Blurb Critique Thread

Discussion in 'Works in Progress' started by Paul Bellow, Aug 18, 2017.

  1. Maikel Yarimizu

    Maikel Yarimizu Level 9 (Burgler) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    OK, looking to re-launch ye olde paperback collection this month, and I feel the need to work on the blurb. This is the old one:

    Once upon a time, a niece asked her uncle to manage a fantasy game for her and her friends. The girls had no idea how to play; the uncle had no idea what he was getting into. So in a warm and cozy little pizzeria, five young ladies roll their dice, and in a world of their imagination five princesses have to deal with the consequences. The adventure may not always make the most sense, but that never stopped a good game. Let the fun begin!

    --

    Unfortunately, I tend to dither and fail at blurbing for my own stuff, and I tend to err on the side of conciseness.
     
  2. Maikel Yarimizu

    Maikel Yarimizu Level 9 (Burgler) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    Anyone? Bueller?
     
  3. TravisBach

    TravisBach Level 15 (Guardian) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    Sorry, been doing Spring Break stuff last week. Trying to get caught up.

    Right off, I kinda like it. It hints at many hijinks and hilarity to ensue. Without knowing more of the plot, I'd say lose the "may not always make sense" part as it's a negative statement that'll lose readers.

    But, the blurb also leaves us head-scratching, which might not be good. Like, what genre is this? Rather, are you doing a narrative structure like the Princess Bride or is there a component that gives the game IRL stakes? Or is this not even that kind of book but is a comedy instead? Fantasy Game is pen-and-paper? VR? Larp? Etc...

    I could go on with questions but, hopefully, you get the point that it's not providing enough info about what's up.
     
  4. Maikel Yarimizu

    Maikel Yarimizu Level 9 (Burgler) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    How about this?

    ---

    Once upon a time, a niece asked her uncle to manage a fantasy tabletop role-playing game for her and her friends. The girls had no idea how to play; the uncle had no idea what he was getting into.

    So in a warm and cozy little pizzeria, five young ladies roll their dice, and in a world of their imagination five princesses have to deal with the consequences as they play out. And in the real world, where the stakes are ever more personal, everyone may eventually learn to get along properly.

    The adventure won't always go as the game-master planned, and certainly never as the princess protagonists might imagine, but that never stopped a good time from happening both in-game and out.

    Let the fun begin!
     
  5. Alexis Keane

    Alexis Keane Level 14 (Defender) Roleplaying Beta Reader Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    So this is kid's literature? It seems very (non-german) fairytale-esque. Depends on who your audience is, to me, I can't see this jiving with most LitRPG audiences, and it might even hit below 6th to 7th grade, even though the vocabularly used here sits at around 8-10th... the vibe I get from this is a kid's story with adult-fiction language.
     
  6. Maikel Yarimizu

    Maikel Yarimizu Level 9 (Burgler) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    That's not a bad description of the overall concept here.

    Hm...

    Ok then, let's start in reverse. What elements would you consider essential to a blurb for LitRPG audiences?
     
  7. TravisBach

    TravisBach Level 15 (Guardian) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    You might get a lot of different answers to this question. We're all chewing on it in our own ways.

    TL;DR - why does playing this game matter to the protagonist's life? What pressing and important issue will they solve by playing it? You need to show this in the blurb. Litrpg isn't about gaming, it's about gaming which matters IRL.

    And now the long answer,

    One would think that Literary Role Playing Game stories are ones which dramatize the playing of RPGs. But that's not really where the heart of the genre lays.

    IMHO, to be litrpg you at least need the RPG to have IRL stakes to qualify. Usually, that's the players trapped in the game such that they must win to live/escape, or it's a jumanji situation, or it's the game affecting the real world. But I have also seen litrpgs where people have to beat the game to save someone else who is trapped or lost. Or they are playing for the money they desperately need for an operation. Or they have been sentenced by a judge to play the game as a villain. Etc...

