Writing With the Stars Vote Best Back Cover Blurb

Best Back Cover Blurb

The votes continue to pour in for our Writing With the Stars contest! We had another record-breaking number of people voting for their favorites to become the next Kensington Brava author. Round two has been tallied, and it’s time to say goodbye to Maria Zannini (“Mistress of the Stone”) and Alannah Lynne (“Last Call”). Given that they beat out many other aspiring writers to final in this competition, we know we’ll hear more from them in the future! You can keep up with them at: MariaZannini.Blogspot.com and AlannahLynne.com.

Now it’s time for round three, best cover copy. You know, the text that appears at the back of the book that lures you into buying it. This month’s guest judge is Kristin Nelson of the Nelson Literary Agency, and the popular publishing blog, Pubrants.Blogspot.com.

Nelson really got into our competitors’ entries and dissected what works and what doesn’t. We’ve got her full, line-by-line critique here in blue and red text to read before you vote.

Voting for round three starts on Dec. 13. As with the previous rounds, you will be able to post your comments below. So get ready, get set — vote!

ROUND THREE'S JUDGE: Kristin Nelson

Kristin established the Nelson Literary Agency (Nelson Agency.com) in 2002. Since then, she has sold more than 100 books to all the major publishers. She has landed several film deals and has contracted foreign rights on behalf of her clients. She specializes in representing commercial fiction (mainstream, women’s fiction, romance, science fiction, fantasy, young adult and middle grade) and literary fiction with a commercial bent. In general, she does not handle nonfiction projects with the exception of an occasional memoir. Clients include bestselling authors Ally Carter, Jamie Ford, Gail Carriger, Simone Elkeles, Courtney Milan, Sherry Thomas and Linnea Sinclair.

 

THE CONTESTANTS ENTRIES:


Maeve Greyson
Gilbertsville, KY

 

Eternity’s Mark (Paranormal)

BACK COVER BLURB: Don’t call me unless it’s an animal emergency.
The only veterinarian in five counties, Hannah MacPherson’s life is set. Or should she say reset since becoming widowed four years ago and promising herself no more men. Only animals. Now what’s she supposed to do with this infuriating stranger stirring long-forgotten yearnings? Traveling to Scotland with this dangerous warrior could prove too much temptation to resist. His searing glance alone ignites desires she abandoned long ago. If she breaks her promise and listens to her re-awakened body, how will she heal her already wounded heart if Taggart ever leaves?

It is an animal emergency.

Taggert’s never met such a stubborn woman in his life. And over the course of 700 years, he’s met a few. It took him centuries to trace Hannah’s lineage but mere seconds to realize this fiery woman threatens to destroy every oath of living a solitary life he’s ever sworn. The very scent of her inflames his senses, reminding him he’s still half man. But how could he bear the horror reflected in those beautiful eyes if she ever witnessed the beast within?

Mentor Rebecca Zanetti: “Eternity’s Mark” is a fast-paced, intriguing and hot story — and there’s so much that could go into a back cover blurb. I suggested Maeve focus the blurb on the romance between Taggart and Hannah because they really are fascinating characters with a great conflict. Maeve did an absolutely fantastic job with the sexy, romantic blurb. I’d buy the book after reading it.

Kristin's Comments: Don’t call me unless it’s an animal emergency

The only veterinarian in five counties, Hannah MacPherson’s life is set. Or should she say reset since becoming widowed four years ago and promising herself no more men. Only animals. [All this is fine but we do need to tie into your opening line somehow! You can’t give a sentence like that and then not refer to it later.] Now what’s she supposed to do with this infuriating stranger stirring long forgotten yearnings? Is he the person who called and it wasn’t an emergency? Traveling to Scotland with this dangerous warrior could prove too much temptation to resist. This is a throwaway line. It doesn’t give the reader any necessary info. I figured this was a contemporary-set story, but this line confuses me as we have “Scotland” and “warrior” which sound like a historical. His searing glance alone ignites desires she abandoned long ago. We already know this so all these lines are filler without giving the reader any new info. Makes the copy generic. If she breaks her promise  [The promise of no men? Who cares? We have no idea why she would have sworn off them in the first place in this copy.] and listens to her re-awakened body, how will she heal her already wounded heart if Taggart ever leaves?

