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Discussion Starter #1
"Honey, you think people are smarter than they actually are."

😨 Noooo! I do not. I've tried to be clear and concise but I lack consistent sales. My betas like my stuff but still... Could someone go into my Look Insides (for any of my books but for Souls by the Sea, my free 1st in series, in particular) and tell me if the opening action is dense or confusing? Also, does my website work? And does this shirt look good on me?

I can take harsh truthiness.

Could I suggest that you give us a clear outline of the theme of each book (and exactly who your target audience is)

That might be helpful! They're paranormal urban fantasies, rated PG13 for middle grade readers and above, with the twist being that just about everyone but my teen heroine has powers. She has to use her brain which might be difficult as she's recovering from depression and injuries received from a witch. Now she's facing another one. It's a lighter read than it sounds, I promise, which might be another theme. It's not darkfic, there's a strong element of humor here. Book One: My heroine realizes her life isn't over after all and she begins to plan for the future. Book Two: Another witch threatens the town and Burlie comes to grips with her dislike of witches as she saves the town. Book Three: Burlie saves the world. I can't honestly say what personal growth she's gains. This is a straight up adventure and takes us all deeper into the world I've set up.

ETA: thank you so much, everybody. I'll get right to work...
 

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Kinda hard to answer truthfully since it sounds like if we say something isn't clear then we aren't very smart...

Your actual writing sounds fine and intriguing to me, and it doesn't put me off. To be honest, what IS confusing to me is your blurb.

On Halloween night Burlie McLauren is held for ransom in a toy town made of memories and filled with monsters. She must escape and defeat Fisk Iping, the criminal witch threatening her family. But Fisk is powerful. He thinks a girl without a single spark of magic is helpless. He's so painfully wrong!

Souls by the Sea, an ongoing paranormal cozy series with an unexpected, but very effective, young heroine. A new start in a new town comes with new problems for the McLaurens. Souls by the Sea has a larger Dissimilar community than they'd like. Still, the creatures make for a great distraction until something, or someone, goes terribly wrong. Then Burlington 'Burlie' McLauren shows everyone what real strength looks like.


A toy town...so I'm think REAL toys, right? Like, they're dolls or figures of some sort? Okay, I can jive with that, it's different and can be done well. But your second paragraph, I had to read it a few times and I'm not sure I still understand what it is you're saying. Additionally, I'm not keen on your covers. They seem a bit jumbled, don't really portray the genre and a little unprofessional. Sorry :(
 

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Discussion Starter #3
RRodriguez said:
Kinda hard to answer truthfully since it sounds like if we say something isn't clear then we aren't very smart...

Your actual writing sounds fine and intriguing to me, and it doesn't put me off. To be honest, what IS confusing to me is your blurb...A toy town...so I'm think REAL toys, right? Like, they're dolls or figures of some sort? Okay, I can jive with that, it's different and can be done well. But your second paragraph, I had to read it a few times and I'm not sure I still understand what it is you're saying. Additionally, I'm not keen on your covers. They seem a bit jumbled, don't really portray the genre and a little unprofessional. Sorry :(
Ah, I did that because I've seen blurbs for series that feature the book in hand and then provide an overshot of the entire series. I should make the 2nd paragraph clearer, then. As for the covers, yeah, they're homemade. And I don't have a cover budget so any advice as to tweaks I can make myself would be welcome.

Thank you for answering!
 

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Jessie, I also think the new covers for the Souls by the Sea series are a tad confusing. I can't tell what the books are about or what genre they are from those covers.

Could I suggest that you give us a clear outline of the theme of each book (and exactly who your target audience is) and maybe we can see what the collective can come up with to improve them?

On a more positive note, I don't think your writing is remotely off-putting, it's good! You just need to get people to open those darn books in the first place.
 

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You might need to ask her to clarify what she means by "too smart." Does she mean that you expect them to decode your writing style and work too hard? To know things that you haven't explained or shown them?

Maybe just by the cheap $10/mo Wix plan for now.  Wait a bit until it is on sale.  They do that occasionally.  Maybe halloween or Black Friday...  You'll lose the Wix branding and get a domain that is all yours.  You should buy this through Google Domains. $12/year with the Whois included, easy dashboard no surprises when you renew next year.  You can get it for more than one year at at time too.



Li
 

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Jessie G. Talbot said:
Ah, I did that because I've seen blurbs for series that feature the book in hand and then provide an overshot of the entire series. I should make the 2nd paragraph clearer, then. As for the covers, yeah, they're homemade. And I don't have a cover budget so any advice as to tweaks I can make myself would be welcome.

Thank you for answering!
Sadly I'm no expert at book cover design, but I definitely understand being on a tight budget! My suggestion is going for the 'less is more' approach. I would focus on a sharp, clear image, even if it's simple and really top notch typography. The crooked letters are quite distracting and some different fonts might help. if you aren't already, I'd also sign up for a Canva account. It's free and has a lot of book cover templates that might give you a more polished look.
 

