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REQUEST FOR CRITIQUE OF SALES COPY (Not a book blurb). Hi everyone. Another post : my edit of the publisher’s sales copy for the first volume of my novel. NB : My publisher distinguishes between a book blurb, which is for the jacket, and sales copy – which is longer, more detailed and describes qualities of the book – and goes on platforms and in my media kit. This is the latter and it’s 221 words. I would very much appreciate rigorous critiques and editing suggestions. I should have put this up on Saturday, but I gave myself a rest and now need to get it back to the editors. Thanks in advance for your brilliant ideas. (In para 2, l. 2, I don’t like ‘second language’ and imagine that people may not understand it. What I’m trying to say is that K grew up in a bilingual household and now can study Czech formally and perfect her command of it.)

When she graduates from the Juilliard School in 1988, free-spirited Katherine Angelis balks at family expectations and the rigour of a professional career for which she seems destined. Earning a grant to study the manuscript of a composition by Dvořák in Prague gives her a year off – in a city which her family fled after the Communist coup d’état four decades earlier.

Far from home, in a culture whose literature, art and music she has been raised on, Katherine revels in her second language, the beauty of Prague and the works of composers she treasures. But she also finds herself involved in a love triangle and dangerous covert resistance against the hard-line regime.

As she discovers new purpose smuggling human rights reports out to the West and blacklisted books in, Katherine feels that opposing the kind of tyranny that has clouded her family’s life is a special kind of music…

In a lyrical and nuanced narrative, Janet Savin dramatises accelerating protest against a brutal and desperate regime in one of Europe’s most beautiful old cities. This first of two volumes draws from her life in Prague during the buildup to the Velvet Revolution and offers a poignant, and richly detailed story about an expatriate family’s longing for their home land and a young woman’s search for her place in its heritage.

    • Hi Sarah, Thank you for your suggestions. K immersing herself in her cultural heritage is a good idea, especially since the heritage is mentioned at the end. I agree that it's not necessary to say anything about her already knowing Czech; that was more information for you all.

      Your point about disruption is excellent and so is your suggestion for bringing it in.

      The first volume is coming out mid-March or shortly thereafter. In fact, I'm still sending ARCs to people who are happy to post reviews. I could certainly send you one, if you wanted, but you're self-publishing in May, aren't you. You may be very busy, and the book is 450 pages. Thank you again, Sarah.

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      • This is just a thought, but for a sales pitch do you not want to emphasize the actual political conditions that cause her to get caught up in the resistance? Right now everyone is hyper aware  of big bullies attacking smaller countries and not everyone knows how much history is repeating itself.

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        • Hi Georgina, It’s a good thought, very timely, as you say. There are three mentions in the text of the Czechoslovak regime :

          '...dangerous covert resistance against the hard-line regime.'

          '...kind of tyranny that has clouded her family’s life'

          '...dramatises accelerating protest against a brutal and desperate regime.'

          You’re probably imagining making at least one more concrete. In Czechoslovakia, the relevant bully incident is, of course, the Warsaw Pact invasion of ’68. I can’t use the phrase ‘a puppet regime’ because there were hard-line Czechs and Slovaks in the Czechoslovak politburo, and one Slovak is reputed to have written to Brezhnev requesting ‘brotherly assistance’. I could say ‘dangerous covert resistance against the hard-line regime installed after the ‘brotherly assistance’ of the Warsaw Pact invasion.

          If you come back on, I'd be interested to know whether this is the kind of thing you were thinking of. In any case, many thanks.

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          • I was thinking of something even more blatant, perhaps even an allusion to the current Russian Ukrainian war. Your publisher might think it too vulgar but I have never forgotten a story I was told by a man at a party. He had written a book about the Philippines, not a single UK publisher was interested, then Marcos was deposed and his book found itself in a bidding war.  Even people who know nothing about history are suddenly very interested in the former Soviet Union, its territories, its bullying, its invasions and so forth… this is just the type of book to appeal.

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            • What you say is certainly true. I'll give your suggestion a good think. Thank you.

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            • Hi Janet, I think Sara and Georgina have given you good comments. I was going to say that for those of us with a second language or more it doesn't sound unusual as written but the vocabulary you learn as a child only gets you so far - when you haven't studied it growing up or as an adult. I do find the wording 'has been raised on' rather jarring. How about something like 

              'Revelling in the beauty of Prague, finding friends with whom she can speak (and improve) her mother tongue while being surrounded by the  culture whose literature, art and music are so familiar to her from childhood, Katherine experiences life under a hard-line regime and soon finds herself joining in dangerous anti-government resistance, contrary to all the warnings her parents gave her when she left home.' 

              Not sure you need 'covert; here if you mention 'smuggling' below. Though you could mention her translations alongside the smuggling?

              I hope this gives you something to work with.

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              • Hi Maggie, It does. I didn't like 'raised on' either. '...so familiar to her from childhood' is much more elegant. I like the way you've included her friends as well. Thank you so much.

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                • Hi Maggie, Yes, it certainly does give me something to work with. I didn’t like ‘raised on’ at all either. ‘…familiar to her from childhood’ is very nice. I really appreciate all your support.

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                  • Nothing like expressing oneself twice! I could not find the first post; it was hiding somewhere.

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                  • Wow, Janet, your blurb sounds wonderful! Everyone has given you amazing suggestions so I have nothing to add except that I'm excited for you. All your hard work is paying off and you're on the home stretch. Are you having a book launch? Let me know!

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                    • Hi Julie, Thanks for your interest. I am supposedly having a launch, but through the British Czech and Slovak Association, and the date hasn't been set yet. It might be after the second volume comes out around mid-April. I'll send you a PM in a few minutes.

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                    • Hi Janet - I've been following this, and there are good suggestions.

                      The first para could be trimmed (it all can!), eg: After graduating from the famous Juilliard music school in 1988, Katherine Angelis balks at her family’s expectation that she will start a career as a professional musician. She seizes the chance for further study in Prague, the city her family had to escape from after the Communist takeover in 1948.

                      In the second para, I'd like to see a mention of the fact that the two guys are activists against the regime (I assume that's the case, as will whoever reads this blurb. If not, make it clear (especially if one is an activist and the other is passive/conservative - imply conflict between them). And maybe name them.

                      I'd say "history" rather than "heritage", and definitely allude to Ukraine.

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                      • Hi Glyn, thanks for your suggestions, useful as always – especially about the two men. I want to keep ‘heritage’, because that’s a very important part of the story. As to Ukraine, I’m sickened by Western leaders patting themselves on the back while the Ukrainian people try to resist a superior Russian military alone, and I don’t want to make use of what is going to be another terrible human tragedy. This is a personal choice which not everyone would agree with. What I have written into the text following mention of the triangle is this: 

                        And Katherine cannot resist the opportunity offered by her new Czech friends to join in risky covert resistance against a hard-line regime in place since the ‘brotherly assistance’ of the Warsaw Pact invasion.

                        I think most people will make the connections with both the aggressor and the pretense. There’s a lot of reference to Czechoslovakia ’68 and Hungary ’56 in current news reports.


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