Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Evangeline Heresy

Author: Thayer Berlyn
Genre: Supernatural Suspense/Dark Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: November 29, 2011
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Goodreads, Book Blogs, Book Marketing Network, My Creative Intent, Wordpress, Xanga, Blogger, Twitter, Authors Den, Red Room, Kindle Boards Book Bazaar, Amazon Meet our Authors, Indie Book List (recently submitted).  Recently signed up for Linkedin.
Total sold so far: 35 books UK, 10 USA (approximately 1500 total on free downloads Feb/March KDP Select)
Link to book on Amazon: The Evangeline Heresy: a novel of Dark Fantasy and Supernatural Suspense

Product Description: 

Deep in the green forest, there exists a creature unlike any other. Some say a witch, but some say a lot of things.

Dr. Ethan Broughton has agreed to investigate a potent medicinal plant, and a rumor of curative miracles on Porringer Hill in East Tennessee. What he finds, is an isolated community of disturbing superstition centered on one woman, Ana Lagori, a local apothecary with a mysterious ability to heal all wounds. What at first seems little more than a clever deception, soon propels Ethan into an abyss of shadowy forest haunts, unsettling interactions and the perilous web of a legacy that traces its origin back to antiquity.

First 300 Words:

The notes of Dr. Ethan Broughton

Boston, Massachusetts

It was the morning some kind of holy sprite dropped from a flowering hawthorn tree.
In the spring of 1935, Dr. Leland Broughton and two colleagues were hiking alongside the Cutler creek in search of a rare botanical, known in mountain lay term as blue poke: a delicate wild plant with a velvety sapphire blossom resembling a small pouch. When squeezed between the fingertips, this scarce bloom produces a warm, purplish juice with acute antiseptic properties. Broughton discovered reference to the plant in the writings of one Dr. Charles Holt from Durham, who, himself, described an observation of its curative powers in 1928, at the hands of a "granny" in East Tennessee.
The wonder of either testimony or madness came when the adventurous Dr. Broughton clipped the backside of a nesting pit viper with his boot heel.
Flushed under the maturating toxin spreading from his inner thigh, Broughton waited alone for his comrades to return with aid, by way of a homestead not a quarter mile down creek side. Through a sediment of increasing delirium, he watched the milky figure of a strikingly pale young woman slip from her hidden perch on a nearby hawthorn branch and, with preternatural calm, move closer to assess the wound with a critical eye. She whispered, then, an unusual inquiry, which brushed against Broughton's ear like the swaying fronds of a wild fern. He breathed a heavy gasp in response, nearly losing consciousness when the woman’s front teeth molded into the grooved fangs of the deadly serpent. He cried out, in agony, when those hollow spears tore deep into the injury.

Comments: I kind of like the image of the girl on the cover, although it makes me think it's a paranormal story instead of a fantasy. The title is very small and hard to read. I'm also not sure what an Evangeline Heresy is. I mean, I know that heresy is, but it doesn't seem to work well in the title. I think readers like to be challenged a little, but starting out by confusing the reader might not be a great idea. I would suggest at least making the title larger, and possibly changing the name.

The blurb was hard to read because of all the misplaced commas. I would get help with it from an editor. Most editors will help with the blurb if you hire them to edit the book. The comma issue in the description makes me think the book is unedited and makes me want to stay away.

As for the content of the description, I think there are some things going for it. I like the ability to heal all wounds bit. I don't like that the beginning calls her a creature. This makes me think of big foot or some other hairy monster. There's also some vague language used, which doesn't help the reader figure out what kind of a book they are getting. Things like "creature unlike any other - an abyss of shadowy forest haunts - unsettling interactions - perilous web of a legacy." These are too vague and don't help me visualize what I'm going to be reading about.

Consider this book blurb:

When something unexpected happens to Mary, she takes the initiative and puts things into her own hands. Transported into a whole new world, Mary must try to figure out who is a friend and who is an enemy. The tension increases when Mary is put into more difficult situations. With everything on the line, Mary finds herself making the choices no person ever wants to make.

What kind of a book is this? Is this set in future times? The past? Is she in the forest, or a city? Does she move to a new place or get transported through a time machine? Is this book like the Chronicles of Narnia or like The Hunger Games? I can't tell a blessed thing from the vague sentences here. And yet, we as authors love to use these kinds of phrases when we write our book blurbs. The best thing I ever did was type up each sentence in Word on a separate line and pick it apart, looking for vague stuff, and cutting it out making it more specific. I would try that with this blurb.

The beginning of the book confuses me. It states these are the notes of Dr. Ethan Broughton, and yet it doesn't read like his notes at all past the first sentence. I would expect his notes to be written in first person. I would suggest taking out the bit about his notes. We should be able to figure out we are in the Dr.'s perspective by the writing.

The rest of the opening is all back story. It's told like we are looking back at what has happened. This doesn't bring the reader into the book. I want to know what is happening right now, not what happened a while ago. Show these things happening in the moment, rather than telling it like it's back story. Unfortunately I would suggest rewriting the beginning and possibly getting some help from a critique group. My favorite is

What do you guys think?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Authors: Nicholas Faraday & Heidi Fuqua
Genre: Science Fiction / Horror
How long it's been on sale: July 31, 2011
Current price: $3.49
Marketing: Facebooked, twittered, changed price points ($4.99, $2.99, $3.49, reduced price to .99 and was featured on Michael Gallagher's blog
Total sold so far: 50
Link to book on Amazon: EUROPA

Product Description: 

By the year 2123 climate change has decimated the Earth's most precious resource, her oceans. Worldwide droughts have created massive deserts where lush countryside once existed. The seas have turned toxic and the polar caps have disappeared. With its habitat quickly shrinking, humanity needs a silver bullet. Ten teams have been dispatched to Jupiter's sixth moon, Europa, and are tasked with retrieving a micro-organism known as Archaelleonous from the frozen moon's sub-ice liquid ocean. This precious resource is believed to be the key to restoring life to the Earth's oceans and resetting the climate.

