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Passionate Plume Virgin Category FAQ


Thirty percent of Virgin category authors have gone on to become published authors.

The goal of the Virgin category is to teach pre-published authors how to create a marketable ‘package’ that will encourage readers to purchase their books. The package will include a compelling book description and the first 5,000 words which should introduce characters, conflict, and a hook to drag readers into the story.

Entrants will be judged on the overall presentation of both elements. 

General guidelines for Virgin entries

Sales Description/Blurb

Create an engaging book description of no more than 250 words that tells us about your whole story–not just the first five thousand words. This is not to be confused with a summary. Rather, think of it more as an ad. There are many resources available for how to create a book description, but they all have a few things in common.

Consider this line from Rebecca Yarros’s Fourth Wing.

“A dragon without its rider is a tragedy. A rider without their dragon is dead.”

This is a ‘mic drop’ line, and it isn’t from the sales description. It’s not even the beginning of the first chapter. However, it is extremely compelling.


First Chapter/first 5,000 words

Five thousand words isn’t an arbitrary number. It’s a rough estimate of what a potential reader will see when they click look inside on a book’s sales page. It’s also a number many agents and publishers request as a sample, along with a query letter.

Think of it as if your elevator buddy says, “Tell me more,” and decides not to get off when you finish your sales description. Your time is still limited and you don’t want them to frantically start pressing buttons until they can escape. 

Let’s consider this opening paragraph:

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.”

These two sentences are so iconic you probably don’t need to be told it’s the first paragraph of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. This opening is particularly brilliant because it hints at the genre without telling us the genre, and each word is carefully chosen to provide the most impact. Even the name of the street is loaded with meaning. When one thinks of a privet hedge, one imagines an evergreen shrub pruned into submission to conform–which describes how the Dursleys will come to treat Harry. The chapter goes on to describe Mr. Dursley’s status quo–meaning his perfectly normal, not strange or mysterious workday. But it isn’t quite normal. You see, there are owls, tabby cats on garden walls, and odd people in cloaks–all of which disrupt his carefully ordered life, introduce the conflict, and reveal a glimpse of the world the Dursleys are trying so hard to ignore. They will hold fast to the belief that Privet Drive cannot coexist with platform nine and three-quarters until the bitter end.

Contents of a good first chapter:

Other things to consider: