A Question And An Answer, But What Do You Think?

We talk a lot about writer oriented topics here on the blog because we want all of you to take that story I know is in you and get it out to the world. All of you have a great story to tell, and if I can help it reach the masses, I want to do that. (Knowing lots of rich, famous authors can’t hurt my writing career.)

This post is for readers – which all of you are, too.

The Navigators is out with Beta Readers right now (I’m writing this post a few weeks ago and scheduling it, so most of the feedback will be received by now, but bear with me) and I have a dilemma.

Look at these questions and give me your immediate reactions.

Here’s the cover unless we  change it:


Who is that story about?

Just from looking, WHAT does the cover tell you about the story?

Here’s the blurb, unless we change it:

A freak landslide uncovers a strange machine at a dangerous central Florida mine after a team of graduate students in archaeology challenge themselves to find something big during the quiet summer session. Wary of corrupt school officials suspected of selling off their discoveries, the students take the machine home and study it in secret, reaching only one realistic – and unbelievable – conclusion: It was designed to bridge the time-space continuum. It’s a time machine.

Covert testing delivers disastrous results, each worse than the prior one, sending one team member to the hospital and nearly killing another, while a third tells university faculty about the machine – leading to the ultimate power struggle. The university wants it for funding, powerful Florida Electric wants to keep the machine’s regenerating energy abilities under wraps, and competing students want to keep it for themselves. None of them care if the team comes out of it intact.

Fleeing for their lives, the team must fight against the school, the police, the army, time, and each other if they want to learn the truth about what they’ve discovered – a truth with more severe consequences than any of them can predict.

What does the blurb make you think the story is about?


Okay, so here’s the dilemma.

  1. I worry about people interested in character interaction being turned off by the fact that there’s a time machine in the story.
  2. I worry about getting “time machine” fans to not be disappointed with the nontraditional way I’m telling the story.

People expect a time machine story to be one where somebody goes to the future or the past and has an adventure there. Here, it’s a character driven piece where the repercussions and morality of time travel is dealt with, among other things.

And there are trips in the machine into the past. I don’t want to give it away, but it’s pretty cool,what happens. It’s an adventure!

I mean, I liked this story enough for it to be my first fiction release, I think it’s that good.

I’m hoping a well written blurb will reconcile the dilemma I see, but who knows? So I wrote a friend and here’s her reply. (I’m only not naming her because I don’t want her status or lack thereof to sway you.)

Dan,you have to write the story that is in your heart. The story that is the one you want to tell. Readers either like it or they don’t. Stories are about people. Readers relate to the protagonist and cheer them on, or hate them and cheer for failure. Whatever.
Readers stick with stories because of the behavior or one (or occasionally two) main characters. What goes on around them is not nearly as important as they are.
All stories are character driven first and have to have focus on a protagonist who leads the story through the action. Once readers are hooked on your protagonist, what follows will keep then engaged.
Don’t sweat the time machine aspect. Make your protagonist real and appealing and flawed, the rest is icing on the cake (just don’t get any crumbs in the machine).

What are your thoughts?

* If you read the book as a beta reader, try to answer without giving away spoilers, and if you HAVE to, say SPOILER ALERT first.
* If you haven’t read the book, give your opinion based on what you know from this post or what you’ve read in this blog over the past few weeks.
Thanks for the help!


Published by Dan Alatorre AUTHOR

International bestselling author Dan Alatorre has 17 titles published in over a dozen languages. From Romance in Poggibonsi to action and adventure in the sci-fi thriller The Navigators, to comedies like Night Of The Colonoscopy: A Horror Story (Sort Of) and the heartwarming and humorous anecdotes about parenting in the popular Savvy Stories series, his knack for surprising audiences and making you laugh or cry - or hang onto the edge of your seat - has been enjoyed by audiences around the world. And you are guaranteed to get a page turner every time. “That’s my style,” Dan says. “Grab you on page one and then send you on a roller coaster ride, regardless of the story or genre.” Readers agree, making his string of #1 bestsellers popular across the globe. He will make you chuckle or shed tears, sometimes on the same page. His novels always contain twists and turns, and his nonfiction will stay in your heart forever. Dan resides in the Tampa area with his wife and daughter. You can find him blogging away almost every day on www.DanAlatorre or watch his hilarious YouTube show every week Writers Off Task With Friends. Dan’s marketing book 25 eBook Marketing Tips You Wish You Knew has been a valuable tool for new authors (it’s free if you subscribe to his newsletter) and his dedication to helping other authors is evident in his helpful blog.

