Monday, September 24, 2012

A Cure for the Condition

Author: Amy Croall
Genre: Historical Romance
How long it's been on sale: June 1, 2012
Current price: $4.99
Marketing: Blog tours, Twitter updates, Facebook Campaigns.
Total sold so far: 10 - 15
Link to book on Amazon: A Cure For The Condition

Product Description: 

When seventeen-year-old Catherine assumes the throne as Queen of Cannary following her mother’s murder, she is forced to punish the man she loves, but when she develops a serious heart disease, the only cure for her condition may be the truth.
“Romance, adventure, danger and passion—A Cure For The Condition is a terrific debut novel from an exciting new author. Readers will love Amy Croall.”
—Leigh Bridger, author of Soul Catcher.

First 300 Words:

A forlorn, soft piano melody enveloped her as the book lay at an awkward angle in her lap. As her eyes remained closed, absorbing the musician’s brilliant performance, she had no idea her step-brother was watching her.

“Ah, Princess Catherine – there you are!” he said, barging into the room as he had many times over the previous two years.

Princess Catherine inhaled before his gravelly voice could release her daydreams. Sitting straight on the stiff sofa in the parlor, she placed the book next to her.

“Yes, good afternoon, Malcolm,” she replied.

Malcolm supplied her with a half-smirk and proceeded to lean against the sofa at which she sat. Princess Catherine couldn’t help but experience an ever-so-slight tingle when she peered into his crystal blue eyes.

Although her step-brother’s nose was somewhat too large, his lips thin, and his face angular, Malcolm had a strong jaw, well-groomed silver hair, and a smile that could draw women from countries away. At times, his boyish half-smirk made it difficult for Princess Catherine to recall he was seven years her senior.

“I heard about your meeting with the suitor this afternoon, and I must say I am intrigued,” he said.

Catherine donned an immediate scowl. “Malcolm, is this going to be another instance such as when you barged into this room as I was learning that piano and tell me I am causing a ruckus, or will it be reminiscent of when I returned home wearing rouge and you mocked me endlessly?” she demanded.

Malcolm feigned ignorance, putting a hand to his heart. “Why, dear step-sister, I am saddened by your accusations! I merely wished to extend my… condolences that the meeting did not go as hoped.” He suppressed a half-hearted chuckle.

“Of course,” Catherine replied, clearing her throat. “I’ll have you know our feelings were requited.

Comments: I would not have guessed that this book was historical romance looking at the cover. I saw the castle and the forest, and thought "fantasy." I think that is a major problem. Now, the book is published through a publisher. I'm not sure the author has much say in the cover design, so I don't know how much my assessment will help. If I were in charge, I'd change the cover. Most historical romance covers have a woman and a man on the cover, in a pose that makes it obvious there's a love story in the book. That's what I would recommend.

I'm not sure why that title was chosen. It seems to focus more on the disease than the love story. I might think about a different title as well.

The price is also kind of high, but I don't know that the author has a say in that either. (It's not extraordinarily high, but it still is a deterrent for people trying out a new author.)

The description needs some work. Why would the girl assuming the throne force her to punish the man she loves? That part doesn't make any sense. I'm also not sure how the truth can cure a disease. The "when" formula works well, but only if it's a logical progression. The "When" part needs to lead to the "Must do" part, which leads us to the conflict of the story.

I'd cut the quote from the description too, it doesn't add anything about the story. It's pretty generic, and could be said about any book. It gives no information. When I read a description, I want information about the plot.

The first paragraph starts in omniscient point of view, which is very difficult to pull off successfully. I don't think it's working here, as it feels like the character herself making observations about things she can't see.

The writing isn't horrible, but I might try tightening up the first bit. Usually that's the hardest to write anyway. You've got to hook the reader, while introducing the main character and making the reader care about them.

My recommendation is to get a new cover, try reworking the blurb, and tightening up the beginning, and possibly looking at a different title.

What do you guys think?


