Pub Rants

Deal Lunch Blurbs As A Writing Exercise

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STATUS: It was an incredibly busy Monday. I’m a little stunned that it’s 5 p.m. already. But it’s not too late to hop on over to Brenda Novak’s website and participate in the Diabetes auction she has going for the month of May. Thank goodness somebody has a bid in for more than $2.00 for my read and critique (on page 3 of Writers section). I’d feel silly if nobody placed a bid or if it didn’t raise any money for Brenda!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU CAN’T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT by Rolling Stones

Miss Snark and Rachel Vater are always doing pitch workshops over on their blogs and no, don’t get excited. I’m not about to do one over here at Pubrants. It has “rants” in the title for a reason.

But I did have a good idea that I wanted to share with my blog readers. I just concluded two deals recently for Kelly Parra and Jennifer O’Connell and by their request, posted those sales on Publishers Marketplace for Deal Lunch. And that got me thinking. It’s a great writing exercise to boil down a project to a one sentence concept in order to post the deal.

Trust me, this isn’t always easy but if you can somehow grab the core of your story in one or two sentences, you’ll know what’s at the heart of your work. That heart should form the main crux of your pitch paragraph that you then build into a solid paragraph or two for your query letter.

So in short, if you can nail your deal lunch blurb, you’ll nail your pitch paragraph.

Of course I won’t leave you hanging; I’ll give you an example.

Here’s my story pitch for a title that just hit shelves this week–GRAFFITI GIRL by Kelly Parra. When on submission, this longish blurb was included in the emails that went out to editors. Notice there are a lot of details included to give a sense of the story, the plot, the conflict, and the main character Angel.

GRAFFITI GIRL by Kelly Parra

How far would a bad girl go to find her rightful place in the art world?

Sixteen-years-old and third-generation Mexican-American, Angel Rodriguez struggles for artistic acceptance among her peers until she begins to explore the underground lifestyle of graffiti art—a place where her Mexican-themed artwork is finally embraced.

The graffiti lifestyle, however, may be more than Angel bargained for.

As she learns new skills with a spray can, she crosses lines she never considered by breaking laws to prove her dedication to the graffiti crew and drifting farther away from her supportive family. All the while exploring new relationships between two Latino boys–one with a beautiful eye for detail and an upscale street address and the other who lives in her neighborhood and who uses the streets as his canvas.

Soon she becomes torn between obligations of family, friendships, and her passion for art. Angel realizes her newfound artistic acceptance may have come with too high a price.

About the Author
Kelly Parra is the daughter of a Mexican-Filipino dad with a comedic streak and a strong-willed Mexican-Italian mom. Her parents, each raised with twelve siblings, filled her head with interesting tales of their childhood, launching Kelly’s love of a good story.

However, when it came time to do the Deal Lunch blurb, I had to just highlight the heart of it. Michael Cader doesn’t like agents being wordy (and trust me, we like to be wordy because we are excited about the book and we want the whole world to know ALL the details). For Cader, the deal lunch blurb can only be about 5 typed lines long—and that has to include all the sale/editor/agent info. That’s short.

To get that, I have to boil down the above 2 paragraphs into one sentence. No dilly-dallying. No long plot outline. I have to focus only on the HEART of the story.

So for me, the real story is about a young Latina who is torn between two boys who represent for her the polar opposite extremes in the art world and where she fits in that world.

Hence, the deal lunch blurb below:

Kelly Parra’s YA debut GRAFFITI GIRL, a struggling young Latina artist looking for acceptance is torn between two Latino boys—one with a beautiful eye for detail and an upscale street address and the other who lives in her neighborhood and who uses the streets as his canvas, to Lauren McKenna and Jen Heddle at MTV/Pocket Books, in a nice deal, by Kristin Nelson at Nelson Literary Agency (NA).

22 Responses

  1. Michele Lee said:

    Hmm, so far I have:

    A tragic werewolf romance.

    A werehyena aspiring rockstar battles a scammer vampire music producer.


    Post apocaylptic CSI with shape shifters and vampires.

    I think #3 is the best so far LOL

  2. Kristin said:

    Michele, I would agree, #3 is very intriguing. Makes me curious and want to find out more. The first one is too bland.

  3. kennedysmyth said:

    Congrats on Graffiti Girl. We got it in at the B&N where I work today. Love the in-your-face cover – and it’s nice to have a Latina-focused teen book.

  4. Marshall Artz said:

    Sherry Thomas said…

    Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon meets the Forsyth Saga. That’s my martial arts action adventure love story.

    Shorter still:

    Sherry Thomas said…

    Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon meets the Forsyth Saga. That’s my marital arts action adventure.

