Friday, June 02, 2006


So last year we got the bad news that while women do not discriminate by gender when they buy a book, men pretty much stick to work by other men. Then recently I read that men are much better about blowing trumpets, tooting horns, and all the other phallic imagery that's used to describe self-promotion.

Unfortunately, my own case bears that out. Can't come up with a succinct pitch to save my life. If anyone asks me what my book is about, I stutter and stammer..."Um, well, it's kind of's a suspense novel." On a really good day, I might add, "See there's this liar who keeps a diary..."

The obvious subtext is the polite assumption I learned as a little girl: Don't take up too much space. Don't be too loud. And never, ever talk too much about yourself.

Ted, on the other hand, can talk fluidly and with enthusiasm about the novel to anyone he meets--from old friends to captive strangers in the line at the grocery store. By the time he's finished, his listeners are convinced that they not only HAVE to buy my forthcoming book, they're ready to pre-order my unwritten next two.

In an effort to learn more market savvy, I took MJ Rose's excellent course, Buzzing Your Book. (Highly recommended to newbie authors, or those who plan to be. There's absolutely no one in the industry who knows more about creating buzz than MJ.) One thing we worked on developing one succinct line that encapsulates and intrigues. Even shrinking dandelions like me should be able to blurt one of those out.

I came up with these options:

a) psychological suspense for those who believe character is the deepest mystery of all

b) sophisticated suspense for those who believe the darkest mystery lies in the human heart

c) psychological suspense for anyone who can't resist a private diary, a locked door, or a closed heart

d) sophisticated suspense for anyone who ever read someone else's diary
and found something they never wanted to know

e) sophisticated suspense for the reader who cares more about why it happened than who did it.

I'd love to hear any and all opinions about which one works better, though if I run into you on the proverbial elevator, don't be surprised if I just mutter and look at my shoes, "Well, um, it's kind of a suspense novel..."

I was always such a polite little girl.


rdl said...

c, d, e in that order. c'mon cowardly lion, ya know you want to be a big bad leo.

P. A. Moed said...

So true, Patry. I'm the same way when people ask me about my book. If Larry King ever interviewed me, it would be the shortest interview on record!!

As for your choices, I liked the last 3 the best. Psychological suspense stopped me though. I'm not sure what you mean by that.

Anonymous said...

I would actually turn D into a question: Have you ever read someone else's diary and found out something you didn't want to know?

The suspense is implied.

Meanwhile, they give seminars periodically in Boston and elsewhere on how to be a woman and promote yourself with the same effortlessness of every man. I used to get flyers for them. Just reading the flyers was pretty informative for me. I'd look into this, if you really are interested in learning how to do this. If not, well, that's why agents, publicists and publishers were invented. :)


Adagio said...


Sky said...

c, d, e - in that order.

patry, i can't wait to read it! want any early reviews?! :)

Anonymous said...

I'm like that with music...I really stick to women musicians.

I hear you on the inability to "toot your own horn" so to speak. I liked C the best. That is a book that would facinate me.

Tom.... said...

I go for e, but agree that "suspense" should be already implied so that "thriller" could be enough. and....I'm a guy who loves Peggy Noonan's the stereotype is just that.

celestialmtn said...

B for me. Most definitely!

robin andrea said...

Ah, the difference between being a writer and writing ad copy. A one-liner is simply an entirely different way of thinking and writing. Hardly something that would come naturally to the novelist. I couldn't sell myself to save my life. I don't know how I ever got hired after a job interview. How to write a one-line pitch for a novel? Who knows? They all sound good to me.

Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

Gosh do I relate to this post Patry (then, I relate to many of your posts!)...

I was just telling my husband that I hate talking about my novel because it always sounds so stupid when I sum it up. That is, in the version I speak to people. The version on the query letter seems sort of groovy, but nobody TALKS that way, you know?


Anonymous said...

I would choose D...and then wonder what that says about ME (that I chose it)! :)

Laini Taylor said...

Hi Patry! Those are all great and thanks for the tip on that class -- I'm with you on this one all the way. I haven't come up with a great pitch yet either, and I blush talking about my book. Of your choices there I prefer "d" because it has the most solid information in it -- that it's about reading someone else's diary and finding out what you never wanted to know. the others all sound very evocative, but they don't give a real indication of what the book is about. I think they'd be good in different situations. Great post!

Crockhead said...

I like c.
I don't agree that men mostly buy books by men. You already know what a fan I am of your work, but I like Jane Smiley, Louise Erdich, Flannery O'Connor, Anne Lamott, Anne Tyler, just to name a few who come to mind immediately. So, I don't like Jane Austen; if that makes me sexist, I'll live with that.

