Wednesday, April 14, 2010

And the Survey Says -- Plus a Giveaway

Thanks to Robie for her excellent post. As someone who's in transition, I can appreciate it. And thanks to all who took the time to express their votes and opinions about the possible excerpts to use in conjunction with my next Five Star release, Where Danger Hides. And please read to the end of this post -- there's a contest and a free book as the prize. Now for the survey results:

In first place, with 47.5% of the votes, Excerpt #1
In second place, with 18% of the votes, Excerpt #3
In third place, with 16.4% of the votes, Excerpt #4
In fourth place, with 14.8% of the votes, Excerpt #2
And, "none" had a 3.3% share.

I also very much appreciate that more than half of the people who selected an excerpt also gave reasons for their choices, or ranked the excerpts in order of their personal preference.

And, as expected, I suppose, there were lots of reasons given for the individual choices. Some liked a hint of mystery, others liked voice, others mentioned piquing their curiosity. Some said they liked the image the excerpt created, some said they got a good picture of the characters.

I think this whole adventure relates to writing in general. Fifty people can read a book and have fifty different opinions—or at the very least, fifty different reasons for their opinions. Remember all that assigned reading in school. Not everyone liked every book, despite the fact they were all "great books" (or else the schools wouldn't have them on the curriculum). I do recall one of my English teachers not liking Dickens, so our class read Huckleberry Finn while everyone else had to read Silas Marner. To this day, I haven't read Silas Marner, nor have I felt deprived. Then again, I haven't read a lot of "must read" books, but that's another subject.

Back to the excerpt: The bottom line is that my editor and the publisher have the final say. There were some concerns that excerpt #1 might turn off readers because of the male-male reference. I hadn't really thought if it, since it's clear from the beginning that the two guys are definitely straight, but one never knows what will turn a reader off, and if the excerpt is the main way to get them to take the next step, and maybe consider the book for purchase, shutting down options isn't the way to go. Kind of like the posts I did on curb appeal and landscaping when we were selling our house. You've got to get the buyers inside. So if the editor thinks the publisher and readers will be uncomfortable with the gay reference, it'll have to go. (This is the publisher who also didn't permit the use of "penis" in their romance line.)

Choosing an excerpt, however isn't as troublesome for me as coming up with marketing copy. I've already written the book, so it's a matter of cutting out a snippet. But having to come up with that brilliant blurb copy—that's scary. That's well outside of what I, as an author, feels comfortable doing. We have to do this all the time when we write query letters—compress the essence of the book into a one-paragraph hook.

Bigger publishing houses usually have marketing departments who do jacket flap copy, blurbs, and excerpts. But for those of us who are saddled with the project, it's frightening. After all, if it sucks, there's no one to blame but yourself.

These are the instructions:

Front Cover Flap
General synopsis of book, including description of type of book. Should not give away all the details, just give the reader a flavor of the book, including some reasons why the reader will enjoy the book. No more than 300 words. Example (give general who, what, where and when with description—i.e., fast-paced historical thriller, campy contemporary romance, poignant love story, romantic suspense which will keep the readers turning the pages, etc.)

When I try to write hype, it feels forced. And I still have trouble telling people they're going to love my book. Yes, I'm proud of it. Yes, I think it's a good read. But I guess those days in high school with assigned reading still haunt me. I can't bring myself to tell everyone they're going to love my book…because what if they don't? Will they ever believe anything else I say?

So – what do you think?

Where do you turn when Uncle Sam can't help you? To Blackthorne, Incorporated, of course. Behind the public fa├žade of a high-end private investigation company lies a band of elite covert operatives.

Dalton (just Dalton—nobody dares call him by his given name), is one of Blackthorne's elite. A charming Texan, he prides himself on blending in, and there's no one he can't scam. But his obsession with putting a Colombian drug lord out of the picture threatens to endanger his life and the lives of his team. When Dalton nearly blows a simple undercover assignment at a fundraising gala, it convinces his boss to tether him with an assignment that will keep him stateside.

Street-smart Miri Chambers wants nothing more than to help everyone at the Galloway House shelter find a new and productive life. Dalton's supposed to be helping her find residents who have disappeared without a trace, but he doesn't take her seriously. Can she trust him to do the job? When things escalate into a genuine combat zone, can she trust him with her life? And her heart?

Where Danger Hides is a California based action filled romance. As Dalton and Miri travel from San Francisco to a tiny border town, the simple search for missing people leads them into unexpected dangers that will keep readers turning pages.

