Monday, 4 June 2012

Pitch paragraph - Death at the Happiness Club

A pitch paragraph for you to consider. Please comment!

DEATH AT THE HAPPINESS CLUB by Cecilia Peartree – a mystery novel
Cecilia points out that this is the actual blurb from her Amazon entry and realizes that it’s therefore not necessarily exactly like a pitch paragraph.

Cecilia’s pitch:
“Death at the Happiness Club is the 4th in a series of quirky mysteries set in a small town in Scotland. When the Happiness Club comes to town, Maisie Sue sees it as an opportunity to rediscover romance, Jock McLean regards it with suspicion, and Jemima and Dave look forward to taking part in new activities with their friends. Amaryllis and Chief Inspector Smith go along to keep an eye on developments on their patch. As for Christopher, he misses the start of the excitement because of a prior engagement - walking the Fife Coastal Path with a figure from his past. But before anyone has had very much fun, it becomes clear that while the Happiness Club brings good times to some, to others it offers only desolation and death.”

My thoughts:
Despite what Cecilia said, I actually think it’s not far off a decent pitch paragraph. I like how the language reflects the “quirky” nature of the books, and quirky is a good word because it’s quite specific. 

My main criticism is that it’s woolly. (To be fair, Cecilia told me I would think that!) 

I feel that the following bits need more oomph and concreteness: “look forward to taking part in new activities with their friends” (such as?); “developments on their patch”; “had very much fun”. 

On the other hand, I feel that “walking the Fife coastal path” is an odd (and boring) detail, especially juxtaposed with “a figure from his past”, which is sinister (which is good) but vague (which is not). 

And I do strongly feel that “desolation and death” don’t fit the “quirky lightness of the rest of the pitch. Now, this could be deliberate, but I still don’t feel it’s right.

I can’t really offer a revision, because it requires knowledge of the details which are missing, but I would like to say that if this pitch were tightened, made more concrete and clear, not only would it do the job of being a decent pitch in a covering letter but also, since it is already published, more readers would buy it.

Please comment, readers! Cecilia is ready...


catdownunder said...

If it is the fourth in a series do some of these characters appear in the other books as well?

Elen C said...

Catdownunder got there first with my question. If these are recurring characters, then fine. But if not, there's a lot of names with not much sense of who they are and their relationship with each other. I'm assuming it's a cosy mystery, so I'd also like to know who the investigator is.

JO said...

Nicola covered everything I thought of - just to add that this looks like a great read. Good luck with it.

Anonymous said...

I had no clue what the Happiness Club was, which made the whole thing baffling for me. I don't know this author's books so all those references to characters were also lost on me. It made me feel that this book is only aimed at people who'd read books 1-3 (but perhaps that is the intention).

Whisks said...

Sounds like fun, and reminds me of something by Alexander McCall-Smith.
I was thrown by 'the Happiness Club comes to town', as clubs don't usually move around the place, so I thought then that it was the name of a travelling play or somesuch. Then I wondered whether it was simply a new branch of the club that had opened up locally. And while I was wondering these things, I wasn't paying attention to the rest of the pitch.
I agree about the vagueness (combined with that odd specific of the Fife walk) and all the names - also strange that Jock is the only one who is given a surname.
Sounds like a good romp, though.

Nicola Morgan said...

Thanks for all your comments, people - very helpful. I am just off to make sure Cecilia knows her pitch is up here!

sheilamcperry said...

Thanks everyone for your comments - I agree that it probably doesn't make a lot of sense to people who haven't read any of the other novels in the series. They are generally character-driven, hence all the names.
I'm not sure why I mentioned the Fife Coastal Path, perhaps to give it some sort of geographical grounding? But that's probably unnecessary at this stage.
I will take note of all this and see what I can do! I know I should spend more time on this kind of thing - sometimes it seems like an optional extra but really I suppose it should sum up the core of the novel.

sheilamcperry said...

ps cecilia is my alter ego in case anyone was wondering!

Cameron said...

I can't add much more to this apart from "What IS the Happiness Club?" I'd be very drawn to this book as long as it weren't a 'happy-clappy' evangelical church group. If I knew that it wasn't I'd probably buy it.

Nicola Morgan said...

Cameron - good question! I was never sure if it was metaphorical or what.

Sheila - "sometimes it seems like an optional extra but really I suppose it should sum up the core of the novel." Arghhh, naughty writer! If you want people to buy it, you have to describe it properly! It's SO not an optional extra. Now, go and make it beautiful and watch your sales increase.

Anne Morrison said...

I think too many characters appear in the pitch and it would work much better if focused on one or two main characters. I would also like to see how the murder and the Happiness Club are linked.

MaggieM said...

I was intrigued by the pitch and I liked its brevity. However, like Whisks, it reminded me of Alexander McCall-Smith. Hopefully that was deliberate and the book does sit within that genre.
As others have said, I was confused about the exact nature of the Happiness Club and wondered if a short description could help to clarify its nature and purpose?
The 'death and devastation' seemed quite a jolt which is great if it was deliberate but I still wonder at the use of devastation. It's such a big word in a pitch that seems quite contained and cosy. Well done on completing the book and self-publishing!