    Point is, the game needs to be "real" somehow and not just a game. The easiest way to figure this out is ask, "What consequences befall the hero if they lose the game?" If you have a suitable impactful answer, then you've probably got a litrpg on your hands. (Btw, rules of good drama, you should also ask, "why must they solve this problem now.")

    There's a reason these stakes are so important as the essence of Litrpg and it isn't just for good story tension. See, a big part of Litrpg is the empowerment of the gamer. Because of these IRL stakes, playing the game in a litrpg matters in a way that normally playing one doesn't. It gives the gamer real power one way or the other. Regardless of what kind of litrpg you write, this gravitas is a crucial ingredient in the power-fantasy of litrpg we all enjoy. (though remember this is all IMO, I may be casting too narrow a view of litrpg now.)

    All that said, if your book isn't litrpg but is perhaps just a drama about people playing a game, then that's gamer fiction. No problem! Gamer fiction is a fun and beloved sub-genre of its own that many of us here enjoy. I know I love it. ^_^ Don't worry, these forums aren't all elitist and stuff- no one is gonna harsh you for not being perfectly on the litrpg target. You do need to figure this out for marketing purposes, however.



    So, can you tell us more about your book? Age range, reading level, movie rating (PG13?), genre etc...
     
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  8. Maikel Yarimizu

    Maikel Yarimizu Level 9 (Burgler) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    Let's see... It originated from an idle wondering of what to do if my niece (then 10 years old, now 13) ever asked me to run a game for her. So really, this series was largely written with her in mind, bolstered by fond memories of young adult literature from my own youth. The aim was for an 8th to 10th grade reading level, mainly because that would be closer to what I used to think of as 6th or 7th grade. Movie rating would probably be PG, though it would depend on how the SFX crew dealt with certain body horror elements in various episodes.

    The story's a split narrative, alternating between in-character scenes from the PCs' points of view and the gaming table. Five or six tweens playing in any given episode, the game-master, maybe some guests to work with or against in the meta narrative. You've got the usual array of playables and players, like the girl who just wants to hit stuff getting stuck with the barbarian or the anime fanatic who's doing her best to be Sailor Moon in religious vestments. Each episode is roughly one gaming session, with fifteen episodes plotted for the main story arc.

    In-game, the initial motivation is simply to slip away from a fancy boarding school for the summer and have fun. For the first episode, at least, when the conceit is that this is still a trial game / session 0 to test the waters. By episode 9, where the manuscript is currently sitting, most of the cast has almost died at least once, they've got an elven assassin on their trail, more than one home government is wondering what the heck their princess is up to, mutant ants have attacked twice, the entire party nearly got wiped by kobolds, and they just helped turn back a kaijuu. Eventually they'll make it to the city they designated as their journey goal back in Episode 3 (because it was the farthest they figured they could reasonably get from school before they really had to try and get back).

    The in-game stakes are mostly hinted at, though that's continuing to ramp up, but the out-of-game stakes are mainly about being (or staying) friends in spite of disagreements and issues in real life, with a focus on how those IRL issues bleed over into the game and cause problems there. The issues could be simply between the players, or could be caused by an outsider intruding into the game.

    To be honest, I don't really like the idea of raising the stakes to world-shaking levels for no reason other than to have them. I've read too many stories in my time where that sort of thing was taken to ridiculous extremes even if the author was being quite earnest. (Don't even get me started on the Japanese light novel scene.) And doing the old 'pull them into their own game' schtick does a disservice to the level of connection a player can develop with their PC.

    Other than that... Everything in the game side of the narrative is affected and informed by the rules of the game, even if they don't realize it. Each and every fantasy character on the game side has a stat sheet that's at least reasonably reflective of how things work. I've had players barely pass skill checks, or blow them completely, in the table narrative, and then have that play out in the game narrative. There was a time where a deathblow was only avoided by a well timed playing of a Hero Point, followed by a superbly lucky natural 20. I gave one character a Rod of Wonder and then roll the dice myself whenever I feel she'd probably whip it out. Some of the repercussions from that thing go well past the episode they happened in. Basically any time dice are explicitly mentioned in the table narrative, those were real rolls that I had to work with somehow.
     
