How’s your book’s description working for you?

The number one problem we run into during the vetting process here at Indies Unlimited is a book’s description, also sometimes known as the book sales pitch or the book blurb. Too long, too short, too detailed, too vague, too too too, blah blah blah. What it comes down to is: many authors cannot write a book description on their own.

via Book Description Basics – Indies Unlimited

K.S. Brooks thinks it might be okay if a writer doesn’t automatically know how to write a pithy, industrial strength description for his/her book. We’ve lived with the manuscript for months, possibly years. We “know too much” about it to create the best 250 or 500 words of description the book needs to sell.

Her article on Indies Unlimited includes links to related how-to articles along with a list of considerations. If you’re publishing your books yourself or going through a small press that relies on you to write the description for Amazon and the back cover, this article will give you a running start.

–Malcolm

Book Bits: Sherman Alexie, Smoky Zeidel, ‘Freshwater,’ book covers, Amy Tan

According to the social media, people are impatient for Spring. Booker Talk (Item 2), one of my favorite blogs, wishes all of us Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus i chi! (Happy St. David’s Day to You All) with a fine list of Welsh books to consider during inclement weather. It’s raining hard here in Northwest Georgia, so in between furtive trips into the yard to see what the bulbs are doing, I’m doing a lot of reading. If you’ve got stormy weather and don’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky, here are a few links to help you wait for Spring.

  1. Wikipedia Photo

    News: Sherman Alexie’s Response to Harassment Accusations – “After a month of online charges that he has been abusive to many women, particularly Native American women, author Sherman Alexie issued a statement yesterday. It’s a mix of admission and denial and, as with to much of the matter, it’s somewhat vague.” Shelf Awareness

  2. Lists: Books to mark Wales’ special day – March 1 is St David’s Day in Wales — “St David being our patron saint — so usually a day for celebration of all things Welsh. The celebrations will be very muted this year however with schools closed and concerts cancelled because of Storm Emma, so I thought I would mark the occasion by highlighting some new books from authors and publishers based in Wales.” BookerTalk
  3. New Title: Garden Metamorphosis: New and Collected Poems of Change and Growth, by Smoky Zeidel (Thomas-Jacob, March 1) – “In the midst of a confusing and frightening world, Smoky Zeidel remains true to form with her poetry, gently reminding us to close out the superfluous and remember that which is sacred. Garden Metamorphosis is both a love song to Mother Earth, and a celebration of the cycle of life Read the complete poems, plus Zeidel’s short story, ‘Transformed.'” Thomas-Jacob Publishing
  4. Ursu

    Feature: Sexual Harassment in the Children’s Book Industry, by Anne Ursu – “These are the sort of events we’re told to brush off — they’re jokes, they’re flattering, no big deal. But when you believe you are a professional and someone informs you they see you as a sex object, it can shatter your sense of self and your sense of safety.” Medium

  5. Quotation: “The future of publishing lies with the small and medium-sized presses, because the big publishers in New York are all part of huge conglomerates.” Lawrence Ferlinghetti
  6. Review: Freshwater, by Akwaeke Emezi, reviewed by Tariro Mzezewa – “In her remarkable and daring debut novel, “Freshwater,” Akwaeke Emezi draws in part from her own life to tell the story of Ada, a young Igbo and Tamil woman haunted by the ogbanje — the ‘godly parasite with many heads, roaring inside the marble room of her mind.’” New York Times
  7. Feature: Meet the Designers behind Your Favorite Book Covers, by Alexxa Gotthardt – “We talk with five designers whose book jackets are routinely hailed as crowd favorites. Their designs blanket young adult bestsellers like John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down (2017), literary classics like Vladimir Nabokov’s The Eye (1930), and tomes that rethink the form of a book (one comes with a remote control, and drives like a toy car).” Artsy
  8. Interview Amy Tan on Writing and the Secrets of Her Past, with Nicole Chung – “In ‘Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir,’ Amy Tan recalls the time a relative told her mother that she shouldn’t fill her daughter’s head with ‘all these useless stories.’ Why should Amy know so much, visit her mother’s painful memories, when it was beyond her power to change the past? Her mother replied: ‘I tell her so she can tell everyone, tell the whole world . . . That’s how it can be changed.’ As she writes in her memoir, ‘My mother gave me permission to tell the truth.’” Shondaland

Book Bits is compiled randomly by author Malcolm R. Campbell.

