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Queries and pitches and blurbs--oh my! (and a new cover)

by Mary Margret Daughtridge

January 29, our Casablanca editor will be with us to take your fifty-word pitches for your book, so I hope your pencils are sharpened and you're polishing away already. Marie's going to tell you all about it tomorrow, and she'll answer all your questions.

When I suggested to the other Casababes we have this little pitch-party, and maybe offer some tips for success, several admitted they had never pitched. Well, neither have I. True. And then, I wondered if I could.

Evey author needs a couple of sentences they can respond with when someone asks, "What's your book about?" So I decided to offer a warm-up to the Deb's blog by writing some pitches for SEALed With a Promise, the SEALed book that will be in the stores in April.

I played by the rules: fifty words and under. We learn by doing and then getting feedback. Tell me which pitch you think is most successful. I'd also welcome suggestions. Here goes:

1. Caleb, a Navy SEAL must enter a senator's world if he hopes to fulfill his promise to make the senator pay for his mother’s death. A dowdy daughter of missionaries can be Caleb's ticket--if he can persuade a woman who’s not used to masculine attention, she’s worthy of his.

2. As a trailer-trash kid Caleb swore he’d make Senator Calhoun pay for his mother’s death. Someday. Now he’s a SEAL and ready to bring Calhoun down. Emmie, a spinsterish PhD, has the entrée he needs into Calhoun’s upper-crust world. Caleb’s next step: make Emmie believe they’re in love.

3. As a trailer-trash kid Caleb blamed Senator Calhoun for his mother’s death. Now Caleb’s a SEAL. Emmie, dowdy professor, has the entrée he needs into Calhoun’s upper-crust circle. Once there, he’ll bring the senator down. But first he must convince the family (and Emmie) they’re engaged.

4. Caleb, a Navy SEAL, and Emmie, a dowdy professor, team up to bring a “Family Values” Senator who’s also a deadbeat dad his comeuppance. But Emmie doesn’t know how deadly in earnest Caleb is. When fate offers Caleb perfect eye-for-an-eye revenge, only love will decide which promises they keep.

Since I just know you're dying to read more by now, here's a back-of-the-book blurb I wrote for inclusion in ARC(Advance Review Copy) letters to go out with SEALed With A Promise.

The maid of honor has connections.

Bookish blue-blood, Emmie Caddington, all beige hair and baggy suits, fades into the woodwork most to the time—even when she’s maid of honor at an Eastern North Carolina society wedding. Few men notice her, fewer still want her.

The best man is a SEAL.

But Navy SEAL Caleb Dulaude, aka “Do-Lord,” is trained to see what others miss—in this case: fey beauty, a killer bod, and quirky charm. When Emmie needs his covert operative skills to switch the cakes at the wedding, he knows just how to turn her quixotic scheme to his advantage. She isn’t immune to the attraction between them. Emmie can be his ticket into Senator Teague Calhoun’s upper-crust world.

Caleb was just a trailer-trash kid when he promised to make Calhoun pay for his mother’s death—someday, somehow. Now he’s a SEAL, battle-hardened, subtle and crafty. He hides his genius IQ under country-boy charm—and someday is finally here. All he has to do is convince the world (and Emmie) that they are a couple.

They both have promises to keep.

Emmie’s no fool. He wants entrée into Calhoun’s extended family? Okay. But Emmie has promised herself she’ll never again drift into a one-sided relationship. With a makeover to boost her confidence in her attractiveness, she insists on commitment.

Hot passion and the increasingly bright hope of a real future together make it easy for Caleb to promise Emmie anything she wants, and hard to remember his desire to make Calhoun accountable.

But when fate hands Caleb the perfect eye-for-an-eye justice, will either be prepared for what keeping their promises is going to cost?

All I know is, I went looking for Teague Calhoun, and I found you. That’s enough for now.—Caleb Dulaude.


  1. Hey, I'm ready to read it right now! The only thing I'm wondering is why Caleb thinks the Senator is responsible for his mother's death--or would that be telling too much?

  2. Me too, me too! I want to read it now. You don't have any ARCs laying around, do you MM?

    Personally, the pitch I liked the best was #4. The only thing that didn't work for me about the others was I didn't know why Caleb held the senator responsible for his mom's death.

  3. MM--Caleb sounds intriguing! Can't wait to read it, though my TBR pile is growing higher daily!

    I've pitched---sweaty hands, dry tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth, heartbeat accelerated---and I have to remind myself agents and editors are only human, and often sympathize with what we're going through! :)

  4. Ah--if I could, I'd send you all an ARC--but most of them have been claimed already! I've read it already (tee hee), and it's wonderful!!

    Thanks for some insight on pitching MM!!

  5. Can't wait to read it, MM!! Sounds fabulous and I love the new cover. Nice offset from SwaK.

  6. Robin,

    "Why" is backstory that's revealed in bits throughout the book until the Big Black Moment when the entire story comes out.

    I've heard this objection before--so you're not the only one who's bothered by "why." But I don't know what to do about it.


  7. I liked #2 because it DIDN'T answer any questions and left me hungering to find out why.

    I am thrilled to read that Caleb is Do-Lord! I am about a third of the way through SWAK and loving it immensely. Do-Lord was only in that first chapter, but I really was intrigued by his character. Fantastic to learn that your second book focuses on him. And I always rout for the dowdy girl makes good angle! I am sooooo reading it right away!

