• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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We Gotta Get Out While We’re Young

Let’s get crunchy and talk about flap copy. The two or so paragraphs that are the equivalent of a book’s welcome mat. Editors are generally responsible for the copy, though they usually cadge it from the catalogue copy that they write months earlier. All of the copy writing that goes on is actually very important as it “positions” a book and communicates its salient points. WHen I first had to write flap copy as an editorial assistant, you  would have thought I had been assigned to write the inaugural poem. I was petrified. The writing style was completely foreign to me and I had no clue how to boil a book down into a few paragraphs and distill its essence.  I started reading the flap copy of every book publishes by the house and I started to see patterns. All flap copy has a certain tone, a basic movement, you want to entice but not be a spoiler. You want to establish the book within a tradition, but make it seem original. You want to cast the basic ideas or story lines in terms both specific and general. You want to flatter and entice the reader who is deciding whether she wants to buy the book. In other words, you want to land the ball close to the cup.  Flap copy is a little like American cheese.

How to write flap copy: Start with a rhetorical question. Or lead the author’s credentials. Or describe the situation or inciting event. Or make a claim for the book’s importance. Once you’re in, you’ve got about five different dance moves to squeeze into two or three paragraphs. And you need a final sentence that’s like a scarf pulled from a magician’s sleeve.

I’m giving away three signed copies of TFFTT to the three best first lines of flap copy, real or imagined.

53 Responses

  1. What if a book was the only thing that could stop the Zombie Apocalypse?
    Well it is.
    And you are holding it now.

  2. Stop wasting your time reading this flap copy; open the book and start reading it NOW!

  3. Compiling words and definitions from all manner of communication, this dictionary will remain a reference tool long after the enclosed bonus phone app* becomes obsolete! Painstaking research, lush illustrations and the indispensable charts cross-referencing gang tags, graffiti symbols and emoticons brings this dictionary into the twenty-first century.

    *not compatible with all phones; see restrictions on back cover

  4. Mary-Magdalene Feigenbaum is a nerdy fifteen-year-old who lives with her floozy mother, her stepfather (the town funeral director), and the voice in her head which tells her to kill people.

  5. Star was born a poor black child in Mississippi. Except for the black part and the Mississippi part, this is totally true. Really, she was conceived out of wedlock in a logging camp trailer park in Oakridge Oregon called Hell’s Gate. From there, the story takes a turn for the worst.

  6. What if your dog could talk, but he was really racist?

  7. What if you had the choice between stamping history as an adored icon, or living the carefree and anonymous life of an eccentric nobody? Your face on a coin, or an invisible hover over the huddled masses?

    This is a work of fiction. And yet it’s not. It’s the secret dance of every woman at some point, a two-step you do some quiet night by accident.

    What do want more, love or freedom? Chutes or ladders? Page six, or sport sex? You can’t have both.

  8. Snooki farted and we captured the rarefied air within these pages. Lyrical. One of the chapters contains instructions on how to view anyone’s private photos on Facebook.

  9. I love the line about the magician’s scarf. This is the flurry of air and colour I want. I’ve written my cover blurb for my book but suspect it will be shaken down again. But I’m too chicken to put it up, I have read/loved your book so good luck to all you scribblers.


    *At once tender and hilarious, this captivating story turns suburbia upside down, revealing the inner lives of three characters who have more humor, heartache and heat than one PTA can hold.*

    When a Hollywood location scout comes to Applewood, Long Island, and announces that the local elementary school might make the perfect backdrop for a George Clooney movie, the PTA’s decorum crumbles like a cookie from last week’s bake sale.

    Enter Maddie, Ruth and Lisa, three women who become the glue that holds the project together … and wind up forging a bond of friendship stronger than anyone could imagine.

    • Have you sold the movie rights yet? I haven’t read the book yet, but can just see GC showing up in the last five minutes of the film, and nobody giving a crap.

    • If you haven’t read Ellen’s latest book The Other Life, you should. It’s a great read. I’m usually a slow reader and I zipped through it because I wanted to see how it ended, but I wouldn’t let myself cheat by reading the last pages out of order. I save my cheating for calorie counting these days.

  11. Put together a handsome college instructor, a gorgeous female TV reporter, a friendly dragon, the dragon’s girlfriend, a suspicious college professor, a Pentagon major, plus a circus manager, and things are bound to happen.

  12. Danger was around every corner. Whether real or imagined, it was hard for Danny Toots to tell. It had been three weeks since the last injection of the experimental drug Uhura, and Danny’s enhanced powers of perception now enabled him to read the thoughts of everyone he met, their plans for bringing hurt to him becoming more elaborate each day.

  13. David Murray of http://writingboots.typepad.com/writing_boots/ calls it “the hint of the hustle.” I think that describes well-written marketing copy perfectly.

  14. A week before her parole, Judith Thompson had no family or friends, no anger management skills, and nowhere to go but down. Then she met James Blaine, reformed conman extraordinaire, who gave her a second chance and a new future. Now, it’s time to return the favor.

    Bleah . . .

  15. What if you could go back in time and get to know the women who made you? And what if none of them – your mother, grandmothers, and greats before them – were the people you’d pegged them to be? When Celia finds her mother’s hidden journals ….

  16. Her Majesty the Queen’s debut novel is a romantic rollercoaster ride of sizzling corgis, ladies-in-waiting turned bad and serious breaches of decorum in the throne-room.

    Drawing on her real-life experiences HRH Elizabeth 2, delivers saucy shenanigans from the world of the super-rich, super-royals.

    This book is so fabulous it deserves its own crown and ermine robe (although it would probably get tremendously drunk on champagne and leave them lying around on a yacht somewhere.)

