Monday, December 3, 2012

1/1 Jihad Britain

Author: Jack Everett & David Coles
Genre: Political/Crime Thriller
How long it's been on sale: Jan 2011
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Twitter constantly to nearly 1700 followers which carries through to Face Book. Had it reviewed by Natasha Harding head book reviewer for The Sun daily newspaper, circulation 4 million (UK)who published her review and gave it 4* Paid for a video and listed it on every site possible including Independent Authors Network.
Total sold so far: 270+
Link to book on Amazon: 1/1 Jihad Britain

Product Description: 

New Years' Eve: the world parties on unaware as a toll of death far beyond 9/11 and 7/7 spreads across Britain. The UK makes its own rules as 1/1 dawns and they don't include fair play. A global-warming fuelled disaster engulfs the country. Can its citizens pull together despite differing skin colour and culture? Years later and still at large, the New Year bomber has a private agenda and a nuclear bomb.

First 300 Words:

2006 AD

The summer of 2006 and people cowered in the ruins of their towns and villages while the Israeli planes screamed over Southern Lebanon. The bombs were targeted on the power plant in Zahrani on July 15th and only one bomb actually hit the western suburbs; most of the smaller munitions were scattered across the farms and holdings to the east, where it was thought that Hezbollah military were using the fruit orchards for cover.

From his vantage point in the hills above Zarit, Fahkri watched the F-161’s as they first screamed overhead forcing him to clap hands to ears and his charges - a mixed flock of goats and sheep - to leap and jump around in total disarray. He saw the Hezbollah running and hiding in the fields and saw the jets return much more slowly. He watched open-mouthed as one F-161 dropped its load, a single CBU-58 which split in half releasing six hundred and fifty bomblets onto the fields and town below.

Hundreds of explosions ripped trees and houses to shreds, thousands of titanium pellets tore through masonry as easily as flesh, snuffing out life everywhere, all in an instant.

When the raid was over Fahkri went home, or to the place where his home had been. It was difficult to tell which was Fahkri’s home and which was the chemist’s shop next door. The place where his family had been living only minutes before was now a low mound of rubble. Somewhere beneath the stones and broken concrete were his parents, his two brothers and his sister.

He and his neighbours tore at the ruins for the rest of the afternoon. At about five o’clock they found the lifeless body of Latif, his elder brother and shortly afterwards that of his sister. 

Comments: The cover isn't bad, however I do have some nit picks. The overall image seems a bit dated. Maybe it's because so many covers these days are done with photomanipulation, and this looks more like a painting. The title font looks stretched and it's hard to read. The author names are even harder to read.

I don't think I like the title. It was not obvious to me it was a date when I first looked at it. I was thinking it was one divided by one, which is one, so wasn't sure how to say the title in my head. I didn't get it at first, and you have to make that connection right away or people will go on to the next book. Maybe I'm alone in the confusion, so I would get the opinion of others on the title.

Just a small note about marketing. When someone says they "twitter constantly" that makes me very nervous. What are you tweeting? If it's book posts, you're not marketing, you're annoying people. Try conversation with others. Just retweeting others isn't good enough. You've got to interact. Have real conversations. Twitter is not a good way to sell books. It's a good way to be social. It's a social network. It's supposed to be a good way to be social. It's not a platform for selling. You'd be better off spending your time finding book review blogs to submit your book to...and writing another book.

The book description is lacking. Who is the main character? The hero? Who will I be spending my time with if I buy this novel? Sure, the threat is good to know, but I want to know the characters, not just the boiled down plot. Introduce your main character, let us know the stakes. I also don't like the 'years later' part. Is this story about the first disaster, or is the main story about stopping the New Year bomber in doing something even worse than what happened on 1/1? The entire description is talking about 1/1, but then the last sentence makes me think the book isn't about that. It's about stopping something worse. Talk about that. And the main character.

The beginning of the novel should be very emotional, but I get no emotion from the main character. The events are told almost in a matter-of-fact way. I feel very distanced from what is going on, from the character, and from the story. People are dead, and I don't care. I feel like the character doesn't care, so why should I? And I didn't have any time to get to know the character before the bomb hit. I feel like the beginning of the novel needs a lot of work, and this makes me think the entire novel might need work. I know I say this a lot, but I would suggest joining a critique group and trying to learn more about point of view, how to get a closer point of view and make the reader care about the characters.

Out of everything here, I think the cover is the least of the problems. (I would still suggest using a photo and tweaking the text.) The bigger issues are the description and the beginning of the book itself. Get these things tightened up, and I do think this book will sell.

What do you guys think?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Raw Vengeance

Author: Josh Handrich
Genre: Political Thriller
How long it's been on sale: Dec. 2011
Current price: $1.29
Marketing: Blog updated every 2-3 weeks, Facebook, Twitter, business cards, union website (over 2,000 pilots), Goodreads, was reviewed by Eric Swett at (the other three reviewers never responded to inquiries), I redid the blurb and cover.
Total sold so far: Approx. 50
Link to book on Amazon: Raw Vengeance (The Rich Fordham Series)

Product Description:

A reporter bent on making a name for himself...

A plot to kill a candidate running for President...

A teenage boy betrayed by his own mother and bullied by thugs...

Is it all worth the sacrifice?

Rookie Chicago television reporter, Rich Fordham, is determined to become a war correspondent. To do so, he must prove himself. When his coverage of a school shooting has racial and political implications, his decision to get involved could cost him his career and his life.

Set in 2001, the events of 9/11 have a profound impact on Rich.  He wants to make a name for himself and needs to be distinguishable from fierce competition. The only person that stands in his way is veteran reporter, Wayne Vale.

Chicago mayor Shantell Cogan is planning to run for President on the republican ticket. Her problem child, Tyler, is entering high school. He is confronted the first day of class because he is different--and later for being gay.
The story takes a provocative look at bullying, racism, homosexuality, and the media.

A Political Thriller.  A Novella

First 300 Words:

Sweltering, sticky, Guam-like heat and humidity—just another September heat wave in Chicago—made it impossible to get comfortable. During the bitter cold winter months of snow, ice, and wind, people tended to behave and tough it out. People helped each other. But when the heat rose, so did their tempers. During the summer of 2001, the violent crime rate had grown exponentially in the south side and showed no signs of abating. To Patrol Officer Wes Kines, that meant nothing good ever happened.

In the Chicago Police Department’s Sixty-Fourth Precinct, it wasn’t even Monday at noon, but the drab four-level building had filled with its usual offenders: A bleached-blond woman in her forties, dressed in a pink tube top and fish net stockings, put up a fuss over being charged with reckless driving and resisting arrest. A twenty-something white male sporting a Bulls jersey and an assortment of religious tattoos was led off in cuffs for beating his girlfriend unconscious. Most were repeat offenders.

A mix of detective and patrol officers tended to arrest warrants and jail bookings. Two officers were in a heated discussion about rumors circulating over the mayor’s proposed budget cuts.
Wes kept himself busy by filling out paperwork on a DUI arrest of a heavy-set sixty-year-old blonde with coffee-stained teeth and nappy hair who kept making coffee and donut jokes thinking they were clever and original. It was difficult to focus on work when his mind was preoccupied with the rumors.
After eighteen years on the force, Wes doubted the long-term sustainability of his career. His annual pay had already been slashed twenty-five percent. His 401K was almost worthless. His alimony and child support drained what little he had left after drinking. Every week he had to pull doubles and work weekends with no days off, and he was still unable to make ends meet.

Comments: The cover looks good to me, but it does not say political thriller. To me, it says it's a regular thriller. I'd look at some other political thrillers to get an idea of some symbols you can have on here that would indicate it's a political thriller. The White House, a flag, red white and blue, those kinds of things will tell the reader right away this is a political thriller. This is a must, if you are to draw in the right audience.

The description seems disjointed to me. A plot to kill a candidate running for President...yes, that says "Political Thriller" to me. A reporter that knows, and must stop it? Yes, political thriller. A teen that goes on a shooting spree in school? Wait, what? What does that have to do with the political thriller? And we've got 9/11, racism, bullying and gay bashing thrown in there too. This seems like quite the melting pots of storylines. And then we find out it's a novella. Really? Novellas are not just short novels. They have fewer characters, fewer plot lines, less intricate stories. This does not sound like a novella to me. It sounds like a mess. Sorry, but the description isn't working at all for me. And it makes me wonder if the whole novella needs to be revamped.

