[Pitch Slapped] First Person Time Travel, and why it’s a bad thing in blurb-writing.

When in doubt, use a third person point of view. It’s that black dress that never goes out of style. But sometimes, you venture into the world of magenta skirts and bright blue collar shirts, and the question of place and time rears its head. Author Sonya Lano came to us with the just such a fashion statement when she sent in a short first-person-point-of-view blurb of her Fantasy novel, “Dance of the Tavyn.”

And in this pitch slap, we’re gonna talk about how you too can be a bright yellow canary and rock a first person point of view.

But first, the blurb itself:

As always, my very first instinct when seeing a pitch (any pitch) is to start trimming, rewording, and tweaking the word choice and sentence structure, even as I start in with everyone’s favorite floating canary bubble questions. Here, however, the usual approach just wasn’t working. Something was off.

It wasn’t the story: political intrigue, silver-haired assassins, what more can you ask for in romantic fantasy? It wasn’t the word choices: a few things to tweak for clarity, sure, but it got the story across. It wasn’t the rhetorical question at the end–though anyone who follows my pitch slaps knows I am all but allergic to them. It wasn’t the first person point of view: different, but fantastic dramatic potential.

Pause. No, back up. It was the first person point of view. No, not the fact that the pitch was written in first person, but rather what the use of the first person meant for the story. Continue reading

Pitch Slapped: Who am I pitching to? Publishers, reviewers, and readers, oh my.

A few weeks ago, Madison Woods came to us with a 25-word story pitch to be prodded and yanked as part of our Pitch Slapped series. She’s planning on sending her book out to a publisher soon, and even as she sent her blurb to the sacrificial altar, she asked us…

“Do you think that what publishers and editors look for in a pitch is the same as what readers judge by when they are deciding if they’d want to read a book? Will the same qualities make a reader want to read as make a publisher ask for pages?”

The short answer is yes. Or rather, “almost.” Well, it’s “kinda.” Here’s the longer chirp on the matter… Continue reading

[Pitch Slapped] You only get three seconds to make a first impression.

One of my grad school professors told me that any report I handed in had to tell him everything he needed to know in 30 seconds, 3 minutes, and 30 minutes. But when you’re pitching your novel, you’re not writing a 50-page report and you don’t always get 30 seconds. Sometimes, you get 25 words and three seconds to convince the reader your book is on their to-buy list.

Madison Woods, Pitch Slap veteran and the host of “Vote for it: Would You Buy it?” series, came to us with a 25-word summary of her story.

“I’m planning to pitch my book to a publisher in October, and I realize I will have time to give more than the 25 words, but I want the first words I say to hook their interest.”

Let’s take a look at those words:

In this Pitch Slapped article, I’m going to give the blurb a good pecking and talk about the importance of appropriate and deliberate language decisions.  Continue reading

[Pitch Slapped] Building the Blurb, Setting the Story

When Julie sent a pitch our way, I was immediately pulled in by the fun tone of its opening. But as I read on, I realized I wanted more–more details, more clarity, more focus. In this latest installment of our Pitch Slapped series, I’m going to talk about the two major challanges to writing a great blurb: clarity and structure.

But first, here is the blurb itself:

So what’s happening here? A lot.

It’s the future, and we get an alien species, a country wanting to clamber up onto a warpath, and a heroine with possible superpowers (does she get wings, I wonder?) with a Kill Bill sort of vendetta. Sounds perfect! But we did sight a couple potholes on this book’s blurb-road to bestseller-dom… Continue reading

[Pitch Slapped] A blurb is no place for Captain Obvious

“In one moment, his life changed forever/his life was never the same/was altered beyond…”

Look, people. We all lead pretty boring lives. They change, but mostly in really subtle ways that can only be seen with the benefit of hindsight and ample time for reflection (read: many many years).

But in a book, change better happen in a moment or in a series of very rapid moments or else you, the author, are doing something very wrong and very boring.

