Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Josephine's winning jacket copy

Here's Josephine Damian's cover copy, one of the two winning entries. I really liked JD's copy because her voice really succeeded in addressing the target audience. In the many excellent examples of jacket copy I got, I found this was something that even some very extraordinary writers struggle with. It's really interesting to me how telling the same story to two slightly different audiences can change the shape of the story so much! That's why this is a fun exercise, I think.

I'm putting JD's copy here, with some critique notes below.

A STUDY IN FEAR: a novel by Josephine Damian


Headline:

“Because evil is there, at the gates, against the skin.” [quote from frontispiece]

When criminal profiler Dr. Rhys Garrison receives death threats from a diabolical psycho, the FBI calls in Caroline Armstrong to investigate, but this time the criminal has met his match for Caroline is not what she seems; she understands evil in ways this killer can just suppose.


Jacket flap: Everyone believes criminal profiler Caroline Armstrong is a European woman with the quintessential American name. She’s afraid her ex-lover, forensic psychologist Rhys Garrison, will find out she’s really Nina Gorić, a Bosnian war crimes victim turned assassin who killed so her unborn child could survive. When the two profilers reunite to catch a diabolical serial killer, old flames rekindle along with new fears when Rhys suspects Caroline’s violent past and secret identity.


Author bio:
Former graphic artist and noted botanist, Josephine Damian is now a book reviewer, busy blogger, and writer of psychological suspense thrillers (novels, short stories, screenplays) and crime-related non-fiction. She’s also a graduate student currently enrolled at a Florida university, and in December 2008 she will earn a master's degree in Criminal Forensics Studies: Behavioral Analysis. Her previous employment includes working at the medical examiner’s office where her primary responsibility was to cook the corpse. In 2007, Josephine’s short story SAFE IN THE HOUSE appeared in Thug Works e-zine, and in 2006, a forensics trade magazine published her piece on footwear impression evidence.


Back cover: A fraternity hazing turns twisted when a killer manipulates the incident’s inherent violence as a cover for murder. He assumes his victim’s identity and joins a group of elite forensic psychology students. His goal: to infiltrate the domain of his enemy, a university professor and criminal profiler. The killer delivers to Dr. Rhys Garrison a cryptic note - a puzzle once solved, it reveals the location of body buried on campus, in a garden secreted behind a serpentine wall. When a second note hidden inside the corpse suggests the professor is next to die, the FBI calls in Rhys’s ex- lover and protégé to investigate the crime and assess his objectivity. At first, she’s reluctant to get involved. She’s got troubles of her own. Her past is about to catch up to her.


No one suspects that criminal profiler Caroline Armstrong is really Nina Gorić, a Bosnian war crimes victim turned assassin who killed so her unborn child could survive. The memories that poison her soul are the very experiences that provide insight into to a murderer’s psyche. That she committed worse evil than the American serial killers she pursues is a matter for another day; that along with the fact Interpol plans to arrest her. The last thing Caroline needs is what she’s got right now: the scrutiny of a high profile FBI case. When the two ex-lovers reunite to catch a killer, old flames rekindle along with new fears for Rhys suspects that Caroline harbors a criminal past. If he discovers the truth, will he turn her over to authorities?

Eager to work their first big case and protect their beloved mentor, Dr. Garrison’s current crop of forensic psychology students joins Caroline to help piece together the clues. They receive word from a fraternity brother who believes he can put a name to the killer’s face – but before they can follow up the lead, the murderer gets to the witness before they do. A third message left at the grizzly crime scene taunts Caroline and makes her suspect that the guilty party is one of Rhys’s six students.

But which one?

From the hallowed halls of a prestigious American university to the killing fields of Bosnia, A STUDY IN FEAR takes you on a dark journey that explores how often evil disguises itself behind the mask of innocence.


My notes:

First, purely topical--JD, darling, what you have here as "flap copy" and "back copy" I would switch. Flap tends to be wordier and more descriptive; back tends to be short and often non-informational (just something pretty to look at!!). So good for you for drafting both, anyway.

Second, I really like your headline--the structure is very strong. This is another tricky point of copy that we all struggle with (I write copy all the time, and it's still a challenge--what IS your one-line why-to-buy?). I would, however, break it into shorter sentences and then bridge the concepts a little, perhaps to look like this:

“Because evil is there, at the gates, against the skin.” [quote from frontispiece]

When criminal profiler Dr. Rhys Garrison receives death threats from a diabolical psycho, the FBI calls in Caroline Armstrong to investigate. This time, the criminal has met his match, for Caroline is not what she seems. She understands evil in ways this killer can only imagine.


Third, you're a little slow to introduce Caroline/Nina, who doesn't come into the book description on your "back" cover until after a very long expository first paragraph. From your set-up, it's a little unclear if the protagonist is Rhys, Caroline, or alternating. If their narratives are equally important, I might try to start off the first paragraph in a way that introduces them both immediately.

Finally, some of the language can be tightened a little. For example, "The killer delivers to Dr. Rhys Garrison a cryptic note" is a little awkard for copy, which usually doesn't deviate from very conventional language structures. These are all kind of topical.

Overall, nicely done first draft.

5 comments:

Hélène Boudreau said...

Great critique.

I concur with the point regarding the introduction of Nina/Caroline in the back cover. If I hadn't read the jacket flap first, I'd have been a bit confused.

Sounds like a great book!

Merry Monteleone said...

Yay, Josie!!! I've already given my input on your blog - excellent and well deserved.

Be sure to post a picture of your robert's gem tee shirt on you blog!

Jennifer L. Griffith said...

Each word is hits the mark here.

You definitley make me want to read your book, and isn't that the point!!!

Nice job.

Josephine Damian said...

Moonie: thanks much for the crits. Froog has also given me pointers, and Linnea Sinclair gave me a crit of my pitch during the DM workshop. I am definitely headed back to the drawing board.

ChristineEldin said...

I really like this, JD. I think I mentioned this on your blog.
I would definitely read your book!
Congratulations!!!
:-)