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What to say when someone asks you about your book

Recently I was on a radio show to promote a murder mystery series I’m a part of (which you can check out HERE – Sonoma Squares Red Harvest, I wrote chapter 8). The interview was with myself and three other writers, and we shared our parts in this murder mystery and the writing process that takes place in a collaborative piece like this.

I had prided myself on, so far, not getting so nervous I threw up over everyone. Don’t laugh, the thought crossed my mind at least once. I hate public speaking. Somehow I had managed to continue talking despite the butterflies swarming in my stomach and my tongue threatening to swell up and take over my entire mouth. I chattered away easily with the other writers and the host of the show, and breathed a sigh of relief each time I successfully answered a question thrown at me.

And then it happened. He asked me about my book.

I know the story of my book inside and out. I know every feeling the characters are grappling with, the twists that lead to different turns, the heartache that leads to evolution, the evolution that leads to heartache… I know every single part of my story. But ask me point blank what my story is about in 1-2 sentences, and suddenly I turn into a Dodo bird.


I ended up going on a long-winded explanation that ended up being a generic description and shared NOTHING about what the book was about. As the words were falling out of my mouth, inside my head I was screaming “WHAT ARE YOU DOING???” I could almost sense the listeners turning the dial from the radio station, or at least adding my book to the “Do Not Read” list. Here I was with a really cool opportunity to share my book with the masses, and I was letting it slip through my fingers. By my own description of my book, even I wouldn’t buy it.

Luckily, the interviewer sensed my tongue-tiedness, and he helped me to fumble towards a recovery so I could at least get a decent explanation out there. But I kicked myself for the rest of the day at this missed opportunity.

You can hear the entire interview by CLICKING HERE. The interview should be available sometime Friday (7/5) night. It’s the July 3 episode with Word by Word. I start talking at 23:50 where I share my chapter for the Sonoma Squares serial, again at 30:30 when I talk about problems I had in the writing, at 41:00 with challenges, and 45:06 on blind writing. Then at 51:57 is the dreaded talk about my book. Cringe.

I hadn’t actually gone in there unprepared. I had been rehearsing that question all day long in my head, thinking of the different things I would say when inevitably asked about my own novel. I hadn’t come up with anything concrete, but I had a sense of what I would say. But once I was asked, the right words just up and left, leaving me scrambling for something, anything. All I got was a big fat nothing.

But I did come away with a huge lesson learned – Create a 2-3 sentence description of your novel, and then MEMORIZE IT. Write it down and read it aloud every day. If you have to, tattoo it to the inside of your eyelids. Do whatever it takes to remember a short description of what your novel is about, because that’s going to be the question asked of you by everyone who finds out you’ve written a novel.

“What’s your book about?”

My book is about a woman who goes on a spiritual journey through the afterlife. Following her death, she finds herself in an internal tug-of-war between staying near those she loved on Earth, and finding her son who died with her. The story shares the struggle of the process of letting go and rising above tragedy to find hope.

Now, see? I would read that book.

If the listener is interested, they’ll ask you more questions that will lead to your long-winded explanation of why your character did this or that, etc. But always start with a strong opening statement that neatly wraps up the entire plot in a matter of seconds.

It also helps to have an even shorter description to share on the fly, a one-sentence synopsis that still intrigues.

My book is about a woman in the afterlife who struggles to hold on to all she loved on Earth, and the journey towards being able to let go and discover her own strength.

The best time to have this description ready? Before you’ve told anyone you’ve finished the rough draft of your novel. But if you’re like me and already 4 months into publication, it’s never really too late. Start the process of creating a synopsis and memorizing it now.

And just to make sure you’ve got it down, go ahead and share it in the comments below. Links to your novel encouraged. 🙂


Crissi Langwell is the debut author of A Symphony of Cicadas. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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