Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Blood Angel

Author: Kelly McClymer
Genre: YA, Fantasy Paranormal
How long it's been on sale: Oct 2011
Current price: $4.99
Marketing: I'm traditionally published in historical romance and chick-litty YA, all under my name, which I think lends to genre confusion for my readers. I've done some promotion: a YA blog hop, a promotional thread on GoodReads with some other YA authors, Kindle Select (only 5 borrows; and around 1000 FREE "sales").
Total sold so far: 50
Link to book on Amazon: Blood Angel

Product Description:

Jamie Stone has one friend left, Amy Davidson, and she’s not sure she is his friend anymore. After all, he killed her and now her ghost, or spirit, or whatever she is, seems to be stuck visiting him in jail. Amy hadn’t been planning to die that day, but she had been to confession the previous Sunday and knew she should by rights be in Heaven. But if she is, life in Heaven is as confusing as life on Earth because her afterlife hasn’t come with an instruction manual. It’s come with a one-on-one connection with her killer, who used to be her best friend and now is the only person who can see her, hear her, and possibly help her figure out how to get wherever it is she needs to go. 

First 300 Words:

That anyone survives high school, when I think about it, is a tribute to the power of mind over murder. I know it's tempting to ask why so many, but maybe the better question is why so few? So many minds seeking escape. So, relatively, little murder.

If I were going to paint high school, I'd need a canvas the size of the Atlantic ocean. Angular cement block buildings shaded some faded mix of puke and dinge best called Dismal Days. Fake wood desks with metal legs so shiny and hard-edged you can practically hear the echo when they scrape against the tiled floors. Metal lockers that special shad of grime gray that instantly recalls the frantic between-class open and shut clang. Oh, and high out of reach bells and big faced clocks that count off the seconds between eruptions that go off in some design only God and the principal understand, but which everyone – even the janitor – responds to like poor Pavlov's dog.

The round black bombs with fuses springing from the top that cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote use? That's how I'd paint the students. Bombs with backpacks. And maybe some teachers, too, although they'd be bigger, slightly more sophisticated and capable of triggering all the little bombs wedged into rows of desks.

Vicki's Comments: There are some elements of the cover I really like. I think the typography is done really well. I love the torn look on the side of the page. Design wise, it's well mapped out. I'm not sure the photo is drawing me in, though. Much of it is dark and hard to see. The face of the angel is obscured, which gives me a distanced feeling. The wings almost look hand-drawn in. I'm not sure that's the look you're going for. I'd give the cover a bit of a makeover.

The description is pretty good, but a little confusing. The first sentence seems to start out in Jamie's point of view, but then switches to Amy's point of view in the middle. The he's and she's seem to be wrong. And it doesn't help that Jamie can be a male or female name. I also would like more conflict in the description. She is in Heaven, or on the "other side" and now needs to get somewhere. Fine. What are the stakes? What happens if she doesn't reach her goal? The stakes need to be higher, in my opinion. Who is the antagonist? Because I get the feeling that Jamie isn't it. I like the premise of the book, but I would tighten up the blurb. That will help a lot, in my opinion.

The beginning is good. I did find one mistake - shad instead of shade - so I might suggest a proofreader go through it once more. But the voice of the character is good. I did find myself getting sucked into the monologue, which is good because I tend to gravitate toward action beginnings. (Not necessarily bombs or car chases, but the main character doing something.) The fact that I got interested in this is a good sign. I think the writing is good.

In my opinion, I would tweak the cover image and the blurb. I think it will sell better after that. What do you guys think?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mandate 33

Author: Nick Lombardi
Genre: Literary
How long it's been on sale: May 2011
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Networking on Amazon chat forums, social networking on Facebook, Kijiji ad, Craigslist ad, got involved with a couple of sites where authors can get interviewed/featured/reviewed, Just recently offered it up for free as part of a free book promotion day, where 535 copies were downloaded in one day.
Total sold so far: 32
Link to book on Amazon: Mandate 33

Product Description:

In Corpopolis, under the rule of a dictator, only citizens carrying government-issued parenting licenses are legally allowed to bear children. Any child in the custody of adults without a parenting license will be eliminated. The law is passed, they say, to protect children from unfit parents. But certain citizens who doubt the motives of the Corpopolis government soon begin to ask questions, and stumble onto a plot which threatens the future of the entire country...and themselves. 

