Friday, June 29, 2012

Martuk ... The Holy

Author: Jonathan Winn
Genre: Horror
How long it's been on sale: March 6, 2012
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Two free book promotions. Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, author interviews and giveaways on various blogs.
Total sold so far: 31
Link to book on Amazon: Martuk ... The Holy

Product Description:

What readers are saying:

"a story that leaves the reader in awe of its scope" ★★★★★

"a fascinating, well-written tale by an accomplished author" ★★★★★

"the new master of a genre he is making his own" ★★★★★

"Holy takes on a whole new meaning" ★★★★★

"an extremely vivid, dangerous world" ★★★★★

"seamless ... flawless" ★★★★★     

Martuk ... The Holy

In a crowded Left Bank cafe, an immortal man sits, the phantoms crawling near, the heat of their whispers stinging his cheek ...

and Martuk ... The Holy begins.

One thousand years before the birth of Christ, a golden god damns Martuk with a kiss. In a land ruled by a wounded king, life everlasting steals his mortality from the bottom of a golden cup. Finally, generations later, a Messiah who has the power to heal breaks under the weight of Martuk's demons, stumbling to his death defeated by darkness.

From his home in modern Paris, he writes, his memories lush, his words evocative. Revisiting his impossible life, he vents his rage and shares his loneliness. From bloody battles with a demon he cannot escape to the ghost of a beauty who haunts him still, this is his story.

This is Martuk ... The Holy.

First 300 Words:

Chapter One

They had found me.

Even amidst the raucous crowd of this Left Bank cafe, I could feel them near.  No longer content to hover outside tap, tap, tapping on the window, they've slipped past the door and now approached like a tortured breeze, the heady scent of all this flesh delighting their senses.

A woman nearby tossed her hair, the auburn locks dazzling in the glow of the cavernous room.  Dressed in black, the scarf knotted at her throat a silken burst of yellows and oranges and blues, she sipped wine from a glass.

It was red.

The leather purse at her feet.


And the glimmering stain on her smiling lips.


All red.

... bargaining with blood ... innocent blood, came the whisper, the phantom breath hot on my cheek.

Yes, they had found me.

They spread like shadows, these voices.  Sliding around tables.  Slipping over chairs.  Wrapping themselves in the Living.  Their laughter, their tears, their disappointment and dread, all precious succor for these restless ghosts.

Flesh and bone ... these tender bones, breathed another.

Nearby a young couple burst into laughter, doubling over at their shared joke, their bodies shaking, their shoulders trembling.

Little piles of dust ...

"Please, stop," the woman begged her handsome companion.

... bones in the stones ...

"You're killing me!" she gasped, giggling, tears staining her cheeks.

There is no God living here ...

An old man watched me from his table in the corner, his coffee steaming before him, untouched.

... hurt him, hurt him, hurt him, a demon mumbled, the voice low.

He nodded.

The End of All, another chimed in, the words staining the back of my neck like a fever before sliding down my spine.

"It's true," a man lied, taking a long swallow of beer, …

Comments: The cover is confusing to me. It does have a kind of horror vibe, but I can't really tell what it is. I do see a cross, but that confuses me too. Especially with "Holy" in the name, and a cross on the front, it makes me wonder if this is a religious book. But it doesn't look like a religious book, because it's dark and there's red blobs on it. I'm not sure what the red is supposed to represent. I'd like the cover to not be so obscure. It's too difficult to tell what it is.

The product description starts with review snips. I dislike that. When I click to read a description, I want a description of the book. I don't want reviews. No offense, but an author can write whatever they want up there. I don't want to know what the author thinks looks good to say about their book. I want to know what the darn book is about. I scroll down and ignore the review snips, but with a slight chip on my shoulder. I already don't like the book because the author made me scroll down.

The beginning of the description confuses me. I don't get why an immortal man is sitting in a cafe, phantoms crawling near, whispering on his cheeks. I just get confused. I'm also confused by the rest of the description. Why does a kiss damn Martuk? And who is Martuk? Is he the immortal man? What does the birth of Christ have to do with any of this? The description is too confusing.

The beginning of the novel is very literary. I'm not getting a "Genre Fiction" feeling at all from the text. It's almost like a poem instead of prose. I don't think this novel will work well in the 'Horror' genre. This should be marketed as a literary piece, IMHO.

I would definitely get a different cover. Make it more literary looking. The description should give the literary feeling also. I would market this to a whole different set of people.

What do you guys think?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The $750 Budget Vacation (no camping required)

Author: Lyza Ramona Rodriguez
Genre: Non-Fiction, Travel
How long it's been on sale: 6 Months
Current price: $2.99


Blogged, emailed friends and told people I know, participated in budget travel and general budget sites and forums and left responses with a "sig", emailed dozens of blog and site owners about guest blogging and offering their readers a free book - zero responses. And lastly I used a shorter eBook and joined KDP select to see if it helped sales across the board.

Total sold so far: 18

Link to book on Amazon: The $750 Budget Vacation (no camping required) (BSM)

Product Description:

2012 Edition

Do you find yourself at work daydreaming of spending a week lying on the beach while your kids are building sand castles? Wishing you can whisk them away for a week to a great theme park? Or how about taking in the bright lights of a big City?

