds like he won't do the job and there's no story. I assume something forces him to do the job, what is it? Where is the real conflict?

    Opening - As mentioned above, you have a lot of awkward phrases that ring almost like dangling participles, in which I'm not sure what order things are happening, or what is happening to what. Recommend a strong edit for sentence structure.

  7. Cover: I like the color scheme, but agree with others that the image doesn't go well with the story. The guy on the cover says teenage gangbanger with a 'tude to me, while the voice in the opening sounds older, a tad self-aware, and has a bit of wit.

    Blurb: very confusing.

    Opening: as others commented, there are some poor phrasings. EG: 'but then I now had' and the aforementioned cash box in the ribs. Small stuff really. I think an edit could take care of all that. Otherwise, the narrator's voice is strong and we get right into the action, which is good. One final point: at the end when he relishes the fight, I was slightly taken aback. In fact, that fits more with the image on the cover.

  8. I agree with Vicki and others. The writing needs tightening in the ways described. Perhaps you could think through exactly what your narrator would see, hear ... as the scene unfolds. Just an idea. Good luck.
    J.P. Hansen

  9. My humble comment would be to rework the first sentence. "Climbing out of the small window was harder than climbing in had been," is awkward and "but then I now" should never be used. You want to draw the reader in with an irresistible opening, and this first sentence is easily resisted.

    I have no problem with the British spellings (organised, towards) or any of the rest of it.


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