First 300 Words:

The screams were loudest at night, when the soldiers came out. They executed their raids with fine precision, rooting through crevices and nooks with the snouts of their rifles and not touching any of it with their hands. When they found what they were looking for, they dealt with it. When something could not be contained, their whistles shrieked and the soldiers moved forth to corral the fugitives.

The streets were empty and hopping full all at once—empty of civilians and coursing with military personnel. The officers scoured every cranny and trashcan and back alley, anywhere a criminal could be stashed for safekeeping. They peered under cars and then inside the cars, their flashlights swinging around to point in the cabs. If something suspicious was spotted inside the car—like a duffel bag on the floor or a throw blanket that looked lumpy enough to hide something—they would spin their rifles around and punch at the windows with the butts ends to get in and inspect closer. Nearly every instance was a false alarm.

The soldiers assigned to crawlspace detail marched the streets in brisk jogtrots, as they had much ground to cover. Flashlights and reflectors fixed to their helmets aided them. Things were upturned, and lots of cobwebs snapped and broken. Large pieces of decayed plywood which capped stairwells like splintery throw rugs were kicked aside with feet clad in black shoes, the soldiers looking for the dirt swept underneath.

Vicki's Comments: I like the cover. The font is clean and I like the treatment. I like the image too. However, this doesn't give me a 'literary' feeling. I'm wondering if the book cover isn't giving the wrong message about the book. To me, it says thriller.

The description is wonderful. My only nit pick would be to focus on a character, someone fighting this system. Maybe someone who is hiding a child, who lives in fear each day? I want to connect with a character. Other than that, I love the premise of this novel and would love to know more. However, the description doesn't say 'literary' to me either. By the description, I would expect a fast paced thriller.

I felt distanced from the beginning of the book. I would prefer to see this happening from the viewpoint of a character. Right now it seems like an omniscient being who is narrating. I feel no fear, because the omniscient being is not in any danger. They're just telling what is happening. I am interested in what is happening, but I would prefer to feel like I'm there in the action, crouched down hiding from a soldier. I'm not getting a literary vibe from the writing, however I am the first to admit I don't read literary novels so I'm probably a bad person to ask. I would see what others say.

Hopefully the book focuses on a character soon. I might chop the beginning omniscient POV and start with the character. I would also focus the blurb on that character as well.

What do you guys think?

Malice: A Supernatural Thriller

Author: Griffin Hayes
Genre: Horror Thriller
How long it's been on sale: Sept 27, 2011
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Giveaways, advertising (Goodreads. Facebook), interviews, guest blogs
Total sold so far: 400-500
Link to book on Amazon: Malice: A Supernatural Thriller

Product Description:

When a series of shocking suicides rock the small town of Millingham, Massachusetts, the authorities are left with a single, chilling question. Why are all the victims gouging their eyes out? 

Only seventeen-year-old Lysander Shore knows these aren't suicides at all. There's a serial killer stalking the people of Millingham. One that murders at will and never leaves a trace.

Before long, the trail of bodies leads Lysander to a dark secret that traces back to a witch's trial and execution 350 years ago. The deeper he digs, the more he realizes the victims aren't nearly as random as they seem. In fact, the killer has a list and Lysander is next.

First 300 Words:

The stranger grinned and his sunken cheeks made his face look like a skull.

"Go on, Lysander," his father, Glenn, scolded. "Shake the man's hand."

Lysander Shore's family hadn’t been in Millingham longer than a week, but he was sure somehow he had met this man somewhere before. Maybe filling bags at the grocery store or delivering mail down the street? This was going to torture him the whole day.

Lysander stuffed his lunch into his knapsack and then slowly held out his hand. The cold palm that slid into his a second later made Lysander's stomach turn. His father must have noticed the discomfort on Lysander's face, because Glenn's cheeks flushed with embarrassment. At least for once it wasn't about Lysander's black nail polish or matching combat boots.

"You'll have to excuse the mess," Glenn said, clearing a place on the couch where the stranger could sit. "We're still getting settled."

A pin on the lapel of the man's suit jacket read “Peter Hume” and below that “Zellermann’s.” He was probably an insurance guy, Lysander thought, here about the fire that had destroyed their old house in Hayward.

The two men spoke about how the house was a complete write-off, his father running through a list of things that were destroyed, when Peter Hume peered up at Lysander. The odd glint in his eye instantly made Lysander uneasy.