The beginning of the book only further confuses me, because we are now introduced to yet another character, one that isn't even in the description. I would assume the main character would be in the description, so this officer must not be a main character. Again, I'm confused as to how he fits in with the story of a political thriller, and how it all works into a novella length book.

My advice would be first to figure out if this story is a political thriller. It's looking like maybe that's not what this is. I would next find a cover that fits the story. Then I would rewrite the description, focusing on the main character and his or her struggles. If the story has major structure issues, I would go back to the drawing board and work through those before trying to sell it. Maybe join a critique group to see if the story itself needs to be reworked. As it looks to me, just with what has been presented here, it looks like the story itself needs a lot of work. But I would definitely get the opinion of a critique group that knows story structure and how to fix issues like this.

What do you guys think?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Catch My Drift

Author: Jamie Pierce
Genre: Mainstream/Psychological
How long it's been on sale: April 12, 2012
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Free promos through KDP, badgering family & friends
Total sold so far: 3
Link to book on Amazon: Catch My Drift

Product Description:

In the beginning Jamie says, "They beg you not to kill yourself, but they don't tell you what will happen if you live. This is how they trap you." Defensive and devious in her dealings with psychologist Al Foxworthy, Jamie maintains the psychogenic amnesia that has caused her insupportable depression. She infuriates Al. She makes him laugh, she makes him cry, and she makes him ache to restore the hardy spirit that has nearly been extinguished.

Privy to their intimate, turbulent hours together, the reader experiences the struggle between a woman determined to die and the therapist fighting to save her.

Judges from the Pacific Northwest Writers' Conference Contest said, "Fabulous writing—immediately involves the reader." "Compelling, emotional, so beautifully written, the reader can easily empathize with the main character and understand her pain, despair and convoluted logic." "This is powerful writing, absolutely gut wrenching . . . "

First 300 Words:

 I've got the pills, I've got the determination, I'm at the end of a long January slide, and all that's left is a glass of water and a long, long sleep.
Except I decide I have to say goodbye to my best friend Robyn.  I put the quilt I've been working on into the chest and lower the lid, closing it away.  I lock my front door behind me, give the carved sunflower on its central panel a pat.  "Good-bye," I say.  Shouldn't I be leaving a note? I wonder as I drive down our mountain road fast, faster than I ever have before, no longer slowed by the thought of neighbors' complaints.
By the time I hit the freeway, I'm going ninety and the needle's climbing.
I've always driven fast, ten to fifteen, maybe twenty miles over the limit, but I've never dared push the gas pedal to the floor.  I love it, I love it.  The freedom.  What's the worst that can happen?  I won't be around to pay the ticket.  I laugh.
I meet Robyn at this new Italian place.  The food is terrible, too much garlic, not enough body to the sauces.  We comment endlessly.  Well, I do, I can't think of anything else to say.  I certainly can't tell her what I'm going to do as soon as I leave the restaurant. But I do.
And she says, "Jamie, you're going to feel better.  This is only temporary."
It's been my whole life and that doesn't seem very temporary, but she goes on about what'll she do without me?  Who'll be fairy godmother to her children when she has them?
The last thing I can tell her is that I don't care anymore.

Comments: The cover is very cute, but it looks like a children's book. It's simple and clever, but I don't think it portrays the genre at all. The description gives us a troubled woman. This is not portrayed on the cover at all. I would look at this book if I were looking for something for my children. The description would make me go on to something else. I would definitely look at changing the cover. It needs to look more grown-up and darker.

The description is confusing and doesn't give me much information at all about the storyline. I know there's a woman who is in therapy, and she struggles with wanting to die, but the description doesn't give me enough information about it for me to care about the character. It's devoid of personality. The best sentence would be the second paragraph, I think. I'd take out the quotes from the judges. It doesn't look good, IMHO. Let the description pull the reader in, not someone else's opinion of the book.

The writing itself is pretty good. There are some tense changes that kind of tripped me up, and places where I'd like to get more into the main character's head, but it really isn't bad. I think this book could sell if it had the right cover and a better description. Try writing the description in the character's voice. Or try the 'when' formula. When (insert your character’s name and some title or small description) + (pivotal moment in your story that starts the action) main character must (something they must do) + (consequence if they don’t do it). The example I use in my book, How to Find Success Selling Ebooks, is this: “When detective Lars Jansen finds a dead body stuffed into his trunk, he must find the killer before he goes to jail for a murder he didn’t commit.”

What do you guys think?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Singapore Love Story

Author: Low Kay Hwa
Genre: YA Romance
How long it's been on sale: June 2012
Current price: $.99
Marketing: KDP Select Free Promo, Requesting reviews from readers on Goodreads
Total sold so far: 31
Link to book on Amazon: A Singapore Love Story

Product Description:

Listed as a national bestseller in Singapore for about half a year, A Singapore Love Story charts the tragic relationship of a couple trying to be together, ignoring the harsh knocks of reality. Can they bend reality for love, or will reality bend their lives?

Since the beginning of time, people have wondered how powerful love could be. Can love transcend beyond the necessities? Can the melody of love be louder than the noise of reality?

The novel seeks to ask a question: Is money one of the requirements in a marriage, or is it just one of the options?

Price of book will be increased after 10,000 downloads.

First 300 Words:

Chapter -5

Changi South Avenue 3

On 7 August 2008, I slipped while I was showering. And I died.

I was supposed to be married on 8 August 2008. We had planned to see snow in Japan for our honeymoon. Everything had been prepared; we were just waiting for the big day. But I had to die one day before the wedding dinner.

I was reaching for the shampoo. It was placed, somehow on that day, farther than usual. I tiptoed forward, my eyes half-opened as the water from the shower head rained on me.

I had heard stories about what drivers felt during a car accident. Slow, yet uncontrollable. My death was almost identical. Once I lost my footing, time moved in slow motion. I fell forward. My hands swung around to grab something but found nothing. Before I could do anything, I saw the white blameless wall just inches in front of me. My hands tried to push the wall away. But my head hit the wall—and the crack of the skull was like a cue that told time to resume its normal course.

It was a precise hit.

There was a sharp pain. When I bounced off the wall, I anticipated another impact. The next crack struck the back of my head. The pain abated, a ray shimmered, and finally, darkness took over.

Hours later, I woke up and realized that I had died.

Yet, not quite.

The colours of kismet are just black, and white. Or white, and black.

Let’s experience the growth of the two hearts caged by winter acquiescing to the warmth of summer—from different points of view.

Chapter 1

Joo Koon

I was molested when I was seven years old.

It was the first day of school. As Daddy drove across…

Comments: The cover looks paranormal to me. It makes me think the girl is a ghost. The design itself isn't horrible, but I do think it could look more professional. I think it's the photo treatment. The fonts look fine to me. I don't like the yellow sticker on the front. Take the sticker off, and just put the type directly on the cover. I think with a few tweaks, the cover could look more professional.

The blurb is confusing. You can mention the best seller status, but keep it short and sweet. "A national best seller in Singapore!" Then move on to the book description, which is sadly lacking here. There are words, but they don't tell me anything about the characters, and what they need to overcome. What starts the story in motion? When they meet? What obstacles are in their way? Family who doesn't think they belong together? Or do they get in their own way? (She won't look at him because he doesn't make enough money.) The blurb that is here is way too vague. Give the readers details, or they won't know if they want to read the book or not. If they don't know, they'll move on to something else.

The beginning is confusing too. We start at chapter five? Why? Is that a typo? It's probably not a great idea to start the reader off wondering where the first four chapters went. Ignoring that part, I do see that the main character has died. This is probably why the girl on the cover is a ghost image. I would definitely not forget the "Paranormal" in there when you market the book. YA Paranormal Romance is a popular genre. Don't forget to mention the part about the paranormal or you're shooting yourself in the foot.

The writing sometimes feels choppy, like a translation, or as if it was written by someone whose first language isn't English. It's not horrible, but there are a few times where I got a bit confused as to what was meant. I would hire a native English speaking editor to go over it once more. The story itself is interesting, and I do think this book has potential. It's just not quite there yet, in my opinion.

