Sunday, December 11, 2011

Forgotten Gods

Author: S.B. Stewart-Laing & Michael J. Chernicoff
Genre: Historical fantasy
How long it's been on sale: Since 17/09/2011
Current price: $4.99
Marketing: Promotion on my personal blog (and group blog), word of mouth, Twitter, blog interviews
Total sold so far: 7
Link to book on Amazon: Name Your Link

Product Description:

Winter, 1745. Scotland is losing a war for independence. Robert Maxwell and his fellow soldiers beg for supernatural aid from the daione sìdhe, magical inhabitants of Scotland exiled in ancient times to a parallel plane of existence. The sìdhe ask to negotiate with the Scottish leaders, who rashly enter into a magical contract promising the sìdhe a permanent return to Britain in exchange for their help in the war.

Access to sìdhe soldiers and magical weapons gives the Scots a temporary advantage, but their agreement lacks stipulations to prevent lone sìdhe creatures from hunting humans, stealing children, or riddling the countryside with hidden portals that can whisk passers-by into parallel dimensions. Worse, the sìdhe leaders seem unable to stop the chaos.

The Scottish leadership work to understand the sidhe and find a way to coexist. But they find sìdhe are not as disorganized as they appear, and harbor a sinister goal: to end the war on their own terms and secure their claim on Britain, no matter what the cost to their human allies.

First 300 Words:

Light from the full moon sliced the landscape into sharp white highlights and dark blue shadows. Robert Wardlaw-Maxwell stood knee-deep in frostbitten weeds, hands clamped around his musket, his every muscle tensed and ready to respond to the first hint of movement. Even though he had fired the gun many times, it still felt foreign in his hands. Besides, he did not know if any of the balls had ever reached their marks, so he could tell himself he had never actually killed anyone.

“They’re no’ comin’ this way,” Hugh MacBain whispered from beside him.

Robert nodded. He hoped Hugh was right, and the prolonged silence meant that the government men had run in another direction. The last time he fought someone at close range was months ago at Gladmuir, and that wasn’t even a proper battle: just him flailing with a pitchfork, more in self-defense than in any serious attempt to kill one of the English soldiers.

A muffled crack of gunfire was followed by shouts and the crunch of breaking branches. Robert flinched, and took a quick, involuntary step backwards.

Another round of gunfire, this time more distant. It sounded as though the English had indeed fled south, into the open moors. Robert allowed himself to relax.

Racing footsteps on the road, followed by shouting.

Before he could fully register the figures sprinting towards them, he heard another gunshot, this time close enough to feel the sound in his bones. Hugh collapsed forward.

Robert first thought was to help his friend. Then he saw the dark patch spreading quickly across Hugh’s back, and realized it was too late. Robert raised his gun to his shoulder and took aim. The English soldier had just begun to run again, a musket still smoking in his hand, as he dodged between his comrades. 

Vicki's Comments: Book cover. I like it, it does give me a professional feeling, but it looks like a middle grade book. If I were browsing Amazon's shelves for a fantasy novel for my 12 year old, this one would attract me. However, you would lose me at the description.

When I read a description, I do it to find out the plot of the book, but I also am looking for the main characters and if they are interesting to me. This description is completely void of a main character, or any characters for that matter. I highly suggest rewriting the description and give the readers a character, their major conflict, and why we should care. I want to know why this character (or set of characters) is going to keep me turning the pages wanting to know what happens to them next.

The opening to the book is good. I think that's right on the money. My guess as to why this book isn't selling is the cover looks too "young" and the description needs a main character to focus on.

What do you guys think?


  1. The opening needs a few small edits. Example: It should be either "Robert's first thought was to help his friend" or "Robert first thought to help his friend." It's fairly good otherwise.

    Vicki is right about the blurb. Give us the protagonist.

    I don't like the cover, I'm afraid. The artwork strikes me as amateurish, and I looked at it in the large as well as the thumbnail sizes. You might want to bring more of either a Scots or a sidhe flavor to the figures. I know the guy with horns is probably of the sidhe, but he could also be a figure from any number of fantasy stories set in a quasi-medieval or tribal milieu. I would suggest making him more obviously fae/sidhe, myself, and give more hints as to the Scots setting and the time period--not medieval but 18th century.

    Good luck!

  2. I looked at the cover and thought MG fantasy. The elaborate font doesn't help and the artwork needs to be more professional.

    The blurb tells me about the story, but does not give me a character to focus on.

    I found the opening to be well-written except for this line.

    Racing footsteps on the road, followed by shouting.

    It sounds like a direction in a script.

  3. I like the cover personally, though I see the middle-grade feeling. It reminds me of a hand-made tapestry. I give credit to those who don't just photoshop up some random photo, slap text on it, and call it good. This cover was created for this book, even if the artwork isn't absoulutely smashing. Facts have to be faced though, and I would be lying if I said this cover couldn't be a turn-off. Readership may win out in the end, but it would be even more of an uphill battle.

    I don't usually read historical fantasy, but the sample read alright.

    I think another culprit is price. Not saying the author doesn't deserve $4.95, we'd all love that much, but it can be a tough sell. I'd lower it and try to get more exposure. Just a suggestion though, even as a limited time sale.

