10.16.2006

Run up to the Crapometer-hook examples

On a beautiful summer day crowds lined up outside a theatre witness a sudden attack of extreme road rage: a tap on a fender triggers a nearly homicidal attack.

Jackson Brodie, ex-cop, ex-private detective, new millionaire, is among the bystanders. The event thrusts Jackson into the orbit of the wife of an unscrupulous real estate tycoon, a washed up comedian, a successful crime novelist, a mysterious Russian woman, and a female police detective. Each of them hiding a secret, each looking for love or money or redemption or escape, they all play a role in driving Jackson out of retirement and into the middle of several mysteries that intersects in one sinister scheme.



flap copy for ONE GOOD TURN by Kate Atkinson (LittleBrown 2006)



same book:

It is summer, it is the Edinburgh Festival. People queuing for a lunchtime show witness a road-rage incident - an incident which changes the lives of everyone involved. Jackson Brodie, ex-army, ex-police, ex-private detective, is also an innocent bystander - until he becomes a suspect.

With "Case Histories", Kate Atkinson showed how brilliantly she could explore the crime genre and make it her own. In "One Good Turn", she takes her masterful plotting one step further.

Like a set of Russian dolls, each thread of the narrative reveals itself to be related to the last. Her Dickensian cast of characters are all looking for love or money and find it in surprising places. As ever with Atkinson what each one actually discovers is their true self. Unputdownable and triumphant, "One Good Turn" is a sharply intelligent read that is also percipient, funny, and totally satisfying.



source: Fantastic Fiction website



All but one of the principal characters in Kate Atkinson's new novel, "One Good Turn," witness the same disturbing incident. After a fender bender on an Edinburgh, Scotland, street, a driver gets out of his car and savagely attacks another man with a baseball bat. The assailant is about to finish the victim off with a blow to the head when someone in the crowd of bystanders flings a laptop case at him, clipping his shoulder and thereby chasing him off. The laptop-case flinger is Martin Canning, a meek crime novelist who's produced a successful series of nostalgic mysteries under a pseudonym. Tossing that case is the bravest thing he's ever done.

Martin's intervention is the "good turn" of the book's title, but does it lead, as the proverb would have it, to another? Not exactly. In Atkinson's universe, a good turn is more likely to set off a chain of unpredictable events, whose connections will only become apparent when the dust clears at the very end.


Source: Salon

69 comments:

The Unpretentious Writer said...

...here, on Mulholland Drive. ^_^

HawkOwl said...

Wow. Raw suckage indeed.

Anonymous said...

Hi Miss Snark! What will be the criterion for this crapometer? I fear by the time this one rolls around, I will have already begun my querying process. I am polishing my synopsis right now. My query and manuscript are polished, so hopefully I won't need the crapometer and will already have interest from an agent. Well, let's hope so anyway! :*)

Anonymous said...

I've written flap copy myself. Since you have a limited word count it is a good idea to avoid word-reps. "Attack" twice in the same 1st paragraph? Tsk-tsk.

Knowing the flap copy writer might not be good at the job (for some of my books the writer was bleedin' awful), I'd open the first page to check if the book is worth my time. If I'm not hooked on the first page, as in suck me into the action NOW, then I'll pass.

Sounds similar to what an agent does--and this is for a published book!

Manic Mom said...

Thanks for the cheat sheet! I changed it around like one of those Mad Libs for my novel:

On a quiet suburban night, Ellen waits inside the bathroom to witness the event that will change her life and the lives around her forever.

The turning of the pregnancy stick to positive.

Career-driven Ellen McMillan, wife, and sister to an infertile woman, is thrust into the orbit of the unknown: Pregnancy. For the next nine months, she must battle internal thoughts of not wanting the kid, an unhealthy obsession for her OB, her MIA husband, and a co-worker who will to anything to sabotage her career.

