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Books & Reading In General > Synopses - You're Doing It Wrong... (while some do it right)

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message 1: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new)

Ruby  Tombstone [Uncensored or Else]  (rubytombstone) | 3090 comments Mod
Am I the only one here who finds a bad synopsis so off-putting they can't bring themselves to read the book? I can't help thinking that a poorly written synopsis is a sign of a poorly written book. In reality, I'm not sure half the synopses on here are even written by the author, but I just can't get past it. It doesn't even have to be a really bad synopsis - one unfortunate grammatical error can make the difference between TBRing a book and not.

I just saw this one:
King of the Perverts
Sounds like something I'd enjoy, right? Then I noticed this in the synopsis:
He's a regular sort of guy who's recently been dealt a shitty hand by life: he lost his job, his wife hates him and wants a divorce, and it turns out she was also cheating on him as well. Now he's living on his brother's couch. Holy fuck, that sucks. Dennis can't imagine things could get much worse, and that's why he jumped at the opportunity to take part in a new reality game show.."

I just want to grab the guy and say, "FFS pick a tense!"

Am I the only one who experiences Synopsis Rage?


Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) (derek_broughton) | 675 comments Ruby wrote: "Am I the only one here who finds a bad synopsis so off-putting they can't bring themselves to read the book? I can't help thinking that a poorly written synopsis is a sign of a poorly written book...."

No, you're not, but there are certainly people who aren't turned off - because my wife absolutely refuses to read them. I don't know how she ever managed to find good books before GoodReads.

Sometimes cover blurbs can be blamed on the publishing house - but publishing houses shouldn't get simple grammar so badly wrong, so it screams out "self published and unedited" and I just know I'm going to hate it: and it's one thing to throw a library book at the wall, it's something else to throw your Kindle...


message 3: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new)

Ruby  Tombstone [Uncensored or Else]  (rubytombstone) | 3090 comments Mod
Derek wrote: "Sometimes cover blurbs can be blamed on the publishing house - but publishing houses shouldn't get simple grammar so badly wrong, so it screams out "self published and unedited".."

Most of the time that seems to be the case, but I seem to come across at least one bad synopsis a day. Some are self-published, and I'm sure sometimes it's just a GR member who has made something up for the GR entry because there is no official synopsis available online. (I have had to do that a few times). Then there are the odd few from reasonable large publishers who should know better.

It just makes me wonder why so many writers don't seem to think about things like synopses when they're trying to promote their book. On every site, it's the first thing the potential audience sees. Think of all the book sales they must lose that way.


ceeeeg (likewaterforchocolate) i am with you on this, Ruby....when i see a badly written blurb, i pass right on by on the assumption if it is badly written, so is the book...


Vlad V. (Vlad_V) | 28 comments As an indie author I found writing a synopsis exceedingly difficult. I think a lot of writers have trouble with writing what is essentially a marketing pitch in 100 words or less...I know I did. It goes against the grain, so to speak, but it's still no excuse if one expects to succeed.

Personally, I've agonized over whether mine is any good or not. Would anyone be so kind as to give me their opinion?

"Delilah Brachman just died and now she has six days to dodge her fate or perish for all-time. She's become an "In-Betweener," someone whose judgment has yet to be decided, and she's drawn a ticket for the Tuesday Train, the most damning ticket of all. She struggles against the demon Noc, whose cunning mind masks a childlike loneliness it will do anything to quell, and against Honest Jack, the idealist tyrant who uses torture to get his way. Meanwhile, Delilah begins to care for a man that her real life never prepared her for. Will she overcome the demons in her past, or will the life she led condemn her for all-time?"

Thanks!


ceeeeg (likewaterforchocolate) i think it is pretty good, Vlad...gives a snapshot of the story that tells me what genre, generally speaking, it falls into, and touches on some of the key plot points...enough to give me an idea, as a reader, whether it would be something that would interest me...


message 7: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new)

Ruby  Tombstone [Uncensored or Else]  (rubytombstone) | 3090 comments Mod
Vlad wrote: "As an indie author I found writing a synopsis exceedingly difficult. I think a lot of writers have trouble with writing what is essentially a marketing pitch in 100 words or less...I know I did. It..."

I agree. No grammatical errors that jumped out, consistent tense and it gives an idea what the story's about. That's all we really need. Sometimes even a copy/paste of the opening lines (if they're catchy), or a small segment from the book itself that's intriguing will do it. It doesn't need to be a marketing pitch at all really.

