“So, what’s your book about?”
Whenever you tell anyone you’ve written a book, this is the first thing they’ll ask you. And they don’t want to hear a five-page synopsis – they want a two-second explanation.
“It’s about an orphan boy who learns he’s a wizard.”*
“It’s about four children who discover a secret world in the back of their uncle’s wardrobe.”**
“It’s that book that I will never read because I have more than three functioning brain cells.”***
Anyway. If you’re anything like me, this question makes you cringe. How can you explain your book in one sentence? How can you possibly boil down all the brilliant characters and exciting sub-plots into fifteen or twenty words?? It’s particularly challenging for fantasy – how can you explain the complex new world you’ve created in one measly little sentence?
As tricky as it can be, it is something we all have to learn to do. It’s how we sell our books to agents, and publishers, and – most importantly – readers. And if you can’t explain your book in one or two sentences, it might actually reflect a problem with the book itself.
To craft your perfect one-to-two line explanation, try answering these questions:
- Who is your main character? You only get ONE – two, if it’s a romance.
- What does he/she want, OR what changes in his or her life that kicks off the book?
- What stands in the way of him/her getting what she wants?
To practice, you can try it on your favorite books or movies – for example, think of You’ve Got Mail:
- Who is the main character? Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan)
- What does she want? To save her mother’s bookshop from the big chain moving in next door
- What stands in the way or her getting what she wants? Discovering that the charming guy she’s been chatting with online is the big chain’s CEO
What do you get?
All Kathleen Kelly wants is to save her mother’s bookshop from the big chain moving in next door – then she discovers the charming guy she’s been chatting with online is the chain store’s CEO.
So, obviously that’s really simplistic (and pretty cliché), but hopefully you get the idea. The trick is to START with a cliché, simple sentence like this, then tweak it to make it a little more unique. Try to keep it as short as you can, while being as specific as possible.
**The Chronicles of Narnia
***Fifty Shades of Grey