I would suggest hiring a cover artist to really make the cover look YA Paranormal Romance, it needs more of a dreamy feeling to it. I would also get help with the blurb and one final edit to make the sentences flow in English. What do you guys think?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Starwinger Prophecy

Author: Paula K Perrin
Genre: YA Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: March 2, 2012
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: I've contacted friends & relatives, distributed bookmarks & posters, requested (not yet received) reviews on blogs
Total sold so far: 59
Link to book on Amazon: Starwinger Prophecy

Product Description:

The telepathic winged horses known as Starwingers are losing their battle against extinction. They have one hope, the prophecy that a girl will fly along the full moon's track and sacrifice herself for them. However, that girl knows nothing about them.

Dia A'Dianais lives a countless distance away over the sea. She is a young princess of the Five Families. Her small, rich valley is under attack. The Family counts on her talent in the legendary Mysteries to save them, but she fails.

Searching for another solution, Dia learns of the Starwingers. She believes the answer to her dilemma is their strategic help. Unaware of the prophecy, she sets out to find them.

Kidnapped and dragged aboard a pirated ship, she meets another captive, the Starwinger Mercelyon. He is near death from brutal treatment. Dia saves him. Bonded now, they agree to help each other. They fly to Attyria, but the Starwingers view them as traitors, not as saviors.

Caught between Hrapthor the Death-bringer, the hostile Starwingers, and the guerilla forces of Attyria, can Dia and Mer make allies of enemies? Can they survive the deadly tests set for them? Can they persuade the Starwingers to rescue Dia’s family? With strong wings and valiant hearts, they strive to fulfill and survive the prophecy of the Starwingers.

First 300 Words:

Princess Dia A'Dianais padded toward the stable in her bare feet, the sun sparking glints of red from her long black hair.  She wore a loose white robe with no binding, nothing that would have constrained her in any way, nothing that should have prevented her from working the Mystery.

She had failed anyway.  Now she must marry Basphas, an enemy.  She kicked a pebble, then sucked in her breath at the sting in her toe.

She did not have to look up from the paving stones to know that the mares and their foals had been brought in from the fields.  She did not have to glance behind her to know that the ladies of the Family gathered in the shade of her father's palace colonnade to work their embroidery and to gossip.  She did not have to peer at the distant northern wall of the valley to see the miners bringing forth their treasure.  The rhythms of the valley were as much a part of her as her heart's beat.  Never had she thought she would have to leave it.

A stableboy appeared in the dark arch of the stable doorway.  He started to grin at her, but his smile faded when he saw her expression.  He glanced at her bare feet.  It was expressly forbidden to go into the stable unshod.  His mouth opened, then he turned aside and hurried away to find a chore far from the mares' barn.

As Dia crossed from the sun-warmed path into the cool shadows of the stable, Merche's head poked out above her stall door.  The black mare nickered a greeting.

Dia hurried to the stall and unlatched the door, pulling it open.  She flung her arms around Merche's neck and clung to her. 

Comments: The title and author's name are both very hard to read. Maybe it's the color. I would try to re-do the type to make it easier to read. I don't mind the artwork, but it does make the book seem young, like maybe it's a middle grade story. YA books these days have more grown up looking covers.

The description isn't bad, but I would definitely get rid of the questions at the end. (For example: Can Dia and Mer make allies of enemies? Well, obviously they do, otherwise the book would suck. Can they survive the deadly tests set for them? Of course they do. Otherwise the book would suck. Can they persuade the Starwingers to rescue Dia’s family? And the answer is, again, yes, otherwise the book would suck.) Questions only work if the answer isn't: Yes, otherwise the book would suck.

I didn't find the beginning necessarily gripping, but I didn't think it was bad either. This isn't my normal genre, so it's possible it would catch someone else's attention. I do think being forced to marry someone you don't love is always a plot trope that will hook some readers.

My guess is the cover is appealing to a younger audience than the author is targeting, and I would suggest trying to find a more adult looking cover, with the font clear and readable. What do you guys think?

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Cure for the Condition

Author: Amy Croall
Genre: Historical Romance
How long it's been on sale: June 1, 2012
Current price: $4.99
Marketing: Blog tours, Twitter updates, Facebook Campaigns.
Total sold so far: 10 - 15
Link to book on Amazon: A Cure For The Condition

Product Description: 

When seventeen-year-old Catherine assumes the throne as Queen of Cannary following her mother’s murder, she is forced to punish the man she loves, but when she develops a serious heart disease, the only cure for her condition may be the truth.
“Romance, adventure, danger and passion—A Cure For The Condition is a terrific debut novel from an exciting new author. Readers will love Amy Croall.”
—Leigh Bridger, author of Soul Catcher.

First 300 Words:

A forlorn, soft piano melody enveloped her as the book lay at an awkward angle in her lap. As her eyes remained closed, absorbing the musician’s brilliant performance, she had no idea her step-brother was watching her.

“Ah, Princess Catherine – there you are!” he said, barging into the room as he had many times over the previous two years.

Princess Catherine inhaled before his gravelly voice could release her daydreams. Sitting straight on the stiff sofa in the parlor, she placed the book next to her.

“Yes, good afternoon, Malcolm,” she replied.

Malcolm supplied her with a half-smirk and proceeded to lean against the sofa at which she sat. Princess Catherine couldn’t help but experience an ever-so-slight tingle when she peered into his crystal blue eyes.

Although her step-brother’s nose was somewhat too large, his lips thin, and his face angular, Malcolm had a strong jaw, well-groomed silver hair, and a smile that could draw women from countries away. At times, his boyish half-smirk made it difficult for Princess Catherine to recall he was seven years her senior.

“I heard about your meeting with the suitor this afternoon, and I must say I am intrigued,” he said.

Catherine donned an immediate scowl. “Malcolm, is this going to be another instance such as when you barged into this room as I was learning that piano and tell me I am causing a ruckus, or will it be reminiscent of when I returned home wearing rouge and you mocked me endlessly?” she demanded.

Malcolm feigned ignorance, putting a hand to his heart. “Why, dear step-sister, I am saddened by your accusations! I merely wished to extend my… condolences that the meeting did not go as hoped.” He suppressed a half-hearted chuckle.

“Of course,” Catherine replied, clearing her throat. “I’ll have you know our feelings were requited.

Comments: I would not have guessed that this book was historical romance looking at the cover. I saw the castle and the forest, and thought "fantasy." I think that is a major problem. Now, the book is published through a publisher. I'm not sure the author has much say in the cover design, so I don't know how much my assessment will help. If I were in charge, I'd change the cover. Most historical romance covers have a woman and a man on the cover, in a pose that makes it obvious there's a love story in the book. That's what I would recommend.

I'm not sure why that title was chosen. It seems to focus more on the disease than the love story. I might think about a different title as well.

The price is also kind of high, but I don't know that the author has a say in that either. (It's not extraordinarily high, but it still is a deterrent for people trying out a new author.)

The description needs some work. Why would the girl assuming the throne force her to punish the man she loves? That part doesn't make any sense. I'm also not sure how the truth can cure a disease. The "when" formula works well, but only if it's a logical progression. The "When" part needs to lead to the "Must do" part, which leads us to the conflict of the story.

I'd cut the quote from the description too, it doesn't add anything about the story. It's pretty generic, and could be said about any book. It gives no information. When I read a description, I want information about the plot.

The first paragraph starts in omniscient point of view, which is very difficult to pull off successfully. I don't think it's working here, as it feels like the character herself making observations about things she can't see.

The writing isn't horrible, but I might try tightening up the first bit. Usually that's the hardest to write anyway. You've got to hook the reader, while introducing the main character and making the reader care about them.

My recommendation is to get a new cover, try reworking the blurb, and tightening up the beginning, and possibly looking at a different title.