  1. I too thought fantasy when I saw the cover. The cover doesn't pull together as a full package for me either. I'm surprised this is through a publisher, the cover says "indie".

    The writing wasn't bad, although I couldn't get a finger on their relationship at all. I almost though there might be something romantic between them which might turn me off from the book completely.

  2. I agree with Victorine's comments. The book feels more fantasy than historical to me, even more so because 'Cannary' in the blurb sounds like the name of a made-up country while in historicals I expect to find the name of a real country.

    One other thing that jumps out to me is : “Ah, Princess Catherine – there you are!” in the excerpt. It reads (in my opinion) like the writer isn't familiar with the use of aristocratic titles. One would speak of princess Catherine to someone else but address her as 'Your Highness' when speaking to her (and depending on the level of familarity and the occasion she could simply be 'Catherine' to an half-brother).

  3. Oops, I meant to write 'step-brother', not 'half-brother'.

    Another thing: in the excerpt Catherine uses the royal plural. That is extremely formal and, in monarchies, usually employed only by a reigning monarch (with a few exceptions due to local usage depending on the country, for instance bishops or university rectors), it implies that the person is speaking in the official capacity of a leader of a country or institution.

    Sorry for nitpicking but this sort of things takes me out of the story immediately, had I downloaded the sample I would not have read beyond that point.

  4. I think you have your tenses mixed up in the paragraph where she chides Malcolm. "...when you barged in... and tell me..." etc.

  5. Historical romance? Those are normally set in an actual country. It doesn't look at all like a historical romance and that is likely to hurt sales. It looks as though it should be under fantasy romance. The point about the royal 'we' is exactly correct. "Princess Catherine" is not how she would be addressed. Princess is her title not the form of address. It isn't hard to look up the forms of address.

    If she has no idea her step-brother is watching her, if this is written in close third, then we shouldn't be told and it seems to me a very weak opening.

    By the way, why do some authors think there is something attractive about a smirk? A smirk is an affected, often offensively self-satisfied smile. Few people find it appealing or boyish.

  6. Guess I'm in the minority. I immediately thought historical romance when I saw the cover. However, I do have to agree with everyone else that a more conventional historical romance cover would serve the story better.

    The blurb doesn't tell me much and I'm never a fan of quotes in a blurb.

    Very awkward use of verbs in several places, for example:

    "Malcolm supplied her with a half-smirk"

    The cover doesn't put me off, but if I got past the blurb, I wouldn't get past the first 300 because of that.

    1. Only if it IS a historical romance, which it doesn't seem to be. If it is indeed a fantasy romance, it would do better in that category.

  7. I actually did think it was historical romance or maybe even time travel romance. I love the cover. But I agree with everything else Victorine said.

  8. I don't know. I think we can be over-critical. However, in this instance, I feel that this much feedback, especially regarding the forms of address, should never have gotten past an editor. The author can have some latitude even though research should be a part of our process. But, to make it through an edit without addressing the addresses...well, I think it may be a rushed project. I know I had some in my novel. It is a way for an author to grow better.

    But, I am sure you have the same concerns as me. Why isn't this selling NOW? Sometimes that answer is the market, not necessarily any particular flaw in your cover, blurb, pricing, sample, or category. There is more competition now than ever, especially in romance in general, and your audience has plenty from which to choose.

    Your cover looks professional. Your blurb is sufficient. Your first 300 show some need for a little polish. None of these are a real turn-off, I think. However, the killer might be that they aren't a "Must By This NOW" tool either.

    I think the best advice would be to submit it in the fantasy romance category first for three months to see where it goes. Some targeted promotions in that genre could help springboard some sales. Then, and only then, do I look at re-working the cover with the publishing house.

