Originally posted on Love Books Group Tours: ? I am organising a book blog tour for PEDDLING DOOMSDAY by Petra Jacob Psychological Thriller Women’s Fiction Mystery and Suspense 344 Pages Synopsis You don’t know how significant you are. We need you. No matter where she is, Deirdre feels out of place. So when a cult…
A quote taken from my book Peddling Doomsday, found here
It’s 99 pence or cents (or equivalent wherever you are) or you can read for free on Kindle Unlimited.
If you do read it, a review would make me very happy, no matter how short!
Blurb sometimes gets muddled up with teasers, so I’m using the definition that makes sense to me. Blurb is a short, enticing description about your book, up to four hundred words long. It’s not a synopsis. Guides on how to write blurb often have a long list of information to include, such as description of main character, setting, events, all finishing with a question. I disagree with most of that. Although it’s fine as a formula, the description is so ubiquitous that everybody is writing blurbs that look the same. If you have a captive audience (ie people who know your writing and have at least some interest in it) then that’s ok, because those people are paying enough attention to actually read the few paragraphs you’ve written. However, if your blurb is on Amazon, alongside thousands of other blurbs, then it won’t stand out.
My theory (which may prove to be totally wrong) is that blurb only needs to contain one idea that captures something about your book and is interesting enough to draw attention to itself. It shouldn’t misrepresent your book (that will only annoy your readers) but it doesn’t need to capture the whole book either.
I was inspired by this blurb on the back of Before I go to Sleep by SJ Watson
Memories define us.
So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep?
Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love – all forgotten overnight.
And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.
Welcome to Christine’s life.
I think that’s brilliant. In five short lines it’s got me thinking, I want to know what happens in this story, and it only took a few seconds to take it in.
Then I wrote my blurb for the back of my book and my Amazon page
‘Listen to me. Humanity is in trouble. You know that, right? The wars, the greed, the waste. We’re heading for disaster.
They tell us that’s just the way the world is.
But they’re lying.
I have the truth, and I can teach you the answers to the two most important questions.
Who is really running the world? And why are they doing it so badly?’
Myra, Prophet 2018
I was worried that was too nonspecific, so at the bottom I added the line
Peddling Doomsday is a tense psychological drama about a cult run by a charismatic female leader.
My hope is that the first part will get people’s attention and then the final line will provide enough information for people to decide if they want to read or not.
At the moment I don’t know if this will work or not. We’ll have to see.
What are your thoughts on blurb? Have you written any? Any feedback for mine? What does it take to persuade you to read a book?
(I promise I will keep spamming to a minimum, but here is a section from the beginning of my book, so you can see if you like it).
An excerpt from the start of Peddling Doomsday
The printer was flashing a blue light, which made a change from the red light it usually flashed when refusing to work. However, it was still refusing to work. Deirdre looked around for assistance. But in the open-plan office, sixteen people were suddenly talking on the phone or staring at their computers to avoid having to face the fiendish machinations of the printer. Deirdre sighed to herself, and went through the usual routine to get a printout. She pressed each button in turn, turned it off and slapped the top twice. Then she unplugged it, slapped it again, plugged it back in and turned it on. What she refused to do was think happy thoughts while she did this, despite the written instructions on the wall telling her to do so. Deirdre found that small, unobserved rebellions caused less trouble.
The printer had arrived three months ago. Deirdre’s boss’s boss, Dove, marched into the office in his leather trousers, a printer-laden minion struggling behind him. Dove had stated this was the absolute latest in artificially intelligent technology. This printer would eliminate the need for excuses. This printer would not simply print when they pressed a button, but would anticipate, adapt and evolve to create the perfect printing experience.
‘In time,’ Dove had said, swaying on his hips, face shiny with the excitement of his own importance. ‘In time you’ll see this as the most vital member of our little team.’ The reality was that the printer simply would not print when they pressed a button; it took a good twenty minutes of cajoling, resetting and violence. Whenever Sarah, Deirdre’s boss, tried to persuade Dove the printer needed fixing, his argument was,
‘It’s a highly sophisticated machine, Sarah, it requires highly sophisticated usership. You need to take a step into the technology of tomorrow. I’ll book you onto a seminar.’ Seminars were how Dove battered dissent out of his employees, their will broken by tedium; trodden into submission by PowerPoint presentations and flipcharts.
‘But it doesn’t work,’ Sarah had persisted.
‘It knows you’re complaining about it. Try asking it nicely while thinking happy thoughts. Negativity is the enemy of success!’
Deirdre’s office was at Stronk and Lowry, the backwater branch of a corporate advertising agency, and happy thoughts weren’t easy to come by. However, Deirdre’s colleagues all tried, and then blamed themselves when the ink refused to flow.