It’s a given that a character’s life will change dramatically. It’s called plot and character development. And sort of the whole point of books. Continue reading

[Pitch Slapped] Getting Reviews: Go bold, get noticed

We get a lot of review requests. While we read each and every one of them, all of the dystopian YA and vampire paranormal romance stories start to bleed together because the pitches simply are not distinct enough. Most of them get lost in the abyss; very few stand out enough for us to talk amongst ourselves about pursuing the read.

So when I woke up to a request forwarded to my personal email from CanaryTheFirst, I didn’t need her opening line of “laaaawl” to tell me it was going to be something pretty special. Continue reading

[ Pitch Slapped ] Selling the story without the blurb

Before the writer even gets into the plot of their novel, they give a paragraph that we at tCR like to call a “Concept Pitch.” It’s a place where introductions happen, the basic concept of the novel is laid out, genre comparisons are made, and–in general–the part of the pitch where mistakes abound.

Here is a recent email we received in our inbox:

“Hello,

I am an indie writer, according to descriptions I have been reading on the internet lately, and I think I like that much more than just being someone who put her book up on Kindle.  I came to your site while searching for sites that are willing to accept submissions from said indie writers like myself. My twitter handle is WordsWithDani.

I’ve recently published the first volume of The Duck And The Doe series. It is a historical fiction/horror/murder mystery/romance told from first person POV of a two-hundred year old immortal who had a dry wit and love/hate relationship with the mistress that he damned along side him. They are not vampires. I cannot strees that point enough. i keep finding myself lumped into that whole “paranormal romance” but the whole premise is really more of launchpad to explore other issue like the accerlation of technology and society in the past 200 years and how relationships of any nature are not cleanly cut little cookies. Immortality cannot be invoked without some sort of magical mumbo jumbo.

According to the Amazon product description-“

At this point, the author dives into the official blurb. But the first impression of the novel has already been created. Continue reading

[ Pitch Slapped ] Burning through the synopsis smoke screen

The Two-Pronged Problem

Earlier this week, Jennifer Worrell contacted us about the pitch for her manuscript–she hates writing pitches with a passion, but she knows she needs to whip one out for her book. We took the pitch and liked what we saw. And we saw a couple places to prod with a pole. But I’ll start at the beginning.

The story in question is a middle grade novel with the working title, The Spyglass. Let’s take a look and see what it’s about:

“Thirteen-year-old Chad, his twin sister Chloe, and his younger twin siblings Billy and Maggie, are heading for remote Mathews, Virginia, to spend the summer “picking” antiques with their crazy uncles. With his father away in Afghanistan fighting terrorists, alcoholism, and demons from past battles and his mother immersed in her Ph.D. research into his families’ Native American lineage, Chad deals with the chaos in his life by picking on his siblings and picking his nose. Nothing could have prepared him for what would happen when he picked an old spyglass from a storage shed auction he attended with his uncles. When he touched the cloudy lens, Chad found himself cast back in time to the decks of a battling privateer ship, and he sees a mysterious boy through the cannon smoke lying in a pool of blood. This child looks exactly like him. As he travels back and forth in time between his uncles’ home on the Chesapeake Bay and a fiery wooden battleship from 200 years ago, Chad learns the truth about his Native American lineage, his unusual powers, and the consequences of giving those powers away.”

The blurb sets up some great details; in less than 200 words, I have a strong sense of where Chad is coming from. The language is specific and clever, and there are no comprehension issues. It stresses the contrast between Chad’s everyday life and the fantastic adventure he falls into (think Neverending Story, Narnia, Indian in the Cupboard…). On the one side, there’s Chad’s troubled home life, on the other, mystery and adventure.

Where the pitch stumbles, though, is in the overall  cohesion of the summary. What is this story about: family or time travel, dealing with alcoholism and neglect in the family or discovering one’s mystical heritage? Continue reading