Why is he giving the scary alien a come hither look over his shades? Hey, I’m not judging. I don’t understand this cover, or this dash between “great” and “day,” but guys, he has a bee companion.
When a strange starship appears mysteriously on a distant alien world, bearing only a single human and his bee-like extraterrestrial companion, the powerful warlord of that world laughs at the stranger’s preposterous demand: End an all-out war with an interstellar rival, or face devastating consequences. But James Lawson, emissary from an intergalactic federation of advanced race, means every word he says, and has the power to back them up–whatever the cost.
– Design for Great-Day by Alan Dean Foster, Eric Frank Russell
“It’s a speculative thriller where telepaths are rounded up and sent to the beautiful mountain town of Brightside.”
– Brightside by Mark Tullius
You know it’s fate.
“The only thing they have in common? Really…sharp…teeth.”– Blood Mate (Project Rebellion #2) by Mina Carter
Oh the puns. The puns. They’re daring me to pick this book up off the shelf.
“Suddenly desperate, the inexperienced ex-rich girl was forced to take the only job she could get: as a tour guide in a cemetery. But a grave situation took a turn for the worse when a head-on collision with a headstone left her with an unwanted ability to communicate with the disgruntled deceased . . . and now Pepper has a whacked Mafia don demanding that she hunt down his killers — and threatening to haunt her until she does.”
– Don of the Dead (Pepper Martin #1) by Casey Daniels
“In a world nearly identical to ours, the North won the Civil War, Ben Affleck is the sexiest man alive, and Russia never sold Alaska to the U.S. Instead, Alaska is a rough, beautiful country ruled by a famously eccentric royal family, and urgently in need of a bride for the Crown Prince. But they have no idea what they’re in for when they offer the job to a feisty commoner.”
– The Royal Treatment (Alaskan Royal Family #1) by MaryJanice Davidson
Another Friday, another zany blurb from the ethersphere of the book world. Enjoy?
“Squirrel shifter Elly has been captured by Freedom, beaten, and then handed off to be raped. Only her new hotter-than-hell jailor, Deuce Pierce, isn’t keen on forcing her and is all about saving her curvy, furry ass and getting her to safety. After she’s freed, she can’t forget about the lion who saved her life, and she hunts for him, determined to find the man who haunts her.”
– Deuces Wild (Ridgeville #5) by Celia Kyle
When Vanya Ferreira sent in his short story blurb for a Pitch Slap, we hesitated. I usually don’t look at short stories, but this canary has a weakness for anything to do with vampires, so there you go. Exceptions are made. This is how civilizations end.
In 45 words, the blurb sets out to capture the essence of the story. In general, the fewer words you get, the more tempting it is to be vague – to go broad. But vague language is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It will lure you in by promising to tell the story of your book, and then turn to the reader and say nothing at all.
The sharper your words, the less you cry, to reword a recent cooking memoir title.
Here’s what Vanya sent us:
Title: The Story of Lucius Cane
Summary: London, 1794. Lucius Cane, a peculiar vampire, comes upon an opponent the likes of which he has never seen before – a brute with remarkable abilities. But not all is as it seems as their encounter unfolds in a manner that neither of them expected.
Lots of things to like here. Immediately, we get the setting and time period, quick and tight. London, 1795. Now we know place and time, and – with the next five words – the main character’s name and genre. Historical fantasy with a vampire character.
Then, just as I’m expecting the blurb to zoom me into the story…it doesn’t. It backs off. It goes vague.
London, 1794. Lucius Cane, a peculiar vampire, comes upon an opponent the likes of which he has never seen before – a brute with remarkable abilities. But not all is as it seems as their encounter unfolds in a manner that neither of them expected.
Interpretation: Mr. Vampire and his opponent are playing chess. Being a vampire chess player is hard. Everyone tries to schedule the match close to dawn and don’t get me started on the unfounded accusations that you use bats as a distraction.
Now, in the real story, Mr. Vamp and Mr. Opponent are probably not playing chess.* There’s a higher likelihood that the vampire gets into a fight with someone over something and something happens.
Which…is the summary of pretty much every vampire/adventure story ever. And the very definition of a story.
Here’s what happens when I switch in some concrete, specific plot:
“London, 1794. Lucius Cane, an ancient vampire, comes upon a dangerous hunter, the first creature in more than three hundred years to be a threat – a brute with the teeth of a shark and the eyes of a lost soul. But though a vicious fight leaves both injured, Cane cannot shake the feeling he’s met this creature before.”
“London, 1794. Lucius Cane, a bespeckled vampire, is searching for the Librarian – a brute with the power to absorb words from books and throw them like hunting knives. But not all is as it seems as Lucius gains the Librarian’s help and his book hunt leads the two to a lost colony of angry unicorns.”
“London, 1794. Lucius Cane, a playboy vampire, finds his match when he meets a butler who refuses him entry to the country estate – a brute who seems immune to Lucius’ hypnotic powers. But as Lucius tries to get an invitation to enter before sunrise ends the party inside (and him), he can’t figure out how he is foiled at every turn by a mere mortal…”
“London, 1794. Lucius Cane, a powerful vampire who often escorts young ladies home from their parties, finds his evening snack interrupted by a hooded figure – a brute who walks with a limp and knows Crane’s name. Crane ends up losing his dinner. Is he about to lose his life, too?”
And, of course, the chess story:
London, 1794. Lucius Cane, a vampire and chessmaster cursed to have to finish every game he plays, finds himself stumped by a player who matches his every move – a brute with the muscles of an ox and the eyes of a mastermind. As night creeps towards dawn, Crane knows he has to win soon or his curse will keep him trapped there past sunrise.
The original blurb does itself no favors by trying to create an aura of mystery and playing coy. It’s the details that make the readers’ ears perk up.
Be crisp about what’s happening. Show us what’s at stake.**
Canaries, over and out.
*Though how cool would it be, if they were? Someone, write this story!
**Pun absolutely intended.
Do you have a pitch or synopsis that you’d like to send to the sacrificial altar? Email it our way to email@example.com. You can also read more Pitch Slaps here.
Chirp! We are going to start the new year off with some brand new pitch slapping and fit tossing. In our Pitch Slapped series, we take a book blurb or a book pitch, and then proceed to pull it apart and stick it back together – all the while answering those pesky questions like: What works? What doesn’t work? What could be done differently? Why?
Here are a few of my favorite from last year:
- Selling the Story without the Blurb
- Building the Blurb, Setting the Story
- You only get 3 seconds to make a first impression.
I have a few pitch slap requests lined up, but I am always looking for more.
Do you have a pitch or synopsis that you’d like to send to the sacrificial altar? Or do you know an author who does?
Email it our way to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Pitch Article Submission” in the subject.
Let’s face it. The best stories are complex, convoluted little things. We love it when fantasy and sci fi attack the usual tropes from new angles and make the weirdest premises feel completely natural. That’s the wonder of it. But trying to put these ideas into a story’s blurb can be a real challenge. There’s barely enough space to write out the bare bones of plot – and that’s without that extra paragraph saying “Wait, wait, this makes sense and it’s actually really cool!” What to do?
But before we get into that, let’s see this week’s blurb from Amy Rareberth Mead’s dark epic fantasy novel, Dragon Marked: Continue reading