Told from the perspective of each crew member, this is the story of the last days of Galileo Team 10. Six and a half years into a mission besieged with tragedy, complications and conflict, the diverse crew battles inner demons, mysterious afflictions, and each other in the quest for success. Millions of lives hang in the balance as the seven crew members risk everything in the harshest climate humans have ever ventured, on EUROPA.

First 300 Words: (Note From Author: Because each chapter is written from a different character's perspective, the first 300 words aren't really representative of the bulk of the book.)

"Nature is relentless and unchangeable, and it is indifferent as to whether its hidden reasons and actions are understandable to man or not." -Galileo Galilei, 1564-1642 CE



I f***g hate it here.

My bones are cold.

The chill sinks to the depths of my soul.

It settles in and there's no warmth left.

The Station is warm.

And I'm still f***g cold.

Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap.

Tapping the eraser on the paper doesn't warm my soul but it helps with the numbers.

















It helps me count something tangible.

Something real.

The eraser is real.

The paper is real.

The noise is real. In theory.

I scribble through the writing on the paper.

Try again.

Cold gets in my bones

It sinks deep into my soul

Til there is no warmth

A f***n' haiku.

G****n numbers based.

That means the numbers are coming back.

The g****n numbers.

I'm due.

Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tick, tap, tap, tick, tap, tick, tap, tap, tick, tap, tap.

The clock on the wall ticks out of sync.

It throws my count off and the fractals come back.

My count is accurate.

Like everything else here, time freezes.

Staring at the clock doesn't make it move any faster.

My attention returns to the paper on the desk.

The paper darkens from a spatter of sweat.

A cardioid with three period bulbs.

Of course it is.

Did I touch my forehead?

 My fingertips are wet.

I attempt to wipe the sweat away with the back of my hand.

More cardioids splatter on my haiku.

The anticipation.

The clock still hasn't moved.

Comments: I like a lot of things about the cover. I like the eye. I love the fonts. I do like that the eye changes into something else at the top, but I can't tell what it is. That hurts the effectiveness of the cover in my mind. If I could tell at a glance what that is, I would like it better. I might like a dead world type of a scene on top, since your description talks about deserts and dry land. But overall I do like the cover. Nice job.

The description starts out good. I like the first paragraph. It gives me a succinct background and introduces me to the world, and what the conflict is. My problem comes in the second paragraph. This is where I was expecting to be introduced to the character I would spend my time with during the book. I would prefer the second paragraph to focus on one of the main characters. Sharing the spotlight equally between ten characters seems like a very hard thing to do successfully. I have a hard time with three or four main characters. Ten would be very difficult for me to write, and possibly difficult to read. It would have to be done very well. (And I'm not talking ten minor characters, I mean ten major characters who we get inside their head and get to know very well.)

I know the author said the first 300 words doesn't portray the entire book, however most people start reading and think the beginning of the novel gives them a real taste of how the novel is going to read. This book starts out deep into one character's mind. I assume his name is Ganesh. There's no plot at this point. There's just one guy, bored out of his skull, almost going crazy. If he's bored, the reader is going to be bored too. I'm sure other characters are more lively, but this might not be the best one to start with. I would not read further.

Now, I'm not saying that you can't go outside the box and write something that doesn't fit into the package we are used to. But be aware that if you do you will be swimming upstream, fighting for each sale. In general, people expect a book to have a beginning, a middle and an end. They expect to stay with one to three main characters for the story. They expect to read an inciting incident that starts everything off, read until they get to a climax, and then the story raps up and ends. These are the normal things we expect. This book seems to be presented in a different way than what we normally expect. This isn't bad in a literary sense, it's just bad in a marketing and sales sense. You're not selling what the majority of book sellers are selling. That *can* be a good thing if the book is exceptional and word of mouth gets out. However, that's a very difficult thing to have happen.

I think this book isn't selling because it is different from what we are used to when we go looking for a book to read. I don't think this necessarily dooms the book. It does make it harder to sell. I would make sure the book is exceptional. Get as many beta readers as you can, if you haven't already. If Ganesh isn't a good character to start with, start with a different one. Make sure the first 300 words grips the reader and doesn't let him/her go. Tweak the description until it does the same. You want to hook the reader early and string them along through the whole book. I do think this kind of book can sell, but it will be difficult in my opinion.

What do you guys think?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Claire: the Lost Fae

Author: Aithne Jarretta
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
How long it's been on sale: Feb. 14th
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Blog, Twitter, Facebook, & Member of Triberr
Total sold so far: 37
Link to book on Amazon: Claire: the Lost Fae

Product Description:

CLAIRE: THE LOST FAE will carry you through perilous dreams and danger invoked by legions of wicked daemons.

Perhaps you'll stick around and eventually soar over the San Francisco Bay rainbow.

One thing for sure, you'll wish you had never met a nasty hound from Hades, tangled with a wicked scarecrow or discovered the River Styx is real.

However, the chance to grow magically with Claire as she overcomes wicked challenges will win you over with appealing enchantment.

The window of opportunity is here--just a WhisperNet click away. Come in. Journey step by magical step as Claire carries you into this earthly in-between realm. Meet Claire's new friends (including Leeson, the love of her life) and challenge the darkest forces of Hades.

Novella - Word Count: 37,782

Also by Aithne Jarretta

FREE: Wyndy: In a Heartbeat - Short Story - ASIN: B005QR90G2

Novel: Concentric Circles - ASIN: B001PR092Q

First 300 Words:

[1]  Threshold: Angels Speak

Fragmented edges of a horrific dream pummeled Claire into an emotional abyss. Blackness misted the edges of this outland realm, rippled eerily upon the airwaves and moved outward into the summer night.

Claire groaned.

In her nightmare, the surface of a braided rug skinned sensitive palms and skinny knees. Tiny fingers searched for any particle of hope. Its essence proved elusive.

An atmosphere of anger and fear blazed around her.

That was how she saw the world. She was tiny. Everything else was big and fearsome. Terror filled her life even at seven years old.


Claire screamed and crawled across the floor fast, but could not get away from Ms. Bierce's anger. Third foster mother in as many months, Ms. Bierce was the biggest and instantly the meanest.

Snotty nose interfered with breathing and tear filled eyes blurred everything, but did not hide the horror. Claire sniffled and tried to stand up as a last resort to get off the rough surface of the rug. She rubbed the back of a shaky hand across her face.

