Book Summaries

As a writer, how do you feel about your book’s summary? I was going to write “back cover” but then I thought of books that have the summary on the inside jacket, and then again of the rush of ebooks. So summary it is.

Do you think that it should be necessary that the reader see that first? People shop for books in many, many different ways. Some buy certain authors automatically, some go by cool title, nice cover, or the back blurb. Others get reviews and really practise a lot of diligence.

I’m an impulse reader. I tend not to read the book summary. If it’s a good book, I figure that I can just read it and not have to do homework. However, today I started reading Moonlight Masquerade, and had some trouble reading the opening scene.

Broadly, Moonlight Masquerade is a romance about French émigré Lady spy and a clerk from the Foreign Office working for the Home Office to root out French spies in the lady’s household. He is posing as a butler.

In the opening scene, Rees the clerk/butler is searching Lady Thingy’s room. In a non-pervy way, since he is there to find out if she’s a spy. Even so, he does get distracted by the underwear drawer. This distraction comes in the form of him thinking about who the underwear belongs to.

He refers to Lady Thingy as his employer for the foreseeable future, so I was immediately confused. It’s established very quickly that he’s seeking information in the room, so I connected the mention of his “employer” to that business. He turns out to be the worst spy I have ever seen, but this is only the first or second page. So here I was thinking that he was searching the lady’s room on her own orders… except I think he had already expressed a concern that he would be caught.

Then the very next line, he says that the lady might be a spy. Which worsened my confusion considerably. So his employer may or may not have asked him to search her rooms in order to see that she’s a spy, but he’s a spy, so of course she is too… See, that’s the way my brain was trundling along, so I didn’t actually think that though they were both in the spy business that he was trying to find proof that she was a double agent.

Which of course she wasn’t. If I had read the summary (this is a digital library loan), then I would not have had this problem. I don’t think.

Even after all of that, I don’t know if the problem is that the book was written with the understanding that of course you will have read the back of the book (or digital equivalent) before starting the actual book. It may have been. It may also have been the fact that I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in probably two weeks.

Anyway, it made me wonder how writers feel about the summary that comes with the book. Or how they feel about the selling aspect. Personally, I think that most people can’t write good summaries for selling their books, but that’s partially because I don’t think that I can.

…seriously, this guy is a terrible spy. I’m only 25% into the book and every single time he has done spy work, he has failed horribly. Searched the lady’s room? Burned a candle on one of her dresses and had to hide for hours in an armoire until he could sneak out. Also he crumpled her dresses awfully while hiding. Searched the French chef’s room? Got caught coming out, by the French lady’s maid who hates him and told on him effing immediately. Sneak out at night to report to his contact? Get caught sneaking out… by the lady herself. Sigh. He sucks so bad. I may not finish this. He’s a terrible spy and she’s an overly passive one.


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