Something interesting the other day got me thinking. Do most readers read blurbs (synopses, summaries) before they read the books?
This came up due to a reader of one of my stories on wattpad who couldn’t tell what my YA/ NA (with a bit of romance) was about immediately. They PM’d me asking why in the prologue I lead them to believe that they were reading a mystery/ suspense only to get to the end of chapter 1 and realise it wasn’t. Now, my first thought was: did the blurb mention ANYTHING about a mystery/ thriller/ suspense type of book? Because, in my mind, it’s clear from the summary what genre the story is.
But then I thought, “Why should a reader be required to read the blurb?”
After all, the work should stand on its own, right? If I need to read blurbs before I can understand what’s going on, then something’s wrong. Obviously, the author (me in this case) didn’t do their jobs right. Meaning, the author (again me) didn’t do a proper job developing the story. Because the book and the story should speak for itself. Always. And if that’s the issue, I need to work on what’s not working.
But, honestly, I don’t read blurbs before the books in their entirety. Why? I find I lose the mystery of what’s between the pages. Authors, I find, explain way too much of the plot there. I mostly skim the first few lines. Then take a look at the cover before I decide whether this book is worth my time. Since covers can be ambiguous and outright misleading at times, I also take a look at the genre and the tags. (Tags are words or phrases that also describe the book). And the loglines (catchy subtitle). I never go without the loglines. I know not why.
But then I was talking to a fellow writer and she said: “Tell me what’s in the first 1000 to 1500 words.” When I did and even sent her a copy of the prologue and chapters 1-2, she asked, “Are you sure they were reading your story?” And I was like, “Well, they PM’d me expressing their disappointment.”
Along with my dedicated readers, she then confirmed what I was thinking. The reader sent their complaint to the wrong writer. That, or they truly don’t understand what’s thrilling or mysterious. My college freshman character complaining of being dragged around to view junk with her mother, only to happen upon a guy that she’s college mates with that likes her, isn’t it. If it wouldn’t seem rude, I’d recommend some mystery/ suspense books to her.
And if that’s truly the case, as a writer, should I assume the reader knows absolutely nothing. Not even the genre?