56 thoughts on “A Question And An Answer, But What Do You Think?

  1. I think you are worrying unecessarily Dan, I am just finishing up the beta read on The Navigators and have to tell you that I haven’t enjoyed a book so much in a long time. Stop considering making it fit other people’s ideas of what you think they want to read. This story is brilliant AND very different.
    Ever heard the expression ‘you don’t need to gild the lily’ ?

  2. Hi Dan I am one of your beta readers and really enjoyed the story! There was action throughout until the final conclusion, and kept the reader wondering what was going to happen at the end. I loved the Missy part, she is a real cool character – you managed to incorporate different themes – action, science fiction, drama and romance.The time machine idea is real novel. Well done! PS Also love the book cover – maybe put a couple of more of the group behind Missy? Just a suggestion though. Good luck 🙂

    1. Thank you! The book covers are probably the hardest part, and the part that I am the worst at. I do my best to convey certain images to the cover artist and then I sit back and hope for the best before rolling it out on Facebook and Twitter to see what fans think. So far so good but I will second-guess and third guess the cover until the book is on the bestseller list.

  3. Don’t worry Dan – you are a talented writer. I know I can’t tell you not to panic too much – releasing a book is ALL about panic, in one way or another! But you have a solid product.
    The cover is very cool, it makes me think that although the protagonist is a beautiful young woman, she is not a damsel in distress but a gutsy, adventurous lady. The way she is glancing behind her already tells me that there is an undisclosed threat she has to face. The blurb is great – it is an adventure story and the time machine is an element of that; it’s not a ‘time machine story’. It strikes me as being more about finding truth and Doing The Right Thing rather than a straightforward time machine adventure, and that appeals to me far more.
    Good luck, old bean, I have nothing but the highest hopes for this!

  4. I really like the cover Dan and it’s clear it has something to do with time. I understand your comments about people thinking it’s solely about time travel but as soon as you mention the machine in the blurb, you dive right into the interactions and the challenges involved-well done! I assume the girl is the protagonist; the only thing you might consider adding- though I’m not sure how easy it is at this point- would be more of the students on the cover….but it’s a great cover so if you can’t change it, don’t worry. It sounds like a great read- looking forward to sitting down with it this summer!

    1. My original ideas for the cover actually included lots more of the students. However, you end up using big images because when people are looking at the book cover on Amazon it is only about 1 inch large and so smaller people on a regular book would be almost invisible on a 1 inch Amazon representation.

      Thank you for the praise, though! You are right! It’s a great story. I hope others agree.

  5. The moment I saw the cover before I read the blurb, I figured the story was about a time machine. I really liked the cover save the font of your name, but that’s just a personal choice.
    The blurb gives a good idea of what to expect in the story, as in it makes it pretty clear it’s not all about time travel but about an adventure sorrounding the machine.
    This is my view as a reader. Hope it helps.

    1. Awesome! Thank you!

      As cool as that font is for my name, it kind of gets lost on the book cover. My ego is just big enough to want to change that so we are looking into it.

  6. Hey Dan, from the cover I figured there was an aspect involving time, so once I read the blurb I thought it all fit together rather nicely. I haven’t kept up with all your posts, but overall, it sounds like your book will appeal to a broader audience, being that it’s not a traditional time travel story. The Navigators sounds interesting. I look forward to catching up on some of your other posts. 🙂

