#pitchShredding: My Hour Glass

2012-Jun-27 -> from the perfect-pitches department Tags:

This edition of Pitch Shredding brings us our first look at a book blurb. These are a little different than pitches, in that you are trying to sell the book to a reader rather than an agent or editor. The focus shifts from making them want to request more to getting them to click that buy button or buy the book in the store.

With that knowledge, here is the blurb, as submitted:

My Hour Glass is a selection of verse intertwined with a few very short dark fiction stories suitable in length for the quick read during a coffee break or during the odd moment when you only have a few minutes to spare.

From a British author, this selection covers previously unpublished works, selected and put together for the first time here in 'My Hour Glass'.

This book includes some verse and lyrics - some of which gained him the -UK- Smith Prize in 1972 - created as a teenager.

Since that time the author has written in other genres including non-fiction political history and children's short fiction stories for Kindle, both genres having enjoyed some success in Amazon's bestsellers lists.

Note:

Within this book, the line within the lyric 'IT NEVER RAINS IN KANSAS' - Missile silos into condos - is a reference to these obsolete relics of the Cold War being 'upgraded' into luxury private living accommodation, as already being actioned prior to the time of publication of this first edition.

***

Any resemblance to real events or real people within the short stories, could possibly be purely coincidental, but if you do notice a change in eye colour from blue to red, you are allowed to be a little worried.

There is a lot of talk in this blurb about the author, but not a lot about the actual stories. When writing a blurb, the most important thing to remember is that you are selling the book, not the author. I think it's fabulous that this author has won awards for something in this book, but if we don't know what the stories are about, do we really care?

This blurb poses another problem as well: How do you pitch a book of short stories?

I've seen this done in a number of ways. You could pick one particular story and really focus on that and rely on it to carry the rest of the book. This approach is popular if you have a title story that sets the theme for the rest of the book.

Another approach is writing a very small blurb for a number of the stories in the book. To be successful in this approach, you need to be really good at elevator pitches (which we'll cover with another submission).

The bit at the end, after the *** I think is a bit weird and extraneous. Personally, I would cut that, and use the extra words to focus on the stories.

Discussion

How would you go about pitching a book of short stories?

If an author has awards or accomplishments, do you think this belongs in description or back cover copy?

Do you read the book blurb for books that you're interested in? How much does the book blurb affect your decision to purchase?

Join the discussion in the comments below to help this author improve their pitch, and don't forget to Subscribe by Email so that you don't miss a single installment of Pitch Shredding!

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Thanks for reading!

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Don't forget to join in on the conversation in the comments section below.

7 Comments:


By Amber Bagola on Wed 27 Jun 2012 08:35:03 pm [ Reply ] Personally, I think the examples of /where/ these can be read is unnecessary. They are short stories and verse, stating that indicates, to me, they would be a quick read. If I were looking to buy, and read that I would think, "Duh", and probably move on to the next.

You can pick the title story and work that into the blurb. Make it beefy, really sell it, if you do this. I've bought short story collections that do this.

Another way is to pick a few (three or four-ish) and give a taster/teaser for those. If you do this, and your stories are different enough, you have the potential to pique more people's interest than you would with only one story teaser. I've bought short story collections like this, too.

You can also, if there is enough of a theme, talk about the overall theme and give examples of how each story works into it. This one can turn out badly if not handled carefully, though.

I agree, less about the author, more about the stories. Awards are meaningless to me, as a reader, unless I like the material first. Author bio bits are best for the Author Bio page.

Yes, the last sentence is confusing. If it's referring to something in one of the stories, it doesn't do a good job of making me want to see what it's about. That would be more appropriate for an epilogue or Author's note at the end.

In regards to the last question, OF COURSE! What else can I base my purchase decision on? The blurb/description is everything to me. I don't give a flying crap what the reviews say. I don't care if someone else liked this book, I need to find out if /I/ will like it. I need to get a feel for the subject(s), for the author and how they write.

By Will Belacqua on Wed 27 Jun 2012 09:09:08 pm [ Reply ] All righty... were I to try to pitch a series of short stories, I'd go with discussing two or three of the stories within. Wet the reader's appetite with what sort of stories will be inside, and get them interested in the characters and such. Stephen King does a really good job of this, and I think he's honestly one of the best in the business for short stories. People often like those even more than his actual books.

