Ever since I was asked for the "Luck 'O the Irish" Pitch-Fest, I've been wondering about what makes me pick up a book. Of course, there's the cover part, but that's something for a different pot because I could go on and on about the importance of a good cover, and this is not the place.
We're assuming there is no cover for the book, or I can't see it, or whatever; I go by what I read on the back (or front). What makes me want to pick up a book and read it?
Just a note; I realise I'm a picky reader. I read a lot of books and I often go out to look for a certain kind of book without having a title or author in my head and I realise that I might not be an average reader when it comes to this. I usually try to find something
1. A Good and Perhaps Intriguing Title
It may not be the most important thing for me, but it is something I take notice of. If the title is funny, or witty, I might take it to the next level to see if it's something I'd like. Examples for funny or witty titles are Knocked Out By My Nunga-Nungas by Louise Rennison, The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy and Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn't Have) by Sarah Mlynowski. I realise that these are also fairly on the long side, but they spike my interest and I would definitely read the synopsis/blurb on the back.
Other books that capture my attention are The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness and Torn by Cat Clarke. These make me wonder about the story; games about hunger? Torn about what? I have to find out, so I read the synopsis. Mission accomplished!
2. A Clear and Understandable Blurb/Synopsis
So this is where it gets tricky. This is where the author should try and lure me in by hooking me (or at least interesting me) by the synopsis. There are a couple of things I want to be discover when I'm reading the synopsis;
- The genre of the book (or at least an indication);
- If there is one main character or maybe more and who he/she is;
- The general story of the book.
It seems that all these things are hard to come by in a synopsis. It may be obvious when you read it in a neat little list, but sometimes I pick up a book and it ends up being a completely different genre than I thought it would be. Which usually isn't a bad thing, except when I'm specifically looking for a certain genre. If I'm looking for a contemporary novel and I realise while reading that it's actually a dystopian novel or fantasy, that can tick me off. I should be able to tell what direction the book is going in terms of genre from the back of the book. Historical fiction and steampunk novels tend to do this nicely: "In 1897 England..." gives me a clear vision of what I should be expecting.
If I'm expecting a story about a goldfish, I don't want to be reading about robots and space ships. The synopsis should give a general idea of what the reader can expect from the book and it should represent the story. The same goes for the main character; while it usually isn't a deal breaker if it isn't clear from the back, I like to know what kind of person we're following around.
3. Separating 'Similar Authors' From the Blurb
I know a lot of books have a reference to another author on the back, like 'for fans of Sarah Dessen'. Whatever you do, do not put this in the synopsis. It has nothing to do with the story. If the book would be a good fit for fans of a certain author, it should say so in a separate tag line or something. I really dislike the whole "In this story that will appeal to fans of *insert author*, character X has to find a way to make live and love work"-thing. I think it's just me, but hey, I'm just being honest here :)
4. Keep It Short
Keep it short! While it should give the reader a general idea of what the book is about, there's no need for a long summary on the back. I like a to-the-point synopsis (what's the plural of this?) which still holds all the information I want. An introduction to the character, his/her world if applicable and the problem he/she is facing and the consequences of that problem. Maybe a little something to up the tension, but not much more than that is fine.
Bonus: How To Scare Me Off From Reading Your Book
Okay, so a lot of things I like to see in a synopsis and stuff, but there are also things that I like to avoid like the plague when I see them on the back of a book - or on the book summary page of an online store.
1. Too many names. Whether those are character names, creatures, places, whatever; I don't like to get confused. And I certainly don't want to feel stupid while reading the synopsis because I have no clue what it's telling me. Too many names is confusing, so keep it simple.
2. Throw in the cliché stuff right from the start. Mention a lovetriangle, a fight on life or death, a boy/girl the main character can't stay away from or 'he/she must chose between what's easy and what's right' in the blurb and you usually lose me. There are so many books out there with this as their main focus that I usually put them back. What I like to see is a little originality, whether that is in different wording or in terms of a completely different storyline and thus an original synopsis. Yes, I realise I'm not easy to please.
3. Compare it to another series/book. I know it's supposed to attract people who love a certain kind of book, but it is a deal breaker for me. I want to find something unique, even though it might be similar to other books out there. Those "If you liked The Hunger Games, you'll love this!" stickers on the cover are reason enough to leave it on the shelf if it isn't recommended to me by bookish friends.
Not easy to please, am I? I know I'm not really the targeted audience for those little blurbs on the back of the books, but hey, I'm a reader nonetheless and I'm sure there are readers out there who are like me in some way.
What makes you want to pick up a book? Am I just a picky reader, or do you have similar things you like to see in a synopsis?