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TBD
by TBD

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Kindle Edition published 2016-01-12
Bestseller ranking: 757432

Product Description
With the odd disappearance of her parents, Gussie Gibson has lived her entire life with her granny on a peaceful pecan orchard, owned by the meanest man in all of Georgia—Mr. J.P. Combs. Granny teaches Gussie many valuable life lessons as a black woman growing up in the still-segregated south. Mr. Combs is an evil underhanded banker who takes liberties beyond his privilege. When Granny dies, Combs informs Gussie she owes him back rent—but he wants much more than money for payment—and more than Gussie can live with.
After defending herself against his sexual advances, Gussie flees to escape certain vigilante justice when she meets a charming, handsome stranger, Sam Johnson, who is just returning from World War II.
Gussie and Sam’s friendship is short-lived when Mr. Combs hunts her down and drags her back to Green Ridge, driven by his craving for revenge and a grudge too deep to comprehend. Gussie fights to return to Sam and his lo...

Author Topic: Let's dissect this blurb  (Read 445 times)  

Offline Lee Sutherland

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Let's dissect this blurb
« on: April 14, 2017, 01:34:05 PM »
I'm releasing my first novel under my own name in the next few weeks.  It's post-apocalyptic with a touch of fantasy/sci-fi.  I'm hoping you fine folks can help critique my blurb.

Quote
A mysterious broadcast.  A global countdown timer.  Twelve hours later, electronics stopped working.  A few days later, the dead started walking.

At least, that's what everyone tells Simon Finch.  The last thing he remembers is diving into the lake on a summer morning. When he surfaces, the world feels different.  His family is missing.  Along with two years of time. The skies are dark and the only clue he has is a stream of smoke billowing on the horizon.

Now, he's on a mission to find his family and find answers, but the world's not what it used to be.  Small settlements have formed in humanity's downfall and Simon must navigate from camp to camp, following the trail his family left behind.  He knows to fear the dead, but in a world so dangerous, can he trust the living?
« Last Edit: April 21, 2017, 06:11:05 PM by Lee Sutherland »

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Offline Gregg Bell

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Re: Another blurb critique thread
« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2017, 07:59:26 PM »
I'm releasing my first novel under my own name in the next few weeks.  It's post-apocalyptic with a touch of fantasy/sci-fi.  I'm hoping you fine folks can help critique my blurb.

Not my genre but since I've been working on my blurb I'll give it a shot. First, use this to get rid of the diamonds: https://dan.hersam.com/tools/smart-quotes.html

It all started with a broadcast and a countdown timer.  Twelve hours later, electronics stopped working.  A few days later, the dead started walking.  I'm wondering what "it" is. Why don't you tell us? And a broadcast and a timer cause electronics to stop working? And then the dead start walking? I'm sure you're trying to be mysterious but you're being too mysterious-at least for me. I don't know what's going on.

At least, that's what everyone tells Simon Finch, <--I'm wondering why you didn't start with Simon telling the stuff. And you need to give us some idea of who he is. As it is it's just a name. but he has no recollection of the past two years.  Where did the time go?  That's the part Simon doesn't understand. <--I'm not making any connections with how this is connected with the electronics not working and the dead walking. He lost his memory how? Hit on the head? Disease? It could be anything.

Now, he's on a mission to find his family and find answers, but the world's not what it used to be. That the world's not what it used to be after two years is a given Small settlements have risen in humanity's downfall and Simon must navigate from camp to camp, following the trail his family left behind.  He knows to fear the dead, but in a world so dangerous, can he trust the living?

This sounds like your books very cool but I'm not getting it from the blurb. I'm assuming you want Simon to be in danger but where's the danger? He fears the dead, okay, but how dangerous are the dead? And you need to give a clearer sense of why things are happening. I think it's a good idea to write a one sentence description of what you're story is and branch out from there. As it is I don't know what your core story is. My best take: Simon lost his memory and he's trying to find his family. And if that's it you need to amp stuff up. Saying stuff like "Where did the time go?" is stuff you hear when people reminisce at class reunions, not in post-apocalyptic sci-fi fantasy novels. I like the last line but don't know that it fits the story all that well.

"When people agree with me I always feel that I must be wrong." Oscar Wilde
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Offline Lee Sutherland

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Re: Another blurb critique thread
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2017, 10:06:17 AM »
Thanks for your feedback.  How does this sound?


Quote
When North Korea issued their manifesto and subsequently cut off contact with the outside world, no one took it seriously.  Four months later, a twelve-hour countdown timer appeared on every TV.  There were no demands.  No statements.  When the timer hit zero, electronics stopped working.  A few days later, the dead started walking.

