Thursday, July 26, 2012

Attention Grabbers

There's a lot of discussion as to what grabs a reader's attention about a book. Is it the title? Cover? Blurb? Excerpt?

This week I spent some time thinking about several of those things. I officially signed a contract for a Thanksgiving novella with The Wild Rose Press. The title I came up with even before I started writing the story: An Unexpected Blessing. So that's all good to go.

After I signed the contract, I had some other paperwork to fill out. One sheet was the cover information sheet. It asked for information about setting and basic plot, a description of both characters, and what I thought was the most important aspect of a cover. For me, I think the people should be the most prominant thing on a cover, but the background should also give a hint about the story. In this case I suggested a fall setting with a two story farm house as the background. I described the overall mood of the story as cozy and romantic with a bit of spice. It also asked for examples of other covers in their catalog that fit the general idea I had for the story/cover. I've always been pleased with my previous covers, so I listed two of those titles. From this information, one of the cover artists at TWRP will design my cover.(I requested the fabulous Angela Anderson who has done all of my covers.)
The other sheet was the Manuscript Information Sheet (MIS). On this form I filled out things like copyright name, heat level (spicy!), wrote a dedication, and provided 'praise' snippets from reviews about my work. Then I had to come up with a one sentence tag line for my book. (This was new...I hadn't done it for previous books.) I went with: Can the ex-con and the girl he's always had a secret crush on find happiness despite the past?

The trickiest things on this form were deciding on an excerpt and writing the backcover blurb. I worked on finding the excerpt first as technically this was already written and all I had to do was find the 'perfect' portion of the mss. Usually I go with a kissing scene for my excerpts, but this time I was undecided. I found several other passages that I liked as well. So, I copied and pasted them into an e-mail and took a poll of several of my friends, my sister, and my mom. Ultimately we decided on this:

“Are you going to dance with me or not?”
“Yes, ma’am, I am.” Joe stood and offered his hand.
Katy slid hers into his warm grasp. As always, his touch caused a little shock in her heart. The weight of a hundred pairs of eyes followed them out onto the floor. The dirt was packed smooth, and a ring of hay bales marked the area. Her tummy quivered with a combination of nerves and anticipation.
He found an open spot, which wasn’t difficult with the other couples affording them a wide berth, and then curved his arm around her waist to draw her close. Her body fit perfectly against him. A shiver tingled through her. She rested her free hand on his shoulder.
His thigh brushed hers as he rhythmically shuffled his feet to the music. His gaze captured and held hers. The rest of the room faded as she stared into the warm, melted chocolate brown of his eyes.
She didn’t care that people whispered. Snuck glances. Or outright gaped. All she cared about was swaying to a soft, slow beat. The quicker thud of her heart. Strong arms wrapped around her. And the desire to stay right where she was. Maybe forever.

Finally I turned my attention to writing the blurb. When I write a blurb, I start by going back to my synopsis. I take a couple of lines from the first two paragraphs about each character, focusing on goal, motivation, and conflict. Then I peruse the rest of the two page summary and try to narrow those seven or eight paragraphs into a few succinct sentences that will hopefully grab a reader's attention and make her want to read the book. Here's what I came up with:

Single mom Katy Roth thinks life can't get any worse. As Thanksgiving approaches, she finds little to be thankful for in a life that is quickly spinning out of control. To make matters worse, her parents have hired a new handyman.

Joe Mason is the town's bad boy. Literally. He's just returned from a four year stint in prison. He wants to put the past behind him and get on with his life. Trouble is, most folks aren't too thrilled he's back.

Especially Katy. Joe's had a crush on her since junior high, but she wants nothing to do with him. Until through her young son's eyes she discovers the good in him. Can they get beyond a small town's prejudice to hold onto a love neither expected?

One of the things I love best about TWRP is the amount of control and input we as authors have over these very important attention grabbers. So, what do you think? If you came across that blurb and that excerpt, would it pique your interest enough to want to read more?

Until next time,

Happy Reading!



  1. First of all, I really like the excerpt and blurb, so good job! I think it's interesting that you rely on your synopsis for the blurb--it makes complete sense to me, but I so hate writing them and often find they don't reflect my voice well.

  2. Hi Jennifer,


    I always hated writing a synopsis until a chapter-mate did a program on synopsis called "7 Steps to a Practically 'Perfect' Two-Page Synopsis". By following her guidelines it made the process much easier.

    I don't know how well they reflect my voice, but it gets the arc of the story across. Of course, I always write them after the story is finished. If I ever had to write one to sell a book on proposal, that would be a whole different story.

  3. Excellent excerpt and blurb, Debra.
    A cover picture might attract me (or have the opposite effect!) and make me want to find out more about the book, but ultimately it is the blurb which influences my decision as to whether to buy/download a book.
    I think writing the blurb is the hardest part - it has to contain just enough (but not too much) to attract a reader.
    I've also had to 'condense' my novels into 50 words or less - which, again, is not easy!

  4. I've always found a synopsis hard. I never know what to write, I rewrite it dozens of times then I delete everything and start all over. After a few novels, I've gotten used to the process but still not my favorite thing to do!

    Your blurb is great, Debra! It's got me hooked! :)

  5. Paula, Thanks! I think covers are the 'scariest' part of the equation. Even with the worksheet I fill out, this is the element that I have the least amount of control over.

    But, I like you, put more stock into the blurb or excerpt when deciding what I'm going to read.

    Carrie Lynn, Yep. A synopsis used to scare the beejeebies out of me until I found this method.

    I'm glad you're hooked! That's what I want to hear!

  6. I couldnt agree with you more, TWRP is great at helping a writer supply the very best. I love that they'll now comment/make suggestions on our blurb. That's the bit to sell our stories and yours is great. Good luck with sales

  7. Hi Anne,

    Thanks. Every little step is a learning process, no matter how many times we've done it before.

    I like that they've added the one sentence tag line to the sheet now, too. And my editor just asked me for key words which will help readers search for my book. I love that it's a cooperative process.

  8. Your blurb is fantastic, Debra.
    And I agree with Paula that the cover image isn't what "sells' me. It's the back cover blurb, which I find represents the story more honestly. Covers can be misleading.

  9. Nice blurb...makes me want to read the novella when it comes out. Congratulations!

  10. Ana, thanks. And I agree...covers can definitely be misleading. A friend of mine had one that made her novel seem like a YA, and it definitely wasn't.

    Amy - thanks to you too! I'll definitely be posting a release date as soon as I get one.