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?


  1. I agree with Victorine, except I wouldn't suggest changing the marketing but rewriting everything to better fit the targeted genre. I don't think the literary prose fails because of the genre it's aimed at, I think it fails because it fails to provide substance. Horror has depth and meaning, emotion and subtext. The best horror gets under your skin. This writing just lightly skips across the surface. I think one can write literary horror if you're good, REAL good, at wordsmithing. But I think this falls short.

    The cover seems to have similar problems. It has no discernible substance. I don't know what it's supposed to show, and it most certainly doesn't evoke a sense of fear.

    Even the description and the comments that it begins with have no real substance. They dance around the meat and potatoes of the story. It almost seems like the author wrote everything with the intent of avoiding any direct description of the story itself. I also dislike the fact that the very depthless "What Readers Are Saying" blurbs have no attribution. They read more like something the author could made up himself, and didn't do a very good job of it either.

    I appreciate what the author is trying to do here, very much so in fact. I just think that the poetic language took precedence over the substance of what was being written about. I like to feel a story, not marvel at the flowery prose.

    With a stronger focus on the story itself, the author can probably accomplish both lovely prose and a great horror story to go along with it. I just don't think he's succeeded yet.

  2. I agree with Victorine about the cover, it's too muddled and obscure at this point. The small text is very difficult to read at the small size shown here, and I'm sure it's impossible at a smaller thumbnail size like what Amazon shows when you're browsing around. I recommend going with a cleaner, more clear design. Also, leave "breathing room" for the title and other text, don't let it get too close to the edge of the cover.

    I also agree about the testimonials. Unless they're attributed to someone significant -- someone whose opinion I would trust to guide me toward a book I'd like (which immediately rules out the friends and family of the author, which is a valid assumption for anonymous quotes), they're just empty space-filler. If these are real quotes from random readers (not in any way connected to the author), perhaps some of them could be combined at the very end of the description. Something like: "Readers have called this book 'flawless' and 'a fascinating, well-written tale' that 'leaves the reader in awe of its scope.'"

    As for the first 300 words, I get the feeling I'm in the head of a psychopath, not a person being haunted by "real" demons ("real" in the context of the story, of course, and not our real world). I'll admit it doesn't look like my cup of tea, so I'm not sure what to suggest in terms of story content.

    Anyway, once you've made any changes you think are appropriate, don't neglect offline promotion. It looks like all of your promo efforts so far have been online, but have you tried (for example) sending a press release about the "new book from a local author" to local newspapers -- of all sizes -- in your area? It can't hurt, and there are many examples online for writing press releases. Any exposure you get that way is "free advertising."

  3. The description, I fear, is incomprehensible. :( I rather liked the writing, though you change tense from the past to the present once at the beginning. The cover could be cleaned up as well, and I'm afraid I don't understand why there is an ellipsis in the title. I can feel something good just around the corner. Keep at it. :)

  4. POV switches are confusing, and with demons ready to strike, I don't know or care about any of the characters to even worry for them. The young handsome couple laughing is the closest the writer gets to character development. There is some description with the couple laughing and the old man's coffee, but this is the Left Bank? All the description is stuff I could write and describe at the local Starbucks. Maybe describe the protagonist. Understand it is easy to to criticize, but that is the title of the blog. Also 31 sold and already 6 five star reviews? I read somewhere that a book gets about 1 unsolicited review per 100 buys so most people just disregard them when an author throws them out.

  5. First impressions can be telling. And damning.
    Cover: Lose the font with all caps (titling). It looks too stretched across the front. The image is incomprehensible. The reviews are unreadable in a thumbnail. A plain black and red cover with a small, ornamental cross would suffice. Put title in embossed silver using a heavy sans serif. The heavy font will carry the horror imagery better.

    I agree about the reviews in the front. Too much Ted Dekker for my taste. I ignore them, anyway. They are obviously self-serving and mostly untrue. Word of mouth sells, but not on your book.

    Front matter should be publishing info only and a dedication (maybe).

