Pub Rants

Category: queries

Research Is Free

STATUS: I can’t believe it is already 5 o’clock. Do you ever have those days where you start working and then realize you’ve missed lunch by a long shot? Sigh. All good stuff though.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? EAT FOR TWO by 10,000 Maniacs

Here’s an axiom to live by. Don’t pay a service to do your agent research when you can find out most of that information for free just by spending some time on the internet.

Or at the very least, pay the $20 fee for one month’s subscription to Publishers Marketplace and truly get the insider scoop on what is selling, by whom, to whom, and generally for how much. It will only cost you twenty bucks and you can rest assured that the info is fairly accurate (or close enough for your purposes).

Here’s why I feel like ranting. There is a research service out there that prides itself on offering accurate reports that they will then share with paying customers. Now I like the entrepreneurial spirit and pretty much commend that in anyone but according to this company representative, they will only accept/verify information by talking with the agent directly.

In a way, that makes sense. After all, the source would know the best but I don’t think that’s the ONLY way to gather accurate information—especially when the conversations go along like this.

First Call from Research Service
This was actually several years ago but it stands out clearly in my mind and here’s why. The owner of this business rang up to tell me about the company and then to ask me about my current client list. All information I’m happy to share.

Until he asked me when Diana Gabaldon had left my agency.


I know this will come as a big shock to my blog readers but I’m not, and have never been, the agent for Diana Gabaldon. I do have delusions of grandeur but I don’t ever ask anyone but Chutney to share in them.

Not to mention, Diana’s agent is a guy—and she’s been with him for years and years—long before I was even agenting. Makes you wonder to whom the thought he was talking.

That’s okay. Mistakes happen. When I asked to see my report and to verify the information contained therein, I was told that was not company policy. So, what I’m saying is that my report from this service might say that Diana is a former client of mine. Goodness, I hope not.

Second call
This happened a year or so later. Same person called to get information about my current sales. Most of which is public knowledge on my website and on Publishers Marketplace—the general info anyway.

For this call, this person insisted that I reveal the dollar amounts associated with my deals. A little surprised, I said I couldn’t divulge that info—that it was confidential (except in the general terms outlined in deal lunch and approved by the author before announcing). I was then subjected to tirade about how all the other agencies share that info (which I rather doubt but whatever). I politely suggested that he simply contact those authors and ask them about the deal as it is their info to share as they please.

I was hung up on.

Third Call
Happened quite recently. This time the call came in on a Saturday. I wasn’t at the office. What in the world would I’d be doing at the office on a Saturday (besides doing my accounting upgrade but we won’t go there). If this person would like to speak to me, why not call during business hours when I’m actually around?

To this day, I have no idea what my agency report from this service looks like. Let’s hope it’s accurate but I’m not feeling overly confident about it. This leads me back to my original point.

Why pay for something that you can find out for yourself, fairly accurately, and in most instances, for free?

Got Trilogy?

STATUS: Note to self: don’t eat wasabi peas until your lips start burning.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SUBTERRANEAN HOMESICK BLUES by Bob Dylan

I haven’t dispensed any query letter words of wisdom lately so I’ll toss this one out there. Lots of writers are writing trilogies. Excellent. I have great admiration for those of you with a big enough vision and an outlined game plan to see the full story unfold over 900 potential pages and in three books (seriously, I’m in awe.)

But here’s what you need to focus on in your query letter: book one of the trilogy. If you can’t get an agent interested in this book, it’s rather a moot point that you have two sequels if you get my meaning.

So in your query, focus your pitching on that first book. If you want to mention in your query letter wrap-up paragraph that you envision this as a first book in a trilogy, no worries. Mention it but that’s it. No plot summaries for book 2 and 3.

Sell me on book 1; then we can talk.

My 8 New Clients And Where They Came From

STATUS: Oh baby. Ally Carter is still on! This week, CROSS MY HEART AND HOPE TO SPY is at #5 on the New York Times hardcover list and I’D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I’D HAVE TO KILL YOU is #2 on the NYT paperback list. Do I see #1 in our future? I’m praying for it!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU GOT LUCKY by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

I’m really starting this year on a roll. I just took on a new client today. With that in mind, it occurred to me that I didn’t really explain how I found the 8 new clients from last year and that info might make for an interesting blog. Or not. Let me know.