    I've read several of Victorine's KB posts, and read these a few times too. Thanks for all you do Victorine, maybe I'll suggest my book sometime!

  4. I hated the cover image and font and would not have given the book another look were I just browsing through Amazon or somewhere.

    Which would have been a pity, because now, having read the blurb, I am interested. The Sidhe is a favorite subject of mine and the first 300 words is strong enough that I requested the sample on Kindle.

    I don't know if I will pay $6.99 though (the price just now when I clicked through to Kindle). Unknown authors, only one review...the sample will have to be exceptional.

  5. I didn't like the cover. I'm not sure I can say why or what it reminded me of. It feels sort of like a combination of the old Ellis Peters mysteries set in a monastery (which I didn't like) and some religious books for kids from the 1940s or 50s that my grandparents had (ditto the not liking). The primitive style of the artwork doesn't say modern writing style to me, it says old-fashioned writing (=wordy).

    I did like the first two paragraphs of the blurb, though. I think if you changed the third to emphasize your protagonist, the first two would work. I'm assuming Robert Maxwell is the protagonist, so you do mention him right away, you just don't make it clear that he's the main character.

    I also think the first 300 words were pretty strong. I'd question the last sentence of the first paragraph: "besides" implies a relationship to me and the "still felt foreign" "besides, he could tell himself" didn't seem to connect. Confusing a reader in the first paragraph is probably not a good idea.

    It's also not really clear to me who your target market is. Even if those things were fixed (and your price more in line with what I'd expect a self-published book to be), I wouldn't buy this because there don't appear to be any female characters and so I don't think it's directed at me as a reader. Possibly it's not, but I think analyzing who your ideal reader is -- Is it a 12-year-old boy? Or is it a Patrick Rothfuss reader? Or someone else entirely? -- and then trying to figure out how to appeal to him might be a worthwhile approach.

    Best of luck!

  6. Cover - I think the cover is the weakest link. It strikes me as an amateur effort, which lowers my expectations for the book. I recommend a more professional digital painting or photo.

    Blurb - Pretty good, pretty interesting. I like the concept. But like the others here I would like to see more about the main character.

    Opening - I liked the text. But I immediately noticed the typo MeiLin mentioned, "Robert first thought was" so that might hurt you with picky readers.

    Price - I think 4.99 is reasonable, but it will take more time to find its audience at that price.

    Reviews - Do everything possible (ethically) to get more reviews, and with a variety of ratings and comments, not just 5-star praise.

    Other - Publish another book.

    Good luck!

  7. I would change the cover, too.

    You might also have a little genre-confusion problem. I think the audience for serious historical fiction is a lot different than fantasy fiction. If you want to emphasize the history, your cover should convey that (look at typical historical fiction covers). If you want to emphasize the fantasy, maybe the cover is ok, but the going price for an unknown fantasy is closer to 99-cents than 499-cents.

    On the other hand, you've only been at for 3 months. Maybe just let it ride and work on your next book.

  8. I liked the cover, though initially I thought it was for children. I am a sucker for celtic designs and find myself draw to them. I would suggest that you bring the woman forward a little, her expression seems significant.
    Your Product Description really got me interested. This is my kind of world. Though I thought the word'stipulations' seemed out of place. Maybe you would consider reworking that to something like 'the hasty alliance lacks the authority to restrain lone sidhe creatures who...'
    The opening brought me in. I want to know if Robert gets the English musketman. I don't have any problem with the price. A small point, is 'government men' accurate for the time?
    Re marketing. I am in the same boat, and new to it, myself and cannot add to the good comments above.
    I can only surmise the first and perhaps biggest problem is with the cover. Best of luck.

  9. "They're no' comin' this way"...

    That is the kind of offensive take on Scottish speech that would probably might make me stomp on my ereader.

    I have to wonder if the author has any clue about Scottish history ESPECIALLY since the Uprising of 1745 was NOT a war for Scottish independence. *boggle*

    The point was to return a Stewart to the throne, not Scottish independence. Historical fantasy is fine but you need to get the history part right. He was as likely to fight one of Argyll's nasty Black Watch as an English soldier. Why is there a hyphenated surname? This was not traditional in 18th century Scotland.

    The cover seemed pretty poorly done. I give credit for the attempt to do something original but I don't think it works. I actually wouldn't have looked closely enough to see the irritating blurb or the sample. Whether others who might get that far would be as totally put off by what appears to be a totally unresearched attempt at writing about an important period in Scottish history is open to question.

  10. I agree that the cover didn't have a professional look, and also about the errors in the sample, though it was pretty well-written for the most part. The blurb did catch my interest; however, that many errors in the first 300 words would put me off, assuming it was just going to get worse as the book goes on.

    Not a history expert, but I think if a commenter is going to be all snarky about getting the history right, they should use the correct spelling of Stuart...

  11. The cover. The composition isn't even that bad, it just needs to be redrawn/painted with better anatomy and perspective.

    Consider removing the bars on the top and bottom and see what it looked like without them. Also play with some other texts to see if they were more readable.


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