Sunday, December 25, 2011

Volumes of the Silver Leaf

Author: E.W. Saloka
Genre: YA Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: 8/2011
Current price: $2.99
Marketing:The first two months I read posts from KB and other forums. Last moth I set up our author profile on Goodreads and  joined a few groups. I found a few book blogs and set up twitter and facebook profiles.
Total sold so far: Less than 10
Link to book on Amazon: Volumes of the Silver Leaf

Product Description:

Fifteen-year-old Zach Wellington has lived with his grandfather Thomas since his archaeologist father disappeared years before. Now his dad has turned up dead. A letter in his pocket says he was trapped all these years in a parallel world where magic is real--hard for Zach to believe, until a winged horse appears out of nowhere and whisks both Wellingtons away to Brandiss-Dor, the land where Zach's father died.

Zach wants to discover who murdered his father. Instead, he's pulled into a tug of war between wizards over a powerful medallion that will decide the fate of two worlds: Brandiss-Dor, and our own.

"The Far Kingdom" is the first volume of the new epic fantasy series "Volumes of the Silver Leaf." 

First 300 Words:

The sky was darkening and the clouds looked angry as they changed to deep and soulless gray.  Thunderous hoof beats echoed towards him as he raced through the forest. He was soaked down to his skin, first from sweat and then from the heavy rain which came at him in torrential sheets. The ground was thick with mud, and he almost slid into it waist deep. There was a ringing sound of clanking metal and shouts heard throughout, as he tried to stay one-step ahead of his pursuers. They were close on his heels and determined to cut him down. It had been apparent from the past months that his life was in danger. He really could not say why.

However the witch of Blackshire warned him and the wizard too, advising him to leave this place and soon. Those awful recurring dreams that kept him tormented in his sleeping hours and avoiding his would -be assassins in the waking hours, well ,it just kept him busy trying to stay alive. Several months ago, he found a tunnel, a passage hall, to pass from one realm into another. This would lead him back home and that simply was the only way. On one occasion he found the entrance and it slowly opened up, however when he moved towards it the boy had followed him. When he turned, it closed up and vanished.

Therefore, each time he tried, someone or something would stop him. Philip Wellington was determined the next time he would make it through and finally leave.

He stopped quickly, seeing several large rocks that would be easy to crawl into and take cover. Here he would secure a place to hide, if only for a little while. At least he could stay dry he thought. He felt bad wanting to leave the child behind, but was eager to go home. It had been too long already and he grew more anxious each passing day. He sometimes wished he could take the boy back with him; however, it was best this way. Someday he hoped the child would understand.

Vicki's Comments: I like the cover, but I think it can be improved. The people blend into the background, I had to look hard to figure out what exactly was depicted in the scene. I think the typography could be improved as well. The words don't seem to stand out as much as I usually see. I do think the cover gives me a "fantasy" feeling, so that's good. Showing the genre is very important on the cover.

I like the description. I might be a bit more specific at the end, what exactly are the stakes? A tug-of-war isn't very compelling. I'd like to know what might happen to our world, and what the MC can do about it.

After reading the first 300 words, I would suggest putting the novel through a critique group. The story itself is good, but some of the wording is confusing and clunky, and I think it would greatly benefit from a critique group. I also found mistakes that could be fixed by hiring an editor, such as "would -be assassins" and "well ,it just kept."

I did get curious about a few of the things I saw, so I downloaded a sample to my kindle. The book itself is rife with formatting errors. I would highly suggest hiring someone to help format the book. There are paragraphs with two spaces in between, followed by multiple paragraphs smashed together without any spaces. There are no indents, so it's hard to read without spaces between paragraphs. There are some strange things, like in the first sentence part of the word 'looked' is bold. This book is in desperate need of formatting help.

I would run the book through a critique group or find a few beta readers, hire an editor, and tweak the cover to see more sales. What do you guys think?


  1. I didn't download the sample so I can't comment on that, but formatting errors such as those Victorine describes could definitely lead to lack of sales or returned sales. I agree with Victorine on this pretty much entirely -- good cover but could be better, interesting blurb but could be more engaging, and good story that needs editing.

  2. I agree with Vicki all around (as usual!).

    The cover looks like a good first draft, but needs polish and more contrast for better visibility.

    The description sounds like many other books, movies, and TV shows where a young boy goes into a fantasy world, alternate dimension, or alien planet in search of his long-lost and presumed dead father. I would scrap that part and write a description about what actually happens in the other world so it sounds more unique and original.

    I also found the writing a bit awkward and in need of editing. And if Vicki found formatting errors, that is a major issue you need to address pronto. You're competing with professionals as well as highly skilled amateurs. You need to have a professional-looking product.

    I also strongly encourage you to solicit reviews to help customers decide whether they will like your book.

    Best of luck!