If the client has already sold, I used his/her name.

Brooke Taylor—young adult
Brooke is an interesting story. I actually met her in person at an RWA chapter conference a year before she queried me with her novel UNDONE. She knew a couple of my authors and had mentioned that info as well as our previous meeting in her query letter. That certainly made me pay more attention to it when it came in.

Sarah Rees Brennan—young adult fantasy
Sarah simply sent a query letter by email—going through our standard email query submission process.

Jamie Ford—literary fiction
Jamie did the same.
Helen Stringer—middle grade fantasy
Helen came to me via an agent friend recommendation. My agent friend doesn’t rep middle-grade so she asked me if she could send this author my way. So glad she did!

Client 5—young adult
This client is a currently published author who had left her previous agent. She knew several of my clients and asked if they would give me a heads up that she would query me about new representation.

Client 6—young adult fantasy
I met this client at the Surrey International Writers Conference in Vancouver, B.C. She had a pitch appointment with me. I loved her title right off so was eager to see sample pages just based on that. She didn’t disappoint!

Client 7—young adult
This client was a direct referral from one of my current clients. She is previously published in the adult world but her agent didn’t want to handle children’s on her behalf so I took her on.

Client 8—women’s fiction
This client was also a direct referral from one of my current clients.

I’m so glad my clients know really great authors who are looking for representation. It certainly helps to have that referral to help you get the agent’s attention, but it’s not the only way. A really good or intriguing query letter or pitch can do the trick as well.

Editor Letter for HOUSE OF MISTS

STATUS: I have two more things that absolutely positively must be accomplished today and if I succeed, that will make my day.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? RUDOLPH THE RED NOSED REINDEER by Smithereens

Helen actually came my why via a referral from an agent friend who doesn’t handle middle grade projects so alas, I have no query letter to share with you.

However, I can share my letter to Jean Feiwel who bought the project. In an interesting tidbit because it seems to be the way of things for me lately, I didn’t know Jean before I submitted this book to her. I had to ring her up to introduce myself.

I’m making a habit of this in the children’s realm! My last three children’s sales were literally to editors I was meeting for the very first time. Makes me wonder what I’m going to do when I finally know every children’s editor out there.

Hello Jean,

This is what I love about this novel. First, I think it’s really hard to capture the thoughts and talk of 12-years olds so that it sounds authentic (without adult intrusion). My author Helen Stringer is a master of getting that element just right. I also love this novel because Helen manages to poke fun at many stereotypical middle grade fantasy archetypes while telling a really good story where those ingenious pokes work perfectly (when you hit the scene with the Oracle, you’ll know exactly what I mean). And lastly, I can’t believe I’m representing a children’s fantasy story with a portal (something I swore I would never do) but alas, here I am with the HOUSE OF MISTS with a perfectly clever portal.

So what is this fantasy all about? Belladonna Johnson is a survivor of a Tragic Event. Since the accident, the outside world believes her to live with her grandmother but in truth, Belladonna lives with the ghosts of her parents in their house on Lychgate Lane in the north of England, just like they have for all twelve years of her life. According to her mother, all the folks from the Nightshade side of the family can see ghosts. It’s just something Belladonna has inherited—the way that some people have red hair. If given a choice, Belladonna would have preferred the red hair but mostly, she’s just happy to have her parents at all—even in their slightly translucent form.

Life goes on much as it always has for Belladonna until one night, while watching the night-time soap opera Staunchly Springs, the ghosts of her parents mysteriously disappear leaving Belladonna alone on Lychgate Lane with only a warning that “all the doors are closing.” But it’s not just her parents but all ghosts who are disappearing. It’s up to Belladonna and the slightly rumpled, always-in-trouble classmate Steve Evans, along with the ghostly Elsie, victim of a freak tennis accident in 1912, to find out why. If they can’t, Belladonna might just lose her parents again—only this time, it will be forever.

