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?


  1. I'm not so sure about the blurb. I didn't care much for the string of questions. That might just be me. I did like the sample and the cover. I suspect you're right that it mainly needs some marketing, but I'd consider working on the blurb some too.

  2. I really liked this. The first line is great! While I do agree the blurb isn't the greatest, it's not horrible either. I suspect the short story length is the problem. Hard to gain traction when you can't get reviews because it's not a novel or novella.

    My thought would be to move on to your next project and make this one free as a promotional vehicle.


  3. PS: Someone needs to start a short story collective solely to help the shorties become visible to readers.

    And a review blog that only reviews short fiction.


  4. I agree that the cover is solid. The excerpt is pretty good (although I'd replace TOES with TIPS, since it's so close to CORPSE, I got the wrong image).

    I'd also like the blurb to be stronger--like you said, we don't really get to the know the MC, the conflict, or the stakes.

  5. In a nutshell: I like it all, including the blurb. I like stories that tickle my imagination, and to me the blurb achieves that also. I start imagining what Betty might do, and it makes me curious to read the story.

    I've read that "short stories don't sell well" and I have no experience to the contrary, so I tend to think sales might be suffering just as a result of that. It's not that the story itself isn't worth paying 99 cents to read it, but there are flat overhead "costs" to the reader in addition to the price (time/attention to analyze the book, mental effort of deciding to part with some money, potentially entering credit card info, time/attention to read the story, etc.), and having such a short read ("limited payoff/benefit") might discourage sales. This is speaking generically of all short stories, not just Dual.

    Anyway, marketing is the answer. Be creative, diversify, and be persistent. And, as Michelle suggested, you could always use this as a freebie to promote your writing once you have other works available for purchase. I wouldn't do that yet, though. Write more, but also continue to promote Dual.

  6. Thank you all so much. Your comments are very helpful. I do have this free with a coupon on Smashwords as it is part of Operation Ebook drop, but I would love to make it free elsewhere as well.

    I don't think it would drive sales to my other books as I've only two others and they are all so different from each other. That is why I wrote this under JC Miller. I think because I'm so new to this, I haven't found my writer's identity yet. :)

    I really appreciate you all taking the time to help me.

  7. The concept is good, it hooks. Also, the opening lines about the shoes? That is a very good hook. It's just that after a few paragraphs, it felt a little tell-y. That is, it felt like a summary or the narrator telling us what happened instead of slipping into the character's head and her experiences. The cover's title's effect is very cool, but I had a little difficulty seeing the people, their faces, so that was a little off-putting.

    Over all? You have a good concept, a good synopsis, and a good hook. Good job.


  8. I think the blurb could use tweaking, but the opening is great, and the cover fits. I don't think there's anything actually wrong.

    What's hurting this is that it's a short story, and JC Miller doesn't have a bunch of titles. I think this could sell really well if JC Miller wrote a lot of other books, particularly full length novels. But a large number of shorts could work, too -- I think the key is "a whole lot of titles."

    Keep going. Please.

  9. Great cover, good blurb. Fantastic opening line as a concept but awkwardly written.

    Betty looked down to her feet at the pumps she had stolen from a corpse.


    Betty looked down at the pumps she'd stolen off the feet of a corpse.


    Betty looked down at the pumps she'd stolen from a corpse.

    If the pumps belonged to a corpse but the corpse was not wearing them, then she stole them *from* a corpse. If they were on the corpse's feet, then she stole them *off* a corpse.

    As an opening premise, I loved it. But I want to know why dyeing is no longer allowed as soon as Betty says it. I want to know why public gatherings will no longer be allowed, and I don't want to wait until page 2 to find out.

    I think the opening needs to be a little meatier. In a short story, you don't have time
    to plug in the details down the road. You have to hit us with it right away.

  10. I like everything about it. The only reason I wouldn't buy it is because I don't buy or read short stories. If this was a novel, I'd be in.

  11. I write a lot of Science Fiction, and I see an audience problem with this.

    For a regular reader of SF, the blurb describes a story that has been done many many times before and is too vague really to be enticing. For the mainstream reader, this blurb doesn't give what's at stake for the character. OK, it give the character's choice, but it's so general that it's not very informative. What sort of world does she live in? What stops her achieving this goal? What are the moral dilemmas?

  12. I totally agree with Vicki's comments on this. I really think this would do well as a novella instead of a short. I love the cover!

    Artemis Hunt

  13. Thanks so much, everyone. I appreciate your taking the time. I think I may just write this one off as I don't think there is an audience for it. I may make it free on Smashwords, and B&N if I'm allowed to and hope Amazon follows suit, and I'll just work on something else and hope I do a better job next time.
    I've never taken a writing class and I guess I have a lot to learn yet. :) Thanks again.

  14. "Imagine you live in a world torn by war and poverty."

    We do live in a world torn by war and poverty. This is a minor point, and unlikely to be the problem, but is the protagonist supposed to live in the real world, or a dystopian future (as the cover suggests), or a different world altogether?

  15. I think your main problem might be that people who buy ebooks just don't want to pay 99c for a short story from a new author, when you can get whole novels for 99c. Yes, a good short story is better than a bad novel - but buyers don't seem to see it that way.

  16. Thank you for your comments, anarchist. She lives in one of many worlds that mirror each other in setting and population, but each one has different circumstances. Hers is one of the worst. It is placed in the now....I guess her universe is a dystopian present? :)
    I agree with you about the pricing. That can be hard to overcome. I really appreciate your taking the time to comment.

    If anyone wants a free copy, you can get it on Smashwords with coupon code TQ74C. :)

  17. Jeanne Miller: You mentioned there are several worlds in your setting. Have you considered writing several shorts based on this interesting setting and making them into one ebook, an anthology, and selling that?


  18. What a great idea, Jodi. :) Sorry I was late seeing your post.

  19. The cover is very eye-catching. But the blurb does nothing for me. It sounds like a cheesy commercial. Also, don't use rhetorical questions. Just tell us the meat of the story and how it affects the MC.

    Best of luck!

  20. Thank you, Heather. Yes, it is clear that I have to do some blurb work. LOL I'll be doing that soon. thank you so much for taking the time to help. :)


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