Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Evolution of a book cover: The Hall of the Wood

Everyone knows that a quality book cover is important. It's all too easy to tell the professional from the non-professional. While a "good" book cover isn't necessarily indicative of the quality within, it's at least a good starting point.

When I was first getting ready to self-publish my own novels, I explored the different options. Those options were:

  1. Don't use a cover
  2. Make my own
  3. Commission a professional

Ultimately, I decided to create my own cover. I think it's safe to say sales of The Hall of the Wood were not stellar. In some months, they were non-existent (more on sales in a near future post). Then, late last year, I decided to look into the possibility of option #3. I made inquiries with some artists who had their work showcased on, and quickly came to the conclusion that having a professionally done cover is not cheap. That's not to say prices were unreasonable, but the return on investment given my sales up to that point just wasn't there. I'd about given up when I came across a wonderfully perfect illustration by Simon Schmidt. A quick inquiry and some price discussion later and Simon had himself some money out of the blue and I had the illustration I should have used from the start.

This, then, is the new cover for The Hall of the Wood:

HOTW cover 1.0.7 - reduced

What you are looking at in the background is, of course, the Hall. It's uncanny how well this illustration fits the novel. It's got all the elements: forest, patroller's keep, a certain dreariness as if a gloom has settled on the woods. There's even a hint of age with the vine-covered pillar in the forefront.

The new cover went live on Amazon and other retailers at the beginning of December. About the same time, due to some price reductions I made at other retailers, Amazon dropped the price down to $0.00. The unfortunate thing is I can't tell at this point if it was the book cover or the price that caused sales (downloads, really) to soar. At its peak, The Hall of the Wood was getting 150 downloads per day (rough figure; I'm going to post exact numbers in a near future post).

It will be interesting to see how the book sells moving forward. It's no longer free, but it's gotten plenty of recommendations and a couple of reviews. Most important, perhaps, it's showing up on other novels' "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" lists.

I'll leave you with a look at the previous covers cooked up by yours truly. They're not much to look at, and perhaps a reminder why people like me should leave the artwork to the professionals.

hotw 200x300-old hotw-200x300 HOTW cover

Get The Five Elements for free on Smashwords

Just a quick note to let everyone know you can download The Five Elements for free from Smashwords from now until the end of the year. Just use the coupon code UP62L at checkout.

I like Smashwords because they sell eBooks in a variety of formats (HTML, MOBI, EPUB, LRF, RTF, etc.). Buy the book, and you can download whatever format fits your need. Use the coupon code, and it won’t cost you a dime.

Indie Book Blog reviews The Hall of the Wood

The Indie Book Blog reviewed The Hall of the Wood, giving it 4 out of 5 stars. This review isn’t new, but somehow it slipped under the radar and I didn’t realize it was there until I recently pinged IBB to see if they’d review The Five Elements. Scott, the proprietor, pointed out the review to me and offered to move my request up the queue (turns out he’d already added it to his list, but just hadn’t gotten to it). Scott was also nice enough to publish his review as a comment on

As an indie author, you have to like what IBB is doing: buying and reviewing indie works gives us a sale and some exposure in the process. Guess you never know if that exposure is going to be good or not, but that’s the nature of the business.

Fortunately, Scott had some nice things to say about The Hall of the Wood:

The story is well written and has some interesting characters and plot twists along the way. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the fantasy genre and for [...] why not give it a try. I am intrigued enough by the author that I will be purchasing his other book in the near future to see what else he has to offer.

Thanks, Scott!

I’ll post his review of The Five Elements when it’s available.

You can purchase The Hall of the Wood on in Kindle format or download a free PDF version here.

3 out of 5 stars for The Five Elements

I was tempted to title this post "How to Deal with a Bad Review". Yes, I got a "bad" review. But the truth is that it's not a horrible review, just a bad one ('horrible' being 1 star or thereabouts). Once I'd taken the time to fully digest the reviewer's comments, I wasn't even that upset with it. The reviewer made some valid points, cited specific errors, and, all in all, provided a pretty level-headed assessment of his opinion. I really have no fault with any of it.