What do you guys think?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

God Is Greater - Update

This is an update post. To find the original post, click here.
Author: Marc Brown
Genre: Religious/Spiritual
How long it's been on sale: 13 months
Current price: $8.49 (Paperback)
Marketing: Amazon, one book signing, given few copies to influencial local people, word of mouth, copies available in our antiques store.
Total sold so far: 250+
Link to book on Amazon: God Is Greater

Product Description:

God and religion are not one and the same. Religion is a man-made construct which frequently obscures a clear understanding of who God is and what He is like. B. Marc Brown, author of “God Is Greater” has been a Christian for over four decades, a licensed minister since the age of sixteen, and a biblical studies teacher for many years. Marc has developed a means of expounding upon the essence and character of the God of the Bible without sounding preachy, condescending, or judgmental. God is who God is – in spite of the religious practices of those who claim to follow Him. “God Is Greater” reveals elements of God’s true nature and provides insight into the powers and abilities of God. 

First 300 Words:

First things first, I am operating under the assumption God exists.  I am certainly not alone in this assumption, but there are some great minds who believe otherwise.  It takes faith to believe in a God you cannot see, touch, or feel.  In my opinion, however, it takes a great deal more faith to believe God does not exist.

When one considers every society from the jungles of Africa, to the rain forests of South America, to the ancient Mayans of Central America, has sought after an entity to worship, it is difficult to believe such an Entity does not exist.  From a globally historical perspective, it would appear the knowledge of a greater entity and the desire to seek Him out is written into the DNA of every human being.

When one further considers we have never witnessed the creation of something (anything) from absolute nothing, it is even more difficult to believe a Being with far greater capabilities than those which we possess does not exist.

There are certainly those who believe science will eventually reveal all.  If someone has become so convinced that science has all the answers or will have all the answers, I seriously doubt I can change his/her mind.  But for the rest of us, please keep in mind scientific research continues precisely because science has not yet obtained all the answers – nor will it – ever.

Science has indeed availed mankind to incredible advances in the areas of pharmaceutical products, synthetic fabrications, quantum physics, and many other life-enhancing developments.  But for all the advances, there remain countless areas in which advances continue to be sought.  If you believe science will and can reveal all, you have chosen to put your faith in the genius and ingenuity of men and women. 

Comments: This is the first update I've done. At first I thought maybe putting the same book up would be tiresome to readers, but after looking at the changes I felt like this would be a fun thing for readers to see, so I'm putting it up.

I'm thrilled to say there have been some great improvements with this book. I love the new cover. It's fresh, modern looking, and I can read the title. It's a huge improvement from the last one. I'm not sure what the hourglass in the sky means, but I'm so thrilled that the new cover looks modern I don't even care about it. Very nice.

The new description is also an improvement. I'm so glad to know what background the author has, and what kind of God I might be reading about in this book. It really will help potential buyers to know the author is a minister, and the book is based on the teachings of the bible.

The one thing I felt could be improved is the put downs to religion. If the author is a minister, isn't he affiliated with a religion? To say that religion "is a man-made construct which frequently obscures a clear understanding of who God is and what He is like" would be off-putting to people who belong to a religion, and who believe they have a clear understanding of God. And later, the author says, "in spite of the religious practices of those who claim to follow Him." Wow. The author is implying that people who follow religious practices do not really follow God. I would think about revising that. It's not a good idea to offend the target audience.

The beginning of the book is much improved, IMHO. Before, there were some inflammatory statements. Those have been removed, and the beginning reads very smooth to me. Sure, the author is putting down science to an extent, but I don't think it's inflammatory. A large majority of those who will pick up this book will be those who already believe in God, and who have the same thoughts about science. Personally, I don't believe that science and the belief in God are antithetical. But I do know some people who believe this, and I don't find the author's words offensive.

Overall, I think the presentation of this book has improved greatly. Great job to the author. What do you guys think?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Mythical: Heart of Stone

Author: C.E. Martin
Genre: YA Fantasy (?)
How long it's been on sale: June 4, 2012
Current price: $.99
Marketing: I have been sending out review requests and participating in Author Interviews. I have a blog. I am participating in a number of author websites/forums, and have done the introduction of the book at several forums also.
Total sold so far: 6
Link to book on Amazon: Mythical: Heart of Stone

Product Description:

In a world of magic and monsters, where the superheroes have all retired, the United States depends on the men and women of Detachment 1039 to protect America from the paranormal. Unfortunately, the Detachment’s entire squad of Stone Soldiers, and their leader, have been killed.

Colonel Mark Kenslir wakes up in the Arizona desert, his mortal wounds healed, but with no memory of who killed him. With the help of the teens who found him, Kenslir eventually remembers his last mission: stop a shapeshifter that has been ripping out and consuming the hearts of victims.

Without any weapons, without any support, Kenslir sets out to avenge his men and stop the shapeshifter.

First 300 Words:

Somewhere in the Arizona desert, miles from any road or water, there was a boat.

This boat was charred and cracked, melted, burned- a black blight on the pristine sands, the ash from the fire that had consumed it spreading out to form a black circle, thirty feet in diameter. The boat sat in silence, undiscovered, for days.

Until a group of motorcycle riders stumbled across it.

Five riders, racing through the desert, weaving in and out, jumping slight rises. Ahead of the riders, the desert sands stretched out for miles for their enjoyment. Behind them, the riders left behind not only their camp, but twelve years of education. This was their summer vacation, before they would all go out into the world, to college, to jobs, to begin their new lives.

The leader of the pack, Carlos, topped a rise at full speed. Beneath his helmet he grinned, wondering if any of the others would catch him.

Carlos suddenly lost his grin. He let off the throttle and slammed on his brakes. A great black spot lay in the desert ahead of him. Charred remnants of something large.

Behind Carlos, the other riders approached. They all saw the same great stain on the desert and slid to a stop beside their friend.

Carlos looked around at his friends. None of them were doing anything more than looking at the burnt remains down the slope from them. He would have to be the first.

Carlos nodded to his friends then took off for the wreckage.

The bikers rolled cautiously down the slope toward the burnt wreckage. As they got closer they could make out the shape of whatever it had been. It looked vaguely boat-like and it had been consumed in a great fire.

The bikers stopped a dozen feet from the edge of the burnt wreckage.

Comments: I like the cover. It looks well designed. It does give me more of a high fantasy vibe, but I don't know how detrimental that is. It makes me think of rings and quests, elves and kingdoms. That might be a problem. Also, usually young adult novels have a young person on the cover, so it shows the target age. This does seem to be geared toward an "older" audience. However, I do like the cover and if the book were selling I wouldn't think of changing it at all. Since it's not selling, I might get more opinions on the first impression of the cover. Show it to strangers and ask what they think the book is about. That first impression is very important, and if you're giving the wrong impression, I'd try to fix it.

The description needs work, but I don't think it's horrible. Don't start with the Don LaFontaine cliche, "In a world..." I also don't like the contradiction. All the stone soldiers have been killed. But one wakes up. If he's killed, he wouldn't be waking up. That's confusing. I'd get some help to tighten this up.

I think the writing needs to be tightened up also. For instance, the beginning of the book doesn't have any emotion to it. I'm not in anyone's point of view, so I'm not seeing the charred boat from anyone's perspective. It's omniscient point of view, which frankly, is difficult to write well and out of date enough to put most readers off to the book. I would suggest joining a critique group, or finding a content editor with experience editing genre fiction.

What do you guys think?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Take Back Tomorrow

Author: Richard Levesque
Genre: Science Fiction
How long it's been on sale: Jan 2012
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Started a Facebook author page, had a launch party at work, submitted to Amazon independent novel award competition, set up Amazon author page, submitted to several indie book review blogs.
Total sold so far: About 50
Link to book on Amazon: Take Back Tomorrow

Product Description:

Eddie Royce thinks he's got things all figured out. He's managed to cheat the system and gotten himself published in the sci fi pulps by "borrowing" plots from Shakespeare. He doesn’t mind being a cheat and a plagiarist as long as no one finds out. But then he meets Chester Blackwood, the most famous science fiction writer of the 1930s, and discovers that Blackwood has a secret much bigger than Eddie's. Worse, the unscrupulous publisher they both work for has caught the scent of their deceptions and is threatening to make their lives difficult. When Blackwood disappears, Eddie is caught up in the mystery. With the help of Blackwood's beautiful daughter Roxanne (who has secrets of her own), he tries to piece together the puzzle, but soon he discovers more secrets hidden in the Hollywood Hills, secrets that seem to open doors into the past and the future. When the hack science fiction writer finds himself in a situation more fantastic than any pulp plot he could have imagined, he has to make a choice: sell out to the Hollywood elites who want the secret behind Blackwood’s success, or save himself and Roxanne from the sins of her father even if it means defying the laws of the universe.