‘I think I’m thinking happy thoughts, but what do happy thoughts, you know, feel like?’ said John, a creative, his quirky hat perched to hide his balding head. Deirdre didn’t have an answer and shrugged.
When Deirdre had discussed the printer with Henry, her erstwhile boyfriend, he was convinced artificial intelligence hadn’t been invented yet.
‘And definitely not artificial sulking, why would they bother?’
‘What about psychic artificial intelligence that senses negative thoughts?’ Deirdre had asked, and Henry gave her a look. Together they Googled the make of printer and discovered it was a perfectly normal, cheap printer that happened to not work very well. Erstwhile Henry found this incredibly funny and had fallen off the sofa with laughter. Office insanity had been bearable when she could use it to make Henry laugh. Now there was no one to laugh with, and Deirdre kept her head low and pretended that foolish things were a natural part of working life. She let her inner mockery wither.
Wherever possible, workers in the office did their work-printing at home and brought it in the next day, meaning printing costs at Stronk and Lowry had dramatically decreased. This was seen as a win by management and the one-printer-system spread throughout the branches.
Deirdre gave the machine a kick, it whirred indignantly and then deposited the letter she was printing at a diagonal. She shrugged, that would have to do. Mission accomplished, she got herself a chocolate Hobnob. They had been her dad’s favorites, and she sucked on it as he would have done. As she passed, she picked a few cigarette butts out of the peace plant growing on the window sill of the kitchen, and returned to Sarah’s office to chop the letter straight.
So I finally got it all together, it’s been complicated! I’ll carry on sharing my mistakes and discoveries about the self-publishing process over the week, but first, here’s the book!
It’s a psychological drama about a woman who escapes her life to join a cult.
You don’t know how significant you are. We need you.
No matter where she is, Deirdre feels out of place. So when a cult known as the Center contacts her, wanting her join up, she’s intrigued. They say a terrible war is coming, humanity is in danger and without explaining why, say she’s needed for the fight. Suddenly the chance to be spectacular is within her grasp. With the charismatic Myra as the cult leader, and talk of prophecies and psychic abilities, Deirdre is soon seduced and ditches her humdrum life to join up.
Once inside, her understanding of the world shifts. She learns the truth about the elite, a secret organisation that has meddled with humanity since the beginning of time. The elite use entertainment and the media as a constant distraction to stop people from reaching their true potential. To free themselves of this conditioning, the followers must give up ‘excessive’ food and sleep. They also carry out increasingly bizarre rituals under the critical eye of the Captain, a minor leader of the new followers. He seems to take pleasure from turning them against one another.
Tensions increase. The followers gain odd new abilities, but bullying and hysteria also grow. Meanwhile Myra’s prophecies become increasingly extreme. As paranoia intensifies, Deirdre questions where the belief ends and delusion begins.
It’s now free on Kindle Unlimited. To buy it’s 99p, 99c or equivalent.
It was five months since she’d had her sleep removed. An unpleasant, precise process that involved gradually scraping the need away with a scalpel. And no she never needed to sleep again.
After thirty-four years of never quite having enough time, finally all her problems would be over. She would no longer need to snap at the children when they wanted her to sit with them and watch cartoons. Her husband would never need to complain that his dinner was a ready meal, she’d be able to cook him exquisite banquets. She’d have time to take that evening class to finally learn German. She’d start pottery again. She’d take up sewing the children’s Halloween costumes. She’d write a play. Her life would never be the same again.
For a few weeks she lived in bliss, floating through the harried mums to pick up her kids at the end of the school day. Making pots and plates for birthday presents. Baking brownies in the middle of the night.
But the nights got emptier as the silence started to invade her thoughts. She would try to keep busy with useful things, but hours would pass spent only on forums, trying to connect with lives that were still busy and noisy. Trying to feel smug.
She’d fill the night up with sound, the radio, the TV. Her husband would clamber out of bed with blurry eyes and follow her around pleading with her to stop. She felt so relieved of the company that she’d keep going. And she started to get stupid. She never seemed to learn the German, just repeated the same lesson over and over. She’d find herself sitting vacantly staring into space for hours on end. Even when she felt alert and ready to do things, she couldn’t think of anything she actually wanted to do. Or why. Instead she’d repeat the same dull actions over and over, doing the washing, hanging the clothes out on the washing line even though it was the middle of the night. Taking the clothes in, still soggy and pushing them unfolded into the wrong drawers. She spent one entire evening sorting socks.
“Sorting them how?” asked her husband, his exasperation evident, although she couldn’t think why he would feel that way.
“I’m putting them into alphabetical order,” she explained.
“But they’re socks! They don’t have alphabetical order!” she patted his shoulder and started to drift away.
“Pull yourself together and do something productive!” her husband shouted.