It is an animal emergency Here is your attempt at tie-in to opening line but it doesn’t connect anything

Taggert’s never met such a stubborn woman in his life. And over the course of seven hundred years, he’s met a few. You’ve switched to the other character but we don’t have enough info about Hannah yet, so we aren’t feeling comfortable, as a reader, switching to Taggert It took him centuries to trace Hannah’s lineage but mere seconds to realize this fiery woman threatens to destroy every oath of living a solitary life he’s ever sworn. [Why?] The very scent of her inflames his senses, reminding him he’s still half man. But how could he bear the horror reflected in those beautiful eyes if she ever witnessed the beast within? Whoa! Is this a paranormal? If so, that should be interwoven into the copy. Right now this copy is too vague. So far, all we know about Hannah and Taggert is that they don’t want to fall in love with each other. Well, that’s basic to any romance so who cares. What is at stake for these two if they do? She’s a vet. Will she suddenly stop being able to be a vet? And does her job have anything to do with Taggert having “a beast within,” which I’m not sure I understand. Is that physical or metaphysical?

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You can find this contestant online at MaeveGreyson.com and MaeveGreyson.Blogspot.com. You can find her mentor, Rebecca Zanetti, at her website, www.rebeccazanetti.com

***


Lisa Kessler
San Diego, CA
 

Moonlight (Paranormal)

BACK COVER BLURB: When the alpha’s heir finds his mate, she’s a jaguar — mortal enemy of the werewolf pack. She’s also the key to a top-secret breeding experiment, combining psychic humans with jaguars to create the ultimate assassin … and they will do anything to get her back.

When Adam catches the scent of a jaguar, he assumes it will lead him to another jaguar assassin. Instead he finds a woman who has no idea she’s a shifter. Before he can get rid of her, the wolf inside of him imprints on her as his mate. Could a mortal enemy of his pack be the other half of his soul?

Meanwhile, the Nero Organization discovers that their breeding experiment didn’t die at birth, and they want her back. As they close in, Lana and Adam unravel the mystery behind her birth, and why this top secret organization will stop at nothing to acquire her. As their love grows, so do the stakes. Will Adam be forced to abandon his pack, or will the wolves learn to embrace a jaguar before it’s too late? Love, loyalty and family will all be tested, but in the Moonlight anything is possible …

Mentor Bianca D’Arc: Lisa really knocked this one out of the ballpark. I made only two minor suggestions on more dramatic punctuation. Writing a blurb is hard work and I think Lisa did an outstanding job not only capturing the mysterious feel of her story but also making me want to read the book for sure!

Kristin's Comments: When the Alpha's heir finds his mate , she's a jaguar -- mortal enemy of the werewolf Pack. She's also the key to a top secret breeding experiment, combining psychic humans with jaguars to create the ultimate assassin... and they will do anything to get her back. The opening paragraph doesn’t make any sense to me. Who is the heir? Why is he important? Is the heroine a shapeshifter or in Jaguar form all the time? Who is “they” and why will they do anything to get her back? Right now, the opening paragraph creates a lot of confusion because it raises more questions than it answers. Now, you are going to say that the next paragraphs will explain it but good cover copy doesn’t work that way. You’ve already lost the reader; they aren’t going to read on.

When Adam catches the scent of a Jaguar, [Is Adam the heir?] he assumes it will lead him to another Jaguar assassin. And why would he assume that? Instead he finds a woman who has no idea she’s a shifter. So she’s been changing into jaguar form and not noticing? Or, has she never changed into the other shape yet? Confusing.  Before he can get rid of her [Why does he need to get rid of her?], the wolf inside of him imprints on her as his mate. Is this normal for his werewolf self? If it’s not, what is at stake?

Could a mortal enemy of his Pack be the other half of his soul? Now I like this question!

[Meanwhile,] terrible transition as there should be no “meanwhile” the Nero Organization discovers that their breeding experiment didn't die at birth, and they want her back. I’m unclear how this has anything to do with the story. As they close in, Lana and Adam unravel the mystery behind her birth [Why do Adam and Lana have to unravel this secret? What has this to do with his pack and her being an enemy of that pack?], and why this top secret organization will stop at nothing to acquire her.