In fact, one thing that drives me NUTS is when people use the synopsis field to post glowing reviews and quotes, instead of telling us something about the actual book!


message 8: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new)

Ruby  Tombstone [Uncensored or Else]  (rubytombstone) | 3090 comments Mod
It might be a good idea to post some synopses in this thread that we've stumbled across and really liked too. Hopefully someone will find it useful.


Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) (derek_broughton) | 675 comments Vlad wrote: "Personally, I've agonized over whether mine is any good or not. Would anyone be so kind as to give me their opinion?

'Delilah Brachman just died and now she has six days to dodge her fate' ... "


Overall, fine. I personally hate ending sentences with prepositions - but that's one of those OCD traits I'm trying to erase wipe out :-)

I think that first sentence should be either: "Delilah Brachman has just died..." or "Delilah Brachman is dead..." but I don't think that strongly enough to have even noticed it if you weren't specifically asking for a critique.


Vlad V. (Vlad_V) | 28 comments pip wrote: "i think it is pretty good, Vlad...gives a snapshot of the story that tells me what genre, generally speaking, it falls into, and touches on some of the key plot points...enough to give me an idea, ..."

Thanks! I really appreciate your input! I find self-promotion to be one of the most challenging aspects of going indie!


Vlad V. (Vlad_V) | 28 comments Ruby wrote: "Vlad wrote: "As an indie author I found writing a synopsis exceedingly difficult. I think a lot of writers have trouble with writing what is essentially a marketing pitch in 100 words or less...I k..."

Ruby,

Thanks, as always, for your input! Now I'll have to go back and make sure I didn't put any of those in the synopsis field! :-)

I'm glad my synopsis got a passing grade!

-Vlad


Vlad V. (Vlad_V) | 28 comments Derek wrote: "Vlad wrote: "Personally, I've agonized over whether mine is any good or not. Would anyone be so kind as to give me their opinion?

'Delilah Brachman just died and now she has six days to dodge her..."



Thanks, Derek! It's funny you mentioned that about ending in a preposition. I agonized over that and generally try to avoid ending in a preposition, but in this case I just couldn't see a way around it; but since the story is informal, it passed the editorial review from my copy editor. She felt that if I were to write more formally, then it wouldn't have been acceptable. It was one of those things that made be go, "Huh, I never knew that." I probably should have though, since I used to work as a newspaper correspondent for a few local rags, and THOSE copy editors are hard core, lol.


Vlad V. (Vlad_V) | 28 comments I thought this was a good example of a potent synopsis (from a book I'm currently reading The Spy in the City of Books):

"The past has caught up with Martin LeBris. During World War II, he served the Office of Strategic Services as a spy and saboteur in Lyon, France. Nearly sixty years later, Lowell cop Gerry O'Neil is trying to unravel the mystery of why an assassin is stalking LeBris. The answer to that question lies buried in the dark days of Nazi Occupation, and in the unforgiving m memory of The Spy in the City of Books."


message 14: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new)

Ruby  Tombstone [Uncensored or Else]  (rubytombstone) | 3090 comments Mod
The most memorable synopsis I've seen recently is this, from Terminally Beautiful by Christy Leigh Stewart. Books focussing on female body image aren't usually my thing, but I put this straight to the top of my book order list based purely on the synopsis.

"Diana isn’t pretty like you.
She isn’t smart like you, or interesting like you.
No one loves her like we all love you.
You don’t need plastic surgery on your body or therapy for your brain.
But Diana does.
Diana has to go to a rehab for ugly girls while you are too beautiful for this book.
We hope you never die."



Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) (derek_broughton) | 675 comments Wow. That certainly works.


message 16: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new)

Ruby  Tombstone [Uncensored or Else]  (rubytombstone) | 3090 comments Mod
Derek wrote: "Wow. That certainly works."

It's pretty intriguing!


Vlad V. (Vlad_V) | 28 comments Ruby wrote: "The most memorable synopsis I've seen recently is this, from Terminally Beautiful by Christy Leigh Stewart. Books focussing on female body image aren't usually my thing, but I put this straight to ..."

Holy Powerful Synopsis, Batman!


message 18: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new)

Ruby  Tombstone [Uncensored or Else]  (rubytombstone) | 3090 comments Mod
If it wasn't so difficult to get here (there's no ebook) I'd have read it by now. It's THAT powerful.