At least, that's what everyone tells Simon Finch.  The last thing he remembers is diving into the lake on a warm summer morning before heading off to college.  When he emerged, his family was gone, the skies were dark and the only clue he had was a plume of billowing smoke on the horizon.

Simon is forced to put his own future on hold for a future he doesn't understand.  Now, he's on a mission to find his family and find answers in a world where survival is the only thing that matters.  Small settlements have risen in humanity's downfall and Simon must navigate from camp to camp, following the trail his family left behind.  He knows to fear the dead, but in a world so dangerous, can he trust the living?

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Offline Not Lu

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Re: Another blurb critique thread
« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2017, 11:53:02 AM »
I always try to make the blurb short, punchy, and personal. Shorter sentences are read quickly, which leads to a sense of urgency (making the reader want to take action - buy the book). You don't need a lot of details. Instead, give important information that will hook your audience. I'd start with something like:

North Korea issued a manifesto then cut off contact with the world. Everyone laughed. Until all electronics stopped working... and the dead started walking.

At least, that's what people tell Simon Finch.  He's been in a comma for the last two years. Now, he's on a mission to find his family and find answers in a world full of peril. He knows to fear the dead. But in a world so dangerous, can he trust the living? Find out in [book title].

Then follow up with a value proposition and a call to action and like: 300 pages of action, horror, and adventure only $3.99. Get your copy today!


Offline Gregg Bell

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Re: Another blurb critique thread
« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2017, 11:17:25 AM »
Thanks for your feedback.  How does this sound?

When North Korea issued their manifesto and subsequently cut off contact with the outside world, no one took it seriously.  Four months later, a twelve-hour countdown timer appeared on every TV. Every TV where? The world? US? North Korea?  There were no demands.  No statements.  When the timer hit zero, electronics again, where? worldwide? US? etc stopped working.  A few days later, the dead started walking. This opening paragraph makes sense and is 1000% better--and compelling.

At least, that's what everyone tells Simon Finch. Because the The last thing he remembers is diving into the lake on a warm summer morning before heading off to college.  When he emerged, his family was gone, the skies were dark and the only clue he had was a plume of billowing smoke on the horizon.

Simon is forced to put his own future on hold for a future he doesn't understand. Now, he's Simon's on a mission to find his family and find answers in the bizarre new world of the walking dead he finds himself in.in a world where survival is the only thing that matters.  Small settlements have risen in humanity's downfall and Simon must navigate from camp to camp, following the trail his family left behind. You've pretty much got it up to this point, and I love the last line but you need to establish why he might not be able to trust the living because up to this point we have no indication that he can't. You might accomplish this with a little more "world building" earlier in the blurb. And that world building would be good too in that yeah, we know intuitively that we're going to fear the dead, but besides that (and besides the metaphorical bleakness of the dark skies) this new world does not seem that dangerous. He knows to fear the dead, but in a world so dangerous, can he trust the living?

"When people agree with me I always feel that I must be wrong." Oscar Wilde
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Offline Lee Sutherland

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Re: Let's dissect this blurb
« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2017, 10:20:23 AM »
I tried reworking it a bit.  Personally, I don't know if the part about North Korea is necessary because it isn't ancillary to the plot.  I like the mystery of something happened, now Simon has to deal with it.  The premise is that he dives into the lake and emerges in this post-apocalyptic world.  He has lost two years, but everyone else's timeline has gone unaffected.

Quote
When North Korea issued their manifesto and subsequently cut off contact with the outside world, no one took it seriously.  Four months later, a twelve-hour countdown timer appeared on every TV worldwide.  There were no demands.  No statements.  When the timer hit zero, electronics stopped working.  A few days later, the dead started walking.

At least, that's what everyone tells Simon Finch.  The last thing he remembers is diving into the lake on a warm summer morning before heading off to college.  When he surfaces, his family is gone, along with two years of time.  The skies are dark and the only clue he has is a plume of billowing smoke on the horizon.

Simon is forced to put his own future on hold for a future he doesnt understand.  Now, he's on a mission to find his family and find answers in a world where survival is the only thing that matters.  For everyone but Simon, two years have passed.  Two hard and violent years.   Small settlements have formed in humanity's downfall and Simon must navigate from camp to camp, following the trail his family left behind.  He knows to fear the dead, but in a world so dangerous, can he trust the living?

Lee Sutherland | Twitter

Offline BWFoster78

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Re: Let's dissect this blurb
« Reply #6 on: April 21, 2017, 10:53:01 AM »
Quote
Personally, I don't know if the part about North Korea is necessary because it isn't ancillary to the plot.  I like the mystery of something happened, now Simon has to deal with it.  The premise is that he dives into the lake and emerges in this post-apocalyptic world.  He has lost two years, but everyone else's timeline has gone unaffected.