“Do you have any pictures?” Hume asked Glenn. “So we can take inventory of what you lost.”

“Yeah,” Glenn said, looking at his watch. “You need those now? I gotta leave for work.”

Hume smiled apologetically. "I'm afraid so."

Glenn sighed, as he always did when asked to do something menial but necessary, and headed for the kitchen. “You want something to drink?”

“Earl Grey would be nice.”

"That's the only tea we have," Glenn said robotically. He seemed dazed. Or was he hypnotized? Lysander couldn't tell which.

Hume's eyes were shining. "Legend has it an old Chinese man gave Lord Grey the recipe for saving his son's life, if you believe that sort of thing."

His father shrugged and disappeared into the kitchen.

Now Lysander and Peter Hume were alone and the air in the room seemed to drop ten degrees. Slowly, the smile disappeared from Hume's face.

“You were warned not to come here,” Hume said, his voice gravelly, almost hoarse. Lysander peered down at Hume's scalp and saw the man's translucent flesh squeezing the plates of his skull together.

Lysander's breath caught in his throat.

“He knows, Lysander." Hume's voice was more forceful. Desperate. "Knows you’re here. He knew the minute you arrived. Felt you crossing the town line, just like I did.”


Love the cover. Seriously. That's not your issue. I wouldn't change that at all.

I really liked the book description. Very intriguing. I would read this based on the cover and book description. The price would stop me though. I like the .99 cent or free books. This may be your issue.

I'm not in love with the first sentence of your 1st 300.
By the 3rd sentence I can see the writing could use some love. These sentences aren't flowing as well as I might like. An adverb here, passive wording there, and some tightening up of sentences is needed. For some reason I am wondering why we are using the name Glenn. This is from Lysander's POV, so his father, father, in my thinking would work better. I'm sure you have a reason for that, though. It's just something I'm noticing. But that ending to the 1st 300 totally grabbed me by the throat and made me want to read. I don't think it's the writing that's keeping people from buying the book.

I think this book will take off eventually for you. Sounds like the plot line is very good. I read your reviews and aside from the one 2-star review, the rest were flattering. For me, this tells me you need to play with the price.  You have quite a few books out. How have those done for you? This one seems to have a good number of reviews. I'd say it's time to play with price or look at tightening up the writing. I think your audience just needs to find you. This one is actually confusing. It should be selling.

I hope others chime in here to give their thoughts. This book looks to be right up my alley.

Gina M. Barlean

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

One Insular Tahiti (a novel of reincarnation)

Author: Thea Atkinson
Genre: literary paranormal (is that a genre?)
How long it's been on sale: 18 months
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: book reviews, social media, blurb doctor edit of blurb, new covers
Total sold so far: 100
Link to book on Amazon: One Insular Tahiti (a novel of reincarnation)

Product Description:

Luke MacIsaac is dead, and not restfully dead. His death has come the way he always feared it would: in the claustrophobic, underground heat of a Cape Breton coal mine. He had suspected it would end this way, had embraced it even, so while his body is buried, his soul settles into a watery existence of endless waiting.

But in short order the placid waters of his afterlife turn to rolling seas of time and memory as his violent past plays out again for him. Images of war, childhood abuse, and the tortured life of a brother he loved and failed threaten to inundate him.

More than anything, he wants to escape.

In his confusion and pain, he senses a kindred spirit in Astrid, a newborn struggling to stay alive. Luke helps her in hopes she may one day be the one who brings him out of his purgatory and into a new incarnation.

What he doesn't realize is that Astrid's soul is linked to his own hellish past life and that he has selected her because of it. In order to live again, he must experience all the anguish they went through together, and watch helplessly as Astrid goes through sorrows of her own.

Can he endure those memories long enough to make the connection and find forgiveness? 

First 300 Words:

My death in '59 came the way I always feared it would: in the claustrophobic underground heat of a Cape Breton coal mine. The tunnel had been inching its way below the Atlantic for decades, and I'd picked and hacked my own way further into it day by day until, when an inevitable collapse happened, I wasn't surprised. Just very pissed off.

I must have known it was coming, embraced it, even, because my limbs went deaf to the warnings from my hung-over brain. From behind me, my name, yelled out by the foreman: Luke. God, he's trapped. Someone get him outta there. I couldn't breathe; I knew I couldn't breathe, and yet the scent of apples came to me anyway. Sammy, I thought. Sammy or Gran come to get me, bring me to purgatory.