First 300 Words:

Eddie Royce sat in Whistler’s office on the sixth floor of the Meteor building and waited patiently for the editor to look up from the galleys he studied, a smoldering cigar held between his thick lips and a look of quiet disgust on his face as he read. The muffled clack and ding of a typewriter made its way into the office from somewhere beyond Whistler’s closed door, and Eddie tried hard not to let it distract him. He sat in one of the mismatched chairs that faced Whistler’s enormous, scarred desk and thumbed nervously through the March 1940 issue of Stupendous, silently going over the pitch he had been formulating for days and hoping Whistler would not notice his anxiety. The magazine had hit the newsstands only three days ago, and Eddie had already read it cover to cover, focusing most of his scrutiny on one story—“Dark Hearts of Mars” by Edward Royce. It was his second publication in Stupendous, his second publication anywhere, really, but he already had two more stories and a serial accepted. After finally seeing his name in print following months of trying and failing, he had quickly come to believe in his success as a writer in spite of what he knew to be true—that he was at best unoriginal and at worst a plagiarist.

As with every issue of Stupendous, the cover of the magazine in Eddie’s hands was a work of art that no doubt accounted for a large portion of sales each month. The covers were always sensational, and this one featured a beautiful female space explorer watching in exaggerated alarm as her space ship exploded in the background, apparently leaving her stranded as she floated in space, her skin tight suit accentuating her curvaceous figure.

Comments: The cover isn't a bad concept, but the execution needs work, in my opinion. The title is hard to read, and the cartoonish people make the book look middle grade. I'm also not a fan of the black surrounding the picture. I think the cover would need some tweaks in order to appeal to the target audience.

The description could be better. There are some extra things that could be cut. It's very important to make each word count with a description. The first sentence isn't needed. I'd rather it start like: Eddie Royce has managed to cheat the system...

There are also a lot of "secrets" mentioned in the blurb. Too many vague references makes for a poor description. The readers need to know what they are buying. Spell out the time travel. (You elude to it, but you never come out and say it.) Spell out some of the other secrets, or don't mention them at all. The time travel is a strong hook. People who read time travel books really love them. Give them what they love. Don't hide it in the blurb.

The beginning of the book is pretty good. There are some superfluous words that could be cut, but overall it's not a bad beginning. I do hope something happens soon, though, because at this point nothing is going on and I would soon get bored without some action or conflict.

I think this book has great potential. I think the blurb is holding this book back. Some tweaks to the cover would help as well. It needs to look professional. I think if those two issues are addressed, the book would do much better.

What do you guys think?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dark Mountain

Author: Robert Michael
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
How long it's been on sale: April, 2012
Current price: $3.99
Marketing:  Kindle Select, 3 free days Facebook, Goodreads, Goodreads giveaway, Kindle Daily Deal, Twitter, press releases to local newspapers, author website, author blog
Total sold so far:  24 (plus, 1 borrow and 20 hard copies sold)
Link to book on Amazon: Dark Mountain

Product Description:

Jacob Barclay initially took the long hike through the remote Arkansas mountains as an escape. What began as a test of his survival skills takes a turn as he discovers a cabin with a dark secret.

Molly Corothers, a teenager, is lost and alone in the woods. She finds in Jacob a way out, a guardian angel.

Jacob can tell that Molly is hiding something from him, despite suffering from atrocities that most adults would have found unbearable. Jacob learns to trust Molly and finds that sometimes evil runs in the family.

First 300 Words:

The blood was what bothered Brian the most.  His emotions were torn between desire and repulsion.  He lay in his bed flat on his back staring at the ceiling.  The darkness was a comfort.  It calmed him. He could feel his body pressing into the lumpy mattress beneath him.  He could make out his posters eating up dark holes on the dingy white walls of his bedroom.

He regretted going to see Molly at the cabin.  It didn’t help matters at all.  In fact, he felt more confused now than ever.  If he hadn’t held his sister in his arms this afternoon things would have been different.  If he hadn’t tried to console her and listen as she spun her tale maybe he wouldn’t be here wondering whether he should cry, scream, or kill someone. He was ashamed to even think about it.

He lay there biting his lip and wondered why he was so screwed up.  Why is my family so screwed up?  He knew that many of his friends felt the same way about their families.  They had no idea.

He couldn’t stop thinking about the blood.  He didn’t know what to do with it.  As Molly recounted what she had seen that night almost a week ago, he couldn’t help but think about the blood.  He had seen the room.  He had just stood there, transfixed.  It was the color of red clay mud.  It was smeared everywhere and flies careened drunkenly around the room. The room smelled awful.  But it didn’t matter.  He couldn’t take his eyes off of all the blood.

The ceiling in his room had turned a sickly yellow over the last few years.  His father, Victor, rarely did anything around the house and so painting was a low priority.  But, as Brian stared, the ceiling turned a dark brown.  As he watched, mesmerized by his mind’s own creation, the ceiling developed large cracks.  Out of these cracks blood oozed forth, running in large, corpulent droplets across the ceiling.

Comments: The cover is dark. I realize you probably made it dark on purpose, to show the thriller/suspense aspect of the book, and I do think it helps with that. I'm just afraid that it's too dark. I'd love to see the photo have more contrast. Most photo manipulation software will allow you to increase the contrast. I think that might help. I'd also look at the black on the bottom, not sure if that's working really well. Maybe I'd like it better of the photo faded to black. I like the title font, but I'm not sure the outline is working. With a few tweaks, though, I think this cover could work.

The description suffers from evasivitis. (Yes, I did just make that word up.) You're leaving out the best parts of the hook and being too evasive. The cabin has a dark secret. Is it ghosts? (Which would make the book paranormal, and thus be a key element in selling the book.) Is a homicidal murderer hiding out there? (Which would up the suspense and be a key element in selling the book.) Is the cabin cursed? (Which would again turn us toward a paranormal aspect, and be a key element in selling the book.) Do you see where I'm going with this? Don't hide the key element in selling the book. It doesn't make the book mysterious and desirable. It makes it less desirable because the reader doesn't know what kind of book they are getting. I'm also confused about Molly. I'd like to know a bit more about her involvement in the story. As it reads, she doesn't tie in to the cabin, which confuses the description.

To me, the start of the novel falls a bit flat. I'm not sure what's going on. I'm guessing that Brian's sister, Holly, is being kept in the cabin because she's a murderer, maybe? Not sure that fits with the description, though. I'd also like to see the writing tightened up a bit. There were some areas of repetition that could be eliminated. "He couldn't stop thinking about the blood." And then, "...he couldn't help but think about the blood." And then, "He couldn't take his eyes off all the blood." I would suggest a writer's critique group. They can help figure out what to trim to make this a stronger opening.

For me, the cover is the strongest link in the chain, but could be better. The description and the book can be tightened up to make this book much better. I do think this book can sell. I like many things about it. I am attracted to thrillers, and I do think this book can become a good seller. It just needs a bit more work.

What do you guys think?

Monday, August 20, 2012

CheckOut 27

Author: Andrew M Gallagher
Genre: Humor
How long it's been on sale: Feb 29, 2012
Current price: $3.00
Marketing: Website, Profiles on Shelfari and Librarything, added to Askdavid website, facebook ads, KDP Select free, gave away 557 copies.
Total sold so far: 0
Link to book on Amazon: CheckOut 27

Product Description:

Temptation is stood in everyone's path so they tell us. Most people brush past but some stop for a chat and then some attempt suicide.

Peter Digby is Manager of Taylors supermarket, part of a national chain. When he is handed the chance to make money without actually putting his hand in the till he surprises himself and takes it. It maybe classed as white collar crime but the drawbacks are frustrating and difficult to handle. Having the money becomes a bigger headache running two homes two cars and two lives. His work colleagues friends and even family are unaware of his rich alternate lifestyle so what is the point? It is like winning the lottery but losing your ticket.

Peter's life is full of choices. Strange ones are employing the most incompetent security firm around, Beaver Patrol. Embarrassing ones are ringing prospective dates up based on your friend's advice. Your assistant manager is hard working but so timid he bears the brunt of all jokes. The checkout girls show little mercy and yet he puts up with it.

