Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Unleashed (A Sydney Rye Novel)

Author: Emily Kimelman
Genre: Mystery
How long it's been on sale: 6 months
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Blog tour, email blast, KND, Twitter and FB
Total sold so far: 160
Link to book on Amazon: Unleashed: A Sydney Rye Novel (Volume 1)

Product Description:

"Emily Kimelman is witty and insightful, and writes with wisdom, care, and diligence."

-Mark Bowden, best selling author of "Black Hawk Down".

"[Unleashed is] for readers who like well written and well constructed novels... including the ending that caught me off-guard (something that rarely happens)."

-And Tyson Adams, author of the blog "Right What You No"

When Joy Humbolt loses her job and breaks up with her boyfriend she impulsively adopts a giant mutt named Blue. Soon a dog walking business on the exclusive Upper East Side of Manhattan is thrown in her lap. On her first day, Joy discovers a dead body and is quickly sucked into a hidden world of political power, wealth, and secrets.

While Joy tries to expose the murderer, she will learn just how far some people will go for money and how far she is willing to go to protect her family. 

First 300 Words:

My dog died today. He once took a bullet that was intended for me. A bullet that ripped through his chest, narrowly missing his heart, and exited through his shoulder blade, effectively shattering it. This left him unconscious on the floor of my home. Amazingly, this bullet did not kill him. It was a bar of chocolate that I accidentally left where he could reach it, which he did. It gave him diabetes, which killed him.

Ten years ago I adopted Blue as a present to myself after I broke up with my boyfriend one hot, early summer night with the windows open and the neighborhood listening. The next morning I went straight to the pound in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Articles on buying your first dog tell you never to buy a dog on impulse. They want you to be prepared for this new member of your family, to understand the responsibilities and challenges of owning a dog. Going to the pound because you need something in your life that's worth holding onto is rarely, if ever, mentioned.

I asked the man at the pound to show me the biggest dogs they had. He showed me some seven-week-old Rottweiler- German shepherd puppies that he said would grow to be quite large. Then he showed me a six-month old shepherd that would get pretty big. Then he showed me Blue, the largest dog they had. The man called him a Collie mix and he was stuffed into the biggest cage they had, but he didnt fit. He was as tall as a Great Dane but much skinner, with the snout of a collie, the markings of a Siberian husky, the ears and tail of a shepherd and the body of a wolf, with one blue eye and one brown. Crouched in a sitting position, unable to lie down, unable to sit all the way up, he looked at me from between the bars, and I fell in love.

Vicki's Comments: I like the cover, but my first impression was that the book was a children's book. Maybe a middle grade book about a dog? When I look closer, I see the shadow of a face. That makes me think it's a book about a person who changes into a dog. Reading the description, I realize that my first impression is way off. I would get more opinions on it, but I think a new cover would really help.

The description is pretty good, but I don't like the reviews stuck in there. When I go look at a description I want to know what the book is about. I also feel like the description gets a slow start. To me, the murder is the important part, not the dog walking business. I might work on the description too.

The beginning didn't feel like a murder mystery to me. It didn't grab me and not let go, but I was mildly interested. I did get the feeling from the opening that this woman is alone in the world. It seemed at odds with 'how far she is willing to go to protect her family' that was in the description. I don't get the feeling that she's a family girl.

I would change the cover first, and work on the description next. What do you guys think?


  1. I totally agree with Vicki's assessment - particularly about the cover (although I immediately thought "shapeshifter book"). I think you could avoid that with a few tweaks - I'd change the colors, make the profile of the person darker, move the dog's profile down, and make the blood spatter red. Orange does not say "murder mystery". Orange says "spilled my Kool-aid". Your name and title fonts, as well as placement, works for me. Decent cover elements, just needs some tweaking. Oh, and perhaps consider making the dog's image less prominent - it makes me think the dog is the main character, more important than the humans in the story.

    The book itself actually sounds pretty good to me. One thing that jumped out at me, though? The first line of the prose - "My dog died today." Something I have always heard is to never, ever, ever kill a dog in a book. Since your opening line is the death of a dog, I wonder if that could be an issue that is hurting you.

    Good luck!

