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.