    Whatever you do, good luck. Don't get too worried. Keep writing. The next book may be your best marketing you can do for this one.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Oops. Typos in that reply I deleted. What I meant to say was:

    Unfortunately, since this is from Whiskey Creek the author may not have much control over changes in category, cover or editing. I am a bit surprised at what looks like very sloppy editing though, because I thought Whiskey Creek had a better reputation than that. One could debate things like category and cover which might be a matter of opinion, but I don't understand how the issue of royal plural and forms of address was allowed to slip by. I would worry that if there are that many issues in the first few pages, how many more might crop up later in the novel. We may be a more knowledgeable crew than a lot of readers, but no editor should have let that go without checking.

  11. Whiskey Creek Press has had some interesting history.

  12. I like the cover. It makes me think more of a fairy tale than a historical romance though. Most historical romances I see have people on the cover dressed in the time period. I think because of the fairytale look, readers searching for historical romances might over look this one. Still, I like the cover. I just question whether or not it fits the genre.

    The description is one long sentence, which is a little bit off putting. It makes me wonder if the rest of the book is the same way--long sentences trying to squeeze in as much information as possible. I might consider breaking it up a bit. Also, I'm not quite sure about the truth bit. Nothing in the preceding sentence leads me to believe she might be lying or has a secret. You might consider letting the reader know she's hiding something first.

    First 300 words. The first paragraph makes me wonder who's point of view we're in. It doesn't give a name. Plus, if she's not aware her step-brother is watching her, why is it mentioned? Typically a person doesn't mention something they don't notice.

    I'm not a reader of historical romances, so definitely keep that in mind. But I find the flow a bit stilted. There's a lot of movement happening, which slows down the read. I think movements should be meaningful, not just to fill the space. Not every piece of dialogue needs a tag. A long the lines of tags, I might scale back on the variety when it comes to dialogue tags. Your dialogue should be strong enough in most cases to leave it at "said" or "asked." Then again, that might just be the writer in me talking. When something is drilled enough, deviations stand out.

    Reading through Victorine's notes. I have to agree on the title. It's not a bad title. However, it's not really cohesive with the cover either. Perhaps with the right cover look, it might fit though.

    Over all, I think the story has potential. The description sounds like it could be intriguing, but the way it's delivered misses the mark. The writing was easy enough to understand, which is encouraging. With the right cover and blurb, I might read further if this was my genre of choice.

  13. I like the cover, too, but it does promise a fairy tale rather than a historical romance. I do read historicals on occasion, and readers generally expect to know--right away--where and when the story takes place.

    That's where I'm having the most trouble in this novel. Where is this? Is Cannary a real country? Is it a fairy tale land? When is this all happening? The heroine is listening to a piano in the first paragraph. On the radio? Via a phonograph? Pandora? A little orchestra of elves? What is the author imagining? I have no idea.

    The author has missed many opportunities in the 300 words to illustrate where and when. The setting in a historical should be rich and well-researched. The setting in an imaginary land can be pretend, but it should be vivid and engage all of the senses. I'm not getting that here.

    Clearly too much world-building can get in the way of the story. But what is the smirking step-brother wearing? What kind of couch is she sitting on? What are the daydreams the smirker is interrupting?

  14. I agree with Victorine. The cover didn't say "historical romance" to me, and neither did the name of the country in the blurb. What's more, the blurb was somewhat confusing. Why does Catherine have to punish "the man she loves"? Who is he?I also don't see a logical connection between "the truth" and curing a heart disease.

    Regarding the title, I honestly didn't like it, sorry. It felt wordy and vague. "For the condition" - what condition are we talking about? That word can be used to describe so many medical issues! My suggestion is to rework the title so that its' short and to the point.

    I agree with others who pointed out the point of view issues in the excerpt. If Catherine's eyes are closed and she doesn't know Malcolm is watching her, why mention him before he barges in? It feels like we're in her point of view, but then we get flung into omniscient and it's a bit jarring.

    Finally, I have to agree with what Ainsley says above me. I think the author missed an opportunity to breathe life into the scene. Specifying small details--not too many--can really make the room and the characters come to life.


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