Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Twitter Pitches and Blurbs

with guest Lisa Phillips.

I’ll admit, the topic of this blog is a bit of a love-hate thing. I love blurbs! Twitter? Not so much. I’ll confess, it’s not the media part of being online that I shy away from. I’m just not the most social person, so that’s the problem. (And if you know me, you’re laughing because that’s a super-understatement.) That’s why I needed to be in not one, but TWO box set collections this summer – one romance and one romantic suspense.

  


Told you: super social.

Still, one thing that IS great about Twitter is the fact we have to condense everything down into a finite number of characters.

Why is this good?

Because it makes us better writers. Every word is typed ON PURPOSE.

Sending a tweet out that condenses your book into its simplest form is a HARD thing. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a skill we have to hone, because there’s a huge difference between my 55k word Love Inspired Suspense and the 30 words I have to give the art people that boils it all down.

And if you can be ready when that editor or agent asks for pitches on Twitter? All the better.

BUT HOW?

Sabine Fraternau, CIA agent, is on the hunt for her brother’s killer. When the Delta Force soldier she loves barges in, the mission goes from bad…to busted. Doug “MacArthur” Richardson is all military, a man of faith with no room in his life for love.

When Sabine is accused of betraying her country, Doug is the only one who believes the woman he’s falling for is innocent. But after her ex-husband’s betrayal, Sabine doesn’t believe in happily ever after. Together they have to find the killer and prove Sabine’s innocence, before the nightmare of her past comes back…to kill her. 

This was my first ever LIS, a book I pitched on just these 100 words. Success! The first time an editor asked to see my whole novel!

Now let’s break it down:

Sabine Fraternau, CIA agent, is on the hunt for her brother’s killer.
The main character, her job and her GOAL. 

When the Delta Force soldier she loves barges in, the mission goes from bad…to busted.
Conflict in the form of romantic interest, which fits the Love Inspired Suspense line (know who you’re pitching to and what they want). Also, a little bit of voice in the, “bad...to busted” that says my story doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Doug “MacArthur” Richardson is all military, a man of faith with no room in his life for love.
The other main character, the ‘love interest’. His job, his GOAL and his obstacle in what will become their journey to happily ever after.

When Sabine is accused of betraying her country, Doug is the only one who believes the woman he’s falling for is innocent.

Plot, the suspense and the romance all tangled up and complicated with some high stakes.

But after her ex-husband’s betrayal, Sabine doesn’t believe in happily ever after.
The obstacle to their happily ever after that’s specific to HER.

Together they have to find the killer and prove Sabine’s innocence, before the nightmare of her past comes back…to kill her.
More stakes. A little of how the situation is going to be resolved.

So you can see that it is possible to present a HUGE amount of information in only 100 words. 

When we’re talking Twitter pitches, you’ll simply have to decide what is pertinent and what can be left out for now. Ask yourself – what are the HOOKS?

Is it a reunion romance? Is there a single mom, a cowboy, is it Amish? What sets your book apart from other novels in a way that would peak an editor or agent’s interest?

Welcome to Sanctuary, the witness protection town that isn’t on any map. When the town’s first ever murder occurs, John’s plans to reconnect with his boy are derailed by the investigation. When conspiracy and secrets are uncovered, can John find the truth before it’s too late?

In this blurb I decided to focus on setting, since that is HUGE in this series, and less on the romance which plays a smaller role in the book. Conspiracy and secrets sound exciting, and the question at the end should draw the reader to investigate more—maybe read some reviews, check out the cover or the book’s sample. The blurb is one way to draw interest, but it certainly isn’t the only way.

It all depends on who you’re trying to hook – editor/agent or reader.

But first, let’s break down the blurb.

1. Main character #1 - who is this person in a nutshell? If their job isn’t relevant, don’t put it in. But what do they WANT?

2. Main character #2 - do the same.

3. What is going to keep them from this goal? Let your editor know this book has CONFLICT that won’t easily be resolved. Lines like Love Inspired Suspense need conflict in the plot and conflict in the relationship. Make sure it’s there.