Funny how the deceased can have such a living scent. Everything went black under the weight of dirt and coal. And so now I'm here. Waiting. Except all is not quiet. Not anymore. Not like it used to be when I first realized I was dead. There's the sound of swells and wind now as though death were an ocean that overcomes me now and then with memories of my last life. It makes me think of Melville with his great whale and his Ishmael who was meant to be some sort of symbol for God knows what.

Meanwhile, I float in water, or swim, or spin freely as though I were a day old embryo struggling to join the lining of a womb. So maybe water does link me with Ishmael in a strange way: maybe it's the womb of fluid that cannot be escaped, the source of all, the infinite mother. Salvation.

Brah. God, too, could be a white whale beneath me; I've never so much as felt a bump. And if Ishmael means God hears, then my death and quiet appearance onto this god-forsaken empty ocean only proves to me that prayer is the voice of desperation.

Vicki's Comments: I usually start with the cover, but with this one I'm going to start with the genre. The author listed this as literary paranormal, and then in parenthesis added "Is that a genre??" This tells me mountains of information. If the author can't say for sure if that is a genre, how are the readers going to know if they want to read this book? Like it or not, book sales hinge on the reader being able to tell at a glance what type of book they are getting. If the type of book is obscure, or something the reader has never experienced, the reader won't know how to classify the book. Sure, new genres pop up all the time, but they are sub-genres of already well known classifications and they ride on the coattails of the larger well-known genres until they are known for themselves.

Paranormal is huge. We might be able to get away with riding on the coattails of the paranormal genre if this genre has enough of that to satisfy the readers of paranormal fiction. The problem here is that literary is not huge. It's a niche market, and one that appeals to a certain type of reader. I'd be very interested to know how many people who love paranormal fiction are also looking for a deep literary read. I'm guessing the percentage is pretty low. And I'm pretty sure that literary fiction lovers in general are not that into paranormal fiction.

Here we have a problem. We have created a new genre, crossing two genres that are nothing alike. We have a huge popular genre that could be tapped into - the paranormal - and yet if you package this book to sell to the paranormal lovers you're going to get a poor response because the majority of them are not looking for a literary read.

Without even looking at the cover, blurb, price or sample, I'm guessing this is the main reason this book isn't selling. It's going to appeal to a small percentage of people. Now, I don't think that this book could NEVER sell well. I know I've bought books that initially wouldn't have appealed to me because a friend told me it was fantastic and I took a chance on it. I just think it's going to be one of those books that has a very slow build, and only if it gets into the hands of people who end up loving it and being passionate about telling others to read it.

Now, on to the normal stuff. I'm looking at this cover and I really want to like it. There are elements of it that I like. But I think there are a few things that could be improved. The type is a big one for me. I don't like the white outline on "One Insular" or the black outline on "Tahiti." I like the little boy on the beach, but it took me a while before I saw the stars on the bottom, and I have no idea what the blue streaks are. It's not giving me a paranormal vibe, and I really wish it were. I do think it gives more of a literary vibe, for me at least. Which is another reason it's floundering in sales. Literary = Niche. I don't necessarily think the cover needs to be changed, although I would love to see the type changed. I think the type needs to look more professional.

I like the description. I think it works. I'm not getting the normal 'genre fiction' vibe from it, which is probably because this isn't a normal genre fiction book. Again, this is why it's going to struggle, but I do think the description will appeal to those looking for a more literary read. And for those looking for literary paranormal, I think this hits the nail on the head. We just need more people looking for literary paranormal.

The beginning of the book is good. And it definitely give me the literary vibe. The character's voice is strong, and that's appealing. I don't think there's anything wrong with the writing. I think this book is going to be a slow mover because of what it is. That's probably not the best news, because there's no quick fix to get this book off and running. I'm guessing this book will gain loyal fans. Take advantage of them. Get them to spread the word about the book. Hopefully that will help sales.

