Friday, December 30, 2011

The New Death and others

Author: James Hutchings
Genre: Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: September 27 2011
Current price: $.99
Marketing: I've contacted around 1000 blogs asking for reviews, interviews, guest posts and/or giveaways. I've also promoted it on my own blog.
Total sold so far: 24
Link to book on Amazon: The New Death and others

Product Description:

Death gets a roommate...

An electronic Pope faces a difficult theological question...

A wicked vizier makes a terrible bargain...

44 stories. 19 poems. No sparkly vampires. There's a thin line between genius and insanity, and James Hutchings has just crossed it - but from which direction?

First 300 Words:

The God of the Poor

In the beginning of the world the gods considered all those things which did not have their own gods, to decide who would have responsibility and rulership.
"I will rule all flowers that are sky-blue in colour," said the Sky-Father.
"I will listen to the prayers of migratory birds, and you all other birds," the goddess Travel said to him. And so it went.
At last all had been divided, save for one thing.
"Who," asked the Sky-Father, "shall have dominion over the poor?"
There was an awkward silence, until the Sky-Father said,
"Come - someone must. Those with no gods will grow restless and cunning, and in time will cast us down, and we shall be gods no more."
"Not I," said blind Justice, and her stony face flashed a momentary smirk at the thought. "Why not Fame or Fortune?"
"Darling I don't think so," said the sister goddesses together.
There was a long pause. The gods shuffled their feet and avoided one another's gaze. At last a voice broke the silence.
"I will," said Death.

How the Isle of Cats Got Its Name

Death stalked the cats of Telelee.
Throughout the city there was much hiding under couches, and a yowling fear of shadows who came in the night. These shadows gathered squint-eyed kittens and cats trembling with age. Starving alley cats like leather bags filled with bones and pampered house-cats more spherical than cat-shaped, alike were taken. The shadows asked not whether a cat was tom or queen. White cats and black, tabby and orange, grey and tortoiseshell, cats that looked like their owners and cats that looked like nothing but cats, the shadows hungered for all.

Vicki's Comments: I like the cover art. I do. But I like ink drawings from the early 1900's, and this is what this book cover art reminds me of. The style makes me think this was public domain art that the author took and used for cover art. Which is great if the book was written in the early 1900's. But not so good if you're trying to sell it to people looking for new stuff. I usually advise people to stay away from public domain art. It makes people think they are looking at something written a long time ago. I would highly recommend getting a new cover.

The description is pretty anemic, however I like the end paragraph. I'd keep that. The short descriptions of the stories don't hook me. I would get help reworking those hooks, because you want those bits to really make the reader want to buy the book. You want to give enough information about the stories that the reader knows what they are getting. Death getting a roommate isn't a story. What's the hook? Where's the conflict? Is the story humorous? I want to know these things before investing my time. (Because, I throw away 99 cents all the time on crap. It's my time that really is more precious to me.)

After reading the sample, I think this collection should be selling better than it is. I liked the quirky nature of the writing. I do think this book needs some editing. For instance: "Starving alley cats like leather bags filled with bones and pampered house-cats more spherical than cat-shaped, alike were taken." This sentence reads like the leather bags were filled with bones and pampered house-cats.

The title could use some tweaking. It could be a regional thing, but I would expect to read: The New Death and Other Stories.

I would suggest a new cover, reworking the blurb, and having an editor correct the little things in the book. Now, short stories and poems don't sell like best sellers, but I do think this book should be selling better than it is. The writing is good and the ideas in the book are interesting, at least in my opinion. In fact, I just bought a copy because I want to read more. What do you guys think?


  1. From the title and the cover, I would expect to read humorous horror stories about death. The cover isn't bad and I don't think it would keep me from buying the book.

    I think your main problem is the blurb. You throw out three quick snippets but I don't know if they are all part of the same story or entirely unrelated. I think you need to eliminate those and put in something more descriptive. The last paragraph is great and tells me what kind of writing to expect.

    The description of the cats was confusing. I had to read it a couple of times to understand exactly what you were describing.

    This is a book that's going to have to find its niche. Once you find the right people to market it to, it should do well.

  2. I like the cover, and the title. The blurb's not too good, but the sample reads well - I may well buy this one.

  3. Cover - I definitely like the style of the art, but this image isn't grabbing me for some reason. If it's your own art, maybe you can touch it up, add some drama or additional detail.

    Description - It's hard to describe a collection of 60 pieces, but I'd encourage you to define some themes or styles so a buyer can get a strong sense of what they are buying.

    I'm also going to have to disagree with my friends here and say I don't like the last paragraph. You basically call yourself a genius (coming or going), which just sounds like silly bragging.

    Opening text - The writing is fine, but did not grab, though I'm not a fan of very short fiction, so I know I'm not the target audience here.

    Best of luck!

  4. Thanks everyone.

    If I get a more conventional cover (I have a design in mind), would it be a good idea to replace the current one, or keep both versions up? I ask because I've gotten a few compliments about the cover.

  5. I don't agree with Vicki 100% about public domain art. Sometimes it works well, depending on the genre. I have seen it work very well for historical fiction. (Wish I could find some to use because I pay a lot for the art I use)

    I don't think it works very well in this though. It doesn't seem to do a good job of conveying what the collection is. I wouldn't keep both, in fact, I'm not sure how one can do that. It's not likely that the people who like this one will know you changed it, and what one likes and what gets sales are two VERY different things, believe me. I speak from experience. LOL

    The blurb does need work. (Par for the course. Blurbs are so hard) I agree with josephrobertlewis on the last paragraph. Do not call yourself a genius in your own blurb. I like the tone but think it needs to be tweaked.

    I don't think much of an edit of the collection itself is required, but a copyedit wouldn't cost much. Even a read and correction by someone extremely strong in grammar could correct the small problems I see.

  6. It looks too childish. It looks like something that you see on a hamlet book. You need something that will StAnD OuT!!!!!!

  7. I like the cover art if the book is a book of limerick-y type poetry, short stories and sea chanteys. If it's not that then changing it might help. I do agree that "And others" should be "And other stories"

  8. also, regarding the blurb.

    A) I think you do yourself a disservice by, seemingly out of the blue, dissing Twilight with the "sparkly vampires" comment. Is there any reason why someone would pick up your book and then say "hell no, I'm not reading this it might be like Twilight."? If not then all that comment does is insult another author's writing (one with millions of devoted followers who still love it) and rehash a tired jab that's been used by a million horror movie reviewers. It's not fresh and it's not unique.

    B) The "genius" line should be in your author bio. I don't care about the author, I care about the book. Unless that's a blurb from a reputable reviewer that can go on the cover.

  9. Re the cover: I've found a couple of pictures that might form the basis of a new cover. I'd be interested to hear other people's opinions.

    Picture 1

    Picture 2

  10. I like the cover art. The title is a bit unclear and seems to have a word missing.

    The New Death and others..

    Others what?

    The New Death and 43 Other Short Stories

    The New Death ~ Short Stories and Poems

    Just seems to need something.

    Good luck with it.

    The Book Snoop


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