4 and 5: How is the situation going to be resolved? How will the characters work it out? Does faith play in? What about the Antagonist (if there is one)? What’s he up to? 

The last part is what changes between proposal/pitch and the back cover blurb of a book. In back cover copy, the question can be asked: Will they survive? Will he get the girl? Genre conventions make these questions easy to answer, but that’s not the point – your job as the writer is to make the reader believe that the stakes are too high, that it’s possible the hero might NOT win. Otherwise why do they need to read the book? They already know what’s going to happen. But we love the characters more the harder they have to fight for what they want.

In an editor or agent pitch, they need to know that answer not the question. They need to know what fantastic twist you added to your story. Sara’s long lost husband turns out to be ALIVE? Whaaa? Don’t hide anything from an editor or agent. If it means the difference between them asking to read the book, or not, why would you hold back? Give them two barrels full of awesomeness and hit them square between the eyes. 

I DARE YOU TO PASS ON THIS BOOK.

Making the manuscript itself the best book you can make it is the most important thing. But you can achieve SO MUCH with a short pitch. Give it everything you’ve got! 

How about you? Any pitch stories from social media? How about advice for condensing a story idea into a single sentence? I’ll even take embarrassing social media faux pas!

And I think the best should really get a copy of my new book HOMEFRONT DEFENDERS!

Lisa is giving away THREE copies of Homefront Defenders. Winners announced in the Weekend Edition!


PROTECTING THE PRESIDENT 

Amid the idyllic scenery of Hawaii, rookie Secret Service agent Alana Preston is attacked, and a sinister plot to assassinate the president begins taking shape. But nobody seems to believe Alana, and she doesn’t know who she can trust—except Secret Service director James Locke. Now, with an assassin hiding in plain sight on the island, she and James may be the president’s last line of defense. The closer they get to cracking the case, however, the more intertwined their lives become. And they must fight to keep their hearts out of it. With the life of the commander-in-chief in their hands, falling in love could be a deadly distraction…

Lisa Phillips is a British ex-pat who grew up an hour outside of London, Lisa attended Calvary Chapel Bible College where she met her husband. He’s from California, but nobody’s perfect. It wasn’t until her Bible College graduation that she figured out she was a writer (someone told her). Since then she’s discovered a penchant for high-stakes stories of mayhem and disaster where you can find made-for-each-other love that always ends in happily ever after. 


Lisa can be found in Idaho wearing either flip-flops or cowgirl boots, depending on the season. She leads worship with her husband at their local church. Together they have two children--a sparkly Little Princess and a Mini Daddy--and an all-black Airedale known as The Dark Lord Elevator.

Sign up for Lisa's newsletter here.

105 comments :

  1. I love the blurb for Protecting the President. These days, i've come to appreciate a well-written blurb as much as a well-written book. It's hard to distill a 55k book into a paragraph while maintaining the flavor of the story.
    Though as a native of the Golden State, I must say 'hmph!' As if one needs to be perfect themselves when living in such a perfect climate ;)

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    1. Evelyn! Good to see you. The Golden State. I live in the portal to hell state. Hmmm...

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    2. LOL, Tina ... that is a hoot!! :)

      Hugs,
      Julie

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  2. Absolutely love this! Thank you for the examples and for breaking them down!

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    1. Vesta! Great to see you in the village. What are you working on?

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    2. Thanks Tina! Waiting to hear back from LI on my revised Blurb 2 Book entry (which took much longer to revise than I planned...) hopefully will hear from Giselle in the next few weeks! While I wait I'm working on synopsis and first chapters of what would be a sequel! Just in case ;)

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    3. VESTA!! And I absolutely LOVE your name!! Never heard it before, which underscores its creativity. What's the story behind it if I might be so bold to ask?

      Hugs,
      Julie

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    4. Haha thanks Julie! Well it was my grandma's name...that's how I got it but it is actually the Roman goddess of the hearth and home! It's the Roman version of the Greek goddess Hestia. :)

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  3. Lisa! Welcome back to Seekerville. Thank you for this post. There have been so many Twitter Pitch Fests lately that this is a super timely topic.

