Friday, December 9, 2011

Summarizing - A Standalone Art Form

Okay. I'm trying really hard to put together a jacket summary for James: The Rollins Pack and I am failing miserably. Maybe it's the lingering sickness, or the cold medicine I took to combat it. Maybe it's the fact that I just switched over to sci-fi mode to bang out Legion. I'm not sure.

Whatever the case may be, I'm having a major brain fart. Usually it doesn't take me too long to summarize a work, but for whatever reason, my summarizing muse has flown the coop.

This has made me appreciate just how wonderful the art of summarizing can be, and this isn't because I just taught some of my students about it. Really. The ability to summarize is an art form in itself. It takes skill and practice. The ability to manipulate meaning with an economy of verbiage is something few possess. But those who summarize have no problems. They cut through the muck and dross of verbal diarrhea straight to the core, leaving it perfectly exposed for all to see. That is a true art of subtraction.

And I am without it, momentarily.

The thing you have to consider when summarizing a book is, what is most important? What does your potential reader need to know right now? What will drive them to purchase a copy of your work?

This of course, is one of the reasons why publishing houses have someone else other than the author write the summary. Authors aren't typically - uh, shall we say, objective? - about what will catch a reader's interest. Everything is important when you're talking about your creative baby. Everything is good! Except we all know this is complete and utter bullshit. So, publishing houses hire someone else to summarize the work - to package it, verbally, in two paragraphs or less in order to optimize interest and thereby maximize profits.

The funny thing is, as authors, we do write at least one summary of our work once. Anyone who has written an agent query has written a summary, and if that person is at all smart, quite a good one.

This is the problem of a self-published author. We haven't necessarily written an agent query letter. We are our own publishing houses. There is no money to hire a young college graduate to package our books for profit maximization. So what do we do?

Well, you read your book. Then you read other jacket summaries of books similar to your own. Then you sort of copy the form using your wonderful story's content. Viola! You have a summary - in theory. That is unless you're like me at the moment, when I can't figure out what would be best to say and therefore keep staring at a blank text document. But, I'm sure it will come to me. I'm going to try and follow my own advice right now. Wish me luck!

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