Vlad V. (Vlad_V) | 28 comments Agreed.


message 20: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new)

Ruby  Tombstone [Uncensored or Else]  (rubytombstone) | 3090 comments Mod
Here's another one I like. I don't read romance, and I will probably dislike this book a lot. Yet, I will probably read it, because the synopsis is intriguing. Although the tone is a little smug..
Adverbs


Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) (derek_broughton) | 675 comments I could probably read that one just to annoy my wife - she has some kind of grammatical aversion to adverbs...


message 22: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new)

Ruby  Tombstone [Uncensored or Else]  (rubytombstone) | 3090 comments Mod
I actually think he could've skipped the rest of the synopsis and just gone with the last bit:
This novel is about people trying to find love in the ways it is done before the volcano erupts and the miracle ends. Yes, there's a volcano in the novel. In my opinion a volcano automatically makes a story more interesting.


Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) (derek_broughton) | 675 comments LOL. One of the regulars was missing from my camping weekend just past. He's a professor of Geology - specializing in volcanos. Nobody knew just why he couldn't make it, but we assumed it was a volcano somewhere.


Whitney | 1002 comments Ruby wrote: "Here's another one I like. I don't read romance, and I will probably dislike this book a lot. Yet, I will probably read it, because the synopsis is intriguing. Although the tone is a little smug..
..."


That's the Lemony Snicket guy. I wasn't able to get past page 2 due to that smug, forced ironic tone: "Oooo, terrible unpleasant things happen in this book" & c.


message 25: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new)

Ruby  Tombstone [Uncensored or Else]  (rubytombstone) | 3090 comments Mod
Whitney wrote: "Ruby wrote: "Here's another one I like. I don't read romance, and I will probably dislike this book a lot. Yet, I will probably read it, because the synopsis is intriguing. Although the tone is a l..."

Oh it is too! I really liked the Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography books (SO much more than the Harry Potter books). I stalled around the seventh book though, as they got a bit samey.


Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) (derek_broughton) | 675 comments Whitney wrote: "That's the Lemony Snicket guy. I wasn't able to get past page 2 due to that smug, forced ironic tone"

Yeah, I clicked on the book link, saw who it was and had the same reaction - and I've never even read him, just heard him interviewed twice.


K.D. Rose (kdrose1) Ruby wrote: "Am I the only one here who finds a bad synopsis so off-putting they can't bring themselves to read the book? I can't help thinking that a poorly written synopsis is a sign of a poorly written book...."

Coming here from where you left a message on another thread. : ) (You didnt like that my book has no synopsis that gives a plot.)

In general, I hate genre catagorization- hence this group interested me, and I doubly hate story blurbs. If you can get to the depths of a novel in a blurb, Im not really interested in reading the book. And I can't tell you the number of times I have already read a fantastic book, only to see it butchered by some cretin in blurb, and thought to myself- anyone reading the blurb will get the entirely wrong idea about what the book is about(Hence, my book is probably not for people who need that- and Im not saying that to be a pain- there is no set story to the book- it is a description of a journey that is meant to open the readers mind and it uses multiple formats within. It is about, actually, the indescribable.)

My thoughts in general on this thread are that we, as a culture, already soundbite and 140 character our thoughts and communication enough, which is not beneficial as a whole to either critical thinking or discussion. It leaves out the complexities and real twists and turns that actual communication requires. There is some merit to the view that, for example the 140 character limit or blurb, etc forces you to hone skills even more to express something within constraints (the same view that poets use for sonnets and similar constraints- to pull off greatness within set parameters), but the average reader, writer and publicist is not Yeats, and more is lost than gained.


message 28: by Whitney (last edited Jul 02, 2012 10:08AM) (new)

Whitney | 1002 comments Yep, I agree. The writer needs to give some idea to the reader of what they're getting, otherwise why would they buy one book instead of another? If the blurb gives me nothing and doesn't chase me off with lengthy irrelevance or bad grammar, I'll look at the first review. In your case, it's by someone who spells "Burroughs" wrong. Not really a selling point.


Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) (derek_broughton) | 675 comments You have to sell a novel, just like any other product. A blurb isn't the only way to go, but you really only have two ways to get my attention: either you tell me what it's about, or somebody who has already read it tells me. Who do you think is likely to give me a more accurate synopsis?


message 30: by Elise (last edited Jul 02, 2012 01:08PM) (new)

Elise (Geordielass) | 171 comments Derek wrote: "You have to sell a novel, just like any other product. A blurb isn't the only way to go, but you really only have two ways to get my attention: either you tell me what it's about, or somebody who h..."