The massive woman shoved. The corner of a table jammed into Claire's back. Oxygen exploded from her lungs and carried a scream of desperation.


The air across the room parted magically on startling electrical waves. Within a heavenly light a beautiful woman shouted, "Stop that!"

Claire shoved curls away from her face, wiped eyes and stared. The glow around the woman made Claire think she was an angel.

"I know you did it!" screeched Ms. Bierce.

It was as though she did not see the woman who had appeared.

"No! No, I didn't! Joey broke it," Claire wailed.

"Back to the convent!" Ms. Bierce's heavy bosom jostled as she shook a fist at Claire. "Wicked devil's spawn!"

Comments: The cover needs a little work. Google "Fonts you should not use," and you'll find Papyrus on almost all of those lists. Why? Well, it's overused but it also doesn't look professional. I would definitely try a different font. Now the image isn't bad, it portrays that there is magic in the book. It doesn't show any romance, but that's not bad if the romance isn't a major part of the book. If this is a romance novel set in a fantasy world, then I would change the image to a more typical romance image. But I'm guessing this is not the case. I would change the font and I think it will look a lot better.

I get what you're trying to do with the description but I don't think it's working. It doesn't tell me enough about the plot or the characters, so there's nothing hooking me in making me want to read it. I think the description needs to be chucked and totally revamped.

I read the beginning of the novel and saw some telling. In fact the first sentence is telling. This makes me wonder if the entire novel has this issue. I also cringe when a novel starts with a dream. Many, many new authors start their novels with dreams, thinking it will engage the reader. It doesn't. Sometimes they think they will reveal some parts of the character's past in the dreams. That doesn't work nearly as well as just starting the story and revealing bits and pieces as you go. If it were me, I would chuck the dream and start with the main character doing something. If this dream is part of her past, have this come out little by little as the story progresses. I might also suggest joining to help weed out the telling and learn to show more in the writing.

What do you guys think?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Guarding Andrew Gates

Author: Frank Zubek
Genre: Literary Fiction (15 short stories)
How long it's been on sale: Jan 7, 2012
Current price: $.99
Marketing: Twitter and my blog and webpage.
Total sold so far: 5 sales and gave away 73 when it was free on Amazon prime
Link to book on Amazon: Guarding Andrew Gates

Product Description:

Frank Zubek explores the human condition in fifteen unique short stories.

A synopsis of just a few.....

In Belated Regrets: A man in prison asks the detective that put him there to visit him- so that he can admit his regret over killing his wife. But then, the detective has something to say too....

In Mr. Baxter: A woman discovers that her kindly, retired banker neighbor is actually a voyeur with dark intentions.

In A Sin By Any Other Name, two old friends in an adult care facility read that the church in their old neighborhood has been torn down.

While looking at an old family video, a brother and sister discover A Moment Long Forgotten

In A Lack of Combustion, the longest story in the collection at 25 pages, Detective Nick Crowell faces a case where people have been dying from spontaneous human combustion!

Plus ten more stories- three of which have been published around the web.
The stories, if this were an actual book, take up a total of 95 pages. The first thirteen stories are adult literature, the fourteenth is a horror story and the last one has a paranormal element to it and should be considered for readers ages eighteen and up. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed thinking them up and writing them.

First 300 Words:


I hate rainy evenings, I think to myself as I open the door to the condo. I’m soaked and my hair is dripping wet. Shaking out the umbrella, I leave it in the hallway. It’ll feel so good to take a long, hot bath tonight. It's been a day.

I shut the door and place my keys on the table as always but that’s when I noticed that something’s wrong. The place is a mess. The television and stereo are gone and dozens of CD’s are scattered across the floor like the leaves outside.

We’ve been robbed!

As I fish the cell out of my purse to call Ron, I remember he's probably on the subway by now. He might not get a signal.

I glance back at the door and can’t remember if I had heard the familiar click of the lock disengaging or not. Ron had a bad habit of leaving the door shut but unlocked. I had warned him time and again that this was going to happen.

With my heart hammering in my chest, I finger 9-1-1 into the cell pad and keep my finger poised on the send button as I cautiously wander around the apartment to see if anything else is missing.

I stoop down and look through the CD’s that are scattered across the floor. Isn’t it strange the thief only took Ron’s music?

I head into the bedroom and see the drawers to Ron’s dresser are ajar and empty while my dresser is untouched, and it comes to me what has happened. This wasn’t the work of common thieves. I remember I have the cell in my hand and I toss it on the bed. There’s no need for the police.

Gina's Comments:

I like the cover.  It's very nice.

The price seems right.

I'm seeing an issue in the product description. There are quite a few writing issues, grammar and use of the word "that." I think the description might be better if you gave a general overview of the book as a total and not talked about some of the specific stories. They're short and I'd rather know the feel of the stories. Literary, horror to paranormal.

I'm seeing quite a bit of errors in grammar. This is usually a red flag for me. Good editing tells me the writer took the time to have a lot of eyes on the book in effort to make it as good as it can be. First person is throwing me for some reason. The first paragraph doesn't grab my attention at all. A robbery was a good opportunity to build concern. You just announced it without description. All of the writing is very mundane and ordinary without any excitement, but then you say her heart is hammering in her chest.

This is a classic case of telling and not showing. You have the bones of a story, but there is no "writing" per say. No description. No feelings. Plus, there isn't anything in the first 300 for me to care about. I don't know the character, you have a robbery pinpointed at the boyfriend or husband, and that is an interesting situation to begin a book with, but you spent the 1st 300 talking about keys, and rain, and CDs.

This story may be interesting in it's entirety, but this 1st 300, or the description, would not entice me to read further, both because it isn't captivating and it's slow, and also because of the grammar issues.

What do you guys think?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Two Halves

Author: Marta Szemik
Genre: Urban Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: Dec. 1, 2011
Current price: $4.95
Marketing: Guest posts, interviews, interacting on Twitter and FB, 3 KND sponsorships, Kindle Fire Department Sponsorship, KB Banner (the last three seem to have a temporary spike in sales, then back to very few)
Total sold so far: 158
Link to book on Amazon: Two Halves

Product Description:

Twenty-one-year-old Sarah is a child of a human mother and a vampire father and has suppressed her dark side with serums. The only memory of her mother is when Sarah killed her, soon after birth. Of her father, nothing—just a hatred for his vampire traits that made her kill her own mother.