  9. TravisBach

    TravisBach Level 15 (Guardian) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    That's a good answer. Thanks.

    I totally agree that you shouldn't twist your story just to meet arbitrary requirements. This is definitely gamer fiction, I feel. Your odds of doing well in that pond are just as good as they are in litrpg.

    So back to the blurb. I still have a great gut reaction to your original version. I bet that paired with a whimsical cover, it'd get me to buy. Bonus: it still feels on-brand for the book as well.

    TBH, I'm trying to come up with a better blurb, but the more I wrestle with it the more I feel that the original is pretty damn good. Like, I keep trying to be more specific or more protagonist-focused, but I can't beat the information you've packed in with better prose or more hooks.

    Though, to be fair, this sort of book and blurb are not my wheelhouse. I deal mostly with dreadful/epic/thriller style stuff. I dont want to try to bend you into some (gritty narrator voice) "one girl must...to save her friends" kinda set up.
     
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  10. Maikel Yarimizu

    Maikel Yarimizu Level 9 (Burgler) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    Lol, I can almost here the vocal fry as you say that.

    But yeah, if I wanted to, I could write out something for each protagonist, but then I'd run out of room on the back cover. This is really an ensemble piece, all the way.
     
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  11. Alexis Keane

    Alexis Keane Level 14 (Defender) Roleplaying Beta Reader Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    @Maikel Yarimizu I'm in agreement with @TravisBach here. This seems pretty on-brand and while it's not my cup of tea when it comes to blurbs, there's no doubt that it's effective for what it's trying to do. My one caveat is that an overdose of whimsy and storytime might be offputting to litrpg and gamelit readers who tend to skew male with a predilection for enough grit in their protagonists to de-ice the ninth circle of hell (and we should remember that even the most whimsical authors in the genres, arguably Bevan and Krout, stop a great deal short of where you're aiming for - which is in no way meant to say that this will fail, but it might mean that you're aiming for a particularly narrow niche). As for back-cover vs product-description, it's not mandatory to make them the same, which is something to keep in mind, but that boils down to personal preference.
     
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  12. TravisBach

    TravisBach Level 15 (Guardian) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    I had a fun idea which I cannot resist doing.

    Ever seen a movie trailer done in the style of other directors? Here's your book as if it were a dyed-in-the-wool litrpg...

    Once upon a time, a Janice asked her uncle to manage a fantasy tabletop role-playing game for her and her friends. The girls had no idea how to play, the uncle had no idea what he was getting into, and no one could have imagined the consequences.

    It started out just them, gaming in their local pizzeria with four princesses and silly quest. Then things started to...happen. First, it was an event at school mimicking last night's session. Then it was a shadow that looked like the goblin king. Only when Janice finds she's suffering from her Barbarian's rage problems and powers, does she realize they're in too deep.

    Now, the adventure can't stop and it's barely under her uncle's control. The four princesses will have to learn to work together and master their new powers quickly, before the goblin king rises for real.

    Let the "fun" begin!
    I know this isn't your book. I'm just messing around to illustrate the point.

    More to the point, imagine this combo,

    The Cover: The silhouettes of 2-4 very different princesses (big, short, mage, knight) as they traverse a fantastical backdrop.

    [​IMG]
    Once upon a time, a niece asked her uncle to manage a fantasy tabletop role-playing game for her and her friends. The girls had no idea how to play; the uncle had no idea what he was getting into.

    So in a warm and cozy little pizzeria, five young ladies roll their dice, and in a world of their imagination five princesses have to deal with the consequences as they play out. And in the real world, where the stakes are ever more personal, everyone may eventually learn to get along properly.

    The adventure won't always go as the game-master planned, and certainly never as the princess protagonists might imagine, but that never stopped a good time from happening both in-game and out.