Broke Single Mom: The $750 Budget Vacation, is a how-to travel book for Single Mothers (or Fathers) on a super tight budget. In this book I explain how I travel frequently as a single mother of three with an annual salary of around $19,000 while never going into credit card debt. You will find detailed sample itineraries on several fun filled destinations. Ways to make extra money and tips and tricks to help you save before and even during your trip.

You will get details on how I have been able to vacation in Denver, Chicago, Baltimore, Orlando and Virginia with my children, each trip costing me $750 or less. All without every setting foot on a camp ground, we have stayed in many 3 and 4 star hotels and you can too.

So if you think you can't have a nice vacation saving only $5 a week, I'll show you how because I've done it.

First 300 Words:


Thank you so so so much for purchasing my book! I am hoping for two things here, first that you enjoy it and secondly that it helps you and your family in planning your next vacation on a shoestring budget.

You shouldn’t have to go into debt to have a great vacation.

While most tips in this book are based on you saving money each month for 12 months you can still use my guide even if you only have 3 or 4 months (or less) to plan and pay for your vacation. How? Just pay close attention to Chapter 13 on ways to earn extra money, especially the first few on the list and you should be fine.

So, let’s get started shall we?

Chapter One
Deals I’ve found and how I got started

Right off the bat lets discuss how some might say that a lot of my suggestions are common sense, yet if I have learned anything these past few years from helping family and friends and their family and friends, is that it really isn’t. And that is especially true for the non-frequent traveler as well as for those that are usually so pressed for time that researching and cross referencing low price hotels, attractions and transportation seems daunting.

For example, my mother’s best friend has a daughter that wanted to take her 2 girls to Disney and she had $2,000 as her budget which had to include their Disney tickets. She called me because she couldn’t find anything under $1,800 for air and hotel. I had errands scheduled for lunch that day so instead of doing a search for her I just advised her to search our towns surrounding airports. Later that night she called to thank me and said that she was able to get it down to $1,300 by flying out of New York City and she was about to book it while we were on the phone. 

Comments: I think the cover looks pretty good. I can't read the author's name or the Broke Single Mom very well, but I don't think it's a huge issue. The places pictured on the cover look good. The type looks professional. I think the cover isn't the issue.

The title might be a problem. It's worded a bit awkwardly. And when I see $750 vacation, it makes me think of hotels that I'd really rather not spend the night in, and restaurants I'd rather not eat at. Plus it boxes you in. I might buy a book that promises to give me hints on saving money when I'm on vacation, but I don't want to only spend $750. If I saw this book sitting next to one titled: How to Vacation for Less, I'd buy the second one. I'm all for saving money. I just don't want to get bed bugs sleeping at a questionable hotel. The dollar limit makes me squirm. I'd give this book a new title.

I'm also not a single mom. I'm wondering if putting the single mom part in the title is limiting your audience too. I think you're going for a brand, which is fine, but it's something to think about. Are people subconsciously passing this up because they aren't single? I'm not sure. Maybe get some more opinions on it.

Your marketing is targeting the travel and budget blogs, which is nice, but I'm thinking this isn't going to be effective unless these people are Kindle/Nook owners. Unfortunately, the percentage of ereader owners is still small. (Yes, I know you can read ebooks on your computer, but how many people really know this and do this?) Select is a good program, but isn't very effective on shorter works and cross-over sales don't usually happen unless you're putting the first book of a series up for free. I just blogged about Select, and how to make it work for you. You can read it here. Maybe try it again with this book, but make sure you have at least three good reviews first.

Your description starts off slow, but ends well. I would think about cutting the first paragraph all together. If I'm reading it, I'm obviously wanting to go on a vacation. You don't have to sell a potential customer on vacationing, you have to sell them on this book. Your second paragraph interested me, and the third paragraph was very good because you gave actual destinations. If I were planning a trip to Orlando, I would buy this book because you say in the description you've been there and found ways to vacation for less.

Your beginning makes me nervous. You are selling me a book on how to have a vacation without spending a lot of money, and yet you say in the beginning of the book that most of the tips are about saving money all year long for your vacation. I don't want tips on saving through the year. I have my vacation coming up next month. I've already budgeted and planned for it. Giving me tips on saving through the year isn't going to help me. I want to know how to save money on nice hotels, where to eat for less, and how to get cheaper tickets to things. This is the information I feel like the cover and description are promising me. If you start by telling me most of the tips are going to be how to save money through the year, I'm not going to buy the book. I'm going somewhere else.

I did like the story about saving money on airplane tickets by flying out of another airport. Sometimes it's not too far to drive, and you can get cheaper tickets. I'd like the book to have more tips like this. If it does, I would definitely take out the beginning warning about tips on saving money through the year. If a large part of the book is saving money through the year, I would change the title and how it's marketed. (I'm sure there would be plenty of people who want to know this!)

My suggestion would be to figure out the main focus of the book, and make sure the title, description, and beginning of the book are all in line with each other.

What do you guys think?