The author, Helen Stringer, grew up in Liverpool, England and currently lives in Los Angeles where she works for an entertainment law firm. Here in the U.S. she studied film, winning several student film awards, including a student Emmy and the National Federation of Local Cable Programmers award for Best Entertainment Program for a Western version of A Christmas Carol, called A Fistful of Holly (subsequently bought by CBS), and was a Directing Fellow at the American Film Institute Center for Advanced Film and Television Studies. She also worked as Director of Development for a Los Angeles television production company. Outside of film, she has written for the food section of the Los Angeles Times and Victoria magazine and founded and edited the eclectic web magazine The Mediadrome.

I’m very excited to share my very first middle grade project with you. Enjoy!

All Best,

Blog Pitch Workshop (Part XI)

STATUS: TGIF! And I have some major client reading that I need to accomplish this weekend.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HEAVEN by Los Lonely Boys

Time for Fantasy. I don’t think I’m going to tackle an epic one today. It’s Friday after all and my brain likes to shut down for the weekend right about now.

But here’s a good example from a novel that I happen to like from fantasy master Lois McMaster Bujold.

The half-mad Prince Boleso has been slain by a noblewoman he had intended to defile — and Lord Ingrey kin Wilfcliff must transport the body to its burial place and the accused killer, the Lady Ijada, to judgment. With the death of the old Hallow King imminent and the crown in play, the road they must travel together is a dangerous one. And though he is duty-bound to deliver his prisoner to an almost certain death, Ijada may be the only one Ingrey dares trust. For a monstrous malevolence holds the haunted lord in its sway — and a great and terrible destiny has been bestowed upon him by the gods, the damned, and the dead.

Now let’s analyze:

1. The back cover copy is five sentences.

2. The first sentence is exactly what sets the story in motion. A bad dude was killed by a Lady and now she must be transported to face her jugdment.

3. The next sentence gives us the slightly broader picture. A King is about to die and who will inherit is in question. Why that makes the road a dangerous one isn’t that clear but heck, not everything needs to be spelled out. I wouldn’t have minded a bit more info though.

4. With the next sentence, we learn that our hero has got a problem. He has to take the prisoner to her death but she is also the only person he can trust. What comes next pretty much hints at why. Lord Ingrey is possessed by something evil (got have that in fantasy) and that of course has to tie in to some greater destiny.

The last bit taps into the more generic elements of fantasy (I must admit) but the first part is what made me buy this book when I was at Archon in St. Louis and just browsing the bookseller stall.

One thing I do want to point out is that this book is the third in a connected series (The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of souls) by McMaster Bujold so the publisher doesn’t have to work as hard on the cover copy because there are already fans for this author.

If you are writing a debut fantasy, you don’t have that luxury. You have to work harder on your pitch than what the back cover copy does for an established writer.

I do hope that makes sense because I’m done for the day. Have a good weekend.

Blog Pitch Workshop (Part X)

STATUS: I’m having a good week. Working hard. Getting stuff done. No fires that need to be doused. This is so not normal that I’m just enjoying it.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? MY GIRL BACK HOME by John Kerr (South Pacific soundtrack)

Okay. We got a request for a romantic suspense blurb analysis. Piece o’ cake. Let’s take a look at Allison Brennan’s THE PREY—her debut romantic suspense that landed her pretty quickly on the New York Times Bestseller list.

THE PREY by Allison Brennan
Rowan Smith is living in a borrowed Malibu beach house while her bestselling novel is made into a Hollywood movie. A former FBI agent with a haunted past, Rowan thinks she has outrun her demons. But fiction and reality collide when a dismembered body is found in Colorado: the real-life victim had the same name, occupation, and looks as a character in Rowan’s novel. By the time the FBI, the LAPD, and her own private bodyguard gather around her, another person is killed—again, the murder ripped from the pages of Rowan’s book.

In the company of a former Delta Force officer with secrets of his own, Rowan faces an excruciating dilemma: the only way to chase down the tormenting killer is by revisiting the darkness of her past—and by praying for some way out again.

