Blurb Agony

Have I complained lately about the difficulty of writing a blurb? (Blurb = the tantalizing summary listed on the back of a book.) A blurb and a query letter are practically the same thing (because what works for one usually works for the other one; either way, you’re selling your book to someone), and I’ve done 4 query letters over the past 2 years–plus the current blurb.

Just when I think I’ve grasped it, I look at it and realize that I don’t have it after all. It’s like trying to find the end of a rainbow. Or, like Bigfoot, it is no more than a fleeting glimpse of a large object seen from the corner of the eye.

Here is my blurb as it stands now. As discussed previously, I’m comfortable with it being four paragraphs, because I have a lot of real estate to cover on the back of my book. (Although, don’t worry: I will have a snippet from the book on the back too.)

The Yaechahre are a group of humans who give their blood and their obedience to vampires in exchange for safety and security. And for more than two thousand years, it’s been a peaceful occupation.

When Kalyn Reid comes of age and joins the ranks of the Yaechahre, she has no reason to think that things will be any different for her. In fact, her small group in rural Tennessee is unusually close—much more like an extended family than servants and masters.

But there are rumors of a strange new type of vampire: vampires who can’t tolerate the sunlight; vampires who are killing humans—and each other. When one of them defects to Kalyn’s group, he brings news that the Others are preparing for something… but he doesn’t know what.

Their plan is executed without warning, as people in Kalyn’s group are suddenly kidnapped and murdered. When Kalyn ends up orphaned, she turns to her vampire family to protect her from the Others hunting them down. But in the end, it is they who must rely on her if any of them are to survive.

I’m relatively happy with the first paragraph. The second sentence in the second paragraph is eh, okay. I’m pretty okay with the third paragraph. But I hate everything in the fourth paragraph but the last line.

I kind of look at it this way: general premise of the book, introduction of main character and establishment of calm, peaceful existence, followed by a build up of tension, and concluded with drama and suspense of an unbelievable nature. It’s the last bit I’m not feeling. I just don’t think that last paragraph conveys enough shock, horror, and fear.

I mean, Kalyn’s parents and the leader of her group (who is like a second father to her) all die within one week, and Ciaran, the defector from the Others, is kidnapped. Kalyn, Anselm, and Micah have to go on the run, lest they become the next victims. And just when they think they’ve turned the tide, and they’ve laid an ambush for the murderer, he instead ambushes them. Kidnapped and tortured, Kalyn has to offer herself up as a sacrifice to keep von Gault busy until Anselm and Micah can arrive and rescue them.

I just have to condense that into two or three sentences and use few, if any, names other than Kalyn’s (too many names in a small space confuses people–although Anselm and Micah are secondary only to Kalyn in terms of importance).

All suggestions for revisions considered.

Rejection

File:Emelyn Story Tomba (Cimitero Acattolico Roma).jpgWell, back to the Pit of Literary Despair; my partial was rejected.

I was riding a high for a little while because I was asked for it–and that made it easy to shrug off other rejections of my query letter–but now it’s been rejected, and I think that’s worse than a query letter being rejected. Because if it’s just the letter, you think, “How can a letter of 250 words or less show the awesomeness of my book, the depth of my characters, the suspense of the plot?” But 50 pages? A rejection of my first 50 pages sounds a lot more like the first 50 pages of my book suck.

File:WLA lacma The Death of Lucretia.jpgTo throw myself a bone, I have now seen two agents mention, on their websites, that they only take 1% of all people who query them. Those are the odds I’m playing every time I send out a letter: am I going to be the lucky one out of a hundred?

I have exhausted my second list of agents, which means I need to find another list. 44 query letters out, and it’s coming up on a year (Sept 8th).

File:Herbert James Draper, Ariadne.jpgGetting published is harder than writing a novel. And it’s taking longer.

 

 

Score!

I have been sending out queries again (total count so far is 41) and this morning someone asked for my synopsis and 50 pages!

Speaking of which, I joined AgentQuery Connect yesterday (it’s a free forum for writers) and read that a general rule of thumb is that your query letter should generate a 10-20% positive response. In other words, of all the agents you query, 10-20% of them should ask for more material. If you’re not getting that (and I wasn’t getting anywhere close to that before), your query letter is probably the problem.

Query Letter, Version 4

After helping other people with their query letters (which is, amazingly, easier than working on my own), and getting help specifically with mine, I’ve produced yet another version of my query letter. And I feel much better about this one than the previous three incarnations.

Query: Urban Fantasy Novel

Dear ___________:

Kalyn Reid is a different kind of debutante. On her sixteenth birthday she is publicly presented to her family, friends and neighbors as an adult, and is given a pearl necklace to mark the occasion. Then she is bitten by a vampire.