As their love grows, so do the stakes. Will Adam be forced to abandon his Pack, or will the wolves learn to embrace a Jaguar before it’s too late?  Love, loyalty and family will all be tested, but in the Moonlight anything is possible…

This cover copy is a classic example of what I call “convoluted plot.” There are lots of details but none of them make sense in the context of each other because the world is so unclear. Are werewolves and jaguars known in this world? Is everyone a shapeshifter or is this something that is kept hidden? Where does this story take place? Contemporary New York City? I haven’t the faintest idea. Is this a historical? Near future? Then beyond the world? There is nothing that explains why jaguars and werewolves can’t be together so who cares if Adam is one thing and Lana is another. It’s also not clear what is at stake? Why do they need to discover her birth mystery? Too many questions and no answers. I can’t figure out the story from what’s given here.

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You can find this contestant online at Myspace.com/Lisas_Lair or Blogs.Myspace.com/Lisas_Lair. You can find her mentor, Bianca D'Arc, at her website, www.biancadarc.com   

***


Dale Mayer
B.C., Canada
 

Tuesday’s Child (Romantic Suspense)

BACK COVER BLURB: A Truly Terrible Gift. Samantha Blair learned long ago that her psychic gifts made her different. Shunned by people who didn’t understand, Sam learned to hide her abilities and live on the fringe of society. But now, against her will, she’s tapped into a killer — or rather, his victims. She experiences each woman’s murder, blow by blow, until death releases her back to her own life. Shaken, Sam knows she must go to the authorities. But will the tall, rugged detective — a man who makes her desire things she shouldn’t — believe her?

Exactly What He Needs. Detective Brandt Sutherland trusts hard evidence, yet Sam’s visions might offer the clues he needs to catch a killer. The more he learns about her abilities, the clearer it becomes that Sam’s visions pose as real a danger to her as to the killer. Now Brandt must save Sam from something he cannot see or understand, only realizing too late that no one can save him — from losing his heart to her.

They’re both about to get more than they bargained for. As danger and desire collide, passion raises the stakes in a game Sam and Brandt don’t dare lose.

Mentor Cynthia Eden: Dale did a great job of describing the suspense elements in her original blurb; however, her tale is a sexy romantic suspense. I wanted her blurb to show the romance side of her book. I advised her to include romance elements to balance the suspense. I believe her finished product blends suspense and romance in a fabulous way.

Kristin's Comments: A Truly Terrible Gift. Samantha Blair learned long ago that her psychic gifts made her different. Shunned by people who didn’t understand, Sam learned to hide her abilities and live on the fringe of society. [So far, not a bad start but as a reader, I have no context. What time period is this? Knowing that could escalate the conflict right from the start if this is set in historical Salem, etc. ]But now, against her will, she’s tapped into a killer—or rather, his victims. Hum… this line makes no sense. What does she “tap” into? Thoughts? Psychic abilities can mean a variety of things and you haven’t made it clear yet. And why is she suddenly connected to the victims of this killer and why is it against her will? She experiences each woman’s murder, blow-by-blow, until death releases her back to her own life. I don’t know what this means? Is she seeing the deaths in her dreams and then when the murder ends, she wakes up? Shaken, Sam knows she must go to the authorities. But will the tall, rugged detective—a man who makes her desire things she shouldn’t—believe her? Believe her about what? That she is a psychic? Have these murders already happened or is she seeing what will happen if she doesn’t stop it? I’m confused with the copy so far.

Exactly What He Needs. Detective Brandt Sutherland trusts hard evidence, yet Sam’s visions might offer the clues he needs to catch a killer. I need context. Was he already on the case? The more he learns about her abilities, the clearer it becomes that Sam’s visions pose as real a danger to her as to the killer. Here’s another sentence that doesn’t make sense. How can the killer find out about her? Now Brandt must save Sam from something he cannot see or understand. [The killer isn’t a person?], only realizing too late that no one can save him—from losing his heart to her. Last line doesn’t really add punch. For romance, it’s like saying “this restaurant serves food.” It’s a given so stating it without saying how it will raise the stakes for both doesn’t add much.

