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Post Posted:: September 16th, 2015, 5:29 am 
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Thought it might helpful to have a discussion about summaries and what purpose they have. Doing covers, one sees a large number ranging from "This is a book by Fred Smith" to a very long tale about the author, his philosophy of life and the deep significance of his role in the world today.
So I was interested to read what people like to write in their summaries, what people like to read in them, whether they make any difference to whether they claim a chapter or download the finished product, in fact anything anyone wants to say about the subject in general. Not views about particular ones please though.

Anne

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Post Posted:: September 16th, 2015, 6:54 am 
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In both my functions as LV cover maker and as the LV staff picks person, I see probably more summaries than the rest on here, and there are all kinds of them: the good, the bad, and the ugly :wink:

As cover maker I like the summaries relatively brief so that they fit on the back of the CD cover in a fontsize that does not require a microscope for reading. :lol: Covers for drama(tic reading)s are always especially challenging.

As staff picker, I want the summaries to tell me about the book, so I know whether it fits the current theme. I also want a bit of the story, maybe the heroine's name, so I can adapt them for my own blurbs for the staff picks on our homepage. The title is not always an indication, and I just hate the wikipedia summaries that tell me nothing new, especially if wikipedia is a one-liner as well.

As a BC, I want the summaries to induce people to read for my books. It's not always easy to come up with something suitable, but as I mainly do science/nonfiction anyway, it's kind of okay. So far, all my books got finished at some point :wink: I think it's okay to have two summaries - one while the project is underway, and then another one for the catalog page. It may be good to tell the readers about the final plot twist, but not the listeners...

As a reader, I would want to know why I should read for this particular book and not for another one. Again, I mostly do nonfiction/science, but even there, I am more interested in the particular text rather than in the author's biography.

As a listener, I want to be entertained/educated. If there is a big twist at the end - why not put a cliffhanger sentence into the summary? If you want to educate me, why is this book worthwhile knowing?

In the end, I mostly choose books because the contents looks promising. Even when buying a real book, I like to try new things; just because somebody has written one good book, that doesn't say anything about the others. :?

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Post Posted:: September 16th, 2015, 12:45 pm 

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Bit like fishing for bream, I reckon. You need a tasty morsel, a hook, and not too much weight.

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Post Posted:: September 16th, 2015, 1:27 pm 
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Availle wrote:
As a BC, I want the summaries to induce people to read for my books. It's not always easy to come up with something suitable, but as I mainly do science/nonfiction anyway, it's kind of okay. So far, all my books got finished at some point :wink: I think it's okay to have two summaries - one while the project is underway, and then another one for the catalog page.

Yes, when I ran projects, I liked to do that. Make the summary funny/silly/random to draw Librivoxers' interest. Listeners need the same level of enticement, but the summaries are seldom as daft. I don't want to be disrespectful to any books. I very much like 'teaser trailer' type summaries. In the olden days, people took the word 'summary' a bit too literally, and then why read the book if the summary has told you whodunnit!

If a book has its own preface or introduction, I do like to draw from there if it doesn't go on too much. Then people get a tiny feel for the writing or theme, as well as making the most of the overview that the author or publisher wanted to give to readers originally.

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Post Posted:: September 16th, 2015, 6:03 pm 
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We should probably have called it a blurb rather than a summary... ah well, too late now.

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Post Posted:: September 17th, 2015, 1:37 am 
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kayray wrote:
We should probably have called it a blurb rather than a summary... ah well, too late now.

Blurb is perfect. It is a pity it is such an ugly word. It set me thinking about its origin, and the OED felicitously says:
Quote:
A brief descriptive paragraph or note of the contents or character of a book, printed as a commendatory advertisement, on the jacket or wrapper of a newly published book. Hence in extended use: a descriptive or commendatory paragraph.

Said to have been originated in 1907 by Gelett Burgess in a comic book jacket embellished with a drawing of a pulchritudinous young lady whom he facetiously dubbed Miss Blinda Blurb.

And no spoilers! It is extraordinary that the TV industry still hasn't got the message when the Times wrote in 1955:
Quote:
For why must publishers prefix to novels of this school a blurb in which much of the substance of the thriller is already revealed?

ETA But I think that definition of blurb says it all: "commendatory", whether to potential narrators or potential listeners, is exactly what our "summaries" should be.

Ruth

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Post Posted:: September 17th, 2015, 5:08 am 

Joined: November 3rd, 2011, 2:02 pm
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I rarely read a section in a work of fiction I'm unfamiliar with, so I can't say what I would find enticing as a reader. For non-fiction the title itself is usually saying enough.
In general I write rather short blurbs, 3-5 lines. For the one group project I BC in English I tried for something short yet descriptive so that poeple know what they are getting themselves into (though there's also a short snippet from Wikipedia there aside from my own creation). For the other one which I BC in Polish I waited with any kind of blurb for a long time- there aren't many Polish readers around anyway.
For my own solos the same- when I was writing a blurb for a not-so-well-known book I put a string of quiestions there so that potential readers feel intrigued ;) On the other hand the Polish book I'm finishing reading now is super famous and a required reading in school, so I settled for just one sentence. Anyone who has not spent their life under a rock already knows what it is about :lol:

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Post Posted:: September 17th, 2015, 5:35 am 
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:lol:

I haven't lived under a rock, but just in case I would start to learn Polish tomorrow - would I know about the book and its fame as well? :wink:

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Post Posted:: September 17th, 2015, 6:06 am 

Joined: November 3rd, 2011, 2:02 pm
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I don't take foreign Polish learners into consideration when writing a blurb. You'd have to be quite advanced to be able to read this, and tenacious too, given its length :lol: And at a certain level a learner usually knows something more about the culture of a given country.

