Pub Rants

Category: reviews

Pitch Language vs. Book-Review Language

There’s pitch language and there’s book-review language, and each has a unique vocabulary. Pitch language sells, but book-review language tells. If you’re working on your query letter, here’s a quick tip to help you keep the tone on track: Avoid using book-review language in your pitch.

Here’s a quick list of book-review vocabulary:

  • Absorbing
  • Action-packed
  • Addictive
  • Ambitious
  • Awe-inspiring
  • Breathtaking
  • Captivating
  • Dazzling
  • Dynamic
  • Engaging
  • Enjoyable
  • Gripping
  • Haunting
  • Heart-wrenching
  • Juicy
  • Memorable
  • Moving
  • Page-turning
  • Poignant
  • Powerful
  • Scrumptious
  • Spellbinding
  • Suspenseful
  • Tear-jerking
  • Tense
  • Thought-provoking
  • Thrilling
  • Touching
  • Yummy

These descriptors and others like them, while wholly appropriate for book reviews and cover blurbs, should be avoided in your query letter. Why? There are two reasons.

First, when you tell an agent in your query letter that your manuscript is “a breathtaking page-turner full of juicy, spell-binding prose” and that your beta readers told you how “haunting and moving and tear-jerking” it was, the agent has no idea what your story is about. Your query letter’s pitch should be 100-percent focused on your story.

Can’t you do both? That is, why not pitch the story and also say a few glowing things about it?

Because (and this is the second reason) your query letter should be no longer than one printed page. It’s the equivalent of an old-school, ink-on-paper business letter. That’s not very long, which makes every line valuable real estate. The more lines you put to work immersing the agent in your story’s premise, characters, conflict, stakes, plot, and the like, the greater the likelihood they’ll be interested in reading your sample pages or requesting your full.

Your pitch is not a review you write about your own book. Once more for the back row, pitch language is sell copy, but book-review language is tell copy. The query letter, like back-cover copy, exists to sell. So keep that pitch focused on your story’s Five W’s to increase your chances of selling:

  • Who is your character?
  • What do they want? (Goal)
  • Why do they want it? (Motivation)
  • Why can’t they have it? (Conflict)
  • What happens if they don’t get it? (Stakes)

Photo by Ekrulila on Pexels

Writing To The Market but Also With The Book Of Your Heart–Guest Blogger Sara Megibow

STATUS: I wish I was working late tonight but I can’t….

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? O HOLY NIGHT by Josh Groban

Marie Lu is not the only author having an exciting release week! Sara’s very first agented author book is hitting shelves today. Hard to believe but yes, it really does take that long from sale to publication for this to be the first.

What better way to celebrate than to guest blog? (Okay, I’m making her toast with champagne, too, but you get the picture.) Huge congrats Sara and Miranda!

What did debut author Miranda Kenneally do that’s making her book release so exciting? CATCHING JORDAN hits bookshelves today and the buzz surrounding this book is absolutely incredible (ESPN picked up a review of the book yesterday and the Seventeen Magazine online book club is running a feature on it tomorrow).

Here’s the secret – Miranda wrote the book of her heart. She did NOT write to some hot trend. What’s hot in young adult novels right now? Well, one might agree that fantasy and paranormal and dystopian are hot. Contemporary young adult, conversely, might be hot or might not be hot depending on who you ask (I personally am a huge fan, obviously). And, contemporary young adult sports novels? yikes.

CATCHING JORDAN didn’t sell right out of the gate. We DID find the perfect editor for it, but we also had a handfull of editors pass saying, “no one is interested in reading about sports.” Yes, the heroine of this book is captain and quarterback of her high school football team. Yes, there are some scenes on the playing field in which the teammates are talking football plays and field positions and stats. When I read this book in the slush pile I fell immediately in love with the characters, the voice, the dialogue and the personality. THAT’S what I saw in it which made me jump up and down with glee. And that’s what these tremendous reviews seem to be saying too.

If Miranda had ever asked an agent, “should I write about vampires or about football?” it’s likely her first book would have turned out differently. But, as a great credit to her and to our art, she didn’t ask that question. Instead she wrote a book that takes a chance on a concept that we haven’t seen before. And, it’s paying off!

