Pitch Challenge: A Little Help Please

I could use some help here.

Beta readers are going over my new book – The Mark of the Spider: A Black Orchid Chronicle – and I’ve started working on the pitch materials.

Not to put too fine a point on the immediate challenge, I have to reduce a 529-page manuscript to one line or one sentence. Think of the short descriptions on best seller lists:

An American expatriate meets a former lover, with unforeseen complications.  (Casablanca)

Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency. (Shawshank Redemption)

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That sort of thing.

So, how about some feedback? In the samples below, which one would move you to buy or read the book?

Sample 1

A. Photographer cursed with the power to kill with his thoughts.

B. Photographer cursed with the power to “think” people to death.

Sample 2
A. An ancient spider demon curses a photographer, giving him the power to kill with his thoughts.
B. An ancient spider demon curses a photographer, giving him power to kill with his thoughts but no control over the power.

Now pick one: Sample 1 or Sample 2. Discuss. (Sorry. I had a flashback to my days at Campion Jesuit High School.)

Let’s try that with something a little longer. Which of these three moves you?

Sample 3

An ancient spider demon possesses nature photographer Sebastian Arnett, giving him the power to kill without touching, but Sebastian does not always control his lethal new powers.

Sample 4
A photo assignment in the highland jungles of Borneo turns deadly when headhunters lure victims with tales of a mythical black orchid. One survives but is cursed with the ability to kill with his thoughts, a power he does not control.
Sample 5
Sebastian Arnett doesn’t believe in demons, but one believes in him. And it curses him with the power to kill with his thoughts.

I’ll post the results in a week or so. I need reaction from at least 11 people, so get right on this. Tnx.

BTW, if you don’t want to leave a comment, send me an email.

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4 thoughts on “Pitch Challenge: A Little Help Please

  1. I prefer Sample 1 over Sample 2, and I like Sample 1B better than Sample 1A.

    “Ancient spider demon” doesn’t conjure an image that people unfamiliar with the book will easily comprehend (unlike, say, “creature from the black lagoon”), so it could be a turnoff because nothing immediately springs to mind. I’d scrap Sample 2 and Sample 3 for that reason, too.

    I like Sample 5 better than Sample 4.

  2. I don’t have a big opinion here, but if I had to choose I would say:
    1A
    2B
    4 (with 3 being a close second)

    General thoughts:
    1- As a potential reader, my first thought is what makes this different than a mash-up between Spiderman and Jessica Jones (I realize there are some key differences with Jessica Jones, but this makes me think of the villain in that show)

    I think the idea that he doesn’t control the power is key and the most interesting part. How he got that power is less important to me.

    Is the fact that he is a photographer important? You mention it in all your descriptions, so it makes me think there is something relevant about his profession (though admittedly a generic pronoun here would likely be boring)

  3. Thank you, all, for your feedback here and in personal emails to me.
    The consensus was … there was no consensus although Option 1 was favored over 2 and Option 5 got more positive reaction.
    This tells me I need to work with options 1 and 5, but both need revisions.

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