Now let’s analyze:

1. This back cover copy is 5 sentences. This is the shortest I think we’ve seen in all my workshops. Another powerful example that a writer can be concise and still write good pitch.

2. The first sentence sets the scene. Simple. Useful. Gives us a framework.

3. In the second sentence, we are introduced to the main heroine. Interesting background since she is a former FBI agent and obviously has a few skeletons in her closet. No need to reveal what as that will become clear as we read.

4. The next sentence is her hook—it’s what makes this romantic suspense different from the myriad of RS novels already out there, and it’s quite original to boot. I get chills just reading it.

5. The final sentence of this paragraph ups the ante. The killer has a pattern and Rowan is definitely linked to it.

6. The next paragraph is the final sentence of the cover copy. It introduces the hero (however briefly) and that’s fine because the focus needs to be on the suspense. We also get a little teaser for what is at stake for the heroine. She has to face something dark (probably ugly) in her past to stop the killer.

Romantic suspense is pretty straight forward. All of them will have similar elements but what makes this one stand out is #4 in this analysis—her high concept element. It’s original.

Most of the time I receive queries where the heroine is being stalked or her life is in danger (of course!) and then the hero character has to save her. Seriously, most of what we receive is that generic in the pitch. There’s no spotlight on the original vehicle for the shaping of the story. In this example, the original concept is the former FBI writer who is being stalked by a killer who reads and models his crimes after her novels.


We want that original hook so we’ll ask for sample pages for your romantic suspense. Tomorrow I’ll take a stab at fantasy.

Blog Pitch Workshop (IX)

STATUS: Working. Pretty much a normal day. I’m doing a submission tomorrow so I’m pretty excited about that.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HEY JEALOUSY by Gin Blossoms

I promised you a contemporary romance today before moving on. I might have to take a little break from all this analyzing as well. We’ll see. Part of me thinks the point should be pretty clear regardless of the genre you are writing but maybe I’m wrong. Let me know in the comments section if you’re dying for me to tackle a certain type of fiction that I haven’t yet.

As you can see so far, there are many different strategies for writing good pitch copy. You just have to choose what will work best for your story but for the most part, simply focusing on the catalyst event in the first 30 pages or so will get the job done.

In fact, I just put that into practice for tomorrow’s submission. Sure enough, I focused on a situation and event that starts the novel. After the sale, I’ll share that one but I can’t at the moment. So on to contemporary romance. One of my favorite writers is one of my own authors, Jana DeLeon. I think the back cove copy for RUMBLE ON THE BAYOU is just about perfect.

In fact, the copy editor “borrowed” a lot of the verbiage that was in my editor pitch letter, which is great. The copy editor also made it better which reminded me that I could use some work on my own pitches. We can always improve—even agents.

Deputy Dorie Berenger knew it was going to be a rough day when the alligator she found in the town drunk’s swimming pool turned out to be stoned. On heroin. Now she has some big-shot city slicker from the DEA trying to take over her turf. And Agent Richard Starke is everything she’d feared—brash, demanding and way too handsome for his own good. Or hers.

The folks of Gator Bait, Louisiana, may know everything about each other, but they’re sure not going to share it with an outsider. Richard wouldn’t be able to catch a catfish, much less a drug smuggler, without Dorie’s help. But some secrets—and some desires—are buried so deep that bringing them to the surface will take a major

Now let’s analyze:
1. This back cover copy is 8 sentences. Hopefully I’ve driven home the point that pitches needn’t be lengthy to get the job done. Writers who can’t get their query letter to one page aren’t working hard enough.

2. It’s a terrific opening sentence. If this line doesn’t capture your interest, I’m not sure what will. The image of a stoned alligator in the town drunk’s swimming pool sets a vivid scene. This is a Louisiana-set novel and they do things different down there—but not this different. Love it. Any pitch that started with that opening line is going to get a request for sample pages from me. Now, before everyone starts adding that to their opening pitch, it has to be true in the actual story you are writing and honestly, how many stoned alligators can we have. Jana’s already done it. It’s not original anymore.

