Sunday, January 22, 2012


James Bruno
Genre: Political/Thriller
How long it's been on sale: July 16, 2011
Current price: $.99
Marketing: ?
Total sold so far: 197 Kindle, 15 Paperback, some B&N
Link to book on Amazon: Tribe

Product Description:

James Bruno is back in full force with Tribe. Author of the bestsellers, Permanent Interests and CHASM, he again pulls us into a world of espionage, political treachery and techno-thrills...

Afghanistan: Battlefield of Power - Graveyard of Reputations

"Meet Harry Brennan, CIA officer and go-to guy on Afghanistan. When his mission in Afghanistan is aborted and he finds himself back in Washington, Harry starts digging until he finds out what everyone doesn't want him to know. And it comes as no surprise to Harry that it's all about money, or oil to be exact. As the Western world's need for oil increases, something must be done to break the stranglehold of the Arab world on oil supplies. A secret deal has been struck to get a U.S.-financed trans-Central Asian oil pipeline to the Arabian Sea built through Afghanistan and Pakistan. This scenario would bring Croesus-like wealth for the oil companies, back-channel cash to politicians and cement American political and economic supremacy in Central Asia at Russia's expense. It would also force the Afghan allies to share power with the Taliban so pipelines could be built and U.S. troops finally withdrawn. Harry finds himself enmeshed in the double and triple cross of the relentless Washington political machine. In a surprise turn of events, Harry finds himself branded a traitor and fleeing for his life from jihadists in Afghanistan and Predator drones in Yemen, a target of his own CIA, while trying to rescue his kidnapped daughter."

"This is a brilliant book that is well-paced and -plotted with many interesting layers." ~ Readers Favorite.

Written by a former insider and censored by the U.S. government, TRIBE resonates with authenticity rarely seen in the political thriller genre.

First 300 Words:


I used to fly into Islamabad in the dead of night, in black C-130s, the U.S. Air Force insignia miniaturized so that only eagles and Clark Kent could make them out. The Paks wanted it that way. The idea was to keep the American government’s role in supporting the Afghan mujahidin as invisible as possible. After all, our cargoes were lethal. Yet, Allah forbid, should one crash or be shot down with by an SA-7 or, worse, one of our own Stingers, we could claim the marked aircraft was not on a spy mission. Another kind of plausible deniability. Covert guile. Cold War.
Now, CIA personnel fly into the Pakistani capital on commercial aircraft in bright daylight, irrespective of whether we’re under cover or not. Islamabad International Airport is like a tiny patch of unblemished skin on the otherwise pocked face of an impoverished country. Modern, spiffy, efficient. Much like Islamabad itself, an artificial new city which belies the hand-to-mouth existence of 172 million people.

I pass quickly through immigration and customs with my black diplomatic passport in hand – in my real name. Two people await me past the customs posts: a white face and a brown one. The former is a junior officer from Islamabad station; the latter a Pak intel agent whose excessive efforts to make himself inconspicuous have the opposite effect. His task is to follow me.

“Larry O’Connor,” the junior officer says as he offers his hand. This blond, clean-cut, horn-rim-spectacled generation-Y-er looks like he just stepped out of the Harvard MBA program – except that Harvard MBAs shun the CIA. He has been here a while, judging by his combination Indiana Jones bush jacket and caftan trousers.

After, “How was your flight?” “The weather is hell here now,” the usual banter, Larry’s face darkens. “It’s hard to operate in this place, do anything here,” he says with a gesture toward the pick-up with two armed Pak guards that leads our vehicle, itself a fully armored Toyota Landcruiser with inch-thick bullet-proof windows.

Sabrina's Comments:
The cover is eye catching but the first thought I had after seeing it was this is a war book. I expected a controversial memoir of a soldier, not a political thriller. I scanned through the thumbnails to see your cover smaller and you can't read "Tribe". The red letters melt into the gun. The message that it's a non-fiction battlefield story, not a thriller is even stronger when shrunk. The thumbnails are typically the first impression readers have of your book. You might be losing people because they think your book covers a different subject.

The blurb starts out with "Meet the main character . . ." This didn't work for me. You didn't overcome my "who cares?" factor. I don't know why I should care about him yet, so introducing him like this feels awkward.

His mission is aborted and he starts digging why? Is the mission aborted under suspicious circumstances? What is he digging into? I assume you mean the mission went side-ways, Harry got the equivalent of a shove out of the way and now he wants to know why. How it's written, I can also read it that he's just a snoop digging where he doesn't belong.

I don't like where you started the sentence with "And". Get rid of it and the sentence is fine. The information about the oil is great. I think it's perfect for the book.

"In a surprise turn of events" This phrase is unnecessary and cliche. If it's not a surprise, it's not a thriller.

You have "finds" in two sentences in a row.
Harry finds himself enmeshed in the double and triple cross of the relentless Washington political machine. In a surprise turn of events, Harry finds himself branded a traitor and fleeing for his life from jihadists in Afghanistan and Predator drones in Yemen, a target of his own CIA, while trying to rescue his kidnapped daughter.

