Wednesday, February 29, 2012

To Authors: Work on the those summaries

I knew for a month and a half that I was going to publish the story at the end of February.

I had a time-frame for initial revisions, beta-reading, and secondary revisions. I had target dates for getting cover art done and formatting done. Yet somehow I still waited until the night I published The Three Fingers of Death to write the story summary - you know, the little description field you see on Amazon or Smashwords.

Stupid, stupid, stupid me.

It's an old truth that many writers never really get the hang of writing succinctly. For those still pursuing the traditional publishing route (which I am) the mantra is 'cut, cut, cut'. Agents and authors will go on for pages (ironic, eh?) about the need to trim the fat out of your book. Stephen King had a rule of thumb he received from an editor at some magazine which went something like: "Final draft = first draft - 10%".

I'm not sure how I feel about the general pattern of 'cut everything that isn't essential.' I think a lot of that pressure came from traditional publishing's need to save money on printing costs and the general impatience that came from the industry being overburdened with too many wannabe authors and not enough time to wade through them.  I'm okay with the odd paragraph of purple prose as long as it's a pleasant shade.

On the other hand, the story summary (or description, whatever you want to call it) is one place where the ability to write in a more taciturn manner comes very much in handy. Furthermore, you need to be able to use those few words to tease and tantalize the reader, hook them in exactly the way your opening pages should do (though if your story starts out slower, hooking them in the summary is a good avenue of attack!).

Needless to say, I will be re-writing the summary. Come to think of it, I need to do that for both my currently-available works, and I need to generally pay more attention to that aspect from now on. Especially in the self-publishing world, you can't afford to ever come off as an amateur. That summary is the first thing a reader sees of your book. You need to make it shine.

... and by you, I mean me.

(PS: The Three Fingers of Death now available on Amazon and Smashwords!)

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