Guest Post: The Dreaded Question

Howdy, folks. Rosemi is here to teach us a thing or two, so give her your undivided attention. 🙂


Guest post: The number one question writers hate and how to answer it properly

Whether you’ve talked to your loved ones about your WIP at length or kept it to yourself like a dirty little secret, the time eventually comes when people outside your comfort zone begin asking you about your writing.

That’s when you’re inevitably asked the dreaded question: “What’s your book about?”

You’ve spent a great deal of time with your story and characters. Summarizing what your book is about would be like summarizing what you’re about. What you want to say is, “It’s an authoritative masterpiece encompassing the human condition with nuanced undertones of genius—a classic in the making, if you will.” You might even use air quotes as you say, “classic in the making.”

However, what often comes out is either stammering or babbling.

To answer this question well, you need to formulate and memorize a two-sentence response. Yes, two sentences. You want to keep the questioner engaged and sell them on your book as quickly as possible. It’s your elevator pitch, and it needs to wow your audience.

Sentence #1 begins with a description of the main characters and ends with the conflict.

Sentence #2 expresses why it fits in today’s publishing market and why it will stand out.

So, how do you begin perfecting your two-sentence verbal reponse?

First, describe your main character(s) as briefly as possible. You’re giving a verbal response, so you don’t need to offer every detail about the characters. For example, the main characters of Romeo and Juliet would simply be described as “two teenagers” or “two Italian teenagers,” at most. No need to mention Romeo’s recent breakup with Rosaline.

Now it’s time to describe the conflict without any spoilers. Continuing with the Romeo and Juliet example, you might say, “Two teenagers from feuding households fall in love.” A smart reader knows the potential a sentence like that can carry for good drama, romance, and tragedy.

Immediately after you say sentence #1, listeners will attempt to connect your story to similar ones they’ve read. Sentence #2 preempts this. This is your opportunity to implant the information you want in their minds before they even have time to pass judgment on your story.

Begin the second sentence by describing your genre in order to give further context for the first sentence, and conclude your response by saying why it’s unique. You might think it’s unique in every way possible, but stick to the one or two qualities that are the most attractive to readers of your genre. Avoid saying that there is a plot twist or an unexpected ending. Instead, describe something outside of the main plot that deepens your story. If you’re finding this part difficult, it might mean that your story needs to be further developed.

The main thing you need to know about most people who ask you about your book is that people want to like things. They want to be excited for you. Show your enthusiasm for your book, and your response will be well received.

Listening to “Alone with You” by Jack Owen and obsessing over Cynthia’s latest manuscript, Crashing Souls.

Guest post by book editor, Rosemi Mederos, who thinks “What’s your book about?” should be replaced with “Tell me about your book.”

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