Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Scavenger's Daughter: A Tyler West Mystery

Author: Mike McIntyre
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
How long it's been on sale: 11 Months
Current price: $3.99
Marketing: KB, Goodreads ads, blog reviews and interviews, press releases, giveaways
Total sold so far: 850
Link to book on Amazon: The Scavenger's Daughter: A Tyler West Mystery

Product Description:

Tyler West, suspended Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter from the San Diego Sun, is desperate for a scoop that will save his career. Defying a spiteful publisher and a vindictive homicide detective, he investigates the baffling deaths of several of San Diego's powerful, rich and famous. Police call the murders unrelated, but Ty uncovers a common link: torture devices last used during the Dark Ages, including the Iron Maiden, the Pear of Anguish, and the most sinister of all--the Scavenger's Daughter.

Ty is plunged into a mysterious world of medieval torture scholars, antiquities collectors, museum curators, and sadomasochists. Aided by photojournalist Melina "Mel" Koric, a former Bosnian War refugee, he must break the brilliantly conceived series of slayings that has cast a dark shadow over a city better known for its sun, sand and surf. The elusive killer goes by the name Friar Tom, in tribute to his hero, Tomás de Torquemada, the first Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition. As Ty scrambles to unmask the monstrous zealot, he pursues his lost love, Jordan Sinclair, an assistant district attorney and single mom. With the city caught in an escalating nightmare of medieval mayhem, Ty is drawn into a lethal game of cat and mouse that could cost him everything.

Lightning-paced, intricately plotted and wildly suspenseful, The Scavenger's Daughter grabs the reader early and doesn't let go until its heart-pounding climax.

First 300 Words:



Candles flickered inside his self-storage unit. Santa Claus tapers, Easter Bunny pillars, Valentine votives, Halloween jack-o’-lantern tealights, a Rugrats menorah. He’d paid fifty cents for a crate of holiday candles on eBay after he was the only bidder to spot the misspelled listing: candells. He saved where he could. His was an expensive hobby.

Unit 67 was the size of an auto repair shop, the largest for rent at Sea Breeze Mini-Storage. The terraced complex of concrete buildings hugged the hillside above the I-5 freeway. A battered sign—24-HOUR ACCESS, YOU KEEP THE KEY—dangled from the sagging chain-link fence. The neighborhood of taxi garages, shabby apartments and weedy sidewalks was miles from San Diego’s palm-lined beaches. A pimple on the shoulder of America’s Finest City.

His drive-up unit was in the top row, its back wall embedded in the steep hill. Shamu, SeaWorld’s star killer whale, winked at motorists from a billboard towering above.

Most of the storage units held the furniture, dishes and clothing of the newly divorced and sailors at sea. Others contained sports equipment, camping gear, boats and RVs.

His unit housed medieval instruments of torture.

It was noon. He heard a jet pass overhead on final approach to Lindbergh Field. More pasty tourists had come to squeeze through turnstiles at the San Diego Zoo, splash in the surf and soak up the Southern California sun.

They could keep it all. He liked to play indoors.

“Dark theaters are prepared for dark deeds,” he intoned, quoting the motto etched on European torture chamber walls during the Middle Ages.

He popped a CD into the boombox—A Collection of Gregorian Chants. The medieval music filled the room, melting the tension in his neck.

Vicki's Comments: I like the cover, although it makes me lean more toward horror than mystery/thriller. But after reading the description of the book, I imagine the cover goes quite well with the book. My only concern would be that the cover is giving the reader the wrong impression when they glance at it, and I'm not sure it's working to draw in the people that love mysteries and thrillers. Before changing it, I would get more opinions on it, though, because I really do like it.

The description is good. I think it does a good job with drawing the reader in, and making them want to read more. We'll see what others say, but for me it was a 'win.'

For me, the beginning of the book was the weakest link. I thought the humor of the cheap misspelled candles from ebay didn't go with the vibe of the psychopath. I also felt like the writing could be tightened up a bit. My biggest suggestion here would be to get a few critiques and tighten up the beginning of the book. If I were reading this sample, I would not buy the book.

What do you guys think?


  1. The screaming face on the cover does give it a horror feel, but I don't think it's a problem. The sales have been steady, it appears. The best way to get more of these to sell is to write more thrillers. Build momentum.

  2. I recognized the cover from KB and downloaded it when I saw it was free, supporting KBers and all. I thought it was a good read and gave it fo' stars on GR. Completely agree about the cover being more horror than thriller - the blurb led me to begin reading. Otherwise, I would have passed on it based on the cover being more horrorish.

  3. Maybe change the screaming face to an illustration of a scavenger's daughter to pique interest?

  4. I don't know if I'd consider 850 sales in 11 months not selling. Maybe not selling as well as you'd like, but that's a pretty solid foundation for an indie book. I'd echo the advice to write more thrillers. :)

  5. The description sounds very interesting, but the cover freaked me out. Maybe because it's late at night, I don't know ... I'm not very squeamish, but that girl's face is really unsettling. It would assume from the cover it's a horror story, or at least a story with several female victims.

