Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Book Description - So Short And Yet So Difficult

One of the joys of self-publishing is that you no longer need to go through the agonies of trying to write a synopsis of your book in order to garner an agent/publisher. I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks trying to condense a three-to-four hundred page novel into anything from one to twenty pages can be harder than writing the novel in the first place, especially when one agent might request a one page synopsis, the next, five pages, and, of course, the next will want something different again.

But while we might rejoice at the release from this time-consuming effort, we are still faced with the dreaded book description. Take your one hundred thousand words and turn them into an exciting, eye-catching, reader-enticing two hundred and fifty words, or there about. It sounds easy - just tell them what the book is about,  make them curious, want to know more - but the trick is to do this without giving too many of the plot points away, especially with regard to any twists or surprises that are in store for the reader.

The danger is that you end up with a book description that sounds like many other book descriptions out there, save for the names and location. It is possible that many readers actually look for books which sound like books they have enjoyed in the past and therefore this similarity in description is irrelevant, but given it is often the first introduction to your writing that a reader sees, how do you grab their attention?

I was fascinated to learn that with traditional publishing it is usually the publishing house that provides the book description/jacket copy rather than the author. Maybe this is because someone with distance from the creation of the story is more easily able to see what the compelling aspects of the book are from the reader’s perspective.

I think most self-published authors would agree that having to write your own copy is a small price to pay for not having to do a synopsis, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was an alternative that could save all the time and anguish?

Last week there was lots of press about Nick D’Aloisio, a UK teenager who had just sold his app ‘Summly’, which converts news stories of any length into brief summaries, to Yahoo . While this app would be no good for producing a summary for book buyers, as presumably it would reveal the whole story, we can always hope that one day someone will invent an app for writers which will allow you to plug in your book and receive a concise and compelling book description at the touch of a button!   


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