So, if you are looking at publishing and are tempted to ask, “do you think XYZ is hot right now?” stop. Take a deep breath. Yes the market is important but so is writing a book you believe in wholeheartedly. Miranda did just that for CATCHING JORDAN. It wasn’t in the hot trend but in a sense, she did keep the market in mind because it has a luscious romantic element. Something we’ve seen in other successful contemporary YA novels recently. Cheers to an author who took a chance and to the readers (and editors) (and reviewers) (and ESPN) who are loving that gamble!


One Very Good Reason To Let Go That Manuscript

STATUS: I’m working super late tonight. It’s often the only good time to really check off items on the TO DO list.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS by Whitney Duncan


As you can guess, LEGEND released yesterday. And there is one simple fact I want all my blog readers to know. If Marie had not been willing to let go of a previous manuscript (that didn’t sell), we would not be celebrating her release this week.

All too often, I hear about writers revising and revising the same manuscript–some even for years. Sometimes, the best decision you can make is to simply let it go. It’s never a waste as you learned valuable things as a writer from the process of writing that novel.

It might stay tucked away on your computer forever. And you know what? That might be a good thing! Maybe you needed to grow in your craft and it will be your next novel where the stars will align, angels sing, and voila, publication.

Don’t believe me? You only have to ask Marie Lu.

From Marie’s face featured in Times Square after the book sold to stories in Entertainment Weekly, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, what a ride it has been, Marie!

5 Starred Reviews

“Lu’s debut is a stunner. Weaving the strands of SF dystopia, police procedural, and coming-of-age—with touches of superhero and wild frontier traditions—she fashions a narrative in which the action is kinetic and the emotional development is beautifully paced. First in a series, this story is utterly satisfying in its own right and raises hopes high for the sequels to come.”
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles…This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes.”
—Kirkus, Starred Review

“. . . the delicious details keep pages turning to learn how it’s all going play out. Combine star-crossed lovers with the need to take down the Republic and you’ve got the makings for potent sequel.”
—Booklist, Starred Review

“Debut author Lu has managed a great feat—emulating a highly successful young adult series while staying true to her own voice. Legend will give Hunger Games fans something worthwhile to read while they await Katniss’ movie debut—and, most likely, Day and June’s.”
—VOYA, Starred Review

“Teens will love the page-turning suspense and emotional tension created by the dynamic characters. Following the success of Hunger Games, many dystopian books are filling the shelves, but this book stands out.”
—Library Media Connection, Starred Review

LEGEND, yesterday, in the promo stand as you walk into Barnes & Noble:

Marie on the PBS Late Night Show with Tavis Smiley:

And best of all, we heard that LEGEND was being featured in elevator news reels today. Wacky but a heck of a lot of fun!

So thank you, Marie, for being undaunted and forging ahead writing that next novel in the face of rejections.

Have a wonderful, wonderful release week.

Fan Appreciation!

STATUS: Whenever 5 or 6 pm rolls around, it always catches me by surprise. Last I looked it was only 1 in the afternoon or what have you.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? WITCHCRAFT by Frank Sinatra

Can I tell you how much I heart fans of my clients’ books?

I just think this is the most fun review I’ve seen in a long time for Lisa Shearin’s BEWITCHED AND BETRAYED (which by the way came “this close” to landing on the NYT list when it released). Actually I don’t know that for sure since NYT doesn’t disclose their algorithm for sales connected to landing on the list but in watching other books with X number of sales hit the list, my theory was not far-fetched. It didn’t and there was much sadness. But still, with fans like this, who needs NYT?

I’m particularly fond of the pirate pez dispenser!

Save Money! Save Trees! No ARCs!

STATUS: Next Monday is a holiday in publishing! Hooray, another quiet day in the office to get caught up.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HOT N COLD by Katy Perry

This is the latest rally cry in publishing. One of my authors just found out today that her publisher is not going to be doing ARCs for her book. But it’s not just for her title but for all the mass market titles at this house.

Gone. They’ve decided that it’s too costly to continue with the current economic conditions.