    Ok. The writing. I am less critical about it. First, I don't know if I am getting enough of the writing. I would read further just so I was sure of what I was reading. It wouldn't be hopeful reading, just curious.

    The plot sounds a lot like SERVANT OF THE BONES by Anne Rice. Anne Rice is literary horror. Stephen King is arguably literary horror. So, that would possibly be your genre. Your writing almost falls into the EXPERIMENTAL Literary Horror Genre. I dunno.

    I think the 31 sales are more indicative of the competition, the cover, the blurb, and the canned reviews than it is about the writing. That's my 2 cents, for what it is worth.

  6. Lose the review comments and put the whole book in present tense.

    1. ooooooh that is evil like your moniker suggests! The whole book? Or do you mean the whole book blurb?

  7. No idea what the cover is supposed to represent. I couldn't even make a guess as to the genre. I usually try to figure it out before I look at the genre, but this one defeated me. I would also like to know why there is an ellipse after Martuk.

    Lose the testimonials. I don't have time to scroll through all that to get to the blurb. If you look at your reviews, you'll see that Amazon has done that for you.

    I did not understand the blurb at all. If the cover didn't stop me and if the testimonials didn't stop me, the blurb would definitely stop me.

    The first 300 suffers from the same problem. I wasn't at all sure what was happening.

  8. I find the cover confusing and I would definitely move on without reading if I were browsing. "What readers are saying" is a deal breaker. You MUST give the readers' names, and at least one of them should be some kind of recognisable authority, celebrity, or well known author. Without these, all that "What readers are saying" means is that the author wrote some enticing words up front, thinking this would get me to read more. No sirree, I would not read more. Finally, the hook is confusing. You need to immerse me in the story. That's the function of the hook. If you fail in that, you've lost me as a potential reader. To immerse me, I need at least ONE solid characteristic in common with the person I meet in the hook. As with most of the books that fail to gain an audience, I believe the fault lies in the hook.

  9. I use reader quotes in my descriptions, but a small number, like one to three, and I leave off the stars. I don't mind seeing a few little quotes at the beginning, but if you lose half those, down to three, that might be nice.

    Now, I don't read in this genre, but I do find that cover very scary, even though I don't know what it is. Still, it could have a more sophisticated look and still be scary. I like the colors.

    I don't love the ellipsis, but maybe it's just quirky enough to make the look a little different.

    The blurb, however, makes no sense. It's got a lot of powerful imagery and tone, but I can't follow it, logically. What I try sometimes with blurbs is reading them out loud to someone. As I'm reading it, I'll hear where the sentences are awkward. Speech is a more instinctive form of communication that writing down words, so I think that's why it helps so much for blurbs.

    Good luck with everything! And congratulations for having the guts to put yourself out here for critique. It takes great courage.

  10. I have to agree with everyone that the cover doesn't really say much of anything, and the blurb is confusing. I like the repetition of red in the first 300 words, but even after that, I still don't know what this book is going to be about. I don't know who Martuk is, I don't know what is significant about his story, and thus I don't know why I should care.

    I suspect the beginning might work better if you had a better blurb and cover that would give readers an idea of what kind of horrors might be in store for them. If the reader had specific expectations, she might come at the first pages very differently.

    Hope this helps!

  11. >> the heat of their whispers stinging his cheek ...

    >> life everlasting steals his mortality from the bottom of a golden cup.

    I don't know what these phrases mean.

  12. I agree with those folks who classify this book as literary horror. I enjoyed the first passages of the actual book--very nice writing.

    Sadly, rather than literary, your blurb comes off as a little pretentious and very confusing. Reviews shouldn't be in blurb, because it takes up valuable real estate (and wastes a reader's attention). The description is just supposed to inform the reader about what the book is about, (main character, conflict, genre)--not how good or life-changing the novel is. The book description is also not a stage to show the author's voice. At its core, the description should be dry and straight-forward; the drama of the plot, etc. should provide the flavor.

    Though I don't agree that King or Rice are literary horror, their books might give you a template for your own book description.


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