  7. Okay. The cover makes me think there are attractive people involved. Sad but true that makes me more interested. im thinking cute guys equals interedting dynamics. (save the moral delimas of the beauty statement for another time). I was put off with the time machine stuff. I read for relationships. I never read for science. Lol. I liked that you posed the very problem that basically covers what I’m feeling. As I’ve read your other stuff I am pretty sure there would be interesting, lol, dynamics in the story. But for me to pick it up and read I would feel the emphasis is on the characters.
    That letter from your anonymous friend is bang on. I agree with everything. I swear it just takes me one interesting character that I can relate to, to suck me into a story. I’m not sure I’m getting that from your blurb. I’m getting its a story about time travel.
    Of course you probably have me figured.out by now so you know what I like. The science stuff would appeal to thousands of others, and I’m the loser who didn’t give it a chance. So should you change anything. Probably not. Especially not.based.on anything I say.
    Shit. I’m typing this on my phone and it’s much longer then I intended. Hope it makes.sense. and is polite.

    1. See, that is part of the challenge. Somebody like you would probably love this story but would never pick it up because it’s science fiction/time travel. To be honest, neither would I. Just hearing that makes my skin crawl because that’s not the kind of story that usually interests me. However, this story is my version of that kind of situation, so it is much more about the people in the relationships and much less about science. Although, as you know, I’m kind of a smart guy so I did put forth if you interesting scientific theories in typical Dan fashion. One or two readers said they kind of skimmed that part because it was too technical but you know what that’s going to happen. Meanwhile, i’m sure if a friend of yours recommended the story to you, you might give it a chance. It is definitely an unconventional time travel story!

      1. Did I mention I’m sure it will do great. SOOO great, I’ll probably have to give it a go and check out what the fuss is about.
        Stop worrying…lol.

  8. Hi Dan I”l be completely honest the blurb doesn’t do it for me, too much emphasis on the machine and not enough on people, no names, just generalised labels, students, team, university… Why not the class of 2016 (or whatever), Tom , Dick, Harry and Sally (or whoever) looking for excitement…then bring it on..but I don’t give a toss about the Power Company, but the egotistical maverick leading it? (just imagining). It’s the reason I didn’t offer to beta read, I need personal connections, explored, stretched, challenged. The damn shame is I know you and know you’d likely have this in your story, but you didn’t peak my interest, you didn’t sell it to me, like you did with Poggibonsi, relationship rich, and some! So for me a good cover undermined by the blurb, as stands I’d pick it up but not buy it … and please get your name in bold, hell you’re no shrinking violet what’s with with curves and swirls. Dan you’ve good friends, who as far as I can see give genuine thought through advice, take it in, squeeze it into you, not just the praise, but things to change, you’ll still be strong, single minded, a lot of fun, but write ‘people’ blurb and sell to dick-heads like me. After all this, if you still need it, I’ll beta read, I’ll even blurb it even though I’ll be crap at it!

    1. Oh, I always like input from everyone because it all helps. You’re an important part of the market and your input matters. Fact is, this story is hard to quantify (and we aren’t necessarily finished writing the blurb). It’s similar to Poggibonsi but obviously a very different kind of story. Character driven but against a very different backdrop.

      Blurbs are so tricky!

      By the way, thank you for putting this comment out there where other people who might not feel they can give a less than 100% favorable opinion, will know that they are certainly welcome to do it. After all, if I only hear good things, I won’t learn how to improve. It is my best friends who feel secure enough to offer candid input to help make the story the best it can be.

      1. Feel free to send it asap Dan and I’ll do my best to turn it around as quick as I did Poggibonsi; my email still the same as then.



  9. Again I say, that cover makes your name non- existent. if I was scanning for books by cover, the pic reminds me of Bella from that vampire series so I would pass. I don’t like whining girl books. And that’s what the cover evokes for me. I wouldn’t even get to the blurb.

    1. My cover artist said she will fix the name. I was thinking about sliding the whole image down about an inch and having my name across the top in black against the orange background. How would that work for you?

  10. I like the cover. I thought of a time machine immediately. The premise of everyone fighting for it is logical and what would happen if idiots brag about what they have. I think, just by this post, that the biggest dilemma would be whether or not to travel in it because it would obviously change time. I can’t imagine traveling back to any major event and not trying to change it.