As to that, I often find it's the objective outsider who can give the better summary - some of the synopses (is that the correct spelling for the plural of synopsis???) that I've seen on here are so full of overblown self-aggrandisement that they are laughable. That often goes double for the self/vanity-published stuff where there has been no editor to say "hang on...". Authors need to sell their books, but they also need to have, at least, a nodding acquaintance with reality!

Of course, objective outsider or author, whoever writes a blurb needs to be someone who has a reasonable grasp of grammar, punctuation and syntax; some blurbs are laughable for entirely different reasons!


Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) (derek_broughton) | 675 comments Elise wrote: "As to that, I often find it's the objective outsider who can give the better summary ..."

Oh, I agree, but that doesn't mean that it's sufficient to leave the marketing to completely uncontrolled word of mouth.


Whitney | 1002 comments Elise wrote: "...some of the synopses... that I've seen on here are so full of overblown self-aggrandisement that they are laughable...."

These blurbs are usually pretty handy for helping me decide if I want to read the book, just not in the way the writer intended.


message 33: by Riona (last edited Jul 02, 2012 04:36PM) (new)

Riona (rionafaith) | 451 comments Whitney wrote: "Elise wrote: "...some of the synopses... that I've seen on here are so full of overblown self-aggrandisement that they are laughable...."

These blurbs are usually pretty handy for helping me decide if I want to read the book, just not in the way the writer intended."


Agreed!


message 34: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (last edited Jul 03, 2012 07:50AM) (new)

Ruby  Tombstone [Uncensored or Else]  (rubytombstone) | 3090 comments Mod
Whitney wrote: "Elise wrote: "...some of the synopses... that I've seen on here are so full of overblown self-aggrandisement that they are laughable...."
These blurbs are usually pretty handy for helping me decide if I want to read the book, just not in the way the writer intended. "


Completely agreed! If a writer thinks hyperbole written by someone you've never heard of, about something with no description is going to make you say "I should totally BUY that!" - what must they think of you?


Elise (Geordielass) | 171 comments Whitney wrote: "Elise wrote: "...some of the synopses... that I've seen on here are so full of overblown self-aggrandisement that they are laughable...."

These blurbs are usually pretty handy for helping me decid..."


Aren't they just!


Ron | 11 comments Then again, the ideal synopsis could conceivably replace the text it describes. If you can say everything that needs to be said in far fewer words, then publish the synopsis and scrap the book.


message 37: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new)

Ruby  Tombstone [Uncensored or Else]  (rubytombstone) | 3090 comments Mod
The point of a synopsis is not to say everything that needs to be said. It's to tell the reader something about the character & content of the book.


Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) (derek_broughton) | 675 comments Ruby wrote: "The point of a synopsis is not to say everything that needs to be said. It's to tell the reader something about the character & content of the book."

I suspect Ron's point is more that sometimes (as with movie trailers) there isn't much more content in the whole book than there was in the synopsis. There's a lot of movies that I know I don't need to watch once I've seen the trailer.


message 39: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new)

Ruby  Tombstone [Uncensored or Else]  (rubytombstone) | 3090 comments Mod
Fair enough. If the book has so little to say - scrap it indeed! :)


Ron | 11 comments Your point is well taken Ruby, particularly when it comes to fiction. And Derek cites a good example with cinema that illustrates my admittedly glib point. I suppose I had in mind some non-fiction books, say in philosophy and psychology, that left me to ponder if the elaboration, hundreds of pages of it, was worth it.

Although good chance the problem is really with the reader, not the writer.


Elise (Geordielass) | 171 comments Jim wrote: "Elise wrote: "As to that, I often find it's the objective outsider who can give the better summary - some of the synopses (is that the correct spelling for the plural of synopsis???) that I've seen..."

That's exactly what I was getting at. Anyone who thinks they are "the next J R R Tolkein/Jane Austen/J K Rowling/Joseph Heller" (whatever they think floats people's boats) needs to be well sure that they aren't just making themselves look ridiculous. After all, what you do is exactly what most people do - go onto the next book which looks more appealing (and realistic in its claims).


Whitney | 1002 comments Elise wrote: "Anyone who thinks they are "the next J R R Tolkein/Jane Austen/J K Rowling/Joseph Heller" (whatever they think floats people's boats) needs to be well sure that they aren't just making themselves look ridiculous. ..."

