Monday, June 6, 2011

The Pitch & Blurb

Jesus was really great at being direct - to the point. Breaking down a big idea, like God’s grace, and putting it into a concise form. For example, in only a few paragraphs he gives the entire beauty of God’s grace in the story of the Prodigal Son. A BIG idea summed up in a way we can understand.
That’s HARD. To. DO. 
Pitch and Blurb are ways writers do the same thing. (Hmm… Pitch and Blurb - sounds like the name of a pub in the U.K J
Lots of times as writers, we’re expected to create elevator pitches and book blurbs (compressing 95K words into a 50 word summary....AHHHHHH!). It can be a stress inducing activity - especially for those of us are particularly 'talky'.
In fact, last week Casey and I exchanged pitches and blurbs with our good pals, Carol Moncado and Michelle Massaro  It was a great learning experience. I came out with some wonderful tips and ideas. (Thanks so much, ladies).
Casey’s a much better pitch & blurb writer than I am. I think it has to do with my propensity toward long-windedness, but making it short is a key factor in pitch & blurb writing.
Here are a few general tips:
-          Usually 25-30 words

-          Basically sets up the conflict/motivation of the story

-          Strong verbs

-          Power words

-          No names necessary
Here are a few examples I’ve written about famous books/movies.

After a Kansas tornado traps her in a magical land, a young girl must find her way back home before a wicked witch kills her. (25)
An orphaned boy discovers he’s the only wizard who can rid the world of an unnamed evil before it destroys everything he loves. (23)
A disrespected historian seeks to save the Declaration of Independence from international thieves and in the process discover a thousand-year old Templar treasure that will restore his family’s reputation. (29)
Now, what is a blurb?
It’s one of the most important selling features of a book. We walk into a bookstore, pick up a book off the shelf, maybe notice the pretty cover, and…then what do we do?
Flip the book over and read the back blurb.
-          Typically run between 100-250 words.
-          Intrigue is usually increased through questions.

-          Spoiler free.
-          A first sentence hook to GRAB the reader’s attention.

-          Try to exhibit the voice and uniqueness of the book.
-           Keep it simple, no complex storyline at this point.

-           Direct.
-          Your main goal is to ‘hook the reader’.

-          Some people pull out a great line from the book and place it here.
Janalyn Voigt has some great tips at Author Haven about pitch/blurb writing.
  • Desire -- What does your main character want? This desire drives the plot toward a specific goal.
  • Problem -- A shift or change in your protagonist's life causes a problem.
  • Cost or risk -- What will the solution cost? What are the risks?
  • Solution -- How will your story resolve? Will your main character realize his or her goal -- or not?
Use your story problem and theme to create a pitch sentence. Be sure and add a hook -- something that sparks interest in learning more. Examples:
Story Problem: A grieving widow longs to find happiness again (desire). When a suitor presses her with his attentions (problem), she must let go of the past (cost or risk) in order to realize her goal (solution).
Theme: Is it possible to find happiness by letting go of the past?Pitch Sentence: A young widow wants to take a chance on a new suitor but what will it cost her to let go of the past?”

Isn’t that a great summary? I thought it might be helpful for getting our minds in ‘concise’ writing mode J
Another FANTASTIC site for pitch & blurb help is on CamyTang’s Story Sensei.
Here’s Camy’s example:

Character--Sydney Bristow, secret agent
Situation--Discovers she's been tricked into thinking she's working for the CIA when in truth it's a terrorist agency
Objective-- To topple the powerful organization called the Alliance by working as a double agent
Opponent--her boss Arvin Sloan, who has been a family friend for years, who lied to her about her job
Disaster--Sloane suspects her because she told her fiancé, and he had him killed.
After discovering she was tricked into thinking she's working for the CIA, agent Sydney Bristow becomes a double agent, determined to take down the terrorist group called the Alliance. But can she fool her boss Arvin Sloane when he kills her fiancé and suspects her enough to kill her?
Here’s another great link to read related to pitch & blurb:
OKAY now it’s your turn!!

Any brave people out there?
I’m not great at these, but here are my examples (and you’re welcome to pick them apart to your heart’s content. I’m a lifelong learner ;-):

25-ish word pitch: A speech therapist determined to leave Appalachia must reform a cattle farmer and develop a new speech pathology program without losing her heart in the process. (25)
To escape her bruised past and a professional dead end, a speech therapist must transform an Appalachian cattle farmer into corporate-world material by Christmas. (24)

50-ish word pitch: To escape Appalachia, Dr. Adelina Roseland makes a daring wager to transform a rustic cattle farmer into corporate-world material before Christmas. But getting involved with this single-dad thrusts Dee into a world she’s spent fifteen years trying to forget, which may change not only her mind, but her heart. (49)

Blurb (100-200 words):
 The language of love doesn’t have an accent
To escape Appalachia, speech pathologist Dr. Adelina Roseland makes a daring wager to transform a rustic cattle farmer into corporate-world material before Christmas. If she succeeds she can present her research at the national convention, launching her career beyond her bruised past and the professional dead-end of a small town.

But Adelina didn’t plan for the faith and friction of single-dad, Reece Mitchell. Drawn into a culture she’d been trying to forget for fifteen years, Adelina finds the warmth of faith and family healing the wounds of her heart. When Reece discovers that he’s been a mere pawn in her step up the corporate ladder, will he forgive her deceit or will their miscommunication end in two broken lives? (128)
(It's My Fair Lady meets Andy Griffith) :-)



Angie Dicken said...

Grrrreat! Thanks Pepper! I have vowed to get through this set of edits before I start this...because I could spend the amount of time it takes to write a novel, on a pitch and blurb! Your post really helps give solid examples and guidelines. :)

Pepper said...

Hey Ang,
It takes a while to get things concise. BLAH! But with a team of great minds the time is cut in half.

(btw, check your spam for an email from me:-)

Angie Dicken said...

Hey, Couldn't find an email. Resend it?

Beth K. Vogt said...

This is why I love reading your blog posts--great information!! I'll be sharing this with others!!

Joanne Sher said...

Absolutely FABULOUS info. Thanks, Pepper!

Casey said...

I would really like a combination of both of your pitches and agree with Beth, great info. :)

Carol Moncado said...

Great post, Pepper! So glad we could help out!

I've got to do this [again] this week :p. And I'm long winded too.../sigh/


/note sarcasm/

I will be keeping this post open though ;).

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Oooh, Pepper! I love how you broke all this down. What a great post, and definitely one I'll be utilizing more than once. I'm long winded, too, and definitely need help with my pitches and blurbs here and there.

Michelle Massaro said...

Great post, Pepper. And you were worried, ha! I was going to be brave and share a pitch but I can't find my file with the most recent attempts and the older ones are simply awful. I'm gonna need your help on the next one before it sees the light of day! ;)

Pepper said...

So I put my stuff out there, and no one else is going to?
And I'm not even good at these things. It took Michelle Massaro 20 tries to fix my horrible pitches.
Come on guys - take the challenge ;-)

Pepper said...

You are so sweet. I KNOW you MUST have some fabulous pitches are blurbs.
Feeling like sharing? ;-)
Give us a teaser into what you're writing?

Pepper said...

Thanks for stopping by! I hope it's helpful

Pepper said...

Ooo Case,
how about this:
To escape her bruised past and professional inertia, a speech therapist must transform an Appalachian cattle farmer into corporate-world material by Christmas without losing her heart in the process.

Pepper said...

This is why we get along so well.... ;-)

Pepper said...

I don't like these but I know they're a necessity.
The things we have to do as budding writers. :-)