So there I was, in the elevator, and who walked in?

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Blurb
/blɜrb/:
1. a brief advertisement or announcement, esp. a laudatory one
2. to advertise or praise

Yesterday, in her excellent post on “bait and hook”, Faith mentioned an agent meeting that served as a turning point for Kim Harrison. In the weeks prior to the meeting, Faith spent a good deal of time helping all of us learn how to blurb our work. I’m sure you’re familiar with blurbs on book covers, lines of praise that are used to help sell the book. Blurbs are also excellent tools for the author approaching an agent or editor. I don’t know how many of you have been to any writing conferences or met many agents. Sometimes these events are so crowded that your chance at a one-on-one may come in an elevator, or while waiting in line for the lunch buffet. Trust me…if you luck onto two minutes of an agent’s undivided attention, you’d better be prepared. There are a thousand people ready to jump in when the agent turns his head in another direction, and you want him to remember you.

Say I’ve written the gripping saga of Lisette, a lady’s maid in fin de siecle Portugal, who discovers her own latent magical ability to throw fire from her eyes when she accidentally sets the family home on fire while the lord of the manor is molesting her, and must learn to control her strength while she’s on the run from the Inquisitor and his vicious knifemen who hope to catch her and cut out her heart, which will transfer her power to the Inquisitor if he consumes it. Oh, and she falls in love with one of the knifemen when he meets her in her disguise as a stable lad, did I mention that?

Yeah, that’s long. And unwieldy. If the elevator is an express, we probably reached the agent’s floor before I got to the part about the knifemen. Since I would never dream of following the agent to his hotel room (and I’m sure you all know the bathroom is even MORE off limits!), I’ve blown my great chance. So what should I have done?

The seven second blurb is the one you’ve prepped for just this sort of occasion. It’s the general idea in a few carefully chosen and delivered words. You’re not trying to tell the agent everything. You’re just trying to make his eyes light up. Instead of the lengthy paragraph, I could say, “Lisette’s magic will set Portugal ablaze, unless she discovers a way to control her passions.” It’s quick, it’s full of strong words, and it tells the agent enough to know whether he wants to hear more. If the agent is interested on the basis of the seven-second blurb, that’s when I can take a little longer and spill my thirty-second blurb. Something like, “Lisette never knew she could create fire with her thoughts until the day she nearly killed her family. Now she’s in hiding from the Inquisitor who hopes to cut out her heart and take her power for himself. Only when she learns to control her power will she defeat the Inquisitor and find true happiness.” See? Still short and to the point, and probably enough to make an interested agent ask for three chapters and a synopsis.

Now it’s your turn. Look at your work-in-progress and see if you can condense your description of it to a seven-second and a thirty-second blurb. When you’ve got it, post it in the comments and let me see.

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18 comments to So there I was, in the elevator, and who walked in?

  • Good one Misty!
    I like!!!!
    Faith

  • Black Heart is the story of a gun-slinging undead vampire hunter, and her trials and struggles to protect all she loves from the creatures of the night.

  • I have to say that in dealing with an agent, I prefer the blurb that shows I’ve thought about how to market my book. For instance, my blurb for Sorcerers’ Plague: “It’s a medical thriller set in a medieval fantasy.” It gives a sense of who it might appeal to, how one might sell it to a publisher, and it even has a hint of alliteration to make it easier for the agent to remember.

  • I have a one sentence blurb about my WIP but reading the one David B. Coe just posted that puts a whole new angle on pitching a book in a single sentence.

    Here’s my one second blurb, which I jotted down in my LJ back in August:

    What if the only way to save your family’s throne was to betray it?

    But looking again at David’s that will take some thinking.

  • Once again I offer the “there’s no right way to do this” caveat. As I said, that’s what I prefer, because I think that agents think in terms of marketing. But I like that blurb CE. And I really think it would be great as the teaser line at the top of the back cover of your book.

  • David is totally right — no right way to do *anything* in publishing. That is why luck is much a part of the game. I may never have been published without it.
    Faith

  • “What if the only way to save your family’s throne was to betray it?”

