Introducing the Query/Blurb Exchange Club!

by Jami Gold on January 15, 2013

in Writing Stuff

Arrows connecting to each other with text: Queries and Blurbs: A Place to Get Help. The Query/Blurb Exchange Club

The response to my request for help on my query in my last post was amazing. I really shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, we all know you are amazing, right? *smile*

But the tremendous outpouring of offers to help also made me feel guilty. I’ve heard stories from others about how hard it can be to find beta readers for their writing. I sympathize. In fact, I’ve written blog posts to share ideas on how to find those sometimes elusive beta readers

Then we learn we should use a different set of beta readers for our queries or back cover blurbs. Yikes! Yet we need readers with “virgin eyes”—those who don’t know the story—to ensure our story summary makes sense to that random agent or potential reader.

Even after we’re published, the need to come up with back cover blurbs remains, especially for those who self-publish. Not surprisingly, some have a hard time scrounging up another set of beta readers to give that query or blurb feedback.

As I saw the offers of help come in, I started thinking about how I could share this writer goodwill with others. Maryanne Fantalis echoed my thoughts in her comment:

“Gee, Jami, sounds like you could set up a network of terrified query-ers and we could all help each other! :) “

I replied:

“I’m collecting everyone’s emails from their comment, and I’ll have people let me know if they want to do this as a one-time thing or as part of a Query Club. :) Yay for writers helping writers!”

So here we are. Thanks to Maryanne’s suggestion, I set up a Google Group for a Query/Blurb Exchange Club. This group will remain available to all who want to join. All you need to do is let me know in the comments if you’d like to be a part of this group (and what email address to use), and I’ll send you an invitation.

This is not intended to be as big or active as the QueryTracker forum, and certainly not as big as AgentQuery Connect’s Query Critiques. Ideally, this group would have between 5-20 members. Enough to give diverse feedback, but not so much that we can’t keep up with requests for help.

For those looking for oodles of replies, check out the excellent resources at QueryTracker and AgentQuery. But for those uncomfortable with posting their query in the public forums at those sites, this small, private group might feel a bit safer, cozier.

Assuming I set the group up correctly, members will be able to remove themselves at any time. Providing feedback to all requests is encouraged but not required (no one will be kicked out if they don’t answer within X time frame). Only the person asking for help on a given query will receive emails of replies (this helps both with cutting down on email clutter and with ensuring others’ comments aren’t tainting everyone’s impression).

Members are encouraged to give stream-of-consciousness type feedback so the query/blurb author can see where any confusion happens, or what phrase led to certain assumptions. An example of this line-by-line feedback might look something like:

Saranha is a Timekeeper of the Inner Realm (I’m not sure what “Timekeeper” means or why it’s capitalized, but I have an impression of a fantasy story), but she’s hiding a secret. (Intriguing. Already a hint of conflict.) Timekeepers aren’t allowed to have relationships–and definitely not children–yet in a small town of the Outer Realm, her son is quickly reaching the age where the Elders will notice his existence. (Good. More conflict. This all makes sense.) When her son is caught sneaking out to the MoonDay Festival (Does this festival need to be named? Too many unfamiliar names/concepts might make it confusing.), Saranha must decide if she’ll let her son face the future as an Outcast, or if she’ll claim him–and face the punishment that will condemn them both. (Good! High stakes. Choice between two evils. This works!)

Members are encouraged to think about the following questions as they give their feedback:

  • Does it make sense?
  • Does it sound voice-y or bland?
  • Does it give a clear sense of the characters and what the story will be like?
  • Does it evoke the genre?
  • Does it feel too “plotty,” like a synopsis?
  • Are the stakes clear and strong enough?
  • Is the choice the character has to make clear and does it feel like a choice between two bad options?
  • Does the story sound interesting enough to read?

So, is this group for everyone? No. We’re aiming for honest (sometimes blunt) feedback, but always being respectful. No attacking allowed. We’re expecting that members share only their best work. This group isn’t meant to fix first drafts or educate members about the format of queries (the Query Shark blog does a fine job of that).

If those guidelines sound reasonable, maybe this group is for you. If you’d like to help other writers with their queries or back cover blurbs and you’d appreciate getting feedback on your own, this group might help you find beta readers who haven’t already read your story.

The Query/Blurb Exchange Club will remain open and ongoing for as long as there’s interest, so if you’ve happened to come to this post months after I published it, don’t worry. Feel free to leave a comment with your interest, and as long as the group still exists, I’ll send you a invitation (to the email address of your comment unless you tell me differently). (Note: If you have a gmail account, sign up with that email address, as this is a Google Group and Google will get confused if you try using a different email.) *crosses fingers that this will all work*

Have you ever had problems finding beta readers? If you’ve solved that problem, how do you find them now? Do you use “virgin eyed” beta readers (who haven’t read your story) for feedback on your queries or back cover blurbs? Do you like the stream-of-consciousness style of feedback, especially for queries or blurbs? Do you want an invitation?