When a disturbing nightmare foretelling her bleak future stirs the superhuman traits, underworld creatures are beaconed. On the run with William, a man she knows from her dreams, Sarah tries to learn what’s been hidden from her, for a good reason. Had she known her destiny, she may have continued with the serums that kept her hidden.

First 300 Words:

Hundreds of miles—that’s how far I ran, each day. My feet should have been blistered, but they weren’t human feet. I should have been out of breath, but I didn’t need to breathe. I was tired, but not from the running; that was impossible. Thoughts whirled constantly through my mind: Where should I run next? What would be the best way to mislead the seekers? I carried a map in my head of where I’d been. Black marked the roads I’d passed; red for those I had to avoid; green for those I could still use. And that was what tired me. But this was the only constant in my life. This was my life, and would be for a long time. Running.

I covered any tracks that could lead the seekers home and laid false trails to confuse them, to keep them away from my family. Twelve months had passed since my wife died, twelve months since Sarah was born. I longed to see her, but couldn’t risk it. She had to remain hidden. I kept running.

I headed northwest at first, then northeast, then back northwest toward the opposite coast, zigzagging across America, away from the demon world. They would think I returned to my kind and stop the chase—or so I hoped.

It was summer, the days were at their longest, complicating my travel. If I could last until September, I knew I'd be safe again, traveling farther through the longer nights, spending less time avoiding daylight. Now, when the skies were clear, I hid in the shadows of dense forests, dark alleys, and low bridges, I hunted at night, feeding on any mammals I caught-except humans, that is. This was the new me. I'd been a cold-blooded vampire since 1823,  but now my judgment clear, I was newly compassionate.

Comments: The cover doesn't give me an "Urban Fantasy" feeling. Most urban fantasy novels I've seen have a person on the cover. I think the lack of a character on the cover might be hurting this book. I'm also not sure exactly what I'm looking at on the cover. Flowers maybe? And a ring of fire? It's not clear and those images don't give me a clue as to what I'm going to find when I open the cover. I think this is a major reason the book isn't selling.

The description isn't bad, in my opinion, but I think it could be better. I'm a bit confused about why a disturbing nightmare stirs her superhuman traits, and why it beacons underworld creatures. However, I don't normally read this genre, so maybe I'm just uninformed. I'd get the opinions of some other ubran fantasy authors.

The beginning of the novel is back story. I would much rather begin with what he is doing right now, not what he has been doing in the past. Start us with action, and give us little bits of back story along the way. That way there's a bit of a mystery, something for us to discover. Maybe start with him turning up his collar so no one can see his face, and ducking into alleyways. He could pull out a photo of his daughter, trace her face, then put the picture back in his pocket. This leaves the reader with a question. Why is he doing this? As it is, we are just getting back story and not getting to know the character.

So for me, the strongest part of this is the description, but I think it can be better. I would re-do the cover and re-work the beginning of the novel to have a better hook. Just my opinion. What do you guys think?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mad Moral

Author: Kevin Anthony
Genre: Horror
How long it's been on sale: Beginning of March 2012
Current price: Free
Marketing: Twitter, Contacting Those Of My Mailing List of 4,100 Fans. Contacting Bloggers For Guest Post and Reviewers
Total given away so far: 288
Link to book on Smashwords: Mad Moral

Product Description:

Twenty year old Ford Fischer is a serial slasher desperately trying to resist the lure of the blade. After taking a life, Ford's regret consumes him, leading him to self-mutilate his hand in hopes of preventing further mayhem. All the while a series of family issues threaten to sidetrack his quest for mental stability.

His drug abusing mother disappears after an argument between her and Ford; leaving him sole caretaker of his transgender parent, whose life is slowly deteriorating from a mysterious illness. The parental strain leads him to weigh the strength of his bond with the two divorcees.

Just as Ford feels nothing more could go wrong, he finds himself in the middle of a slashing spree - the victims being slashers themselves. He's forced to play the role of detective to avoid becoming suspect, or worse, a victim. As slasher after slasher is eliminated, Ford seeks out the blade-friendly stalker with the morally conflicted mindset "slash or be slashed."

MAD MORAL is the world of Ford Fischer, where in murderous stuffed animals, demonic possessions, gigantic creepy crawlers, knife wielding slashers and much more madness are common place. Fischer, coupled with a romantically conflicted exorcist and a dreamer who redefines night terrors, leads us through a twisted world that can be best defined as one of a kind.

First 300 Words:

Tonight, the motive was madness. The senior class of Draper Preparatory High School gathered for one of the many hoorahs planned for their final year. It was a night for growing up, a night when cheerleaders conversed with those who envied their beauty, the chiseled athletes apologized to those who they terrorized, and the socially awkward finally found their voice. It was a chaotic scene, music blasted, the spiked punch flowed and expensive vases were shattered. They danced; they sang; they drank. They would, in all likelihood, never see these people again, and the possibility of hooking-up with their long time crush and making a lasting impression was deeply embedded in the minds of the partygoers, surviving the evening an afterthought.

    For Ford, however, Becky’s party was the perfect scene for a slashing. He stood across the street from the suburban home, hidden under the shadow of a palm tree. The autumn wind blew, ruffling the leaves of the gently swaying palm as well as Ford’s dark, low-cut hair. He wore a giddy smile across his thin, almost gaunt face. In the front pocket of the navy blue hooded sweatshirt he wore, his right hand gripped the handle of a knife. In the furthest reaches of his mind, where the madness roamed rampant he envisioned the blade drenched in blood, the warm, crimson liquid dripping onto his hand. The anticipation of the slashing, filling him with a burning excitement deep inside himself, prompted him to start across the street.

The driveway was crowded with the various cars of the party attendees, all more expensive than the whole of Ford’s apartment, furniture and all. They were the children of those who were in possession of master degrees and trust funds: doctors, lawyers, and politicians, to name a few. 

