You’ve polished your 500 word synopsis, carefully noting word count, genre and main characters. You’ve hit on major plot points and summarized the entire story line. What now? Query, Blurb and Pitch writing awaits you.
Writing Tip for Today: If you plan to agent shop, you’ll need a few more tools, including a solid query and book blurb/pitch. Here are some ideas:
Using the Formula
Nathan Bransford’s handy query formula helps us in at least three ways. We can use it to construct a query letter of course. But beyond that, use the part that describes your story as an exercise to fashion that one sentence summation of twenty-five words or so.
This boilerplate technique strips away all but the essence of your novel. Yes, it’s a formula, but if you’re having trouble briefly stating what your novel is about, you can use it as a springboard to understand what you’ve written.
With the formula, you can articulate your story in simple, short terms. Agents and editors alike appreciate a writer who knows the material well enough to boil it down to a tag line.
A Killer Query
Synopses strike fear into writers’ hearts, but so do query letters. A query letter is a sales tool that writers use to gain the attention of an editor or agent. Sites such as Query Shark critique queries for review but this site has the reputation that “shark” implies—that your effort will be dismembered for all to see. If you’re brave enough, go for it.
No matter what, write your query to elicit emotion. You can list your novel’s events and characters all day long, but if your info doesn’t move emotions, it’ll be a hard sell. Use your one sentence to lay down the basics, but then think about your character’s desperate wants. What’s driving that character? Incorporate this desperation in raw, emotional terms.
I think some writers go too far in trying to perfect their queries. Yes, you only have one page to convince the agent to request your material, but if you take the advice to bring out the emotional stakes of your story, many an agent would overlook a few minor flaws. Just be sure to spell out the agent’s name correctly and don’t send mass queries to Agent or Dear Sirs—that sort of sloppiness is usually a death knell.
The Virtual Pitcher
In this pandemic year, writers’ conferences are either cancelled or online. If you intend to pitch your book to an agent, you can take advantage of your formula to craft a book blurb. A blurb differs from a synopsis or a query—it’s about 100-150 words that you’d see on the back of the book, enticing you to buy it.
Use the story line from your formula, but don’t stop there. Several techniques can elevate your online or emailed pitch. A popular way of creating a clear picture of a novel is with “mash-ups.” You choose two movies or books that best describe your story and pair them. Maybe your story is like “Cinderella meets Star Wars.” Try it until you find the two works closest to what you’re trying to say in your novel.
Another way to create a blurb is to study not only actual book blurbs (in your genre, of course!) but also tag lines for movies. There really are only a few stories that we refresh time and again with new characters and different particulars. Most involve a search for love, acceptance, forgiveness or to stop a catastrophe or avenge a wrong. Locate one of these “universal truths,” and your blurb will resonate in a more compelling way.