Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Blurb and pitching woes

Work on The Only Genuine Jones is progressing very well. Today I made another read-through of the manuscript--very much a loose-ends edit--and picked up a couple of errors that have filtered down through the years of drafting, rewriting, and editing. Apart from these very minor points I can no longer find anything I would change with the book and at last I'm glad to say that I'm 100% happy with my work. I have also created an Advance Reading Copy (A.R.C, adapted from the original manuscript format for greater readability) which I will shortly be sending out to various individuals who will hopefully be kind enough to supply quotes and endorsements.

However, a recent email conversation about my existing blurb raised some very interesting questions, and led me to think very hard about two things:

  1. My existing blurb is next to useless, as it conveys nothing about the central character's main conflict, the story, or the premise of the book;
  2. Some people, possibly those with a strong existing knowledge of mountaineering history, may object to the changes I've made to historical facts.
So far the second point has led me to write a reasonably thorough historical note, which I've included at the end of the A.R.C, and a brief "This is a work of fiction" disclaimer, which I've put before the story begins. I have also included a bibliography of some of my sources to show that the differences between my story and real life aren't due to ignorance, but very careful thought and years of research.

I am nervous that some people simply won't get my book. I have made very bold changes to the true course of events, which is always risky because these changes are bound to upset some people, and there will always be a voice that cries "isn't the real history dramatic enough?" It's my hope--and this is backed up by all the feedback I have received over the years--that my story is good enough to overcome these objections for most people. Perhaps I would be wiser to market it as alternate history rather than historical fiction. I always knew my strategy was a little risky and the true reckoning will come when the book is published.

The first point is more difficult and I came to address it today.

The person I was recently conversing with shared his concerns that my very weak existing blurb might reflect severe problems in the book itself, possibly even a risk that I may have rushed through the writing process out of a desire to get the book published as soon as possible without the usual checks and processes. Although I'm perfectly satisfied neither are the case (the book has been extensively reconsidered, rewritten, self-edited, and professionally edited over a period of five years) they certainly highlighted the fact that I'm not very good at pitching my own work, which is possibly one reason why I failed to lure a literary agent into my net earlier in the year.

How does one go about writing a succinct blurb that introduces the main character and his central conflict, pitches the story and the premise, and hooks the reader all at the same time? It isn't easy and my first attempt focused on vague themes while offering little of substance. The freedom of the independent author is also a curse, of course; as a traditionally published author a marketing team would write this blurb for me!

This is what I've come up with today, and I'm still not 100% happy with it. I would really appreciate any feedback or advice as this is one of my final hurdles to overcome.

"O.G. Jones is one of the most skilled mountaineers of 19th century Britain, but he has a problem: his rival, Aleister Crowley, has destroyed his reputation and now Jones struggles to find acceptance in a community of climbers resistant to change. In an alternate history parallel to our own, new techniques and equipment are allowing climbers to attempt routes nobody would have dared consider only a few years before. The north faces of the Alps, long believed to be impossible, are now the objectives of bold young men desperate to make their mark on history. 
"As Jones struggles to restore his reputation and nurture this new progressive school of climbing, he is opposed by Crowley and fights against his own weaknesses in the mountains. Eventually he faces a terrible choice: climb on the most dangerous wall in the Alps and almost certainly perish, or lose the woman he loves and allow Crowley's desire for revenge to destroy everything and everyone he believes in. 
"Adventure and deception, the Victorian spirit of progress, and the savage beauty of the wild combine to make this a tale of the mountains unlike any other."

Blurb and other issues aside, I'm still on track for a late October launch, all being well. It's a little scary!
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