Awards and such don't really belong in the blurb, in my opinion. I don't care about the awards. I don't even care about the author, unless I've already read something of theirs that I liked. Just tell me about the story. Unless the author is someone I've gotten consistent quality work from, I'm not going to buy the book based on anyone else's opinions or awards won.

Book blurbs are the most important things, right behind covers! (Yes, I judge books by their covers. I have yet to be misguided, or wrong about a book I turned down because of the cover. And I read a LOT.) The only time a book blurb isn't important is if someone lends me the book to read. In a store setting, however, the blurb makes the book.

By Rodney Walther on Wed 27 Jun 2012 10:17:59 pm [ Reply ] The most important thing any writer needs to know is who his/her audience is. In this case, it is the potential reader/customer. The blurb should help answer a reader’s questions such as “What will this story do for me?” The blurb needs to tease but also give necessary clues to the reader (is the writing straightforward or floral? Is the story a thriller or an emotional romance?) The reader wants to be introduced a little to the protagonist and the problems he might face. The blurb must convince the reader that what’s contained inside is not only something worthwhile, but is so important that the reader MUST DROP EVERYTHING and purchase it right now.

This blurb does NONE of that. Not a single thing. Wait, I’ll take that back. The first line *tells* the customer what to expect. However, the reader is not vested in the story(ies) at all.

I do realize this is more of a collection of random stories, verse, etc. than a cohesive piece of novel-length fiction. But the author would be wise to tease the reader with what lies inside. Even something like “With stories that range from a broad comedy involving a talking refrigerator to the poignant reflection of a grandfather facing Alzheimer’s, Mr. Author blah blah . . .” Or “MY HOUR GLASS also includes the award-winning short story WHY THE TOASTER HATES BAGELS, which garnered the Smith Prize in London.”

Put on your reader hat. Do you care (or should you care) about what each sentence tells you? For example, what value (to a reader) is the random fact of the missile silos? Seriously, the writer must weigh the value of every precious word in the blurb.

Another thing. Don’t mention anything that might come off as negative. Let’s take a look at the blurb. “A few stories” means “not that many stories”. “Very dark” means “most people won’t like it”. “Coffee break”, etc. means “this book hardly has any meat to it”. “When you have a spare moment” means “this book is so unimportant that it only exists to kill time”. “1972” means “the listed prize is 40 years old, which can certainly be disregarded because it comes from another generation.” PLEASE NOTE: I’m not saying that *I* have these reactions—I’m saying that potential readers could have those reactions. You must anticipate those reactions.

Hope this helps. Good luck!

By Rodney Walther on Wed 27 Jun 2012 10:24:06 pm [ Reply ] I would encourage the writer to read the blurbs for other short story collections, such as those of Stephen King to see some good examples. Amber and Will have made good suggestions.

By Susan on Wed 27 Jun 2012 10:48:30 pm [ Reply ] I agree, I want to hear about the stories, not the author. And since it sounds like there is more poetry than prose in the book, it might be a good idea to start the blurb with either a short poem, or a few lines from one. If you must mention awards, put them in the about the author section, normally found below the blurb. And the last bit about the silos is really odd.. It feels like something that would belong in the footnote to the poem or in the introduction to the volume, it seems really out of place tacked on to the end of the blurb.

By Gypsy Madden on Thu 28 Jun 2012 11:48:14 am [ Reply ] The entire thing sounds like it belongs in the author bio rather than in the blurb. Like the others, I agree in the blurb I want to know what might be within the short stories and would suggest picking up a couple of collections just to see what goes into their blurbs. (And, yes I do read the blurb before purchasing). I'd suggest maybe 2-3 sentences with each one focusing on a different story (or 2-3 partial sentences hooked together with commas) and any mention of if there's a common theme or thread to hold the stories together. And I would consider removing quite a few of the paragraphs altogether (like the very last paragraph, the next to the last paragraph -don't know why we're getting the reference about the missle silos, the paragraph just above that -in a blurb we really don't need to know about his other works -just what's in this particular one, and the second paragraph -if the author is submitting them to a publisher it should be a given that it's unpublished).

By ian on Thu 28 Jun 2012 12:09:44 pm [ Reply ] Thanks to all the above.
I appreciate the feedback and will take the advice which seems pretty consistent.
Thank you for taking the time to share your views.
Ian.

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