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Я не согласен с новым TOS
8) 8) 8) 8) 8)
 

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Definitely get your own domain name. You can always point it to your existing site if you can't build a new site right now.

I know some have suggested new covers but do not mess with the Smug Slug illustration on that particular cover. Even though it bugs me that he's not a solid color, the expression on his face definitely says "smug."

Given the current socio-political environment, no comments can be made regarding the shirt, except perhaps to confirm that it is a shirt but even that cannot be done as there is no photographic image of the alleged shirt but this explanation should not be taken as a request for such a photographic image as that would be wholly inappropriate given the aforementioned socio-political environment even though to comment on a shirt requires a photographic image of the shirt but logic cannot be assumed in the aforementioned socio-political environment so nothing in this statement should be construed nor is meant as either a comment on or a request for a photographic image of said shirt.
 

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Your covers don't say "paranormal" or even really "cozy" although cozy *might* sort of embrace them. They actually look more like general fiction. I thought of "To Kill a Mockingbird" when I saw the Souls By The Sea cover. If you're pitching them as for younger readers, then use a cover design that evokes a YA paranormal feel to it (girl in a prom dress, forest or ocean, pretty colors and dark background). If you're pitching them as cozies, then consider de-emphasizing the heroine's youth and you might find a better reception as paranormal mysteries with cartoon covers.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
LinaG said:
You might need to ask her to clarify what she means by "too smart." Does she mean that you expect them to decode your writing style and work too hard? To know things that you haven't explained or shown them?
Pretty sure that's exactly what she meant. I think I've explained plenty. Also, the entire family thinks I have too many characters. None of them are big readers so should I consider the source? I really need an objective opinion. They ARE my target audience, after all.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Definitely get your own domain name. You can always point it to your existing site if you can't build a new site right now.

Personal domain, got it. Will do soonish.

I know some have suggested new covers but do not mess with the Smug Slug illustration on that particular cover. Even though it bugs me that he's not a solid color, the expression on his face definitely says "smug."

Heh, thanks! I drew him myself. Now I'm going to obsess about how to make the color solid...

Given the current socio-political environment, no comments can be made regarding the shirt, except perhaps to confirm that it is a shirt but even that cannot be done as there is no photographic image of the alleged shirt but this explanation should not be taken as a request for such a photographic image as that would be wholly inappropriate given the aforementioned socio-political environment even though to comment on a shirt requires a photographic image of the shirt but logic cannot be assumed in the aforementioned socio-political environment so nothing in this statement should be construed nor is meant as either a comment on or a request for a photographic image of said shirt.

Darn that political correctness. Thanks, Dan!
 

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I like book 1's cover even if it doesn't tell me cozy mystery type story. Your other covers don't match the first one, don't look like they belong in a series together, and aren't as interesting as the first one.

The blurb was rather confusing. I might clean that up and remove the bits about the rest of the series. You gotta entice people to read your book 1 first.

The story starts off from the younger girl's POV but is going to be about the older sister, so it might have been nice to get inside her head about why she was dragging leaves to a cemetery in the first place to burn them. I didn't get a sense of what the motivation was for this, or maybe I missed reading it. But it seemed kind of random. Was summer extending overly long and she overheard a means to summon Autumn? A bit more info on this to add tension would be nice as Summer fights back. The chapter as it stands had no real tension points.

I was intrigued by The Summer (or Summer, wasn't sure how he was supposed to be referenced) - I assume he's some aspect of summer and trying to convince the younger sister to keep summer alive because I guess he knows somehow they are going to summon Autumn? That part was unclear. Why would he even know what they were up to? Then they actually summoned Autumn even without magic (?) but he left. So there was some intrigue but it fizzled out. I assume he will be important later, but I was still disappointed when he left since that bit was interesting. Overall the whole Summer/Autumn thing felt disconnected from the rest of the story and the blurb doesn't mention him at all, so now I wonder whether this part is even needed in the book.

There was a whole lot of talking and interactions but not a lot of tension building or anything to keep my interest in the Look Inside content. My attention began to slip when the older sister started telling stories about the tombstones and it never really improved as I skimmed over the rest of the Look Inside. I assume the story becomes faster paced when the older sister gets kidnapped, but you need to seduce the reader in the Look Inside to buy your book. They aren't going to assume it picks up later. They will judge based on what they see. From what I read, I would pass on the story.

I also have no clue who the Dissimilar are, but I'm guessing magic people? That's probably the only bit I didn't get right off, and that's ok as long as it can be picked up in normal character dialog or interactions.
 

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Jessie G. Talbot said:
Heh, thanks! I drew him myself. Now I'm going to obsess about how to make the color solid...
I don't know that I'd change that either to be honest. Still kinda of bugs me, but it may be part of his charm. His slug smug charm.