  2. It's not at all a bad cover, but it's not the right cover. I'm not happy with the blurb itself; there are some clich├ęs, and I'd like a little more specificity because right now it's still a little generic. Put the reviews/author blurbs at the end. I wouldn't start with the dog's death, nor with the big chunk of backstory.

    IOW, pretty much what everyone else has said. :)

  3. Hated the cover. Took one look and said, evil shapeshifter story, nope. If I'd been looking on Amazon, I wouldn't have clicked through to realize anything else about the story, and I like mysteries.

    Your blurb could have caught me -- I have no problem with the quotes right away because I like knowing that other people have enjoyed a book -- but you lost me on the first line of the story. I love my dog too much to read stories about dead dogs. Plus, the guilt! Right away, I know this is a sad story with a sad narrator and it makes me wonder what happened to the "witty" from the quote.

  4. As soon as I saw the cover with that savage dog placed so prominently, I thought this was a horror story about a dog gone wild. I pictured throats being torn out and maybe the original dog rounding up a gang of equally savage dogs to terrorize the city. Okay, so I have an overactive imagination, but I still think the cover says horror and not mystery. I would have passed this right by just because of the cover.

    The blurb isn't bad. Just needs a little punching up.

    I have to agree with Wyndes. Yes, the first sentence is a grabber, but, having just rescued a dog who has quickly won my heart, I spent way too much time trying to get beyond the death of the dog.

    I also wanted to know why Joy wanted such a big dog. Big dogs are no good in the city and, having just lost her job, how is she going to afford this big, long-haired dog? I think what I'm saying is the death of the dog threw me for a loop and put me in a place where the rest of the opening seems unreal to me.

  5. I agree with Margaret about the picture on the cover. I, too, was thinking horror story about a dog. And I also agree with Vicki about not putting the reviews in the description. As a reader, I want to know what the book is about, not what other people thought of it (since I can easily see that information by looking at the reviews.)

    I liked the voice of the main character quite a bit. I think she's the type of person I would want to read about. However, I didn't care for the opening of the book. Part of it was starting off with the dead dog (sad! as someone else mentioned), but part of it was that unfortunate last sentence in the first paragraph ("It gave him diabetes, which killed him.") Imho, that was redundant and took the bite out of an otherwise nice opening paragraph.

    I know that sounds very petty, but if you're a reader who's looking at the first few pages of a book in order to decide whether or not to buy it, an off-key paragraph like that could make you decide not to buy. First impressions and all of that.

    Best of luck! The book's premise certainly looks interesting.

  6. I thought the cover said "Sex & the City chick lit meets shapeshifting dog-woman" and FWIW I'd probably read something like that.

  7. COVER: Like everyone else I thought the cover said shape-shifter or new-age dog-spirit-woman book.

    PD: The book described seems like a marriage of discordant genres. It sounds like “Marley & Me”…plus murder and mystery; or “a thriller…for dog lovers.” Either way, it’s jarring and confusing. One or the other theme should dominate.

    FIRST 300: You gotta be kiddin’ me. You kill a dog—a lovable, huggable pooch!—on page 1 and you’re wondering why it’s not selling? Seriously, the sad truth is that you can murder and torture sixty humans on the first page and people will love it. But you just can’t kill pets, especially dogs.

    Second, the first paragraph is overly clinical (and therefore cold): “effectively shattering,” “unconscious,” etc. On top of that you say he died from a chocolate bar after surviving a bullet, making the whole thing sound ironic.

    Third, the first paragraph doesn’t make logical or factual sense either. One minute the dog is unconscious, the next he’s eating chocolate bars. Moreover, neither dogs nor humans get diabetes from a chocolate bar; diabetic shock maybe, but not diabetes.

    Fourth, you switch too quickly from gunplay and dying pooch to domestic back story about finding the dog (e.g., leaving the boyfriend). But why did the dog buy it? Why was someone shooting at you? You don’t have to tell the whole thing, but a partial closure seems essential before moving on.

    Hope it helps.

  8. Hi, Emily. Your sample is pretty vivid in places - I love the line about breaking up with the windows open and the neighbourhood listening. I do think the proofreading is a bit shaky, though. Quick examples:

    The third sentence is a sentence fragment.
    The hyphenation isn't always quite right - the "six-month old shepherd" should be a "six-month-old shepherd".
    Capitalisation is inconsistent; it's either a "collie" or a "Collie", but you can't use both.
    There's a missing apostrophe in "didnt".
    There's a typo where "skinner" should be "skinnier".