P.S. The feedback example above is not from a real story. In fact, the idea is free for the taking. *smile*

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54 Comments below - Time to Add your own.

Todd moody January 15, 2013 at 7:34 am

This is a fantastic idea, Jami! Please count me in.

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Jami Gold January 15, 2013 at 8:57 am

Hi Todd,

Great! I’ll send out the invites as soon as I’m sure the group is working correctly. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Rene Gilley January 15, 2013 at 7:43 am

Hi! I’m about to get to this part. I’d love to be included!

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Jami Gold January 15, 2013 at 8:58 am

Hi Rene,

Yay! I’ll be sending out the invites as soon as I make sure the group is working correctly. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Davonne Burns January 15, 2013 at 12:07 pm

This is a great idea. I admit after visiting the two sites you listed I was much too intimidated to even think about joining. This seems like a much better fit, so please count me in on this venture. ^_^

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Jami Gold January 15, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Hi Davonne,

Will do! 🙂 And don’t get me wrong–I’ve heard great things about those two resources. But that doesn’t mean they’re for everyone. Thanks for the comment!

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Haley Whitehall January 15, 2013 at 12:34 pm

What a great idea, Jami! I’d love to join the group. I think writing blurbs is even harder than writing query letters. But then again nothing about writing is easy! 😉

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Jami Gold January 15, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Hi Haley,

LOL! So true about nothing in the writing process being easy. 🙂 I have you on the list for the invitations. Thanks for the comment!

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Buffy Armstrong January 15, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Fabulous idea, Jami! Count me in!

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Jami Gold January 15, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Hi Buffy,

Yep, I already had your email from yesterday about this, so I have you on the list. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Reetta Raitanen January 15, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Thank you so much for turning the great suggestion into reality 🙂 I’m in, although in reading capacity at this point.

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Jami Gold January 15, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Hi Reetta,

The great thing about offering to beta read for queries and blurbs is that they’re short. LOL! Giving comments on the typical 150-300 words for a query or the typical 100-150 words for a blurb isn’t a big time commitment, so even those of us who won’t be using the group right away aren’t signing up for a pain in the you-know-where. 😉

…Er, at least that’s the plan. 🙂 I’ve got you on the list. Thanks for the comment!

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Melissa January 15, 2013 at 2:20 pm

I would love to help out also. Great idea Jami!

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Jami Gold January 15, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Hi Melissa,

Yes, it seems like this is something a lot of us feel like we need. 🙂 I’ll add you to the list. Thanks for the comment!

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Tamara LeBlanc January 15, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Jami, I think this is a fabulous idea. I’m so glad you listened to your readers and did something to help. I know this will be popular.
I rely heavily on my Crit partners, but I often use betas, and to me, they’re invaluable! Even my agent uses two betas to help her spot discrepancies or issues or likes and dislikes in my work.
I’m glad there are so many wonderful people out there who give their time and knowledge to help others.
One day soon when I’m not so busy, I’ll be sure to join, because id like to pay it forward.
Have a great evening!
Tamara

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Jami Gold January 15, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Hi Tamara,

Yes, I’m trying to set it up so it won’t be a big time suck (goodness knows, I don’t have time for that either! 🙂 ). My goal is to have this be all the good stuff about helping each other, without the bad things that make us leery. Thanks for the comment!

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Anne V January 15, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Hi Jami,
I am new at this. Not ready yet to need a query myself. Willing to help however I can.
Peace, Anne

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Jami Gold January 15, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Hi Anne,

Wonderful! And that’s the great thing about this group. 🙂 Hopefully, it’s just a way for us to help each other without a huge time commitment. 🙂 I’ll add you to the list. Thanks for the comment!

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Sydney Aaliyah January 15, 2013 at 4:55 pm

I would love to join. I am so stressed about this process. The group is a great idea.

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Jami Gold January 16, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Hi Sydney,

LOL! Yeah, I understand that stress. I’ll get an invite out to you soon. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Renee Schuls-Jacobson January 15, 2013 at 5:56 pm

This is such an awesome idea! *smiling*

You are truly one of the most generous people, offering to help moderate something like this! I’m not ready to start thinking about querying, but I would love to be part of the conversation — eventually!

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Jami Gold January 16, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Hi Renee,

Yes, I’m hoping it won’t be too much of a time suck. 🙂 I won’t add you to the list until you tell me you’re ready. Thanks for the comment!

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Joanna Aislinn January 15, 2013 at 6:10 pm

Shall I assume you included me ? 😉 Thanx!

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Jami Gold January 16, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Hi Joanna,

Yes, you’ll be getting an invite as soon as I’ve wrangled the settings to the best I can get them. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Taurean Watkins January 15, 2013 at 7:24 pm

You have my e-mail address, I’m in.

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Jami Gold January 16, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Hi Taurean,

Yes and yes. 🙂

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Janet Tait January 16, 2013 at 1:32 pm

I love this idea – please add me. I have a great critique group and beta readers, but they tend to know my stories. Having fresh eyes who do not would be very valuable.