    Let the fun begin!​

    That feels like great packaging to me. ^_^
     
  13. Maikel Yarimizu

    Maikel Yarimizu Level 9 (Burgler) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    Oh yeah. If I weren't already so happy with the cover art I'm getting, I'd consider borrowing some concepts from that one.

    And eventually I'll write a more genre-defined LitRPG story... probably. I tend to go topsy-turvy on genre conventions whenever possible. And the story I have in mind doesn't have a good conclusion formed yet, which means no starting it for a while to come.
     
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  14. TravisBach

    TravisBach Level 15 (Guardian) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    Don't worry about it. Just market your book to the audience that will enjoy it. That's what's important. ^_^
     
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  15. Maikel Yarimizu

    Maikel Yarimizu Level 9 (Burgler) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    Oh, no worries about anything but the backlog of things to write :)

    I spent random bits of the past month doing edits and redactions to one (1) Polynesian mythic fantasy novel and one (1) recently completed sorta-kinda-maybe zombie horror fiction. In coming months I've got superhero shared universe, folk tale collection, and Japan-themed otherworld fantasy lined up, in between more Pizza Princess stuff.

    The biggest issue on the LitRPG concept is that I don't know yet how it ends, and I've learned the hard way not to start stuff like that.
     
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  16. Andre Pisco

    Andre Pisco Level 8 (Thug) Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    Hi everyone. I have two blurbs for a gamelit harem novel. I'd appreciate any help

    James' day has finally come: to slay the Reapers' beast, climb up the rankings and to conquer glory and women.

    He'll be doing so beside the beautiful yellow-clad Fire-controller, Maggie, and the dark, metal-whip cracking Goth, Kendra.

    After spending three years in the Hunter’s academy, this is the chance he has been waiting for. He'll prove that his father was wrong about the Hunters: they're not corrupt! He can hardly wait!

    But when the three of them confront the Reapers' creature, the most ferocious they have ever created, he makes a shocking discovery: one that could jeopardize the whole world, and undermine his loyalties to the Hunters! This is no ordinary beast.

    With the fate of his world hanging in the balance, can James and his two hot colleagues kill all the monsters and stay one step ahead of both the Reapers… and the Hunters?

    -----------------------------or-----------------------------

    James never believed what his father had told him about the Hunters.

    After spending three years in the Hunter’s academy, he was finally ready to fight alongside his fellow brothers in arms and to prove that his father’s suspicions about corruption within this organization were wrong, once and for all.

    Bringing glory to his family, fame, and fortune are all that James can think about, and his day has finally come: He ends up with the responsibility of slaying a beast alongside two beautiful girls, a yellow-dressed girls who can control fire and a goth chick who has a thing for a metal whip. He can hardly wait: this is the chance he has been waiting for.

    But this is no ordinary beast.

    Their rival organization, the Reapers, have been hard at work creating monsters of increasing ferocity and terror, and when James encounters this creature, he makes a shocking discovery that could jeopardize the fate of the world and even makes him rethink his loyalty to the Hunter organization.
     
  17. David M Zahn

    David M Zahn Level 10 (Filcher) LitRPG Author Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    Just wanting to finalize this blurb before I send it to the artist for the paperback copy. Please let me know your thoughts and if you see anything that you think should be changed.


    The Phoenix of Altria: Digital Sorcery Book Two


    Witness the rise of a phoenix, or at least the world’s worst gamer, learning to make use of his stat page.

    Caught illegally crossing the border into Altria, our heroes are politely asked to investigate why the population of Roselake continues to vanish. No one has heard from the missing. All forms of communication within the game have been blocked. Now that two guards have vanished, the Governess has intervened.

    Though she may have little faith and believes she is likely sending them there to be the next sacrifice, the Governess has enlisted the crack team of Ryland and Co. to get to investigate this mystery and bring back those who have disappeared.