Comments: I am not getting a horror vibe from the cover. The cover is very important because it's the first impression your reader is going to get. The cover doesn't look very scary. It also doesn't look professional. When we put our books up for sale, or even to give them away, we are on the same bookshelf with the big names. Let's just look at some other horror covers in comparison.

Our books are side-by-side with the great books out there. Stephen King's book looks darn scary. And I haven't read anything from Andrew Kaufman, but there's a skeleton and blood on the cover. It screams "Horror." Mad Moral in the middle doesn't look scary to me. It doesn't say Horror. It looks like a homemade cover, not professional at all. I would highly suggest a new book cover.

The description is kind of all over the place, with too many details. I feel confused after reading it and the last paragraph makes me wonder if this isn't a parody instead. What is the inciting incident? Is it when he kills someone? Is it when his mother leaves? Or when a slasher starts killing other slashers? I think the description needs focus.

The beginning starts off passive for me. I'd rather start out in Ford's point of view, but instead we start in the point of view of the kids at the party. I'm not sure why Ford wants to kill, but after reading the description and knowing that he regrets killing someone I'm not very moved by his compulsion to murder. I don't fear him as I think I should. He comes across as a character to pity, but again, that is after reading the description. Maybe if the description were tweaked I might feel differently, I don't know.

What do you guys think?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Custer's Bugler: The Life of John Martin (Giovanni Martino)

Author: Leo Solimine
Genre: History, Biography, Military History
How long it's been on sale: Feb 2012
Current price: $25.95 (Paperback only)
Marketing: Website for book; Facebook page; other websites (mine) that link back to main book site/publisher's site/Amazon; other non-related sites (link exchange).
Total sold so far: 5
Link to book on Amazon: Custer's Bugler: The Life of John Martin (Giovanni Martino)

Product Description: 

Custer's Bugler is an examination into the life of John Martin (born Giovanni Martino). Abandoned as a baby, he marched with Garibaldi before coming to America. Within three years, Martino (now Martin) would find a permanent place in American history by carrying Custer's final dispatch from the Little Big Horn. He continued in active military service for another 30 years before passing away in 1922. John Martin lived a historical odyssey, from his earliest days in rural southern Italy to life on the Plains as a Cavalry trooper before his final act in the rapidly modernizing world of New York City. Custer's Bugler: The Life of John Martin (Giovanni Martino) details his extraordinary story.

First 300 Words:

Custer leaned forward in his saddle and intently studied the Indian village stretched across the valley below.  His battalion of five companies from the U.S. Seventh Cavalry Regiment had just halted on a high ridge overlooking the Little Bighorn River.  As officers peered through field glasses, a few of them remarked on the size of the village; across the river, as far as they could see, hundreds upon hundreds of tepees carpeted the valley floor.  After weeks of hard riding, General George Custer and the Seventh Cavalry had found their quarry.

“These hills and bluffs hid most of the village from us,” observed the General as he scanned the valley through his field glasses.  Lieutenant William Cooke, Custer’s experienced adjutant, nodded as his eyes shifted from the massive village to his commander.

“We got them this time,” Custer exclaimed to Cooke and the officers.  “We got ‘em!”  He turned in the saddle and waved his hat to the waiting troopers.  “Hurrah, boys, we’ve got them!” he shouted.  “We’ll finish them up and then go home to our station!”  Over two hundred troopers and scouts replied with three dust-choked cheers.

Custer rejoined the battalion and led them at a gallop for a mile along the bluffs.  As they reached a wide ravine that emptied into the river and valley below, Custer once gain halted the battalion.  Instinctively, Cooke nudged his mount closer to Custer while the troopers dismounted and adjusted their saddles; a few checked their weapons in preparation for the fight ahead.  Overhead, the Montana sun blazed across a cloudless sky, a slight breeze offered little relief to the sweating troopers and horses.

“We need Benteen and the packs now,” Custer snapped.  “Send another messenger!”  Cooke motioned and a young trooper quickly responded, a brass bugle across his back dangled as he trotted up to the General.

Comments: I do not specify on my submission page that I only take ebooks, so I will take a stab at this paperback. This book is 122 pages and it costs $25.95. Wow. That's a huge price tag for a paperback book, even a long one. This one is pretty short. Without looking at anything else, that's going to be a major reason this book isn't selling. It's priced way too high. (Which might be out of the author's hands, because I noticed it's published by Universal Publishers.)

The cover is okay, but I don't think it looks as professional as it could. I'm not fond of the bar across the middle. The man on top looks like he is missing his legs, which looks odd to me. I think if it were me, I would drop the bottom altogether and just use the whole photo of the statue and some nice typography. (Although the current font isn't bad.)

I'm not really hooked by the description. (However, I'm not usually a person to seek out historical books, so take that with a grain of salt.) I don't really know much about John Martin, and this description isn't making me want to read more. Also, isn't Bighorn one word? Having it as two words in the description might be giving people who love this stuff the idea that this book isn't credible. I would get more opinions on this, though, as I'm not very knowledgeable about trying to sell historical novels.

In the actual text, I see a few things that I might nit pick at if I were critiquing it. First of all, whose point of view are we in here? We flit in and out of several POV's and it makes me feel like the author is trying to write in omniscient, but it's not working very well. I would start off in John Martin's point of view. This book is about him, after all. How is he feeling at this moment? I would like to see this moment from his point of view.

There are also a few little things, adverbs I would cut, creative dialogue tags that I would cut, things like that. Maybe see what others say about the writing. You could put the first chapter up on to get lots of opinions.

Now, after saying all that, I'm going to say that the biggest reason this isn't selling is because it's not an ebook, it's an overpriced paperback. My suggestion would be to put this book out as an ebook, price it in the $4 range, and get some professional help with the cover. See what other authors say about the text and the description. Historical isn't my specialty.