  3. The cover said MG or YA fantasy to me so that's a good thing. I think it's a little dull, though and needs to be punched up.

    I thought Volumes of the Silver Leaf was the name of the book but I see it's the name of the series. The title needs to be much more prominent with the series name smaller.

    The blurb isn't bad but it's a little generic. We need to know what's unique about your book.

    I found the opening a bit confusing. One thing I dislike, and this is definitely a pet peeve of mine, is the use of "he" throughout without naming the character. It has stopped me from buying several books.

    I think this book would definitely benefit from an editor or even a beta reader and not someone who knows the author well and is predisposed to like the author's voice.

  4. I kind of like the cover art but you need to zoom in on it. It's too small. Crop it or something because as is, it is too hard to make out. And the novel name should stand out. That needs work.

    The blurb struck me as a bit on the generic side, as several people have mentioned. It has too much back story and not enough about what is at stake in the novel.

    I absolutely agree on not naming the character. I think if you got rid of that it would improve the opening immensely. Why should anyone care about a character when they don't even know his name?

    Other than that, I actually thought the opening was pretty good. You might try reading it out loud to check for any clunky spots, but I think it has a lot going for it. I don't think it requires workshopping, judging by that part although I didn't look at the sample.

    Absolutely check it for formatting. That could easily kill sales.

  5. The cover says MG to me much more than YA. Woe betide authors who can't tell the difference (I'm only half-joking). I often find people trying to be all-encompassing and hoping that readers will read both. Nup. Yes, they do, secretly, but teenagers would rather be caught dead than reading an MG novel. Yes, they do read them, but you really have to know who your first target audience is. MG is NOT YA.

    The blurb gives an idea of a decent MG-type story that I'd be willing to pick up for my kids. Much more than adults, a lot of kids are just looking for 'more of the same'. Plot originality doesn't matter as much. It's likely the reader has never seen this plot type before anyway.

    I got hung up on the phrase 'both Wellingtons' and had a ROTFL moment. In UK-English, wellingtons are gumboots... er... (google it) I don't have the faintest clue what they're called in the US. In any case, I'd forgotten/never noticed that the MC's last name was Wellington, and did a serious double-take and had to go back to the beginning to see what was meant. What's wrong with saying 'Zach and his grandfather'? MUCH clearer. Also, the 'both Wellingtons' phrase smacks of Burly Detective Syndrome (google it), which, when used in excess, is symptomatic of badly-written pulp detectives and noob writers. I mention this here because the sample gives me the same impression. Not naming the charatcer for no reason, using lots and lots of filter language.

    I think the story as described is fine, but the style needs work.

  6. I won't repeat what others have said, but I will add (while acknowledging that this is a personal prejudice) that when a book opens with a description of the weather, I stop reading. Your opening sentence is the most important sentence in the book; if it's a weather report, it better be technicolor tornadoes or ice storms on Mars. Anything less, and I figure the book is likely to be wordy and trite. I'm sure I miss out on some interesting stories that way and yours could very well be one of them, but it's also an easy way to filter out a lot of poorly written and uninteresting stories. Just my opinion, though, so feel free to ignore me! But it's why I wouldn't buy your book.

  7. I think you covered it pretty well.

    Another note on the cover: The image itself is cool, but I'm guessing it may all but disappear on a thumbnail size, which can make a book dead in the water, since that's the size readers often see it first.

    The writing itself is almost there, but a bit padded with extra words and clunky phrases, so I echo the idea of getting a solid critique or hiring an editor, first for an overall content edit, and then for a line edit.

    And proofing is crucial. If formatting is a problem, hire someone to do that as well--and then read it yourself on your e-reader to find problems.

  8. Thanks everyone, I see the issues with our book and we are now moving forward in making the necessary changes for a new polished edition.

    We found it interesting that a few here thought our book was MG because of the cover and description. It's in epic fantasy, but when we submit the revised version we are thinking of a children's fantasy category.

    I'm not sure about the cover yet, we're debating on whether to change it.

  9. Read the first 200 words of these 20 stories or so and the personalized comments from Edmund Schubert, editor of Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show.

    Especially this quote regarding why we don't know the protagonists name in these opening paragraphs. I want to know who I'm reading about, not a nebulous "he."

    (referring to a story intro from someone else): "Why do we not know Eitan’s name for eight paragraphs? All that floundering around the reader is doing trying to figure out who he or she is reading about is not curiosity-inducing; it’s irritating. I don’t say that to be unkind, but there’s no other way to describe it. He, he, his, he, his, his, he he his his aaaaaaaaargh! HE WHO?"

    My sentiments exactly.

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  11. The correct way to open novels and short stories is not the same and they can’t be judged by the same criteria.

    Thank you Lyn, but you are referring to an article about short stories. We chose not to mention much about Philip because his story is in our second book.


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