Clearly his world is a balancing act so why complicate it by getting involved with an auditor sent to check up on you? Horse Racing, Velcro, Women dressed as school girls and the possibility she could earn £1000 for a couple of hours are some of the reasons.

Can he get out and cover his trail completely?

First 300 Words:

I remember reading about cases where people have been hit by a vehicle and literally knocked out of their socks. The sudden impact and tensing of the muscles caused them to lift straight out. I still had socks on when I reached the hospital. In that final moment the self preservation gene we must all have stepped forward.  I turned away in a futile attempt to save myself but heard the crack as my right leg broke. With the impact my body rolled across the car bonnet directing my shoulder to smash the windscreen with my head following behind it. After that I rely on Police reports and medical records with some eye-witness statements thrown in for dramatic effect. The eye witnesses are far more descriptive. ‘I was certain he was dead but I saw some blood coming from a gash in his head and my friend said you don’t bleed once your dead’ but my favourite, ‘I started to clap it looked like they were filming a TV programme then I saw the blood and thought it’s too realistic for the tele, so I stopped clapping’

In the supermarket the whole event had developed slowly, at first nobody took any notice as I walked across the parking area towards the road. A line of 27 checkouts with people queuing at each one all looking around but not through the large glass frontage, no one sees the dead man walking. But then as I stepped off the pavement out in to the road and turned to face the single oncoming car one child’s voice spoke out. “That’s naughty mummy” The queues either side looked over to the voice bored with the conveyer belts ahead of them. Trying to work out what sort of person you are stood behind from the contents of their trolley. What can you work out about the man who buys Tea Bags (the cheap supermarket brands) Always Tampons, Jelly Babies, dried pasta, vanilla flavoured yogurt, a pair of black socks and the Daily Mail?

A henpecked husband or a future serial killer?

The number of heads which first looked to the child and then following his pointed finger to the man in the road increased as the seconds ticked by. From almost no one to the complete shopping queues of 27 checkouts, faces searching across the car park to this single man in the road. Speculation in their eyes, was he some sort of workman stood checking the road, a plain clothes Policeman stopping cars but before anyone got close to the answer the car hit. Looking back towards the supermarket it appeared to be a goldfish bowl, a hundred silent faces behind the glass gasping in horror. The mother grabbed her son covering his eyes from the circus style juggling act of arms and legs tossed upwards to the sky bouncing off the bonnet into the windscreen.

Comments: At first glance I thought this was a non-fiction book about coupons and shopping. The cover does not look like a novel. I'm not quite sure what it is, maybe the way the photos are placed on there, but it says non-fiction to me. Maybe go look at some successful ebook covers of other humor books, and see how they look and try to emulate them. I'd definitely suggest a new cover.

There's a grammatical error in the first sentence of the description. (Temptation has stood...not temptation is stood. Or I suppose it can be: Temptation is standing...the tenses just need to match up.) Having an error in the first sentence of the description will turn off most readers. It makes them think the whole book will have errors. Definitely fix that.

I don't understand the second sentence. I mean, I understand brushing past temptation, and I understand stopping for a chat, but I don't understand the suicide reference. You're starting out with an analogy as if temptation were a person on the sidewalk. Some will walk past, some will stop to chat...then the next step in my mind would be hugging or making out with temptation. The suicide doesn't make sense in the analogy to me. I could just be dense, though. I do have my blonde moments.

The rest of the description confuses me too. Sorry. There are other grammatical errors (maybe should be may be) and other parts that just don't flow well or make a lot of sense. I'd suggest joining a critique group and getting some advice on making the description better.

Starting with the main character getting hit by a car is good. Something is happening. I liked that. The problem is that there are more grammatical errors, and places where I got confused again. I think this story sounds interesting, but I don't think it's quite ready. I would suggest a critique group to get the basic things ironed out, then an editor for the grammar and punctuation errors. This book has potential. Don't try to send it out there too early.

What do you guys think?

Friday, August 17, 2012

How to be a Police: Get a Badge & Gun Today

Author: Steven Starklight
Genre: Non-Fiction
How long it's been on sale: May, 2012
Current price: $9.99
Marketing: Posted references and links to the book on FB, e-mailed links to friends, referenced the book in blog comments on various criminal justice blogs, e-mailed inquiries to various criminal justice degree program chairs asking if they would like a free copy.

Total sold so far: 0

Link to book on Amazon: How to be a Police: Get a Badge & Gun Today

Product Description:

The Ultimate Reference & Learning Guide for Aspiring Cops

Law enforcement is not only one of the most satisfying careers, you can make a good living at it, too. With How to be a Police you will understand what you need to know so your application is current and competitive. Use this guide to prepare for a job interview or to brush up on the newest trends in law enforcement. This guide will explain many common applicant errors, standard operating procedures for hiring into the academy. More than just “stories,” this guide explains law enforcement employment from the perspective of somebody who has taken on every role in the field.

Key topics include:

* What criminal records will disqualify you from service – which won’t.
* Do you need a college education?
* Do I really need to get in shape before applying?
* What job experience makes you more attractive to a department?

Steven Starklight is a twenty year veteran to law enforcement, with extensive experience spanning coast to coast and overseas. He has served as a police officer, deputy sheriff, police legal adviser, assistant district attorney and most recently, as a special agent of the FBI. He is a recognized expert and has provided instruction in the fields of Criminal Law, Evidence, and Police Ethics. He has spoken at numerous venues regarding various law enforcement matters and has earned numerous accolades for his work.

Steven has advanced degrees in Philosophy and Law and has written several books on law enforcement and several fictional titles being prepared for publication. His writings have been published in at least one law review and cited by many others.

Mr. Starklight has settled on the west coast and is married with two children. He enjoys spending time with his family, writing, and putting perpetrators in jail.

First 300 Words:

My goal with this book is to guide you through the process of getting a job as a law enforcement officer. First and foremost, let’s get one definition out of the way. When I say law enforcement officer, or LEO, I mean it to include just about every job that involves a gun and badge: police officer, deputy sheriff, correctional officer, campus police officer, detective, parole agent, probation officer, and anyone else that carries a gun and badge and enforces the law. From this point forward, I will refer to all of these people as LEOs.

Let me tell you a little bit about myself; just enough to demonstrate why I know what I am talking about. My career as a LEO began in January 1993 as a county police officer. Since that time I have also worked as a deputy sheriff, a campus police officer, a district attorney’s investigator, and a special agent with the FBI. I have also prosecuted crimes as an assistant district attorney and worked as the police legal advisor for a major state law enforcement agency. Over the past 20 years I have been through the background process (and been hired) by seven different law enforcement agencies. That’s a lot of applications, polygraphs, reference checks, drug tests; well, you get the picture. During that time I have watched a lot of people wash out of the process for various reasons; some were in poor shape, some had miserable driving records, some lied, some used drugs, some had criminal records. The process is long, difficult and fraught with pitfalls. I will try to identify those pitfalls and help you avoid them.

Those of you that already have the mind of a LEO will probably try to Google my name and try to determine whether I am telling the truth about my career. Every word of it is true except for two: Steven Starklight. Because of the nature of my current work assignment, I cannot use my real name.

Comments: I think the cover is very nicely designed. The biggest problem I see with this cover are the words on it. Not the design, the actual words. How to be a police? Really? You can't be a police. You can call the police. You can be a police officer. You can't be a police. The title makes this book look funny, like it's a joke. But even that's not the worst thing on the cover. "Get a Gun and Badge Today." The sub-title confirms it. This has to be a joke, right? Any real person looking at going into law enforcement isn't going to take this seriously. No one thinks you can read a book and go get a gun and badge the same day. It really cheapens what I think this book is trying to do, which is advise those looking at law enforcement as a career. I really thought this book was a humorous novel until I took a closer look and realized what it was. I would definitely get a new title and cut the sub-title altogether.

The description could be greatly improved. Much of it reads like an author bio. I want to know what the book will teach me, not how many jobs the author has had. (Which, by the way, gives me a little pause. It almost reads like the author couldn't hold a job. Maybe downplay all the different jobs in the author bio, and just say the author has had 20 years of experience in law enforcement.)