Thus Kalyn enters adulthood as a Yaechahre—a group of humans who have served vampires for over 2,500 years. In the days following her Acceptance, Kalyn thinks her only problem in life is how to maintain her dignity around her vampire mentor, Anselm. She has a desperate crush on him, which often leaves her bumbling like a fool. He sweetly smoothes over the awkward moments, but makes it clear that things are “just business” between them.  

But in the blink of an eye, Kalyn’s entire world is engulfed in flames as her father, mother, and group leader die in rapid succession—murdered by a strange new breed of vampire. She, Anselm, and his brother, Micah, suddenly become involved in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse as they try to find the murderer before he finds them.

Thrown together in a desperate struggle for survival, Anselm’s resolve to keep business separate from pleasure begins to crumble, and Kalyn finds herself closer than ever to realizing her dreams. But as she watches him execute their enemies with medieval ruthlessness, she finds herself asking, “Do I really want him?”

Per the submission guidelines on your website, the first two pages of my novel are below, along with the full synopsis.

Thank you for your consideration. 

Keri Peardon
[contact info]
https://keripeardon.wordpress.com/

 Now, back to the grind of sending out queries. I won’t be doing bad until I have 30 more rejections under my belt.

Inspiration to Persevere

This is an article about the author of The Help (admittedly, I’ve never heard of it, but I’m not the type to read most bestsellers). She describes the exact same thing I’m going through right now: the high of finishing a book, the high of sending out a query, the high of getting your first rejection, the high of getting a request for more materials, and then the crash when you count up 30 rejections/no-replies and there’s no happy ending in sight. It’s a tough row to hoe.

But seeing someone who not only succeeded after a protracted battle, but has become a bestseller, with a movie on the way (what I dream about!), it renews my dedication to work on getting my book published. Sometimes, when you hear that someone really successful–like J. K. Rowling–got 12 rejections, you aim to send out 13 query letters. When all of them flop, though, you feel disappointed. Then you may find out that some other famous author got 24, and you recommit to sending out more letters. When rejection number 25 comes along, you’re in the dumps again. This time is no different, but now I have 60 to aim for. I’m halfway there!

I am back to rewriting my query letter again. I’m still convinced this is my Achilles’ Heel, because I can’t seem to describe my book or characters without people asking to read my book. But to describe it that way in 250 words or less? I’m at a loss. If you haven’t yet noticed by my posts, I don’t do short when it comes to writing. (Twitter is right out.) So I’m over on the NaNoWriMo Forums, getting a critique.

Another Agent List

Fantasy Agents List (Even if you don’t write fantasy–or fiction–there is a drop-down box that allows you to choose a genre and find agents in your specialty.)

This site was recommended by some folks on Absolutewrite.com. I already see some agents I have applied to (using a paid listing service; this one is free!), but there are also some I’ve missed. (This is when my Excel spreadsheet comes in handy; since I kept track of everything I sent out previously, I don’t have to worry about duplicating.) I did four queries today!

This literary agent has an interesting list of novel prompts. You can sign up to their Twitter feed to get them regularly, or look through them on this page. These are great to use if you are stuck in your novel and you need inspiration.

I just ordered my third proof copy of my book. My husband and I are going to look through it one last time for grammatical errors and he’s going to double-check my gun usage for accuracy. Then I’m going to see if a friend will read it and help me with my synopsis before I start querying publishers. I’m still worried that my synopsis sounds much more boring than my book. I think, though, that my query (which is what most agents want instead) is good.

In a completely unrelated segment:

Breathtaking Photos of Spectacular Places on Earth – This website has some wonderful landscapes. I saved them to my work computer to use as desktop backgrounds.

Requested Materials SENT

I mailed the requested materials to the agent today! I took a picture of the package with my cell phone, but unfortunately I don’t seem to have the ability to e-mail it to myself; I can only send it to other phones.

This is a list I made on a previous post. I am one more milestone further along the road!

Milestones of Writing

1) Having an idea/telling everyone you want to be a writer.
            Participants: Damn near everyone in the Western World

2) Writing something.
            Participants: A quarter of damn near everyone in the Western World.

3) Finishing a novel.
            Participants: Several hundred thousand people.

4) Actually querying agents/publishers.
            Participants: A few hundred thousand people.

5) Getting a rejection letter.
            Participants: Everyone who did Milestone #4.

6) Getting a request for a partial or full manuscript.
            Participants: A hundred thousand people.

7) Get an offer from an agent.
            Participants: Less than a hundred thousand people.

8) Get published.
            Participants: A few thousand less than in #7.

*Statistics are for illustrative purposes only and are not meant to be wholly accurate.

I was on #5. Now I’m up to #6. Come on #8!