Patry Francis said...

c: I'm the same way. Can easily rave about OTHER people's stuff. (See review of Ushpizin below.) Thanks for your input.

r: ROAR!! or is er, excuse me, me-ow??? More like the second, I'm afraid.

patti: Maybe we can go on Larry King together. I'll talk about your book and you can talk about mine. What do you say?

sara: Interesting that you should say that. Last Friday, my editor was saying how effective it can be to turn a pitch line into a question. Really draws the reader in. Thanks for the feedback.

Adagio: I've missed you! Thanks for weighing in.

sky: Actually, they are doing an advanced reader's edition. Not certain exactly who will be distributing them, but if I get any, I'll take you up on that.

andrea: oh, me too! Lucy Kaplansky and Ella Fitzgerald know my heart.

tom: I think you're right about the word "suspense". It's the old show and tell thing. And I never thought you were part of the stereotype: if you were, you wouldn't be here!

nova: I love a "definite" response. I tend to weigh things way too much. Thanks for sharing your opinion.

robin: Writing advertising copy doesn't come naturally to me either, but it's been a thrill learning about it. And as far as selling yourself, I don't think you'd ever have to. I've never met you, but I'd vote for you for president if you ran!

Jordan: Oh yes! The query sounds pretty good, but it's not something you can just reel off on the elevator. Maybe we should carry them around and pass them out...

marilyn: What it says about you? It says that you would really love my book. (See, I'm learning...)

Anonymous said...

For me it was (C) that I found the most intriguing.

Patry Francis said...

Laini: Can't wait to read your pitch when you come up with it. It's an adventure, isn't it?

Amishlaw: Glad to be included among the women writers you like. It's a fine group, and no you don't have to like Jane Austen. There are plenty of male (and female) writers who I acknowledge as great, but don't personally like.

Patry Francis said...

Coll: Must have x-posted with you. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on the subject!

TS said...

Re: men pretty much stick to work by other men

Not much a handicap for you if it's true as it says here that women buy 82% of books in this country.

Fred Garber said...

" A page turner! You will stay up all night reading this debut novel. Patry Francis makes you feel as if you are reading something that you should not be reading. Ah, but that is the raw beauty of Liars' Diary." Factorytown Gazette

Melly said...

Patry, haven't read the other comments being so late on this one but I'm going to be blunt and say that I think that most of these lines are very feminine sounding. Of course, there's nothing wrong with that, but as you said, us females don't know how to promote ourselves (and I'm just as guilty).
I like Fred Garber's lines and (d) is next.

Or perhaps:
A suspenseful liar's diary revealing the darkest mystery of all, something you didn't want to know.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Hi Patry - for what it's worth - I agree with Sara - very snappy.

Book sounds brill!

Patry Francis said...

ts: I guess I can live with those numbers. Thanks for the link!

fred: see what I mean about men knowing how to do it? I'm counting on the Factory Town Gazette for my first review.

melly: bluntness is another word for honesty in most cases, and it's very much appreciated. I'm afraid none of these says enough about what the book is about.

Clare: Thanks; your opinion is worth a lot. I think Sara is onto something, too.

Jean said...

It's true that none of these says a lot about the story, but I still like them all and particulary the last one which pinpoints the defining characteristic of the kind of suspense novels I really enjoy - so that one would certainly get me as a reader.

Not hard to imagine what a hard lesson this is. Such an interior talent and occupation - how could self-promotion be anything but difficult for a writer?

Anonymous said...

We are sooo alike! And so are our husbands. As soon as I start talking about my book, I become self-conscious. My husband gets so excited when talking about it that it's contagious. Fortunately, the main buzz for my book is over and I'm relieved. Looking back it all went great and had it's own momentum. The book fulfilled its higher purpose and still continues to but at a slower pace.

I think that's why I write because talking on my feet doesn't come easy, but I have so much to say! Writing gives me time to think.

I like C the best!

Anonymous said...

PS We always feel we came across worse than we really did.

And by the way, I love the line "see there's this liar that keeps a diary." That intrigues me too.

Patry Francis said...

Jean: Thanks for the feedback. My intention was to write a novel that was both plot and character driven. And yes, it is definitely against my nature to come out of my cave and SELL. But since the success of a book may depend on it, I'm polishing my pitch and gearing up.

Colleen: Yes, we are definitely alike. It must have been something in the water--or the rocks we chewed (!) back in Brockton. I've been relating to the pieces you've written about reading and speaking in public--and taking heart from them.

Anonymous said...

I vote for psychological suspense. I really think this curiosity rests in all of us!