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Post Posted:: September 18th, 2015, 5:21 am 

Joined: June 12th, 2006, 6:00 pm
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Once or twice I've been able to find a contemporary review of the book, and I've used that for my blurb.

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Post Posted:: September 18th, 2015, 6:41 am 

Joined: February 16th, 2009, 7:19 am
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Location: Bath, UK
I used to copy my summaries for Wikipedia, because a lot of other people seemed to do that, but I stopped because they were often spoilery and sometimes not very interesting (or completely absent, if the book was too obscure to have a wikipedia page).

When I write my own summary I like something that both gives an idea of what the book is going to be about without giving away any plot twists and makes it sound interesting/fun and worth reading or listening to. I will generally include some positive descriptions of the book - 'gripping', 'moving', 'clever' and so on. Writing a good summary is, for me, the most time-consuming part of setting up a new project. Even when I write summaries for non-fiction, I try to write something that will make people want to pick up the book, even if it's about a subject they would normally not have considered.

I also like to include notes about racist/sexist or otherwise insulting content, as I know how unpleasant it is to stumble across these things unexpectedly.

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Post Posted:: September 24th, 2015, 10:36 am 

Joined: August 30th, 2009, 4:26 pm
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I used to have an awful time writing summaries (and probably wrote awful summaries), but now I really enjoy it a lot. As an aspiring writer, I've always had a hard time describing my own stories briefly, so writing summaries for other people's work is a great exercise for me. I do tend to write them as though they were a cover blurb--that quick-glance bit that either catches a reader/listener's interest or says "not for me."

When writing a summary, my biggest challenge is to drill down to the essence of the story while also giving a glimpse at some of the most interesting or compelling bits of the work. In other words, I like to land somewhere between "Bob has many adventures aboard a ship" and "Bob goes off to sea at 16, becomes a cabin boy, helps the ship weather a storm, saves the captain's life, gets promoted..." :P

I think my goals for the summary are twofold--1) I want to make listeners curious enough to give it a try, and 2) I want listeners to know what they're getting into. I've experienced some summaries (not necessarily on LibriVox!) where small pieces of the plot were blown way out of proportion while major themes weren't even hinted at. In others, everything in the summary happens in the first chapter, leaving me with no idea of what to expect in the rest of the book.

As a reader and a listener, I appreciate being able to have a sense of where a book is going and what to expect from it. An exciting summary that doesn't reflect the real purpose or direction of the work may pull in more readers, but it will probably leave them disappointed when the book doesn't deliver what it seemed to promise. I guess all that to say--in my mind, integrity to the theme/genre/plot/etc. is as important as grabbing a listener's attention. :wink:

bookAngel7


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Post Posted:: September 24th, 2015, 11:07 am 
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I like it when the summaries are written in the same style/genre as the book itself. If it's a satire or comedy = to have a satiric/comic way of introducing the book. If it's a horror or mystery story = to have a spooky feeling. If it's fiction = to have something of a cliffhanger to make you want to read it all! etc.

But I'm not really good at writing, so I also love it when I'm able to find a contemporary review of a book and use that! But of course, in those days most books where leather-bound, no back cover blurbs :lol:


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Post Posted:: October 22nd, 2015, 6:04 am 

Joined: April 1st, 2011, 5:36 pm
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Interesting thread! My sister is a professional (print) editor, so she always says "Why should I read this book?" That's the question my blurbs are always designed to answer.

I try to stick to 2 paragraphs (max):

1) The first paragraph is a bit about the content/plot of the book. This is supposed to grab people and have a "hook" or cliffhanger element for fiction.

2) The second paragraph (if there is one) tends to be a bit about the book's connections to other books or other interesting background material.

So when I wrote the one for "Wives and Daughters" it pretty much follows this format. The first paragraph is about the actual plot and characters (Molly, Mr Gibson, etc). The second paragraph describes more of the themes of the work (love across the class divide in England's 19th century) and if there is space I might include the trivia such as that it was first written to be serialised in a magazine and that Gaskell was a protégée of Charles Dickens.

But I agree with someone above that shorter is better - and also that this is challenging when doing the Cast List for a Dram Read! Recently I've started only including the major character voices and adding "Other voices" and just listing all the readers.

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Post Posted:: November 8th, 2015, 6:29 pm 

Joined: May 2nd, 2011, 5:46 pm
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One of the things I try to put into my summaries is the date the book was published. No matter what subject or what genre, a book from 1820 is a very different animal from a book from 1920. For me, it always helps to know what environs influenced the book. So something about the author is often welcomed, as well as perhaps the country. Because people's life stories fascinate me, I am interested to know: was this author well known or hardly at all? well known then but obscure now? obscure then and now? I always feel somewhat virtuous to record an obscure writer, helping to get more of an audience for his/her work. (I'm currently in the throes of an enthusiasm for Hugh Walpole (Jeremy), who was quite popular in the 20s and 30s, I understand, but virtually unknown now. He's a interesting writer!) And finally, the old saw is very true for me: so many books, so little time. I have sufficient texts in my librivox subdirectory to keep me busy well past my death date.

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