Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Query Letters 101 – Blurb about your Book

You’ve already crafted your hook sentence, agonizing to fit your brilliant work of writing into a single sentence. Now you’ve got three or four sentences to do the same thing. This should be a breeze, right?


Welcome to the Agony, Part Deux.

During the course of trying to sell your manuscript, you will undertake the task of describing it in one sentence (your ‘hook’), a page or two (your synopsis) and a paragraph (the instant case: second paragraph of your query). Think of it this way: you will know your book inside and out by the time you’re finished.

Think hard

Think you already know your book? Think again. Boiling it down to a paragraph or a page are both useful activities as they make you think hard about what your book is really about. Who is your protagonist? A clueless rich teen? A TSTL (Too Stupid To Live – ouch!) heroine? If it’s the latter who ends up being described in your paragraph then maybe you have to re-think your characterization of the heroine. Perhaps a re-write is in order.

If you can’t describe your book in one of these formats then you may be re-writing it – the book, not the sentence or synopsis. How do you know which one needs to be re-written? After you’ve exhausted every avenue, even reiteration, every person you know who is willing to read and re-read your paragraph, and you still can’t make it work, you may have a problem with the manuscript itself. Think about it carefully before you start hacking away.

Get some expert help from some writer friends. If you don’t have any, try reaching out online to a writing community website or even Twitter. 140 characters is an admirable length for a hook sentence or even a second paragraph.

Eking it out

I find the best way to write your second paragraph is if you already have your hook sentence formulated. You may not have the final version of your hook but a working product is fine for this purpose.

Tease out your hook sentence. You now have three sentences to explain what you just accomplished in a single one. You may want to break up these sentences as follows:
  • Starting scenario: who the hero and/or heroine are – no, not how they look, unless that’s crucial to the story, but what their major hang ups may be about each, what’s going to keep them apart as they make their journey
  • Journey: what their challenges are and perhaps a major obstacle or two that they’re facing
  • End result: in a romance novel, the HEA (Happily Ever After) or HFN (Happy For Now) is assumed. But you can still explain how the hero and heroine get to that HEA (or HFN) and overcome their major obstacles.
A paragraph-long summary of your manuscript should read like the back of the book you eventually want to publish. The same way the back cover blurb should hook a reader who happens upon your book on the bookshelf, your second paragraph summary should make the agent or publisher reading your query letter want to go on to read the manuscript itself.

The end goal is the same: enticing the reader into wanting to read more of your writing.

Photo courtesy of Arvind Balaraman at

1 comment:

  1. I really appreciate the idea behind this great post.You are doing a fine job.Keep it up.

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