What do you guys think?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Author: Tareq Hassan
Genre: Thriller/Espionage
How long it's been on sale: 3 months
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Amazon KDP Select Free Giveaway.  Also just purchased Kindle Nation Email Blast
Total sold so far: 200 (Gave away 1300 copies on a free Select promotion.)
Link to book on Amazon: Trade

Product Description:

"Hassan doesn't take a simple or mundane route with his story, he invites the reader to immerse himself (or herself) in the scene, using sound, smell, touch, and layers of delicately conceived detail and texture. This is a thriller for both the casual reader and the literary minded."  5 out of 5 Stars

"This author has either spent time in the Middle East or has done extensive research into the 'War on Terror' topic as the plot hinges on a type of criminal scheming that only an insider understands well enough to explain."  5 out of 5 Stars

"I don't know what the author's background is, but he writes with the authority and attention of detail of someone with background in either the intelligence services or the military..."  5 out of 5 Stars

"A well written and accessible novel despite the 'speciality-speak.'"  5 out of 5 Stars

"I have never written a review on Amazon before, but felt compelled to do so after reading. Great read with compelling characters."  5 out of 5 Stars

Patricia Foley, anti-semite, homophobe, and previously one of the CIA's rising stars, has been exiled to the basement for the past ten years. Chase Anderson, Chief of the Near East Division and Pat's former mentor, feels partially responsible for her fall from grace. Pete Marcone and Adriel Parish, FBI, have penetrated a domestic cell of Muslim extremists, and the Powers-that-Be want the success leveraged into an international operation. Anderson offers the simple hand-holding exercise to Pat, but Pat has plans of her own. And figuring into those plans, Danny Golan, Israeli master spy, Pat's former lover, and the principal cause of her misfortunes.

Then 9/11 happens.

First 300 Words:

Samer Ajdad walks the tunnels.  The tunnels contain enough provisions to sustain a small army.  Food, clothes, medicine, rumors of gold even.  Samer rides the colossal escalator up then takes John Street all the way down to the river.

Which is where he sees him again.  A white-haired apparition in a frayed suit making unscheduled appearances outside some of the largest financial institutions in the world.  Lanky, old before his time, and to anyone with an eye for it, a soul partial to the needle.  But a tilt of the head, a raised roman nose, and the bearing of an aristocrat.

Hawkable items of every kind teeter around him.  Samples flow freely through the crowd, which consists principally of secretaries in stilettos and young turks in get-one-free suits.  The man’s voice booms above the din.  The sales patter never once falters or hesitates.  It cajoles, seduces, and finally irresistibly commands all to part with their lunchtime change.  This is a tired junkie scraping together the day’s fix, but also an artisan of the old school, his skills on display at the epicenter of the financial universe. 

Up on the sidewalk in tailored suits stand the middle-aged and the ancient.  These are the titans, and they sometimes venture out to watch a master at work.

Within minutes, the mountain of junk is reduced to a few discarded boxes.  The old man makes his way to the subway, a newfound spring to his step.  The titans retreat, murmuring within earshot of their young junk bond and penny stock-selling associates, “Now that’s how shit is peddled.”

Samer, smiling, happy, makes his way back to the glass tower home of Trevers and Hown, Limited Liability Partners, with a countertop grill in one hand and a foot massager in the other.

Vicki's Comments: The cover makes me think this is a non-fiction book. It looks like a book on business. To me, it doesn't have a thriller vibe at all. On the plus side, the title is large and easy to read, and in a nice font. The author's name is a bit small, but again I do like the clean font. The cover does look professional, even if it doesn't give me the right genre message. It could just be me, so I would get some other opinions on it.

You start your description with reviews. I would not do that, unless you have a review from Stephen King or some other person of note. If people want to read the reviews, they are easy to find down below. Start your description with the book.

The story description isn't bad, it just feels a bit clinical to me. Maybe because it's not really written in a character's voice? I'm not sure. But I do think there's a good story here. I would get some help with the blurb. I'd like to get a feeling for the main character. As it stands, I'm not sure who the protagonist is. Is it Chase, or Pete? I hope it's not Patricia, I'm not really liking her from the description. I hope she's the antagonist. I'd like to get more of a feeling of who I'm going to be sharing my time with.

The opening. I'll confess, I'm not a fan of present tense. I cringe a bit involuntarily when I read it. I usually put a book down if I'm looking to find something for my leisure reading, unless someone has highly recommended it. Now, for the good news. I really enjoyed this beginning. I had a few minor nit picks, but the description and characters sucked me in. I found myself visualizing the scene and having a pleasant experience. I admit, this is rare for me. Usually I take several pages or even a few chapters before I get sucked into a story. This was a refreshing beginning for me.