The Future, Imperfect: Short Stories

Author: Ruth Nestvold
Genre: Science Fiction
How long it's been on sale: March 12, 2012
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Blogging, free days via KDP Select
Total sold so far: 7
Link to book on Amazon: The Future, Imperfect: Short Stories

Product Description:

"The Future, Imperfect" is a collection of near future, dystopian short stories by Ruth Nestvold. Environmental changes -- slow in some regions, catastrophic in others -- have had a major effect on our world, not for the better. While water wars and pandemics have devastated the Mediterrean region, and a major earthquake and the resulting destruction of nuclear power plants and sensitive research facilities have made much of California a wasteland, corporate-sponsored enclaves defend themselves from the have-nots. What can any one individual do to make a difference is such a world? These are the stories both of those who tried and those who failed.

Five of the short stories in this collection were previously published in such venues as Asimov's and Futurismic. "Exit Without Saving" also appeared in Rich Horton's "Science Fiction 2007: The Best of the Year." "Killfile" is an original publication.

"The Future, Imperfect," is a story collection of approximately 40,000 words. 

First 300 Words:

Latency Time

"You don't remember anything else from the first epidemic?" Alis asked the old woman, and Mihailo translated it into the local dialect. The woman shook her head.

Alis got up from the shaky chair and extended her hand to their hostess. "Hvala, Gospodja Milovanovic."

"Molim, Gospodja Petrovich," Mrs. Milovanovic said, smiling and taking Alis's hand in two thin, dry ones. She then broke out into a string of vowels and consonants that unfortunately meant nothing to Alis. Her company, Bioco, had sent her here because she at least knew a little Serbo-Croatian, but it wasn't doing her much good here in Montenegro. The dialects they spoke in the small towns were far beyond her capabilities, even beyond the capabilities of the translation program she had installed in her AI before leaving Seattle. It left her dependent on her guide and human translator Mihailo.

"She says she's sorry she can't help you more," Mihailo murmured with the slight accent she found so charming. He raised his eyebrows and continued, looking at her with a smile. "But she says she knows you will save them."

Alis barely refrained from shaking her head in disbelief. "The people here know the decision isn't mine to make, don't they?"

The warmth of unvoiced laughter still had not left Mihailo's eyes. "But you are a Petrovic."

"Petrovic," the old woman repeated, nodding, and squeezed Alis's hand.

"You can tell her I'll do what I can," Alis said, her lips pursed. From what she had seen of the region, it would be worth the time and energy Bioco would need to clean it up. Several decades ago, Bioco built its reputation on neurochemiologic products, but now they had expanded to one of the biggest biotech companies in the world, with their fingers in all kinds of profit-making pies. 

Comments: The cover looks like a photo from a mall that has been color treated to look green. It does not give me a science fiction vibe. I wasn't sure what the photo was at first, I had to stare at it for a while. A book cover should give you a message right when you look at it. This one was hard to decipher and isn't giving me a good impression of what the book will be like. The words are also hard to read. I'm going to suggest a re-design.

The description is good, in my opinion. I found it interesting and I do think it's a good idea to point out that some of the stories have made it into magazines. This does help me feel that the stories will have good quality writing.

I liked the sample. I think the major reason this isn't selling is because of the cover. I would re-design the cover and make it look more dystopian. It looks too much like a mall shot to me. I'd try to make it look like destroyed landscaping or something a bit more bleak. Also, I would make sure the type is legible.

What do you guys think?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Boots of Saint Felicity

Author: Jean Cross
Genre: Young Adult/Adventure
How long it's been on sale: Jan 2012
Current price: $5.99


Featured on Indie Saturday blog on Ramdomise Me website. Joined and contributed to Kindle for Kids website, featured there also. Accepted for review by Luminence emagazine.  But so far has not appeared. Trying to get reviews on other sites. Part of anthology being organised by Kindle Boards author (Mike Ware), sent in a short story.  Bios and book extracts from contributing authors, also being published in anthology. Investigating how to get on Irish libraries ebook system as have agreement for a public reading if my book is available on system. Set up a website which is presented as the official website of my characters.

Total sold so far: 2

Link to book on Amazon: The Boots of Saint Felicity

Product Description: 

The Boots of Saint Felicity

The book is set in Splickety Village, a quirky hamlet where almost everybody gets along with almost everybody else. The story opens as the inhabitants prepare for the Important Person From Far Away Festival which is but three days away. Committees abound and everyone is busy. Jam is made, menus are planned and the streets are adorned. But amidst the bustle and hurry a sinister threat stirs. The owner of the bookshop, Hugh DeGrew, disappears following the penultimate meeting of The Committee To Organise Everything For The Important Person From Far Away Festival. Familia Frondbottom, genteel proprietor of the hotel becomes concerned about the odd behaviour of her friend, Eloueese Turtlewine, who surprises almost everyone on her committee by casting doubt on the authenticity of revered local relics, the Boots of Saint Felicity.

Drawn to their own mystery are flying teenagers Bernie and Joxey Brownfeather who abandon the preparations when they find a photograph of their dead mother in the office of the bookshop. Their mother perished in a rock fall during an archaeological expedition in the local mountain five years previously. The pair team up with archaeologist Charlie Milkeypockets who possesses a great knowledge of legends and antiquated texts and whose father died in the same incident as the Brownfeathers’ mother. The trio embark on a dangerous path of discovery as the forces of a sinister foe spill over the valley.

