Tell me what this is about?

May 29, 2013 § 2 Comments

Last night, I gathered up a group of friends to head off to this book launch. The author was Anthony Whelan, launching the second book of his thrillosophy series called “Amy’s Amazon.” The launch was fantastic: good food, lovely author, and a book that sounds rather interesting and innovative.

In any case, one of my friends deemed to ask me what the book was about, as I had brought him there, after all. I said something or the other about philosophy and thriller, trying to cast my mind back to the paragraph summary I had written of the book on the author’s website the week before. Unsurprisingly, I remembered very little and the only information I could impart onto my friend was that yes, there was a character called Amy in the book!

The whole thing kind of got me thinking about all of those people who hear that you’ve written a book and ask the dreaded question “What’s your book about?” and you begin searching your mind for that one phrase that truly encapsulates all those pages of your book, all the sweat, blood and tears that you’ve poured into it during sleepless nights and sleep-deprived days. But of course there’s no phrase like that, nor sentences that you can stack on top of one another that makes you think “yep, I’ve done it! I’ve explained my book!” There’s nothing, really, that can capture the brilliance of that minor character who only features in one brief chapter that you’ve fallen in love with, along with the overarching plot-line, main characters and the small subplots along the way that don’t necessarily make the book, but without which the book wouldn’t be what it was.

So when I get asked the question, I stumble through a few phrases that barely explain the toil that went into the book and the love that developed during all that hard work. And then afterwards I feel like hitting myself over the head for failing to make somebody else fall in love, or at least intrigue, with my book also.

I think it’s an important skill to have – to be able to summarize your book in a way that sells. Unfortunately, it’s not a skill that I’ve mastered, or am even mildly apt at (Anthony Whelan was rather good at it). But I guess that’s something to work on for the future.

How do you guys deal with the question? And does it frustrate you as much as it frustrates me? Let me know!


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§ 2 Responses to Tell me what this is about?

  • This describes my feelings exactly. Because I mostly dabble in gay fiction, my inability to properly convey what my novel is about to people tend to make them think that I’m ashamed, or awkward about talking about what for many still seems to be a stigmatized work of literature. The reality however is that the question often bounces abruptly on me, and I am so used to people acting like novel writing is a pointless hobby that will never get me anywhere, that I don’t really know how to prepare for the question. I don’t want to give too much away, or focus on the wrong part of the plot, and on top of that it’s something so personal to me that it really is difficult to just summarize it to someone who might not be interested in all.

    I do think it’s easier online, when you have time to process an answer before just blurting out the first thing that comes to mind just to give an answer at all! And then of course there is the anxiety that comes afterwards… “What if my lack of self-promotion skills already has them thinking I must be a poor author?” (insert neurotic action of choice here)
    By far one of my worst skills, although I’m getting better!


    • secretly-broken says:

      Glad to know I’m not the only one!
      I guess it’s just like any other skill and hopefully with time and practice we’ll both become better at it.


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