Pub Rants

Deal Lunch Blurbs Take Two

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STATUS: It was such a gorgeous day in Denver, one can’t help but smile despite being a little tired. I stayed up late last night to read a requested full manuscript that I just couldn’t put down. I literally finished reading around midnight and thought, “it’s not too late to call the author and offer representation, is it?” Ultimately I decided that midnight was a little late to be calling and waited until first thing this morning.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? IT MUST BE HIM by Vicki Carr

So I was thinking some more about this exercise and I can’t stress enough how nailing your deal lunch blurb can really help you to crystallize your story line for your query pitch.

Interesting that folks commented that the deal lunch blurb didn’t grab their attention as much as the longer blurb (and of course the longer blurb is going to be way better—that’s why I used it for the pitch to editors). Don’t forget. You do have a whole paragraph (or even two) to nail your story concept in your query letter. You don’t just have to use one sentence. The point of the exercise is to simply boil your story down to the main conflict and that’s what really struck me about what some of the comments posted.

If I had simply focused on Angel’s struggle of non-acceptance in the art world, I wouldn’t have highlighted a driving conflict that’s moving the story forward. It’s that simple. These two boys both accept her and her art but they represent two opposite art extremes and ultimately she must decide for herself what she wants her art to be (and in doing so, discovers herself). Conflict.
So keep that in mind when you are tackling this exercise.

Here’s another good example. This novel, by Boston’s Channel 7 Investigative Reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan, will hit shelves in about 3 weeks. Here’s the longish pitch blurb I used in my email letters to editors.

PRIME TIME by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Think that annoying SPAM clogging your computer is just so much cyber-junk? Top-notch TV reporter Charlotte McNally suspects some of it may be much more than that–in fact, she’s certain it carries secret big-money messages to a powerful inner circle of executives who possess the key to its code.

Turns out–as Charlie discovers–the last outsider who deciphered the SPAM’s hidden clues now resides in the local morgue. Was his car crash really an accident? Charlie’s spidey-sense for news may have put her on the trail of the biggest story of her life or the one that may end it.

PRIME TIME, a Lady Lit mystery, introduces Charlotte “Charlie” McNally, a hip and attractive late forty-something journalist who’s facing some life-changing challenges. Charlie’s smart, successful and devoted to Italian clothing designers–but she’s worried her news director is about to replace her with a younger model. Even though she’s won a row of Emmys for her investigative reporting, she’s convinced that unless she digs up another blockbuster in time for the next November ratings book, she may be fired from the job she loves.

Charlie’s got too many pairs of shoes, too many graying hairs, and even a hot flash or two—but she puts her life, and her heart, on the line for a story and readers will never look at SPAM the same way again.

I just loved so many elements of the story, I didn’t want to shorten it. I wanted the editors to get the real feel of the manuscript which I think the blurb captures.

And yes I’m wordy. I HATE boiling things down to one sentence so I feel your pain. Now time for the Deal Lunch Blurb. To me, the conflict is that Charlie needs to land a scoop, solve a murder, and not be replaced by a younger model so that’s what I highlighted.

Emmy award-winning reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan’s PRIME TIME, the first in her series featuring 40-something TV reporter Charlie McNally who discovers a link between a suspicious car accident and hidden messages in SPAM emails while juggling an on-camera world that values beauty more than journalism, to Ann Leslie Tuttle at Harlequin NEXT, by Kristin Nelson at the Nelson Literary Agency (world).

15 Responses

  1. I. M. Bitter said:

    De-lurking to say, I really liked this pitch. In three weeks when the book comes out, I’m going to buy it.

    Am I right in assuming that this pitch would work as a hook in a query? There has been a lot of hook advice floating around the blogosphere lately…just wondering if there is a difference between hooks and pitches that I should be aware of.

    Thanks for all your advice so far! I’m enjoying your archives.

  2. Hank Phillippi Ryan said:

    And what a thrill it was, I must tell you, to see that blurb pop up on Publisher’s Lunch. I didn’t really know when to expect it, so I was attempting to avoid obsessively checking for it.

    But then, there it was, and for a brief time, first on the list. My Charlie McNally book was going to be real. People would meet her, and get to know these characters I’d lived with for the past year or so. OK, sappy, yes, no question. But seeing that (very perfectly written, I must say, Kristin!)blurb was a great moment.

    And as for great moments, how about when someone says they’re going to buy it? Thank you so much–and I can’t wait to hear if you like the book as much as you liked the pitch.

  3. Lisa said:

    Pre-ordering Prime Time has been on my “to do” list, but the longer blurb got me laughing and straight to Amazon, so now it’s ordered. With only one sentence to work with, I can’t think of a better alternative to what you’ve written. It’s just a shame that the humorous additional details about who Charlie is that you conveyed so well in the longer version (I love grey hairs and occasional hot flashes) had to be sacrificed.

  4. Anonymous said:

    What a smart exercise, Kristin, thanks for the show-n-tell. This book sounds fantastic, I pre-ordered too. Good luck to you, Hank.

  5. Anonymous said:

    If you were reading my full and wondering if you should call at midnight or not, I would say CALL! That would be the greatest phone call, and quite a story too. My agent called at midnight b/c she loved my book so much!!! I’m waiting to be able to tell that story…

  6. Anonymous said:

    Kristin, this is a fabulous excercise, and I hope authors will take it to pitch sessions too. One good sentence stands out so much more than paragraphs in that kind of situation. And I love this cover for Hank’s book!

  7. Peter said:

    Ms. Ryan (and of course, your agent),

    Thanks! Was wondering what book to give my wife for Mother’s Day (a tradition going on it’s 8th year) but since her taste in books is no where near mine I usually end up buying either 1) exactly what she tells me or 2) exactly what I’ve already bought for her when she originally told me to. This year, I’ve pre-ordered your book for her. Won’t be on time, but punctuality has never been a hallmark of my gift-giving. Best of luck!!!

  8. Travis Erwin said:

    I have read several of the NEXT books and really enjoyed them Look forward to this one as well.

    Also, I sure wouldn’t mind a midnight call from a top notch agent who wanted to rep me.

  9. Anonymous said:

    I am going to take this opportunity to ask a question. Your agency site says you don’t represent mysteries, yet Hank’s book is a mystery…isn’t it? Why the exception?

    I ask party because my WIP has some things in common with Hank’s.

  10. Marianne Mancusi said:

    As someone who was lucky to read an early copy of PRIME TIME I can confidentally say that the actual book is even better than the blurb. Hank is truly, truly funny and you will all fall in love with Charlie. Not to mention you get a great insider’s peek into the world of TV news from someone who knows it well!

    Oh and I’d totally have been okay if Kristin had called me at midnight. She could have called me at 3am.


  11. Kathleen said:

    Heartland Writer’s Group started to do creative writing exercises in April. Every month we offer a different challenge. April was to write a hook. May is to continue a story based on a prompt. Would it be okay to try pitches? And use your short example? Full credit of course given to where the example was taken from. All entries are posted on our HWG MYSPACE Blog. I think this would be a great on to do for June, to help those writers going to Dallas in July. What do you think?
    Kathleen Grieve