Jeanne: What’s in a Blurb?

Blurb WriterAs I mentioned in last week’s progress report, I hired the inimitable Kat Sheridan to write back cover copy for The Demon Always Wins. 

Although it’s possible to write your own cover copy, and many writers do, I find it difficult to get the proper distance from my work to do that well. Kat is great at what she does, and really reasonable. Even at minimum wage, I would have spent more trying to write the thing myself.

So, I went online and filled out her Standard Fiction Work Order. It asks for title, author, short description and then descriptions of the two main characters, along with any additional characters the author deems worthy of blurb space.

Kat came back with an excellent, pithy blurb that summarized the action in a way I hadn’t considered. It played with a couple of the motifs from the book–Hell and poker–in a clever way. Her email assured me she was willing to rework it until I was happy.

Now that I had an approach, though, I couldn’t resist tweaking it myself, till I came up with the following:

Seven short weeks. That’s all the time Chief Operating Demon Belial has to stack up a victory for Satan. After beating his boss at the poker table, Belial must appease Satan, a notoriously sore loser, so he convinces God to revisit their ancient wager over freewill. If he can get God’s champion to curse him, aloud in and public, within the agreed time-frame, Hell will score bragging rights—and another soul. The demon always wins, but this time the deck may be stacked against him….

Seven short weeks. God chooses Dara Strong to play the part of Job. A widowed nurse running a free clinic, Dara already has a lot of reasons to curse God. A fiery car crash claimed her husband and unborn child five years earlier. But God has an ace up his sleeve. When Dr. Benjamin Lyle shows up at her clinic, Dara, the granddaughter of famous demon-fighters, has no problem recognizing the demon in doctor’s disguise.

Belial may look heavenly, but his soul belongs to Satan. As the battle between these cosmically well-matched opponents escalates, conflict breeds passion, and passion transforms into love. Caught between a Lord of the Underworld Hell-bent on victory and an unforgiving God, Belial and Dara discover there may be only one way to ransom the soul of a fallen angel: sometimes you have to go through Hell to claim your Heaven.

I love this blurb, but there’s always room for improvement. Feel free to offer suggestions!

16 thoughts on “Jeanne: What’s in a Blurb?

  1. Lord knows, it’s hard to write a blurb! 🙂 I’ve only read the opening section of your book, so I’m not speaking from solid ground. But if I were a random reader in a bookstore reading this blurb, I’m not sure I’d be able to tell if the story is more about God and Satan, or Belial and Dara, because more words are given to the God and Satan story line. I realize you need a setup, but is there a way to bring more attention to the Belial/Dara matchup without adding words to the blurb?

  2. I love the ending bit so much that I thought it was perfect! But . . . I would tweak a few things in the first.

    I’d cut this bit:
    “After beating his boss at the poker table, Belial must appease Satan, a notoriously sore loser” because it’s a little involved for a blurb. I’d also cut out the “, but this time the deck may be stacked against him….” because you don’t give the reason directly, and only imply it in the second paragraph. Let’s just let the reader do the connecting of the dots there.

    I would also put “Dr. Ben Lyle” in quotation marks (and shorten it) so the reader can make that connection right away — oh, there’s something fishy about this doctor, and hey, now that I think about it, the name sounds familiar! (I think this will go over a whole bunch of heads anyway, though, but Dara has an appealing set-up here, and you get to the demon part very quickly.)

    I’d also lower-case hell-bent. I think you want to emphasize that the hell really is Hell (proper name for a proper place), but I tend to conflate it with the title. I read “Lord of Underworld Hell (double dash) bent on victory”.

    The “sometimes you have to go through hell to claim your heaven” bit is brilliant!

    • Kay’s comment generated an off-line conversation about how complicated this setup is and how
      God and Satan aren’t the main characters, so why are we focusing on them?

