Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Blurbs and Pitches - Wed Update

Blurbs are the bane of writers everywhere.  It's particularly hard if you are writing outside of genre, so you can't even piggy back your blurb on the expectations of the audience.

I'm thinking about this because Dean Wesley Smith wrote a post last week about how important blurbs are (in a nutshell: very).  I'm also using the word "blurb" because he did, but let's pause to change terminology here:

A "blurb" refers to those quotes from famous people on a book.  You know "Loved it! Agnes Writergurl is an up and coming sensation!" That's a blurb, and that's not what Dean actually meant, and not what I am thinking about right here.

What we're actually talking about is a pitch. Also called "copy" -- as in catalog copy or jacket copy.  It's the "product description" on the purchase page at Amazon and other vendors.

So anyway, I've been thinking about all the things I've learned over lo these many years, and thinking about going back to some of my more difficult (and sucky) pitches.  My goal is to come up with a method which a beginner/amateur can use to get a handle on an unusual book.

To that end, I took another look at my hardest to blurb book, The Wife of Freedom.  This week I decided to play with the short form version. I also did this with a specific concept in mind:

Don't hide your light under a barrel.

This book intentionally violates some rules, and it's really hard to talk about it without a preface to apologize/explain what I'm doing.  Which is, admittedly, something writers always want to do.

But with this book, it's not just me. I've had reviewers (professional reviewers, no less) write to me to say they loved the book and want to write a glowing review, but they are completely stuck on how to describe the book -- because they feel the need to explain it.

Last week, though, I found a review on Goodreads where I felt the reviewer nailed it.  She had the requisite "apology" up front, but she focused on something that I had been taking for granted: politics.  It's the story about the apolitical and unfaithful wife of an extreme anarchist, who ultimately embodies his philosophy.  (Hmmm, that in itself is half a logline...)

So the first attempt at rewriting a better short-form pitch, I decided to put the political aspect front and center, rather than hiding or apologizing for it.

"Part political tract, part fairytale and melodrama, The Wife of Freedom is the story of a woman whose wild heart leads her to betray those she loves. Facing up to her faithless nature, she becomes spy, and heroine and even legend to those she betrayed.  But only by returning home to face the music can she complete her soul."

Not there yet (too vague) but I am approaching more what the story is about, what makes it different... and what the people who love it love about it.

This fall I'm going to be looking further at writing blurbs for such "nonstandard" books.  I'll try different approaches, different tricks, and see if I can come up with some guidelines, or even a worksheet that can help kickstart the writing of a nonstandard blurb.

See you in the funny papers.

Progress report for "A Round of Words in 80 Days Meets The Clarion Write-a-Thon"

Sunday Day 21 - Ep 25 (long)
Monday Day 22 - Ep 26 (long) and 25 (short)
Tuesday Day 23 - Didn't actually finish any episodes, but did major work on the next three.

I meant to get some artwork done head, but didn't get around to it.  Still, I do at least have a good idea what I need to do for Tomorrow's episode. There will be action, and I can only think of one moment which will depict it without being a spoiler.


Steph said...

Your book sounds intriguing. To think, most people strive to capsulize what makes their books different. While doing so, you are also aiming to communicate what makes it approachable/relatable. The challenges of being a writer! All the best.

Pencildancers said...

Now you have me hooked with that blurb or rather back cover copy. I find that the hardest part of marketing. Saying what the book is about without telling the story is difficult.

The Daring Novelist said...

Steph - yeah, as the Hollywood folks put it "Make it just like that only different!" It's always a balancing act.

Diana - Thanks! It took three cover concepts (and lots of drafts of each) before I got the right cover. The blurb is harder, though. I expect it'll be a couple more tries before it's right.