Pub Rants

Building The Pitch Paragraph (Part Four–INK EXCHANGE)

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STATUS: Oh it’s late one tonight! I did two long phone conferences today and was determined to finish a contract. I didn’t leave the office until after 7 pm.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? TAKE ME I’M YOURS by Squeeze

Consequently, I didn’t get a chance to read through the list of fabulous suggestions you guys posted for me. I will; I promise. For tonight, I literally just grabbed the first example in the comments section.

This has the added benefit of being the back cover copy for a work represented by an agent friend, Rachel Vater at Folio Literary Management.

And since we are taking about friends, I just found out that another agent friend Janet Reid (and yes, I do know everyone in the biz—just kidding), is doing query letter critiques at a new blog site called Query Shark. Serendipity so go check it out.

And I just discovered that a writer I was contemplating taking on but had mixed feelings about just signed with another agent friend and although it may sound strange, I’m thrilled to see an obviously talented writer with my friend. Writers often think that agents are in cutthroat competition with each other and yes, there are a select number of agents out there who think and operate that way but for the most part, we can be sincerely glad for each other.

But back to Rachel’s author Melissa Marr and just released INK EXCHANGE.

Here’s the cover.

Here’s the copy:

Unbeknownst to mortals, a power struggle is unfolding in a world of shadows and danger. After centuries of stability, the balance among the Faery Courts has altered, and Irial, the ruler of the Dark Court, is battling to hold his rebellious and newly vulnerable fey together. If he fails, bloodshed and brutality will follow.

Seventeen-year-old Leslie knows nothing of faeries or their intrigues. When she is attracted to an eerily beautiful tattoo of eyes and wings, all she knows is she has to have it, convinced it is a tangible symbol of changes she desperately craves for her own life. The tattoo does bring changes- not the kind Leslie has dreamed of, but sinister, compelling changes that are more than symbolic. Those changes will bind Leslie and Irial together, drawing Leslie deeper and deeper into the faery world, unable to resist its allures, and helpless to withstand its perils…

Step One: Find the plot Catalyst
Okay, tonight I’m not going do it for you. I want to see the plot catalyst mentioned in the comment section. Tomorrow I’ll take you through the copy.

How are you going to learn if I do all the work for you?

Big smile here.

Step Two: Identify what method is being used in the cover copy?
* Back story?
* Other plot elements?
* Character?
* Combo?

Step Three: Analyze the copy as a whole.
How many sentences is it. Take a look at each individual paragraph. What seemed effective and why?

You can also mention if something didn’t seem effective to you and why but I don’t think that is as instructional as trying to figure out why the publishing house chose this for the cover copy.

10 Responses

  1. beth said:

    Plot catalyst: Leslie gets a tatoo that draws her into the fae world.

    Method: Combo of character (Leslie wanting change) and back story (struggle in fae world)

    Analysis: 7 sentences as a whole. The first paragraph sets up the backstory, the second paragraph switches it (the first paragraph says: look! Faery world! and the second paragraph says: but she doesn’t know about it…). Doing it this way makes it clear that the story is about two things: the faery world and Leslie, and how they meet and what interactions between then happen when the two do meet. We don’t know exactly what the story will be about–will Leslie fall in love with Irial, will the court rise or fall…but we do know that the story is about Leslie + Faery World, and what is at stake.

  2. kris said:

    The crucial element of the plot:

    One of the characters spots a tattoo, and finds it strangely repulsive. She’s glad she doesn’t have one, because it could draw her into the world of make believe, or maybe even Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, where she’d have to firght against puppets. So instead she decides she’ll act like a normal teen and spend time partying with friends and trying to get laid, and dabbling in lesbian sex. I’m only guessing, though. That may not actually be what this book’s about. but how could you tell from that silly description?

  3. Beth said:

    Getting the tattoo is the catalyst. It uses backstory (the faery world situation) and character (Leslie, a teenager who wants change) to bring together the two worlds.

    But beyond that, this description is far too vague to be compelling and rather annoyingly coy. The true conflicts at the heart of this story remain hidden. Why does Leslie want change? What are the “allures and perils” of the faery world?

  4. Anonymous said:

    Plot catalyst: getting the tattoo

    Methods in cover copy: combo of character (Leslie and Irial) and backstory (power struggle in the Faery Courts).


  5. Anonymous said:

    I’m confused.

    Isn’t “sinister, compelling changes” the exact opposite of what you want to use, instead of something much more concrete, like WHAT the sinister, compelling changes ARE?”

    People always say be specific in query letters, back copy, yet the examples (and everyone else) always use, do the exact opposite.

    “Sinister” could be cheating lying to your best friend or cold blooded murder.

    This is why I hate jacket copy, it’s way too vague.

  6. Paul Crilley said:

    🙁 This sounds a bit like my book, the one that you guys requested to read. Not enough to say they’re the same, but enough to make me worry a bit.

  7. Julia Weston said:

    Catalyst: Leslie gets the tattoo, binds with Irial

    Method: I see elements of all three methods mentioned.

    I think it’s effective because for me it created suspense through Leslie. She seems to want positive changes in her life, but she seems vulnerable and vaguely unreliable so the story could go anywhere. I agree, though, that the overall copy is a little too vague.

  8. kwhite14 said:

    Definitely the tattoo, but I would have cut the whole first paragraph. As I scanned it I kept thinking “Read it before, saw a similar movie, this sounds cliché”.

    Then the second paragraph grabbed me and I wanted to know more.

  9. Anonymous said:

    The catalyst is definitely the tattoo. Unfortunately, the vague backstory in the first paragraph wasn’t on par with the better charaterization in the second. Interesting pitch, but lacking specifics in the first paragraph that seem to be needed in order to truly set the tone of the fae conflict (how dire is the situation and why?) Leslie will later have to face.