What do you guys think?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Yang Shen: The God from the West, Book I - Landfall, 1860

Author: James Lande
Genre: Historical Fiction
How long it's been on sale: Print edition on sale since Oct 15, 2011; Kindle/Nook since Jan 30, 2012
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Facebook ads, giveaway on Goodreads, submission to reviewers, book website at, publisher website at, reviews and author page on Amazon, videos on YouTube, additional eBook formats at OmniLit, public library readings.
Total sold so far: 24 print; 8 eBook
Link to book on Amazon: Yang Shen: The God from the West, Book 1 - Landfall, 1860

Product Description:

When America's civil war began, China's civil war approached its horrific end. Late imperial China suffered severely from domestic disorder and foreign affliction - set upon by rebels within and Western "barbarians" without.

Into the midst of China's maelstrom came an American adventurer leading a ragtag army in defense of empire - a man from the West grateful Chinese made into a god, a "yang shen."

Yang Shen tells a story of the encounter, sometimes the clash, of Americans and Chinese. Based closely on primary and secondary source material from both the Chinese and Western record, Yang Shen draws on the work of hundreds of scholars of late imperial China whose insights inspired much of the story's abundant detail.

More than a historical adventure, Yang Shen recreates times long past, places long lost in China, and long-silent voices of people in America, China, and England who lived through cataclysmic events that echo still.

Find more information about Yang Shen, audio and video, and links to related sites at www

First 300 Words:

In Medias Res ...

(In the middle of things…)

Wednesday, April 18, 1860, 6:30pm

She was a weathered old Ningpo trader prowling in the China Sea, scudding over ocean the color of dried blood. Her grimy deck stretched aft eighty feet, from a low stem to a high, turret-like deckhouse perched above the stern. Bright blue eyes bulged under her bluff prow – one eye grafted to each side so she could find her way when her feckless pilots could not. Each huge oculus, hand-carved from camphor wood, had a stark white iris midst its lustrous blue orb. Her stern was painted blue with red facings – but without the lawful inscription for port of registry. A black-bordered red flag flew atop the tallest of her three ancient masts, and she displayed the rare extravagance of hand-carved teak railings. In the twilight, the junk's brown and yellow sails, tall and slender rectangles of woven rattan matting and bamboo battens, were silhouetted black against the orange afterglow of the sunset.

Two days earlier, she had slaughtered the passengers and crew of a lorcha in Blackwall Pass, west of Chushan Island, and now she thirsted for the blood of an American clipper ship departing Ningpo for Shanghai.

“晚上要小心 have a small heart tonight – be careful,” said the lodaai 老大 – the old-great, the junk master. “I smell seaweed rotting on rocks above the tide, over here, and over there I hear the crashing of surf.” He leaned out over the bow and whispered to the junk. “We are in dangerous water, and the sky will soon be black. Do you see what we search for? Look hard.” 

Comments: I honestly am not up on my Chinese Historical Fiction, so please take everything I say with a grain of salt. The cover looks very homemade to me. It doesn't say historical, although I do get the Chinese from it. It looks very much like a do-it-yourself cover, which to me looks amateurish and suggests the writing will be that way as well. I would suggest hiring a cover artist.

The description starts with a history lesson. Not a good start, in my opinion. I would start with the main character. The best descriptions I've read have captured a character and their voice in just a few short lines. I want to know who the book is about, and why I should care about them.

The beginning of the book didn't hook me. I got confused by the Chinese characters, too. Why not translate it? I'm not sure why there were some stuck in there. I would maybe get more opinions on the opening of the book, maybe join a critique group.

I would suggest hiring a cover artist, and working with the blurb. Maybe get more opinions on the opening, because as I said this genre is not what I read so I may be totally off on my opinion. What do you guys think?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Flash Crash

Author: K.R. Harris
Genre: Political Thriller
How long it's been on sale: 10-5-2011
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: FaceBook, e-mails, business cards printed with book cover on one side and Amazon URL for the book on the other side.
Enrolled the book in KDP Select: 3 days free = 10,300 "freeloads," 1 day free = 255 "freeloads"
Total sold so far: 165
Link to book on Amazon: Flash Crash (Abby Churchland Series)

Product Description:

Two individuals clandestinely infiltrate the electronic trading platform of the New York Stock Exchange, steal sixteen million dollars in a fraction of a second, but incite a cascade of events leading to what Wall Street referred to as the "flash crash".
Discovering the truth behind a massive government cover-up and a top secret assassination, C.I.A. covert operative Abby Churchland and Special Agent Lance Brooks become targets of the very government they serve.
It is a story of two courageous individuals who dare to match wits and plot revenge against the most powerful government on earth. Their resolve will be tested and their lives changed forever and in the process one of them will finally discover what they have spent their entire life searching for. 

First 300 Words:

On May 6, 2010 at 2:42 p.m., the Dow Jones Industrial Average began to fall rapidly, dropping more than 600 points in five minutes. Financial mayhem continued for seventeen minutes.  By 3:12 p.m. the market had regained most of its loss. Both Wall Street and Main Street wanted to know why.

Friday, June 11, 2010, 7:35 p.m.

The face of terrorism had a new look. Or did it? Had it been terrorism or just terror? Financial terror for sure, but why? How? Over a trillion dollars of value had evaporated in a matter of minutes from stocks traded primarily on the New York Stock Exchange. A company worth thirty billion dollars at two-forty-one p.m. was worth nothing three minutes later. Several major United States corporations lost ninety-five per cent of their stock price in less than a tenth of a second. Had an organized foreign or even domestic terrorist group waged economic warfare against the citizens of the United States? Had a rogue trader or group of traders, with insider information, tried to manipulate the stock market?

Special Agent Lance Brooks needed answers. Answers were expected. A personal meeting five weeks ago, with the Secretary of State, concerning the events of May 6 had left no doubt of that. The Secretary had been very clear. His job, in fact his entire career, was on the line and so far he had no answers. His twenty-six years of service, specializing in counterterrorism with the United States Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), had taught him there usually were no easy answers.

His experience had also taught him you never went home until the last surveillance team reported in, even if it was late Friday evening. He stood from behind his desk, stretching his back upward. It hurt most of the time. Chronic arthritis, combined with degenerative disc in his L4 and L5 vertebra, is what the MRI had shown according to the doctor. He thought about another cup of coffee. Better not; too much acid on his stomach already. He opted instead for water and a mint. Waiting was the hard part, it always had been. Finally the call came.

