Friday, November 30, 2012

Face-Lift 1089

Guess the Plot
Bright Star
1. The heartrending tale of how a starred review in Publishers' Weekly fails to lead to literary fame and fortune.

2. When the body of Mark Sigmond, executive producer of the star-search reality show "Bright Star", is found in a dumpster off Sunset, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: One, Sigmond didn't cram that machete through his own back, and two, that stupid girl with the fedora better get eliminated from the show this week or he's done with it.

3. Janice’s singing career is soaring; she’s booking gigs in nightclubs across the city. When a past lover returns from afar, will she give it all up for a dream she thought was lost forever? 
4. Sam and Belle Starr’s great granddaughter Midge is smart. She changes the spelling of the family name to “Star”. After Stanford Business School, she works on Wall Street. Finally, she starts an investment bank and thieves her way onto the Forbes 400 list. It’s much better than stealing horses or running a whore house.

5. When her father dies in the crash of the airship Bright Star, 15-year-old Sadira Pascal knows two things: One, she's not going to get the birthday present he was planning to give her, and two, she's now free to hook up with hunky Baruj Haddad, the army private her father insisted was too old for her.

6. Margot makes a wish upon the first bright star she sees, little knowing that's it's actually the planet Arbuthnot. Now the Arbuthnotians have arrived and want her to go back to their planet and be their hero in the forthcoming war with Gorgonia. Why, oh why, didn't she specify the planet Earth when she asked for some excitement in her life?

Original Version
Dear Evil Editor,

I'd like to submit my synopsis of 'Bright Star' for close, humiliating scrutiny. I've chosen to self-publish this book, so my 'query' is more of blurb to hook potential buyers. I'd love some feedback to help me polish the blurb to make it as interesting and exciting as possible.

Sadira Pascal is upset when her father doesn't make it home to celebrate her fifteenth birthday. He might be a busy hovership engineer pulling overtime on a new design, but he's always been home for the important things. Then she discovers her father decided to ride on the maiden voyage of his newest ship, the CAS Bright Star, without even telling her. [Who did tell her?] During Sadira's field trip with her class to observe the hovership launch, things really fall apart. Instead of a successful flight, she watches the Bright Star fall out of the sky. [Is the launch on her birthday? If not, how long has it been since she's seen her father? Do they live in the same home? Is her mother alive?]

The government confirms her father's death, leaving Sadira to pick up the pieces of her former life. [Her former life? Was she reincarnated?] While she struggles with her loss, Private Baruj Haddad tries to convince her that her father and the rest of the Bright Star crew are still alive. [Where did he get that idea?] At first, Sadira doesn't believe there's any hope. But then she stumbles across a message that makes her think her father might be alive. [Sadira Stop Crash was staged. Stop. Don't tell anyone, but I'm alive. Stop. Happy belated birthday. Stop. Love, Dad] As she and Baruj dig deeper into the Bright Star's crash, Sadira uncovers secrets about her father's work, secrets that put her and everyone she loves in danger. [Is this hovercraft a military project? If so, it seems likely that Haddad would take his suspicions to his superiors rather than to Sadira. Privates don't have enough spare time to investigate military aircraft crashes.] [Also, even if Haddad doesn't trust his superiors, if he thinks the entire crew is still alive, why is he approaching a 15-year-old with this theory, rather than a sibling or parent of one of the crew members, someone old enough to do something useful?]

'Bright Star' is a young adult sci-fi/dystopian novel complete at 62,000 words.



You don't need to answer my questions in the blurb. But a blurb that doesn't inspire a lot of questions about the story's logic would be more effective. 

If you could hint at what these secrets are that put everyone in danger, we might be more interested. "Secrets about her father's work" is pretty vague.

A slightly expanded version of the following might be what you're looking for:

On a field trip with her 10th-grade class to observe the launch of the CAS Bright  Star, a military hovercraft her father helped design--and is aboard--Sadira Pascal watches in horror as the ship falls out of the sky.

Struggling with her loss in the weeks that follow, Sadira stumbles across evidence that her father and the rest of the Bright Star's crew might be alive. As she digs into her father's notes, she begins to suspect that the crash was orchestrated by the government, a secret they'll kill to keep from the press and the public.

Is Sadira a proactive character? We see her discover and stumble across and dig and uncover, but now that she suspects the truth and is in danger, does she have a plan? What's her first move? Is her goal to solve the mystery? To rescue her father? To bring down the government?

Of course if you truly want the blurb to be as interesting and exciting as possible, you need to introduce the one foolproof element it currently lacks: sharks.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Writer, think purpose and audience here. A cover blurb is not a synopsis. In fact, it often isn't really faithful to what happens in the book.

It's an advertisement. Its purpose is to make the potential reader go "Ooh! I wanna read this book."

It's kind of like the way pharmaceutical ads show a couple walking happily across a field of wildflowers instead of actually describing what will happen when you take the drug.

So if your goal here is to hook potential readers, forget about details and go for the gut. Can Sadira solve the mystery of the hovership explosion and save her dad before it's TOO LATE?!!1!11!

Also, okay... I just checked the cover blurb on one of my books. It's under 40 words. You can go a little longer than that, but I think 100 words would be pushing it.

150 said...

Oh yeah, I'd go even more dramatic. Sadira watched her father's airship go down in flames on a field trip two months ago--with him aboard--but now she's stumbled across a [specific kind of] message implying he might be alive. Along with [I presume] hunky Private Baruj Haddad, she [takes specific and interesting steps toward solving the mystery], [even though there are significant potential consequences and life-threatening obstacles!].

Nickie said...

Author here. Sharks and spaceships would be awesome! Unfortunately, they aren't combined in this book :(

I like your suggestions for expanding the blurb. I've been going back and forth on how long to make it (and AlaskaRavenclaw's feedback sounds like a suggestion to condense the blurb instead of expand).

Perhaps I should focus on a tagline-type hook, and then an expanded synopsis? Most e-retailers have spaces on a book's page for both short and long summaries.

Hmmm... this gave me a lot to think about. Thanks for the feedback.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

150, yeah, but even the field trip and the two months is too much detail. Let me see if I can capture the spirit in which my cover blurbs get written (by someone in marketing, I think):

When 15-year-old Sadira sees her dad's hovership go down in a ball of flames, it seems like her life is over. But then she discovers mysterious signs that her dad may still be alive-- and she may have one slim chance to save him, and the world. Written with subtle decency, Bright Star will appeal to fans of Really Famous Author and Frightfully Successful Series.

Of course, that last sentence (for "subtle decency" insert some compliment) is the sort of thing that sounds snotty if you say it about yourself. That's a problem for self-publishers. If someone you never met says your stuff is like Orson Scott Card or whoever, that's cool. If you say it about yourself... not so cool. I'm not really sure what the way around it is.

150 said...

Maybe "Bright Star is an exciting adventure (or whatever) in the vein of Competing Titles."

Dave Fragments said...

Make it 50 words long and no more.

Since you are the author creating the blurb, please don't write that it is "written with" anything and "readers of " such and such and so and so will enjoy it. That doesn't sound good to my ears when I see it and its the author's words. It sounds too much like bragging instead of mere puffery..

AlaskaRavenclaw was wright about it being a selling tool but this is the same sort of tool that Miss Snark called the 10 second elevator pitch. It's what you say to friends when they ask "what's your story about" out of politeness (hoping that you never tell them).

It should be bright, cheery, exciting and leave the reader wanting more.

BTW - when I read hovercraft or hovership I thought of the thing that blows air and floats on the sea or river or hovers. I didn't think of a spaceship.