3. The opening sentence also tells us why a DEA agent is coming to town—which is going to be a source of conflict for our deputy heroine. We know this because the story is a romance but also because of the word choices used. “Her turf” for example. We know he’s “brash and demanding.” We also know what hasn’t been said which is that Agent Richard Starke probably thinks this is a Podunk town with residents who are lacking in IQ.

4. The start of the next paragraph gives us the low-down on how small towns operate. They are close-knit and closed mouth because they understand what Richard is thinking about them. Dorie, however, is the insider. He needs her to catch the drug smuggler.

5. The last line ties into the title (which is clever) and gives a hint of some of the things that will unfold. All small towns have secrets. Most aren’t worth knowing but this one will cause a rumble. Nice tie-in!

Blog Pitch Workshop (VIII)

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.

Blog Pitch Workshop (VII)

STATUS: TGIF! I’m close to wrapping up three different contracts today. That’s some good work.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CRUSH WITH EYELINER by R.E.M

Today will be a huge departure from Wednesday’s workshop. Writing romance couldn’t be more opposite to horror if you tried. Seemed like a perfect place to go next!

Romance, for me, is another really tough genre to pitch because basically there are no new stories under the sun nor is the ending in question.

So when writing romance pitch copy, the real focus needs to be on the elements that make this romance original. Hard to do since all romances have a hero, a heroine, a conflict that impedes the romance and of course, a happy ending.

There might not be any new stories under the sun but there are certainly new ways to tell them! Your pitch blurb becomes your tool to show an agent that you have an original new way of telling a romance.

One of my favorite writers for her originality is Julia Quinn and Romancing Mister Bridgerton might be one of my all-time favorite historicals.

From the back cover copy:
Penelope Featherington has secretly adored her best friend’s brother for . . . well, it feels like forever. After half a lifetime of watching Colin Bridgerton from afar, she thinks she knows everything about him, until she stumbles across his deepest secret . . . and fears she doesn’t know him at all.

Colin Bridgerton is tired of being thought nothing but an empty-headed charmer, tired of everyone’s preoccupation with the notorious gossip columnist Lady Whistledown, who can’t seem to publish an edition without mentioning him in the first paragraph. But when Colin returns to London from a trip abroad, he discovers nothing in his life is quite the same—especially Penelope Featherington! The girl haunting his dreams. But when he discovers that Penelope has secrets of her own, this elusive bachelor must decide . . . is she his biggest threat—or his promise of a happy ending?

Now Let’s analyze:

1. This copy is six sentences.

2. This blurb is also unique in that it’s the first cover copy we’ve examined where the focus is on the characters rather than the plot and for this to work, we really need to see something original in the character outlines given. What catches my eye for this novel is the fact that Penelope has had a long-time crush on the hero. (I’ve seen this many times since reading this novel but several years ago, it wasn’t as common a construct.) I also like the focus on Colin and his wanting to be viewed as something more than your average charmer. It hints at some interesting character exploration (which actually does occur in the novel).

3. The only plot elements even hinted at are the secrets and his exasperation with lady Whistledown. If you’ve read this novel, the importance of that is going to take center stage but not much is actually revealed in the copy.

4. Why is that? Well, part of the reason might be that this is book four in the Bridgerton family series and there might be an assumption that the reader might already know the family and the basic romance constructs Ms. Quinn utilizes. I point this out so you can keep it in mind when writing romance copy for your first novel. You need to do more rather than less to make your romance pitch stand out.

To often I see historical romance pitch copy that reads something like this: she’s desperate but the belle of the ball and he’s a rake. It’s too generic. I need some original element (character, plot device, etc.) to grab my interest or I’ll pass.

Blog Pitch Workshop (Part VI)

STATUS: Happy Halloween! I try not to frighten people by going out in costume so maybe I’ll be an Evil Editor for Halloween…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? THRILL ME by Simply Red

In honor of Halloween, of course we have to look at the horror genre today and I’ve got two tasty morsels for you from Horror Writers of America Grand Master Ray Garton and then another Halloween treat from Brian Keene.