I think you're right. This is the hook of your story, and the pitch isn't highlighting it. Here's my take:

Simon Finch dove into a lake on a warm summer morning. When he surfaced, his family was gone, and the skies were dark. He followed a plume of billowing smoke on the horizon to find a changed world in which the dead walk and humanity survives only in small isolated settlements.

During the instant he was submerged, two years passed for everyone else, two hard and violent years.  Fearing the dead and unable to trust the living, he must struggle from camp to camp searching for both his family and answers.

It probably need a little more than that, but your instinct to pare it down to its most basic story question is, I think, a good one.

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Offline RBN

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Re: Let's dissect this blurb
« Reply #7 on: April 21, 2017, 10:59:11 AM »
I would rather unravel the mystery along with the protagonist, so I'd do away with all the non-personal backstory here. Family day at the lake, dives into the water, emerges alone in a changed world--good personal emergency. If the journey that follows is about finding his family and surviving the perils of this new world, that's what I want to know. The circumstantial exposition can wait until the story provides it.

ETA: BWFoster78 posted while I was proofreading with a good example of what I mean. That description would make me take a closer look.

Offline Michael Vraa

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Re: Let's dissect this blurb
« Reply #8 on: April 21, 2017, 11:40:09 AM »
I'm not a blurb expert. I like some of the supportive comments with ideas about where to take this. But one thing I've noticed in blurb analyses is that people don't always mention what they like.  I really like your last line and hope you figure out some way to keep it:  "He knows to fear the dead, but in a world so dangerous, can he trust the living?"

Offline Sam Kates

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Re: Let's dissect this blurb
« Reply #9 on: April 21, 2017, 01:04:44 PM »
I think your first version, with a little paring, works well:

Quote
It begins with a broadcast and a countdown timer. Electronics stop working. Soon the dead start walking.

The last thing Simon Finch remembers is diving into a lake on a warm summer morning. When he surfaces his family is gone, the skies are dark and the only clue is a plume of smoke on the horizon.

Simon is forced into a mission to find his family and answers in a world where survival is the only thing that matters. He knows to fear the dead, but can he trust the living?
    
sam kates

Offline Lee Sutherland

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Re: Let's dissect this blurb
« Reply #10 on: April 21, 2017, 02:14:09 PM »
How's this?  I changed up a few of the details in paragraph two.  I don't want it to read like a time travel story, because its a post-apocalyptic novel mostly.  My big question is the tense between the first paragraph and the rest.  Everyone says write blurbs in present tense, but considering the first part happened in the past, is it okay to leave it past tense?

Quote
It all started with a broadcast and a countdown timer.  Twelve hours later, electronics stopped working.  A few days later, the dead started walking.

At least, that's what everyone tells Simon Finch.  It only took a moment for Simon to find himself two years in the future with no idea how he got there.  All he knows is that his family is missing, the skies are dark and the only clue he has is a plume of billowing smoke on the horizon.

Now, he's on a mission to find his family and find answers, but the world's not what it used to be.  Small settlements have formed in humanity's downfall and Simon must navigate from camp to camp, following the trail his family left behind.  He knows to fear the dead, but in a world so dangerous, can he trust the living?

Lee Sutherland | Twitter

Offline KennySkylin

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Re: Let's dissect this blurb
« Reply #11 on: April 21, 2017, 02:34:33 PM »
I don't know how you should structure it, but here are some thoughts and things that caught my interest in your first and second versions of the blurb as someone who reads this genre.

Quote from: Lee Sutherland
It all started with a broadcast and a countdown timer.

I agree that this sounds a little too vague. I really do not like that vague "it" at the beginning. The sentence is trying to build some mystery, but it seems a little bit clunky. I have seen some other authors who just do a couple sentence fragments bolded. Something like: A mysterious broadcast. A strange countdown timer.

I also really liked this line in your other blurb: a twelve-hour countdown timer appeared on every TV.

It a more vivid picture in my head. So maybe: After a mysterious broadcast, a countdown timer appeared on every TV. (where? in the nation? in the world?). Or: First a strange broadcast, then a countdown timer appeared on every television.

I don't know how to fix the first line exactly, but a structure like that looks more interesting to my eye and still evokes some intrigue.

Quote from: Lee Sutherland
Twelve hours later, electronics stopped working.  A few days later, the dead started walking.

These lines are really cool. Nice rhythm and parallel pattern.

Quote from: Lee Sutherland
The last thing he remembers is diving into the lake on a warm summer morning before heading off to college.

