Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Update: This is the new cover and blurb for Amazombia:
Blurb: Life is good for the little slave living in the jungle of South America. He has his carrier pigeons, job security, and all the bugs he can eat. So when a bounty hunter requests his help tracking down slave traders, he immediately crawls into the safety of his memories...back when zombies were merely monsters on the movie screen, and his high school sweetheart wasn't an Amazonian queen.

Each day he stays alive in the jungle, he takes one step closer to the daughter he never met, and realizes that perhaps living as a slave is not all it's cracked up to be. (97,000 words, approx. 230 pages)

Comments on the new cover and blurb welcome.

Here is the original post:

Author: John M. Kelly Jr.
Genre: Fantasy, Romantic Comedy
How long it's been on sale: 5/13/2012
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Harass you and friends on facebook
Total sold so far: 6
Link to book on Amazon: Amazombia

Product Description:

Amazombia is what happens when you cross the Amazon with zombies. Everything turns a greenish gray color, as any good finger painting does. Sometimes it smells lush and fruity, like the body wash of a beautiful show girl dancing on stage. At other times, not so good. A bit on the dank side, intermingled with a hint of decaying death.

Join in on the adventure. There's romance, jungles, grasslands, rivers, canoes, piranha, jaguars, and of course, a sprinkling of zombies. It's a serious work of art, and as with any serious work of art, watch for spiders. The author holds no guarantees that you will not walk into any spider webs when reading this book. But it's really not about the sticky webs in your face, is it? Of course not. It's not knowing where the giant spider is. Sure, just a moment ago he was dangling in space, a giant Alaskan king crab in the middle of the jungle. Now where is? Ignore him. That tightening around your chest? That's nothing. Well, it's something. It's either your heart, or the spider clinging to you. Either way, relax, enjoy. It's a good romp...just wave your hands in front of you as you go along. That's what I do. (97,000 words, approx. 230 pages)

First 300 Words:

Deviled Zombie Eyes
6 freshly killed zombies
1 can crème of mushroom soup
3 mustard packets
3 mayonnaise packets
1 teaspoon paprika
1 large onion, halved
water to cover
garnish (optional)
Make sure zombies were killed in the last 24 hours. If you're not comfortable killing your own zombie, ask a professional. It doesn't matter if the eyeballs are intact within the skull, or if they're hanging out of the eye socket. We'll put them back in the skull for presentation purposes later. If they're older than 24 hours, forget it. No amount of boiling is going to make the eyeballs any less rubbery.
Scoop out eyeballs from sockets, discard optic nerves (optionally, cut up the optic nerves and use later in broth for seasoning). You can find an abundance of canned crème of mushroom soup in any abandoned shopping center. If you find any cans of dog food, great! The recipe doesn’t call for it, but give yourself a pat on the back for a good find. Canned dog food is a delicacy and hard to come by these days. Open the can of crème of mushroom soup, and discard contents. They have zero nutritional value. We will use the can later to store the eyeball fluid in.
Next, find the condiments in any abandoned fast food establishment. Don't bother looking for any frozen meats, they went bad as soon as the power grid went down. If you find any breads, great. Make sure the bread isn't moldy. If made into sandwiches, moldy bread will distract from the tangy taste of zombie eyes. The condiment ratio is a packet each of mayo and mustard per set of eyes. Any more, or any less, will overpower (or under enhance) the taste…just like moldy bread.
Halve each eyeball, starting at the pupil,

Comments: The style of the cover makes me think this is a middle grade book, however, the scantily clad woman makes me think it's not a middle grade book, so at first glance I'm confused. The title is hard to read, as is the author's name. The cover is also unappealing to me for some reason. Maybe it's the colors, I'm not sure. I would definitely recommend a new cover.

The entire description doesn't tell me anything about the storyline of the book. When I read a description, I want to know what the storyline is going to be about. I want to know who the main character is, and what obstacle they have to overcome. This description doesn't tell me anything about who I'm going to be spending the next few hours with if I buy this book. I want to know what I'm getting into before I buy. I would re-work the whole description. Get some other author's eyes on it. Ask your critique group about it. Often the description is the hardest thing to write. Get help.

