Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Wind out of Indigo

Author: Callan Primer
Genre: Steampunk Fantasy
How long it's been on sale: Dec 2011
Current price: $2.99
Marketing: Author blog, one review on a major book blog.
Total sold so far: 31
Link to book on Amazon: A Wind out of Indigo (The Winds of Halflight)

Product Description:

She'd been a king's mistress and a king's spy. Now, with the Summerlands at peace and her royal lover lost to her, all Alice Standish wants is a bit of quiet. But the new queen sees her as the perfect tool to bring down the rebellious warden of Night. Forced to marry him and exiled to the dark side of the planet, she can only come home once she finds evidence that condemns her husband to death.

But Alice is determined to play her own game, and in the haunted, wind-blown marshes of Night, she discovers not only that her new husband is not what she's been told, but there is another, inhuman power on this planet...

... and it has its own plans for her.

First 300 Words:

THE WORM wind was the night wind. Cool and moist and bearing strange scents, it flowed from the east, out of the dark lands, all the way to the steep flanks of Sunbreaker and her children. There it condensed into fog, a heavy, clinging fog that filled the throat and smothered all sound except for the plink of water dripping off eaves.

Alice Standish climbed the mossy steps of Pickaxe Street, not bothering to wipe her face clear of the occasional cold droplet. She was too close to her house and her trusty little stove to bother. Besides, she was used to Finlochen and its fogs, even enjoying the muffled silence they brought.

A doorway flanked with pots of bellflowers took shape in the mist, then faded back into the whiteness as she kept climbing. Her neighbor's house, which meant one more flight of steps to hers. She breathed a sigh of relief.

Something skittered.

Slowly lowering the foot she'd raised to take the next step, she tightened her grip on her shopping basket and peered through the dense whiteness. Finlochen was as safe as any city could be, now that Ned had driven the Usurper out, but a woman alone still needed to be alert, especially in such heavy fog. Murder could be done under your very nose, and all you'd hear would be a distant, muffled cry.

Wondering if she'd only heard the trickle of water in a downspout, she climbed a few more steps, only to hear it again: a skittering noise that stopped when she did. Gently, Alice set her basket down and slid a small dagger out of her sleeve, holding it out of sight in the folds of her skirt.

Tick. Tick. Silence. Tick.

A tiny, hesitant chirp.

With a snort of laughter at her own foolishness, Alice slid the dagger back up her sleeve and waited patiently until the kobbie, no more than a foot tall, its ears laid forward ingratiatingly, inched toward her out of the fog. It had its tail clutched in its hands, and its faceted, golden eyes fixed on her shopping basket with obvious hope.

Comments: The cover almost looks Disney to me. The artwork is good, but it makes the book look younger. And I'm not getting a "steampunk" vibe at all from it. If the book really is steampunk, I would definitely change the cover and put something steampunk on it. If it only has a few steampunk elements, but is mostly a fantasy novel, then don't. Keep the cover looking fantasy, but I might make it look like it is for an adult audience. (Maybe a manipulated photograph instead of artwork?)

The description was a bit confusing to me. First, I would start with the main character's name. Then, what does her being the king's mistress and spy have to do with the story? I'm not sure I get that part. I'm also not sure how she's forced to marry the warden of Night. I feel like there are missing pieces in the description, or maybe that it's trying to cover too much so there are holes.

The first sentence confuses me. What is a worm wind? Is it supposed to be a warm wind? I'm not sure if that's a typo or not. I'm also not sure why she's climbing steps if she's walking in the street. I'm having trouble visualizing this. I would suggest joining a critique group or hiring an editor who can give more than line edits. I think the story needs some work.

What do you guys think?


  1. This sounds so awesome that I just bought it. Since I finished the draft of my WIP yesterday, I get a little rest today, and I think I'll dive into this book.

    My suggestions: I've got to concur on the cover. The bottom line here is that this cover is not eye catching. The artwork might look really great on a paperback, but it fades out on a computer screen at a small size. If this book is in list on the bottom of a screen (say with also-boughts) it doesn't jump out at me.

    I really like original artwork. Love it. But through my own experimentation, I have discovered that covers with photos sell better. It sucks, but it's true. Maybe that will change someday.

    Whatever you decide to do, you simply must get rid of that big solid block behind the title. If your words are getting lost, there are things you can do with spread out drop shadows and outer glows that will make the words pop.

