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?


  1. I only skimmed the first paragraph or two, but they seemed fine, good verb usages and immediacy. The cover was not gripping, but definitely not bad, either. I agree that the back blurb doesn't do it for me, but the biggest problem is that the book is WAY overpriced. My books are with a small press and at twice the length, they're still only $16 (which is a LOT of money for a paperback). Drop it to $14 or $15 and I'd still say it was at the top of the threshold, on a really good day. In my opinion, that's by far the biggest barrier to sales. Offering it as a $4 or $5 ebook would be best if you want to get sales. Good luck!

  2. (1) Using the image of the statue on the cover is decent, but I would remove the graveyard from the bottom (it's too small to see any detail).

    (2) The description tells me this is an historical piece about a minor character from history who lived in some places and carried a letter, which is "an extraordinary story"? If this is a life-time of adventure across two continents, you need to talk about John as a person, not as a subject in a textbook. Listing where he lived and worked is not interesting. Tell us what he did!

    (3)The text reads fine. But I note that it is all about Custer and not about Martin. Does the book really start at Little Bighorn? Because the description says Martin's exciting life starts in Italy.

    (4) Your price is far too high for a short paperback. And you should try to get more reviews.

  3. "Custer once gain halted the battalion."

    Is that supposed to be...

    "Custer once again halted the battalion." ?

    I hate to be redundant, but I also agree about the legless statue, but I understand wanting to put the geography in too. Maybe make the statue a bit smaller, full body, and lower on the page, then have the Montana plains stretch out behind him, and the title up top? I also agree that the first few words have to thrust the bugler into the mix. I have no opinion on the price, but if that's a type above, arhremm ahemm. Excuse me.

    Off topic to the gracious hostess of this blog. I fully appreciate that you are doing this of your own good will and time (as I am w/ my silly comments)...but do you think, maybe you could link the cover art to a bigger picture? I know the whole point of this blog is to get behind why a novel isn't selling, with thumbnails and all, but I keep getting tricked into wanting to look inside the book, and it just goes to a link with the same sized photo. If it went to Amazon, that would be cool, or a bigger picture...for contrast, you know? Thanks for reading.

    1. Ooops on me...TYPO on typo.

    2. Sure, I can look into getting larger images from the authors. I just grab what is on Amazon. I'll think about asking for bigger images. Thanks for the suggestion.

    3. Sure, thanks for being open to the suggestion! I know that bandwidth issues can play havoc on some websites if there are tons of click throughs, I hope that isn't the case for blogspot, because I really think your site is doing an amazing service!

  4. Some thoughts. The book is interesting but expensive: $25. Try publishing it in e-book format and selling at a lower price. It only has one review. You need to contact those familiar with your work and have them review it. You need to accumulate 10 plus good reviews and then insert review quotes into the book description. Your book has virtually no tags, and your author page doesn't have a picture. You should have links to your Twitter and Facebook pages in your author info.

  5. I agree with the prior comments on the cover; the legless-ness of the statue is just too jarring. I could see this being an interesting story, as I enjoy reading military history and historical biographies, but before I invest money (or time) on such a book I want to make sure it is very solid factually. Any hint that it might not be will be an immediate turn-off, and professional appearance is part of that. Also, the (a)gain typo in the "first 300" sample does not help establish credibility.

    I think the writing is decent, but additional revision wouldn't hurt. Maybe it's just me and/or the late hour, but I read the final sentence in the "first 300" sample a couple times before realizing what you were trying to say. It seems very awkward.

    The pricing does stand out... and this strikes me as possibly an attempt to get the book into the lucrative textbook market. If that's true, that would imply some things that are different from most books discussed here, including that there should be an expectation for lower initial sales and also an even greater need for factual credibility. Also, the textbook market is changing, so a lower-priced ebook edition would still be a wise recommendation.

    Even if it's not intended as a possible textbook, I think the topic is in a small enough niche that slow sales should be expected. While the life of Martin/Martino is interesting in some ways as a general look at those times and places, it's (apparently) not controversial nor about somebody that a lot of people know. Getting it in front of the history buffs who will want to read it will be more challenging than many book marketing efforts. Don't give up, though! Make changes if and where you can (and as you see fit), and think about history-relevant Web sites, other venues, and activities you can use for marketing (anything from volunteering to be a History Day judge to checking out historical events like Civil War re-enactments).

  6. The cover needs defining. It doesn't attract my attention enough.The price is way too high. Also, from the bit I read above, a really good edit would sharpen this up before the author goes for a Kindle version. It needs tightening in many places. I love the stories of Custer and Little Bighorn, but wouldn't buy this without reading a fresh sample first.


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