Exercise: Condensing for Marketing

>> Thursday, May 13, 2010

Nathan Bransford, agent, novelist, blogger, has an interesting exercise on his blog today. He noted that queries (and other venues) would require one condense one's beloved novel into tiny tiny packages as pitches. He also noted it was difficult. (And it is, terribly difficult).

Just from the work on my query, I know it's true. Since I'm now sitting on three completed novels and need to get cracking on marketing (instead of falling prey the siren's song of "new" writing), I thought I'd try the exercise here. I'm going to need these short versions anyway. The idea is to condense the story into (a) one sentence, (b) one paragraph, and (c) two paragraphs.

So, today, I'll try it with my first novel: Curse of the Jenri.

(a) Tander has no choice but to use his unwanted magical ability, his six obnoxious kittens and a dangerous band of cutthroats, knights and sorcerers to rescue his wife and her sisters from an unknown villain.

(b) When Tander the swordsman is adopted by six kittens who demand he's really a sorcerer, Tander refuses to consider the possibility until his wife and many others from their camp are kidnapped. Now, he has to depend on his magic, his kittens and an angry mob of sorcerers and cutthroats to find her and even to save her. Too bad he has no idea what he's doing.

(c) Still stinging from the humiliation of being rescued by his wife, Tander, the swordsman, is adopted by a litter of demanding familiars who insist Tander is full to bursting with magical ability, as if he wasn't humiliated enough. Tander has no intention of lowering himself by dabbling in magic or spending his life saddled with six critical kittens, but, when his wife (and many of her camp) are kidnapped, he's going to have to depend on his magic to save them.

Tander has no idea who he’ll face or how long he has to get there. He’ll need to embrace the magic he despises, master it well enough that it’s a boon and not a liability. He’ll have to slog through near impassable mountains in winter, fighting fearsome creatures he didn’t even think existed. He’ll do anything he has to to reach Layla before the Jenri are destroyed. And, he'll need to get there before the impatient band of assassins, soldiers, and sorcerers he leads kills him—or each other.

Hmm. It is harder than I like to think. Feel free to give criticism and suggestions. I wish they were funnier. May have to revise and repost later. Any ideas would be welcome.


  • The Mother

    I have struggled with this. Condensing a carefully plotted mystery or thriller into a paragraph (let alone a sentence!) is painful. Very.

  • Jeff King

    First off, I don’t envy your task. Second, remember I am nobody in the writing world and my opinion is that of a 35 years old construction foreman, who is only as deep as a shallow puddle. That being said let me ask a few questions that really confused me or parts I didn’t like.
    Kittens? You mean real, little, cute, kittens? Just not getting the picture there…
    I have read some of your writing and I know you have a ton of talent. This seems stiff and forced to me… believe me I know it is dang hard. Keep it up and I know you will get it.
    With I had some advice, but the more I tried to give some the more I got confused. Keep your head up and push through it.
    Just remember it has to hook you.

  • Stephanie Barr

    Jeff, they are kittens. Real cute little kittens. And they talk.

    God I love fantasy.

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