As the struggle evolves, it emerges that not all of the villagers are who they seemed to be. Secrets are shared. Secrets born deep in the mountain, beneath the lowest of the low caves a long, long time ago. When the real threat comes into focus it becomes clear, to some, that this enemy is old, powerful and cunning and that this battle has been fought before.

Feisty pensioners, resourceful villagers and flying teenagers pit themselves against malevolent adversaries as the indifferent vagaries of fate visit murder, deceit and loss on a people unaware of their true history.

First 300 Words:

Three Days to Go

Eloueese Turtlewine stood in her kitchen and gazed out of the window.  It was a Tuesday morning.  Eloueese Turtlewine often gazed out of a window, preferably her kitchen window, when she was thinking.  She had just finished her breakfast.  She had cleared and washed and dried and put away her dishes and her folded tea towel lay over the rim of her dry sink.  She felt warm and full and ready to turn to the practical matters of the day.  Then she noticed something odd.  A small piece of paper was wafting slowly, carelessly, most certainly, into her back garden.  She stood quite still and watched it brush her cornflowers, rise, fall and run along the tip of the grass, rise again and settle finally on the straw she had arranged to protect her strawberries.  The small piece of paper blended so well with the yellowy coloured straw that she would not have been able to tell it was there had she not witnessed the last stages of its journey to that spot.  But she knew it was there and because she knew it was there, it would have to be removed.  It was typical, she mused, that this type of thing would happen on a Tuesday.  In her experience Tuesdays always brought trouble. Sometimes the trouble was small. Sometimes the trouble was big.

This proclivity for trouble was only one of the reasons why Eloueese Turtlewine did not like Tuesdays. In her view, Tuesday was a terrible waste of time.  The very notion of it vexed her.  In fact she was apt to deny that the day existed.  She often started the period in question just as she had started this one, by sitting up in bed and proclaiming,

“There’s no such thing as Tuesday.”

Comments: I was really surprised when this book came up and it said Young Adult Adventure as the genre. I've seen this book cover around a lot over on Kindleboards. Never would I have ever guessed that this was a YA Adventure book. The shoes, and the way the artwork is done, makes me think of literary fiction. The title makes me think it's religious. I never would have guessed YA.

The drawing on the cover looks too serious for this book. I would get rid of the shoes altogether and put one of the main characters on the front. The book description gives me a quirky-humorous feeling. This is what the cover should do too. (Think Lemony Snicket, but geared toward teenagers.) I'm also not fond of the font used. I would probably hire a graphic designer to re-work the cover.

The description is way too long, and when you look at it on the book's page there are no breaks in between the paragraphs so it ends up being a wall of text. I'd say at least half the description should be cut. I would start with the main character, which should be one of the teenagers if this is a YA book. Give the description from their perspective. Short and sweet. I would get other author's help with cutting it down and making it snappy and creating a good hook.

I found the beginning of the book humorous, but it didn't grab me and not let go. I might read on, though, if the description had hooked me. The writing itself was good, in my opinion. I just didn't find much going on at the beginning, and I prefer the main character doing something at the beginning of a book. Standing at the window looking out at a piece of paper falling isn't very interesting to me. However, the humorous style was good and I might read on to see if more happened. Also, the book is YA, but this doesn't start with a young adult as the main character. I'm now wondering if the book is not a YA book, and the author has some genre confusion.

In my opinion, I would first figure out the genre. This will define what direction the cover and description takes. I would suggest a more professional cover, and I would tighten up the description.

What do you guys think?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Burning Questions [Part 1 of the 1970's Trilogy]

Author: Barry S. Willdorf
Genre: Suspense, Thriller, Mystery
How long it's been on sale: Since August 1, 2011
Current price: $3.99

Marketing: I've promoted it regularly on 11 Yahoo groups. I've advertised on FB. Done a giveaway on Goodreads and LibraryThing. I've sent an email announcement to about 400 contacts. I've done press releases and gotten one large article in a local paper. I maintain a blog for the book. I promote directly on FB periodically, when there is some sort of tie-in. I've had three readings, one at a bookstore and two salons. Reception has been good but it hasn't turned into sales. I've done two guest appearances on blogs. I have a YouTube trailer. One review (four stars.)

Total sold so far: Approx. 75

Link to book on Amazon: Burning Questions [Part 1 of the 1970's Trilogy]

Product Description:

When the young heir of a wealthy Gloucester, MA family, is found shot with his step-father’s gun, the authorities quickly declare it to be a teenage suicide. But his mother wants an investigation. The family’s white-shoe law firm puts Nate Lewis, an inexperienced former intern, on the case. Was he picked because someone wants a bungled investigation or cover-up? Then, Christina Lima, the deceased’s stunning girlfriend from a poor Portuguese fishing family, tells Nate that the young man witnessed a hotel arson just before he died, and together they stumble onto a conspiracy to burn down the town’s old hotels. Soon Nate and Christina are running for their lives—and falling in love—as arsonists-cum-hit men stalk them all over historic Cape Ann.