The nit picks? I would have liked to see the first and second sentences combined. I didn't like the sentence fragment. I know they're in right now, but that one bothered me. Like I said, pretty nit picky. I think this book needs a new cover and a description tweak. If I sampled this book I would keep reading.

What do you guys think?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Hurricane Regina

Author: Jason Z. Christie
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy Adventure
How long it's been on sale: 5 months
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Blogging, Facebook, Twitter, Interviews
Total sold so far: 4
Link to book on Amazon: Hurricane Regina

Product Description:

Hurricane Regina is a return to the golden days of sci-fi/fantasy. Inspired by Asimov and Heinlein, it's a grand, sweeping adventure in the tradition of 40s cliffhangers.

Regina Long, the President's daughter, has been kidnapped by a man who claims to rule the world. It's up to Captain Dan Nolan to rescue her and save the world...from her. He travels to the bottom of the ocean, Iceland, Nova Scotia and beyond as the world comes apart at the seams.

If she can turn the tables on Tom, her captor, she can gain his mastery over the planet. Far from needing rescue, she wants solitude. Regina has other plans. Without care toward the havoc she wreaks, she reshapes the world in her own image, and considers exercising ultimate power.

Experience the cataclysm that is...Hurricane Regina. 

First 300 Words:

Captain Dan stood at the rails of his ship, sternly and stoically surveying the choppy waters.

"Sir, we're just about out of fuel. We don't have enough to make another pass and get to port before she hits, sir,” Yeoman Clancy pointed out respectfully, in accordance to his duties.

"Yeoman,” the captain said through gritted teeth, never taking the binoculars from his eyes. "If you don't shut up with your nonsense concerns, I am going to throw you overboard." The statement was delivered calmly, evenly, seriously.

Clancy imperceptibly nodded to a man who wasn't looking, and dismissed himself in silence.
His own reaction gave the captain pause. He wasn't known as "The Highest High-C On the Bloody High-Seas" for nothing. Whatever they actually meant by it. He knew his crew loved him like no other, harsh taskmaster or not.

Still, all this for a stowaway?

Twenty minutes later, Clancy returned. An observant captain would have noticed the liquid courage on his breath, steeling himself with alcohol as he did to gain the confidence for another confrontation with his mentor. The world had forced Dan to relocate permanently to the ocean in order to save a shred of his fading humanity. It always came to this, in the student-teacher relationship.

"Sir, we c- ngh,” Clancy emitted, as Captain Dan's left hand raised up silently and backhanded him into unconsciousness.

He saw...something, out there, in her. Her being the sea. Everything was a she when you lived on the ocean with a bunch of hard legs. But he knew his feelings. He trusted them above all. His instincts and feelings made him who his was. And he was the best rogue pilot the NAU Navy could afford.

He radioed the contower. "Kill the engines, and drop some boats,” he said. "I want everyone awake, in these boats, rowing and searching until we find her again. Now,” he gritted. "Move!”

Vicki's Comments: I think the cover needs work. The fancy font at the top is hard to read, and the white drop shadow doesn't look professional. I would suggest getting rid of the blue background. I also don't get a genre feeling from the picture. I can't tell what kind of book I'm getting. It looks like a vacation brochure. My suggestion would be to hire a cover artist. They don't have to be expensive. I attended a conference this weekend where Mark Coker spoke. I learned that if you send an email to, you will get an auto-responder email that lists low cost cover artists and book formatting specialists. That's one place you can start.

I would cut the first paragraph of the description. It's usually not a good idea to start by telling the reader what to expect. The description should give the reader this flavor. If a description starts out: "I wish I hadn't died in a public bathroom," you know right away the book is going to be humorous. The author doesn't need to start out by saying, "This book is a humorous look at the afterlife."

The next part of the description confused me. The kidnapping doesn't seem to have a point. If the world is going to be destroyed by her, I'm not sure how the kidnapping comes into play. I would get some suggestions from other authors on how to improve the description.

The beginning of the novel needs some work in my opinion. I would join a critique group and post a few chapters. is a good one. I got confused a few times, I think there are point of view shifts and unclear pronouns and unnecessary adverbs. With some tightening up, I think this book would do much better.