    I thought that was a great one. It certainly got my attention.

  • Melanie

    Bearing in mind that I would never sit down to write a vampire story, except that a complex one found me and wouldn’t leave me alone (!!!), a new version of my longer blurb runs:

    Driven by her father’s disappearance and death, Kaylie, unprepared, finds her twisted genetic fate in becoming a living vamp brings adventure, pleasures, skewed morality and new friends, not all of whom have her best interests at heart.

    Any thoughts?
    *feels like ducking even though she knows that’s silly*

  • Excellent piece with some very helpful info. Condensing an entire novel down into a “7 second blurb” is quite a challenge, but – I must admit – a fun one. I admit, had I run into an agent I’d of been tongue-tied, but this really makes me feel more comfortable should it ever happen; I just need to put this into practice so I can be prepared. Thank you for an informative post!

  • Also, to cedunkly – I *love* your blurb! I want to read your book now!

  • Melanie wrote — Driven by her father’s disappearance and death, Kaylie, unprepared, finds her twisted genetic fate in becoming a living vamp brings adventure, pleasures, skewed morality and new friends, not all of whom have her best interests at heart.

    Girl — do not duck. This is what we are here for! Use us! That said, I think you need more of the conflict in it. And — is it dark? Flirty? Cutsie? Are bad guys after her? If so, then…

    Driven by her father’s disappearance and death, Kaylie, unprepared, finds her twisted genetic fate metamorphs her into a living vamp, bringing danger, pleasure, skewed morality, new friends and malevolent enamies, some who want her dead.

    Give a bit more of the story and we’ll play with it some.
    Faith

  • Melanie

    Dang, Faith! Those were just the tweaks it needed! Your sense of the story’s bent – pardon the vamp pun – is dead on.

    I had been playing with ‘manifests’ instead of ‘metamorphs’ but I like your w.c. better. Also the whole danger/malevolent enemies factor which was only hinted at in mine is better revealed this way. It’s this dark dynamism I was missing.

    Thanks!!

    (Reading the combined writers-wisdom entries is great for prodding the coals out from under the mental ash build up. Really. Thanks to all of you!)

  • Christina

    My try:

    Ellen’s grandmother’s spirit won’t rest until Ellen marries the hunky next-door neighbor. Only, he’s swimming in beautiful women and doesn’t even acknowledge Ellen exits…except to complain about her wayward cat. Ellen thinks grandma just may be hanging around forever.

  • Tom said, “Black Heart is the story of a gun-slinging undead vampire hunter, and her trials and struggles to protect all she loves from the creatures of the night.”

    That’s not bad, Tom. You could also try something like “The only thing standing between the ones she loves and an eternity of cursed undeath is Black Heart’s gun.”

    CE said, “What if the only way to save your family’s throne was to betray it?”

    Very good. The ‘what if’ style is always a fun way to go.

    David’s right, in that there is no correct way to do this, other than the way that feels right to you. If it feels correct and comfortable, you’re less likely to trip on your words when the time comes.

    Melanie and Christina, those are good for the longer blurb. For the really short one, Melanie, you could say something like, “Kaylie wanted to kill her father for not telling her about her vampire DNA…except he’s already dead.”

    And Christina, yours might be “Ellen’s grandmother is determined to see her married…even if she has to do it from beyond the grave.”

    Please remember these are merely suggestions and you are free to stick out your tongue and blow raspberries at me if you don’t like them! 😀

  • Christina

    Thanks, Misty. I like it!

  • Melanie

    LOL, Misty!

    Love that. Hmmm…*makes a note*

    Thanks!

    (only raspberries on fancy pastries for you! 😉 )

  • Thanks for teh advice Misty!

    7-second blurb for current WIP –

    “People say that Araceli is insane, but her recent visions just might save the world.”

    30 – second blurb for current WIP –

    “After a brutal attack, many consider Araceli insane. Then she starts having visions from God to deliver an urgent message to the most powerful people in the land. It is now up to her to convince them that her vision is true while confronting the demons of her past.”