Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Blurbs, back cover copy, and pitches

So, um, I don't have anything coming out anytime soon.

Which doesn't mean I'm not writing, just that I'm not selling anything. Worse yet, I can't really share any of the pitches or proposals that are in the works because there is an outside chance that a decision-maker somewhere will like one of them and whee I will have a project (maybe even a contract) again.

So instead of sharing all this top-secret silliness, I'll pass along advice I've received about preparing hooks, pitches, blurbs, and back cover copy. Cuz guess what? All those marketing-copy bits are very similar.

1. Focus on the conflict. Distill it as succinctly as possible. Sherry Thomas "pitched" Twilight to my writing group once as something along the lines of "She loves him even though he could kill her. He loves her back, except he also thinks she's tasty." The thing that sells that story isn't the wish fulfillment or the sparkles. It's the "how are they ever gonna figure that one out?" question. Whether the author answers the initial question in a compelling way is fodder for another conversation. At pitch/blurb/back-cover-copy stage, you just need to raise the question.

2. However, don't use rhetorical questions. "Will they overcome their many and various compelling hurdles and find true love (or save the galaxy, or what-have-you)?" Well, yeah. Most likely they will. Asking me a question I already know the answer to isn't gonna make me buy a book.

3. If you're writing spec fic, put the deep world building front and center. This is tricky because you don't want to dump a bunch of author notes and back story in a pitch/blurb/back-cover-copy. But also, you don't want a reader to figure they're looking at just another epic fantasy or vampire romance or cozy mystery with cats and robots. Highlight the worldbuilding piece that makes your world unique.

4. Keep it brief.

5. If you're writing a romance, give the goal and conflict for each central-romance character, as well as the major conflict that's keeping them apart. (See tip 1.)

6. Match the tone/voice of the book. So, if you're writing a sarky, irreverent book, the marketing copy should match. If you're writing a thriller, sell it with that same choppy, chilling, rat-tat language. If you're writing an epic fantasy, the world is changed. You feel it in the water. You feel it in the earth. And so on.

Guess, before I head out, I should put a giant asterisk on this list of tips: I have never successfully done this kind of writing. My queries all received form responses. I would never have sold if my agent weren't a genius for this sort of thing. However! I have collected the above wisdom from a number of more accomplished writers, and I trust them.

Crossing fingers some of this sage advice will work for me. And for you.