Booked til Tuesday

Life, Law & Libros

Discussion: What Goes in Synopses

16 comments
I just finished Winterspell by Claire Legrand (check out my review on Thursday), and it has me thinking about what goes in book cover/jacket/flap copy- namely, the synopses. I hadn't really considered it before, but I expect certain information about a book to be present in or readily inferred from the synopsis.

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Halfway through Winterspell, I was really disappointed and frustrated with where the story was going. I felt like an idiot. I was sure something in the synopsis hinted at these developments and I'd missed them. I opened Goodreads and pulled up the book's page. I read the synopsis. I read it again. There was one word. One word that, had I approached it with the right perspective, might have told me what was coming. I still kind of felt like an idiot, but I was also mildly ticked at the publisher.

I am generally able (and expect) to get an idea of the following from reading a synopsis:
  • Love triangles - Usually, two guys/girls are mentioned and there's an accompanying "caught between," "must decide" phrase.
  • Romance-heavy - If the synopsis talks a lot about feelings or emotions or ends on a question of whether a relationship will last.
Consequently, I'm a little miffed when I don't detect one or both of these in the synopsis and then find it while reading. I feel tricked, bamboozled, conned, misled, had. Generally unhappy. :)

Jacket copy is a marketing tool. I get that. Publishing professionals aren't just writing a brief summary to let readers know what the book's about. They're writing a summary that will hopefully draw you in.  The synopses and quotes paraded on Goodreads and Amazon are saying, "Read me! Buy me!" I don't know tons about this process (and would love to hear from you PR/marketing-savvy folks), but I wonder if there aren't elements you downplay or omit in the synopses for certain books. Hmm...

What about you guys? Is there anything you look for or expect to find mentioned in book synopses?

16 comments :

  1. Hey, I just read Winterspell today too! We're book twins :D On a random note, I thought the book was good (I didn't really read the summary beforehand, so I really didn't know much about it), but I thought the ending was really weak and watered-down; I expected something epic and immense, at the very end, instead of what was given. The 8 years thing bothered me SO MUCH. But anyway.

    I definitely HATE IT when synopses mention something about "must decide" and "choose between". In my opinion, love triangles aren't always realistic or common. And in any case, "Female Protagonist MUST DECIDE between Male #1 and Male #2" is such a turn-off. Same with the heavy romance synopses - unless it's a contemporary romance novel, in which case, I understand. But when a perfectly good fantasy novel is turned into a MUST DECIDE BETWEEN #1 AND #2 in the synopsis... no thanks. That's just a right shame.

    Maybe some of that made sense :D

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

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    1. I'm glad Winterspell worked better for you. I had lots of issues with it throughout, but the slow middle really killed it. And yeah, the time difference thing is a little bit...yeah.

      Yep, I agree. An undue percentage of romance in the synopsis for a non-romance genre book makes me question whether its primary genre isn't romance. Haha, no worries. You made sense! :)

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    2. I ended up giving it two stars, when I wrote my review. I didn't realize it holistically (probably because I told myself that hey, the ending WAS positive, even if it was weak), but there were SO MANY THINGS that I disliked. My review is borderline rant LOL

      :)

      Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

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    3. Haha, I just finished trying to make mine less ranty! Don't know if I succeeded, but it's going up Thursday either way. :)

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  2. Ha, I agree with Alyssa - "love triangles aren't realistic or common" How many times do you chance upon 2 great guys at a time? ;)
    I just read The Falconer by Elizabeth May and though I realized it would have some romantic elements from the fact that the girl's "a debutante" (the whole purpose of whom was to snag a husband back in the day, apparently), I didn't get what I expected from the book.
    I like it when the synopsis of a book is purposefully vague - when you're meant to go into the book blind. But then I expect something extraordinary to happen and an disappointed if it doesn't.
    I also HATE spoilers in synopses - I count everything that happens past 1/3 of a book (approximately) as a spoiler :) I just want to know about the setting and the main characters.

