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?


  1. The "two individuals" phrase is a deal-breaker for me.

    The cover is very literal, almost trying to tell the story in images. It looks like the illustration for a TV or website news story, but not like a book cover on a thriller in the grocery store (which is the populist look, and therefore what we indies want to mimic.)

  2. (1) The cover looks a bit too much like a magazine cover. It's full of information, but it's not dynamic or exciting to me.

    (2) The description is a bit dry. You don't get to the characters until the middle, and then you just gloss over the content of the book with the "story of two courageous individuals who dare to match wits" yada yada. I prefer to see actual plot descriptions. Car chases? Gun fights? Computer hacking? Ninja assassination? What actually happens in the story?

    (3) The beginning of the text was too dry for me. Too much telling, too much explaining, and no action.

    (4) Several of your reviews all say they found punctuation errors and text in need of editing. If I was considering your book and saw those reviews, I would pass.

  3. The first 300 words did me in. Too much telling. That would be hard to read for an entire book.

  4. I agree with the comments so far. For the cover, I think just swapping the red used in the top bar and the red used in the arrow would improve things. To be honest, I didn't even see the arrow at first, because the bold red at the top drew my immediate attention. It wasn't until I was visually parsing the rest of the cover that I saw the arrow. The overall concept of the cover is probably workable but it could be cleaned up to have more visual impact and draw more potential readers.

    I'm usually OK with more "scene setting" than seems popular these days, but in this case I agree with the comments about there being too much telling in the beginning.

  5. Everyone else's comments so far are bang on, so I won't waste time repeating too much of what they said.

    Remember, this is not just about getting you a passable cover. Sure you could play around with the one you have to make it slightly more appealing, but if you wanna sell books, especially thrillers, you need to really draw people in. Go pick out the covers to your top 10 favorite political thrillers (or the bestselling ones) and see how they do it. Then find a cover designer and drop $100-200 for a stellar ebook and print version. Self-publishing is a business and needs to be treated as such. All good businesses have start up costs. The ones that go it on the cheap, usually don't last very long.

    The Description:
    Needs work. You use the word "individuals" twice when it shouldn't be used at all. That's okay for a first go, but when it hits prime-time it needs to shine. Again, look at other blurbs in your genre for the kinds of key words they use. Even two shadowy figures is better than individuals (which is flat and boring...two things you don't want to be if you're selling thrillers). I also had a question about the 16 million stolen. On the global market that's really less than a drop in the bucket. I wonder if that's part of the issue you're having. If I'm gonna invest time in a book, especially a thriller, I don't want someone stealing 500k from the stock market, I want them stealing billions. That'll get people's attention. I'd look into that. Either remove it from the blurb or see if that story element can be punched up.

    First 300:
    Yes, sorry, it was a bit dull. The very first bit at the beginning also needs to be tightened and given some life. Maybe it should read like a ticker on CNN or something. For example:

    May 6, 2010 at 2:42 p.m.: The Dow Jones Industrial Average plummets more than 600 points in five minutes. The free fall doesn't stop for more than seventeen minutes.

    3:12 p.m: The market regains most of its loss. Fears of another crash spread through Wall Street and Main Street at an incredible rate. When the dust settles, everyone's asking the same question: Why?

    Anyway, that's just a suggestion. As for the rest of the first 300, I'd agree it's better to start with the phone call part that was left out and then slide in some background as needed. It's a delicate balance, especially with a thriller.

    Good Luck!

  6. My sincere thanks to all of you who have taken the time to help me with your comments. As a newbie author, I have made many mistakes I was not even aware of. I appreciate each and every comment.
    As my health and time allows, I hope to be able to correct some of my many blunders.
    Your help is very much appreciated.

    Thank you,
    K.R. Harris


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