Medical mishaps, job drama, marital problems, and the discovery of a family secret force Ellen to step back, take a long, hard look at where she’s been, where she’s going, who she is, and who she wants to be. During 40 weeks of gestation, not only does Ellen grow physically on the outside, she also blooms on the inside to become the person she knows she was always meant to be: a mother.


I think this formula will work for any novel, don't you?

Ilya said...

This failed to impress me as well.

The run-off sentences of the second paragraph are so long that I have forgotted how it started by the time I got to the end of it...

I guess one wo/man's good hook is another's rambling.

Sorry...

Anonymous said...

Not only was the flap copy poor, but so was the excerpt. Why, there was even a run-on sentence in there, something that my 7th-grade daughter could have picked out.

This is the stuff that discourages me more than anything else. "Write well, and everything will fall into place." Indeed. Then how did all the garbage get published?

Anonymous said...

What exactly is "the orbit of the wife" that Jackson thrusts into??

Anonymous said...

Phew! I thought we were supposed to like this example. I had to read the first sentence no fewer than 6 times to understand it. I initially thought a word was missing or it had been copied wrong.

The repetition and the listing. Bad from start to finish.

I pity the poor employee at Little, Brown who is having a very bad day at work.

jellybean said...

Bleh. There is a book I'll never read.

Greta LaGarbeaux said...

Something important to remember here: Flap copy is marketing copy. It's a sales pitch. It is *not* literature of any stripe. I think the lesson to be gleaned from this example is: Get all the best bits into a bright, tight form meant to grab attention. That's the hook. You can pretty it up for your query letter, but without it, all your refined prose goes for naught.

(Ver. word: dhdsnhhb. Makes me want to say "gesuntheit."

Kathleen said...

I think the point of the post is the "hook" and not necessarily the writing of the flap copy. Since people were asking what a "hook" is, and so forth....

Kristi said...

This is fun...I want to try:

In the early hours of the early morn, young McKennedy Dashmoon faces her problems. Pressing into her thoughts are, in no particular order, a botched breast enhancement, her 1st grade teacher's suicide, the memory of a traumatic girl scout cookie drive, the casserole that is burning in the oven, her adopted 3rd world child in Malawi and her own imminent death.

Suicide, tsunamis, the Holocaust, the plight of the coral reef, and a fierce cheerleading competition plague the mind and heart-notions of our heroine, McKennedy Dashmoon. From Kristi's first novel, "That'll Do, Pig", discover a world of intrigue, drama, trauma, comedy, sex, mystery, laughs, hijinks and voodoo.

Anonymous said...

OK, I'll read the book.

Anonymous said...

Oops, I'm embarassed - because I thought it worked just fine. For fans of that genre, it seems interesting, even novel (pun intended). Run on sentences / fragments notwithstanding, I thought it was a decent example.

This is why I'm posting anonymously!

Malia said...

What's a heart-notion? Commas go within the "." And never use #'s -- always spell it out.

Malia the picky

Dave said...

It's advertising copy (eeeuuwww, yuck, unclean). But I can write it. I know I can write it. I wrote this crap for $64,000 a year one year and hated it. But, we all can write it.

Let's just hold hands and sing together now. "I can do it" and I feel all right! {gin, need gin}

Yes, writer, you can promote your novel by writing snappy advetising copy for the flap and for the website and for those interview handouts at bookstores. You too, can make the reader thrill to each plot point of your book and WANT to read your hard work.

Write the hook with enthusiasm as if your novel would set the world afire with commentary and agog at the brilliance of your ideas. Let that confidence and the excitement of your story show through. You can do it.

Then cut out half the words {wink}{wink} to get down to the limit.

Those are two good examples of what you need to do. It's a style, make it work (to borrow a new cliche')

Yasamin said...

it kinda sounds like the updated urbanized version of CLUE.

I get to be Mrs. Peacock.

-c- said...

The only one that remotely interested me was the last. And only because it summarized a scene. Good lesson. I think I'm getting it.

