Monday, April 05, 2010

Help Wanted

What I'm reading: The Summer Hideaway, by Susan Wiggs.

What makes you pick up a book? For many, it's the cover. For others, it's the teaser on the back cover. One of the required tasks of Five Star is to complete a multi-page "Ancillary Materials" form. This includes things like author bio, complete synopsis to be used by the art department for cover design, "catalog copy" which they will include in their promotion to libraries, front and back cover flap copy (these are hard cover books with dust jackets) and so on. Another section is the excerpt, which goes on the back cover.

There are a couple of rules for the excerpt. 1: No more than 175 words. 2: It has to be lifted directly from the book. No editing.

It's been a while since I looked at this manuscript, but I had to revisit it to work on the forms. I'm humbly requesting your help here. Heck, I'm groveling!

I've narrowed it down to 4 possibilities. If you'll indulge me and read them, then take the poll (link after the last excerpt) to let me know which you prefer (if any), I'd really, really appreciate it. And if you'd send your friends over, I'd really, really, REALLY appreciate it.

#1 She'd barely managed to shut off the computer and grab her jump drive when she heard voices in the hall. Something about a date. God, with the kazillion bedrooms in this mansion, why would someone sneak in here for a quickie?

"You sure?" another voice whispered.

Even in a whisper, there was no mistaking the gender of the second voice. Male, like the first. Miri closed her eyes and magnified her prayers tenfold. She did not want to think about what might go on while she pretended to be invisible.

Blood drummed in her ears. Footsteps approached. Too late, she realized that when she'd ducked for cover, she'd gone in headfirst, which meant that her butt would be the first thing anyone saw if they checked under the desk. She squished herself into as tiny a package as she could, silently cursing the short skirt the caterer demanded its female staff wear. She wasn't exactly displaying her greatest asset.

Oh God, a warm hand touched that asset. She jerked away.

#2 As soon as he opened his mouth, Miri knew it was Texas. Had he recognized her? Afraid to study his face, she ducked her head, painfully aware she was blushing. Where was his Aussie boyfriend? Right. As if she really believed the two men were a couple. They'd been up to something in the study, and it wasn't sex.

He leaned on the back of the chair next to hers. The essence of sandalwood removed any doubt of his identity.

"We're both a little out of place here, aren't we?" he said. "Age-wise, I mean."

She shrugged, trying to ignore the way his drawl heated her insides.

"You didn't answer my question. Would you like a drink? Or a dance?"

If she recognized his voice, he'd know hers. She shook her head and pointed to her throat. "Laryngitis," she whispered.

"Ah," he said. "I have just the thing."

#3 Dalton slid a pair of goggles over his eyes, raised himself on his elbows and looked around. He sighed, apparently convinced it wasn't secure to cross the open space to reach the entrance. He spoke into his mic. "I need a diversion away from my position. Two civilians to move to safety." He did his listening thing, then said, "Roger."

"Are you going to tell me what the hell is going on?" Miri demanded. "My sister needs help and you're out here playing soldier. It's clear enough you're no private investigator."

"It's complicated." His gaze moved constantly, from her to Paco, then out into the distance and back again.
"Yeah, well, try me." Her voice rose above a whisper. "I might be a little slow on the uptake, given I'm not usually in the middle of the OK Corral, but I'm not stupid."

"Will you be quiet? We need three minutes." He clamped his hand over her mouth. "They'll hear you."

She resisted the temptation to bite his hand.


#4 The car jolted and jarred over the uneven surface. Rocks clunked against the undercarriage. She slowed, then decided to brave another quick flash of the lights to make sure she wasn't going to hit something or end up in a ditch. Before she could twist the knob, a bright light almost blinded her. Closing her eyes, she slammed on the brakes.

The car stopped. She opened her eyes. All she could see was a flashlight beam and a shadowy form behind it. What now? She clicked on the high beams.

Try to blind me, will you? Take that, idiot!

"Get out of my car, dirtbag."

She started at the voice. Not again. She rolled down the window. "Dalton, damn it. Get out of the way. I've got to get Nancy to the hospital."

He stepped forward and ducked to window level. "Are you crazy? You're driving my car through a combat zone."

Thanks so much for getting this far. Please let me know what you think. It's all anonymous (which is why I'm not asking for you to respond in the comments, but you're free to do so). I'll let the survey run for a week, so pass the word. Please. (Have I groveled enough?)

Click here to take survey

Tomorrow, my guest, author Amber Polo has something special: A trip to Taos, NM where she'll tell us about her Yoga as Muse experience. You won't want to miss it!

And for anyone wondering about the pots on the beach from Friday's post: They're octopus traps. Anyone get it right?