News: Free book and a new title

For your consideration when you’re looking for something to read:

  • Mountain Song is free on Kindle December 2 and 3: David Ward lives in the Montana mountains where his life was impacted by his medicine woman grandmother and his utilitarian grandfather. Anne Hill suffered through childhood abuse and ultimately moved in with her aunt on the edge of a Florida swamp. Their summer romance at a mountain resort hotel surprises both of them. But can they make it last after the initial passion wears off and they return to their college studies far apart from each other especially after an attack on a college street changes Anne forever?
  • Quotation: “After a while, the characters I’m writing begin to feel real to me. That’s when I know I’m heading in the right direction.” – Alice Hoffman
  • A Shallow River of Mercy, a new title from Robert Hays, released December 1 by Thomas-Jacob PublishingErnst Kohl has spent nearly half his life in prison after being convicted of murder as a young man. Upon his release, with nowhere else to go, Kohl returns to his old family home on the outskirts of a small Michigan town, hoping for redemption, or at least understanding. He finds a dog, a girlfriend, and a job in quick succession, and it seems as if he might finally be able to leave the past behind and make a quiet life for himself. But some of the residents, including the town’s corrupt deputy sheriff, are less than thrilled to see him, and will stop at nothing to rid the town of its infamous resident. As events hurtle to an inevitable conclusion, Kohl is left to decide: At what point might a man break, and at what cost to himself? 
  • Thanksgiving: I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving or–if needed–survived the relatives. We enjoyed a nice visit with my brother and his wife who drove up from Florida, shared wine and food and a thousand-piece puzzle, and provided a lot of great conversation. The lights and wreath went up (not by themselves) on the front door today while inside we’re wrapping gifts to hand over to the post office, hopefully for delivery.

Malcolm

A bestselling author’s book piracy story

“A pirated copy isn’t ‘good advertising’ or ‘great word of mouth’ or ‘not really a lost sale.’”

via Contents of Maggie Stiefvater’s Brain

A lot of authors dismiss book piracy with blasé misconceptions like those Maggie Stiefvater quoted above. They’re wrong. Maggie Stefvater almost lost traction her Raven King series (a series I like, btw) because pirated copies were diluting sales to the extent that her publisher thought the public was losing interest.

As she says, authors generally expect the first book in a series to sell the best and for sales to go down in the follow-up books. But she tried a nifty way of proving that there was more to it than expected reader attrition.

This is a cautionary tale for authors, especially those who think piracy either doesn’t hurt you or that it might actually help you. Click on the link to see how she saved her series.

–Malcolm

 

Reduced price just in time for your holiday shopping

The Kindle edition of my conjure and crime novel Eulalie and Washerwoman, from Thomas-Jacob Publishing, has been reduced to only $2.99 for the holidays. Ah, the books you can give (or keep for yourself)!

From the publisher:

Torreya, a small 1950s Florida Panhandle town, is losing its men. They disappear on nights with no moon and no witnesses. Foreclosure signs appear in their yards the following day while thugs associated with the Klan take everything of value from inside treasured homes that will soon be torn down. The police won’t investigate, and the church keeps its distance from all social and political discord.

Conjure woman Eulalie Jenkins, her shamanistic cat, Lena, and neighbor Willie Tate discover that the new “whites only” policy at the once friendly mercantile and the creation of a plantation-style subdivision are linked to corrupt city fathers, the disappearing men, rigged numbers gambling, and a powerful hoodoo man named Washerwoman. After he refuses to carry Eulalie’s herbs and eggs and Willie’s corn, mercantile owner Lane Walker is drawn into the web of lies before he, too, disappears.

