Sell me that book in 100 words or less!

Aquarell_gemalt_von_August_Menken-1875 By Creator - August Menken [Public domain] via Wikimedia CommonsI’ve been participating in a month-long exercise where you get a prompt and you write the story. I have set the bar a bit high, as I am giving myself only 100 words to tell that story.  It’s a bit difficult, but I have a reason for this, beyond my usual insanity.

The back of a book has something we writers call blurbs (I know. I shouldn’t use author-speak in company, it’s not polite.)  Technically it is called “the pitch” because you are pitching your product to prospective buyers.  This little thing is critical.  Your cover must make them pick up the book or click on the icon and your pitch must sell it. But hello – you have only about 30 seconds to capture the prospective buyer’s interest enough for them to crack it open, or use the look inside feature for eBooks.

I’m not real good at writing pitches. Neither are the Big Six Publishers, oddly enough!  Even the big companies have found ways of avoiding pitching a novel simply by putting glowing reviews of other works by that author on the back cover.

Back Cover of Mage-Guard of Hamor by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

Back Cover of Mage-Guard of Hamor by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

Bleah.  That doesn’t sell me a book, Tor-Forge, publishing giant that you are. As you can see, on the back cover of this book there is no blurb, only glowing comments about the author’s other series of books.  This may work for a well-known author like L.E.Modesitt Jr., or Brandon Sanderson, but it doesn’t work for me as a reader.

I have observed many indies taking the same route, and skipping the blurbs entirely.

Indie authors take note: I (and millions like me) don’t buy books without blurbs of some sort, somewhere, unless I am already familiar with that author’s work. I want to know what I am buying, so even a bad blurb will interest me more than a quote from a glowing review by one of your Beta Readers.

Just sayin’!

So here I am, suffering the curse of the indie author, trying to not only be my own publicist, but also my own advertising agency.

Thus, I am going to learn how to write a blurb, if it kills me. Writing a 100 word piece of flash-fiction is called a “drabble”.  I figure if I can get this down to a fine art, I can write a decent blurb.

The original prompt went as follows:

Write A 100 Word Story (“Drabble”) . . . although a 100 word story will probably take longer than expected, it’s still going to take a manageable amount of time.

To make a drabble work,
-Choose one or two characters
-Take one single moment/action/choice and show us how it unfolds
-Give us one or two vibrant details in as few words as possible
-Show us (hint) how this moment/action/choice is more significant than the characters probably realize in the moment

I decided to use these parameters for the entire month of flash fiction.  Here is my first one, written May 1st.

Ted  (5-1-2013)

Edna stirred her coffee and looked out the window toward the shed.

“Did you feed the chickens?” Marion always asked, though she knew Edna had.

Edna looked away from the shed. “Of course I did.” Her eyes turned back to the shed. “We won’t be able to keep him in there much longer. He’s growing too big. We should have a barn built for him.”

“Ted was always a greedy boy.” Marion stirred her coffee. “I warned him he behaved like a beast.”

A rumbling bellow shook the shed. A long green tail snaked out of the shed door.

I will keep practicing until I get the hang of creating something interesting in 100 words. Blurbs  don’t have to tell the whole story, that is what the inside of the book is for! All they have to do is sell the book–be that tantalizing bit of interest that hooks the reader into buying your book. 

Yesterday’s drabble went like this:

Quaglio_KipfenbergDrake – 5-3-2013

He stood on the parapet, silhouetted against the starry sky, his wings wrapped tightly about him against the chill wind. The sounds of the darkened world below drifted up to him. The nightbird’s song. The servants in the castle below. The lowing of cattle in the distance.

Hunger, intense and overwhelming clouded his vision.

Spreading his wings Drake fell forward, the wind catching and lifting him; soaring. A scent on the wind alerted him to his quarry.

On a corner she stood, ripe and full lipped—the tamale vendor.

Silently, he dropped beside her, whispering seductively, “Two tamales, please Senora.”

I’ve had a lot of fun with this, and I may have some ideas for longer short stories here, so it’s certainly not a waste of time, even if I never get the hang of selling my own work!


Filed under Books, Dragon Age, Fantasy, Humor, Literature, Uncategorized, writing

11 responses to “Sell me that book in 100 words or less!

  1. Great exercise, and I love your results – wonderful, Connie!


  2. Sherrie DeGraw

    You make me laugh! I want a sexy guy to swoop down and ask me for 2 tamales! Seriously, you drew a very dramatic picture with very few words.


  3. Your drabble didn’t dribble, Connie. Now I want to know more about Ted in the shed. Result!


  4. Way to go! Those are lovely little snippets that would deifinitely pique my interest in seeing more.
    Great exercise for writing the dreaded blurb. Reading advice on blurb writing there always seems to be so much to fit into such a short space: capture the essence of the story, give a sample of the style, tease but don’t reveal too much etc.
    On mine, I seem to keep getting the feedback that ‘perhaps you should have introduced this or that element earlier’.
    In the roughly 200 words you can fit on the cover, how much earlier can you be?
    Keep up the good work!


  5. @J.D. & @Deborah – thank you both. And J.D. – Ted may get a full tale next time I need a short story!


  6. Jean

    I’d buy them both!!!


  7. Well, that’s quite a challenge you set yourself there! I agree totally about the blurb…it’s much harder than writing the book! Flash fiction is always something I have shied away from, but I do love creating a story from a prompt…all those shorts I wrote for my o level English all those many years ago were inspired that way, it’s great fun!


  8. Great results Connie. I really need to come up with a way to talk about my books in a sound bite. I hate it when people ask me what they’re about and I’m like…uhhh….how long do you have for me to explain.


    • I know Johanna! That’s always the problem, isn’t it. And I fell out of ABNA in the pitch round in 2011, and that really lowered my self confidence.

      @Jean – thank you, coming from you that means a lot!

      @Ali Isaac – I think having a prompt to write to makes it a real challenge, because I’ve always been so bad at following directions!