(Or did y'all think the last one sucked?)

Anonymous said...

I thought it was a great hook, and I thought the example was perfect. Thank you for the lesson.

ObiDonWan said...

Name The Reviewer:

"For those who like this kind of book, this is the kind of book those people will like."

Chumplet said...

This is pretty funny. I'm guessing the example was supposed to be a formula we should follow for our own 'hook' but so many commentors thought it sucked.

Anyway, I'll see what I can do with mine. It's a fine exercise for sure.

verification: owmydqj "Oh, my Dog?"

S. W. Vaughn said...

Wow. I was going to comment that the story actually sounded pretty interesting, even though I generally don't like novels with novelist characters in them.

I'm still going to comment that the story sounds interesting. I'd read it. In fact, I shall read it. Hooray for free Amazon shipping for a year!

Thanks, Miss Snark. Even if it wasn't a recommendation. :-)

Virginia Miss said...

I loved "Case Histories," so I'm delighted Katie Atkinson has written a Jackson Brodie sequel.

River Falls said...

I might read the book that the Salon reviewer wrote about, although I wouldn't bother with the first or the second. (Especially the second. Yes, I know it's all the same book.)

It's also interesting the the Salon review focused on an entirely different character than the first two. Just goes to show ya that different readers get an entirely different experience from the same book.

Michael Tompkins said...

I don't mind the word "orbit" to describe a powerful person or personality, but the sentence around it is awful -- even if it does contain some originality. I'm afraid that too many blatant cliches render this absolutely unreadable. And to compare some hack of a crime-drama genre to Dickens is a crime worthy of broken fingers at minimum.

Corn Dog said...

Wow! Hard to believe that is the same book. I would have passed the first 2 times and bit on the last one. I agree with Anon that I had to read that first sentence on the flap cover 6 times before I comprehended it. That sentence is so stinky I was sure the e-vile dachshund had tracked poo in the house. So, we have the stinky hooks and the swell hook, all for the same book. Crapometer tidbits are starting early - before Halloween. Thanks Miss Snark for showing, not telling.

v-word: ntpdltef - not piddling today effectively; I'm trying though

Mtanz said...

Kristi, I'd read your book! Wow, all that between one cover. Whew, that voodoo, you do. However, you forgot the Rastafarians and the (pink) elephant in the room.

Although the hooks for the "Run up to the Crapometer" are not well written per se, they do demonstrate the basic idea of a hook. BTW, I also had trouble understanding the first sentence and was likewise convinced there was a word left out. The third blurb IMHO was the most interesting, because at least it showed character motivation and played on the name of the book. In the end, useful for thinking about my own hook.

Word ver: sjoeerb (Sir Joe Herb?)

Anonymous said...

The first one was a pass for me, the second one was interesting enough to read the first page, the third one had me heading for my amazon wish list...

I liked the details about the road rage episode, and the connection with a meek crime writer

Gaia Girl said...

Yeah, problems aside (for me it was all those prepositional phrases), the flap copy made me want to read the book, i.e., it was a pretty good hook, while the other selections felt like literary reviews.

SherryD said...

A run-on sentence can be quite creative. In my classes at the UW Seattle, we practiced writing them as a way to keep the pen moving. That doesn't mean a 500-word sentence should be IN your manuscript, query or cover letter - but they are a creative way to let ideas escape your mind and onto the paper. I do not find them confusing or irritating unless they jump from one subject to another. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Greta said: "Flap copy is marketing copy. It's a sales pitch. It is *not* literature of any stripe."

True indeed, but marketing copy can be poorly written and therefore ineffective. In order to write good copy, you need to have marketing skills AND writing skills. If copy is poorly enough written so that the potential buyer reads it and says, "HUHH??" there is definitely not going to be a sale.

Good writing is necessary in all sorts of unexpected places, none of which one could term "literary."

Anonymous said...