Elena said...

This is quite a fascinating assignment. The problem as I see it, is that I haven't read the book. Each one of these sounds as though they came from different books.

I'd go with the one that is the most characteristic of the tone of the entire book.

Terry Odell said...

Elena - ah, but anyone wandering through a bookstore wouldn't have read the book either. I want to know which one (if any) might make you open the book (or whatever you do to decide if you want to read one) and consider buying it. Of if none of them pique your interest.


Jemi Fraser said...

They're all good, but I voted for the one that really made me want to read more. :)

Terry Odell said...

Jemi - thanks! That's what I'm looking for. 175 words out of context is tough, but that's all the "time" I have to try to hook a reader.

There's also the blurb type copy, but for this section of the paperwork, it has to be an excerpt.

Denise Patrick said...

#1 would make me open the book to check it out on the inside (well, that, and the back cover blurb), so I guess my pick would be #1.

Joe Collins FF/NREMT-P said...

#4 for me, talks about more than one character, put in would could be an interesting scene. Honestly though, I buy specific authors, and then read the first line, and if that hooks me, I buy the book. I don't even look at the back of the book, no matter what is written there...

misskallie2000 said...

#1 I voted for the one that held my interest and made me want to read more.

misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

Debra St. John said...

Oooh, difficult decision. I went with number four. It seemed to hint at so much without giving too much away.

Mary Ricksen said...

#1 for me! I have to know who touched her derriere.

Terry Odell said...

Thanks to all who have given me feedback. It's very much appreciated. I'll post results next week, so the polls will remain open. Send your friends!

Carol Kilgore said...

Good choices. I voted for my favorite.

Lyla Sinclair said...

I say #1. The others were more confusing to me, having not read them in context, whereas number one was kind of exciting regardless, and made me want to read more.

Terry Odell said...

Carol, thanks for voting.

Lyla - thanks for your input. Normally, I use the book's opening for an excerpt but this one didn't bring h/h together until later, so it became a challenge to find the right spot to highlight.

Terry Stonecrop said...

I voted for 2 and left comments. I hope we don't all vote for different ones on you:)

They were all good but that one stood out and grabbed me the most.

Terry Odell said...

Terry - thanks. And if they are all different, that just shows there's no one way to grab a reader.

Jamie D. said...

I voted for #2 - serious emotional tension in that one, and that's what pulls me in. :-)

Cora Zane said...

Hi Terry, I'd take an excerpt from your inciting incident, focusing on the first BIG tension moment that happens between the heroine/hero. Seeing the heroine in her most vulnerable state will have the reader saying: What is she going to do about that? How is she going to deal with that?

By the way, it was wonderful meeting you in Shreveport!

jessi said...

Not knowing the genre of the book, it's tough to pick which excerpt would be best, but I went with #1 b/c it ended in a hook.

#2 offers a bit of the flavor of the book, but doesn't give me a reason to choose it over another book.

#3 Same as #2

#4 I can see where ending in a combat zone could be considered a hook , but in this case, I'm almost certain they're not going to die, so there's not much to make me want to read on.

Hope this helps!

Jenny Andersen said...

Well, clearly out of step here, judging from the other comments. I'd go with #3 because the touch of humor appeals to me. Just goes to show you can't please everyone!

Terry Odell said...

Cora - thanks, and nice meeting you as well.

Jess, it's romantic suspense, but maybe I shouldn't have taken it for granted that everyone has been following my blog enough to know that.

Jenny - there's no 'wrong' answer, and there are a lot of votes on the survey; not everyone left a comment here.

If you've commented but haven't taken the survey, I'd appreciate it if you would, so I can get a better handle and won't count anyone twice (or three times.)

Sheila Deeth said...

What an interesting task. I voted for the third. Not entirely sure why. It got me intrigued and it made me laugh I guess.

Nancy J. Cohen said...

I like #1 and #3, the others not at all. My sympathies. It used to be editors who wrote the cutsy cover copy. Now we have to do it. I haven't been trained in advertising and marketing and neither have most writers. This is one of the toughest tasks out there.

Romy Sommer said...

#1 hooked me more than the others. I'd definitely want to read more after that extract!

Patrick Vasarhelyi said...

Terry, I enjoyed reading the excerpts. They all got me hooked but #2 really did the job. Also, I want to thank you for introducing me to Survey Monkey. I've been working on my own site and a survey was just what I needed. With any luck it'll be up in a day or so. Love to have you visit.
Good luck on the new publication!

Terry Odell said...

Patrick, thanks for letting me know what you think. Survey Monkey's a fun tool, even the free version.

I posted the results so you can see how others voted.