Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Spaces Between

Author: Martin Gibbs
Genre: Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: Over a year
Current price: $3.29
Marketing: I have posted on Kindleboards, Amazon MOA, blogged, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads
Total sold so far: 5
Link to book on Amazon: The Spaces Between

Product Description:

An exiled warlock sits fuming in his confinement. A not-so-secret holy Order can't keep its "elite" members alive. An idiot man-child talks to a dead man who leads him nearly to his death. A Holy Temple sits waiting for new tenants as the others were slaughtered by a demonic abomination. And a bull-headed mercenary is convinced he can trek off into the great north and learn magic.

Fantasy clichés are put to the test in this off-beat and dark fantasy story. There is an adventure, a journey, a quest if you will. But the heroes, if you dare call them that, will not even come close to saving the world.

First 300 Words:


Snow burst into the icy air in a great cloud of frozen flakes. The boot that set forth the torrent was worn, but sturdy, and constructed for the harsh climate. The cloud of snow caught a light breeze and whirled up and over the ramparts—quickly the individual flakes were scattered to oblivion. Large snowflakes fell lazily from the leaden sky, but many were carried away by the breeze. The boot swept once more at the stone rampart, and its owner looked down with a critical eye. No damage. Every inch he examined was as pristine as the day it was built those hundreds of years ago. He continued his slow trek across the rampart, pausing every few feet to sweep snow away from the stone.

The steady stream of enormous snowflakes gave the atmosphere a sense of calm that was as devastating as it was serene. He shuddered underneath his thick fur coat. With a curse, he flipped the hood over his head—at any moment the light snow could turn into a driving blizzard. Calm weather in the Spires was always short-lived and too often followed by a fierce snowstorm.

There was work to be done regardless of the elements.

He glanced at the snow and sky for brief intervals; his gaze was locked on every inch of the snow-covered ramparts—black eyes darted, looking for cracks or fissures. Giving a final grunt of satisfaction, he walked swiftly back to the eastern rampart and descended a stone ladder that had been set into the wall. This section, like the others, showed little sign of wear. The castle had been pounded by wind and blizzards for nine out of twelve months over the years, and yet it still showed the glow of first building. The castle had stood for hundreds of years, and he swore he could still see the marks left by the builders. Something, or someone, had worked very hard to ensure that the building remained strong. Regardless, he had to check. He descended the ladder, finally landing in the courtyard with a soft thud. Another tuft of snow rose into the icy air.

Vicki's Comments: I like the cover. It looks very other-worldly. It's well designed, and draws my attention. The only thing that makes me pause is it really looks like a sci-fi novel instead of a fantasy novel. Now, sometimes sci-fi and fantasy mingle a bit, but in reading your blurb I'm not getting a sci-fi feeling at all. I think that's a major issue. Your cover should be enticing science fiction lovers, but when they read the blurb they probably don't want to read it because they're looking for science fiction. I would suggest re-doing the cover to catch those looking for fantasy.

The product description really needs help, in my opinion. When I pick up a book and read the description, I want a general idea of the main character and what their struggles are in the book. This description gives me several situations, but not really a plot idea or a character that I want to read more about. I'd look at getting other author's opinions on the blurb.

The first 300 words did not catch my interest. There seemed to be too much focus on the snow. There wasn't much to draw me in with the snow. The only time snow really is interesting to me is if people are stuck in a blizzard and they're going to drive off the road, freeze to death, or other such grave danger. But even then talking too much about the snow itself would take away the tension. I want to know more about the people. Which brings me to another issue. When I start reading a book, I want to know the name of the person I'm reading about. Unless there's a very good reason for withholding the name of the character, I want to know the name. (A good reason to withhold the name would be it's a mystery and the unknown character is the murderer and we can't know the name because it would give the ending away.)

I would suggest trying a different cover - one that emphasizes the fantasy genre. I would also try a different blurb. Focus more on the main character. I'd also get some advice on starting the book with a hook. It could be as easy as trimming off the first few paragraphs.

What do you guys think?


  1. I like the cover myself.

    The product description is a turn-off for me. I get that you're setting up some tropes than saying you're going to knock them down, but it needs to be a more concrete for me. Otherwise, it's just kind of me having to take your word for it.

    For one thing because you're a bit sparse with concrete detail, it's hard for me to mesh "off-beat" with "dark fantasy" story. Off-beat is often (not always admittedly) paired with things of semi-comedic nature

    I don't get if that means "dark comedy" as you've presented it or you just mean "unusual".

    The sparse detail also doesn't really detail in any substantial way how things are different from other fantasy books. I want to be shown a bit more, I suppose in the blurb in that regard. You mention they won't "save" the world, but I don't even know anything about the quest, which, I'd assume is the main thing driving the plot.

    If the strength of your story is more character interactions than plots, then maybe frame your blurb around those interactions.