They’re both about to get more than they bargained for. As danger and desire collide, passion raises the stakes in a game Sam and Brandt don’t dare lose. Same here. A throwaway line unless the stakes are clear. To me, romantic suspense blurbs are tough. The biggest culprit in this cover copy is how vague it is so it ends up reading generically which is not what the writer wants!

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You can find this contestant online at DaleMayer.com. You can find her mentor, Cynthia Eden, at her website, www.cynthiaeden.com.

*** 


Diana Quincy
Ashburn, VA
 

Seducing Charlotte (Historical)

BACK COVER BLURB: Charlotte has a low opinion of the Marquess of Camryn. Even if he is considered the catch of the season. He’s also an industrialist, who thinks nothing of replacing workers with machines, depriving them of honest work. Camryn is everything a social reformer like Charlotte detests.

The marquess enjoys the attention of beautiful women. He sees no shame in the occasional moonlit liaison with a willing dove. But Charlotte Livingston thinks he’s depraved after catching him in the throes of one such encounter. Her disdain should amuse him. Instead it enthralls Camryn and he soon learns the lady isn’t exactly what she seems.

He shocks society by declaring his intention to court the rather plain, tart-tongued writer. The ton has long assumed the bookish hoyden will never marry.

But Camryn is the last man Charlotte can have affection for.

Soon, both are swept into the turmoil of the burgeoning Luddite movement. The desperate workers are bent on demolishing the machines which have left them destitute.

Camryn vows to destroy the rebel movement, unaware that the only woman he has ever loved harbors a secret, shocking connection to one of its leaders that could shatter them both.

Mentor Mary Wine: Blurbs are so important and writing a great one takes hard work. Diana really polished and remodeled this one so it captures the attention of the reader. Bravo!

Kristin's Comments: Charlotte has a low opinion of the Marquess of Camryn. Why? Even if he is considered the catch of the season. You need turn the sentence around. As in “Even though the Marquess of Camryn is the catch of the season, Charlotte Livingston has a low opinion of him." Your next line explains the “why” but the way you have your set up, the reader asks the question too soon. He’s an industrialist, who thinks nothing of replacing workers with machines, depriving them of honest work. Camryn is everything a social reformer like Charlotte detests.
[We need a transition here … ]The marquess enjoys the attention of beautiful women. He sees no shame in the occasional moonlit liaison with a willing dove. But Charlotte Livingston thinks he’s depraved after catching him in the throes of one such encounter. [This detail is not all that helpful. We already know that she has a low opinion of him so this tidbit of info adds very little to the cover copy. You only have so much space.] Her disdain should amuse him. Instead it enthralls Camryn [Why? There seems no purpose to his interest.] and he soon learns the lady isn’t exactly what she seems. We need a hint as to in what way.

He shocks society by declaring his intention to court the rather plain, tart-tongued writer. The ton has long assumed the bookish hoyden will never marry. Why?

But Camryn is the last man Charlotte can have affection for. This is info we already know.

Soon, both are swept into the turmoil of the burgeoning Luddite movement. This is very unsexy. I mean, why would a Luddite movement be dangerous, as that is what you seem to be implying here. The desperate workers are bent on demolishing the machines which have left them destitute.  

Camryn vows to destroy the rebel movement, unaware that the only woman he has ever loved harbors a secret, shocking connection to one of its leaders that could shatter them both. [Now this is interesting! But I had to wade through a lot of not helpful info to get to it. I think this last paragraph has a lot of potential. Way more than all of the above. You only have 10 lines or so at most. You need to make every single one count!] 

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You can find this contestant online at DianaQuincy.Blogspot.com. You can find her mentor, Mary Wine, at her website, www.marywine.com.

***


Madeline Smyth
Buffalo, NY
 

Aliya Arabesque (Contemporary)

BACK COVER BLURB: BETWEEN RESISTANCE AND SURRENDER LAYS A WORLD OF DISCOVERY…

ALIYA ROBERTS OF NEW YORK A woman who rebuilt her shattered life and swallowed her hatred of the Middle East, the world from which her parents’ murderers came in jihad. When her sister disappears in Saudi Arabia, she must journey into the depths of her heart not only to find her sister, but also to forgive her Arab blood.