First 300 Words:

On the day before I met Christina, I was doing a very credible impersonation of a bum. I’d even begun to believe it myself. But in my defense, I was facing the prospect of being drafted and there didn’t seem to be much point in having ambition.

I once had a professor of trial practice who began his classes by reading from an instruction judges routinely give to jurors at the beginning of a case:

“Remember to keep an open mind and do not form or express an opinion about the case until all the evidence has been received.”

He said it was sound advice for lawyers too. “If you fail to reserve your judgments...” he wagged his finger. “...someday you’ll find yourself in the middle of a trial confronted with a messy little fact that you overlooked. If you have to lose a case, don’t do it because, in your prejudice, you overlooked a messy little fact.”

If people had been following his advice, I’d never have met Christina Lima. We both were messy little facts.


I was absentmindedly tapping into a can of Krueger ale when a rag-top Coupe DeVille, just off the showroom floor, pulled onto Shore Road. Though much of her face was hidden by a broad-brimmed straw hat and oversized shades, enough epidermis was out there to tell that its driver was a classy lady with a “Coppertone tan.” She pulled to a stop beneath my window, got out and mounted the stairs slowly. Her slender hand gingerly dodged the splinters on my paint-chipped rail- ing. I didn’t know anybody who could afford a new Caddy. I assumed she’d come to the wrong address.

She was dressed in an expensive plaid skirt that stopped at mid-thigh, and a sleeveless top. Her fine-boned arms had muscle definition and despite some knobbiness in the knees, her legs were long, slim, and looked like they’d seen a lot of exercise.

Comments: I like the cover. I think it fits the genre well. I love the guy with the shadowed face. That's my favorite part. I also like the fonts used. I think the cover isn't the issue here. It's very well done, in my opinion.

The book description kind of confuses me. I had to read it several times just to understand the connection between the events described. I think rewriting the blurb will really help this book.

The beginning of the book didn't grab me. It kind of jumps around like the description. I had a hard time connecting what being a bum had to do with a professor of trial practice, and what they both had to do with meeting a woman.

I would get more opinions on the blurb and the beginning of the novel. If the whole novel jumps from subject to subject, I would definitely put the whole thing through a critique group and tighten it up. There should be a natural progression in a book. Because A happens, then B happens, and because B happens then C happens. If we go from A to 3 to Orange, we get confused.

My suggestion would be to find some other authors and tighten up the blurb and get critiques on the novel itself. What do you guys think?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Wishful Thinking

Author: K. Crumley
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy/Urban Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: 2 years
Current price: $1.99
Marketing: Blog tour, paid banner ads, book trailer, bookbuzzr, twitter, facebook, #samplesunday, goodreads, shelfari, blogging
Total sold so far: 37
Link to book on Amazon: Wishful Thinking (Daughters of Oberia, Book I)

Product Description:

One stormy night Maevis Etherwood came home and found her husband in bed with another woman...
What exactly transpired afterward remained a mystery, even to Maevis herself.

The Detectives investigating the scene are stumped by the lack of any forensic evidence....
But what the two men remain oblivious to is the fact that she is a faerie, losing control of her powers in this non-magical realm due to fatal illness.

Could Maevis really have killed the man she loved with magic? Or is there a far more treacherous power at work?

An image flashed through her mind of the night in question. It was like a nightmare that she had woken up from, and only had the faintest images crossed her mind of that horrid evening. Of finding the man she loved and trusted in bed with another—in her bed. She remembered flying, wings unfurled…she remembered her belongings and a few of his flying across the room, like a tornado blowing through their home. The look of horror on that girl's face as she screamed “She has wings!” as if Maevis was a monster. It only made the faerie more hurt, angrier…Then Maevis’ mind went blank. She cannot remember a thing after that, except for waking up and hearing her sisters call her name, Fiona shrieking…
They were dead.
He was dead.

First 300 Words:

Maevis stumbled, and then grasped the barre with pale trembling hands. She felt feverish and weak as she was warming up in the studio for the evening performance. She fought back the feelings of grogginess, willed away the haziness that filled her eyelids. The show must go on. Right at that moment, the artistic director entered the room. “Perfect timing,” She said with a smirk. She already knew what he was about to say. Miguel was starting to sound like a parrot, repeating the same old lines.

“Easy old girl,” he said. “Don’t you think that’s a sign that you should retire?”

“Not yet.” Maevis replied, “I’ll know when that day comes. But, believe me, it’s a ways off yet.”

“Every dancer’s career has its expiration date.” He said, “Even yours Miss Margot Fonteyn-of-Youth.”

Maevis snickered at his weak attempt at humor. “Miguel, If I fall on my buttocks in the middle of the stage tonight then I’ll—”

“You’ll what dear?” He said, in a condescending tone. “Finally, step aside and allow one of the new upcoming ballerinas to have the spotlight?”

“You have ulterior motives,” She said as she gained a bit of strength. “Look Tara, Bridgette or whatever young girl you’re romancing this week will have her time in the spotlight soon enough.”

Miguel’s mouth dropped open, eyes grew wide. He put his hands on his hips. “Ahem!”

“Besides, this is opening night!” She protested, “You can’t have some understudy just step into the principal role tonight! I’ve been rehearsing the role of Giselle for months now. I’ve worked hard for this!”