    Love your book cover too!!

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    1. Thank you! I do love the cover as well. It's the first one I've had from Harlequin with people on it!

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  4. I'm not a huge Twitter user either! Really the only reason I set up an account is for when I enter book contests and a tweet counts for an entry, or I share a book contest. That sounds bad I know! Facebook is my main social media outlet, I use it to keep up with my relatives who live far away, book friends and authors.

    I always wonder how authors or whoever writes the blurbs on the back of their books come up with such precise and condensed summaries! They really know how to draw a reader in just by those alone :-) It's sometimes how I determine whether I will read that book or not. Kind of like that first "hook" on page one :-)

    Lisa, no need to enter me for the book. I have a copy you sent me to read & review for you. I have a couple of books ahead of it, then I'm on it! I've not yet read one featuring a Secret Service Agent and I'm looking forward to diving in!

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  5. Great tips! Thank you, Lisa! I use a similar format for blurbs. Character (with descriptor) wants/must (goal) or else (stakes) but (conflict). Congrats on your release! Sounds stellar!
    P.S. I love the name Locke! I first read it in the Cheney Duvall series and was enraptured with the sound of it. What a great hero name!

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    1. Thank you!
      It does sound hunky, doesn't it?!

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  6. I have never gotten into Twitter. Not even signed up. An interesting post thank you.

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    1. I'd say it's an acquired taste!
      And you're welcome :-)

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  7. HI Lisa! The only time I really use Twitter is to tweet a link to my blog for a book review I post. Or I try to help promote an author's book by retweeting for them.

    Your book sounds wonderful! I love the LI Suspense line of books! Thank you for the chance to win a copy.

    Blessings,
    Cindy W.

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  8. Welcome, Lisa! I've seen a lot of Twitter pitches lately, but I haven't ventured down that road. Thanks for the helpful tips. Congratulations on your release...it sounds great!

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  9. If you are looking to pitch an agent online look for hastags

    #Pitchfest #pitmad #pitchfest #pitchwars #pitchmadness

    Keep an eye on authors Brenda Drake and Heather Cashman on Twitter. They run #PitMad

    Anyone else want to add any hashtags???

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    1. OOPSIE, HEATHER CASHMAN IS AN AGENT INTERN. Sorry Heather.

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  10. PitchWars 2017 is now open for entries BTW. This is to join their mentoring program to prepare for the next TWITTER PITCH DAY. Look around the site!

    PitchWars2017

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  11. Holy Hashtags, Batwoman!

    Lisa, thank you for this advice... I know this is a tough thing for so many of us because novelists aren't exactly your best example of concise speech. We tend to elaborate, so anything that helps us grab hold of those pitch lines or taglines is a bonus. And thank you so much for being here today!

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    1. Thank you all for having me! I always enjoy being here.

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  12. And not for nothing... thank you for making your heroine a tough gal. I love strong heroines, and I love seeing her as part of the Secret Service and not someone's secretary who innocently stumbled on info...

    While that's fine, I love that this book BREAKS THE MOLD, Lisa!

    Go you and your editors!

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  13. There've been a lot of twitter pitches and book blurb events lately. Thanks for breaking the tweets down! Can't wait to try it and see what I come up with!

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  14. hi Lisa
    I'm going to go check out your box collections because I LOVE your books! I like how you've broken down the blurb/tweet pitch. I think I do pretty good with the short stuff (liking flash fiction as I do). It's fleshing out the blurbs that sometimes trips me up. Sort of opposite of most people, I think.

    I have a twitter account because of my son's school teacher. She liked posting stuff from the class there. I don't visit there much. I should use it more for telling people about my favorite authors and promo their books.
    Of course, having a job where no PEDs are allowed sort of cuts in on social media use. I'll have to figure that out.