Comments: The cover isn't horrible, but I do think it could be better. Sometimes the bar of color works for a book cover. This is one of the times that I don't think it is working. I like the image of the white house, that really shows the genre well. I don't mind the stock market crashing arrow, but it's not my favorite part of the cover. I would make the white house larger and the crashing arrow smaller or put less emphasis on it.

The description should have spaces in between the paragraphs, making it easier to read. The text itself is a bit confusing. I'm not quite sure if the people who broke in a stole the money are the main characters who are trying to "plot revenge on the most powerful government on earth," or if the main characters are trying to unravel the mystery. It reads like the former and I'm thinking that might be a big part of the problem with this book not selling. Most political thrillers I've read and seen are about stopping corruption and not exacting revenge on the government by stealing money and causing the market to crash. If it's the latter, the description really needs re-working.

The author sent me about 760 words instead of the first 300. When this happens, I feel like the author is trying to say to me, "But the story doesn't get good until you get to the 760 mark." My response would be, "Then make the first 300 better."

The first 300 of this book is all telling. All back story. Cut the telling and back story and start with the action. If the story doesn't really get good until the phone conversation (that I had to cut because we got to our limit) then start with the phone conversation. The reader can piece together what has happened, if the author is doing their job. Give us the details as the story unfolds, in actions and dialogue. I don't want to read several paragraphs of "Just to set the scene, here is what is happening." I want the scene to start. I suggest throwing up the first chapter on to a critique website like and getting some eyes on it. Get help with the beginning and it will sell better.

My suggestion is to tweak the cover, get rid of the red bar, rework the blurb and submit the first chapter to a critique group. What do you guys think?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Zachary Pill, Of Monsters and Magic

Author: Tim Greaton
Genre: Young Adult - Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: 2 months
Current price: Free
Marketing: Twitter and Facebook notifications; Free on Amazon (and through Smashwords affiliates); updated cover and description.
Total sold so far: None. Given away 472 ebooks.
Link to book on Amazon: Zachary Pill, Of Monsters and Magic (The Zachary Pill series - book 1 in the boy wizard dragon epic fantasy)

Product Description:

 Dear Reader,

I'm humbled that you've considered the Zachary Pill series. Though more than 80,000 of my novels have been downloaded in the last few months, it's not sales that motivate me to keep writing. It's, instead, a crappy childhood.

No matter how much I got bullied, no matter how loud my parents fought, and no matter even if the police arrived at our door in the middle of the night...I learned to cope by escaping into books--mostly fantasy books. Not only did those stories allow me to forget how miserable things were, for at least a while, those heroes also taught me how to stand up to childhood bullies and to get away from the insanity at my house whenever I could. I even wound up having a few real life adventures. Though what I went through back then was terrible, in some ways I'm lucky to have experienced that life. It taught me how NOT to live when I grew up.

If you do enter the world "Of Monsters and Magic," I hope that Robin the beautiful readhaired thief, Bret the werewolf and Zachary Pill the world's first wizard/dragon will provide both entertainment and friendship. If my stories can provide even a few moments of escape during times of need, I will have succeeded.

Your friend always,

Tim Greaton

The five-star reviews for the Zachary Pill wizard dragon series are piling up...

Patrick Jones says, “This book is really FANTASTIC and it’s written with such a unique writing style.”

A.J. Grady, author of “Proof of God: An Ontological Adventure” declares, “It’s seldom you see fantasy written with such verve and panache.”

Edwin Stark, author of “Echo Station One,” “Cuentos,” and other novels has this to say: “…this book is greatly recommended… and it will get you more bang to your book at any price.”

(These reviews are all posted on Amazon and refer to the complete trilogy.)

Book description:

Getting beat up by three boys is bad enough, but when a swarm of bats invade his Boston apartment, Zachary Pill's father disappears and his world spins out of control. After being forced to move to New Hampshire, he soon learns that cleaning Madame Kloochie's filthy house is the least of his problems. When the evil wizard Krage sends monsters to find him, Zachary has to find a way to defend himself and and his friends...and so begins his journey into the dangerous world of his family's magic.

First book in the Zachary Pill series. 252 pages.

First 300 Words:

Wishing that magic really did exist, Zachary Pill kept smashing the Billy Timkin voodoo doll he had made from a white hand towel until its blue toothpaste eyes and mouth were smudged beyond recognition. When the bar of soap fell out of the Billy doll’s head, he glanced up at the mirror to see his bruised cheek and swollen lip.

“I never did anything to him,” he muttered.

He made a fist and debated whether to put the doll back together again and give it another good couple of whacks.

Why can’t I be more like Uncle Ned?

He pulled up his tee-shirt sleeve up and made a muscle, but the pathetic little rise at the top of his arm depressed him. He sighed and let his arms drop back to his sides. No way would his uncle let someone get away with what Billy had done to him. Anyone that touched Uncle Ned would have been the one with bruises―or worse.

Disgusted, Zachary ran a wet comb through his offensive hair and managed to push a few stray cowlicks back where they belonged. He smacked the comb against his skull. Why did his hair have to be such a weird color!

“Snot hair!” he muttered.

“What hair?” a voice asked from the open bathroom doorway.

Zachary’s face turned red. He wished his father hadn’t heard that.

“That’s what Billy Timkin called me yesterday, just before he started hitting me.”

“Maybe you heard it wrong.”

“No, he definitely said ‘snot hair.’” Zachary already regretted telling his father.

“Then what happened?”

“I told him to shut up, so he punched me.” He left out the part about trying to punch Billy back―twice. Half the students in the cafeteria had laughed when he missed both times. By today, the whole school would...

Comments: I'm going to temporarily change my blog name to "Why can't I give this book away?" because that's what we've got here today. A free book. So, let's examine why this free book isn't being downloaded in the thousands, because I had a book go free and gave away 45,000 books in five days. And that was a children's book.