Nooo, people! Don't judge a book by the blurb! Kate Atkinson is a bloody legend. If this new one is half as good as Case Histories, I'll be a happy chappie. I never thought I'd enjoy a crime novel, but she really does "make it her own" like the blurb says. It was brilliantly funny too...

Anonymous said...

re. "washed up comedian": what is an "up comedian"? A happy comedian? A high comedian? A successful comedian? Well, at least we know he's clean.

Anonymous said...

Did anybody else notice that all of those examples are more than 100 words long? The first comes close, the others are well over. The second is 145 and the last 167, according to Word.

Maybe they're not intended to be *good* examples, I just thought that was noteworthy. Maybe Miss Snark will grace us with a few slightly shorter examples later? What I've found so far is that being interesting isn't the hard part with my novel... being brief is.

HawkOwl said...

Second anonymous: I believe it was Edwin Silberstand who said that as bad as the published stuff is, the stuff that didn't get published was even worse.

Persistence pays, too.

Ilya said...

I loved the second one from the Fantastic Fiction website. What a difference!

Mig said...

Athinson's Case Histories was an excellent novel. One of the best written novel's I've read in the past year. Don't let the quality of the flap copy dissuade you from reading this excellent author.

Anonymous said...

I like the flap copy. It does a good job, providing more of a hook than the two reviews.

Talentless said...

This is interesting; clearly a hook only works on you if it pushes "your" buttons. So it comes back to actual story content and luck, spotting the market ahead.

nice anonymous said...

I couldn't see what was unique about this book -- why I would buy it, rather than a half-dozen others -- until I read the third sample, which pulled me into the narrative it offered. The other two felt like exercises in phrase-making. They didn't interest me at all.

Jason said...

The assailant is about to finish the victim off with a blow to the head when someone in the crowd of bystanders flings a laptop case at him, clipping his shoulder and thereby chasing him off.

Are you *&$#ing kidding me? He's in a homicidal rage and he's "clipped" and he runs away?

Hi, I'm really worried about shoulder injuries, to the extent that if someone touches my shoulder I start running.

Seems like a stupid way to start a . . . well, an anything.

Word ver: razydkz

If the Dixie Chicks got a Raspberry award.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

"Name The Reviewer:

'For those who like this kind of book, this is the kind of book those people will like.'"

Don't know about the reviewer, but he/she was paraphrasing Miss Jean Brodie in her prime.

I want to read That'll Do, Pig.

M. G. Tarquini said...

One of the Bunions sent me an excerpt that she thought nailed one of the characters, somebody whining about the way people queue and how she'd been born too late for WWII when people queued without complaint. It had me laughing. I'm buying this one.

lizzie26 said...

Some key words from the flap copy that are supposed to hook the reader: thrust, mysterious, washed up, savagely, unpredictable. I'll bet the writers of flap copy have a list of words to use to catch the reader's attention.

Dave Kuzminski said...

Yes, it's advertising and all the writing rules practically go out the window. Almost anything goes if it gets the product sold. Repetition is good because it reinforces something you want the customer to perceive. Misspelling is good if it creatively causes the customer to give more time to your product though I would be reluctant to ever use that tactic with literature of any kind other than a book on spelling or something meant to be very funny. Even lying is permitted and that often happens with the covers which may bear little or no resemblance to the story.

Unlike the anonymous who worked in advertising, I turned down the job I was offered. I didn't want to write copy for products much like I did for my college marketing project where I selected euthanasia as the product I had to represent. Aced the grade, too.

Personally, I felt the flap copy wasn't bad at all.

SherryD said...

Don't mistake the promotional blurbs on the cover flaps as representative or characteristic of the author's work. It's advertising copy - just like commercials on television. They can be catchy or memorable without being great writing.

skybluepinkrose said...

#1 Too awkward. Too general.

#2 Last para. is choppy. Unputdownable? Ugh. Percipient? Too many won't know what it means.