    I never had to pitch either. At least not in the 50-word or less way. Writing query letters and trying to keep it brief did not work so well (until Deb). Thanks for the examples for our upcoming contest.

  8. I just played around with my pitch for In Over Her Head, which, originally, came in at 116 words. I got it down to 78 and it took my voice completely out of it.


    I'm in awe that you could come up with more than one, Mary Margaret! I can't wait to read these.

  9. Sharon,

    Thanks for the kind words about KISS. Do-Lord horned in practically from day one--with ALL that "why" backstory--until I promised him, if he'd be quiet for a while, I'd make sure his story got its happy ending.

  10. Judi,

    Writing a pitch is one heck of a discipline, isn't it?

    I wrote several because trying to say something a different way or in a different order shows me how to fix one I've already written. Does that make sense?

    I ditched several because the voice or the tone was wrong.

  11. Terry,

    My hat's off to you. I'm not sure I'd have the nerve to pitch in person. I'd get all tongue-tied, or I'd babble like one demented.

    PTL I have an agent.

  12. I liked number three. I find that writing your own pitch is very difficult, because you are so tied up in the details.

    My critique group is wonderful about helping me get to the real hook of the story.

    I do agree, getting your voice into a 50 word blurb is not easy, but it comes down to a choice of words, verbs and adjectives. In number three you use "trailer trash" and "upper crust" which for me set the tone and dowdie and professor told me a lot about Emmie. The focus on the hero also made me think this was his story.

    But it is all in the eye of the beholder. And at the end of the day, that is the editor.

  13. MM, looking at your attempts reminded me of mine, the other night, lolol! It's not easy to pique the interest in 50 words or less.

    I liked #2, why? It tells me where he comes from and as a result, gives me a clue of his internal conflict and that he has a vendetta against Calhoun, which also hints at internal and external conflict. It tells me he’s made something of himself—because it ain’t easy to become a Seal—so he has disciplined, ambitious, and is dangerous. #2 tells me that Emma is smart, spinsterish—which says she either hasn’t had a lot of time for, or experience with, men. This is also a clue to her internal conflicts. Finally it tells me there is romance because Caleb has to convince her they’re in love. That tells me there is fun ahead.

    I don’t think the ‘whys’ of Caleb and the Senator is important at this moment. Suffice that a Seal feels he has a reason to ‘make him pay’ is enough.

    Very well done MM!

  14. So far, no one is choosing #1. Interesting.

    My personal favorites are 3 and 4. Like Michele, I like the word choices in 3. In 4 I like that the first sentence contains the entire story setup. It could almost stand alone.

  15. I'm going with #2. It's succinct and has a great rhythm to it.

  16. Sounds like a wonderful book, and I can't wait to read it! I'm also excited to hear about the pitches! I'm going to look at writing one as if it's a personal challenge (or a "double-dog dare!" I never can resist a double-dog dare!) I liked your #4 pitch the best. It sounds more like your true voice!

  17. Pat said: I'm also excited to hear about the pitches! I'm going to look at writing one as if it's a personal challenge (or a "double-dog dare!" I never can resist a double-dog dare!)

    Good for you, Pat! Go for it!

  18. A fifty word pitch is a difficult thing. I'm in awe with Judi that you managed four.

    I like four the best.. it reached out and grabbed me.
    Now it's off to see if I can rise to such a standard.

  19. Sherilyn,
    As you can see, I used the same phrases over and over, tweaking the vocabulary and the order, so four pitches might not be such an accomplishment.

    Also, I didnt' start from scratch. I extracted certain felicitous combinations from the blurb, which was written first.

    Go ahead and put that pen to paper! We'll look forward to seeing what you come up with.

  20. Great pitches, MM!

    I've never pitched. I left that to my agent. But I've helped others polish their pitches and even that's fun to do and find ways to keep them calm.


  21. Well, I've got mine down to 1,294. Hmmmm...only 1,244 word to trim. It's tough when the heroine's name is 8 words by itself. :(

    This is a great opportunity. Thanks for putting it together.

  22. I liked 4 the best. 1-3 sounded to me like he was using her. I have this book on order and can't wait to read it.

  23. Stay with it Kimberly. A fifty-word pitch has to start somewhere. :-)

    Jen! You've already ordered Promise? That is SO thrilling. Thanks. You've made my day!

  24. Hi,

    I love SEAL stories! I think pitch #4 sounds the most intriguing, setting the scene with trigger words like trailer trash.

    I've pitched at a couple of conferences. It really is nerve racking. The only thing you can do is to really know your story. The editors I have pitched to listened to the pitch, but more importantly they asked questions after.


  25. I'm so glad Marie will be by tomorrow to answer questions because I have some! 8^) Mainly whether or not to use character names in a logline pitch like this. There are two schools of thought, and I'd like to know which to adhere to with my pitch that I've been working on since yesterday. I'll check in tomorrow with my question. Thanks for this contest! How fun!

  26. MM, love the cover AND the sound of the story! I've only had to pitch verbally once, and I thought I was going to pass out. I'm much better on paper:-)


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