“Maybe a little too hard…” He countered, “You are what now? Thirty-five?”

“Thirty-two!” She said; and tried to conceal feeling insulted.

Comments: The cover definitely does not give me an urban fantasy feeling. The cover suggests to me that the book is light and fun. If this is not the case, I would change the image and coloring. I'm not in love with the stripes on top and bottom. I might play around with taking those off. I also would change the font. The wings look tacked onto a photo of a ballerina. They do not look professional to me. Even some graphic artists have trouble making something like this look real. I would try to find a cover designer that can do this book justice.

The description could use some tweaking, in my opinion. Starting with a stormy night makes me think of Snoopy writing on his typewriter. "It was a dark and stormy night." That actually comes from a real book, by the way. Paul Clifford. If you google "Purple Prose" you will find a Wiki article that talks about it. There now is a contest named after the author, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, for people to come up with the first sentences to the 'worst of all possible novels.' I would take the stormy night out, and try to cut any other instances of purple prose if you find them.

Personally, I'm not a fan of questions in book descriptions. Most of the time the questions are obvious. "Will John succeed in finding the love of his life?" (Well, of course he will. The book would suck if he didn't.) "Will little Jimmy escape from the kidnappers?" (He will escape. The book would suck if he didn't.) "Could Maevis really have killed the man she loved with magic? Or is there a far more treacherous power at work?" (I think we all know the answer to these questions, so why even ask them?)

Here's the deal. If you take the questions out and turn them into statements, instead of the reader already knowing the answer, you create a sense of the reader wanting to know how the protagonist accomplishes these things. Example: Will little Jimmy escape from the kidnappers? - Let's turn this into a statement. "Jimmy must find a way to escape from his kidnappers before time runs out." This statement makes me want to take this journey with him. He must escape. We know he does, but the how is what is important. That is why we read books and why we must turn the page to find out. In almost every book we read, we already know what will happen in the end. The hero will save the heroine. Harry will defeat Voldemort. Bella won't die. The journey is what is important.

I would also take the excerpt out of the description. I dislike excerpts in descriptions, but maybe that's just a personal thing. See what others say.

The beginning of the book needs a lot of editing. There are capitalized words that should be lower case, there are commas that should be periods, and periods that should be commas. I would suggest hiring an editor, and before you do I would get sample edits from at least 5 different editors to compare them.

The actual text - the scene - isn't grabbing me. It's a woman past her prime wanting to dance, and her health isn't the best. Her instructor is telling her to quit. I don't know the woman, so this isn't particularly moving to me. I'm also reading some 'telling' in here. I think a critique group would help tighten this prose up. I would suggest joining a critique group and seeing if there's a better place to start the story. I think her finding her husband in bed with another woman would be a good place.

What do you guys think?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Travel Means Freedom

Author: Various Authors (It's a crowdsourced book)
Genre: Non-fiction, Travel
How long it's been on sale: March 15, 2012
Current price: $4.99
Marketing: Email marketing, social media marketing
Total sold so far: 50 print, 20 digital
Link to book on Amazon: Travel Means Freedom

Product Description:

The first travel book written by a community, travel means freedom, is a collection of 111 stories from authors around the world. In over 100,000 words these selected writers tell tales, spin yarns, share memories and above all, inspire the readers to get out of their comfort zone and start charting a course towards their adventure and freedom.

A concept started by a start-up,, the book is part of a funding project to raise money for charity:water, a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations.

First 300 Words:


by Philippe Drolet

In 2009, I arrived in the picturesque island of Koh Tao, Thailand. It had been quite the ride from Vancouver, Canada: a 48-hour journey that had taken me on a cab, a bus, a plane, a tuk-tuk, a train, and finally a boat. But here I was at last, a smile beaming across my face, a cold beer in hand, and a mind free of any worry.

Life was oh-so-good. And I had 30 more days of this goodness ahead of me. Aaahhh.

Over the following hours, the beers went down smoothly, the music and conversations got louder… and the mosquitoes started taking a liking to me. Fortunately, the mild inebriation and enchanting surroundings helped me forget all about it until the next day. I woke up with a cloudy head and ankles that had been bitten so many times that they had swollen to twice their size. Uh-oh. It got worse. The onslaught from mosquitoes continued over the ensuing days. I was in paradise, yet it felt like hell.

One day, having exhausted my options, I approached one of the locals and tried to explain my problem by showcasing my poor ankles. The local laughed, and explained in a thick accent, "You eat spicy. Spicy spicy." I thought it sounded a bit crazy, but I was desperate. Only problem: my tolerance for spicy food was low. Very low. But I didn't care. I started ordering spicy dish after spicy dish, braving a mouth of fire and profuse sweating.

Soon, something magical happened. I started "sweating spicy", and the mosquitoes left me alone. Aaahhh, paradise was finally paradise. I had also discovered something. I actually loved spicy food, even though I'd been afraid of it all my life. I became a spice-aholic, and trying progressively spicier dishes, and savouring each of them with more gusto. 