      The current version looks like:

      Seven short weeks. That’s all the time the demon Belial has to stack up a victory for Satan and earn his promotion to Chief Executive Demon, the second most powerful position in Hell. If Belial can corrupt God’s champion within the agreed time-frame, Hell will score bragging rights—and another soul. The demon always wins, but this one’s anybody’s game.

      Seven short weeks. In choosing widowed nurse Dara Strong to represent him, God has an ace up his sleeve. Dara, the granddaughter of famous demon-fighters, has no problem recognizing the demon in doctor’s disguise when Dr. Benjamin Lyle appears at her clinic. She kicks him out the door, but the most successful soul-stealer in the history of Hell is not about to give up so easily.

      As the battle between these cosmically well-matched opponents escalates, conflict breeds passion, and passion transforms into love. Caught between a victory-hungry Satan and an unforgiving God, Belial and Dara discover there may be only one way to ransom the soul of a fallen angel: sometimes you have to go through Hell to claim your Heaven.

      Great idea to pare Benjamin down to Ben–it makes the parallel much clearer.

      And I agree about that last line. Kat is brilliant!

      • One thing I didn’t mention that remained in this cut: I don’t understand what ‘cosmically well-matched’ means. Well-matched as a descriptor lacks punch for me, feels very ‘blah’. And cosmically refers to the universe and vastness of space and…not sure how it applies to well-matched. Maybe there’s a spiritual meaning I’m missing? (It’s a nit and it might just be me.)

        I would say that in the second paragraph, while Dara’s name comes first, the subject of the sentence is still God. I’d rather it be Dara. Could it be something like: ‘Dara Strong, granddaughter of famous demon fighters, is the ace up God’s sleeve. She recognizes a demon in doctor’s disguise the minute “Dr. Ben Lyle” appears at her clinic.’ Or something :-). I just want to see her being active/having agency, not presenting like God’s puppet.

        Just my two cents…

        • “Cosmically well-matched” means these gladiators were selected by God and Satan to go up against each other. It’s one of those “I like it, so I’m keeping it” things. 🙂

          I agree about the Dara/God sentence. I will rework–thanks!

      • Yes, I think this is looking really good! I see Nancy’s comment below; “cosmically” is one of those code words that tell you what you are getting in the story. Technically, it also has the connotation of “star-matched”. (-: I’m not quite sure how my info applies here, but just adding it to the mix.

    • I don’t put things in quotation to help the audience realize there’s something they need to pay attention to because, honestly, I find it really insulting when writers do that.

      • Sure, different tastes. Me, I love all that typographical tomfoolery (-:. I love that whole “comma after dearest” thing in Hamilton. For me, the quotes say, “hey! pay attention!” — and I think they do for you, too, but you resent the “hey! I don’t think you’ll notice this otherwise” nuances.

  3. I agree with Kay about the confusion about whose story it is from the blurb. Thinking in terms of parallel structure, Belial’s section begins with ‘Seven weeks.’ Then ‘stuff about Belial.’ Dara’s section starts with ‘Seven weeks.’ Then ‘stuff about God.’ That diminishes her role in the story, and since she’s going to be ‘our girl’, she needs to take center stage in her own section of the blurb.

    And like Micki, I love the ending :-).

    • I originally wanted the “Seven short weeks” to show that this is a time-bound story, not just something that rambles on forever. With all the other changes, I’m less crazy about it, but I don’t have a better idea.

      (I love all the help from you Ladies!)

        • In ancient numerology, 7 represents perfection, and 6, therefore, represents imperfection. In Hebrew, the declarative is formed by saying something once (“Holy”), the comparative by saying it twice (“Holy, holy”), and the superlative by saying it three times (“Holy, holy, holy). Which is why 666 is the number of the beast–it’s the most imperfect number.

        • (-: So cool, Jeanne! I like playing with numbers, and how other people do it. Kind of wish I could write a book around it, but . . . my brain is set on “appreciate” not “create” with that mode.

  4. Pingback: Kay: Getting There! – Eight Ladies Writing

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