  11. Dan, I agree with your friend. Books that are character driven hook me. Once I care about the characters I as a reader will suspend believe and forgive even the most egregious editing errors. I recently wrote a post about a book with a good story premise, and I really wanted to like the book, but I could not grasp the characters. Your book sounds terrific and I can’t wait to read it.
    As to the cover, it is eye catching but no I didn’t get the premise from the cover. But I would probably turn it over and read the back blurb.
    Have you considered lowering everything a bit and leaving off the countryside picture? That was the only confusing bit, for me. Have the “time” artwork as the background for the entire cover. But still keep the black middle area with the title. This would also give you room so that your name shows up better. https://jeanswriting.com/2016/06/06/is-your-character-hiding-in-the-shadows/

        1. Yeah… I’m not crazy about it. I maybe old-school but I think you should be able to look at a picture and know what you’re looking at.

          On the other hand, the cover tested insanely well, so…

          meanwhile, I should probably be reaching out to author bloggers like you, Jean, and setting up a series of interviews or something. What do you think?

  12. It’s not fair for me to comment because I’ve read the book already. But before I read it, i was thinking it had something to do with time (the clock) and money (I think that’s money on the left), but I thought the story was going to revolve around a female. Melissa is one of many characters. Is there a reason you chose her on the cover? I wasn’t sure what the city below was.

    1. Well, it’s fair to comment as long as you let people know you already read the book. Then they can temper your words appropriately.



      Melissa is on the cover because when I looked at multiple characters on the cover they were much less visible. Using one character in a large format was more visible. A young woman was a better choice because it tends to be a male-dominated story but she emerges as the central figure who has the main story arc. This would appeal to my existing customer base, married women ages 35 to 55, but also to men if there is an attractive – but not too attractive – young woman on the cover.

      The biggest part of the story is actually Melissa’s story. The idea behind that is a message to my young daughter when she would be Melissa’s age. That’s who Mr. Mills is. Me.

      It would not be difficult to get rid of the stuff below the title. But something has to be there and it has to be a certain color so right now I guess what’s there stays. For now.

  13. I love the morality aspect of the time travel part of the story–I mean the idea of it hooked me. I agree that I almost don’t care what characters do as long as I love one or two. This looks like a good read to me. I’ll have to buy a copy!

    1. I almost hate to use the word morality because it sounds preachy and the book is not, but the characters wrestle with whether they should do things. And I’ll take you up on your offer to buy a copy!

  14. “I worry about people interested in character interaction being turned off by the fact that there’s a time machine in the story.” No need to worry about that, Dan – there are so many ways to write about time machines and yours is just a new take on it, fast-paced and entertaining.
    The blurb is a bit wordy, I find, especially that first sentence. The sentence that sums it up for me? This one: “The university wants it for funding, powerful Florida Electric wants to keep the machine’s regenerating energy abilities under wraps, and competing students want to keep it for themselves.” If you start the blurb with something like that, you’ve conveyed the main action of the book. Then you reveal: “What is it? A time machine.”

  15. Dan, You can get into a vicious circle second guessing yourself as an author. Your beta readers seem very positive and I’ve found, if you picked them carefully, they are a great indicator of the reading community at large. Just make your product as clean as possible and put it out there. That’s the joy of Indie publishing. There is no middle person to feed your self-doubt and second guessing. That’s also the most scary part of indie publishing.

    1. That’s definitely true, Don. For me, the main goal of beta readers is to make sure I didn’t make any glaring errors – I made a few small ones – and to help formulate overall ideas for blurbs and covers and things, while helping to generate interest. They have certainly done that!

      While very few of them have said anything other than extremely positive comments, it’s just as important to get input from the people who don’t like it or who think it could be better, because as you say they represent the broad populace. I don’t expect a story to appeal to everyone but the feedback can help me target who it should be marketed to. All in all, it’s lots of fun to have people talking about your story. Whether they are saying good things or bad things, it’s still your story they are talking about!

    2. You might say I have a confidence problem. I believe that as soon as I am done with the first draft, it is worthy of publication immediately, typos and all. It’s only through trusted critique partners, an editor author friend, and betas that I even begin to realize there may be errors in the manuscript!

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