“What can I do to help?”
After all, there is so much to do! And participating in the process can bring a sense of having an iota of control over this overwhelming and frankly, often quite frightening, journey.
In truth, there are a million things you could do. But while it might make you feel good to get hands-on with this project, many things might not actually help. Reaching out to every distant friend or connection who knows somebody at a magazine or TV station to ask if they can cover your book, to cite just one example, won’t help much at all, because those efforts are not well-targeted.
There are also a number of things you should be doing no matter what, such as staying on top of your social media (Instagram in particular is becoming the new it place for book promo) and organizing a launch event. But while these are all good for your book’s visibility, they don’t directly help your publicists with their job.
So what does?
Lately my team and I have been noticing a trend that’s given us one clear ask of our authors. Fewer and fewer people in the media are actually reading the books we send them. I know, it’s disappointing. But people in the media only have so many hours in the day, just like the rest of us. And more often than not, they have a whole stack of books for review on their desk. Getting to your book might feel urgent to our team and to you, but for the reporter, it’s just another multi-hundred page reading project they need to undertake.
From our perspective, it doesn’t matter very much whether they actually read. What’s most important is that they provide coverage of your book for the world to see.
That’s where we use our back-pocket trick: we send the reporter, editor or interviewer an easy-to-digest chapter-by-chapter summary of your book.
A summary makes it much easier for our media contacts to move forward with coverage, and to do so sooner rather than later. (Later can be up to a year or more…) It also makes it harder for them to come up with excuses not to. This gives your book a huge advantage over all the others in journalists’ “to-read” piles.
Since you are more qualified to write a summary of your book than anybody else, this is an area where you can really help. Not to mention that it’s a task you’re likely to enjoy.
Perhaps you’ve already done a chapter-by-chapter synopsis for agents. If so, you’re ahead of the game, and it might be all your publicist needs. If not, here are my tips for creating it:
Keep it short
Think of this as a snapshot of the book, with each section being a snapshot of a chapter. The overall length should be no more than 3 pages. Each chapter’s individual synopsis should be about a paragraph. In both cases, shorter is fine too.
Capture each chapter’s essence
This is far more important than length. Use broad brush strokes to describe each chapter’s tension and outcomes. What is the underlying conflict? What important changes take place and / or what lessons are learned? How does the story move forward in this chapter?
Avoid mentioning too many characters
Stick to the MC and one or two key others at most. Secondary characters will dilute the impact of a synopsis.
Drop the plot details and description
Though it’s tempting, don’t include detail about plot twists and turns: the summary will become crowded and confusing. The same can be said for descriptions of setting, physical appearances and action sequences. Remember: it’s the essence that counts.
I know how hard it is to imagine anybody digesting a mere summary of your book rather than reading it cover to cover. But again, reporters are not your target readers. They are just a conduit to reach potential readers. There are also some people, such as book reviewers, who will read the full book.
Since we can’t change the fact that those individuals are increasingly rare, let’s help out instead.
Have you written a chapter by chapter synopsis or summary? How’d that go? Have you received media coverage from people who didn’t read your book? Let’s hear about it!