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Jami Gold January 16, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Hi Janet,

Exactly! I love my beta readers, but they know the story already. They might fill in the blanks on a query that doesn’t make any sense–and queries that don’t make sense to the uninitiated reader is my big weakness.

I’ll put you on the list for an invitation. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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I.J.Vern January 16, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Hi Jami. Great idea.

Your list is growing. :D. Count me in too, if you want. I don’t like writing blurbs, but I like reading them and I can provide feedback.
Thank you for the links.

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Jami Gold January 16, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Hi Irene,

Yes, I love reading blurbs too. It’s amazing how much we can get a visceral reaction to whether or not we’d want to read the story just from a few sentences.

I’ll add you to the list for an invitation. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Karma Brown January 20, 2013 at 5:53 am

This is such an excellent idea–thanks! If the group is still open, I’d love to be a part of it.

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Jami Gold January 21, 2013 at 8:49 am

Hi Karma,

I think there’s still room on the list. I’m getting together the final list of names this week and will send out invites soon. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Tina Dula January 22, 2013 at 10:05 pm

If it’s not too late, I’d love to be added to the query/blurb exchange club. I am just starting to query, and the process is definitely intimidating. Awesome idea! Thanks!

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Jami Gold January 23, 2013 at 5:07 pm

Hi Tina,

I’ll add your name to the list. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Megan January 23, 2013 at 9:52 am

Count me in, please, if there is still room! Great idea!

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Jami Gold January 23, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Hi Megan,

I’ll add you to the list. (I expect not everyone will join after receiving an invitation, so there should still be room. 🙂 ) Thanks for the comment!

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Maryanne Fantalis February 5, 2013 at 7:30 pm

Hi Jami,

I received your email invite (it went to my Junk folder so I didn’t get it right away) but I’m having trouble signing in. Though I follow the link, the page tells me I’m not a member. I suspect this is because I have two email accounts (one for writing, one for “real” life) and Google groups is defaulting me to my real life account. So would it be alright if you delete my membership under this email address and I’ll email you directly with the other account to try. Thanks! Sorry to cause trouble! 🙁

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Jami Gold February 5, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Hi Maryanne,

No worries! I sent out the new invite. 🙂

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Maryanne Fantalis February 5, 2013 at 7:31 pm

Oh, and thanks for the shout-out! 🙂

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Jami Gold February 5, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Hi Maryanne,

Of course! Thanks for the idea. 🙂

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Katharine Owens February 7, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Jami– can I get in on this? I looks like an amazing idea!

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Jami Gold February 7, 2013 at 1:58 pm

Hi Katharine,

I sent an invitation. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Buffy Armsgtrong February 11, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Hey Jami, Can you send me another invite? I was out of town when you sent the last one and it expired. 🙁

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Jami Gold February 11, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Hi Buffy,

I think I resent one. Let me know if that doesn’t work. 🙂 Thanks!

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Reetta Raitanen February 14, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Hey Jami, my inbox was so flooded that I missed your invitation and it expired 🙁 I’m really sorry about that. Could you please send me a new one.

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Jami Gold February 14, 2013 at 4:13 pm

Hi Reetta,

No worries! Resent. 🙂

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Ashley January 11, 2014 at 10:23 am

Hi Jami,

Just found this, and though it’s a year old at this point, are you still doing it? If so, I’d love to participate!

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Jami Gold January 12, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Hi Ashley,

Yes, the group still exists. It’s only an active group when we need it to be. 🙂 I just sent you an invitation. Thanks for the comment!

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Teri February 4, 2014 at 8:54 am

Hi,

Are any of your group members interested in non-fiction blurbing help? I’m finishing up formatting and cover work for “Holistic and Practical Support for Alzheimers/ Caregivers” tips and tools for family members, caregivers, and practitioners.

the book should have a fairly mainstream appeal, esp as there are over 5 million people in US with alzh/dementia, and that is expected to triple in the next 10-20 years ( yikes;)..

I am again choosing to publish indie… which makes the work a bit more, and more dependent on readers for input and support:)

thanks

Teri

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Jami Gold February 4, 2014 at 9:39 am

Hi Teri,

That’s a great question because you’re right that blurbing a non-fiction book can be very different. Most novelists don’t have training in what a non-fiction blurb should include or sound like, so I’m afraid that most of us wouldn’t be terribly helpful.

I’ll leave your comment here, and if anyone has interest, I’ll pass on their contact information. I’d also suggest trying the non-fiction areas of writing forums. I recently did a post about finding beta readers, and some of those sources might have non-fiction sections.

I hope that helps! 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Carl Plumer April 14, 2014 at 11:36 pm

Jami, this is an awesome idea!

I write the worst blurbs on the planet (so I don’t know if I’ll be of much help to others, but I’ll try my best), so I can sure use the help.

Thanks for setting this up. 😀

Best,
Carl

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Jami Gold April 15, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Hi Carl,

You’re welcome! I’ve sent you an invitation. 🙂

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