That night as she was refolding all the clothes in her son’s chest of drawers, she paused, a bright blue Spongebob t-shirt in her hands. She began to twist it, pleased that it held the contorted shape well. She placed in back in the drawer, a little of the material rising up out of the drawer. She took another t-shirt and twisted that around the first to make a snake, escaping from the drawer. She let out a small giggle, hoping that no one heard her.
By the morning all her son’s clothes were spilling out onto the floor, as if escaping. Twisted into bizarre shapes or seated figures.
So I wrote last week about editing, and how I used ProWritingAid, an essential but flawed program, to help me. I was going to write a straightforward review, but the reason it annoyed me wasn’t so much the bugginess of the programming, but the way it ‘scored’ my writing. I was offended. This was unreasonable, but I figure I can’t be the only one. So to all of you feeling picked on by editing programs, this is for you.
Stickiness and Other Issues
ProWritingAid gives percentage marks for spelling, grammar and style. My marks for style tended to come in at the 50-60% range, with the main criticism being I had too many ‘sticky sentences’.
Sticky sentences are ones with excess ‘meaningless’ words. So in my first chapter the sentence,
These routines reassured her that all was as it should be, no matter how awful that was.
is a sticky sentence and the words – these, that, all, was, as, should, be, no, how – are the sticky ones. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I do tend to use too many words, and this program helped me cut them down. On the other, while wordy sentences need to be used sparingly, they can work stylistically (see below for a perfect example.)
My book tended to be pretty good with pacing ( a useful feature that shows if there are any slow areas of your writing) but thought I had too many long sentences and tended to overuse the word ‘believe’ (although in a book about a cult, it was difficult to avoid).
So Whaddya Think of This?
Anyway, the upshot was that even when I adjusted my writing, it still had my style down as 60% or so. Which is when I thought I’d investigate how it saw the writing of others. I decided to use Catch 22 (one of my favourite books), Catcher in the Rye, my first book Riddled with Senses, Sense and Sensibility, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (another one of my favourites) and the Da Vinci Code.
(note: I would upload a chapter to the program, but not necessarily the first chapter. Of course a book varies in pace and wording from chapter to chapter, but much longer than that and the program gets confused. This is not a scientific study.)
These are the Results…
|Overall score||Grammar||Spelling||Style||No of difficult to read paragraphs||% slow pacing|
|Da Vinci Code||55||31||72||62||4 slightly 7very.||22.5|
|Catcher in the Rye||59||46||87||44||0||57.2|
|Riddled with Senses||60||53||80||56||5 slightly||9.5|
|Sense and Sensibility||65||69||93||32||3 slightly
I found these results befuddling and reassuring.
So The Da Vinci Code had the most ‘difficult to read’ paragraphs, which doesn’t fit with my view of the book at all.
Jane Austen was the fastest paced! (Although, I checked other chapters and they got a higher score). Even Riddled with Senses (which is totally not an action-packed thriller) was twice as fast as the Da Vinci Code.
Every book but Catch 22 had bad grammar, which was a relief, because I often disagreed with what the program said about commas and tenses.
Most reassuring of all, The Da Vinci Code was deemed to have a better style than Catch 22, Hitchhiker’s Guide and Sense and Sensibility. That being the case, I’d rather have bad style than good.
All had at least some long sentences (over 30 words), although Riddled was the worst for that. And every book had an excess of words like was/were or feel/felt.
Another strange statistic was that no book achieved a low enough ‘sticky’ rating (although Riddled with Senses and Da Vinci Code came close). Hitchhiker’s Guide had the worst, at 55%. This isn’t surprising since, Adams was the master at long, meandering sentences that were funnier because of the strange route they took. For example, the program picked out
This planet has – or rather had – a problem, which was this: most of the people on it were unhappy for pretty much all of the time.
as sticky. An alternative the program accepted was
This planet had a problem: most people were often unhappy.
It’s true, this is a more straightforward sentence, but with nothing of the humour or interest of the original.
I feel less affronted now. These programs are a tool, and it’s important to use them as such; they are no substitute for human feedback or my own opinion. It’s good to think seriously about the criticisms they come up with, but I shouldn’t make changes I feel harm my writing just to keep a program happy.
So what about you? Have you tried these programs? Did you find yourself shouting at them?
Geraud knew who was to blame when he found his car on the roof of a bus stop, it was Fabio. He barely knew Fabio at the time, they were colleagues working in IT in a large anonymous firm where boredom kept the workers itchy and restless. During an evening at the local pub, Geraud had expressed his disdain about practical jokes, describing them as ‘childish, bullying tactics’. Fabio had sneered back,
“Practical jokes are like lessons in survival, they’re how you grow up. If no one ever played a practical joke on you, then you’re like an infant, stumbling around with no idea.”
