Now, I’m gonna say that I’m not a literary agent. I read books. A lot of books. And websites and stuff. So when Jodie emailed us and submitted an agent query for a pitch slap, I was briefly confuzzled, then nervous, and then I dove in. Here’s my canary stab at talking about agent queries!
For this pitch slap, I’m going to press pause on the blurb itself and instead talk about the stuff around it.
Dear Paranormal Fiction (and you too, Urban Fantasy),
There is a place and time for your heroine to volley smart-ass remarks. There is a place and time for your hero to be an insufferable bastard. Everywhere else, please make your characters act like human beings (even if they aren’t).
View our other grumbles here.
…the Readers Start Running.
Birthright by RJ Palmer is a paranormal mystery and suspense novel. The problem? The blurb slams the reader with more than the allotted amount of mysterious; I quite literally had no idea what was going on in the book’s pitch.
For this pitch, I’d say it’s a case of not actually knowing what the story is about, and that’s surprisingly common ailment among authors. It’s hard for writers to condense their darling into just a few, bare sentences. When you are so close to your story, it isn’t easy to step back and talk about the main thrust of the narrative. So, let’s try to parse the blurb down into a tantalizing pitch.
In her fantasy novel, Debbie Howell bases her blurb on the trusty character-oriented method. When a writer has several narrative lines that intersect, giving the reader a glimpse of each character’s motivation and problem is a great way to showcase the story. We have Llewella, Jonas, Braph, and Alvaro, and they all want something. Not only that, but the fantasy adventure throws them into its epic pot and gives it a shake.
The structural problem at the moment? For one, the blurb assumes that the reader is familiar with the characters and their conflict, a priori. (Click for full size.)
- Name of Cheer is important.
- Llewella’s figure is “developing.” And unless she’s developing wings and horns, this screams “there’s a gonna be a lot of them expositions about her beauty” and “O-la-la, here there be heavy-handed romance plot!”
- Wait. Are tits affecting her hand-eye coordination and brains? Is her balance off now?
- Who’s Alvaro and Jonas?
- Dark friend? What does that mean? Personality? Skin color? Inclination towards violence? Byronic brooding?
- What’s this job and how is Llewella qualified?
- Why is Jonas irritated?
And that’s only the first paragraph. Certainly a blurb needs to raise questions and intrigue its audience. But the reader should have question along the lines of “I wonder what will happen next?” and “How will they manage to escape Senor Baddie?”.
Let’s see if we can give the story a shove in that direction… Continue reading
This is our first article in our Friday Pitch Slapped series. We’ll be looking at author blurbs from a variety of genres and discussing the elements that stand out as being particularly good…and not. This article’s all about getting to the point of the story.
How to Knock a Reader Dead
In the following blurb by Joan Hall Hovey, the author lays out a clear “who?”, “what?” and “why?” for her readership. Ellen’s little sister is killed and Ellen wants revenge. She provokes her sister’s murderer in hopes of getting him caught. The book is a thriller, so we imagine there will be suspense, danger, and a lot of near-misses. However, the blurb itself suffers from some near-hits and close calls.
Click for full-size.
But what else does the blurb promise? Continue reading
Let’s face it. If High Fantasy were a geographic location, it would be nestled on the bosom of Africa, or settled squarely on the permafrost of the Russian taiga. It would be any place where bright-robed women wander barefoot through the lion-ridden desert, and men in tall, fuzzy ear-hats wrestle bears every Tuesday–after a shot of vodka and a can of caviar, of course.
So I will start by saying that I understand that High Fantasy doesn’t have to play nice with our mundane reality. That’s part of the appeal. Still, any genre of fantasy must follow its own internal logic. And, if there is a lapse–such as the existence of 50-pound swords, or one of the characters running around with several limbs cut off–and it goes unexplained, I will assume that it’s either really, really cool, or the writer is a muttonhead.
There are, however, more subtle crimes against reality. In The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, they come in the misleadingly curvacious shape of glass bottles.