<rant>FWIW, and you may already know this, a drawing made with colored pencils is easy to manipulate to get smooth colors in fill areas. I learned it on the Internet (wow, you can actually learn stuff on the Internet!) several years back and it was like, why on Earth did none of my art teachers through the years ever teach us this stuff? Argh!</rant>
 

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Dan C. Rinnert said:
I don't know that I'd change that either to be honest. Still kinda of bugs me, but it may be part of his charm. His slug smug charm.

<rant>FWIW, and you may already know this, a drawing made with colored pencils is easy to manipulate to get smooth colors in fill areas. I learned it on the Internet (wow, you can actually learn stuff on the Internet!) several years back and it was like, why on Earth did none of my art teachers through the years ever teach us this stuff? Argh!</rant>
I prefer him as is. The less penciled in areas make it look like he has bulges and is lumpy. You try solidifying that and you risk losing that essence. Then you also have to make changes to the head because now it's solid color, so smile and eyes need changed... too much risk of losing the cuteness that he is right now.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Dan C. Rinnert said:
I learned it on the Internet (wow, you can actually learn stuff on the Internet!) several years back and it was like, why on Earth did none of my art teachers through the years ever teach us this stuff? Argh!</rant>
All of my art classes were pre-internet so my teachers have an excuse. Yikes, I'm old.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
C. Gold said:
I prefer him as is. The less penciled in areas make it look like he has bulges and is lumpy. You try solidifying that and you risk losing that essence. Then you also have to make changes to the head because now it's solid color, so smile and eyes need changed... too much risk of losing the cuteness that he is right now.
Hee! I'll leave him alone then. Thank you!
 

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Discussion Starter #17
C. Gold said:
I like book 1's cover even if it doesn't tell me cozy mystery type story. Your other covers don't match the first one, don't look like they belong in a series together, and aren't as interesting as the first one.

The blurb was rather confusing. I might clean that up and remove the bits about the rest of the series. You gotta entice people to read your book 1 first.

The story starts off from the younger girl's POV but is going to be about the older sister, so it might have been nice to get inside her head about why she was dragging leaves to a cemetery in the first place to burn them. I didn't get a sense of what the motivation was for this, or maybe I missed reading it. But it seemed kind of random. Was summer extending overly long and she overheard a means to summon Autumn? A bit more info on this to add tension would be nice as Summer fights back. The chapter as it stands had no real tension points.

I was intrigued by The Summer (or Summer, wasn't sure how he was supposed to be referenced) - I assume he's some aspect of summer and trying to convince the younger sister to keep summer alive because I guess he knows somehow they are going to summon Autumn? That part was unclear. Why would he even know what they were up to? Then they actually summoned Autumn even without magic (?) but he left. So there was some intrigue but it fizzled out. I assume he will be important later, but I was still disappointed when he left since that bit was interesting. Overall the whole Summer/Autumn thing felt disconnected from the rest of the story and the blurb doesn't mention him at all, so now I wonder whether this part is even needed in the book.

There was a whole lot of talking and interactions but not a lot of tension building or anything to keep my interest in the Look Inside content. My attention began to slip when the older sister started telling stories about the tombstones and it never really improved as I skimmed over the rest of the Look Inside. I assume the story becomes faster paced when the older sister gets kidnapped, but you need to seduce the reader in the Look Inside to buy your book. They aren't going to assume it picks up later. They will judge based on what they see. From what I read, I would pass on the story.

I also have no clue who the Dissimilar are, but I'm guessing magic people? That's probably the only bit I didn't get right off, and that's ok as long as it can be picked up in normal character dialog or interactions.
Thank you, this is great advice. I'm taking notes...
 

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The first cover says paranormal to me with the moon, bats, and glow, plus the figure looks like a kid, which makes sense if you're targeting MG. With better typography, it could work, IMO. Maybe even use the background of book 1 for books two and three for cohesiveness while differentiating two and three with details.

Lots of good advice so far on the blurb. FWIW, I think you have a wonderful concept that just needs better presentation.
 

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Evenstar said:
Jessie, I also think the new covers for the Souls by the Sea series are a tad confusing. I can't tell what the books are about or what genre they are from those covers.

Could I suggest that you give us a clear outline of the theme of each book (and exactly who your target audience is) and maybe we can see what the collective can come up with to improve them?

On a more positive note, I don't think your writing is remotely off-putting, it's good! You just need to get people to open those darn books in the first place.
I totally agree with this. Honestly, the storyline sounds quite appealing to me! I'll have to take a look at it when I get a chance. Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter #20
MH Johnson said:
I totally agree with this. Honestly, the storyline sounds quite appealing to me! I'll have to take a look at it when I get a chance. Good luck!
Thank you! My self-confidence is coming back from the brink. I'll fix this thing once and for all.
 
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