Friday, January 9, 2015

The Trouble with Blurbs and Pitches




I’ve mentioned that I dusting off my written manuscript files. I’m going over correspondence and blurb and pitches that I’ve put together and getting feedback on what I've done. 

Oy!

I’ve only gotten serious about my creative writing the last few years. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done a lot of writing in my professional life for articles, seminars, radio, newspapers, and industry styled periodicals--that's work. While I’ve told stories all my life and written down many of them, it’s only been a recent thing for me to consider fulfilling my dream of writing novels and having them published.

I have several friends who are authors and who have been a big encouragement to me. They’ve taken an interest in my writing and try to help me improve. One asked me to give her a brief blurb about one of my stories. I’m thinking, brief? You see, me and brief, we have problems and we’re not exactly close friends. I thought, hey, I can do this. After all, I wrote several 90,000-word books, so how hard can it be? I hunkered down and got to it.

Three days and seven drafts later I gave her what I thought was brief. Ahem, need I say it was in need of a major blood transfusion when I got it back? Then she added the word “concise”, sigh…I thought two pages was concise.

She then gave me a helpful clue; think of the back cover of a book. Two days and twelve drafts later I hand her the blurb. Her response? Sia, just how big do you think a book cover is?

Oh-oh.

The next day and we won’t mention the draft count, I handed it back to her. Good word count, however…then came all this stuff about character goal, motivation, conflict, word choices, and yeah, it was still bleeding to death.

My friend is tough and has pushed me to be the best I can be and not to give up. She also thinks one should always practice pitches—who knows when you might meet an acquiring editor? I have a lot of respect for her. So, you know whom I went to when I was preparing a 50-word pitch for an editor. This time it only took me one day and four drafts—I had been practicing.

I got it back, “close but not quite.”

I growled—hey it impressed my dog. I went for a walk, did the dishes, polished my nails and sat down, determined to get this thing right.

My final draft? “Wow, you got it!” Shock, followed by the wet noodle thing, and then elation.

If an editor does more then just read the blurb/query and the first chapter, and offers me a contract?

I’ll tell you what it feels like to win a lottery.

11 comments:

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Yes, blurbs are hard! Think the description of a TV program in the TV Guide. Go to IMDB and type in GONE WITH THE WIND (a big story, right?) and see what their short summation of that movie is. It may help.

Thank you for visiting and commenting today on my blog!

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Sia,

Since I write blurs professionally I know how hard it can be to condense those 90K words to one or two sentences....

I am doing the same thing now for my novel. I'm gearing up for the SCBWI conference next month and my PITCH/blurb must be PERFECT to WOW them...

I hope to hit the lottery too! LOL. Will keep you posted.

Congrats on finally nailing it! Keep up the awesome work!

~Sia McKye~ said...

ROLAND--I didn't think about that. Good idea. GWTW is a huge book. :-) It was my pleasure to visit your blog, Roland. I enjoyed your writing.

MICHAEL--Yah, blurbs are hard. Tell enough to give an overall sketch but not too much. My friend, Kat Sheridan, also does blurbs professionally and she's amazing. Kudos to the two of you for having a knack of blurb writing.

I haven't been to a conference in at least two years. I'm hoping to change that this year. They're like energizing pills to keep you going and yes, pitches need to be perfect. I was told to practice them enough that they came out smooth and without thought. Wishing you the best on your pitch!

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I've been asked to write a blurb for someone's book once or twice, and it's never something I can just toss out in a few seconds. I always labor at writing something good, meaningful, and specific for the book.

Unlike some of the blurbs I see big name authors write ... Did you ever notice how many of them could apply to almost any book? "A roller coaster of a ride!" ~ Yeah, real specific, that!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

A short blurb is the one thing I can do! Sometimes it helps to be a man of few words.
Think tagline for a movie. That will give you a good idea how short.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Even after writing more blurbs for all my books, I find it one of the most difficult parts of the publishing process. Glad you had a friend to help and advise.

Jo said...

And I always thought all you had to do was write a book. A good one of course. Getting to know so many authors I now have a totally different picture of the writing game.

Kat Sheridan said...

Blurbs! Thank you for mentioning me! First, a quick terminology thing: Most people (including me) say "blurb", when what they really mean is "cover or jacket copy". Technically, Dianne Salerni has it right when she uses 'blurb' to mean the on line of praise on the front cover, while "cover copy" is technically the short description on the back. And yes, they're tricky, but there really is a formula for doing them. Most people hate doing them, which is good for my business, LOL! I won't use Sia's lovely blog to promote it, but Sia, if you'd ever like an article on how to do blurbs, I'd be happy to "steal" your blog any time! Glad you got it worked out. I'm sure it's wonderful!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sia ... interesting: "Wow, you got it!" - after tearing all things with your nails ... mind you it's easier to type without talons.

Love the shock - followed by the wet noodle thing and then elation ...

Good descriptions and such helpful comments ... good to read - cheers Hilary

Karen Walker said...

Would love to see a before and after!

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Oh this is great. Thanks for the laugh and inspiration.