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?


  1. My first impressions of the cover: straight fantasy, possibly romantic, possibly YA, possibly to do with fairies. It looks pretty. It doesn't say urban or vampire. It doesn't have to say vampire, IMO, but it does need to say urban--a city, a person, or just a little more gritty.

    The blurb: "Twenty-one-year old Sarah is a child..." Well, no, she's not anymore, is she? I'd say she's the 'daughter' of a human and vampire. And I think you mean "beckoned" not 'beaconed'. The rest of it reads pretty boilerplate. Parentless protagonist has dark secret which causes evil creatures to pursue her, and which causes her to need the help of a handsome stranger. I'm not seeing what makes this story different or unique from the hundreds of other half-human-half-vampire urban fantasies out there. It may very well be the next best thing in UF, but your blurb doesn't hint at it.

    First 300: It paints a good picture of a man on the run for the sake of his family, but it's not a particularly hooky opening. It, IMO, belongs a little further in the first chapter, not upfront. Also, for 300 words it seems to lack detail--we get roads, bridges, and directions but nothing concrete (like highway names, U.S. city names, etc.) Overall, it is backstory. I'd rather start with the protagonist, Sarah, or at least what this man (her father) is doing currently.

    If I were to take a guess at the biggest factor for slow sales, it would be price and blurb. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of UF tales which could match your description, why should I pay 4.95 for yet another when I could probably find many, many more for .99 or free? I'd either lower the price, or fix the blurb so it showcases what's special about your story.

  2. Some great advice here:) Thank you!

  3. It's really hard to gauge a book in just 300 words, but I agree with what is said above. Just focus in on what he is running away from in a snippet, then sort of pan out to the big picture. The cover reminds of those fairy images that were all over Myspace a few years ago. Two Halves image doesn't quite work, maybe just two halves of one ring, or two halves of one butterfly. Or the good old cliched girl looking in a mirror, and only half her face staring back, and the it hidden in shadow, or is she half vampire? I think that would draw me in more, but that is me.

  4. The cover is kind of pretty, but doesn't tell me anything about the genre or the story.

    "Twenty-one-year-old Sarah is a child of a human mother and a vampire"

    I think if you said "is the child" it would work better. The word "beaconed" also throws me off. Did you mean "beckoned?"

    I kind of liked the beginning. I felt drawn in to his "run." The only problem is that I thought it was Sarah doing the running and not her father.

    I think the biggest problem is the cover and the price. The cover is striking but the meaning is unclear.

  5. The cover: it's pretty, but no urban fantasy. It looks more like epic fantasy, at least for me.

    Description: I'm going to disagree with Victorine, and say that I found it really hard to parse, especially the second paragraph. Also, the use of the word 'serums' threw me. It doesn't sound authoritative.

    First 300 words: it's all narrating and skimming over stuff that has happened. It doesn't connect with the here and now, which is what first person writing should do.

  6. Again, Thank you Everyone! I appreciate the input.

  7. I, personally, didn't have any issues with the cover. In fact, I downloaded Marked: A Two Halves Novella because of it. I'm sick of covers that have portrays on them. What threw me off a little is that the cover's size wasn't full screen on my Kindle. It sort of got me thinking that maybe the text wasn't as good as I thought it would be and I delayed reading it. I know it's not this book, but since I purchased the Novella for free I guessed it was an ad for this one, the main thing. And I just wanted you, Marta to know that it's not working very well. I'm a little nit-picky with covers, since I like to take a good look at them before I start reading.

    Regarding this book, I also think that the price could be causing part of the problem.

  8. I think the blurb could use a rewrite. I'm not sure what to suggest, and I can't find anything particularly wrong with it. It just didn't capture my attention like the first 300 did.

    I do like the first 300. Good luck improving your work!

    Rich, visitor from KB.

  9. Much, much thanks! Very enlightening experience:)

  10. Beautiful cover, but it doesn't say "urban fantasy" at all. If I was looking for urban fantasy, I would skip right over this.

  11. If this isn't YA, I would definitely put a portrait of someone on the cover. Peruse JR Ward, Kresley Cole, Jeaniene Frost, pretty much every heavy hitter and almost every indie cover and there is a portrait.

    If you're not comfortable with describing your heroine or getting one which will be too generic then have her on the cover from a back angle. Her hair showing, billowing so you aren't stuck with a cover that looks like every other paranormal or UF cover. Or have a handsome man on the cover from the neck down with lots of pecs on display. Personally, I find this a bit cheesy but those books tend to sell a lot and they aren't always good.

    Also, there should be some more action in the beginning. I am a huge offender of too much back story up front so I know where you are coming from and I am not criticizing but try to space the back story out throughout the book. Don't give the game away all at once and definitely not in the beginning.

    Price: this is a sticky subject as it takes quite a bit of money to get a book made. You can jump on the 99 cent bandwagon but I think that is dead. I don't even buy 99 cent books. $2.99 is a fair price and once it starts to sell, push it up to $3.99. Or enter Select and give some copies away and keep the price at $4.95 and hope the momentum carries over but I would definitely recommend re-pricing to either $2.99 or $3.99.

    Just my two cents. Good luck and I really do hope you start to sell more. ;-)


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