Yes, that is for sure a big turnoff. If a disinterested reviewer compares your book to Harry Potter, count yourself lucky. If you do it yourself, you look like an ass. In the same vein, a blurb filled with adjectives instead of information. Telling me your book is fascinating, thrilling, mind-altering etc. is not going to convince me it actually is.

Then there's the people who invent a GR profile for the purpose of writing glowing reviews of their own books as well as flogging them on multiple groups.


message 43: by Elise (last edited Jul 07, 2012 10:38AM) (new)

Elise (Geordielass) | 171 comments Whitney wrote: "Elise wrote: "Anyone who thinks they are "the next J R R Tolkein/Jane Austen/J K Rowling/Joseph Heller" (whatever they think floats people's boats) needs to be well sure that they aren't just makin..."

I think that writing blurbs is like all writing in general - showing is WAY more powerful than telling. If you want to convince the potential reader, don't say it's thrilling, give them enough information to let them draw their own conclusion that it's going to be.


Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) (derek_broughton) | 675 comments Elise wrote: "I think that writing blurbs is like all writing in general - showing is WAY more powerful than telling. If you want to convince the potential reader, don't say it's thrilling, give them enough information to let them draw their own conclusion that it's going to be. "

Definitely. I enter a lot of GoodReads giveaways, and I'm not even picky about which ones (I even entered for a couple of M.R. Mathias books, to see if he's even a fraction as good as he thinks he is), but you've got to do something to get me interested. A bunch of adjectives, and even a quote from someone I've heard of, isn't going to do it.


Riona (rionafaith) | 451 comments Derek wrote: "I even entered for a couple of M.R. Mathias books, to see if he's even a fraction as good as he thinks he is."

Oh man. If you end up reading any of those, I just have to know what they were like. That guy is such a tool.


message 46: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new)

Ruby  Tombstone [Uncensored or Else]  (rubytombstone) | 3090 comments Mod
Can I just mention, a badly written author bio is also very off-putting. If the bio is poorly written, I expect the book to be similar.

Just saw this one:
"Jaq D Hawkins is a British author in the genre's of Fantasy and the occult. Her first published book..."

Gargh! Plurals don't have apostrophes!


Riona (rionafaith) | 451 comments Argh! Totally unforgivable.


message 48: by Nicholas (last edited Jul 10, 2012 02:58PM) (new)

Nicholas (DexKilo) | 87 comments Here's a synopsis for a restaurant/bar/lounge that opened up in Washington, DC recently. I'm not sure there is enough vomit in the world to adequately express my feelings.

When you enter our space, you're immediately transported!

You actually ended the topic of transportation without specifying a destination. My guess: any of the 1.2 billion lounges in the world with exposed brick, tufted fabric, dark wood floors, and a VIP list. This is some of the dumbest shit I've ever read, and it's only the first sentence.

The Lost Society dining area is donned in rich colors, textures and plush fabrics. The dark alcoves, blue tufted seating, and vintage prints articulate understated elegance. Peek-a-boo booths and spy mirrors create an allusive atmosphere.

First of all, what in the actual fuck is a peek-a-boo booth? Secondly, I'm pretty sure "allusive" doesn't mean what you thinks it means. Lastly, if you keep saying shit like "vintage prints articulate understated elegance," I'm going to... *reads on*

The whitewashed creamy décor of the third floor, designed to contrast with the second floor, channels the deconstruction of an old city.

MOTHERF....! Creamy décor. Deconstruction of an old city. With these phrases, the author has managed to construct the most awkward, least informative, most pretentious, and most infuriating "sentence" I can recall reading in some time.

Venture from old city to new city by wandering to the rooftop deck to enjoy amazing views of DC and the U Street Corridor

GAH! Stop talking about old city and new city! That means nothing in DC, especially in the area where this bar is located. Almost all the freaking structures were built in the 1900s, and they've all been remodeled. Even if it did mean something, how in the hell does moving between floors of your stupid restaurant accomplish this? Damn!


Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) (derek_broughton) | 675 comments Nicholas wrote: "... 'The whitewashed creamy décor' ..."

Ah! You were "transported" to the set of a porn film...


message 50: by Ruby , Mistress of Chaos (new)

Ruby  Tombstone [Uncensored or Else]  (rubytombstone) | 3090 comments Mod
Bahahahaha! That's some funny shit.


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