Friday, November 01, 2019

Some Dos and Don'ts for Pitches and Blurbs

By Suzanne Purvis 

Part of The Writer’s Life Series 

JH: Pitching is part of being a writer, so it's a skill we should all develop early. Suzanne Purvis is here today to share tips on what to do--and not to do--in our novel pitches and blurbs.

Suzanne Purvis is a transplanted Canadian living in the Deep South, where she traded “eh” for “y’all.” An author of long, short, flash fiction, and poetry for both children and adults, she has won several awards including those sponsored by the University of Toronto, RWA, Bethlehem Writers, and Women Who Write. You can find her work in print anthologies, magazines, ezines, and ebooks.

She leads workshops at Lawson Writer’s Academy and for Romance Writers of America, including her popular Sizzling, Scintillating Synopsis, Potent Pitches and Brilliant BlurbsRevision Boot Camp and now she’s honored to be teaching Margie Lawson’s Deep Editing, Rhetorical Devices and More class.

Her next class, Potent Pitches and Brilliant Blurbs, begins November 1st.

Take it away Suzanne…

Suzanne Purvis
You know what a pitch is, you know what a blurb is, you know they’re important. Here are a few helpful dos and don’ts to make writing each of them a little easier.

1. Character names. 

A pitch usually doesn’t have the room to use the fabulous names of your main characters. The character’s role or job title may have to suffice. A blurb allows you more words, and more words allows you to include your unique, memorable character names.

2. Setting. 

A short pitch might not give you the words to include a cool setting, but in a blurb you can introduce your intriguing small coastal town, or faraway planet. 

3. Time period. 

If you’re writing historical fiction you’ll likely want to include your your time period. Something simple like in Victorian England can work. Most contemporaries don’t require specific references to time.

(Here's more on Here’s the Pitch—It’s a Hit! Crafting Your Novel's Pitch Line)

4. Rhetorical questions. 

Some agents hate rhetorical questions in a query. A rhetorical question used in the right place in a pitch or blurb can work as a hook. But if you’re asking too many questions, the agent or editor or reader may feel, “How am I supposed to know? Stop badgering me!” Use rhetorical questions judiciously and see if making a statement instead will be stronger.

5. Sentence structure. 

In a pitch, sometimes one longer sentence can get across everything you need. In a blurb, you can vary your sentences, and remember, short and to the point sentences will motivate a reader to keep reading more than long, complicated sentences.

(Here's more on 8 Secrets to Pitching Your Novel Like a Pro)

6. Clarity is key in a pitch and blurb. 

You don’t want your reader to be confused. Sometimes, as the writer, you often can’t see this. You know your story so well, you know all the backstory too, and you can think your short pitch is clear and concise. You have to imagine someone who knows nothing about your story is your reader. Getting objective feedback from someone who doesn’t know the story is imperative.

8. Simplicity. 

Of course your story is complex with subplots and twists galore. And often it feels almost impossible for you, as the writer, to leave these out of a pitch or blurb, but it’s okay. If you get an agent or editor interested with your pitch or blurb, they most always will want more—pages or a synopsis and you’ll have more words to share all your cool intricacies.

9. Flow. 

Reading your pitch and blurb aloud is a huge help in hearing the cadence and rhythm and flow. Listen for stumbling over words, awkward phrases, maybe you need more or less punctuation.

10. Every word matters in a pitch or blurb. 

You have 30 - 100 words and they may be the most important words you write because they’re the ones that can nab the agent, editor, and readers.

You can learn all this and more in my next two-week intensive Potent Pitches and Brilliant Blurbs begins November 1st.  


  1. Good morning, Suzanne! Great post. I'm considering signing up for this class at LWA, but I have knee surgery in my future. Hope to get a date with the surgeon today.
    For anyone reading my comment who hasn't had a class with Suzanne, what in earth are you waiting for?

    1. Hi Winona, Thanks so much for stopping by. Oh gosh, I was nurse maid for my mom's knee replacement surgery this summer. She is now feeling like a brand new person with her new knee. Good luck.

  2. Clarity! - read aloud, revise, repeat... Great article.

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by. Simple and effective. You've got it.

  3. Wonderful article! Thank you so much. ��✍️