  5. Celeste said:

    That was a really good mini-lesson 🙂 I was at your query workshop at New England RWA last month, and your ability to blurb on the fly really amazed me. Thanks for showing us how!

  6. JDuncan said:

    Ok, this is as good a place to practice as anywhere else, and I have thus far in my career proven utterly inept at doing query blurbs, so why not try something even harder by shortening the word count even more! heh.

    1. 23rd century gun-runner, Kaliegh Hutchins finds herself embroiled in Wales’ fight for independence from England in 1403, and torn between both sides of the war as she and her crew struggle to build a new life in a war-torn world.

    2. Jeb Conklin has written his amazing Fairy dreams into comics for years. Little did he know they were prophetic writings in the land of Fae, until they were stolen by a bunch of CIA ‘suits’ named Smith, and the fairy heroine of his story showed up to drag him into the land of Fae to get them back.

  7. Shouga Tea said:

    No, Michele; you’ve hit it with #2…

    We get three tries?

    ~Average superhero kids are left to battle a supervillain after he knocks out their race…and not fire the tabloid’s imagination.

    ~The Incredibles meets Newsies!!! {uh…}

    ~Supervillain mindreader vs. some average powered sophmores. Except the govt. thinks they’re just mascots.

  8. Anonymous said:

    Huh. I thought the choice between two boys was the least interesting part of the story. To me, the story for artworld acceptance was much more interesting and fresh.

    When I read your first description, I thought, “I have to buy this book immediately, even though it’s YA.” The second blurb, I’d pass.

  9. Deanna said:

    My noveling group has every member submitting work for critique write a one-sentence summary. We already figured out that if you can’t do it, then you might not know exactly what your novel is about.

    As practice and instruction, we use screenwriter’s logline tips. An solid novel will condense the same way. An excellent starting point for this is

    Since then I’ve used loglines for everything–even short stories, to see if I have crystallized my idea. Almost always, the work I’ve been struggling with is the same one I can’t summarize in one sentence.

  10. Kelly Parra said:

    Hi Anon 12:01, I’m hoping readers will want to read Graffiti Girl for the different aspects it has. The book has elements of romance, friendship, family, and self-esteem centered within the cultural teen art world. Sadly, we can’t mention all those things in a pitch! 🙂 🙂

    It’s even a little joke with me and Kristin about my query where I tried to label my first book in more than one genre. Now I *hopefully* know better. ;)~ Kelly

  11. Anonymous said:

    I’d have to agree with Anon 12:01 – I guess that aspect of the book just didn’t grab my attention. But for what it’s worth, Kelly, your book is now on my must-read list, even though I don’t read much YA either.

  12. Michele Lee said:

    >>~The Incredibles meets Newsies!!! {uh…}


    I like this exercise. The first blurb of mine is bland, but it’s a tricky book. It’s my first, and it’s good (5 out of 6 agents agree) but it’s not a break out book. It’s the type of book you put out after you have a fan base and you know that people like your style and can handle a bit of boundary pushing with the plots.

    Did anyone else participate in International Pixel-Stained Peasants Day? The point was to show support for the use of the internet as a publishing/promotion tool by posting a story, poem, excerpt, whatever for free.

  13. Anonymous said:

    You mean she has to choose between a rich boy and a poor boy? Wow. How groundbreaking.

    I agree that’s the least interesting element. Why does every story about a young girl have to center on which boyfriend she chooses? Have you ever seen the movie My Brilliant Career? It’s the same set-up: artistic girl has to choose between rich esthete and poor sympatico boy. She chooses neither, and goes off to the city to be a concert pianist. Why does no one want to write about a girl finding herself? It’s always, always about finding the boy. Ugh.

  14. Anonymous said:

    Anon 9:26 here. Sorry — I didn’t mean to sound like I was criticizing your book. Graffitti Girl sounds fresh and fabulous. I was objecting to the way the Lunch blurb made it sound like a Pretty in Pink clone, whereas the longer description shows it’s much, much more.

    I think you rock for writing a book about Latinas and art. I guess what I mean is that I’d love for the blurb to stress what’s different, rather than what’s the same as other YA books.

  15. Kelly Parra said:

    Anon, oh don’t worry about it! But thank you for clearing that up. It is true not everyone will find a story line appealing, and writers have to have a tough skin in this business. But it’s great that you find GG interesting! Appreciate it!

  16. Merry Jelinek said:

    While I do like the longer blurb better, I can’t say I dislike the short one. While I like women’s fiction with a little less concentration on the character’s love life and more on her character, I’m an adult(and I enjoy the romance aspect to good fiction, too). The YA audience for this book, I think, will find the romantic aspect important – after all, how many things were more important to you during the teenage years?

    The point of a blurb is to show the marketability, I think, more so than any other aspect of the novel. Now if I could only narrow down my own blurb 😉