“What?” Geraud said in disbelief a few times. He’d never been the victim of such a joke, so began listing his lifetime achievements, all proving, he felt, his maturity and success. Fabio had merely sat back looking bored, as if Geraud’s very desperation to disagree proved Fabio’s point.
“It is time we played a little game,” replied Fabio, gesturing meaningfully with his pint. Geraud had scoffed and ignored him for the rest of the night.
The next day Geraud was happy as he walked to the car park, he had plans for pizza, and he loved pizza. When he got to where his car should be, but wasn’t, he spent twenty minutes walking round and round the carpark, trying to recall his steps that morning. His car wasn’t there. In a panic he ran out into the street, looked around pointlessly while fumbling for his phone. He didn’t register the small group of people clustered around the bus shelter, buses were not something he cared much about. It was only the glimpse of his car’s custom paint job, Boulevard Black with a hint of Champagne, that led him to start paying attention. With horror flooding into the pit of his stomach like never before, Geraud ran across the road and looked up. His Maserati was perched neatly on the roof. Spray painted on the floor, were the words,
“Lesson one. Two to follow.”
The kings had been perfect for some time. Sixteen generations of careful crossbreeding had eliminated the buffoonery, the greed, the inappropriate jokes, the baldness, and of course the women. The perfect king (noble, good looking, able to wave for hours without tiring) had been formed two centuries ago, and cloned ever since.
But now the problem was the cloning process. The flawless unchanging DNA left each new king prone to disease. New bacterial strains, new fungal infections. With unaltering genetics, no clone could develop resistance. The royal line of perfect kings was starting to fail.
So, continuing my trek into self publishing (now to happen in just over two weeks, eek!) This week I want to talk about editing.
One huge drawback to self-publishing over trad-publishing, is that you don’t get an editor or proofreader to pick apart your book looking for flaws. It’s possible to pay for both, and this is the route I’d recommend, but not everyone can afford that. Plus it’s good to have a back up in case you make changes after you get your edited script back.
Editing – what is it?
Editing tends to focus on character and plot consistency, pacing, believability; and fundamental problems like that. I’ve read professionally edited books that are still majorly flawed, so it’s not foolproof.
How to Edit on the cheap
Friends – I have a few very talented writers as friends who are good at spotting flaws in my writing, so they always get first read. It can be difficult to hear criticism of a book you’ve poured your heart into, but no matter how angry or upset you feel, DON’T PASS THOSE EMOTIONS ON. Anyone giving you criticism is doing you a massive favour and is probably nervous about doing so. No matter how wrong you think they are, accept their comments with thanks.
Unfortunately for all writers, the best people to criticise your writing are those who don’t like it, so long as you can get more information out of them than ‘nah, hate it.’ When somebody loves what you write, they don’t notice all that’s wrong with it. If you can find a reader who doesn’t really like your writing, but is still prepared to read it and then tell you in detail everything that is wrong with it, cling on to them, buy them cake, they must be cherished.
Beta readers – I discovered these on Goodreads recently. Some are people who just like to read new novels and comment on them, others are picky, still others charge. They give feedback and will be able to spot flaws, but not to the professional level of an editor. I’ve not used them for this book, but will try them out next time around.
Writing a synopsis – unfortunately most writers don’t write their synopsis until after the book is finished. THIS IS UNWISE! If you want to see inconsistencies or areas where your story lags, then writing a synopsis is a great way to do it. If you can’t find a way to make your plot sound interesting, then maybe not enough is happening. If there are large sections that you don’t mention at all in a synopsis, it may be because the pace is too slow there. Writing a synopsis when you’re editing is also a great way to take some of the pressure off when you come to finally write it, which is a good idea, because it’s a truly awful experience.
Writing blurb – blurb consists of a few paragraphs that capture enough of your book to make it intriguing so the reader is hooked. Again, if you write the blurb while you are editing then it focuses your attention on what you want the book to be about and the atmosphere you want it to have. Writing something down is the best way to be clear about it. If you can’t write an enticing blurb, then there may be a flaw in your story.
Proofreading – what is it?
Proofreading is the final edit, where somebody who knows spelling and understands commas, goes through correcting flaws, and replacing missing words. I’ve seen a few writers ask if it really matters that a book has lots of spelling errors, and I’d say yes, it does. Grammar errors are like hiccups in your writing, they distract the reader and remind them that they are only reading a book, rather than living a life through the characters. They spoil the immersion.
How to Proofread on the Cheap
Reading Aloud – I don’t think this will work for everyone, but it works very well for me. For some reason, even when I’m not paying attention as I speak, if I read outloud, I spot missing words, dodgy grammar and repeated phrases.
Editing programs – Grammarly or ProWritingAid. I mention these two because they’re what I’ve used. They’re both problematic, but extremely useful. I’ll talk about them at greater length in a future blog.
For all you writers out there, what methods do you use to edit? What works and what doesn’t for you?