I can imagine that most, if not all, writers have their individual hang-ups, those little things that nag at them, that keep them coming back over and over again, tweaking, fussing, stressing…cussing… The review process is first on that list. We writers are never satisfied. There’s always one more word that can be changed, one more tiny improvement. But there are other things, too, that keep drawing us back, that we’re always convinced isn’t quite good enough. One of mine is the summary.
The book summary is always one of the most time-consuming and frustrating steps in publishing for me. Like the book cover and the sample chapters, it’s one of the most important tools for drawing in readers, and I continue to scrutinize over it long after the ebook goes on sale. It’s especially hard when it comes to a story like The Temple of the Blind, which combines elements of multiple genres.
Just how do I fit the scope of a story with this many elements into such a small package and make it sound like something people want to read? At what point do you lose a potential reader simply because the plot comes off too complicated in the description? Alternately, what can be omitted without oversimplifying the plot and taking away elements that might draw a reader in? I’ve written and rewritten the summary for book one of The Temple of the Blind more times than I can remember. And yet, I can’t help but feel that I’m just not capturing as many readers as I can.
This is not to say that my books are complicated. They do possess a certain complexity, but that doesn’t mean that they are hard to read. I’m simply not sure what the best selling points are. Would more people be drawn to the creepy atmosphere of the settings or to the story’s slow, gripping suspense? Would I sell more books advertising the perilous journey faced by my characters or the gripping sexual tension between them? Will I draw more readers with the engrossing mysteries woven throughout the plot or with the otherworldly things the characters discover along the way? I don’t know what my readers are going to like best because they simply haven’t told me yet. I haven’t received very much feedback as I write this. I’ve been told that it’s scary. I’ve been told that it’s suspenseful, that it’s a page-turner. But what did they like best? What left the biggest impression on them? To what popular work might they compare it? To what author would they compare me? These are the things I want to hear, things that will help me find the people who will love what I write as much as I do. For example, I’d like to think that fans of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series might enjoy it, as The Temple of the Blind is similarly dark and fantastic and epic, but is that a bit pompous of me? I mean he’s Stephen King. And it’s not like the two are all that alike. That’s simply the series that comes to mind when I try to think of something to compare it to. I think they can both be classified as dark adventures, a kind of melding between epic fantasy and horror. Alternately, one of my five-star reviews for The Box on Amazon compared it to “Lost” for its mysterious elements. Having not watched “Lost” (not because I wasn’t interested but out of a fear that I would become frustrated with perpetually unanswered questions), I probably wouldn’t have considered that. I hope to hear more things like this from readers. I hope that this blog might be an excellent place for fans to find me and help me narrow down the best strategies for marketing my series by letting me know what drew them in and what helped them decide to pick it up and read it. Because, let’s face it, when you first begin publishing your work, your target audience is…well…everyone. Because who wouldn’t want to read your brilliant work? But nobody likes every book.
It all comes down to efficiency. I have to find a balance between being brief and being thorough. In the shortest phrasing I can come up with off the top of my head, I suppose that The Box is the story of a young man (Albert) who finds a mysterious box and ends up going on a fantastic adventure. But he doesn’t go on the adventure alone. Brandy joins him. But who is Brandy? I don’t have the luxury of referring to her simply as his girlfriend or his best friend or his ex, something that everyone will immediately relate to without further explanation. She’s his lab partner. From his Chemistry class. He barely knows her, but he’d definitely like to get to know her better. So how does she get involved with all this if she’s basically a stranger to him? The shortest answer is that she finds the key to Albert’s box. With her help, Albert can deduce what the box is and where to go next. It’s these little details that confound me. The book’s whole element of romance is wrapped up in this setup, as Albert finds himself with the opportunity to impress a girl he already likes. I expect there are more than a few readers who would be attracted by this particular detail, and yet, do I have room for it? I still have to point out that their adventure begins in the university campus’ steam tunnels, which leads them into the city’s enormous and overly-complex tunnel system long rumored to be haunted. Or is that too much information? It sets the mood wonderfully, but the story doesn’t really dwell upon the rumored paranormal activity of the city’s underground. The real adventure begins when they discover the strange labyrinth hidden at the bottom of these tunnels, but just to get here, I’ve already rambled on for the length of this hefty paragraph.
Hopefully, over time and through trial and error and perhaps with some healthy feedback from fans, these summaries will become easier and less time consuming to write. Or perhaps I’ll take a page from some other authors I’ve read about on various forums and simply find someone else to write the damn things so I can get back to writing the books themselves.