Friday, February 18, 2011

What makes a great book summary?

THAT is the question distracting me this morning from all other activities!

What does it take to write a great book summary? Writers struggle with this task all the time. It's why we writers DREAD the query letter. But shouldn't we be able to write kick @$$ summaries? After all, it's our creation. We should be experts! We are the #1 fans. We should be able to gush about it eloquently, enticing everyone to read it.

Here's the problem:

I don't know about you, but I am really disappointed when a book doesn't keep the promises it makes in the summary on the back. Are you? It's like the summary is only there to deceive us. It's telling us: this book would be GREAT with these ingredients. So then why does it stray so far from what it promises?

I didn't want my book to have a summary like that.

Perhaps the most important thing is to catch the flavor of the conflict. Maybe this seems like a no brainer. I dunno. Instead of being weighed down by conveying the story exactly how it happens in the book, focus on the tone of the story. That's my conclusion.

So you may have read the summary for my book "Who Is Saint Giovanni?" Or maybe you haven't, which is OK too. You can read the old summary by clicking here.

Here is what I consider an improvement:

After going her whole life without making a single enemy, someone wants Emily Edwards dead. And it's all Giovanni's fault. How does she know? Terrifying things happen whenever he's around. Since meeting him on her first day in Italy, Emily swears he follows her everywhere. First at the opera, then at her new high school in Florence.

The morning after Giovanni rescues her from muggers, Emily wakes with an X that looks like it has been carved between her eyes. No one else can see the mark besides Giovanni. Since then, her senses are sharper, as though she had been living her life until that moment a little deaf, a little blind, and with no taste buds.

Emily needs answers, but Giovanni won't give anything away. He says he's protecting her, but how can she believe him? So she risks her life by confronting the very man Giovanni has warned her about. Although some call Giovanni a saint, others call him a devil. Emily discovers she's only a pawn in a dangerous game that has existed for centuries. Her only chance of surviving it is to find the answer to a single question. Who is Saint Giovanni?

Reader friends: does this appeal to you more than the old summary?
Writer friends: what do you think of my theory about tone, etc?

Tear it to shreds, people! I'm open to all suggestions and am very grateful for all feedback. A special thanks to Brenna for pointing out that my old summary didn't get exciting until the 2nd paragraph!

Thanks for reading!