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?


  1. The opening sentences are interesting and well written. The book cover needs a serious overhaul, so I was surprised to find I liked the opening. I wanted to keep reading.

    I agree with Vicki's comments about the blurb. I would fill in the missing questions she outlined -- without giving away the plot, if that's possible. Blurbs are very hard for me, so you have my sympathy.

    Back to the book cover, the black letters in the title disappear against the busy background, which looks like an abstract painting. I would pay a professional cover artist to create a suspenseful cover that is readable in full scale and thumbnail with the title in big type, plus shows the genre, and instead of abstract design, maybe a human face or human figure.

  2. I agree that the cover is probably the most significant problem, as it is very busy and the various elements of it are not immediately obvious. I had to look at the "look inside" preview on Amazon before my brain finally "clicked" on what I was seeing.

    I don't really have a problem with the blurb or the first 300 words (I agree that you could safely cut the first two paragraphs, but they didn't stand out to me initially). They both worked to get me interested in reading more. You're already doing a fair amount of promotion, so I think a revised cover might be all you need. Best of luck with it!

  3. I pretty much agree with Vicki's assessment. Get a genre cover. Have MeiLinMiranda on KB help with the blurb.

    I actually think the blurb is a bigger problem than the cover - the cover is interesting enough that I'd take a look even though it's not genre specific. But the blurb has no sense of stakes - so, a killer gets away if he fails? Happens all the time. I don't know why it's vital to this particular character, or why it's his new assignment. I just don't get a sense of urgency.

    It seems like you're really, really close. I'd address those things, then publish the next book, thinking of those packaging elements along the way. If one title gets traction, it's likely to help the other, right? Especially if they're both packaged as well as they can be. Good luck!


  4. My first thought on looking at the cover and the title was post-apocalyptic. It doesn't say mystery to me at all.

    I see a lot of people using a broken font and it doesn't work for me, except maybe for horror.

    The blurb is good until you say

    "and found himself with a new assignment -- catch the killer."

    So, how did he get this assignment? Maybe something more like

    "and found himself driven to catch the killer."

    Not perfect, but you get the general idea.

    I like the opening and would definitely read more.

  5. I like everything about it except the cover. I can't even tell what it is on the cover - too busy and messy. The writing is good and the first 300 words interesting. It hooked me right away and made me want to read it.

  6. I would overhaul the blurb. But, that's because the story is good--and the blurb is failing to get that across. I would have kept reading the story--expect, I would have never had the chance, you would have lost me at the cover...and had I clicked on the cover, by chance, the blurb would have lost me.

    I'm not a fan of literal covers, but I feel like a cover should at least be understandable. The current cover just does not grab me. It smacks of homespun 1980's bold nonsensical graphics. You can capture the vibe of a book, be covert with the message, and still be relevant. It calls for a re-do.

    On a side note, I like the has the power to capture a reader in first 300 words and lock them in for a long haul. Rise up to meet that. That may mean a new cover, a new blurb...but your book is clearly worth it.

  7. Thanks for the feedback, everyone! I really appreciate all the comments, and you've given me things to think about.

  8. The cover doesn't say "mystery" to me. To my eyes it looks like a thriller or even a war story. But that's at the small size. The problem with ebook covers is that they may look great at print sizes and not so much with the thumbnail. Take a different run at it.

    The title says humor elements. If so that needs to show more in your blurb. If not, you need a different title.

    The first line of your blurb can be used as a tag line, but shouldn't lead off your blurb. And while I understand the whole "quiz of his life" thing, questions in blurbs really should be avoided. We don't really know why HE has to catch the killer, as many have pointed out.

    As for the writing, it's good. There's no reason why this shouldn't sell. The biggest problem is definitely the cover. Good luck!

  9. I agree the cover is not that good in trying to convey your meaning and genre to readers. Covers can be remade fairly cheap now-a-days. If you can't find someone or can't do it yourself, give me a ring and I'll see if I can find someone for you. I know some people. (Subject: Book Cover )


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