    In the meantime... love your blurbs, love the post! Great to see you at Seekerville again. :)

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    1. Thank you so much!
      I've done some flash fiction, and it was hard. Good for you!

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  15. Hi Lisa, I loved your story, Finding Love in Oceanside with Anabeth and Mitch! That was the first book of yours I've ever read, but after reading it I decided I'd be looking for more of your work and the other 3 authors too. I'm not a writer so I have no social media faux paus to share, but I'd love to be included in the drawing for Hometown Defenders if possible :)

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    1. Awesome! I'm glad you liked Anabeth and Mitch. That was fun (and different) writing just romance, with no explosions or car chases!

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  16. Thanks for a great post on pitches, Lisa. I'm trying to get back on Twitter and find this so helpful. Please give my chance to win to another. My TBR list is bursting at the moment.

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  17. Lisa, interesting post. Great examples of a good blurb. Please enter me in the drawing. Your book looks good!

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  18. Lisa, thanks so much for sharing. I so need help with Twitter and this is helpful.

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    1. Mary Alford. I didn't see you slip into the room. You suspense authors are so stealth. Great to see you. Have a donut.

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  19. I don't have Twitter, but from my adventures in trying to write back book blurbs for my hundred thousand word stories I can definitely agree how hard it is to take a giant book and somehow condense it into a way that would be attractive to readers.

    If I had to condense a pitch for my first book it would be: Four teenagers. Two worlds. One quest. What could possibly go wrong?

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    1. Also I would like to be entered in the drawing for your book. It looks really interesting and I really enjoyed Dead End.

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    2. I like that pitch! It indicates the book is humorous in part, and definitely adventurous. I would read the sample :-) It's funny how so few words can speak to the tone, or voice, of your novel.
      I'm glad you liked dead end!

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  20. This is great advice! I see so many people pitching and the editor/agent will say: Yes, but what's the conflict? Where are the hooks?

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    1. Thanks, Sherri!
      I slightly hate the word "hook" because we hear it so much. Sometimes it's hard to define, or even chose which of your hooks are actually selling points since different things will work in different markets.

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  21. Thanks for the post today, Lisa. H
    ere's a pitch I tweeted to Emily Rodmell back in May.
    When a 911 dispatcher becomes a serial killer's next target, she must seek her Texas Ranger-ex's protection. #secretbaby #dog

    I think "Texas Ranger-ex's" was a bit confusing, but I couldn't think of way to phrase it and still get plot in. And then how to add in the other hooks? #hooks. LOL.

    Any suggestions?

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    1. When a single mom and 911 dispatcher becomes a serial killer's next target, she must seek the help of her ex, a Texas Ranger.

      ??

      It contains a lot - even the way you had it. And single mom doesn't necessarily say, secret baby. It all depends on word count. On facebook rather than twitter you'd have more words to play with so you could add something about a revelation when he finds out the kid his his, etc.

      Sounds great, though!

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    2. Thanks. Your way does sound better.

      This is a timely post, Lisa!


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  22. Welcome, Lisa! Excellent tips on crafting short pitches! Thanks for these great examples and explanations.

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  23. Whoa nice job on Connie's blurb. Could you add a #secretbaby ???

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    1. She'd probably have to sacrifice the 911 dispatcher part for Twitter, since the character count is so tight. But this might be the hyper-short version:

      Single mom and 911 dispatcher targeted by a killer seeks help from a Texas Ranger--the unknowing father of her child.

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    2. Love that one even better. With 23 characters to spare!

      Where were you in May?

      (Actually, Emily said it sounded great and that she loved my hooks, but your way is clearer.)

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    3. hahaha!
      I'm glad she liked it! She's a great editor :-)

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  24. You can also think of it like this:
    There's a newspaper article on the story of your novel. The headline captures vital facts and condenses them down.
    "VICIOUS KILLER STALKS SINGLE MOM"
    It's not a perfect example, but it should help you abbreviate instead of thinking in sentences.

    SECRET SERVICE AGENTS UNCOVER HAWAII PLOT TO KILL POTUS.