  17. As she posed by the “Dead End” sign, bridal gown paired with a glib grin, Emma couldn’t know that one year later, she would leave her husband on her lunch break.

  18. Julie Rhodes said she wanted something different. She should have been more specific.

  19. The priest, the poet and the flower child: in the summer of 1963, at the height of Kennedy’s Camelot, a time of peace and infinite possibility, three childhood friends betray each other so deeply that the worst consequences only become apparent forty-five years later as their adult children struggle to believe in love.

  20. in a temporary city called Stampede, anything goes. it’s a city within a city. where money flows like oil in the ambient rush. everything is temporary: the city, the workers, the karma. it’s Calgary’s famous party, and it’s definitely the biggest, the wildest. but what about the underbelly?

  21. From the minute he walks into her erotic boutique and asks to see the display of ball gags, Gabrielle Martin doesn’t know whether she’s sweating from desire, fear, or the pleather in her corset.

  22. Almost a century has passed since Virginia Woolf’s published A Room of One’s Own, but many writers are still figuring out how to balance work and motherhood with the need to write. In this long-awaited collection of essays, some of the most influential female writers and poets alive today share the steps they took and decisions they made to find the room and get inside of it. “The key is locking the door behind you”. With the wit, wisdom, and skill we’ve come to recognize them by, these beloved writers will help you find the keys to enter the elusive room.

    • I’m having a bit of trouble with the lock. Surely this will help.

      (it was that gal I overheard today saying how she wrote her book in about a minute and how much fun it was (gosh golly gee) and how she’s never done anything creative before but she found her agent on the 2nd try and her book will be out in Fall 2012 because they love her story and she never once thought she’d actually *publish* it, aw shucks …. but I digress)

      • Please confirm: her pen name was Doreen Gray and/or her nose seemed to be elongating with each comment.

      • She was way too giddy to be lying. She was skinny, too. Skinny!! Not one ounce of ass-in-chair. I mean… Come. On.

      • I have trouble with the lock, the keys, the room, my simultaneous fear and desire of Rapunzel (the locked up in a tower, not the hair). I *need* that book– necessity is the mother, etc. Flap copy is ready (right, Betsy :)), now we just need someone to haul ass and collect those essays. The room, the room, the elusive room.

        Oh, and the golly gee writing is fun woman? I. hate. her. She doesn’t need a room; she’ll probably whip out her next novel while skinny-tanning on the beach.

  23. She stared into the audience and confided, “I’m just trying to imagine you all naked.” It was the only way she could steady her voice. Then, as the laughter settled, she opened her mouth to sing her first song of the evening. She never expected it to be her last.

    What would you do, if your world came crumbing down and all of humanity was there to watch it happen?

  24. PlainJane DoubleScoop VanillaBean Jones thinks she’s just a typical teenager with a crazy dippy-hippy mother who likes to smoke pot and fuck the pizza guy. Everything changes when a car hits Jane while she’s walking home from school. Thrown though the window of an abandoned store, she finds herself in Mr. Crusoe’s Shop of Oddities Ancient and Modern – and there on the other side of the miraculously intact window is her broken body, bleeding in a puddle of shattered glass.

  25. Wow…some interesting writers here! Here’s my attempt at flap copy:

    According to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ASD (Austism Spectrum Disorder) is now said to affect at least 1/166 children (2008 report.) Some say that the current statistic higher than this. This incidence is much higher than even childhood cancer. We have a huge educational, financial and social challenge to figure out the best methods for dealing with this crisis.

    What is autism? Why is it suddenly so prevalent? What are the most important skills parents and educators can enlist to cope with these children? What happens to them as they grow into adults?

    The answers to these questions will require a deep reach for so many. Here is a book with real life experience, hope, humor and information to light the path. Start here for real answers that will lighten the load of our current understanding.

  26. Red dirt, eddying in the wake of a passing semi drifted across the windshield as she drove them toward a collision of states: Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri, moneyless, fatherless and homeless.

  27. …Or get it wrong. I love all the heart and interest and writing that I see here…nice effort by all!

  28. “For a brief moment in the early ’80s Dick Beardsley became the most famous runner in the world–by losing a race. In the 1982 Boston Marathon, Beardsley finished two seconds behind Alberto Salazar in a contest often called one of the most memorable in marathon history. It was the closest finish ever at the world’s premier marathon, and both runners broke the course and the American records.”

    -from Staying the Course: A Runner’s Toughest Race, by Dick Beardsley and Maureen Anderson, University of Minnesota Press (2002)


    Would you like to eat as much as you want and not gain weight? Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? The Good Diet will tell you the secret every other diet book missed–a plan so simple and effective you’ll wonder why no one thought of it before.

    -from a book proposal-in-progress about the easiest thing I’ve ever done

  29. As an off-topic aside: you said Google turned down your request to monetize and you have HUGE Google ads under your posts now.

    If someone has already called this to your attention I am apologizing for not paying attention, but we’ve had some issues with Mother Nature on our block.

  30. I tried to do this exercise, but the writing was too awful, and so withdrew in shame. Can I just come over to your office and get my copy of FftT signed?

  31. It wasn’t a dark and stormy night, but dogs and others in the neighborhood were howling. Loudly. Close to breach of peace level. But slowly, surely there came one that rose maliciously above the rest. He hadn’t lost an arm, or a leg, or his lunch, or his cell phone. No, he had lost a love, the one, the only. It was impossible to gauge when the subsiding point might come. Everyone within earshot prayed that it would be soon, or at least before the next full moon.

  32. : Do you serve your master well? Is your master pleased with you? How can you make your master happier than happiness has ever happily confided in you? Only you can answer that question. Do you serve your master well?

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