You readers out there: when you come across the description of a new book, either on the web, on your e-reader, or standing in the store and reading a book jacket, how long and detailed do you like it to be?
Do you want to know all the major plot details or would you rather have a teaser and discover the details as you read?
I have heard many movie-goers complain about movie trailers which show spoilers or major plot details about the movie itself. As we all know, sometimes the ads for a movie can contain all the funny or dramatic moments and the movie may only serve as joiner between those big moments.
Years ago I remember attending a pre-release screening of a horror movie called "The Relic" starring Penelope Ann Miller and Tom Sizemore. Because it was not in wide-release I hadn't seen a poster, an ad or even a short teaser about the movie. I didn't know if it was a horror flick or an Indiana Jones-type action movie (with a title like "The Relic" it could have been Angelina Jolie on an archaeological dig with robots, for all I knew). What I do remember is the sheer joy in NOT KNOWING A THING about where the story was headed. I had no residual memory from a trailer which allowed me to say, "Oh, that critter is going to jump out at us. And that train car is going to explode." It was pure bliss for me, but I do know that many (most?) people would rather know a good lot about a movie or a book before they A) pay for it and B) spend their time on it.
Here's an example of a synopsis for a friend's novel, Vincent Zandri's popular suspense story, "The Remains" which is currently available just about everywhere. It's a successful book, currently a Kindle bestseller at Amazon.com and the outline below appears to give a clear picture of what's in store for the reader.
Thirty years ago, teenager Rebecca Underhill and her twin sister Molly were abducted by a man who lived in a house in the woods behind their upstate New York farm. They were held inside that house for three horrifying hours, until making their daring escape. Vowing to keep their terrifying experience a secret in order to protect their mother and father, the girls tried to put the past behind them. And when their attacker was hunted down by police and sent to prison, they believed he was as good as dead. Now, it s 30 years later, and with Molly having passed away from cancer, Rebecca, a painter and art teacher, is left alone to bear the burden of a secret that has only gotten heavier and more painful with each passing year. But when Rebecca begins receiving some strange anonymous text messages, she begins to realize that the monster who attacked her all those years ago is not dead after all. He s back, and this time, he wants to do more than just haunt her. He wants her dead.
And here's the synopsis for my own book, "On The Gathering Storm" which is available in all the major e-formats. I think we can agree that this one is shorter, by about a third, and that it displays less specific information about the plot.
Hannah Garretty is snatched from her bohemian life on the island and vanishes into a forest lair where unspeakable things have happened…and will continue to happen. We catch visceral glimpses from before the abduction, when she last came face to face with her own mortality. But can Hannah find a scrap of light in the absolute darkness of her ordeal?
I don't know that one is particularly stronger than the other but I do believe that story teasers are an art form, much like movie trailers demand their own set of unique skills. What do you think? Does one make you want to read the story more than the other? Is length a big factor or is it more about what is said in the synopsis and less about how much is said? Sound off!