The paragraphs you put on the back cover of your novel are as important to its success as anything else. At its best, that message is the heart, the nut, the essence from which all your promotion grows.
I know more about Ernest Hemingway than Nora Roberts, which is why, when my new novel, The Freight Train of Love, turned out to be a romance with elements of a murder mystery thriller, I recognized I was in deep doo-doo. In the first place, writers and lawyers who hire themselves have fools for clients. No objectivity, you know? But even I could see I had simply wasted that back cover space with a brief excerpt from the book.
Lucky for me, at about this time, my wife, a romance novel reader without parallel, threw Julie Garwood’s Sizzle in my lap. “Not her best,” Lynn advised. “But it hits the marks.”
No way was I going to read the damn thing, but I turned it over and saw there wasn’t an inch of wasted space on the back cover.
Not bad at all. In fact, a powerful sell!
I took a second look at the dishwater blurbs I’d been scribbling on used envelopes and toilet paper and decided to take a few swipes from Garwood. Julie’s pitch starts with a brief, unapologetic blat about her brilliance, followed by an exciting synopsis and a great review quote.
Why had I been so meek about my own show business experience and unique talents? Why hadn’t I thought to personalize my story outline to the reader? Why hadn’t I used a great quote to punctuate my sell?
Here’s the Garwood pitch:
#1 New York Times bestselling author Julie Garwood’s trademark mix of dazzling love stories, unforgettable characters and riveting suspense never fails to keep readers turning the pages late into the night. In red-hot Sizzle, she turns up the heat even higher.
Lyra Prescott, a Los Angeles film student, is closing in on graduation and dives into work on her final filmmaking assignment: a documentary transformed by a twist of fate into a real-life horror film. While working on her project, a rash of mysterious incidents convince Lyra that she’s trapped in a sinister scenario headed for a violent ending. Running scared, she turns to her best friend, Sidney Buchanan, whose connections bring devilishly handsome FBI agent Sam Kincaid into Lyra’s life. As the noose of intrigue tightens, the passion between Lyra and Sam escalates with dangerous intensity. With the rugged FBI agent beside her, Lyra must learn to let down her defenses and follow her heart–even if that leads to deadly peril.
“Sizzle most satisfying… if a book has Julie Garwood’s name on it, it’s guaranteed to be a meticulously written, well thought-out, and thoroughly engaging story.”
Don’t lose sight of the idea, here. We aren’t interested in stealing lines; we want to master a format. And it’s not an engraved-in-stone format, or anything particularly new. It is simply finding the unique few lines, the personal haiku that sells the browsing reader. Here’s a forty year-old blurb from Desmond Lowden’s classic Bellman & True:
Hiller used to have a job in computers and a wife. Now he’s just got a stepson and a drink problem — and he’s running hard.
Coming up behind are the boys from the East End. There’s the Gov’nor, the Peterman, the Stoppo and the Bellman. They want Hiller because he’s got the computer know-how that makes bank jobs extra easy.
AND HE’S OPEN TO PERSUASION–FROM BOOTS AND KNIVES AND FISTS…
“The Bank caper is as cliff-hanging an episode as anybody’s going to read this year.”
– NEW YORK TIMES
“Moving, exciting, affecting. Mr. Lowden has a sharp ear and a keen eye. But best of all he writes with his heart. I sensed that his characters were part of him, to my great profit as a reader.”
– JOHN LE CARRĚ
As for Desmond Lowden’s credentials, they are handled on the first page, where we are assured he has worked as a film technician, teacher, deckhand and screenwriter. There you have the formula: Good Credentials, Tight Synopsis, Glowing Praise.
So, fortified with this new awareness, what is my blurb for The Freight Train of Love like?
It starts by introducing me as an accomplished Hollywood hyphenate who knows from personal experience what he’s writing about. It then synopsizes from the point of view of Clair, the ex-NFL cheerleader who drives the story. And it ends with a quote from an up and coming author, 1st Turning Point’s own Ann Charles:
John Klawitter is an EMMY Award Winner, an EPIC Author Double Winner (2009, for Hollywood Havoc and Tinsel Wilderness), Disney Producer, CBS and NBC TV Special writer and producer, and writer of the highly acclaimed Hollywood Havoc action/suspense novels.
Clair Moore is an ex-NFL cheerleader with a sizzling fastball and a Midas touch with money. She has saved legendary Hollywood writer Jack Larch’s fortune at least a half dozen times. Living in the guest house behind Jack’s Holmby Hills estate that she bought from him, Clare endures the uncertainty that goes along with Jack’s glitzy show business lifestyle. She feels a growing affection for her talented and unpredictable client. But Jack’s personal life is a train wreck of failed relationships and broken marriages. News of his old army friend’s untimely death has Jack reviewing his past and growing closer to Clair. But that same past is now moving in on them with deadly, murderous intent. Clair must learn to believe in her instincts and follow her heart–even though it makes her the new target for murder.
“I stayed up until 2 AM to finish The Freight Train of Love. Damn, that was so good.”
–Ann Charles, Author of Nearly Departed in Deadwood, a Daphne du Maurier Award Winner
Frankly, I’m still a little embarrassed about all the wonderful things I’ve said about myself. But if my Garwood-style blurb sells lots of books, I’m fairly confident I’ll be able to overcome that.
I love hearing from you! Have you been successful or unsuccessful with getting blurbs? Leave a comment and let me know. And don't forget to check out our new book promo specials for December at www.Castelane.com.
John Klawitter is a Hollywood writer, producer and director who writes fiction and non-fiction books. He often adapts his novels to screenplays that he then peddles around town. (So far, a few fat options, but no brass ring.) His novels are based on his years surviving as a creative person in the ad biz and in show biz. It is an interesting life.
He has worked as the Creative Director of Disney Studios in Burbank, and as an independent creative resource for Warner Bros, Universal Studios, Paramount and the Disney Channel, as well as for many indy production companies including Hanna Barbera, Franke Films, Pink Planet Productions, Eyeline Films and Zoiyu Productions. His films and television specials have appeared on NBC, the BBC, and the Disney Channel, and he has written many memorable song lyrics, advertising jingles and television show openings, including “Disney’s Wonderful World”, “Now & Then”, and “The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show”.