Comments: As a graphic artist, I like the cover. I'm not sure what's in the book by looking at it, but I think it's designed well and the title is easy to read. But just because the cover looks nice doesn't mean it's doing it's job. I'm not sure what to expect with this book. Most travel books talk about a specific place. This one has a hot air balloon on the cover and seems to suggest if I would like to travel, I should hop in a balloon and just float somewhere. Anywhere. The cover seems to lack direction, for this very reason. If I'm planning a trip and would like to read about different places, I would rather have specific places pictured on the cover. Ooh, look, this book talks about France and Africa...two places I want to know more about. I'm going to buy it. My suggestion would be to picture some specific places mentioned in the book. Either that, or change the title to let us know more what is in the book.

The description lacks clarity. I know the authors are from all over the world, but I don't know what places they are writing about. And I get the impression some of these stories are not true, by the words "tell tales, spin yarns." This blows the Non-Fiction out of the water. Not only do I not know what places are featured in the book, I don't even know if this book would help me at all if I want to travel and see the world. I don't want to read about fake travel experiences.

The first 300 words were good. Really good. This reads like a true story. A real experience and it was funny. I'm not getting this at all from the cover or the description. The stories, if they are all like this, are fine. It's the presentation that needs to be tweaked. At the very least I would mention where some of the experiences take place in the description. Tell us that some of these stories are humorous. Let us know these are true stories. And possibly changing the title/cover too, but see what others say about that.

What do you guys think?

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Last Werewolf Hunter: The Complete Series

Author: William Woodall
Genre: Young Adult Christian Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: February 2012
Current price: $4.97
Marketing: ?
Total sold so far: 23 in the US, 6 in the UK
Link to book on Amazon: The Last Werewolf Hunter: The Complete Series

Product Description:

Zach Trewick always thought he'd become a writer someday, or maybe play baseball for the Texas Rangers.  What he never imagined in his craziest dreams was that he'd find himself dodging bullets and crashing cars off mountainsides, let alone that he'd ever be expected to break the ancient werewolf curse which hangs over his family.

Even worse, his parents are determined to fight him tooth and nail to keep the Curse intact, his friends are not much help, and he's not quite sure his girlfriend isn't secretly trying to kill him.

And that's just for starters.

But Zach is the last of the werewolf hunters, the long-foretold Curse-Breaker who can wipe out the wolves forever, and he's not the type to give up just because of a few minor setbacks. . . 

First 300 Words:

I didn’t know anything special was going on when Nana Maralyn asked me to go walking with her in the apple orchard that day.

It was late one evening after supper was over, and we walked on tiptoes so we could listen to the crickets.  Nana always used to tell me they were like people, and sang their prettiest songs whenever they were saddest, when they knew that winter was coming.  She used to say stuff like that all the time.  It was late October in Tennessee , so I guess they didn’t have much time left.

Nana kept quiet, but I could feel the soft crease in her palm where she rested her hand on my bare shoulder.  Her claws were really sharp that night, digging into my skin like tacks, and I shifted my weight uncomfortably.

“Be still, Zach,” she commanded.  I quit squirming; Nana had a way of pinching the very blood out of you when you didn’t mind her.

There was a scrabbly sound in the weeds and we both froze.  Nana smiled a tight little smile and dug her claws into my shoulder a bit deeper with anticipation.

We didn’t have long to wait.  In a minute a brown rabbit poked his head up from the tangled honeysuckle and hopped out beside the path.  He sniffed the air with his wrinkled little nose, and then crouched down to nibble on the dry grass.

Comments: The cover isn't bad. I do believe it gives a mild fantasy feeling, but that could be tweaked to be less subtle. Overall I do think the cover looks good. If it continues to struggle after changing a few other things, maybe look at the cover.

The description talks about the fantasy element, but doesn't mention that the book is aimed toward a Christian audience. This is not a Good Thing(tm) in my humble opinion. Those looking for a Christian book won't know that this is one, and those who do not like Christian themes might not know this book has them and be disappointed. I think it should be clear in the description.

What makes this book a Christian book? Is it more like the Chronicles of Narnia where it's subtle? Or is it more blatant in the book? (The boy looses faith, then has to find it again, for instance.) I would want to know what I'm getting into before buying the book. Make the Christian theme clear in the description.

Setting aside the Christian themes, the description could be improved. I had to read it three times to figure out the boy isn't dodging bullets in his crazy dreams. (Sorry, I skim. Bad habit of mine.) I think the description needs a bit more focus. We don't find out what Zach is up against. I know he's fighting some curse, but what are the stakes? And how does one fight a curse? I can't visualize it. It's too vague.

The beginning of the book is fine, but it's all back story. I'd rather see this scene from the point of view of someone experiencing it right now. We can always jump forward in time later.