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    1. I've been wondering that for the past five years, but apparently it's still selling well enough that publishers are acquiring it. (Or else that's the bulk of submissions they receive?)

      I completely understand why you hate spoilers in synopses, and I know you're not the only one. I'm with you when a story bases all its suspense and tension on a mystery element that needs to be...mysterious. ;) On the other hand, I'm not generally as sensitive about spoilers. I'd rather have too much information than too little to help me decide whether I want to read the book.

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  3. How about when it doesn't mention at all that it's the third book in a series (I just had this). I'm actually ok with a bit of a love triangle, but HATE it when it overtakes the story. So if it's mentioned on the cover that she has to choose (like Alyssa mentioned) it usually means that the love is going to overshadow the everything else and it's a bit of a turnoff. The romance in a book should always be second to the story.

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    1. Yeah, that stinks. If not in the synopsis, place in series should really be marked clearly in the book (or in parentheses after the title online). I completely agree! With very, very, very, very few exceptions, romance should always be the side plot, not the main. :)

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  4. I feel like I have read several books lately that were not what I expected from the synopsis. I always put the book down feeling a little letdown/miffed. Book synopses are becoming like movie trailers! Movie trailers are sometimes even putting footage in that isn't actually in the movie just to get people intrigued!! Yikes. That is false advertising

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    1. I know how you feel. Not that all synopses need to tell you exactly what you're getting into, but the ones that seem to purposely mislead...yeah, those can bug me.

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  5. I have to disagree with Alyssa and Kaja I think love triangles or the "caught between two guys things" can indeed be fairly common. I've experienced it in my life so I'm pretty sure many women have if they look back on their dating or romantic experiences. Mine was much more obvious but anyhow I think they are totally realistic. Now the extent to which they are used in YA novels - completely overdone and overused. That is unrealistic when almost every YA book tromps out with a love triangle it gets ridiculous. I do however think there are ways to do them well. At a loss of remembering which times I've read them that they haven't bugged the piss out of me.

    Anyways back to synopsis ...yes I hate when I feel completely mislead. I felt misled with Mortal Danger because it made me think it was going to be a revenge story and it completely wasn't in my mind. They amped up that part of the story on the back cover when things went in a completely different direction.

    I do want to know what to expect because I know I'm a mood reader and usually I want to read a certain type of story based on the mood I'm in.

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    1. I can't say I've ever experienced the love triangle, but I'm told my relationship experience (or lack thereof) isn't the norm. (My sister tried to install Tinder on my phone while she was visiting. I had to look up what it was. ^^; ) Haha, no worries! It's hard to think of good examples when so many bad ones readily come to mind.

      I wonder if, in crafting the synopsis with the language they think will sell best, publishers sometimes forget the art of crafting expectations. It can really affect the reading when you go in with one set of expectations and are confronted by something totally different. Especially if you're a mood reader, I think.

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  6. Ugh yes this! My biggest thing when it comes to the whole "the synopsis is meant to sell the book" argument is that it isn't in anyone's long term interests to trick readers. If readers find that they tend not to like books from a publisher or author because of things not revealed in the blurb, then the readers are going to stop buying those books anyway. However, there are probably lots of readers who like YA romance and want their YA to have a fair bit of romance, so they might end up not picking up Winterspell because they think it isn't for them when it actually is! While I can see the argument that tricking potential readers could lead to short term sales gains, I think in the long term it is what makes people end up jaded about specific genres :(

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    1. I completely agree! When a publisher/imprint regularly uses accurate, forthcoming synopses, I'm more likely to buy when it sounds like one I'd like. If the synopses are off too many times, they're no longer worth reading and you lose any chance at an impulse buy- and increase the chances that a reader will avoid that publisher's/imprint's books. :(

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  7. What also miffs me about book synopses is that sometimes they leave some of the coolest elements to the novel out! I understand they're under a word limit, but I know I would've been so much more likely to read the book if they ha mentioned the element in the book jacket.

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    1. I get it. I know they're trying to avoid major spoilers, but omitting the good can fail to get readers in the door. :(

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