Washerwoman knows how to cover his tracks with the magic he learned from Florida’s most famous root doctor, Uncle Monday, so he is more elusive than hen’s teeth, more dangerous that the Klan, and threatens to brutally remove any obstacle in the way of his profits. In this follow up to Conjure Woman’s Cat, Eulalie and Lena face their greatest challenge with scarce support from townspeople who are scared of their own shadows. Even though Eulalie is older than dirt, her faith in the good Lord and her endless supply of spells guarantee she will give Washerwoman a run for his ill-gotten money in this swamps and piney woods story.

And a reviewer says:

Told through the narrative voice of Lena, Eulalie’s shamanistic cat, the fast-paced story comes alive. The approach is fresh and clever; Malcolm R. Campbell manages Lena’s viewpoint seamlessly, adding interest and a unique perspective. Beyond the obvious abilities of this author to weave an enjoyable and engaging tale, I found the book rich with descriptive elements. So many passages caused me to pause and savor. ‘The air…heavy with wood smoke, turpentine, and melancholy.’ ‘ …the Apalachicola National Forest, world of wiregrass and pine, wildflower prairies, and savannahs of grass and small ponds… a maze of unpaved roads, flowing water drawing thirsty men…’ ‘…of the prayers of silk grass and blazing star and butterfly pea, of a brightly colored bottle tree trapping spirits searching for Washerwoman…of the holy woman who opened up the books of Moses and brought down pillars of fire and cloud so that those who were lost could find their way.'”

– Rhett DeVane, Tallahassee Democrat

I hope you (and the friends on your holiday list) enjoy the story.

–Malcollm

Briefly noted: ‘Refiner’s Fire’ by Mark Helprin

While Kirkus Reviews called Mark Helprin’s first novel Refiner’s Fire (1978) “grandiose,” it received more positive reviews from other major media outlets. I first read it five years after it came out when, my excited reading of Winter’s Tale (1983), led me on a search for another Helprin book. Winter’s Tale remains my favorite, followed by A Soldier of the Great War (1991). While In Sunlight and Shadow (2012) seemed to be to be less successful than the others, it contains the same dazzling images, imagination, and prose I loved in Winter’s Tale and Refiner’s Fire. In rereading Refiner’ Fire this past week, I believe it still holds up as a compelling novel about a man whose diverse experience refine and purify him as surely as a refiner’s fire purifies silver.

Publisher’s Description: “Born on an illegal immigrant ship off the coast of Palestine, Marshall Pearl is immediately orphaned and soon brought to America, where he grows up amidst fascinating and idiosyncratic privilege that is, however, not nearly as influential in regard to his formation as the pull of his origins though they are unknown to him. A cross between Fielding´s Tom Jones and the story of Moses, Refiner´s Fire is a great and colorful adventure that ends in a crucible of battle, suffering, and death, from which Marshall Pearl rises purely by the grace of God. Addressing the holy and the profane, but never heavy handedly, it is not so much a meditation on the fate of the Jews after the Holocaust, the rise of Israel, and the spirit of America, as it is an elegy and a song in which the powers of life and regeneration are shown to gorgeous effect.”

From the Reviews: 

  • “Mark Helprin, who must be legend to his friends, risks more than most novelists dare in ten years. Helprin writes like a saint, plots like a demon, and has an imagination that would be felonious in all but the larger democracies . . . . The sound that drowns all others in this novel is that of kingdom-come ignition.” (The Village Voice)
  • “Marvelous . . . . A brilliantly sinuous tale that sets an Augie March-like young man into a Gabriel Garcia Marquez universe . . . There are so many things to admire in Mark Helprin’s first novel that one’s problem is where to begin.” (Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Times Book Review)

From the Novel: “You know,” said Al in a daze of hunger and cold, “when you see this, you realize that despite all the crap that goes on in the cities, despite all the words and accusations, the country has balance and momentum. The whole thing is symmetrical and beautiful; it works. The cities are like bulbs on a Christmas tree. They may bum, swell, and shatter, but the green stays green. Look at it,” he said, eyes fixed on the horizon, not unmoved by the motion of the train. “Look at it. It’s alive.”