The book starts with a recipe. Okay. It's a humorous fake-recipe, but it doesn't pull me into the story. IS there a story here? If not, let's totally reframe this. What kind of book is this? A collection of humorous things about zombies? I'm not getting it. If there really is a story here, with a main character, a plot, some sub-plots, a story arc and all that, let's start with a scene. Let's stick the funny recipe stuff in later, or at the end. If this book isn't really a novel, like in the traditional sense, we will need to figure out exactly what this is before going further. The cover, description and sample are all confusing to me. It needs to be clear to the reader what they are getting. This is terribly unclear. My suggestion would be to get help from your beta readers/critique partners. Have them help you define what this book really is, and then make the cover and description match. What other books are out there like this? See how they packaged their books. Look at the covers and descriptions. And if you've written a book in which there are no other books to compare with, well, that could be a very big problem. It's hard to sell something that isn't like anything else out there.

What do you guys think?


  1. I think figuring out the genre (or lack thereof?) is the tricky part here. From the art style of the cover, blurb, and the recipe of the first 300 words, I'm not getting either "fantasy" or "romantic comedy" as the genre or genre blend. I'm not savvy on the sub-genres of humor, but as far as setting proper reader expectations I would start from humor and drill down as far as possible from there, keeping in mind that this is presumably not a book for young audiences. I don't know if it needs a different cover once it's cast in the right light genre-wise.

    The one review on the book looks... well, fake. The name of the reviewer, the lack of other reviews, the wording of it... I don't believe it. Others might not either, and if people look at it skeptically, that's a negative reaction that won't help sales.

    Marketing-wise you've probably tapped out your sales potential, so you'll need to look at getting more involved with that, or having someone else do it for you if you're really marketing-averse.

    Good luck with it!

  2. I am going to be painfully honest and say the description reads as if another one has escaped the asylum, and I don't mean the home for zombie monkeys who can type.

    If I were browsing on Amazon or wherever, I wouldn't even bother to sample.

    That said, the recipe did make me laugh. And I second Victorine on the misdirects; from the cover, description, and sample, I have no idea what this book is about. The package gives me no compelling reason to part with my hard-earned money.

  3. This book falls under "too clever, too soon," also known as, "a great book for people who don't buy books."

    There is definitely some wit here and oodles of creativity, but it's so far afield of any clear genre that even the readers who'd love this sort of thing might not be able to identify it as such.

    I love that KDP allows people to put this kind of work out, for it really is genius in its own way, and I applaud the author for his hard work as well as the guts to stand here and take critique from us in the cheap seats.

    Learn from this one and let the next novel fall a little more in-line with a genre, any genre, and bone up on the basics (boy chases goal) before moving on to jazz. :-) Best of luck!

  4. Some good stuff already being said here.

    I think the cover is quite pretty, but I agree that the genre placement is the main problem. Romantic comedy???? Seriously? With zombies? This would possibly appeal to the horror-crowd. There is a fair market for horror and zombie-related fiction, not all of it dreary and bleak. At the magazine I work for, I bought the most hilarious zombie story ever. There is a lot of funny zombie material being published.

    I would scrap the Romantic comedy category from this pronto and enter "horror" as the second genre. The subject matter in the first 300 words certainly classify it as such.

    The biggest problem I see is the blurb, which needs help big-time. Right now it makes very little sense. The blurb is where you show the readers why your story is worth their time, and not tell them that they should. It's the old show vs tell thing. You may tell the readers that this is an adventure, but that's just the author talking. In the blurb, you want the story to talk. You want to show the readers a glimpse of what they're going to get. A blurb for fiction needs a character and a situation, and tension.

  5. Yeah. Cover.

    The typography is too light to hold the yellow against the red. It's just not legible in thumbnail. It's also the wrong feel.

    Cartoonish figures don't help your cause.

    The red box frame with the yellow boxes for author and illustrator's names? Yeah. No. Doesn't say RomCom. Look at the romantic comedies you'd like to be selling as many as. Mimic their covers.


    No. I think it's been mentioned, but the description needs to tell me who's in the book and who/what his/her problem is.

    I don't think you're even getting to "sample" -- let alone buy.

    It could be the story can actually stand up to the "so cute it burns" but this isn't one that I'd look at twice, just on the basis of the cover.