SHEIKH FARŪQ OF THE AL-`AZĪZ A man deeply imbued with the ways of his ancient land, devoted to his faith, and responsible for his tribe. He carries an American infidel of al-Jabir blood out of a sandstorm and into his harem, challenging his world. To rule his desert kingdom, he must awaken Aliya Roberts of New York to her destiny as Aliya of Arabia.

A JOURNEY ACROSS TWO WORLDS Their desire is undeniable, but dangerous. Sheikh Faruq’s burning passion ignites a firestorm among the al-Aziz, while Aliya’s conflicted heart brings the al-Aziz to the brink of war with the al-Jabir. To be together, they must betray their worlds, but to love forever, they must sacrifice their beliefs and surrender their hearts.
BETWEEN DESIRE AND SACRIFICE LAYS THE ROAD TO ETERNITY …

Mentor Emma Lang: Writing a book blurb can be one of the hardest things a writer can do. How do you summarize 90,000 words in 200? It’s a task not to be taken lightly. Madeline started well, and we worked through revisions to tweak it until we both felt it was ready to entice readers from the back cover of a book. Re-reading it now, I have to say Madeline really nailed it.

Kristin's Comments: BETWEEN RESISTANCE AND SURRENDER LAYS A WORLD OF DISCOVERYFor me, this opening line is too generic. Resistance to what? Love?

ALIYA ROBERTS OF NEW YORK A woman who rebuilt her shattered life and swallowed her hatred of the Middle East, the world from which her parents' murderers came in jihad. This is not a complete sentence and there are a lot of details thrown at the reader without a context. Is this a contemporary story? This would be better: “Aliya Roberts lives in New York. After escaping the Middle East jihad that killed her parents, Aliya can now finally rebuild her life in her adopted American city and swallow her hatred of all things Middle Eastern.” When her sister disappears in Saudi Arabia, [she] Aliya? must journey into the depths of her heart not only to find her sister, but also to forgive her Arab blood. This may be true but does she also have to journey to Saudia Arabia to find out what happened to her sister? This is confusing.

SHEIKH FARŪQ OF THE AL-`AZĪZ A man deeply imbued with the ways of his ancient land, devoted to his faith, and responsible for his tribe. Cover copy is mostly in complete sentences and when they use a fragment, it’s for emphasis. That’s not what you are doing here. You are using it for shorthand but that doesn’t work.  He carries an American infidel of al-Jābir blood out of a sandstorm and into his harem [Uh, is he referring to Aliya? Why is she stuck out in a sandstorm?], challenging his world. To rule his desert kingdom, he must awaken Aliya Roberts of New York to her destiny as `Āliya of Arabia. OK, that’s good but why is this destiny going to impact his kingdom? How are the two things linked?

A JOURNEY ACROSS TWO WORLDSTheir desire is undeniable, but dangerous. Sheikh Farūq’s burning passion ignites a firestorm among the al-`Azīz, [Why? Because he loves an American Infidel? Does that undercut his authority? It’s unclear.] while Aliya’s conflicted heart brings the al-`Azīz to the brink of war with the al-Jābir. Same here, why would her conflicted heart bring the Aziz and Jabir to war?  To be together, they must betray their worlds, but to love forever, they must sacrifice their beliefs [Beliefs about what?] and surrender their hearts.

This cover copy falls under the “convoluted plot” definition. There are a lot of details but the writer doesn’t link them together so that what is at stake is clear. Also, there isn’t any clear defining of the time period or world. Is this contemporary or historical? The sister’s disappearance is the catalyst to get Aliya to Saudia Arabia but then that plot thread is dropped altogether so we have no idea how Aliya gets caught in the desert so our hero can find in. In general, it’s vague, and vague always ends up translating into confusion when the reader is simply trying to follow the basic thread of the plot in the cover copy. 

BETWEEN DESIRE AND SACRIFICE LAYS THE ROAD TO ETERNITY…

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You can find this contestant online at MadelineSmyth.Blogspot.com. You can find her mentor, Emma Lang, aka Beth Williamson, at her website, www.bethwilliamson.com.