    It should at least get you started thinking in the right direction.

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  25. Lisa, welcome back to Seekerville. Thanks for the tips for how to write Twitter pitches and blurbs and giving us excellent examples.

    I managed to write a one sentence pitch for one of my novels but it was mighty long. Brevity is not my forte. But it's important.

    Your cover oozes suspense and setting with a gorgeous, yet tough as nails hero and heroine. Love it!

    Janet

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  26. And Lisa just returned from England. Your family is still there I assume? How did you end up in Idaho? Is camping in England the same as here? Any GLAMPING over there??

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    1. There is glamping! It was a big family reunion, with us and my brother's family in tents, my parents in their trailer - and my sisters cheated with their families and rented big trailers on the other side of the park. So snooty!
      We had lots of fun, even with it being a short visit.
      Now we're in back-to-school mode. First day is this coming monday, as my kids are in a year-round school.
      1st grade and 5th grade - so this is officially my FIRST ever year of FULL TIME WRITING!!!! A long time coming, but I'm super grateful for it.

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    2. This is my second year of full time writing. Cheers to that!!! Live long and prosper.

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  27. Loved this post, Lisa. And your voice! I spend some time on Twitter, but not much. So, I haven't seen all the pitching contests. So good to know about!

    And your way of crafting short pitches? I love it. I have a hard time creating my pitches and blurbs in a way that will catch a professional's eye. So, thank you for giving tips and sharing your examples. They help so much! If I have time, I will come back and craft a short pitch for my WIP. :)

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  28. .
    Don't look for words that are less spacey. Look for an approach that requires less words.

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  29. Loved this, Lisa! I joined Twitter a few months ago in order to participate in a pitch fest. I only pitched my contemporary that day (and during several subsequent pitches, to no real success) with posts like: "Disguised celeb falls for Tx lawman/rancher who hates the real her. So many secrets & lies, so much suspense that—" and "A sheriff’s deputy, a singer, a stalker, and one big secret."

    Later, I noticed that some people were saying things like "Gone with the Wind meets the Godfather" (just an example, not a sample, LOL) so I worked out one of those for my historical: "Love Comes Softly meets Lonesome Dove, minus the saloon girls, scalpings and that whole Pulitzer Prize thing." Obviously I didn't really use that, LOL (haven't pitched the historical yet), but I enjoy trying to come up with pitches/blurbs, etc. Thank you so much for the tips and advice here. Congratulations on your new book - love that cover!

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    1. I noticed that too, Laura and spent far too long trying to come up with books that would adequately describe my book.

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    2. pulitzer prize - hahaha! That's awesome!
      Thanks :-)

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    3. Actually, I love that blurb, Laura. It would catch my eye!

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    4. Thank you, Cate!

      Josee, I have trouble with that "taking far too long" thing, too - especially when it's something fun - which to me is any kind of research.

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  30. Hi, Lisa. Terrific post! I like Twitter, but mostly retweet interesting or helpful tweets! I find fascinating info on Twitter!

    I tweeted to Emily also and she pointed out where I needed help! She is such a hands-on editor.

    I'll be putting your suggestions in action and hoping for the best!! LOL

    I'd love to be entered for a copy of your new book!! Thanks so much--you've been a great help!


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  31. Lisa, I need this post! Thanks for the tips! I've pitched a few times on Twitter and I'm (slowly, oh so slowly) starting to get the hang of it. It's tough but also a great way to see how thoroughly I know my story and the GMC of my characters.

    Here's what I first pitched a few months ago to what I most recently pitched:

    Do two halves make a whole heart? Julianne designs Ryan's VT lake house and sparks fly. Maybe love is enough to eclipse the past.

    Widowed mom falls for a much younger contractor while designing his house. Neither are aware of how they're connected.

    Still lacking Oomph. Going to apply your tips and rework.

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    1. Best of luck to you! It sounds like a sweet book.

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    2. Widowed mom Julianne, falls for a younger contractor while designing his VT lake house. Neither are aware of their tragic connection.