    I wonder if these proofreading issues could have something to do with your lack of sales. Readers might be thinking that the problems are present in the rest of the manuscript as well. You may want to go back to your editor for a second pass.

    Hope this helps, Emily.

  9. I kill horses right and left (in battle) and have yet to have anyone complain. Maybe horses are different? Or it's not on page one. LOL

    The cover really doesn't work for me. It just doesn't say the genre at all. I think that's more problematic than the killing the dog thing, but maybe it isn't a great idea to start with that. It wouldn't bother me as a reader but I can't claim to necessarily be typical.

    Definitely tweak the cover so it looks like a mystery cover.

  10. Thanks so much for the advice! I really appreciate all of you taking the time to help me. I’ve been working on the cover and the beginning. I’ll paste my new first 300 words below for anyone who is willing to take a look. And I’ve got a rough draft of a new cover that I’d like to hear your thoughts on if you have the time.

    I will contact my copy editor about the mistakes you pointed out. I am so bad at that stuff I had TWO editors go through it so to hear there are still mistakes makes my brain burn.

    I’m also working on a new blurb... with the help of Mei Lin :)

    Here is a link to the new cover:

    And here are the new first 300 words.

    If Joanne Sanders passed me on the street, she would not recognize me as the person who ate seven of her cheddar-flavored Goldfish. She wouldn’t know that Snowball, her Pomeranian, welcomed me into their home by showing me exactly where she liked to pee under the kitchen table. Joanne Sanders would not know that I worked for her because Ms. Sanders has never met me.
    Snowball, a ten-pound white puff ball with dark, almond-shaped eyes, was crated in a black cage with a leopard-print cover when I walked into apartment G5 on my first day as a dog-walker. Snowball looked like the recently imprisoned queen of a very small, safe jungle. Her subjects, in the shape of stuffed lions, tigers, and elephants littered the living room carpet.
    Joanne Sanders, a broad woman in her forties, posed with friends, family, and Snowball in photographs displayed on the mantel of the fake fireplace. She had shoulder-length brown hair and bangs teased high above her brow. I could picture her behind ten inches of bulletproof glass sneering at me with gloss-encased lips for filling out my deposit slip incorrectly.
    I fed Snowball half a cup of kibble and a spoonful of wet food as my envelope of information directed. She ate it quickly while making funny little squeaking noises. Once she had licked her bowl to a bright sheen, we headed out for my first walk as a dog-walker.

  11. To me the new cover looks less like a kid's book, but it still looks like it's going to be about werewolves.

    The trouble is that a huge number of books are about werewolves, so if there's a dog or a wolf on the cover the default assumption is werewolves. Especially because it kind of looks like the creature is standing upright, with the lower parts of a dog and a man's chest.

    I think you need to be pretty cliched to let people know it's a mystery: magnifying glasses, pools of blood and so on. Even then people might think it's a mystery where the detective is a werewolf.

    Secondly, I'd look at changing the font. Maybe go back to what you had on the original cover.

    Finally, you have 'Sydney' partly in pink and partly in white, to contrast against the colored part. But the 'd' is still partly obscured. I'd consider having 'Sydney' in another colour that contrasts with both pink and white, for example black.

  12. Good point Anarchist, there are a lot of werewolf books out there and murder mystery covers should be pretty obtuse. Here is one with no dog on it and a big gun. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

    Thanks, Emily

  13. Emily, I think you're on to something with the gun. I think that looks SO much more like a mystery/thriller. I would highly suggest learning how to cut that gun out and put it on a different background. Here's a great tutorial on Youtube on how to do it using Gimp, a free program you can get online: And here's another one too: Just ignore that both of these tutorials sound like 12 year olds doing them. Ha!

  14. @Emily:

    This cover certainly looks like a mystery or crime novel (and doesn't look like it's going to have werewolves in it).

    To me it looks like a more 'hard-boiled'/noir kind of story. Is your book like that, or is it more like an Agatha Christie?


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