My suggestion for the description would be to take out much of the bio, and list more of what the book will teach. Focus on why I should buy the book, not why I should believe the author.

The beginning of the book gives me the same concern as the author bio and description. It really hits hard that the author has had many, many jobs in law enforcement. The author has given a TON of interviews. This makes me wonder why he couldn't hold onto one job. I'd cut the bio stuff, and get to the instructional part. I think the first paragraph is fine. And I wouldn't go into why you can't google the author's name. They're not buying the book because of the author. They are buying the book for tips on the application and interview process for becoming a police officer. It's not rocket science. The author does not need to qualify himself, in my opinion. Sure, tell some stories, but I don't think anyone has to be convinced that the author is telling the truth. That in and of itself makes me think the author is lying. If, at the end, you want to mention something about the pen name, I think that's fine. Don't do it in the beginning. Get right to the book.

Non-fiction books are often priced higher, however, I think $9.99 might be a bit high for this book. It's not long. It gives tips on applying to be a police officer. No one will need to refer to this book over and over like many text books. Think about lowering it a bit.

Now, I don't mean to step on any toes here, but let's look at something. This book has had 0 sales. The book was published on May 21st. There are four reviews on this book, left on May 22, May 23, and two on May 25. Every review left is by someone with a first name only and who have only reviewed either just this book, or books written by Steven Starklight, or someone whose publisher is the same as another Steven Starklight book, and whose language and syntax are very similar. I'm not a police officer, but to me these do not look like real reviews. Please, please, please take down the fake reviews. They do not do you any favors. (And if your friends wrote them, urge them to take them down.)

In summary, I would change the title, get rid of the sub-title, trim the author bio to a minimum. Also, remember the target audience for this book will be small. This is a very specific book, so it won't appeal to a large group of people.

What do you guys think?


Author: Joseph M. Horodyski
Genre: Horror
How long it's been on sale: May 19, 2012
Current price: $9.99
Marketing: Unknown
Total sold so far: 2
Link to book on Amazon: Shadowlawn

Product Description:

There was a secret once kept by the Catholic Church, one long since lost. Before the dawn of modern civilization, mankind worshipped a different set of gods - darker and more primal. It was around these that early man built a whole system of worship and service. It was a time when every dark night brought with it the fear of death and unspeakable danger lurking in every dim recess. With the coming of the world's great religions these gods were pushed aside and forgotten, relegated to the province of myth or of dimly remembered tales told around campfires. While the human race has long forgotten its association with these beings, they have never forgotten us. The doorway is now open - and man is totally unprepared for what is about to come through.

On a lonely windswept isle off the coast of Massachusetts, a group of eight individuals gather one weekend to assess the state of a long disused manor, Shadowlawn, now up for sale. In so doing they accidentally unleash a string of events that paves the way for the return of these beings.  From musty secret passages to dark unholy chapels,  from bone-filled catacombs and lonely windswept sand-duned beaches to a gut-wrenching climax played out in a dank and disused lighthouse, these eight disparate individuals are about to fight mankind's final battle against the ultimate, unspeakable evil. With the help of a benevolent spirit trapped on the island, the secrets of Shadowlawn are laid bare one by one until they finally see the light of day - a day that will ultimately end in either humanity's salvation, or its eternal damnation.

First 300 Words:

If you should happen to find yourself driving up the coast from Boston a short way and come to town of Ipswich on old Rte. 133, and have a little time to spare, take Argyll Rd. that leads east from the town to the Atlantic coast about 6 or 7 miles. Once you hit the water park your car and take a look at the vista before you. To your left, across the bay, you'll see Plum Island State Park, one of the most popular bird sanctuaries and nature reserves on the eastern seaboard, and one made almost entirely of shifting sand dunes and tall saw grass. To your right, the rocky coast that seems to stretch out into the Atlantic like a thumb pointing the way, is Cape Ann, a tourist's and artist's haven, attracting people from all across the globe each summer. That little town off in the distance is Pigeon Cove, at the very end of the Cape. The other side of the Cape shelters such well knew locations as Gloucester and Rockport.

But turn your attention to the peninsula you're on. The very end of it is known as Castle Neck, probably named from an old fort or other defensive structure that used to guard the harbor in colonial days. Look a little closer across the windswept bay to a small spit of land about a mile or two out in the bay. That's known as Seaview Island. If you happened to have a handy set of binoculars on you, you could just about make out a cluster of buildings on the island, but not well enough to see any of the features or architecture that you could appreciate.

Seaview Island was uninhabited through much of its history, until about 1880 when the fledgling Coast guard put up an eighty foot tall lighthouse on one end as a precaution against sailing vessel from coming to close to the rocky coast, especially if a gale or strong nor'easter was blowing in from the Atlantic. About two miles long and only a mile in width, the lighthouse stood on a rocky promontory at the northern end of the island and beamed its welcoming light seaward for over a century. The middle of the island was rocky, hilly, and heavily wooded, not much good for growing things. The southern end of the island was mostly sand and dunes that the winds would play with and form into an ever-changing array of shapes and patterns, the result of eons of ocean waves and currents smashing onto the island, reducing it at that point to fine particles of cream-colored sand.

The lighthouse stood alone until 1905 when it was joined by a 40-room stone structure of arched roofs, turrets, gables, widow's walks known collectively as Shadowlawn Terrace, or just Shadowlawn, as it quickly became known to the locals. Shadowlawn was the brainchild of millionaire inventor Nathaniel Hammond III, who made his fortune in hundreds of patents during that technological boom that took place around the turn of the century when even electricity was a mysterious force to be reckoned with. He had it built to his own specifications with the structure and furnishing imported stone by stone from the best castle ruins scattered across Europe, and included a family mausoleum, an indoor aviary, fountains, arched walkways, and spring fed pool. Hammond meant it to be the future home of his family for generations to come, but his time spent there was neither happy nor brief. Expecting his first child of the latest Hammond generation, he and his pregnant wife went down on the Titanic in 1912 returning from a European vacation and both were lost.

Comments: I like the lighthouse picture. Unfortunately, it doesn't say "Horror" to me at all. The stormy clouds maybe hint at it, but I think the cover needs more to make it look like a horror novel. I want to see some blood on it. Or a dead body. Or a weapon. Something scary. The lighthouse kind of looks peaceful, you know? I'd also suggest a different font. I'm not a big fan of the current one. I'd also get rid of the "A Classic Tale of Modern Horror." This is what the picture on the cover should show. I'd go look at some other horror novels and see what's on the cover, and study how the cover shows the genre. (And don't look at the popular authors, because the name alone will tell the genre. Study some unknown author covers, ones that are selling well.)

The description needs some scissors taken to it. I actually think the first paragraph can be cut altogether. It's all back story. You don't need it in the description. The second paragraph is much better, but can be trimmed up too. I like some of the things in there, I would just edit it to get to the good stuff. If a description is overly wordy, I always assume the book will be as well. Don't give your readers the impression the book needs a pair of scissors. Trim up that description and the book will be much more appealing. I'd also like to know who the main character is.

The beginning of the novel didn't grab me. It was all back story. Things like this are great for the author to know, but I would chop off all the back story from the beginning, and start where the story actually starts. I also see some editing issues, and some wordiness. I might suggest hiring an editor to help with those issues. (Example: Once you hit the water park your car...)

One last thing. $9.99 for the ebook? I wouldn't expect people to pay that much for an unknown author. Lower the price to $3.99 to $2.99 range.

What do you guys think?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Black Rose

Author: Jennifer Ceballos
Genre: Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: May, 2012
Current price: $3.99
Marketing: Marketing on cards, and word of mouth
Total sold so far: 3 the first month
Link to book on Amazon: Black Rose

Product Description: 

"Anne begins to feel an unusual connection towards David the dashingly handsome doctor that took care of her Mom while she was still alive….her life takes a turn when she begins to have unusual dreams--Anne can’t seem to gather anything from these dreams but when David starts coming around they start to become clearer….Will Anne ever figure out why David has a strange effect on her or will Anne begin to feel like she will go crazy at any moment?

First 300 Words:

Swish! Swish!