  6. I agree with the other comments... redo the blurb and the cover. Based on the first 300 words, it looks like something I'd probably read, but you would have lost me at the cover (and blurb).

  7. John, this is really a tough one. Your writing is terrific. Normally present-tense narration bugs the hell out of me, but within a few pages, I'd forgotten it. I only read about 10 pp. into the sample, so I don't yet have a sense of what the story's about, but I like the MC already and am intrigued enough to keep reading.

    I think this should be salable. It's the bells and whistles that are hanging you up.

    1) The blurb, like everyone else has said. I'd cut the cute and write a traditional one: who's the MC, what's his problem, why should we care? You need to get across the book's humorous take on things, but the "heart" still has to be there. There's plenty of wryly funny zombie stuff out there now, so take a look at how those writers are positioning themselves in their blurbs. Here's example from Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues, a traditionally published romance/thriller/mystery/chicklit/horror hybrid that's on my TBR pile:

    Angel Crawford is finally starting to get used to life as a brain-eating zombie, but her problems are far from over. Her felony record is coming back to haunt her, more zombie hunters are popping up, and she’s beginning to wonder if her hunky cop-boyfriend is involved with the zombie mafia. Yeah, that’s right—the zombie mafia.

    Throw in a secret lab and a lot of conspiracy, and Angel’s going to need all of her brainpower—and maybe a brain smoothie as well—in order to get through it without falling apart.

    (quote from

    You get a sense of the humor, here (smoothie), but also a sense of the story. I think that's the tone you should be aiming for. Don't let your book's generic hybridity put you off. This stuff is selling these days. But the mixed elements mean the blurb needs careful crafting.

    Don't refer to yourself in the first-person in the blurb. It needs to be about readers' needs, and before they've read you, readers are interested in the book, not you.

    2) I don't mind the cover, but it's not well designed to be eye-catching at thumbnail, where those central figures will just a color blobs. Your title and other text are sort of hard to read, even on the book-page-size image Victorine has included here.

    3) I think the recipe has to go. Three pages of that right at the start is a killer. If the MC is writing a cookbook, then perhaps begin by showing him writing the recipe but only getting a few lines of it down before he's interrupted by the pie delivery. We need to get to the action much more quickly and start building an investment in the MC.

    The entire recipe could be included, with some others, in an appendix at the end of the book.

    I think the beginning also needs to be shorter and tighter as we get into the action of the pie delivery and the Mexican bounty hunter showing up. If you find it painful to cut stuff, you might consider hiring an editor to do a serious pruning, at least of the first three chapters or so.

    The very best of luck with this book. You're a strong writer, and this is a cool premise. I hope you can get it selling!

  8. Cover: fix it
    Blurb: re-write it
    First 300: move it somewhere else in the book

    Good premise. Humor is hard. It can be even harder to sell unless you uncover your hook (no innuendo intended)...tell us what the story is about and why we will laugh.

    General counsel for selling books still apply: capture attention within first few minutes. That means you have to have your book placed correctly (horror or comedy), and then it needs to have a visually appealing cover (as a thumbnail), and finally, the blurb and sample have to be engaging. The blurb draws them further into the experience and the first few pages give a sense of pacing, voice, and style.
    Good luck.

  9. Thank you all for the constructive critiquing. I am in the process of having the cover done by a professional, and I gotta say, the new cover makes ME want to read my dreck. I am off to hound the good folks on KB to help me write a blurb. I do not know how to summarize, at all. I will also be tightening up the first 5 chapters of the book, in the sample, and removing the recipe.

  10. I love this blog...I wish that Victorine could have post more often...I enjoy reading the comments.

  11. To all that commented, thank you again for your help. Here is the new cover...

    And the new blurb:

    Life is good for the little slave living in the jungle of South America. He has his carrier pigeons, job security, and all the bugs he can eat. So when a bounty hunter requests his help tracking down slave traders, he immediately crawls into the safety of his memories...back when zombies were merely monsters on the movie screen, and his high school sweetheart wasn't an Amazonian queen.

    Each day he stays alive in the jungle, he takes one step closer to the daughter he never met, and realizes that perhaps living as a slave is not all it's cracked up to be. (97,000 words, approx. 230 pages)


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.