Thursday, December 22, 2011

"What's your book about?"

I've gotten better at answering that question in the last year, since I published Deception in Savannah.  I remember well the struggle to come up with a description of the book for the online eBook stores.  It was far more difficult than writing the book.  A year later, with two more books and a short story published, it's not as hard for me to come up with a cogent answer, but I still struggle. 

Other writers may not have the same problem that I have, but I suspect that I'm not alone.  This doubtless seems odd to someone who hasn't spent months or years putting together a work of fiction.  The problem stems from the fact that most books are about a number of things, depending on the perspective of the reader.  Not all of those things may be obvious to the writer.  That's what makes fiction fun for both parties. 

I first began to grasp this when I wrote and published my second book, Dungda de Islan', which is non-fiction.  At least it's as close as I could come to a factual recounting of  a couple of years of life aboard our boat, as my wife and I explored the Eastern Caribbean for the first time.  See how easy it was to describe that book?  I  had no trouble with the descriptions when I published it.  I thought I had gotten smarter. 

Then I wrote and published The Lost Tourist Franchise, part of the back story of one of my favorite characters from Deception in Savannah.  It's a short story, about 12,000 words long.  How hard could it be to describe it?  Once again, I had trouble.  My early readers all liked it, but their descriptions reminded me of the story of the blind men describing an elephant.  I wrote a number of short descriptions before I settled on the one that's on The Lost Tourist Franchise page here.  I'm still not happy with my description, and I certainly haven't gotten smarter. 

For Bluewater Killer, I used a different approach.  I didn't try to describe it; I just offered a few brief sketches.  I hope they capture something of the flavor of the book, without biasing the reader.  I don't want to shape the reader's view of the story to match mine; what's important to me is that the reader should enjoy the story.  Fiction is supposed to be fun.  The message content varies based on what the reader brings to the book. 

I haven't gotten smarter, but as I have figured out how to get potential readers to look at the book descriptions on this site, it occurs to me that I'm not constrained to describe my books in a format that fits the booksellers' generic requirements.  I just realized that I can provide alternative descriptions, and let the reader choose.  My first effort at this will be for Deception in Savannah.  I'll try it out over the next few days.  

I'm curious to know what you think my books are about.  If  you would like to describe one of my books, please click the link to the Facebook fan page for the book (the little cover image right next to the "like" button above the big cover image on the book page) and write your description on the wall.  While you're there, click the "like" button on the Facebook fan page, so that you will see the other responses as they're posted.  If I use your description, I'll send you a free eBook version of  Bluewater Vengeance, which should be out early next year.  Wonder what it will be about?

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