Let's take a peek at the cover first. When I look at the cover it says "Middle Grade Fantasy" to me. I do not like the green font on the blue background, but other than that I would say it's not a horrible cover for middle grade. It does however look like it was made in the 1980's. The author says this is a young adult novel meaning it should appeal to kids between 12 and 18. Now, the writing suggests to me that main character is younger than that age range, so I'm thinking this book might actually be a middle grade book. In that case, there is our first problem. The author is trying to sell this book to young adults, when he's actually written a middle grade novel. My suggestion would be to embrace the middle grade, and maybe tweak the cover so it has a fresh 'today' look to it.

The description is way too long in my opinion. I see that wall of text and my head starts to hurt. I want to skip it and go on to the next book. I see it starts with a letter to the reader, and it gives the reader very personal and disturbing information about the author. I'm very sorry the author had a horrible childhood, and bullying and abuse are terrible but that's not something to tell a potential customer. Cut the letter to the reader.

Then we have snips from reviews. I didn't look at the description to read reviews. I looked there to read the description of the book. I can scroll down to see reviews. Cut the reviews as well.

Finally we come to the book description. I'm finding some "movie guy voice" moments in the description. Things that are highly dramatic and yet don't tell the reader anything. Like, "his world spins out of control," and "is the least of his problems." These are not helpful to someone trying to figure out what the book is about. I'm also getting confused a bit. His father disappears the night there are bats in the apartment? What do bats have to do with disappearing people? I would highly recommend re-working the description.

The writing isn't bad although I prefer to get more of a feel for a person's surroundings. I didn't know he was in a bathroom until his father stood in the bathroom doorway. And I thought he was at school. I wondered where he got a wet comb from. But overall I didn't feel like the writing needed a lot of work.

My suggestion is to update the cover and work on the blurb.

One more little thing. When a book used to go free, it would get a lot of attention. Lots of blogs would mention it, and the book would get a lot of downloads. This is no longer the case. A writer needs to submit a free book to all the blogs, and they choose which books to feature because there are so many free books. I suggest studying how to successfully have a free promotion by reading this article. It's slightly outdated, but still has good advice. Most of the time short free promotions work the best.

What do you guys think?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Garden on Sunset

Author: Martin Turnbull
Genre: Historical Fiction
How long it's been on sale: Jan 2012
Current price: $4.99
Marketing: Website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads
Total sold so far: 117
Link to book on Amazon: The Garden on Sunset (The Garden of Allah novels)

Product Description:

HOLLYWOOD…as seen through the eyes of its most infamous garden.

When Marcus Adler’s father runs him out of Pennsylvania, he can think of only one place to go: 8152 Sunset Boulevard, the home of luminous silent screen star Alla Nazimova, who visited him on his sickbed when he was a child. But when Marcus gets to Hollywood, Madame Nazimova’s home has been converted to a hotel. Marcus checks into The Garden of Allah and starts his new life. He soon finds friends in Kathryn Massey, who ran away from her overbearing stage mother to become a journalist, and Gwendolyn Brick, a hopeful actress from the Other Hollywood—Hollywood, Florida—who wants to try her luck in Glitter City. The three naïve hopefuls band together to tread water against a tidal wave of threadbare casting couches, nervous bootleggers, human billboards, round-the-world zeppelins, sinking gambling boats, waiters in blackface, William Randolph Hearst, the Long Beach earthquake, starlets, harlots, Harlows and Garbos. But how will they get their feet inside Hollywood’s golden door?

THE GARDEN ON SUNSET is the first in a series of novels following Marcus, Kathryn and Gwendolyn as they leap and lurch, win and lose their way through Hollywood’s golden years. If you love Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City books, you’ll want to get lost in The Garden of Allah.

First 300 Words:

When the Hollywood Red Car lurched to a stop, Marcus Adler pulled open his eyes to find a wheezing old conductor staring right at him.

Marcus looked around. He was the only passenger left. “Where are we?”

The conductor jerked his head towards the door. “End of the line.”

“Don’t suppose you know where 8152 Sunset Boulevard is?”

“What do I look like? A street map?”

Marcus took that for a no, picked up his cardboard suitcase, and climbed down to the street. A line of rickety stores huddled on the south side of Sunset Boulevard up to where the asphalt ended; a sign near the curb read Los Angeles City Limit. Past the sign, west of Crescent Heights Boulevard, Sunset disintegrated into a wandering dirt road. A knot of horses stood in the shade of a tree with thin, dusty leaves Marcus had never seen back in Pennsylvania. One of the horses raised its head to study him for a moment, then returned to grazing.

“Hey!” The conductor hung from the streetcar’s doorway. “8152 Sunset? Try thataway.” He pointed towards the horses.

Eighty-one fifty-two Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, California. It was an address Marcus had repeated over and over to himself since that time when he was eleven years old, swollen grotesquely with diphtheria in the hospital. His parents had written Madame Alla Nazimova a letter at his request, never thinking that a motion picture star so unspeakably exotic, so stupefyingly glamorous would respond. But she did. And she came to call on him, a diaphanous vision in lavender tulle. How kind she was, and so humble. Surely she would remember him. How many bedside visits had she made to children inflated with diphtheria in the middle of Pennsylvania? How many did she look in the eye and say, “If you ever come to Hollywood, I want you to come visit me. My house is very large, and I have plenty of room for you. I live at 8152 Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California.”

Comments: First of all, let me say that selling 117 in the first three months (this was submitted to me the end of March) is pretty decent. I'm guessing the book just needs time to get going, but I'll look at things anyway.

The cover is good, but the Hollywood kind of throws me off. It looks like it should be part of the title, or sub title, and I feel like I would like it better without it. Having said that, I do like the feeling of the cover, I think it nails the genre and the time period.

The description needs work, in my opinion. The first part is fine, but the end where it lists things the characters face should be cut. It felt like a laundry list to me, and didn't make me want to read the book. I would pick the main conflict and expand on that. Who is the antagonist? Maybe introduce them in the blurb. Or maybe just stick with the main conflict.

The beginning of the novel is good, in my opinion. (I would cut 'right' out of the first sentence, I think it's redundant, but other than that I don't have any nit-picks about the writing.) The premise is kind of interesting, and it's well written. I would continue reading if I had picked this up.

I feel like the main issue with this book is the blurb. I would rework it, get some outside help from other writers, and that should help the book sell better.

What do you guys think?