Pub Rants

Building The Pitch Paragraph (Part Six Redux: Ysabel)

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STATUS: I’m beat. I just can’t stay up until after midnight without consequences. Makes you wonder how we did it in college all those eons ago.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CANDY EVERYBODY WANTS by 10,000 Maniacs

I think I can officially call my work done here. You guys don’t need any more lessons on pitch paragraphs. You’ve got this nailed. It’s so easy—until it’s your own work, right?

Step One: Find the plot Catalyst
It’s pretty easy to spot in this one. It’s in the second paragraph when Ned & Kate surprise an intruder with a knife in a place he should not be. Cryptic warning ensues!

Step Two: Identify what method is being used to build the paragraphs in the cover copy?
Paragraph one is mostly back story (why they are living in Aix-en-Provence) and a little bit of hint in terms of Ned’s character with the reference to inheriting his mom’s courage.

Paragraph two highlights opening plot elements and then the catalyst.

Paragraph three is setting actually. Not something I’ve really talked about much in relation to pitch paragraphs. Here, setting the mood is rather important to the story so the copywriter juxtaposed the modern with the old to capture that this story has a timeless element to it.

Paragraph four is about how the setting relates to the other plot elements that will unfold. We are in a place where the border between the living and the dead is suspect. This means something from the past is going to be able to come into the present and if this copy is any guide, that’s not going to be a happy thing.

Step Three: Analyze the copy as a whole.
So this copy is 8 sentences. A lot going on in those 8 sentences. You can see where it pays to chose wisely the details to include.

10 Responses

  1. Gabrielle said:

    Thanks for the summary, Kristen. It really IS helpful. You’d enjoy looking at Steve Kugler’s “My Most Excellent Year” (2008.) His flap copy consists of his characters’ IM conversation about what flap copy is. It is indeed hilarious.

    Some books’ flap copy makes me cringe, though. “21 Balloons,” the children’s book, has a pitch paragraph that has almost nothing to do with the plot. Many books published in the 1970s and 80s have these awful tell-all pitches where they explain everything that’s going to happen and why. Gee, why read the book then?

  2. JDuncan said:

    Interestingly, this blurb doesn’t really say anything at all about what the story is about. It all turns on the vague, though intriguing element of mythic figures from the past causing problems in the present. This might get me to buy the book, but then again perhaps not. If I was holding this and another intriguing book in hand trying to decide which to buy and the other gave a stronger indication of what the story was actually about, I’d probably go for the one that was more explicitly defined. I’m curious, Kristen, if you would request based on a pitch blurb like this. Would that one intriguing line be enough?


  3. Janet said:

    I’m inclined to think that the blurb doesn’t do justice to the book, which I think one of the best to come out last year. My biggest problem is I don’t know what I would do to improve the blurb without giving away too much of the plot. I hate spoiler blurbs myself, to the point I am wary of reading them at all. I’ve also read too many that misrepresent the book almost as badly as so many cover illustrations do.

    Something that has been driving me crazy since you started this, Kristen, is that I can’t find a single plot catalyst in my own story. Two characters have made entirely different choices in their life that put them on a collision course with world-shaking implications. There’s murder and mayhem and heartbreak aplenty along the way, but it takes half the book for the conflict to become overt. How do I define a plot catalyst in there?

  4. Natalie Hatch said:

    That’s a good thing to ask jduncan, I was going to ask the same thing. I must admit when I read the blurb I was kind of distracted by the way it went around in circles almost.

  5. Cheryl said:

    The copy on my, ah, copy is different than that which was posted earlier, with a little more detail but nothing more about the story itself. It really doesn’t give any idea of what it’s about. The Publisher’s Weekly blurb on the Amazon page is more accurate.

    I wonder how much of the lack of detail in the cover copy is because Kay is an established, celebrated author. I certainly would never have bought it based on the copy. I bought it because I’m a fan.

    And for anyone who’s wondering, it’s a lovely, engrossing, charming , creepy, atmospheric urban fantasy.

  6. ICQB said:

    Thank you for taking the time put together these posts. They are all very helpful, I’ve directed a lot of people in my writing groups to your blog.

  7. jeanoram said:

    I agree with Janet that back cover blurbs often misrepresent the book’s true plot. It is also a problem that I am having in writing my query letter. I want to be true to the story and get the plot catalyst nice and up front, but there are all these other elements that if I don’t include them…well then I’m afraid I will misrepresent. But like Kristen said, it is easy unless it is your own!

    Thanks for breaking it down for us, Kristen. 🙂

  8. Anonymous said:

    I must be one of the very few who found the cover blurb intriguing (although I may have read a different version, from another source, since I had an ARC of this book and it had no cover blurb. Anyway…), but the story itself failed to live up to the promise. Kay is one of my favorite fantasy writers, but his normally evocative, lyrical prose was as flat as the proverbial pancake in this novel, and the story was boring and a little trite. Very disappointing overall.