I would word it something like:
Harry finds himself enmeshed in the double and triple crosses of the relentless Washington political machine. (Someone) brands him a traitor and he must flee for his life from jihadists in Afghanistan and Predator drones in Yemen. With the CIA's target on his back, his new mission is to rescue his kidnapped daughter at all costs. <- I want to work in the title at the end of this sentence somehow (instead of "at all costs" which is rather cliche as well) but I'm not sure how Tribe associates with the book and why it is the best title for the storyline.

First 300 words: "I used to fly into Islamabad in the dead of night" -You have my attention.
"in black C-130s" -I'm still with you for the description.
"the U.S. Air Force insignia miniaturized so that only eagles and Clark Kent could make them out" -I don't know why the insignia takes over as the subject of the sentence. You're in first person so the speaker is my focus, not a picture. I like the visual you are trying to make but not the execution.

From the book description, I thought the first paragraph was telling us about the mission that got him kicked back to America and causes him to start digging. At the start of the second paragraph I am guessing that you are talking about a decade or two before.

I love the third paragraph. Wonderful visuals! The rest of the story flows.

Over all, I know there are readers who won't buy a book in first person but I think you have a solid enough start that most people who love political thrillers would enjoy reading the book. I suggest looking at the message a reader with no knowledge of your plot line receives from the cover, study it in thumbnail size and tighten the blurb a little bit.


  1. I love books about subjects where the author is clearly familiar with the situation.

    The cover is a bit generic, and it does make me think 'war book'. It wouldn't hurt to put up a cover which looks less like a fairly random stock image.

    I like the sample. It gets into the action fairly quicly, and is written in a style appropriate for the genre.

    But the blurb really turns me off. Why? First, I'd lose the braggy comments at the start and the end. I just really, really dislike authors bragging about themselves in blurbs.

    In the large chunk of text in the middle, one that actually describes the story, I confess to getting a bit lost. By about halfway, I'm thinking: that's all very well, but what is this book about? What is the central problem that the character faces? It makes me fear that the rest of the book is as scattershot and unfocused, and the sample doesn't give me that impression.

  2. The writing seems pretty solid and basically what you'd expect for the genre. If the reviews are mostly third party and not F&F then writing is def not the issue.

    I think the bigger problem is probably with the cover and blurb. I would hire a professional cover designer and redo the cover. I'd also strongly consider other ideas for a title. The title Tribe doesn't convey political thriller very much and other titles may work better.

    The blurb could be stronger too. It just didn't grab me like it should.

  3. Yup. Cover and blurb. The "self-puffery" is a major turn off. Telling me how great the story is tells me bad things about the book.

    Also present tense. If it's done well, I don't notice and I'll read it. If I notice, the sample gets deleted.

    I noticed.

    The break between the first paragraph and second rubbed my face in it.

  4. Many thanks for the detailed feedback. Just what I needed. I did have a tighter blurb (below), but it wasn’t doing anything for sales, so I borrowed text from one of best book reviewers (Reader’s Favorite) as an experiment; I’ll likely revert to the original tighter text even though my sales have been marginally better since the change.

    Original blurb:

    "CIA ops officer Harry Brennan put months of careful planning into Operation TALISMAN, aimed at giving a knockout blow to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Then CIA headquarters shuts down TALISMAN with no explanation. As he investigates why, Harry, a rebel at heart, runs afoul of the CIA's leadership and the White House as he gets in the way of a huge oil deal, one that promises to ensure a President's re-election, troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and vast wealth to the oilmen who are behind the plot. Harry's life is in danger. Worse, so is that of his daughter, Laurie, who is kidnapped by Islamist terrorists in Yemen. Harry Brennan sets out to expose a conspiracy and in doing so, save his daughter's life.
    But Laurie’s fate is tied to that of KGB agent Nemsky’s daughter, Anya, in need of treatment for a rare disease. The two men, drawing on their respective spycraft skills and connections, form a secret and risky pact to save their daughters’ lives.
    Harry’s career takes off after he falls in love with a young and politically powerful Washington socialite. But the resulting tension between his career and commitment to the truth and to Laurie eventually compel Harry to balk and unilaterally take on the powerful. The climax has Harry, in Yemen to rescue Laurie, the target of Predator drone missiles—aimed by his CIA boss.
    The fast-paced action takes place in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Washington, DC."

    The cover was designed by a professional cover designer; the book was formatted by a professional as well. I ran the cover in various mock-ups by trusted authors and friends and settled on this one. That said, I may change it altogether, having gotten your feedback.

    The book reviews are overwhelmingly 3rd party: NYT bestselling authors, respected book review sites, Top Amazon Reviewers.

    Thanks again for this valuable advice. This is a great site.

  5. P.S. There are scenes of armed conflict in this book -- in Afghanistan and Yemen. They include armed tribal guerrillas, aircraft and drones. So, the book is not purely political thriller but a combination of political and war.

  6. I'll second what everyone else has said about the cover and blurb. I think one easy fix for the blurb is to break up that long paragraph.

    I found some grammatical errors in both the blurb and the sample.


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