For those of you who don’t know, ARC stands for Advanced Reading Copy. This is the main tool in terms of getting reviews and influential blog posts about the upcoming release. Savvy authors can use those ARCs in a variety of ways such as making them available for special promos or having them handy at events or conferences where booksellers attend. And this is just the tip of the ice berg of uses for the ARC.

At the agency, we often use ARCs to shop film or foreign rights (although mainly we prefer a clean, electronic copy—costs of international shipping and all that.

But back to my Author. Her publisher isn’t even offering an electronic ARC. Just a bound manuscript but only on request. Yeah, I said the same thing. This author is feeling really supported….

Now I do understand that the printing of ARCs is expensive and often these copies end up on sale at eBay for pennies (with neither the publisher nor the author seeing any of those royalties) but egad.

As I mentioned above, the publisher did say that they were willing to send out bound manuscripts instead but talk about unwieldy. That’s basically asking a person to lug around 300+ regular sized pages. Any reviewer will be delighted to haul that around on the subway or to the soccer game or wherever they might be trying to squeeze in reading. Not.

I highlight this because now it’s becoming even more important to find alternate ways to connect to your audience before publication.

I have more thoughts on this but it’s getting late so I’m out.

Kirkus Reanimates

STATUS: I’m back in the office.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? GLAD TIDINGS by Van Morrison

While I was out, I saw an article in Publishers Weekly that mentioned that Kirkus might be bought so the review journal could continue publishing.

I have to say this warms my heart—even though they gave one of my books an only so-so review last week. Big smile here.

I do think that online review sites will gain in prominence and I’m certainly not against that, but I do think there is value in a long-standing, revered review journal continuing. It’s going to take some more years for the online sites to gain the same prominence with booksellers and librarians that Kirkus already has in place.

A strong Kirkus review can create an automatic buy for libraries. I can’t name an online site that does the same—yet.

Come back and stay this time Kirkus.

Q&A continued

STATUS: Nose to the grindstone. Only two more days after today to finish stuff.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? NIGHT PART ONE: SNOW by George Winston

Before I kick off more Q&A, here is a fascinating article on Amazon, $9.99 eBooks, losing money, profits, wholesale prices and where the author is going to fit in all this.

Definitely worth a read.

Anonymous asked:
My question would be what are your instant turn-offs? Any genre or just something that you are so tired of you don’t even want to look at anymore…
It’s certainly true that we often tire of seeing vampire queries or thieves as the main narrator in fantasy or what have you but you never know when somebody is going to have a different spin on it. In general, if the query is well done, we’ll ask for sample pages, even if we saw 200 queries this week about a vampire thief in a dystopian near future society.

My answer is that there isn’t anything that is an instant turn off.

Evangeline Holland asked:
What I would love to ask an editor? In the crunched market, would some measure of success in the e-publishing or self-publishing market tip the scales towards acquiring the author? What is expected of an author today that a newly published writer of one year ago, two years ago, or even five years ago, wouldn’t have had to deal with or worry about?

For your first question, would some measure of success in e or self-publishing tip the scales? It would really depend on the type of e-publishing. If the author is with an established eHouse in a genre that has had a lot of success with eBooks only, then yes, I can see this being a weighted factor in the author’s favor. However, if the author just self-pubbed and got out a 100 copies to friends and family, probably not going to help.

There have certainly been several publishing stories this year of successful books that had their start in self-pubbed world such as STILL ALICE or THE LACE READER. However, the authors of those books did the whole self-pub thing smartly by hiring an external PR firm that had done a lot of book promotion to get the book in the right hands etc. They hired professional book cover artists and editors for book layout and design. They didn’t just throw it out there “to see what might happen.” The authors had a plan, a budget, and a way to reach people. When they started selling thousands of copies consistently, you bet editors took notice and both titles ended up selling to traditional publishers after the fact.

As for your second Q, an author today is definitely expected to be internet savvy, have a website, and have a sense of social media outlets and how promo is done electronically.

Anonymous asked:
“In general, is the number of male readers declining? What trends do you see among male readers over the next three to five years?”
The answer is yes—although I don’t have any statistics on hand to confirm my yes. I just know I’ve seen articles this past year highlighting that male readership is declining. This is not necessarily true for SF&F readers. That male readership has stayed fairly steady.

