Pub Rants

Blog Pitch Workshop (VIII)

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STATUS: They’re painting my office lobby today. The smell of paint is really getting overwhelming—even with the windows open. You might get enough of me with the blog but just in case, Women On Writing have posted a recent interview with me.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? (I’VE GOT A GAL IN) KALAMAZOO by Glen Miller Orchestra

Romance. More Romance. Romance all the time. Seriously, it’s worth spending at least another day with this genre mainly because so many romance queries are generic and consequently get quick passes. You don’t want that to happen to you.

So let’s look at another historical romance—this time by one of my authors. Sherry Thomas’s PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS comes out this spring, and Bantam has done a great job with the back cover copy.

To all of London society, Lord and Lady Tremaine had the ideal arrangement: a marriage based on civility, courteousness and freedom—by all accounts, a perfect marriage. The reason? For the last ten years, husband and wife have resided on separate continents.

But once upon a time, things were quite different for the Tremaines…When Gigi Rowland first laid eyes on Camden Saybrook, Lord Tremaine, the attraction was immediate and overwhelming: she simply had to have him. But what began in a spark of passion ended in betrayal the morning after their wedding—and Gigi wants to be free to marry again. Now Camden has returned from America with an outrageous demand in exchange for Gigi’s freedom—a proposal that defies propriety and stuns his wife. For Gigi’s decision will have consequences she never imagined, as secrets are exposed, desire is rekindled—and one of London’s most admired couples must either fall in love all over again…or let each other go forever.

Now let’s analyze:

1. This back cover copy is 8 sentences.

2. The first paragraph does a great job of outlining the irony behind the definition of a “perfect marriage.” There’s a bit of subtle humor in there as well because why is the marriage perfect? The husband and wife reside on separate continents. It really sets the tone of this work and gives us an interesting back story at the same time. First question that pops to mind is why do they live in separate countries?

3. The next paragraph begins by giving the reader a little glimpse into the answer to that question the first paragraph inspired. They used to love each other. They used to be wildly and passionately in love but a betrayal ends that. Now, the betrayal isn’t revealed and that’s part of what we assume will unfold as we read the story.

4. By the fourth sentence, we are introduced to the crux of the current conflict. Lord Tremaine has made a demand in return for granting a divorce. The demand isn’t revealed (of course) because the hope is that the reader of this copy will be enticed to read on and buy the book (or if you were querying, the agent would be enticed to request the sample pages or the full because the pitch is so intriguing).

5. The second paragraph ends with what is at stake. I personally love the last line because of what is not said. London’s most admired couple (for their perfect marriage) must decide whether they can be admired as a great couple for embracing love instead.

We’ll try some contemporary romances tomorrow before moving on.

12 Responses

  1. beverley said:

    This is a stellar debut novel. It’s absolutely sumptuous!!!! I got an ARC copy (ok, I got two) at Nationals, and I’m going to buy it when it ocmes out in March. My signed copy is worn from having read it a bunch of times. It’s beautifully written and the execution of the plot is stupendous. Oh, and she’s blogging at on Nov 6th and a lucky commenter will have the chance to receive an ARC copy of Private Arrangements. 🙂

  2. krw3b said:

    First of all, Private Arrangements just might be the best title ever. How SEXY is that? Talk about double entendre. Triple entendre, even. (Entendre a trois? hee hee.)

    Secondly, that was a great interview. Oh, why why why don’t you represent anything younger than YA? You are so savvy, sunny, funny, and have the coolest first name in the world (and spelled correctly).

    I’ve done one YA, but the rest of my work is MG and younger. *Sigh*

    Oh well, it’s probably for the best. If you were my agent, I’d probably just want to email and dish about gossip and whatnot.


  3. randy said:

    There is currently an article on MSN’s careerbuilder website about switching careers, and how easy it is. One of the five successes profiled is a woman who went from corporate finance to entrepreneur to (get this) bestselling novelist! See? Being a best selling novelist must be easy, if careerbuilder says so…

    Funny article, with the right point of view. All the “successes” they show are people who had plenty of money in the first place, who became burned out making six figures a year and decided to make a career switch. The fact that one of these people “switched” to being a novelist and had immediate success tickled me a bit.

    Sorry to go off topic, but I had to share.

  4. Dave Wood said:

    Thanks for this great series of blogs. I’m especially happy to see that you’re discussing so many genres; I’ve been recommending the series to my various writing friends.

    A trick I’ve learned is to write a bit of cover copy when I first get inspired by a new project. I’ve found it helps keep me on track, and it can be a bit of an uplift whenever I begin to feel like I’m slogging. And it’s a great starting point for thinking about the query.

  5. Anonymous said:

    I love this series. Do you have a romantic suspense query we could look at? I’m having a hard time finding a sample in this genre. Thanks.

  6. Anonymous said:

    Honestly, all the other pitches have been great, but this one doesn’t work for me. I found myself skimming and had to reread and it still didn’t grab me. This is one book I’d probably put back down without even reading a few pages. Sorry.

  7. Anonymous said:

    I agree with anonymous 2. Thomas’s query letter was more “BAM!” and attention catching than what the publisher came up with. And I also don’t find the title “Private Arrangements” very appealing–doesn’t make me think of “romance novel”–more like gardening and interior decorating… 🙁

  8. green_knight said:

    I remember the query pitch for this one, which was much more concrete, much more intimate, and which set up the problem in much greater detail. I’m sorry to say that I feel that this one reads generic to me. This one says ‘spark of passion’ and ‘ends in betrayal’ – and left me with ‘so what’?

    “Gigi’s marriage is doomed from the moment she decides that she must have Camden, by fair means or foul.
    Camden, who has come to adore Gigi, discovers her deceit on the eve of their wedding. Shattered, he responds in kind, gives her a tender, unforgettable wedding night, then coldly leaves her in the morning, devastating her.”

    Now here’s real immediacy, here are two characters being sketched in a lively fashion, here’s a unique problem and as reader of the query I understood immediately how unforgivable his behaviour was and why she wanted him back.

    I think the publisher’s back cover copy is much, much weaker than the query.

  9. Virginia DeMarce said:

    “Granting” a divorce?

    Novelists working in early modern England all really need to read Lawrence Stone, The Road to Divorce: A History of the Making and Breaking of Marriage in England 1530-1987 (Oxford University Press, 1995).

    It’s even available in paperback.

    A man could not grant a divorce to his wife. Only an act of Parliament could at the time grant a divorce, and then only to the husband.