    However, with this ragtag group of misfits involved, nothing can go smoothly. Eldertits threatens to blow their cover, and half the town along with it; Rondo is desperate to foster a relationship with the clergy, despite being past puberty; Elaria must resist shoving something hard and pointy into everyone's favorite elf; and Ryland faces his greatest challenge yet: achieving a basic level of competence.

    Will they succeed? Probably not.

    Find out in the latest installment of the Digital Sorcery Series: The Phoenix of Altria.
     
  18. Maikel Yarimizu

    Maikel Yarimizu Level 9 (Burgler) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    Yo, Andre. A few thoughts.

    1. We need to be careful with the exclamation points. We want to present your story in a strong fashion, yes, but those !'s make things look too juvenile.

    2. Know the expression 'Less is more'? We want to say the most we can about the book with the least amount of detail into what happens. It's teaser text, after all.

    With that said...

    Every young man has a dream, and James's is to be a Hunter -- despite any words his father might say against it. He's done his best, graduating from the Academy with top marks and earning a team of his own. Now, with the fiery Maggie and the savvy Kendra by his side, he's ready to take the fight to the Hunters' greatest foe, the Reapers.

    If only it were that easy. In the heat of battle, hard truths are discovered, and it is now up to James to decide whether to support the organization upon which he has pinned all his hopes and dreams, or to see just how far down the truth goes...

    Either way, his world is never going to be the same.
     
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  19. Maikel Yarimizu

    Maikel Yarimizu Level 9 (Burgler) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    Sounds fun and in keeping with what I know about the saga of Eldertits et al. Just remember to take out the unnecessary verb in red up above.

    Hm, and maybe... "...when this ragtag group of misfits is involved..."

    And on third thought, do we need all the semi-colons? I know why you're using them here, but it might still be better to separate the sequence out into regular sentences, and then add a little more to the start of the last one for transitional quality.
     
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  20. TravisBach

    TravisBach Level 15 (Guardian) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    It's very similar to a version you had a while ago, but there's something about this blurb that bothers me. My gut says that it's not as good as the one before it.

    Having thought about this for a few days, I think the problem is that it's not tight enough. It says too much and that dilutes the punch. Lemme suggest some cuts, if I may.

    Witness the rise of a phoenix, or at least the world’s worst gamer, learning to make use of his stat page.

    Caught illegally crossing the border into Altria, our heroes are politely asked to investigate why the population of Roselake continues to vanish. No one has heard from the missing. All forms of communication within the game have been blocked. Now that two guards have vanished, the Governess has intervened.

    However, with this ragtag group of misfits involved, nothing can go smoothly. Eldertits threatens to blow their cover, and half the town along with it; Rondo is desperate to foster a relationship with the clergy, despite being past puberty; Elaria must resist shoving something hard and pointy into everyone's favorite elf; and Ryland faces his greatest challenge yet: achieving a basic level of competence.

    Will they succeed? Probably not.

    Find out in the latest installment of the Digital Sorcery Series: The Phoenix of Altria.

    That's tighter, but I feel like the dramatic order of the blurb could be improved...

    Witness the rise of a phoenix, or at least the world’s worst gamer, learning to make use of his stat page.

    The Altrian town of Roselake suffers from a vanishing villager problem that has gone largely ignored. But now that the guards are going missing and all forms of communication from within the game are blocked, it's time for the Governess to intervene. She'd prefer with someone she won't miss.

    Caught illegally crossing the border, Ryland and Co have been "politely ordered" to investigate. However, with this ragtag group of misfits involved, nothing can go smoothly. Eldertits threatens to blow their cover, and half the town along with it; Rondo is desperate to foster a relationship with the clergy, despite being past puberty; Elaria must resist shoving something hard and pointy into everyone's favorite elf; and Ryland faces his greatest challenge yet: achieving a basic level of competence.

    Will they succeed? Probably not.

    Find out in the latest installment of the Digital Sorcery Series: The Phoenix of Altria.

    Perhaps? Just a suggestion.
     
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