As for trends, I see male readers staying tight with their tried and true authors and not exploring much outside of the biggest name sellers unless we give them a reason to. I see young male readers becoming more reluctant to read unless schools loosen up their definition of a book by letting them read graphic novels or other things that catch their interest. Reading—any kind—is good.

Anonymous asked:
Kristin — Kirkus is closing, can you offer any insight into what this means for authors? That Kirkus star review was such a sign of quality, and they often gave stars to books that other reviewers (such as Booklist or VOYA) overlooked. I’m so sad that books will have one less opportunity to shine and gain notice.
Kirkus was a bi-weekly founded in 1933 and has annually published hundreds of thousands of reviews since its inception. This was huge news when it hit the wires. I’m still stunned although not surprised. Lots of publications are discontinuing because of declining subscriptions.

I have to say that Kirkus rarely liked things. It was almost a badge of honor to get a bad Kirkus review asit was expected. But when they did like a book, wow, that Kirkus review would carry some major weight.

Now I’m not sure what will be “the review.” I do think blog reviewers will start becoming more prominent and certain sites will start becoming more and more well known to fill the gap. It’s just too bad Kirkus couldn’t make that transition to that medium (although I’m not sure if they even tried).

Happy Monday Indeed!

STATUS: Holy cow what a morning!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? EVERYTHING SHE WANTS by Wham!

I’m getting no work done because all I’m doing is sitting around and grinning like mad.

Remember back in July when I let y’all in on a little secret about how wonderful my colleague Sara Megibow is?

Well, I’m giddy to report that the baby boy arrived yesterday at 3:25 p.m. on Sunday, November 1, 2009.

Baby Trey is healthy. Sara is doing great. And the new parents are ecstatic and exhausted.

Everything is as it should be!

And if that weren’t news enough, this morning I read about Publishers Weekly choosing SOULLESS as one of their top 100 books for 2009.

And then if that weren’t enough, PW gives PROOF BY SEDUCTION a starred review saying

“Historical romance fans will celebrate Milan’s powerhouse debut, which comes with a full complement of humor, characterization, plot and sheer gutsiness.”

All this and HOTEL being on the NYT trade bestseller list for several weeks now, I honestly don’t know what to do with myself. Work? What’s that?

Happy Monday because I’m sure loving it.

Three Articles Worth Sharing

STATUS: TGIF—even if it’s cold in Denver.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BARE NECESSITIES by Phil Harris

Sorry to interrupt our fun with royalty statements (and don’t worry, I’ll resume on Monday) but I saw these three articles and they definitely are worth sharing.

First article is a follow up to the one on Tuesday about FTC fining of blog reviewers for nondisclosure. Richard Cleland highlights that the FTC doesn’t have the authority to level fines, and he says, “the blogger or endorser would not be fined, but the advertiser would.”

Second is a blog entry on the HuffPo site from Steve Ross (Former President, Collins Division at HarperCollins and Sr. VP, Crown Division at Random House) asking why we can’t all just get along and responds to two recent blog postings by Chip O’Brien and Mark Coker with the following:

“Both blogs are, to this reader, rife with fallacious thinking, faulty reasoning, and/or tunneled perspectives that ignore the complex realities that publishers face during this turning point for the industry. But at a time when it is in the best interests of everyone who loves books to help the major houses endure, they’re being scapegoated, demonized and ridiculed for trying to survive with the crippling business model they’ve been handicapped with for decades.”

Last but not least, FrogDog Media does a children’s iStorytime ap for the iPhone—just in case you want your 3-year old to read instead of playing a video game on your iPhone. Kinda cool. And they are doing all picture books by new writers.

Blog Reviewer? Disclose Or Face Fines. Seriously.

STATUS: My favorite—reviewing 50 pages of legalese in a film option contract. Not. Grin.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I’M GONNA BE (500 MILES) by The Proclaimers

Oh this is rich. This just in from Wired. The FTC is now telling Amateur Bloggers to disclose that they’ve gotten free review copies or ARCs or face fines.

FTC wants tweet disclosures as well.

What a happy can of worms to open. Can you say hard to enforce?