To most people it’s just a large house, old and a bit run-down. To the Kellar family it’s a new start, a chance to wipe out the painful past and begin again. But soon it will become a living nightmare. The terrors begin before the Kellars have even finished unpacking. They hear things, see things, shadowy glimpses into the impossible, things that are there—and then gone.

Who are the mysterious children playing on the rusty, vine-covered swing set in the backyard? Who is the figure sitting in the dark corner of the bedroom at night? Who –or what– waits in the basement? They are the dead and they cannot rest. Horror stalks the halls of the Kellar house. And the secrets of the past are reaching from beyond the grave to destroy the living.

Now let’s analyze:
1. The back cover copy is 11 sentences and unlike any of the author works we’ve analyzed so far, this copy is mostly comprised of short, punchy sentences. Interesting.

2. The first two sentences fill in the back story for the reader and allow us to know that the Kellar family are looking for peace but are going to get anything but. (I mean, this is horror after all).

3. So the rest of the cover copy pretty much sums up what will be strange about the new house. The end sentence hints that it’s not just a ghost story but that something darker is at stake.

4. For me, the cover copy misses a bit (and perhaps feels too generic)—especially when I see the Publishers Weekly review that reads: “In this ironically titled shocker from horror maestro Garton, the dead, who are pretty ugly, make life a hell for the living. Jenna and David Kellar, after a series of personal tragedies, the worst of which is the inexplicable death of their four-year-old son, Josh, hope to make a new start at the old family homestead they’ve inherited just outside Eureka, Calif., with their surviving son, Miles. Instead, they discover a nightmare. Ghostly children cavort mysteriously on the backyard swings and vanish at will. Tantalizingly, cruelly, one resembles Josh.”

Wow. That last sentence of the review tantalizes. One of the ghost children looks like their dead son? Now I’m interested. I’m not sure why the cover copy that’s actually on the back cover of the book doesn’t capitalize on that juicy tidbit.

What I’m pointing out is that cover copy isn’t always perfect and cover copy editors get paid to write enticing blurbs to draw readers in! Writing good pitch copy is hard.

TERMINAL by Brian Keene
From award-winning author Brian Keene comes a darkly suspenseful tale of crime and the common man-with a surprising jolt of the supernatural. . . Tommy O’Brien once hoped to leave his run-down industrial hometown. But marriage and fatherhood have kept him running in place, working a job that doesn’t even pay the bills. And now he seems fated to stay for the rest of his life. Tommy’s just learned he’s going to die young-and soon. But he refuses to leave his family with less than nothing-especially now that he has nothing to lose.Over a couple of beers with his best friends, John and Sherm, Tommy launches a bold scheme to provide for his family’s future. And though his plan will spin shockingly out of control, it will throw him together with a child whose touch can heal-and whose ultimate lesson is that there are far worse things than dying.

Now let’s analyze:
1. This back cover copy is 8 sentences. I see some similarities to the Garton copy with the shorter, punchier sentences. I think this copy does a better job of introducing more information in a short amount of space.

2. The opening line is from the publisher. Writers can’t use that but you could start your query pitch with “my novel is a darkly suspenseful tale of crime and the common man-with a surprising jolt of the supernatural.” Or wrap the pitch with that line.

3. The second paragraph gives us a character sketch of Tommy’s life because this is essential to understanding his motivation for the plot twist that will be revealed at the end of the second paragraph and into the third. The first couple of sentences set up his desperation so when he learns he’s going to die, we know that might lead to choices that will cause trouble. (This is horror after all and we need to have a sense of the horror element before we close this back cover copy).

4. This comes in paragraph three. I wouldn’t have minded an escalation of the tension by allowing the reader a little hint of the plan that will spin out of control (so that’s my suggestion for this copy). The last line throws in a whole new element that’s pretty intriguing but once again, I wouldn’t mind a little more hint as to what might be “far worse things than dying.”
In just these two examples, I’d have to say that horror back cover copy might be the toughest to write. You can’t give away the surprise so what’s enough? Too much? Or not enough? All good questions that if you write in this genre, you need to be asking yourself.