***


Meredith Simmons
Wilson, NC
 

Indentured Hearts (Historical)

BACK COVER BLURB: Beautiful, confident and witty, Lady Cassandra Spathe is the toast of London society until she kills a suitor in self-defense and is forced to flee. After a tortuous voyage, she arrives half-dead in the Virginia Colony. A tag reading Cassy Spade, Indentured Seamstress flutters from her neck. And she’s sold!

Her buyer, Jason Anders, is a former transported convict who’s made a fortune exploiting opportunities that others missed. Although he still carries the cruel scars of his servitude on his back and in his soul, he now aspires to become
a gentleman. Cassy, with her upper-class airs and graces, seems the perfect choice to give him polish. Too perfect. He cannot ignore her allure, and his lust for the indentured woman tests his self-control and endangers his political future.

Initially appalled by her attraction to a man who is her social inferior, Jason’s dark good looks and muscular physique fill Cassy with unwanted desires. When these two opposites unite, combustion is inevitable.

Then Cassy discovers she’s innocent of any crime. She now faces a difficult choice – go back to the privileged world she left behind or stay with the one man who owns her very heart and soul …

Mentor Bronwen Evans: I suggested Meredith focus on a strong opening hook and a strong closing hook. She has done a great job with Cassy killing in self-defense for the opening. As for closing, Cassy learns she is in fact innocent of any crime and now faces a test of her own convictions – love in a new land or the security of her old life.

Kristin's Comments: Beautiful, confident, and witty, Lady Cassandra Spathe is the toast of London Society until she kills a suitor in self-defense and is forced to flee. Where does this accidental killing take place? After a tortuous sea voyage [There are consequences for this accidental killing?], she arrives half-dead in the Virginia Colony. A tag reading Cassy Spade, Indentured Seamstress flutters from her neck. And she’s sold!
Her buyer, Jason Anders, is a former transported convict [Hum, might be a tough hero to like … ] who’s made a fortune exploiting opportunities that others missed. Such as? Although he still carries the cruel scars of his servitude on his back and in his soul, he now aspires to become a gentleman. Cassy, with her upper-class airs and graces, seems the perfect choice to give him polish. I like the motivation here! Too perfect. He cannot ignore her allure, and his lust for the indentured woman tests his self-control and endangers his political future.

Initially appalled by her attraction to a man who is her social inferior, Jason’s dark good looks and muscular physique fill Cassy with unwanted desires. When these two opposites unite, combustion is inevitable. This wrap up is a bit too generic and doesn’t have a lot of punch. I’d rather a sense of the bigger stakes or conflict that will face these two.

Then Cassy discovers she’s innocent of any crime. She now faces a difficult choice – go back to the privileged world she left behind or stay with the one man who owns her very heart and soul… I’m not clear why she has a choice. Isn’t she an indentured servant?

The biggest issue with this cover copy is lack of clarity for actual events. You don’t want it to read too vague. General premise is interesting though.

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You can find this contestant online at MeredithSimmons.com. You can find her mentor, Bronwen Evans, at her website, www.bronwenevans.com. 

***

 Voting for the third round begins now and will continue until January 2nd.
You may vote once and comment as many times as you like.

Nothing really grabbed me

Submitted by Teri P on December 30, 2010 - 1:36pm.

One thing that I agree with Judge Nelson on, is that all of the blurbs are a bit lengthy and convoluted. Several of them left me wondering about the time period of the book. For example, is Eternity's Mark a contemporary, historical, time travel, or none of the above?

I really wanted to vote for Tuesday's Child, because I like psychic stories, but the blurb left me confused. What is Samantha's psychic ability?

Same goes for Aliya Arabesque. Someone in an earlier comment says the parents died as a result of 9/11, but how would I know that from the blurb? The blurb left me wondering why Aliya actually had to go to Saudi Arabia.

I surprised myself in voting for Indentured Hearts, which I thought was the best back cover blurb. As far as the rest if the choices, nothing jumped out at me. So far every book has presented something I liked. That being said, I can't imagine taking my whole story and coming up with 8 or 9 lines to sell the entire book! Everyone keep up the good work!

Tuesday’s Child

Submitted by Debra V on December 13, 2010 - 12:53pm.

I have to say I really want to read this book!!!!!