My suggestion would be to mess with the description first, and maybe get more opinions on the cover and the first 300 words. Maybe putting the book free for a short time would help too. What do you guys think?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Jesus Needs Help

Author: David Germain
Genre: Satire
How long it's been on sale: Paperback - November 12, 2010  Kindle - August 16, 2011
Current price: $1.99

Marketing: I have a Facebook Fan Page.  I have some youtube reviews here, here, here, here, and here.  I have a positive review and a negative review online.  There's a strict fundamentalist pastor that really REALLY hates it.  I had a spot at the Montreal Comic Con in 2011.  I sold 7 copies there.  I also had a spot at the Halifax Comic Con.  There I sold 10 copies.  I was interviewed on a local radio station about it.  I attended a Liberal Party rally and gave Michael Ignatiev a copy of my book in front of TV cameras and other media.  I made it look like Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church strongly objected to my book.  I also made it seem like Bill O' Reilly and Dennis Miller were talking about my book on Fox News.  I then made it seem like terrorist Anwar Awlaki put a Jihad out on me and my book just before he was killed.  And, most recently, I made it seem like Rush Limbaugh accepted my book as a sponsor for his show but then reject it soon afterwards over paranoid reasons.  Those are the really big ones.

Total sold so far: Paperback - 4  Kindle - 99

Link to book on Amazon: Jesus Needs Help

Product Description:

Jesus Christ runs afoul of some very ornery characters. Sadly for Him and for us, these characters are all too abundant in our society.

First 300 Words: (Note from the author: Keep in mind that this is a comic book.  The words are only half the story.  And really, in order to truly assess the book properly, you really need to read the whole thing.)

When Jesus had come down from the hill with the apostles, he stood on a level place with a large number of his disciples.  A large crowd of people was there from all over Judea and from Jerusalem and from the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon; they had come to hear him and be healed of their diseases.  Those who were troubled by evil spirits also came and were healed.  All the people tried to touch him, for power was going out from him and healing them all.

Jesus looked at his disciples and said...

Jesus: Ahem!  Blessed are the...

Victorian Monkey: HOLD IT!  Before any speech goes public we have to look at it.  We don't want to usurp any traditional values now, do we?

Jesus: Madam, that was never my intention.

Psychologist Monkey: AHA!  I found something already.  "Blessed are those who mourn?!"  Are you advocating massive clinical depression?

Jesus: What?!  I'm trying to give comfort to anyone who may be saddened by the death of a loved one.

Psychologist Monkey: Well, I think blessing them is too dangerous.  I'm taking it out.

Mother Monkey: Yes, take it out before my children hear it.  I don't want them getting any bad influences.

Jesus: Um... madam... where are your kids?

Mother Monkey: Hmmm!  They were right here a minute ago.


Jesus: Found 'em!

(her children are whipping Jesus' foot and throwing rocks at it too)

Jesus: Cut that out!

Kids: HSSSSSSSSSSS!!!  Yipe!  Yipe!  Yipe!  Yipe!  Yipe!

Feminist Monkey: Hold it, mister!  How about this: "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the KINGDOM of Heaven??!!"  King-Dumb??!!  So this paradise all us decent people are destined for is under some phallocentric tyrant?

Jesus: Absolutely not.

Feminist Monkey:  Then why doesn't it say that?

Jesus: Okay, here.  "...for theirs is the Kingdom AND QUEENDOM of Heaven."  Happy?

Feminist Monkey: That's better.

American Monkey: What the... ?  I can't find God Bless America in here.

Jesus: That's because I didn't put it in.

American Monkey: What did you say, Commie?

Comments: Keep in mind while reading this assessment that I write and study genre fiction, so I might not be the best person to judge a satire comic novel like this one. But I'll plug ahead anyway.

When I first looked at this book cover I tried to figure out if this book was written for Christians, or for those who are not Christian. (Maybe poking fun at Jesus or Christian beliefs.) I couldn't tell right away, so I studied the cover. The cartoon way that Jesus is portrayed made me think of a children's book, and yet the picture and title gave me the clue that this wasn't some "Read Bible Stories to Your Kids" book. I threw out the kids book idea, however I can see where some people might think it is for kids if they don't look too close.

I don't know too many Christians who believe that Jesus needs help, at least not in the way portrayed on the book cover, so this suggests the book isn't for Christians. And yet, it isn't very clear that this book is making fun of Christianity either, so I feel like the message of the cover is in conflict with itself. I would try to make the cover more clear as to who the target audience is.

Graphically, the cover isn't bad, I might just suggest getting rid of the hard shadow under the title. And I would change the font used on the Author's name, and get rid of the "By." We know the author's name means that is who wrote it.

The description is short and doesn't tell us that this is a graphic novel, something that is highly important. I would expand the description, and be more clear about what you're getting with this book. Readers need to know this is a satire, and that it is political in nature.

I don't see anything wrong with the text itself, as far as grammar issues. I do, however, believe there are going to be people who will be offended by the things in this book, for various reasons. I'm sure there is a market for a graphic satire about Jesus and censorship, however we are talking about a very niche market. You will need to find your audience. It won't be easy, but I do believe there are people out there who would buy this book.

After reading what the author sent me as for how he has marketed the book, I'm thinking there is a bit of a misconception what marketing is. Book reviews are not marketing. Giving a book to someone on camera is not marketing. (It might get you publicity, but this usually doesn't lead to sales.) Making funny videos and posting them on YouTube and your blog might be fun, but it's not marketing either. I suggest reading up a bit on Marketing. Right now I think the biggest problem is identifying who your customer is. Tweaking the cover and description will help.

I suggest revising the cover and description, and then trying to find those who would be interested in this type of book. What do you guys think?