Monday, November 24, 2008
What's Your Fifteen-Word Wonder?
Recently Camy and I went to Sonoma to a wonderful retreat hosted by our agency. There was a great line-up of speakers which included editors, publicists, financial advisers, agents, bestselling authors and more. Some of those included Andy McGuire of Moody and Andrea Doering, formerly of Crossways Book Club and now editor at Revell. She talked about what it takes to make browsers into buyers. Jeanette Thomason, Editorial Director at WaterBrook Press also touched on this subject when she discussed branding.
The thing that stuck out the most to me was, at least one of the speakers mentioned that book buyers give publishing houses approximately 20 seconds of time per book. In that time frame, the publisher has to "sell" the book or convince the bookseller to carry a particular title. Normally they have a few-minute conversation where the book buyer hears a slew of short blurbs in a row from the publisher, who is pitching a sequence of projects.
So we were encouraged to break our stories down into one 15 word sentence. Because basically, that's all you have to WOW the editors who will then have to WOW their committees who will then have to WOW the bookseller who will then have to WOW the reader. All of these people will decide in a matter of seconds whether to buy your book.
Scary but true.
–noun 1. an act or instance of placing close together or side by side, esp. for comparison or contrast.
2. the state of being close together or side by side.
Camy and I roomed in a cottage together and we discussed our stories and how we could insert within that 15 word sentence a juxtaposition of terms that would hook readers, the first of which is an editor.
I became totally enthralled with this juxtaposition concept. I'd heard that blurbs should leave the editor intrigued, but the juxtaposition of terms was a new concept for me.
We know we have a matter of 1 sentence to hook a potential editor or agent.
How do we do that?
Best-selling author, Brandilyn Collins, known for her "Seatbelt Suspense" has great advice on verbal pitches on her Web site here. A verbal pitch really is the same thing as this 15 word blurb (story summary) I'm talking about.
I'm counting on my fellow Seekervillains and you commentators to pitch in with advice. As well as any other resources you've discovered that talk about how to come up with these one-liner book zingers.
So today I thought it would be fun to play with our blurbs here in Seekerville.
I'm also hoping my Seeker sisters will pitch in and share their past and present blurbs as well as the process they use/d to come up with them.
Ones I came up with for the stories I'm working on now:
1. She just wanted to be a hero. The hero just wanted a home.
2. An attorney with traffic tickets crashes into a Harley-riding hero on a mission.
3. Still working to condense my third to under 15 words. LOL!
The second one sort of juxtaposes with itself because attorneys should be law-abiding yet she has a problem speeding. Also, Harley riders are cliched to be bad boys. Yet, because I love to turn stereotypes on their heads, this bad boy is an elite rescuer and First Class Hero.
The one for my debut novel that sold to Steeple Hill said:
A special ops soldier meets rapid-fire resistance after pledging allegiance to a promise made to a little ill boy.
An alternate blurb for that story was:
A teacher of special needs children determined to make the rest of life matter to a dying child finds something special and unexpected along the way.
Those were longer than 15 words but at the time, I was happy to get them down to 30 secs. LOL! And obviously Steeple Hill saw something about the blurbs to like because they garnered editorial requests.
Now I know I need to shoot for 20 seconds and no more. Quite a challenge for a wordy-bird like me.
So let's get started:
---If you write or have a story or even an idea, how about you share your 15 word blurb with us (in the comment section) and let us give you our feedback on it.
---If you are a reader only, share a back cover blurb you read recently that convinced you to buy a book.
Ready, set, BLURB!