    The blurb? Well, it's what drew me to the book. But I was confused while reading it, because at first I was like, "Okay, fantasy." Then there was a planet, and I was like, "Science fiction?" And then I looked up and saw you were calling it steampunk. But most steampunk is set in the 1800s/early 1900s in our world, and even if your world is at that technological threshold, I think you'd be better off with a straight sci fi or fantasy designation.

    Anyway, from what I've read of the sample, it seems awesome. You pulled me right into the world, and I'm way curious about this society with slaves and kings and magistrates.

    (BTW, you had me at mistress and spy. So Aphra Behn.)

    Finally, the book has only been on sale since December. It may take a while to find its footing. I see it's the only book you've got out. I didn't start seeing much movement in sales until I had about six books out. Keep writing!

  2. As someone who is guilty of purchasing a book based on cover, I would not purchasing this book. I usually look at the cover, read the description, and then the first page. The cover doesn't look like "steampunk" and it looks like a middle-grade cover. I don't care for the artwork, i think it looks cheap.

    The first sentence was confusing. I read it four times before continuing. What us worm wind? The entire first paragraphs was confusing and way too much description in my opinion. I think it should begin with the character's name I'm the foray sentence. The first sentence sets the mood for the entire book and I don't get a feel at all for the book based on the currency first sentence.

    I agree with Victorine regarding hiring an editor or joining a critique group.

  3. I think it's the juxtaposition of 'steampunk,' cover, and description that lets this down - 'planet' indicates science of sorts, but the sample reads like fantasy, and so does the cover.

    Unlike others, I am intrigued by 'worm wind'. And I loved the sample - it's full of details and made me curious about the world and what will happen next. (I've downloaded the sample and unless the sample falls down completely, will buy it.) That the street has steps didn't even make me blink - I was imagining Basel or any other medieval city built on a hill. (Barcelona has at least one street with escalators. Talk about mental disconnect.)

    So from where I'm sitting this looks like a marketing problem - you need to get the book to the people who will love it.


  4. I always look at the cover without looking at the genre and I can tell you that I got historical romance out of it.

    The blurb is pretty good, but I have the same problem with it as the first 300. I need a name. Please. She this and she that just doesn't do it for me and it will stop me reading cold.

    With that said, I think the author has something both readable and saleable with this book. Start with a professional cover, add a name to the blurb at least, and I think that will make a difference.

    BTW, I totally understood "the worm wind" being the night wind. It's sort of like the wind being called Mariah and it sets an atmosphere for me.

  5. I like the sample, but the cover and description just don't seem to me to be working.

    I don't agree with whoever commented that artwork can't work for covers. It can BUT it has to be carefully chosen. This cover looks MG, not adult or even YA. I suspect this is keeping people from looking closer. Then the blurb is confusing. I don't see ANY steampunk elements at all and it is confusing. How does the queen see her as a tool to bring down the warden of Night? Why should Alice bring him down anyway? And what is a warden of night? Why is her royal lover lost to her? Why WOULD she want to bring down this warden person? How is she forced to marry him?n What was she told he was? You don't give enough information for it to make much sense to me.

  6. I agree with the others. I see fog, but no steam...punk. I will not say a word about the blurb, because I am clueless when it comes to blurbs, and I am already saying too many words about a subject I am clueless about.

    Anyhow...I got lost with Worm wind/Warm wind. I would start the book with Alice climbing the stairs straight away, and then move onto the fog. It's a fast paced world, and readers want to read about people (so I've been told). Good luck with it!

  7. Oh please, please kill the first paragraph. It's so fussy in comparison to what follows. It's like you're nervous and trying really, really hard to make a literary impression but then you relax later and tell a story instead, you know?

    I've got nothing on the cover. The blurb, though... If you have a critique partner or an editor, please have someone else write one. Blurbs take a lot of practice before authors can write one without drowning the reader in details and false expectations.

  8. Write more books. This sounds like a great book and all the parts were working just fine for me. I think it just needs more time and more sequels to grow legs, frankly.

    Also, you could try pricing higher. Sounds counter-intuitive, I know, but sometimes it works.

  9. I agree, the cover tells the reader nothing about the genre. I also got stuck on WORM wind. It looks like a typo. Shouldn't King and Queen be started with capitals, not king and queen? These things suggest to me an edit might be required...I could be wrong, but this is only the blurb and first 300 words and it's already formed my opinion. If I were scrolling to buy, I'd keep scrolling.....