#3 I don't buy the clip to the shoulder as driving him off either. After the first sentence, wouldn't you think there'd be some mention of that character who wasn't there? But this one might make me read the book. It's specific, and I like Martin.

My take: Show me a character I can care about. Don't try to drum up excitement by listing the strangest amalgamation of "types" or gory/wacko events you can think of. I'll write it off as the latest edgier-than-thou.

Anonymous said...

Omigod, you poor pathetic Snarklings:

Madame La Maitresse has just
[tried to] show you how many fascinating ways the same tale can be spun to greater and lesser effect, to greater and lesser audience appeal, or for different audiences. She's asking: How many ways can you describe your story? At how many levels? She's trying to show you good/better/best/maybe 'hooks'.

Some poor Snarklings just don't get it. You just don't get it.

It's the hook, people; it's the hook. Please, Miss S - keep your cigarette lighter away from your fabulous hair.....

I'm:
-Just Me
(So shoot me....)

Chumplet said...

Open up one of those Carol Reid catalogues - you know the ones with the plastic doilies and milk bag organizers - and you see that kind of copy.

I wrote advertising copy for a camera store, and everything was 'do this, do that', a command. Adjectives galore!

Your life will be complete when (not if) you read this!

A copywriter said...

Hey, who said copywriting isn't great writing?!

Pistols at dawn my friend.

Georgiana said...

I loved Human Croquet and really liked Emotionally Weird and am very pleased to hear Ms. Atkinson has a new book out. Thanks Miss Snark!

a certain snclair said...

"They can be catchy or memorable without being great writing."
That's a hook!

Another Dejected Writer said...

Dear God, trained monkeys are getting paid to write and I'm not. Where's the justice?

Here's hoping the book is better than the blurbs.

Anonymous said...

'several mysteries that intersects'???

Holy crap. Sure, most of the normal rules don't apply to flap copy, but there are limits.

Madeline F said...

I agree with nice anonymous. The first two are what I'd see on any book of the type. The third I liked because it finally gave detail about the "road rage incident" and it left me with a question, Was the novelist's book on that laptop? Did the laptop survive?

The first was better than the second because I picked out one of the shotgun blast of characters and thought, "Does he hook up with the lady cop? That would be neat." But the odds aren't good.

The second was bad because it was the most vague. "Dickensian"? Blah.

Southern Writer said...

Maybe I'm going to embarass myself here, but if I were into mysteries, I would buy this one. The point is not about constructing perfect sentences. It's about grabbing the reader, and I think all three achieved that. I also suspect this is the wrong answer because I often disagree with Miss Snark's choices of what's good and what's not in the Crapometer. No offense, Miss Snark. That's why you're an agent and I'm a struggling writer, I suppose.

However, after re-reading each one, I wonder which character is the protagonist? And I wonder why a man who would kill another man for a dent in his fender, would run away and leave the wretched fender (along with the rest of his car) behind? Maybe that's part of the mystery.

Brady Westwater said...

Totally hated the first one, second one not quite as bad, third one better. But none of them would have gotten me to read any further.

Anonymous said...

I like the 2nd one. The first is just too 'yuck' to mention and I wouldn't read the book. But the 2nd one manages to have a hook (the last one doesn't as far as I can see) without being overdramatic.

Sandra G (UK)

tinkerbell said...

In reply to various unnamed anonomouses:

> If I'm not hooked on the first page, as in suck me into the action NOW, then I'll pass.


Don't bother with the masterpiece "Return Of The Native" by Thomas Hardy then. Tsk Tsk.

> This is the stuff that discourages me more than anything else. "Write well, and everything will fall into place." Indeed. Then how did all the garbage get published?

I was wondering the same thing myself until I realised that it's horses for courses. If you can write well enough in any genre that people want to part with cash to buy your work, then to a certain extent you are doing your craft well. I wrote a blog entry about it called "The Book Snob / Big Macs and Quail Brains", here:

http://tinyurl.com/l8lhs

ex copywriter Dave: I love your post. I think I would read anything written by you.