Please leave a comment, even if it's just to say hello. One commenter will win a copy of When Danger Calls, the first Blackthorne, Inc. book. Pass the word—if I get enough comments, maybe I'll give away more than one copy. Contest runs through Friday – I'll announce the winner on Saturday.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I actually enjoy this kind of stuff...but I'm not allowed to do it! They always change mine, so I don't even write it anymore.

My biggest challenge is the 10 word blurb. Very tough!

I think you did a good job with the flap copy. Questions are very good devices for these things and you've placed some in there...

Mystery Writing is Murder

Mason Canyon said...

Very catching blurb. Makes you curiously why Dalton is obsessed with the drug lord and who are the missing people. Sounds like a terrific read.

Thoughts in Progress

Unknown said...

Well, I like it. I like the book, too. :)

Terry Odell said...

Elizabeth - thanks. Maybe I'll have you do my next one.

Mason - I think it's a good read! :-)

Jess--yeah - wanna help with the new one I started yesterday?

Dru said...

I like the excerpt - makes me want to pick up the book and read.

Maryannwrites said...

You did a great job with the copy. Makes me want to go rewrite what I did for the jacket of my next Five Star book. LOL

Terry Odell said...

Dru - and I hope you will!

Maryann - thanks. I confess that was basically lifted from my original query letters for the book.

Debra St. John said...

Nice job. (I love the name Dalton...very sexy!) Sometimes these little blurbs are harder to come up with than an entire plotline!

Unknown said...

Sure thing. I'll start a new back-up folder. Are we on # 9?

Anonymous said...

I haven't tried your books before but the story sounds interesting so I hope to win.


susie kline said...

I love your cover! That would be enough to grab it!

Good luck!

Terry Stonecrop said...

Nice job on the flap copy. It peaked my interest. Sounds good!

You missed nothing with Silas Marner. I was forced to read it in school. Chinese water torture would have been easier.

Terry Odell said...

Caroloee -- good luck! You can read the first chapter on my website.

Susie - Glad you like the cover. The artist did a good job on that book; hope the second one is as good.

Terry - somehow, I have yet to regret not reading Silas Marner!

susan said...

This sounds good and a book I can really get into. susan L.

Edith Maxwell said...

I like the first excerpt (I know, I'm late to the game), and all of them make me want to read the book!
Edith Maxwell

Beth C said...

I hate writing cover copy too, Terry. But I understand fully how important it is in marketing. Gotta hook those readers!
Good luck with WHEN DANGER HIDES!
Beth Cornelison

Terry Odell said...

Susan, Edith, Beth -- never too late (at least not until the book comes out). Thanks for chiming in.

Karla said...

ok, here's my "Hi" (and yes, I DID vote:)) although my choice didn't win the poll . . .

Terry Odell said...

Hi back, Karla -- and who knows? If my editor doesn't like #1, your choice might still be the "winner."

Joyce Yarrow said...

Most strong novels or plays have a specific intent that drives them - something the author or dramatist wants the reader or audience to take away. Romeo & Juliet shows us that love conquers death; Agatha Christie's Ms Marple reveals how small town common sense trumps big city brains. I think that if we focus on sharing the intent of our work when we write - whether it's a chapter, an epilogue or a front flap blurb - we create meaning rather than hype and won't have to worry about becoming hacks!

Jamie D. said...

I haven't read a lot of the "required" high school reading either...some of them I'd like to get around to eventually, but I haven't really felt the lack too keenly. :-)

I like writing blurbs, but I kind of like the challenge of condensing a lot of plot into a small space.

Nice jacket copy. :-) Personally, I'd take out the parenthetical aside re: Dalton's name...we'll find that out in the book I assume, and it kind of stops the "flow" of the prose, in my opinion. But it sure sounds like a great book - can't wait to read it!

Terry Odell said...

Joyce - I agree. Can't do it easily, though! That's probably why I dread blurbs.

Jamie - good suggestion. That phrase was leftover from those query letters (everyone says use characters first and last names, and that was my writearound). But you're right. I'll snip it before I submit it to my editor.

J K Maze said...

I sometimes wonder how some of the required reading selections are chosen. I'll never forget Shakespeare's Coriolanus. I had to read it in high school. Believe me, I was relieved to have finished it. Thought it was the most boring of plays ever. Then, wouldn't you believe, it was also required in college.

Blurbs, synopses, and the like are the bane of my existence. I'd rather write an entire book than do one page of a synopsis.

I like excerpt #1. I also am enchanted with the name Dalton and would love to read the book. Sounds exciting.


Terry Odell said...

Joan, having to re-read something you didn't like the first time would be tortuous. Dalton just popped up in When Danger Calls, but he was so much fun, I had to write his book.