  10. I think the cover's okay, but I'd keep the image and have someone work on the typography. Definitely lose the box.

    The blurb sounded okay. It didn't draw me in, but didn't turn me off. I prefer some shorter sentences at the beginning of the blurb. I'm getting a lot of plot details, but the emotions are unclear. If she's trying to get a little peace, but then she's having a marriage thrust on her, it kinda feels like an annoyance for her. The new information of the forced marriage doesn't compare or contrast with the information that comes before.

    For example, if the opening was about how she cherished her freedom, then we hear about the marriage, that's got more conflict. As it is, it's just a series of events happening to someone we don't know.

    For the sample, here's where I stopped and would stop if I'd downloaded the sample: "Slowly lowering the foot she'd raised to take the next step,"

    There was a bit of description bordering on purple up to that point, but a sentence like that feels "overdirected" to me. I like to use my imagination while I'm reading, but I don't like getting so many instructions.

    It's been my experience that there's a lot of this overdirecting in the openings, because we authors are trying so hard and work on the opening A LOT. Every time I go over my own stories, the word count expands. Openings get worked over a lot. I'd suggest taking your darling-killing scissors in and cutting 10% of the words from the opening 10% of the novel.

    This is, of course, just my opinion. ;-) I can be a cruel editor, to myself as well.

    Sounds like you have a lot of great elements to work with. Good luck!

  11. I don't agree with the thinking that your first 300 needs a lot of work. Your cover does, however. So does your marketing.

    As far as the writing, you have a sense of how to tell a story. Am I turned off by the first 15 words? Not enough to quit reading. Several questions come up and I will need them answered. One question needs answered sooner though: the character's name. It needs to be mentioned in the blurb, at least.

    Otherwise, I am not sure a critique group is needed at this point. Good advice, just not applicable if your novel has been published for 9 months. Write another book and use a group to help you with that one.

    As far as the cover, I think you have nice artwork with perhaps the colors and imagery you thought were appropriate for your story. However, I don't think it appeals from a sales standpoint.

    I have the same problem with my cover, I think. I feel that the art mixed with the title block is just a sales killer, though. Not only is the artwork perhaps confusing the potential reader, but the title looks almost business-like. Oftentimes, I think that the way a title pops from the page (or the author's name in the case where they are MEGA popular) is as dynamic and important as the rest of the cover image.

    In way of suggestions to correct, let me say maybe to add another element to the art: get a close-up of her holding the orb, lose the bottom of the dress in the wind, and make the background darker, maybe even eliminating it altogther. Bring in a color background you like, maybe a dark blue or green, something that contrasts with her dark hair, and add a glow to it. Then, put your title over it in 72 point typeface with a font that reflects your true genre. If it is fantasy, then an embossed font with an inner glow and in gold or bright white to make it pop above the image.

    The marketing stuff I have less suggestions for, other than to maybe solidify which genre this fits best. I know that the steampunk market is less competitive than fantasy, but the readership there is less fussy sometimes and between your blurb, your content and your cover, it is looking more like a fantasy than a steam punk tale. It is very cool to interwine those two thing, though and have a genre-bending tale that uses elements of both. However, from a standpoint of selling books, maybe fantasy will be a better market for this.

    Good luck! You are a good writer. You just need some help with the marketing stuff.

  12. I like the cover, but I agree with Vicki. It's more fantasy than steampunk. I'm not a High Fantasy type of gal, so if I were surfing through books, I'd likely pass this over. After all, the cover is what helps me determine the genre. On the other hand, I'm really getting into Steampunk, but I'd miss this because there's no clue it is Steampunk. The illustration is beautiful for the fantasy genre though.

    The description also screams Fantasy and doesn't elude to the Steampunk hiding within. Even so, I do like the description. The first paragraph is stronger than the second though. The first sentence in the second paragraph throws me off a little. I'm really not sure what "her own game" is all about. I think it would be stronger if that was left out and you started with "In the haunted wind-blown…" Otherwise, I think the description is pretty good.

    First 300 words: It's not bad, but I think you're trying too hard to be descriptive which makes things a little wordy at times. For example, "Slowly lowering the foot she'd raise to take the next step." Typically climbing steps requires the raising and lowering of feet. There's no need to remind the reader of that process.

    I also noticed there was a lot of explaining. Talking about the fog then explaining how she felt about it. Talking about the noise, then explaining how she felt about it. If there's a way to show her fear, I think the beginning would be stronger.

    If I was a fantasy type of gal, I might pick this one up.


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