“Higher Mommy!” The wind flew through my hair as I swung on my newly made rope swing I could feel my cheeks turn red with excitement. Daddy said it was dangerous for a seven year old to be swinging on a homemade swing, but Mommy came back with, ‘it’s all part of a child’s life to make home made things as parents we shouldn’t interfere with a growing free spirit, and making a homemade swing is all part of little Anne’s spirit.’

“My little Anne any higher and you’ll be touching the heavens!” I giggled in response to that.

“I can’t touch the heavens Mommy, I’m still alive!”

“That’s right sweetie!” Mommy grabbed me before I swung forward.

I could hear Mommy laughing, “You are so smart my little one.”

Before I knew it I was in her arms as her long black hair brushed my cheek, I could smell the sweet fragrance of flowers.

“I’m smart like you Mommy.” as we hugged I planted a kiss on her soft cheek.

“You are smart just like Mommy.” I smiled, I was so happy.

“Are you ready to get back on the swing my little Anne?”

“Yes Mommy!” I was giggling as Mommy put me back on the swing—I waited for her to push me, but there was nothing.

“Mommy?” I turned around and I saw her laying on the ground she wasn’t moving—I quickly got off the swing and knelt down next to her. Her face looked pale a little sweat was gathering on her forehead—I brushed my hand across her cheek it felt warm to the touch I didn’t know if that was normal or not.

“Mommy?” Her eye’s opened a little.

“Go get Daddy sweetie.” Her voice sounded hoarse and I began to feel scared.

Comments: The cover needs some love. The word "Black" is very hard to read. Also, the author's name is difficult to see. I do like some of the things going on with the type, especially the author's name spaced out like that. I think that looks nice, but it's too hard to see, in my opinion. I don't think the black/gray scale concept is working. It also doesn't communicate the genre at all.

I'm not sure why the description has quote marks around it. That's a little distracting to me. I'd cut them. The description itself confuses me and needs editing. The whole thing is one long run-on sentence. Writing a good blurb is difficult. I always have trouble with it. I suggest getting help from other writers. Many times others can really help pin down what the most important things are about your book, and can help write them in a concise and interesting way.

The writing needs some work. I would highly suggest hiring an editor. There are many issues that need fixing. Unfortunately, this book just isn't ready for publication yet. But no worries, with some help, these things can be fixed. I would suggest joining a critique group. is an online critique group, and it really helped me hone my writing skills.

It can be difficult to hear that your book needs work. I understand, it's happened to me. But don't give up. It's not the end of the world. Anything can be fixed. It will take some work, but I'm sure the story here is worth it. It's just a diamond in the rough right now. Take the time to make it shine, and you'll be much more successful.

What do you guys think?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I Loved You First (Coming of Age Love Story)

Author: Reena Jacobs
Genre: Contemporary New Adult
How long it's been on sale: July 29, 2011
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Marketing has been sporadic, and I haven't marketed much these days. I'm just not sure how to do it effectively. Paid advertising through Adwords and Goodreads. Giveaway through Goodreads. 45-day Blog tour (organized by myself) which included reviews, blog posts, excerpts and giveaways. Review requests. Tweets, Facebook. KDP Select promotion. Playing with the price (anywhere from $0.99 - 6.99). Newsletter. Goodreads events. I've tried two different blurbs. A couple of trailers (though rather dinky). Really I've been all over the place. I'm just not sure where to concentrate my efforts.

Total sold so far: 125

Link to book on Amazon: I Loved You First (Coming of Age Love Story)

Product Description: 

My best friend was more than just a best friend to me. Three words summed it up: I heart him. I'd never tell him though. I wasn't stupid. Besides, what he'd told no one, but me, was a little something I wished I could forget... or ignore. He was gay. I guess gay wouldn't be bad if I wasn't so in love with him. Now it was just cruel.

Stereotypes run amok in this college love story: Parties, alcohol, hookups, and breakups. Alexandria Carmichael may find it a bit much as she deals with the unreturned love from the boy who completes her. When all is revealed, not only does she risk losing her best friend forever, but also herself. Without her childhood companion for support, Alexandria takes a journey of self-discovery but fears what she'll find at the end.


He was all around me, creating a jumble of feelings. I wanted to bolt from the unfamiliar intimacy, while the desire to nestle in the safety of his protective enclosure grew strong. My head became airy like a balloon on the verge of floating away.

I remembered to breathe, but there wasn't enough air between us. Swept in the dizziness of it all, my eyes played tricks on me. He seemed closer than he'd been only a millisecond ago. No illusion. He was leaning toward me.

Closer. Closer. His eyes focused on my mouth, making me self-conscious. I licked my lips, and he paused, his pupils dilating in the bright light.
My heart went into a panicked convulsion. Oh lord. He's going to kiss me.

The soft fleshiness of his mouth brushed against mine, and a tingling started in my stomach. Was this what they meant by butterflies?

First 300 Words:

The music blared throughout the house at full blast-Pretty People by Dexter Freebish. Yep, that pretty much summed it up. They surrounded me. Only thing, I didn't want to be like them. Sometimes I was just so tired of the games the so-called "pretty people" played. Yet here I was, the girl hiding in a corner, decorating a wall.

The party was in full swing. Already people had consumed enough alcohol to loosen inhibitions but not enough to send them puking over the balcony. It'd get there though. I'd been to enough of these parties to know it was only a matter of time.

Through the mass of bodies, I could just make out the guys in the kitchen guzzling beer bongs. A few of the more slutty chicks hung off to the side laughing and cheering them on. Once in a while, one of the braver girls joined in and made a mess of her outfit. The whole thing was stupid, and they'd certainly regret it in the morning.

So why was I here?

The answer pushed through the crowd-my best friend, Seth. BFF since I'd saved him from a beat down in the first grade. Well, actually, I'd bitten the girl's arm who'd bullied him. Nothing like a nip to send a kid crying. I'd gotten in trouble but earned a forever friend in the process. Totally worth it.

Seth chatted to random frat boys as he made his way to me. He was one of the "pretty people." Sandy blond hair, blue eyes, six foot, and a rising star on the baseball team-he was what girls wanted, and he knew it.

I, on the other hand, was just his sidekick. Nearly invisible. I didn't mind so much. It was the same role I'd played in high school. Why should college be any different? He got me into all the good parties I'd preferred to avoid, and I stood by his side as his gossip buddy.

Comments: I like the cover. I think it's well designed, and I like the woman's face. It is lacking a man's face, but since this is labeled "Love Story" instead of "Romance" I'm guessing having a man's face on the cover isn't necessary. It's a bit monochromatic, but I like it, so I don't think I'd suggest a change. The cover works for me. But I would get more opinions on it.

I like that the first paragraph of the description is written in the main character's voice. I'm worried that it reads a bit young, though. "I heart him" seems like something a young teen would say. That could just be me, though. I'd check with some others to see if they feel the same. I like the fact that it sets up the tone for the character, and introduces the conflict.

I'm not sure the second paragraph is working for me. I think I would get some more opinions on it, and try to tweak it. I think it can be better. I think it seems too "telling" after the stronger first paragraph.

I would definitely cut the excerpt from the description. If people want to read a sample, it's super easy to download a sample or click on the book cover to view the inside. It's off-putting to me when an excerpt is in the description. It's almost like the author doesn't think the cover and blurb are strong enough to sell the book so they put an excerpt in because, by golly, if you start reading you won't want to put it down. And if that excerpt is from the middle of the book it makes me think the author doesn't think the beginning is strong enough to hook a reader. I'd cut it and make the description strong enough to sell the book.

I like the voice, but there are some editing issues that tripped me up in the sample. (Example: blast-Pretty and crowd-my.) And a few instances of writing that could be tightened up. (The word "just" is used three times in this small sample.) I'd suggest hiring an editor to smooth out some of those kinks. There's not much going on in the beginning, which could be a problem. It's okay, but the main character is bored at this party, so I feel like I'm bored reading about it. I think it's good to start in a place where there's conflict or action, or something happening. I feel like nothing much is happening, but I'm also the kind of person who would not feel comfortable at a party like this, so I suppose it could just be me.

I suggest reworking the second paragraph of the description, and cutting the excerpt. I would have an editor pass through the book, and maybe get some more opinions on the beginning. I do think the voice is strong, but needs a bit of writing help. Maybe a critique group would be good.

What do you guys think?