      Better? Longer...too long for Twitter

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    3. Just checked and it's 133 words. :)

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  32. Well, wow and double wow, I am so lacking in reading your books! Please enter me in the giveaway, and I plan to get other books by you to read!
    Thanks!

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  33. Hi Lisa, these tips are so helpful! I pitched this blurb for my WIP and wonder if you can help make it more enticing: "A polar bear scientist reunites with her old love to track a killer in Canada's arctic wilderness." I got 2 "likes" on that, but it doesn't mention he's a single dad with a special needs child, or that it's got an environmental slant to it. It's been requested with an R&R so I'm finishing up those edits now. And I already have your current LIS so don't put me in the draw. :)

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    1. Okay, so I'm throwing this out there. And I don't know if you have a word count you want to or need to stick to, but how about something like this:

      With a killer on the loose in Canada's arctic wilderness, polar bear scientist NAME needs help. Only her old flame, NAME, now the single father of a special needs child, can help her protect the innocent...and the land she loves.

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    2. That's much better than mine but it might be too long for a twitter pitch. But I love it for a regular pitch, thank you!

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    3. I would argue the special needs child isn't a hook unless it helps them find the killer.
      Especially for twitter. You could take out that, and it would cut it down some.

      You're welcome, though!

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  34. LISA!! WELCOME BACK TO SEEKERVILLE, GIRLFRIEND!!

    And as an author of door-stopper books (my largest at 520 pages), let me just say that I truly admire anyone who cut write an effective Twitter post, so you are THE QUEEN!!

    I actually like the challenge of a Twitter post because it's like a dare -- can I do it and do it well??

    Well ... now I can ... after this post! :)

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  35. Lisa, you are really good a this!!

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  36. Hate that I'm late to Seekerville today. I'm still catching up from the RWA Conference.

    Welcome, Lisa! Love this blog...and you are amazing. Writing tight, especially Twitter tight, is so doggone hard! Good for you. I call your ability a gift!

    Great cover on your LIS! I'm so glad the editors are doing bigger concept books. Having secret service agents as the hero and heroine sounds like a story needing to be read! And a far cry from the small town settings they've wanted in the past. Looks like you're paving a new direction for LIS!

    Thanks for being with us today!!!

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    1. Hi Debby! I hope the conference was good - it always looks so fun.
      Thank you for calling it a gift :-)
      I love pushing boundaries of character and setting into LIS to make mine unique. I also LOVE a good twist!!

      I'm glad to be here.

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  37. Congrats on your book Homefront Defenders Lisa. I don't normally write twitter post. I tend to just retweet. Thank you for this chance to win.
    Blessings,
    Cheryl Baranski
    CherylB1987@hotmail.com

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  38. Hi Lisa,

    So glad to see your post on Seekerville. I was just thinking last night that it was about time I started thinking of blurbs for my current book. Uh oh.

    Can't wait to read your newest. I just won a book on Seekerville, so I won't be greedy and ask for another. Happy to support a fellow author - especially one who has been so supportive to me.

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    1. hi Cate :)
      I hope you enjoy Homefront Defenders. And best of luck with your blurb.

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  39. I've never done a Twitter blurb, but I love blurbs! I used to daydream writing them as I write the story.

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  40. Lisa, I want to take a quick minute as we move into evening, to thank you so much for being such a terrific tweet hostess today. We look forward to your next visit and pray for continued success in your writing career!!

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  41. Homefront Defenders sounds great and I look forward to reading it. I have a hard time condensing my thoughts for Twitter but I am determined to master this social media outlet!
    Connie
    cps1950(ay)gmail(dot)com

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  42. I don't do social media much. Just a little Facebook. I have made many faux pas just on FB - uploading without proofreading my comments, liking something by pure accident, etc....

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  43. I avoid Twitter. :) always love reading Lisa's books!

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  44. Lisa, I'm a day late! I'm so sorry I missed dropping by yesterday. But what a great post! Thank you so much for this great breakdown of the blurb!

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