    Congrats on the 850 sales! I hope you find the key to selling many more. :-)

  6. Cover - I agree that the face says "horror" but that's not necessarily a problem. I would recommend removing the cityscape at the bottom and making the face larger and centered. Focus on that one element.

    Description - I like it, until you throw in the seemingly unrelated romantic subplot near the end. If I was looking for a hardcore thriller, that part would look like you were watering down your story to snag romance readers.

    Opening - Not bad. I don't love the idea of starting with the un-named villain as opposed to the hero, but that's a quibble.

    Else - Sounds like your sales are very decent, especially considering your price. I think the best thing you can do now is publish another Tyler book. Best of luck!

  7. Thanks Vicki and everyone else for your helpful comments. Horror seems to be the common theme. My goal was to write a James Patterson/Alex Cross-type thriller: a sympathetic hero takes on an almost over-the-top psychopathic villain, with narration alternating between 1st and 3rd person. Several reviewers recommended it for fans of James Patterson, while a few others have alluded to "touches" and "elements" of horror. A former agent called it a mystery, hence the subtitle. The perception, at least, is that it's a hybrid thriller/horror/mystery--and perhaps this is a problem.

    This is my third cover. An image of the actual medieval device (scavenger's daughter) appeared on the first two, but people confused it for an egg beater, a compass, a medical instrument, among other objects--not good. Whatever the current cover says to the reader, I have to be honest, it depicts what's inside: there is violence, it involves women (although there are an equal number of male victims), and it's often horrifying.

    There's a huge number of readers who would never buy this book, regardless of the cover. Some aren't into serial killer novels, others aren't into violence, period. I'm fine with that, I get it. But what about my target audience, the fans of James Patterson? Is the cover confusing/misleading to them--to the point that they would scroll right by it without even thinking of reading the description? If so, I've got a cover problem. If not, I'd be reluctant to fiddle with it.

    I'm leaning toward tweaking the blurb and the opening of the book. I see Anonymous' point about the "seemingly unrelated romantic subplot." Perhaps I'm guilty of trying to include too much.

    In addition to tightening the blurb, what about adding a line up high referencing James Patterson (e.g., "in the tradition of..." "for fans of..." etc.), so there is no confusion about the target audience?

    Vicki's and Anonymous' criticisms of the opening really have me thinking. Perhaps I should open with the hero then switch to the villain. Many reviewers who worried they might be too squeamish to deal with torture imagery really responded to Ty's character. I wonder how many people who download the sample get turned off by a creepy house of horrors scene and never even meet Ty. Maybe I can attract more readers by burying the gore and leading with an engaging, albeit flawed, hero. This would be the opposite of conventional alternating 1st person/3rd person narratives, which always seem to start with the set-up crime (3rd person), but maybe it would work better.

    What do you think?

    Thanks again for your insights.

    Mike McIntyre

  8. Gah, I think I magically deleted my comment. Sorry if this winds up being a duplicate post. If I were you, I'd just focus on my next book. Dean Wesley Smith suggest 5 copies per month is appropriate for an indie author and by that standard, you're doing amazingly well. I know we read about people with bestsellers, but truly, they're few and far between. What you need to have happen (what we all need to have happen) is for Amazon to pick you up and your chances of making that happen are better if you produce book number two and three instead of trying to market book one.

    All that said, I think your blurb mentions too many people and I'd get rid of the love interest. I wouldn't change the intro: it's creepy but well-written and I wouldn't change the cover.

    Really, though, I'd be saying, woo-hoo, almost 1000 readers, now I just need to write the next book and the next and the next. Self-publishing turns writing into a long-range game--golf instead of croquet. You have decades for this book to earn you money and your chances of it making you anything will improve with every future book you write.

  9. I don't read horror, so I would probably skip past this based just on the cover; OTOH, after reading the blurb and intro I could definitely see reading it, even if it's not a genre/genre-mix I would normally read. I agree that the romantic bit in the blurb seemed out of place, but I don't think it would have a substantial impact for me.

    As for naming James Patterson, I would recommend otherwise. To me, "fans of X will like..." statements fall flat at best, or do more harm than good. Maybe it's from seeing too many "if you like Tolkien" statements on fantasy novels that were nothing like a work of Tolkien. Anyway, for whatever the reason, I dismiss such attempts at connecting with a certain other author's fans as wishful thinking and/or a sign of lack of originality.

    Take all this with a grain of salt, given that my sales are far less than yours. I agree with what others have said — write more and use the sales you've already had to help build momentum for your next work(s).

  10. I just finished this book and loved it. I was unable to put it down from the moment I picked it up. I came across it as a recommendation from Amazon for my kindle and I am so glad I picked it up. I am looking forward to more works by the author and possibly follow ups on the main character or even the villain.

  11. Started reading this book and could not put it down. Read it in one day. Please write more Tyler West books.


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