Posted On July 15, 2015 by Print This Post

Authors in Elevators: Writing Your Blurb with Kayelle Allen

Are you getting ready to head to the RWA conference? If so, Kayelle Allen’s post could help you present your book in the best light possible – while in the elevator!

kayelleallen150x200Let’s say you’re attending a writer’s conference, and you’re scheduled to pitch to an agent whom you’ve been dying to meet. You check in, head down to the lobby, and who gets on with you but that very agent. She sees your name tag, and says, “Oh, I’m supposed to see you tomorrow,” and introduces herself. Then she says, “Tell me about your book.” Your heart is slamming against your rib cage like a prizefighter, your mouth is dry, and your brain is numb. You’re afraid to even try to speak. What do you do?

Don’t think that could happen? How about this? You get into the same elevator, and a sweet older gentleman asks you if you’re an author like the others he’s seen at the hotel. You say yes, and he asks what you write. Later you find out he’s a big name producer from Hollywood. Did you dazzle him with a concise presentation, or blow him off? Did you make a solid business impression, or come across like an amateur? Perhaps his wife buys a few hundred books a year and he’d love to give her your business card and tell her she can come meet you at the signing later in the hotel.

You never know who you might be talking to, so it’s a good idea to be ready to share your story world with anyone who asks.

In the time it takes to pop into an elevator, ride a couple of floors, and get off, you should be able to explain the concept of your book. A book blurb does that for you. Here’s how to make it work.

Reduce to the Basics

What goes in a blurb? There are several things to include.

  • The protagonist name
  • What the protagonist is or does (ex-soldier, teenager, cop)
  • An incident (a new war, the world is in danger, a crime is committed)
  • The protagonist takes action to meet a related goal (prevent the war, save the world, solve the crime)

Here it is stated a different way. Fill in the blanks:

(protagonist’s name) is a (description of protagonist) But when (incident) happens, (protagonist name) must (name an action) in order to (state the goal).

I used this format for my pair of upcoming books. Each begins with the protagonist, touches on a description of what they are, something that happens, and what they must do. In the first blurb, I chose the hero. In the second, it was the heroine.

At the Mercy of Her Pleasure

Tarthian Empire CompanionProfessional thief Senth Antonello is hired to retrieve a stolen prototype for which the imperial armada has already killed twice. When Senth’s brother is kidnapped to ensure the device is surrendered, Senth must rescue his brother, outsmart the armada, and keep the item out of imperial hands. All doable, except for one small problem. Senth must accomplish it in the company of a genetically altered woman whose pheromones could enhance the mission or crumble it into dust with a single siren kiss.

For Women Only

When Kin Ambassador Mehfawni visits the capitol planet of the Tarthian Empire, she meets the human Khyff, a security expert with the company For Women Only. Fawni expects a fling, but finds love. Upon discovering her own people devastated Khyff’s family, she longs to restore all he lost, but some tragedies can never be reversed. Her family demands she cast out the human, for if she keeps Khyff, she must deny her heritage and abdicate her future rule. When Fawni searches for an alternative, she stumbles upon Khyff’s darkest secret, a cover-up that if exposed, will betray her world to its enemies, and bare her family to open shame. But how can she leave him to suffer in the darkness that binds his heart?

No Dumb Questions

This brings me to another important aspect of blurb writing. Never ask a question the reader can answer without reading your book. Don’t ask if the couple can find happiness, overcome odds, or work their way through trials. If it’s a romance, a happy-ever-after is a given. Instead, ask leading questions that do not have yes or no answers. Here are some examples, with rewrites to show how to make them better.

WEAK: Can John and Mary overcome their differences and find true love?

BETTER: To find true love, how can John and Mary overcome the differences that have separated them for a lifetime?

WEAK: Will the love of a good man heal Mary’s broken heart?

BETTER: The love of a good man could heal Mary’s broken heart, but first she has to decide which of the three men courting her that is. What’s a woman to do?

WEAK: Can Mary find love, or has she given up on being happy ever again?

BETTER: Mary had given up on being happy ever again, until she found John. Now if only she can make him believe her love is real before it’s too late.

You don’t have to ask a question, but you do have to make the reader want to know more.

How Long is a Blurb?

