Books that don’t sell.

I suspect most authors have a book that doesn’t sell well. Is it the marketing, the cover, the title, the subject matter, or the book description – the ‘blurb’? Or is it because my main reader base is historical fiction and this novel is anything but – or is it?

My ‘livre noir’ is a book that’s dear to my heart, it being the first novel I wrote some twenty years ago. Like most of my early novels, it went through several rewrites and various name changes before it was published in 2015. It evolved as my writing skills evolved, and though changed beyond recognition from the original, it remains one of my favourite if rather disturbing tales.

So what might I do to help put it in front of readers and persuade them to look at it? It might help me to disect its parts and see what is failing. I’ve tried designing a new cover – twice – and settled on this one.

So what does this image convey? I know what it means, but what does it convey to a potential reader? It obviously has a religious undertones or overtones, given the crucifix and rosary, and the female protagonist is black, probably African. The hooded figure would appear to be a ‘brother’ of the cloth judging by his robe, but what of his pose? Is he blessing the weak, threatening the wicked, or lecturing the sinful? The fact that there are burning buildings in the background suggests some disaster, and being flat-roofed buildings, they’re possibly on the African continent, and the lightning in the sky might be natural or ‘brought down’ by the brother as an act of God.

Does it suggest a genre to you?

The title. I’ve forgotten the original titles of this story, but Where Hope Dares seemed to fit the thrust of the courage and determination needed by the protagonists. I hoped it would convey that sense of courage and hope against the background image of some personal upheaval – an ending of one way of life and the beginning of another. The subtitle – the Gift of prophecy – is also intended to add a clue to the story. There have been so many prophecies over the years, but the over-riding ones in most Christian cultures are those of biblical proportions. Floods, plagues, the second coming…

I’m still not sure it suggests a genre.

I’ve always found this story the most difficult of all my books to describe, and perhaps that is where the marketing falls down. There is so much I can’t say, or it will give away the twist in the tale. How do I hint and entice without writing a spoiler? Difficult.

And what is the genre? I struggle even to define this. It’s fantasy, it’s post-apocalyptic, it could be called dystopian. It certainly contains a message to humanity for the future of our planet. Whatever it is, it’s primarily a love story, a tale of hope and courage, and an epic adventure. If I say whether it is set in our past or our future that might give the game away. There is so much in this story that isn’t what it seems – so many secret layers to be uncovered. One reader said of it ‘The Lord of the Rings meets Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever‘. High praise, for these are two of my favourite series, and yet it’s unlike either apart from it being a journey for all concerned in more ways than one.

I’ll attempt to describe it without spoilers. It’s set in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco at some time between the Great Flood and the Second Coming. Kiya is a village healer and her husband, Raphel, is a storyteller, keeping alive the oral traditions of their people. Life is peaceful, ordered, happy, and the most excitement they have is regular visits from Abe, an itinerent peddler who trades across the mountains with his mule, Moses.

Abe, however, is not what he seems, and though he has Kiya and Raphel’s best interests at heart, he has a secret agendum laid down by a long-dead pope that is sometimes at war with his love for his friends. He has dedicated his long life to watching over the village where Kiya lives, but why? What is it he’s not telling her?

All goes horribly wrong when a pagan and war-hungry cult from the northern side of the mountains arrive with arson, rape, and slaughter on their minds, and an ancient prophecy to fulfil. Kiya is kidnapped and forced north over the mountains, but what has the prophecy to do with Kiya? Does Abe know?

Alaric, one of the barbaric Northmen, sees Kiya as the legendary ‘Gift’ of prophecy he’s been sent to find, and he rapes and kidnaps her and forces her north over the mountains, leaving Raphel for dead amid the burning ruins of his village.

This scene of destruction is what greets Abe when he arrives in the village. Raphel lives and determines to set off in search of Kiya, his only aids hope, love, and a headful of stories. Abe decides to go with him, but his reasons for this aren’t quite what they seem, and he will find his allegiencies sorely tested.

That the chase on foot across the mountains in winter will be hard and long is not in doubt, or that the sea voyage will be fraught with danger, or the trek across the desert under a burning sun less deadly than that of their ancestors who fled persecution from East Africa. That gentle Raphel will have to use every ounce of his knowledge, wit, compassion, forgiveness, and courage to rescue his wife, is certain, but who will prove to be his friend and who his foe, and what is this prophecy by which the Northmen set so much store? Why is it so important that they will kill and risk their own deaths to fulfil it – and can such an ancient prophecy be trusted?

***

That’s the bones of the plot and the journey, but could I make it more appealing? Just writing it out here as if I am speaking to you face to face has improved it from what is written in the book description on Amazon, so this is already an exercise that was worth doing. What about the dreaded blurb? The tag line? It’s a complex story, and one I find hard to condense. That doesn’t mean I shoudn’t try.

Blurb: ‘When Kiya is kidnapped by a warlike religious cult to fulfil an ancient prophecy, her husband, Raphel, sets out across the High Atlas Mountains to rescue her. His only aid is Abe, an enigmatic peddler, but Abe has his own agendum and must weigh his friends’ lives against mankind’s immortal soul. And what of the prophecy? The truth Raphel uncovers blows all their worlds apart. Truly, prophecy is dangerous.’

Tag line: ‘An ancient prophecy, a sacrifice, and a truth that is more terrifying than the legend.’

Does any of this make you want to read the ‘look inside’ on Amazon? If not, what more can I say to tempt you?

Anyway, here’s the link http://getbook.at/WhereHopeDares It may not have had many readers, but those readers have left some fabulous reviews.

UPDATE Following the publishing of this blog and helpful comments from fellow authors, I’ve decided to change the title of this book to something that better reflects the story and republish it with a new cover. The story will remain unchanged. The new link, when published in the next day or two, will be http://mybook.to/ChildofProphecy Where Hope Dares will no longer be available under that title.

See more of my novels at http://author.to/RebeccaBryn


5 thoughts on “Books that don’t sell.

  1. I’ve read ‘Where Hope Dares’ and thought it was a great story. Looking at your quandary has me thinking that three things I’d consider are:
    1. Title amended to have all the capitals the same size, and step the three words from top left diagonally across.
    2. Remove the woman on the left so that the burning buildings in the background are more prominent.
    3. Amend the strapline to something you’ve used in your post, ‘Prophecy is dangerous’
    or another option might be, ‘Prophecy … a gift, or a curse?’
    Only small areas in each case but I believe it would catch the eye. As we all know, it sometimes doesn’t take much.
    A good post, highlighting an issue many of us have to contend with and attempt to resolve. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I can’t improve on what Tom said. It is a terrific book, such a shame that it does not seem to have caught the imagination of potential readers. Have you looked at the categories you placed it in on Amazon? Are there better options?

    Like

  3. Supplementary comment. Having now taken part in the process from blog to update, I think you ought to be on a winner with this now. The title, cover and strapline are all more appealing, and with a few reviews already under its belt, you should see more interest. it’s a great story. 🙂

    Like

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