Thanks for the examples Miss Snark. Kate Atkinson is on my list of authors to read anyway.

WitLiz Today said...

Anonymous #664463 (Check your phone for identity)

THWACK!! You are the recipient of this week's SuckPieFace Boston Cream Pie without the Boston.

Next time it would behoove you to approach your comment in a different manner, like, say:

"Question. Were we supposed to Crap-On-The-Hook?"

Short, sweet, simple and not offensive; like my SuckPieFace Boston Cream Pie without the Boston.

I had some yesterday.

Oh that reminds me snarklings, always keep swab sticks on hand. They come in handy! THWACK!!

tinkerbell said...

p.s There is a clip of Kate talking about Case Histories on the meet the author site here:

http://tinyurl.com/y9bbgg

skybluepinkrose said...

Variation on anonymous's "How many ways can you describe your story" point:

If the book is great and the hook is crap, an agent or editor will never find out how great the book is.

Jpatrick said...

The best flap copy I've read usually has a few lines from the book itself. Less is usually more.

River Falls said...

I just thought of something else: The first two examples do more "telling" than "showing," but the last "shows" mored than "tells." It had a narrative, albeit brief, whereas the first two merely listed things we would discover in the book.

I like narrative, not lists. I'm not a mystery reader, but the third example engaged my attention.

Anonymous said...

I like the three entries in ascending order, although each of them has a hook in it, by dog.

The 1st one is sooo blah-- a dramatis personae of characters I haven't met and do not care about.

The 2nd one makes reference to a "Dickensian cast of characters" ..."looking for love or money" in what sounds like an "unputdownable... Russian doll" of an action movie on paper-- oh HELL no! Coupled with the overload of adjectives at the end of the copy (triumphant, intelligent, percipient, satisfying), I would assume this to be overhyping a neurotic and overly ornate text. Finally, the 3rd one gives me a little personality, showing a little bit of the charm of the situations and characters in the book.

Together, they're fascinating... how come the first two focus on the cop and the third one on the "hero" who disrupts a homicide with his action? I want to use these to psychoanalyze their writers. :) And this, for me, is MS's lesson: you can craft your hook in many different ways, but some are better than others.

I found only the third one particularly appetizing, but that may reflect my biases as a reader who loves the absurd (laptop-flinging nerds? Baseball bat murders? Be still, my heart!); I suspect that many readers would like to grow up to be Jackson Brodie, and will be compelled to live inside the avatar of this ex-army, ex-cop, ex-PI millionaire at the center of the action.

Snarkaholic said...

unscrupulous real estate tycoon, a washed up comedian, a successful crime novelist, a mysterious Russian woman, and a female police detective.

This is a mess.

It would be better with a washed-up real estate tycoon, an unscrupulous comedian, a successful Russian woman, and a female police detective who becomes a crime novelist.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing that the blurb focuses on Jackson Brodie because (a) he's the protagonist and (b) they want to hook readers who liked the first book about him. The Salon review focuses on the writer because reviewers can highlight whatever strikes their fancy. I agree with those who find the review hook more enticing.

Reading the deals in the free version of Publisher's Lunch, I've noticed that each comes with a one- or two-sentence hook, and many of those hooks are far from eloquent. But they do get the point across; you can see why this book was sold.

Example from this week:
"David J. Schwartz's SUPERPOWERS, dubbed "The Incredibles" meets THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY, in which after a night of heavy drinking, five friends wake up to discover they have superhuman abilities, but lacking super-villains they find that the ramifications of their new powers are more complicated than they anticipated."

Natalia said...

I wrote my honours thesis on Kate Atkinson. Academia shuns her, but she's a great writer, and One Good Turn was a fabulous book. My favourite of hers is still Human Croquet, but no matter.

I bought it without bothering to read the flap, to be honest. Oh sweet irony. ;)