Not sure if warm is needed with summer--but it sounds fine really. "before heading off to college" seems a little clunky. (is he going to a class later that day when he is done diving? or is he on summer break and spending his free time diving until next semester?)

Quote from: Lee Sutherland
along with two years of time
This line catches my attention and makes me wonder WTF in a good way and might even sell me the book to know how the time passed like that when he was diving. But that interesting phrase seems buried and awkward where it is, and it should be in a stronger position. Maybe just a period there and break the next lines onto their own. Also, I don't know what the weather was like when he surfaces, but it could be nice to have a little contrast and reversal of the warm summer detail:

At least, that's what everyone tells Simon Finch.  The last thing he remembers is diving into the lake on a warm summer morning. When he surfaces, the air is cold, his family is gone, and it is two years later.

Now skies are dark and the only clue is a plume of billowing smoke on the horizon.

(this still does not sound right, but just some general ideas)

Quote from: Lee Sutherland
He knows to fear the dead, but in a world so dangerous, can he trust the living?

Cool line.

Not sure if any of this will help, just some things that popped into my head while reading the blurb. Good luck!
« Last Edit: April 21, 2017, 03:21:54 PM by KennySkylin »

Offline Lee Sutherland

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Re: Let's dissect this blurb
« Reply #12 on: April 21, 2017, 03:12:36 PM »
Thanks, KennySkylin.   That was very helpful.  How's this?

Quote
A mysterious broadcast.  A countdown timer. Twelve hours later, electronics stopped working.  A few days later, the dead started walking.

At least, that's what everyone tells Simon Finch.  The last thing he remembers is diving into the lake on a summer morning. When he surfaces, the world feels different and his family is gone. Along with two years of time.  The skies are dark and the only clue he has is a stream of smoke billowing on the horizon.

Now, he's on a mission to find his family and find answers, but the world's not what it used to be.  Small settlements have formed in humanity's downfall and Simon must navigate from camp to camp, following the trail his family left behind.  He knows to fear the dead, but in a world so dangerous, can he trust the living?

Lee Sutherland | Twitter

Offline Sarah Shaw

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Re: Let's dissect this blurb
« Reply #13 on: April 21, 2017, 03:15:53 PM »
Thanks, KennySkylin.   That was very helpful.  How's this?

I like it a lot!

Offline KennySkylin

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Re: Let's dissect this blurb
« Reply #14 on: April 21, 2017, 04:17:29 PM »
A mysterious broadcast.  A countdown timer. Twelve hours later, electronics stopped working.  A few days later, the dead started walking.

At least, that's what everyone tells Simon Finch.  The last thing he remembers is diving into the lake on a summer morning. When he surfaces, the world feels different and his family is gone. Along with two years of time.  The skies are dark and the only clue he has is a stream of smoke billowing on the horizon.

Now, he's on a mission to find his family and find answers, but the world's not what it used to be.  Small settlements have formed in humanity's downfall and Simon must navigate from camp to camp, following the trail his family left behind.  He knows to fear the dead, but in a world so dangerous, can he trust the living?s?

This feels more punchy and enticing to me now but still some awkward spots. "A countdown timer." That line still feels like it's missing something to make it flow from the first line and make it more vivid and mysterious. Maybe: A cryptic countdown timer appears on every television across the country. Or something. The word cryptic might sound a little too cheesy or heavy, though. But I do think you should try to work in how this strange timer appears and begins to countdown on all the TVs because that forms a cool mental image.

"his family is gone" I might change to "his family is missing". Missing sounds more ominous than gone. They could just have gone to the store or something, but if they are missing that sounds like serious business and dramatic. 

I agree with BWFoster78 and you that the two years strangely passing is a major hook and it needs to be highlighted. So, figuring out how to phrase and where to put that line is clutch. In my opinion, it would be stronger if that was the final line of that paragraph, but the smoke on the horizon is intriguing and creates good imagery also, so I don't know.

Someone else who is more advanced with the mechanics of prose would be able to let you know how the sharpen the hooks of each section better than I can. But the blurb seems to be improving with every version using all the advice in this thread, so I think you'll eventually get it flowing nice with a bit more hacking and optimization.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2017, 04:19:26 PM by KennySkylin »

Offline Michael Vraa

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Re: Let's dissect this blurb
« Reply #15 on: April 21, 2017, 08:14:38 PM »
I think I'd try to tighten this sentence: 
The skies are dark and the only clue he has is a stream of smoke billowing on the horizon.

To:
The skies are dark and his only clue is a stream of smoke billowing on the horizon.

It seems small but I think you aim for efficiency with these blurbs.