Whittle down the concept of the story until you have the basics. Give people the big idea in a few sentences. When I wrote my Tales of the Chosen trilogy about the lovers of immortals, I wrote the blurbs before I even started the books. Each blurb had three words and a sentence that ended with the word “forever.”

Wulf: Lust. Power. Forgiveness. A Chosen loves forever.

Alitus: Passion. Submission. Loyalty. A Chosen bares his heart forever.

Jawk: Pleasure. Trust. Possession. A Chosen’s betrayal is forever.

Practice Giving Your Speech

Write out and memorize your blurb before you attend the next conference. If you’ll be meeting an agent or two, be ready to say it for them. Try this on for size. Shake the agent’s hand, look them in the eye, and say, “I’m here to tell you about (your title).” And then go right into your blurb.

The next time someone says, “What’s your book about?” don’t panic. Take a deep breath. This is your moment. You’ve prepared, and you know your blurb.

A blurb is supposed to grab ’em, tell ’em, and make ’em want more. Writing a good one won’t be easy, but neither was writing the book. You came this far. You’re an author. You can do this.

 

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RU Writers, are you headed to RWA? Do you have a blurb ready to go?

Join us on Friday for Stefanie London’s post – Who Said That?

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Bio: Kayelle Allen is a best-selling, multi-published, award-winning author. Her unstoppable heroes and heroines include contemporary every day folk, role-playing immortal gamers, futuristic covert agents, and warriors who purr.

Homeworld http://kayelleallen.com
Unstoppable Heroes Blog http://kayelleallen.com/blog
Twitter http://twitter.com/kayelleallen
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16 Responses to “Authors in Elevators: Writing Your Blurb with Kayelle Allen”

  1. Thank you for having me here today. I’ll check in and answer questions, so feel free to leave one.

    Posted by Kayelle Allen | July 15, 2015, 6:48 am
  2. This was very interesting! Thank for such an awesome post!

    Houston

    Posted by Houston Havens | July 15, 2015, 9:23 am
  3. You’re welcome! I hope it comes in handy.

    Posted by Kayelle Allen | July 15, 2015, 10:02 am
  4. Great timing for this post! I hope to see some of you at RWA2015.

    Posted by Heatherly Bell | July 15, 2015, 11:49 am
  5. Afternoon Kayelle!

    So, what happens if you become a blithering idiot? lol….I can SO see that happening…suddenly I’d be speaking a foreign language or just giggling like a fool.

    But seriously, I imagine practicing it over and over would make it easier, so if the moment came you could just disengage your brain and let it flow. But just in case, should you start your blurb over again? or just smile and soldier on?

    thanks for posting with us today!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | July 15, 2015, 2:30 pm
    • The way you think will determine how your body feels. You can trick your body into being calm by calming your mind. Take a deep breath. Then another. Give yourself two things — oxygen, and time. Those few moments while you take a few calming breaths will help you be more in control.

      Natural childbirth classes teach the same principle. Remain in control by slowing your rate of breath, and by stilling your mind.

      Nerves happen to everyone. If you flub, it’s not the end of the world. Just smile, shake your head, and say, “Let me try that again.”

      Posted by Kayelle Allen | July 15, 2015, 3:20 pm
  6. Kayelle —

    Thank you for the wonderful advice. Having the fill-in-the-blanks blurb is an incredible building block for someone (me) who is flummoxed by the “tell me about your book” question.

    Hillary

    Posted by Hillary | July 15, 2015, 3:09 pm
  7. That fill-in-the-blank was great. I used it too.But it’s only a template, so if it doesn’t work for you, try something else. 🙂

    Posted by Kayelle Allen | July 15, 2015, 3:22 pm
  8. I’m not going to National this year, but thanks for these excellent tips!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | July 15, 2015, 11:15 pm
    • Becke, writing blurbs can be great writing practice. You have to condense your story to its essence, without giving away the end. For promotion, you’ll want that blurb in many sizes, from 150 words for the back of the book info to something short enough for Twitter. Thanks for commenting.

      Posted by Kayelle Allen | July 16, 2015, 5:39 am
  9. My biggest issue with querying, blurbs, and pitches is when I try to whittle down the information into what is absolutely necessary, I am not always sure if I’ve cut so much that it’s not making sense. This “formula” for lack of a better term, actually really helped me clarify that for myself. Thanks!

    Posted by Daveler | July 19, 2015, 4:10 pm

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