There is a lot of magic in Helprin’s writing, though I believe he doesn’t care for the term “magical realism” and doesn’t see his work in that way. However, the fact that much of this novel is told in flashbacks dreamt by protagonist Matther Pearl, allows Helprin a lot of flexibility in his use of dazzling images and exuberant language. I’m glad I experienced the story again.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of two, magical realism “conjure and crime” novels, “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and “Eulalie and Washerwoman.”

This and that for avid readers

Even though July 30th was yesterday, this selection of posts about magical realism is still available. If you love the genre, you’ll find some fascinating ideas.

 

New from Thomas-Jacob Publishing, Transformed, a Kindle short story by Smoky Zeidel.  “The way I see it,” said Daniel, “the fence lizard eats the fly, so the fly becomes part of the fence lizard. The fly is the fence lizard. The fence lizard gets eaten by the snake, and thus becomes the snake. What’s to say that snake won’t get snatched up by a Golden Eagle, and thus become the eagle?” Does the same principle apply to humans? Marina is about to find out.

Thank you to all the readers who participated in the recent sweepstakes for Emily’s Stories on Audio Book Reviewer. Kelley Hazen and I are glad you stopped by and signed up. Congratulations to the winners and thanks to those of you who have already posted reviews.

Here’s a copy of my Amazon review for Don Westenhaver’s mystery thriller Missing Star

This post WWI thriller mixes historical and fictional characters in a fast-paced search for a missing actress (Joyce) in the very different Los Angeles of another era. The ambiance and history anchor the story which pits ex-marine aviator (Danny) and against the seedy unknowns of the big city where overlapping police jurisdictions and the corrupt politics of prohibition make it easy for many crimes to fall through the cracks.

Danny is determined to find Joyce in spite of impossible odds, and this makes him a believable and determined main character. Inasmuch as missing persons cases typically includes gaps of time when no new information is found, the story takes a few side trips that, while relevant, slow down the pacing a bit. It also doesn’t seem likely that Danny, as a civilian, would be included in police actions. Otherwise, the story moves well with a high degree of credibility toward a satisfying conclusion. Readers will feel anger over Joyce’s circumstances and respect for Danny’s perseverance, and cannot help but hope that they find each other again and make the bad guys pay for what they’ve done.

 

Recently released from Thomas-Jacob Publishing, Tizita, a new novel by Sharon Heath: “Physics wunderkind Fleur Robins, just a little odd and more familiar with multiple universes than complicated affairs of the heart, is cast adrift when her project to address the climate crisis is stalled. Worse still, her Ethiopian-born fiancé Assefa takes off right after her 21st birthday party to track down his father, who’s gone missing investigating Ethiopian claims to the Ark of the Covenant. Fleur is left to contend with the puzzle of parallel worlds, an awkward admirer, and her best friend Sammie’s entanglement with an abusive boyfriend. Assefa’s reconnection with a childhood sweetheart leads Fleur to seek consolation at Jane Goodall’s Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve, but it’s through a bumbling encounter with her rival that the many worlds of Fleur’s life begin to come together. In the experience of tizita—the interplay of memory, loss, and longing—Fleur is flung into conflicts between science and religion, race and privilege, climate danger and denial, sex and love. With humor, whimsy, and the clumsiness and grace of innocence, Fleur feels her way through the narrow alleyway between hope and despair to her heart’s sweetest home.”

New, from Theodora Goss, my favorite review book for 2017, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter. See my review here. From the publisher: “Based on some of literature’s horror and science fiction classics, this is the story of a remarkable group of women who come together to solve the mystery of a series of gruesome murders and the bigger mystery of their own origins. Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents’ death, is curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be nearby and there is a reward for information leading to his capture…a reward that would solve all of her immediate financial woes. But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a feral child left to be raised by nuns. With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde and soon befriends more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein. When their investigations lead them to the discovery of a secret society of immoral and power-crazed scientists, the horrors of their past return. Now it is up to the monsters to finally triumph over the monstrous.”

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism books set in Florida.