Here's what he had to say:


I'll admit: my first reaction was a mixture of disappointment and something to the effect, "Oh yeah, what do you know?" It's easy to become reactionary in these cases. I didn't act on my initial impulses, though. I'm professional enough to know the first thing one should do in a situation like this is nothing. Once I'd had some time to settle down, I re-read the comments. From there, it was an exercise in acceptance of the commenter's opinions and verification of the specific errors he pointed out. As to the former… everyone is entitled to their opinion and that's all there is to it. For the latter, he was right. There were some bonehead errors in there. I didn't proofread The Five Elements thoroughly enough myself. Neither did I have it professionally reviewed. That's something I may look into in the near future, especially as I get closer to releasing book 2 in the series. In the meantime, I corrected the errors and re-released all digital copies (across Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and this site).

I never expected to get all 5 star reviews. In fact, I fully expect to get some 1 star reviews. For now, though, I've got 1 5 star review, 1 4 star, and the one above. I think I'm doing ok still, and, thanks to Mr. Pemberton, the next reader that comes along won't have to deal with my mistakes (at least not those particular ones).

You can order The Five Elements from in Kindle or print format, or Barnes & Noble in Nook format.

Tweaking the blurb

One of the great things about electronic publishing is the ability to iterate changes quickly and at minimal cost (no cost, really) to one's currently selling eBooks. Log into your seller's account, make your changes, hit 'submit', and wait a day or two for the changes to go live. It's really as simple as that.

I decided to apply this principle to my novel, The Five Elements. Sales have been ho-hum at best. But of the feedback I've gotten from Amazon comments and elsewhere, the overall vibe is a good one. There's only so much I can do to convince people to buy the eBook (or print edition). I think the story is good and the writing quality is on par with any other novel out there. A couple of things I continue to consider is (1) hiring a professional artist to do the cover art and (2) looking at KindleNation or a similar site to advertise. Before I try either of those things, though, I want to try something that's all on me and doesn't cost anything: tweaking the blurb.

When I say 'blurb' I'm merely referring to the description of the novel typically found on the back cover or in the 'Description' for online retailers. You can read the original blurb for The Five Elements here. That one was more focused on the friendship between the two main characters, which is integral to the story, but also doesn't convey the larger storyline that will take this novel into books 2, 3, and beyond.

So, here is the new blurb. I'm updating the various online retailers now, so it should be live tomorrow or the next day.

A factious group of learned men calling themselves Elementalists once endeavored to blend scientific machinery and elemental magic. Their ultimate goal, lost to time now, never came to fruition as those they'd separated themselves from judged their actions as blasphemy of the worst kind. The Elementalists were offered no mercy; they were hunted down and killed to the last. Of their inventions, all were thought destroyed...

Until, some five hundred years later, one is used to launch a devastating elemental attack on the city of Norwynne. Aaron, scholar, alchemist, and sorcerer's apprentice, survives, only to bear witness to the resulting fallout and to his dearest friend, Shanna, as she is swept into oblivion. Aaron thinks Shanna killed, while Aaron himself is forced to flee for his life. For Shanna, who survives that fateful night, the greatest adventure of her life is about to begin. Only the worst of nightmares awaits Aaron: pursued by dwarves, hell hounds, and a demon who will not stop until he is dead, the only thing keeping him alive is his own resourcefulness and an eslar mercenary whose reputation as a killer might make him the worst threat of all.

Though Aaron and Shanna travel different paths, their purpose is joined when they individually learn of the mysterious Fifth Element. Shanna sees it as the final piece in the puzzle that is her destiny. To Aaron's logical mind, it is an impossible ambiguity. Whatever the answer, the Fifth Element draws them back together and into a final confrontation not as allies, but as adversaries.


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