  2. The cover is gorgeous, though I admit I am a bit vague on what the giant dome-thing in the back is supposed to be. [Moon? Explosion? Weird magic dome?] I will agree with the other comments saying it does look a bit more SF than Fantasy to me, but in my experience a lot of readers cross over, and as the covers primary job is to get potential readers to pause and read the product description, I think it works. (Also, it's so beautiful I would want to keep it or write the book it does go with.) The title could probably be set larger, but it's not so out of proportion that it seems amateurish.

    Product description. I am fine with the first paragraph. It reads a bit like a bulleted list, but that can work. Second paragraph, not so much. I'm good with the narrator talking to the reader in books as long as they're funny. This reads like the author telling me what to think and I don't like it. Now this might just be my prejudice, but I think content meta-statements, like "blah blah blah is an intense, off-beat, dark blah blah blah" are fine in quotes from readers. However the product description itself should instead imply those properties through a short synopsis or statement of concept. (Also, I agree off-beat and dark fantasy don't go together. Not that it can't be both, but using those terms together is somewhat confusing as to what one should expect as they don't typically go together.)

    That said, the cover and the first part of the description had me intrigued enough to want to give the book a try.

    First 300: Here's where I started to feel a sale killing problem. It's kind of repetitive. First paragraph I'm thinking, okay he's setting atmosphere, I'll bear with it. By the fourth paragraph, I want to scream. Enough with the f'ing snow already, get on with it! The lines about the condition of the castle also seem repetitive, "showed little sign of wear", yeah, it's pristine, you already said that...

    Pretty much everyone out there who's read anything on the subject of writing knows the importance of the first few paragraphs. So when I read an opening like this that's in desperate need of tightening up, my automatic expectation is that the rest of the book will be long-winded and repetitive as well, and any interest generated by cover and description goes right out the window...

    The sentences in and of themselves are good, it's just there are too many focused on the same few topics. So I'd say tighten it up a bit, rework the description a bit and you should be good.

    1. Thank you, and everyone, for the great comments! One thing I thought as I read this is: Do I even need the prologue? At first I didn't even have it, it started out at the beginning with the main character.

      I will also re-work that description!

  3. COVER: Nice.

    PD: As soon as I read the first line, I started skimming. Either you’re imitating or parodying postmodern prose: “An exiled warlock sits fuming in his confinement.”

    His “confinement”? Even if you don’t mean that he’s about to give birth, “exiled” still clashes with “confinement,” because the former means cast out and the latter also means somehow imprisoned. So he’s both exiled and imprisoned at the same time? Or do you mean that he feels imprisoned by his exile?

    Whatever the answer is to these questions, I shouldn’t be asking them.

    300: I’m hoping that all this snow-talk is meant as parody of the fantasy genre with its extended opening describing minutia. If so, it might be a little too subtle; if not, you’ve got a more serious problem.

  4. I never read books that open with the weather. It's an immediate stop for me. Personal taste, obviously, but it's the reason I wouldn't buy. I like your cover, though.

  5. I always look at the cover and try to guess the genre before even coming to this page. I was absolutely positive this was scifi. It's a good looking cover and I would save it if I were you in case you write something in that genre. For this one, you need something that screams fantasy.

    The product description makes me think of a bunch of people milling about in this story with no real purpose. By the end, I know they're not going to save the world, but are they going to try?

    Don't make me count how many times snow or snowing or snowflakes was used in the first 300 words. Instead, tell me about this guy. How important is he? Who is he? Where is he going? What is his purpose in coming to this place?

  6. The cover is great by itself, but it does set expectations that (apparently) don't match the book. I saw it, thought science fiction, and then the reference to a warlock caught me off-guard. I can think of worse surprises, but it still wasn't a positive "user experience" (to borrow a term from the tech world). I'm not sure what to suggest, since it would be a shame to scrap such a nice cover, but if you've only sold 5 copies in a year, it seems time for bold changes.

    I would recommend scrapping the blurb entirely and possibly have someone else who has read the book draft you a new one. It really did not work for me. (One of the reviews gave me a better idea of what the book is about.)

    As for the first 300 words... well, I think the "discussing the weather is too much of a cliché" bit is too much of a cliché in itself, and some scene-setting implies to me that I'm about to read a meatier story and not some hyper-paced, character-focused story with some monsters and magic thrown in to call it "fantasy." I can enjoy the latter (just as I can enjoy "space operas"), but I don't consider it to be the measure of a "good book." Like the cover, the opening of the book helps set reader expectations, and I think it's best when those expectations are honored (unless the point is to artfully diverge from them). I don't know enough about The Spaces Between to know what the pacing is like and so forth. If it is a faster-paced story that could be easily translated out of the fantasy setting, then perhaps a faster-paced beginning would be warranted.

  7. Again, thank you so much everyone for the very constructive feedback!

    At first I never had the prologue, so I think it's going to get the old axe. If it slows things down, it has to go, since I think the pacing in the middle is faster.

    Re-working the description now, will work with some others who have read it to get it right.

    Also talking with the cover designer...maybe we can figure out something a little more fantasy-focused. (I do love what they came up with though).


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