blurb

From Blurb to Pitch, how to describe your novel.

Answering the question, “What is your book about?” can be hard to do. You feel put on the spot, at a loss for words, or maybe when you do try to answer the question, it doesn’t sound as interesting and engaging as you know your book to be.

There is a simple way to fix this and the answer is to prepare your response in advance and then practice it until it sounds natural when you say it. That way when asked what your book is about, you’ll answer instinctively in exactly the right way to get the person you’re talking to interested in reading your book.

That one-sentence version is called your elevator-pitch. It’s the same one-sentence that you would presumably give to an agent or editor to get them interested in your book. You could do this in person, say, in an elevator, or like most people you can use it in your Query Letter. You can also use it to tell readers what your book is about so they want to read it.  

elevator-pitch

So how do you come up with that crucial 1-2 sentence pitch? Well, I start with the blurb, or what I like to call the BOB, the Back Of the Book.

This is assuming you’ve already written this. If you haven’t, you might want to check out our last post: How to write a good blurb.

But say your blurb goes like this:

Destiny is not matter of chance, it is a matter of choice.

Fated to be a Priestess of Saegard, Meredith dreams of leading a normal life with a family and a home of her own, something she’ll never have if she swears her life to the Order.  A chance encounter with a stranger in the sacred Celestial Chamber sends her previously well-ordered life into a tailspin of adventure and mayhem as she is blamed for the theft of a legendary artifact. Now a fugitive, Meredith must join forces with Captain Reginald Lawrence, the son of the man who initially brought her to the Temple, and his enigmatic business partner,  the charming yet at times infuriating, Grey Rhodes, to find the Celestial Bowl and clear her name. From the cosmopolitan capital of Saegard to the coast of Ismera and back again, Meredith’s journey will reveal the true nature of her past, present, and ultimately, her future.

By the way, this blurb is from Uncharted which is set to launch April 17th. For more information on Uncharted, click here.USSConstellationVsInsurgente

In order to make your pitch, you want to distill this down as much as possible, preferably to one or two sentences at maximum. You don’t have to do this in one step though. You could take your blurb, trim it down to size, and then adjust the results or you can list the crucial aspects of your story and then try to form your pitch from there.

Let’s try it, shall we? You want to make sure to include your main character(s), your setting, your inciting incident, and a hint of your theme.

For Uncharted, that’s:

Characters: A priestess, a Captain and his business partner
Setting: A fantasy realm, a navy ship
Inciting incident: becoming a Fugitive and stowing away
Theme: Destiny is choice

The Pitch: A fugitive priestess alters her destiny by stowing away on a ship belonging to a naval officer and an ex con man.

I added the ‘ex con man’ part to give more of a hook, but essentially I’ve covered all the crucial bits of information and arranged them into an enticing pitch. I hope this makes you want to read Uncharted when it comes out on April 17th!

What about you? What’s your book about? Let me know in the comments section below!

 

How to write a good blurb

Summarizing a 300+ page novel into a few paragraphs is hard and it’s not something that usually comes naturally to us novelists. It took me a lot experimentation to get good at it, but here’s how I learned to do it.

I read the backs of a whole pile of books, and then I emulated them, practicing narrowing my book’s crucial aspects into 2-3 paragraphs.

At least for fantasy/sci-fi there seems to be only a few styles when it comes to the blurb. But no matter what genre you write in, I recommend finding bestsellers within that genre and critically breaking down their blurbs to see what makes them so successful.

For our purposes, I’m going to break down the two most popular styles in sci-fi/fantasy that I’ve come across. The Plot-Oriented style and the Character-Oriented style.

The Plot Oriented Blurb

Example: Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon.

Claire Randall is leading a double life. She has a husband in one century, and a lover in another…

First, we have a powerful statement, a hook to draw the reader in. What makes this book interesting, what is it about?

In 1945, Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon—when she innocently touches a boulder in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of our Lord…1743.

Next we have the time period (which tells us this is a historical piece, or a futuristic sci-fi if the year was 2750 instead), we have the main character’s name and identity, we have the inciting incident and we have the setting.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire’s destiny in soon inextricably intertwined with Clan MacKenzie and the forbidden Castle Leoch. She is catapulted without warning into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life …and shatter her heart.

A little more detail about the plot and subject matter of the book.

For here, James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a passion so fierce and a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire…and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

And then we have the theme, and the last sentence drives the hook home so you want to pick the book up right away and read it.
MH1Descwide copy

The Character-Oriented Blurb.

Example: Mirror’s Hope by Justine Alley Dowsett and Murandy Damodred.

Everything has a price…

The tagline

In a self-serving dystopian society, Mirena’s kind-hearted nature leaves her socially outcast. Daunted by the task of trying to initiate change herself, she tries desperately to conform to the expectations of the cruel society around her.

The setting, the main character and her identity/circumstance.

That is, until she meets Tendro… General to the Panarch’s armies and a rising star in government, no one expects Tendro Seynor to be the prophesied Avatar of the Light, but that’s exactly what he’s become. Alone, he doesn’t have the resolve necessary to follow the path destiny has set before him; but that all changes when meets Mirena and falls in love with her simple faith.

The secondary character and his identity/circumstance.

Brought together by fate, Mirena and Tendro must find a way to change their world for the better or risk the consequences of being on the wrong side of an all-powerful tyrant and his unforgiving Generals. Can they tip the balance of power in their world, or will the lengths they have to go get them in too deep to get back out again?

The inciting incident and a hint at the theme, while giving the hook.

If you’ll notice, all the same crucial aspects are present in both styles: the setting, the characters, the inciting incident, the theme and the hook. They’re just presented in a different order with a different aspect emphasized. As for which style is right to use for your book, it’s probably best to ask yourself, what is the most important aspect of your book? If your story is character-driven, maybe the character style. If it’s more about the setting or the plot, then maybe the plot-oriented style. You can always do what I do and write out a few options in each style until I find one I like.

Thanks for reading!

Have you written a blurb for your book? Share it in the comment section below!