What do you guys think?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Terra Incognita: The Abyss

Author: Joshua Mays
Genre: Dark Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: 10 months
Current price: $.99
Marketing: I've connected with people on Facebook. Given out 50 copies at dragoncon. Sent various emails to review sites.
Total sold so far: 100
Link to book on Amazon: Terra Incognita: The Abyss

Product Description:

Benjamin Harking is an independent teenager who often comes home from his boarding school to an empty house. During one lonely Christmas vacation, he finds a hidden room, secreted away beneath the stairwell. Inside is an ancient book that opens a doorway into a dark world of myth and magic. Forced on a quest for four magical items, Ben will face danger at every turn, meet new allies, and do whatever it takes to complete his goals before the evil Azothothus has a chance to exact his plans -the awakening of the primeval beings known only as the Hollow. 

First 300 Words:

Benjamin Harking stood on the threshold of his home and knocked on the half-open door, reluctant to enter. The hollow sound was amplified by the size of the foyer and the lack of furniture. He felt awkward coming back to this place; even after almost two years it hadn’t yet become home to him. The sudden change in lifestyle had come so quickly that he still wasn’t used to the idea of being rich. His dad had been offered a major promotion and the next thing Ben knew, they had moved into this oversized house and he was off to boarding school to get a “proper” education. The house was so large that his family had once gone a full day at home without seeing each other. It was over a hundred years old, which made it a little creepy on late nights when everything was still and quiet. The creaks and groans were loud enough to stir them from a deep sleep.

The Victorian-style mansion was located in the northern panhandle of West Virginia, near Morgantown.  They were miles from their nearest neighbor and even farther from any semblance of civilization. Ben missed his friends from Papillion, Nebraska, but he understood his father couldn’t turn down that promotion. He knew that he couldn’t blame his family for this, but it didn’t change how he felt. He wondered if they realized what they had asked of him, to give up his entire life in an instant, just to be dropped into a new and unfamiliar one. Did they understand what it felt like for him to have everything he loved taken from him and replaced with something new and unwelcoming?

As his suitcase hit the hard marble floor, he called out, “Is anyone here?” The sound of his voice had a slight echo in the vastness of the hallways and corridors, but no one replied.

Vicki's Comments: First, I like some aspects of the cover. I like the symbol, and I think the weathered/grunge look is good. There are some things I don't like about the cover. I don't think the overall design is working. In order to explain what I mean, I'm going to break the cover down into a few simplistic shapes.

Here you can see the basic design of the book cover. The cover is divided *almost* in half by the top of the paper that the title is on. It's not quite in half, but it's close enough. When you're dividing up your space, it's best not to divide right in half. It's a design thing.

The top of the paper is also at a slight angle, which creates an uncomfortable feeling for me. It's not enough of an angle to create an interesting shape, but just slightly off, like it was meant to be straight but someone bumped it. The edge of the paper is too close to both sides, running off the edge on the one side, creating another uncomfortable element.

I rather like the symbol on top, but it's closer to the bottom paper thing than it is to the top of the page, which again makes me uncomfortable.

Now, let's look at the basic design on another fantasy novel, one that was traditionally published.

This book has the same round symbol element, however they broke up the type to the top and bottom and used a very linear font to create rectangular shapes, rather than using a font that created more organic or curvy shapes. Basically, all they did was "frame" the middle with type on top and bottom, and they broke up the space into thirds rather than in half.

Now, I'm not suggesting you copy this cover exactly, however, there's nothing wrong with creating a similar design. There's also nothing wrong with moving things around and trying something new. Just be aware of some of the basic design rules. Here's a great video talking about composition.

On to the description. I think there are many things in the description that could be applied to a lot of fantasy novels. I'd like to know more about what sets this book apart from the rest. A magic book. A quest. A world to save. These things are pretty universal. I'd rather find the unique things about this book and put a different spin on the description. But don't just take my word for it, because I'm much better at graphic design than I am at nit-picking blurbs. And I'm not much of a fantasy fan, so my opinion means even less.

The beginning isn't terrible, but I would like less back story and more of the scene. I'd like the back story to be given to me in little bits. But that's just me. Others might feel differently. I do think it's well written. And I like that your main character has conflict right away - coming home to an old creepy house with no one inside. Good job on that.

I think with a cover re-design, tightening up the blurb, and possibly cutting the back story from the beginning, the book will be much improved. What do you guys think?