Self Publishing – Providing the Crucial Bait

Today I was told that I had Anne Rice Syndrome. This is a very nice way of telling me that I’m doing something wrong. Anne Rice, the award winning author behind titles such as Interview with a Vampire and The Witching Hour is known for her long descriptive passages, causing readers to skip portions of the book. This is all very well for a well known author who’s work spreads by word of mouth and who doesn’t necessarily need that first paragraph hook. For me, however, changes need to be made to grip the reader immediately, rather than first setting the scene.

I’ve known that the first few pages of Inside Evil go to set the scene rather than jumping into the story. I’m no Tolkien, so I don’t spend 100 pages describing what Bilbo had for dinner, but the first 3/4 pages do set the scene of the craggy landscape where Ridgewood is set. If I were a well known author with lots of five star reviews, then yes, people would probably pick up, buy and read. However, i’m not, so a lack of instant appeal may cause readers to pass me by.

Ebooks, I feel, have a lot to do with this. As does Amazon’s Look Inside feature. Traditionally, if you bought a book, then you’d sit and read and indulge in descriptions. Certainly, I love that sort of written passage. However, with readers zapping through Amazon’s Look Inside feature and making decisions within paragraphs and pages, that instant grab factor has become vital.

So, what does it mean for me? My well meaning critique applauded my writing but suggested a first chapter rework so that readers are grabbed straight away. I’m considering it. I had hoped that the quality of writing would prevail and readers would become drawn into my described world. Perhaps i was wrong. I may attempt a rework, and then compare purchases to see if that first line hook is crucial in the long run. I will update on my findings!

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5 responses to “Self Publishing – Providing the Crucial Bait

  1. I’ve read a lot of Rice’s books and enjoy her descriptions. But being well-known, and even popular is no excuse for a setup that takes pages before you get to plot and/or characters. Description is a garnish, for most books. When you make it the main meal, you’re going to lose most of your readers. I come from a background of long digressive classics, but I still want to know what the book’s about without having to wade through pages of description or backstory.

    • Oh, I totally know what you mean. I just meant that many readers want to be gripped within lines, rather than reading several pages or chapters first. I think you can write compelling descriptions that draw people in gently, instead of going full throttle from the outset. But, the Look Inside feature can make a reader-base want instant results.

      • I’m not sure it’s a matter of just wanting to get into the book immediately. Not always, anyway. Unless the book has some reviews that are more than just love it/hate it nonsense, the first few pages are all the reader has to go on. If I’m in a bookstore and the beginning is slow, I can browse through the rest of the book to get a better idea whether it’s for me. That makes the opening pages of ebooks much more important than they would be for print.

        And that gives me a great idea for a future blog post.

      • True, I hadn’t looked at it from that angle. I was thinking as a writer, selling books and having to adapt writing to the eBook sample market. However, as you mention, without the ability to skip ahead and peruse writing later on, that is all a reader has to go on.

        I will have to study this is more depth…and wait for your future blog post ;)

      • I just have some of our conversation and a couple of notes, but it’s giving me something to think about, also. I can see it as a whole new approach to how we start books, making the idea of a “hook” more substantive than just something that plunges right into the action.

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