That IS the question. It is a question that as an author you usually needs to answer in less than 30 seconds.
I’ve included a photo of a potential reader asking me that very question at the Los Angeles Festival of Books.
I have watched potential customers and readers at bookstore signings and book festivals. I watch their actions and their faces. They often pick up the book and look at the cover. Then they flip it over and read the summary on the back. I know I have just seconds to make the case which will convince them to not put the book back on the table.
As I watch them read the jacket or the back of a paperback copy of my book, I think of the time I’ve spent trying to craft a concise, yet interesting summary of my story.
I once had a boss who said you always need to have your “elevator speech” ready. An elevator speech is needed to quickly explain a quick concept. When I enter a elevator to ride to a higher floor, what would I say if someone said, “what is your book about?”
I now have less than a minute until me or the person asking the question, will get off of the elevator. There is no time to hestitate,no time to hum and haw to get your thoughts going. It’s the essence of your sales pitch. “Why should I buy your book?” they are asking.
You must find a happy medium between an extended, long-winded summary of the plot and a quick but uninformative answer such as “it’s a love story.” My two novels are “love stories” but they are must more.
“Expiation” is set against the backdrop of the politics and turmoil of the 1970s. I have noticed a positive reaction when I add that tidbit of information. This grabs the interest of certain demographics such as Baby Boomers.
I also want to make the case that it is “a love story” versus a romance novel. With all due respect to writers of romance novels, that is not what my novels are. Mine are more in the Nicholas Sparks’ neighborhood of the literary world. I’m not happy with all of the “elevator speeches” about my books that I have out in various internet outlets.
It takes a while to hone your skills and your message. A good quick summary of “Expiation” is contained in an upcoming ad in the New York Review of Books. It reads, “In this romance that spans 30 years from the turbulent 1970s in San Francisco, two former sweethearts reunite and try to reclaim their love.”
Good elevator speech!
Now I am writing a new book “The Illusion of Certainty.” What is it about? I know but I’m still thinking about how I’m going to answer that question when my book is published this summer. The book has three parts. It takes place in Portland, Oregon, Seattle, London and Paris. It is about unexpected events which shape people’s lives and test their mettle. One overriding theme is the book is “the only certainty in life is uncertainty.”
I have some twists and turns in the plot which I do not want to reveal in my summaries and “elevator speeches.” So what am I going to say? Hmmm.
I need to figure that out before you get off the elevator.
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